Golf Buzz

March 25, 2015 - 10:06am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Jordan Spieth
USA Today Sports Images
Can Jordan Spieth make it two wins in two starts this week?

The next two weeks on the PGA Tour provide us with a tournament within a tournament.

First, this week, the Valero Texas Open takes place at TPC San Antonio. The top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking come Sunday night -- if not already exempt -- will lock up their respective invitation to the Masters in two weeks. The winner -- also if not already exempt -- will head to Augusta National as well.

Then, next week, the Shell Houston Open is the final chance for players not otherwise exempt for the Masters to punch a last-minute ticket. That will require a win.

RELATED: Texas Open tee times | Cancer strengthens PGA friends bond | Masters bubble | Field

For now, we'll focus on the Valero Texas Open, where Steven Bowditch is the defending champion. The field features 13 major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III.

Here are five players to watch.

5. Ben Curtis
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T29 at Sanderson Farms Championship
Reason to watch: Curtis will be the first to admit that it hasn't exactly been a season to remember to this point. He's missed the cut four times in six starts, including the last three in a row. The last time he made a cut resulted in a T44 at the OHL Classic back in the middle of November. I'm just taking a chance on Curtis this week. Something's got to give. He won the event in 2012, so he has familiarity and past success to draw on. Things need to turn around for the former British Open champ, so why not this week? He's one of those guys who will need a win to make the Masters.

4. Ryan Palmer
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T2 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
Reason to watch: It's hard to believe that this three-time Tour winner hasn't won more. He seems to be in contention an awful lot, but just has a problem closing out. It would mean everything to this native Texan to win in the Lone Star State. Palmer tied for ninth in the Texas Open in 2010. Palmer is already in the Masters, so I want to see him firing at pins this week and letting it all hang out.

3. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
7th at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Johnson is a former two-time champion of this event. However, those wins came in 2008 and 2009 when the event was still played at La Cantera. Since the move to TPC San Antonio in 2010, Johnson has played just twice. He missed the cut in 2010 and tied for sixth in 2014. I like Johnson mainly because I always like him in the state of Texas, where he's captured four of his 11 PGA Tour wins. His T9 last week at Bay Hill might have been a little momentum builder for the former Masters champ.

2. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Won the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: Yet again, Walker is enjoying another outstanding season -- four top 10s (including a win) in nine starts and no missed cuts. He's established himself as a favorite whenever and wherever he tees it up. A win this week would be his fifth on the PGA Tour and few would be as sweet as this one would come in his home state.

1. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Won the Valspar Championship
Reason to watch: This is Spieth's first start since winning his second Tour event two weeks ago in Tampa. The 21-year-old is establishing himself as a star and it would be sweet to shine again this week in his home state. Notice the theme here? Lots of Texans in the field. Also, Spieth has his sights set on the Masters, where he was a runner up in his first start a year ago. His game -- always consistent -- seems to be peaking at just the right time.

Here's how my five to watch fared at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational:

5. Henrik Stenson -- 2nd
4. Keegan Bradley -- T49
3. Rickie Fowler -- T29
2. Adam Scott -- T35
1. Jason Day -- T17 

Jack Nicklaus
U.S. Congress via YouTube
Jack Nicklaus said he was "honestly and completely humbled" to receive the Congressional Gold Medal on Tuesday.
 
Jack Nicklaus became the third golfer to receive the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest honor that the U.S. Congress can bestow on an individual – in an emotional ceremony on Tuesday.
 
"My whole life's work was to make you all proud of me," Nicklaus said to his wife Barbara, five children and 22 grandchildren – all of whom attended the festivities in the Capitol Rotunda. "Hopefully, I have."
 
Jim Nantz, the longtime voice of CBS sports' golf coverage, called Nicklaus "an American treasure" and "our gift to the world." He added that Nicklaus' "philanthropic victories are more special than his golf conquests," and noted the Nicklaus family's extensive efforts in raising money for the military, spinal cord and cancer research, and especially children's health.
 
In an emotional 20-minute acceptance speech, Nicklaus detailed how his father introduced him to the game at age 10, and used golf to teach him the very important lessons of how to win and how to handle adversity.
 
He also recounted an occasion when his son, Jack II, was young, was asked what his father did for a living.  "Nothing," Jackie said, "he just plays golf."
 
 
Nicklaus used that as a theme throughout his remarks, noting how "just playing golf" allowed him to meet seven U.S. presidents, travel the world and meet people from all stations of life around the globe. He has always been impressed, he said, at how effective golf is at crossing borders and connecting generations.
 
"For millions of people, golf does so much," he added. "The game of golf as a whole has given more to charity than all other sports combined – almost $4 billion in charitable giving each year."
 
A significant of that, of course, comes from Nicklaus, and several of the speakers praised the Golden Bear and wife Barbara for their lifelong commitment to philanthropy – including their recent pledge of $60 million to children's health care in Florida. 
 
Nicklaus gave his wife much of the credit for spearheading their charitable activities, and broke down when discussing her important to him and their family. 
 
 
"Were it not for Barbara," I'd have been just another golfer," he said. He also said that she was responsible for 15 of his major champions, adding that "I'll give myself credit for three."
 
Nicklaus received the award in a special gathering that included Senate and House leaders from both parties as well as the entire Congressional delegation from Ohio. Among the special guests was his friend and rival, Arnold Palmer; Nicklaus attended the 2012 ceremony in which Palmer received his Gold Medal.
 
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor that the U.S. Congress can bestow. Nicklaus was chosen "in recognition of his many contributions to the game of golf and his service to the community and the nation," according to the bill, which was authored by Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio.
 
Nicklaus is the third golfer to receive the Gold Medal, following Palmer and Byron Nelson (2006). Other athletes to have received it include Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Joe Louis and Jesse Owens.
 
The first gold medal was awarded to George Washington for his military courage during the Revolutionary War. For a person to even be considered, two-thirds of the House members (290) and the Senate (67) must cosponsor the legislation (not just vote for it).
 
You can watch the ceremony right here:
 
 
Bubba Watson
The Tonight Show via YouTube
Bubba Watson took two pies in the face on "The Tonight Show" - and still won his game of "Pie Golf" with Jimmy Fallon.
 
Bubba Watson says he's "a big, big believer" in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, and no one can doubt him after Monday night. Watson is such a believer that he took not one but two pies in the face for it.
 
Watson stopped by "The Tonight Show" to promote the event, and wound up facing host Jimmy Fallon in a game of "Pie Golf." In case you've never played – and I'm guessing you haven't since Fallon and his crew made it up – "Pie Golf" is essentially darts with big, smushy golf balls, and with a twist: If your shot sticks on the wall, your opponent gets a pie in the face.
 
 
As you can see in the screenshot above, Watson got pied by actress January Jones after losing the first round. No worries, though – he responded with a perfect shot that earned Fallon a faceful of pie. And in the end, the two-time Masters champion prevailed – and for his victory earned a yellow "Pie Golf" poncho that would actually go with his Green Jacket (which he wisely took off before the game).
 
After a quick clean-up, Watson joined Fallon for a chat about the Masters – and the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.
 
 
"Golf to me is all about family. These kids are trying to qualify to get to the home of the Masters, and it's free for the families to get involved," Watson told Fallon.
 
Watson also admitted that he gets something out of the event, too.
 
"I learn from the kids," he said. "Sometimes I forget about how great it is to play golf for a living, and they remind me. They're such an inspiration – they help you remember pretty quickly."
 
Watson and 10-year-old Kelly Xu are in New York Monday and Tuesday to promote next month's Drive, Chip & Putt Championship finals and encourage youngsters to register for this summer's local qualifying for the next edition of the event. Xu is the reigning champion in the 7-9-year-old Girls Division.
 
 
The Drive, Chip & Putt Championship is a free nationwide youth golf competition open to boys and girls ages 7-15, who compete in separate divisions in four age categories. Xu, now 10, is one of 80 national finalists who will compete at Augusta National on Sunday, April 5 – the eve of the Masters Tournament. 
 
"I'm a big, big believer in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship," said Watson before his visit to New York. "I can't think of a better way for a youngster to learn and get better at the game of golf and do it while having fun and building relationships. That's what golf is ultimately all about for me. … I hope the two of us can share our passion for this program with as many parents and kids around the country as possible and get them to register for an experience of a lifetime."
 
Watson's appearance on "The Tonight Show" precedes a whirlwind Tuesday that will see him and Xu make numerous media appearances. They'll start their day with an 8:30 a.m. ET interview on "CBS This Morning," followed by a 9:45 a.m. interview on ESPN's "SportsCenter."
 
After that, they'll head outside to shoot some photos and video in Times Square, and do interviews with the Golf Channel and other media outlets at Rockefeller Center. They'll visit the New York Stock Exchange and tour the trading floor around 3:00 p.m., and appear on CNBC at 3:40 p.m. After that, there will be even more interviews to cap off their busy day, and you can follow them all day on PGA.com and our Twitter and Facebook accounts.
 
 
 
 
March 22, 2015 - 5:59pm
mark.aumann's picture
Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are all entered in the 2015 Masters.

2015 MASTERS: Augusta National course tour | Photo galleries | Video highlights | More coverage

2015 Masters Field List

Bae, Sang-Moon (16), Korea
Bjørn, Thomas (12,18), Denmark
Blixt, Jonas (12), Sweden
Bradley, Keegan (4,13,18), United States of America
Cabrera, Angel (1,16), Argentina
Casey, Paul (19), England
Clarke, Darren (3), Northern Ireland
# Compton, Erik (13), United States of America
#* Conners, Corey (6-B), Canada
Couples, Fred (1), United States of America
Crane, Ben (16), United States of America
Crenshaw, Ben (1), United States of America
Day, Jason (13,16,17,18), Australia
Dominguez, Matias (9), Chile
Donald, Luke (18), England
Donaldson, Jamie (18), Wales
Dubuisson, Victor (18), France
Dufner, Jason (4,18), United States of America
Els, Ernie (3), South Africa
Every, Matt (16), United States of America
Fowler, Rickie (12,13,14,15,17,18), United States of America
Furyk, Jim (14,17,18), United States of America
Gallacher, Stephen (18), Scotland
Garcia, Sergio (14,17,18), Spain
Grace, Branden (19), South Africa
Haas, Bill (16,17,18), United States of America
# Hahn, James (16), Korea
# Harman, Brian (16), United States of America
Harrington, Padraig (16), Ireland
#* Harvey, Scott (11), United States of America
Henley, Russell (17), United States of America
Hoffman, Charley (16), United States of America
# Hoffmann, Morgan (17), United States of America
Holmes, J.B. (16), United States of America
Horschel, Billy (16,17,18), United States of America
Ilonen, Mikko (18), Finland
Immelman, Trevor (1), South Africa
Jaidee, Thongchai (18), Thailand
Jimenez, Miguel Angel (12,18), Spain
Johnson, Dustin (13,16,17,18), United States of America
Johnson, Zach (1,17,18), United States of America
Kaymer, Martin (2,4,5,17,18), Germany
Kirk, Chris (16,17,18), United States of America
# Koepka, Brooks (13,16,18), United States of America
Kuchar, Matt (5,12,16,17,18), United States of America
# Lahiri, Anirban (19), India
Langer, Bernhard (1,12), Germany
# Lowry, Shane (18), Ireland
Luiten, Joost (18), Netherlands
Lyle, Sandy (1) ,Scotland
Mahan, Hunter (16,17,18), United States of America
Martin, Ben (16), United States of America
Matsuyama, Hideki (16,17,18), Japan
McDowell, Graeme (2,18), Northern Ireland
McIlroy, Rory (2,3,4,12,16,17,18), Northern Ireland
#* Meth, Byron (10), United States of America
Mickelson, Phil (1,3,15,18), United States of America
Mize, Larry (1), United States of America
Moore, Ryan (16,18), United States of America
#* Murdaca, Antonio (8), Australia
Na, Kevin (17,18), United States of America
#* Neil, Bradley (7), Scotland
# Noh, Seung-Yul (16), Korea
O'Meara, Mark (1), United States of America
Ogilvy, Geoff (17), Australia
Olazabal, Jose Maria (1), Spain
Oosthuizen, Louis (3,18), South Africa
Palmer, Ryan (17,18), United States of America
Poulter, Ian (18), England
Reed, Patrick (17,18), United States of America
Rose, Justin (2,16,17,18), England
Schwartzel, Charl (1,18), South Africa
Scott, Adam (1,16,17,18), Australia
Senden, John (12,17,18), Australia
Simpson, Webb (2,17,18), United States of America
Singh, Vijay (1), Fiji
Snedeker, Brandt (16), United States of America
Spieth, Jordan (12,17,18), United States of America
Stadler, Kevin (12), United States of America
Stenson, Henrik (13,15,18), Sweden
# Streb, Robert (16), United States of America
Streelman, Kevin (16), United States of America
Stricker, Steve (18), United States of America
# Todd, Brendon (16,17), United States of America
# Tringale, Cameron (17), United States of America
Villegas, Camilo (16), Colombia
Walker, Jimmy (12,17,18), United States of America
Watson, Bubba (1,16,17,18), United States of America
Watson, Tom (1), United States of America
Weir, Mike (1), Canada
Westwood, Lee (12,18), England
# Wiesberger, Bernd (19), Austria
# Willett, Danny (18), England
Woodland, Gary (17,18), United States of America
Woods, Tiger (1,5,18), United States of America
Woosnam, Ian (1), Wales
#* Yang, Gunn (6-A), Korea
 
# Denotes first Masters * Denotes Amateur ^ The Masters Committee, at its discretion, also invites international players not otherwise qualified.
Number after each name indicates the basis of qualification.
 
Qualification For Invitation
  1. Masters Tournament Champions (Lifetime)
  2. US Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)
  3. British Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)
  4. PGA Champions (Honorary, non-competing after 5 years)
  5. Winners of The Players Championship (Three years)
  6. Current US Amateur Champion (6-A) (Honorary, non-competing after 1 year) and the runner-up (6-B) to the current US Amateur Champion
  7. Current British Amateur Champion (Honorary, non-competing after 1 year)
  8. Current Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion
  9. Current Latin America Amateur Champion
  10. Current US Amateur Public Links Champion
  11. Current US Mid-Amateur Champion
  12. The first 12 players, including ties, in the previous year's Masters Tournament
  13. The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year's US Open Championship
  14. The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year's British Open Championship
  15. The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year's PGA Championship
  16. Winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters
  17. Those qualifying for the previous year's season-ending Tour Championship
  18. The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year
  19. The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament

Past Champions Not Expected To Play in 2015

  • Tommy Aaron
  • Jack Burke Jr.
  • Charles Coody
  • Nick Faldo
  • Raymond Floyd
  • Doug Ford
  • Bob Goalby
  • Jack Nicklaus
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Gary Player
  • Craig Stadler
  • Fuzzy Zoeller

 

 

March 22, 2015 - 3:19pm
mark.aumann's picture
Zach Johnson
PGA Tour/YouTube
Zach Johnson is all smiles after his albatross Sunday at Bay Hill's No. 16.

Albatrosses are the rarest of birds on golf courses. In the 36 years since the Arnold Palmer Invitational was founded, no one had ever recorded one -- until Daniel Berger did it Saturday.

Make that two in two days.

SHARE YOUR HOLE-IN-ONE: Post the details on social media at #PGAace or #PGAholeinone

At the par-5 16th in Sunday's final round, Zach Johnson hit this 5-iron from 207 yards. And watch what happens:

 

 

According to the NBC Golf Channel broadcast, fewer than 125 albatrosses have been recorded on the PGA Tour since 1970. And yet Berger and Johnson accomplished it in back-to-back rounds this weekend at Bay Hill.

Johnson says he saw the tournament host on the 16th tee and went over to shake his hand. He figured some of the Palmer magic rubbed off on him. Johnson shot 66.

U.S. OPEN ACE: Zach Johnson makes a hole-in-one at Pinehurst No. 2

It was only the seventh time since the PGA Tour began keeping records in 1983 that two players made a double eagle in the same tournament. The last time was in 2007 at The Players Championship.

A rare commonality, to be sure. Some people call them double eagles. In this instance, it's more like albatross-albatross.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

March 21, 2015 - 6:29pm
mark.aumann's picture
Kevin Na
PGA Tour/YouTube
Kevin Na celebrates his eagle hole-out from the bunker at No. 16.

While much of the attention Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was focused on Daniel Berger's amazing albatross -- and rightly so -- Kevin Na had two highlight-worthy shots of his own, on consecutive holes.

First, he sinks this 50-foot putt at No. 15:

 

 

And then one hole later, he does this from the bunker:

 

 

That birdie-eagle run allowed Na to finish with a third-round 69, keeping him within striking distance of leader Henrik Stenson, who had two birdies and an eagle down the home stretch.