Golf Buzz

September 22, 2016 - 8:43am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rob Labritz
USA Today Sports Images
As we'll see again next week in the 2016 Ryder Cup, it doesn't get much better than match play. PGA Professional Rob Labritz provided some great tips on how you can find success in the match-play format.

Next week, all eyes will be on Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., for the 2016 Ryder Cup.

It doesn't get any better than match play, does it? It's a completely different animal than stroke play.

PGA Professional Rob Labritz has had his fair share of success in match play. As a member of the American PGA Cup team in 2002, Labritz played to a perfect record of 5-0-0. Earlier this year, he also played his way to victory in the Westchester PGA Championship, another match play event.

With that resume, we reached out to Labritz to get some advice on how to set yourself up for success in match play. Sure, chances are you and me aren't ever going to be teeing it up in a Ryder Cup, but these tips will help you at any level of ability when you find yourself in a match play situation.

RELATED: Playing under pressure | Getting out of nasty rough | Breaking 70 | 80 | 90

"When you play a stroke-play event, most people will tell you you're playing against the course instead of an opponent," Labritz said. "Match-play is twofold. Yes, you're still playing the course, but you're also keeping a close watch on what your opponent is doing."

Golf is a game for ladies and gentleman. But there are certain things that don't fly in stroke play that are fair game in match play, specifically gamesmanship -- the tasteful kind.

We're not talking about stepping in your opponent's line, standing in his or her line of vision, making noise when they're about to hit, etc. It's nothing like that. Instead, it's a mental game you can play with your opponent.

"What I like to do is concede a few early putts," Labritz said. "I'll give them a couple of 3 1/2 to 4 1/2-footers, no more than that, depending on how the match is going. As the match goes on, they're probably expecting me to give them putts from that length. But instead, I make them putt. It's a little gamesmanship. Suddenly you're making your opponent think about something he or she didn't think they'd have to think about. More experienced players know exactly what you're doing. But it's almost like talking to your opponent without talking to them. That's one of the tricks I like to use."

If you're playing a match on a course you know well, Labritz offered up another way you can inject some gamesmanship into the proceedings.

"Let's say there are certain spots out there where you know it's OK to miss," he said. "Hit it there. You know it's not an issue, but you're opponent thinks you're wounded when you're not. Match play is all about the games you play out there. If you're out there scrambling your butt off, it's going to drive the opponent crazy."

A common misconception about match play is that you can throw caution to the wind and have the pedal to the metal throughout. After all, making a 10 on one hole in match play doesn't matter -- it's just one hole.

Labritz, however, said you still need to pick your spots.

"I've been successful in match play and it's because I'm the type of player who isn't going to make a lot of mistakes," he said. "I'll make a bunch of pars and sprinkle in a few birdies, but I'm not going to make a crazy number. When you're steady like that, it can really wear down the opponent. It's frustrating when you're thinking, 'this guy's not going to make a mistake.'"

The aggressiveness, Labritz said, comes from gauging the temperature of the match.

"Look, if you find yourself down early, that's a tough one," he said. "It's an internal battle for yourself. If they're playing better than you, you need to step it up and probably get a little more aggressive. And if it's a situation where you're playing poorly and they're beating you by playing average golf, then you really need to step it up. It's hard to do that, but that's what makes match play such a great format. It's all about the inner fight in you. It's wanting to compete and wanting to beat somebody."

So what's the best thing you can do to put pressure on your opponent?

It's pretty elementary, Labritz told us: "If you're hitting first, the best thing you can do to put a little heat on your opponent is to get your tee shot in play."

At the end of the day, match play simply comes down to this, Labritz told us, "Make your opponent make mistakes. If you're not making mistakes, it's going to force them to try and make something happen -- that's what leads to mistakes."  

September 21, 2016 - 9:58am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk received the prestigious Payne Stewart Award in Atlanta on Tuesday night. His acceptance speech was remarkable.

On Tuesday evening in downtown Atlanta, Jim Furyk became the 19th recipient of the PGA Tour's Payne Stewart Award.

The Payne Stewart Award is given to a player whose "values align with the character, charity and sportsmanship that Stewart showed," which includes respect for the traditions of the game, commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support and professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.

It would be silly, but if you ever questioned Furyk's popularity amongst his peers, just wait until you see all the players -- past and present -- that filled the room for his presentation.

Players who aren't even in the field for this week's Tour Championship made the trip to watch their friend receive this prestigious award.

And, after watching Furyk's acceptance speech, you can be sure they're delighted they made the trip.

Check out Furyk's remarkable, inspiring speech below, which included this gem just as he started out: "I think I'm going to break the record for the quickest to cry. Stricker is going down tonight!"



September 21, 2016 - 8:37am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Young Tom Morris, a four-time Open Champion, recorded the first known hole-in-one in golf history in the 1800s. There had been conflicting reports about the actual year it occurred, but now we have the actual date nailed down.

Last Friday it was our intention to put together a post recognizing the first known hole-in-one in golf history by Young Tom Morris.

While compiling information for the post, we ran into a snag. Through research, we found conflicting dates as to when the hole-in-one actually occurred. Some publications referenced the 1868 Open Championship at Prestwick (including the World Golf Hall of Fame website), while others had it as the 1869 Open, also at Prestwick.

Looking to get to the bottom of whether this achievement was 148 years old or JUST 147 years old, we put in an inquiry to the fine folks at Prestwick in Scotland, hoping we could clear it up.

It took a few days before our inquiry made it to the proper person, but we're happy to report we nailed down the date. The Young Tom Morris ace happened on the 166-yard, par-3, eighth hole -- the "Station Hole" -- on Prestwick's original 12-hole course in the first round of the Open Championship, played on Sept. 16, 1869.

Ken Goodwin, Secretary of Prestwick, was kind enough to provide a photo of the scorecard from that day:

Interestingly, if you look in the top-right corner, you'll see that the original year -- 1869 -- is crossed out and "1868" was written in. There's an explanation for that, Goodwin told us.

"For a long time there was a lot of confusion about which year Young Tom had a hole-in-one in the Open with various publications giving conflicting dates," Goodwin wrote in an email. "There was even some confusion at the Club in the 1930s when the scorecards were collated with the 1869 date being changed to 1868, but the newspaper report from the local press in 1869 definitely confirms that 1869 was the correct year."

If there's one thing we know -- and love -- about Scottish links courses, it's that typically not a whole lot has changed on them in the last 100+ years, with the exception of extending from the original 12 holes to 18 holes.

So, we wondered, could any one of us take a crack at that same par-3 hole today where Morris made his ace? As it turns out, the answer is "no."

"The Prestwick course was extended to 18 holes in 1882," Goodwin said, "only three of the original holes were retained and the old eighth hole was removed, so no longer exists."

Young Tom Morris, 18 years old at the time, would go on to win that Open Championship at Prestwick -- the 10th played -- by nine shots over runner-up Bob Kirk. Young Tom's father, Old Tom Morris, finished in sixth-place, 23 shots behind his son. The field consisted of just 14 players.

It was the second of four consecutive Open Championship wins for Young Tom Morris (he won in 1868, '69, '70 and '72 -- the tournament was not played in 1871). A year earlier, he became the youngest champion in tournament history at age 17 -- a record that stands to this day.

So, there you have it. To set the record straight, the Young Tom Morris hole-in-one -- the first known ace in the game's history -- happened on Sept. 16, 1869. 

September 20, 2016 - 1:38pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Ben Crane
@bencranegolf on Instagram
Ben Crane is no stranger to viral internet videos. He may have a new one with this pre-shot dance routine.

Ben Crane, a five-time PGA Tour winner, might actually be better known for his viral videos.

Well, the man who put the "Golf Boys" together is at it again in a new video with a new pre-shot routine:


Working on some new pre shot routines at the @cinkitchallenge. I think I blacked out during this one @kelleyjamesmusic

A video posted by Ben Crane (@bencranegolf) on

Those are some moves. 

September 19, 2016 - 8:34am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Andrew Johnston
USA Today Sports Images
Andrew 'Beef' Johnston, who became an instant fan favorite this year, earned playing privileges for the 2016-17 season on the PGA Tour via Tour Finals. That means we'll be seeing a lot more of Beef over the next 12 months.

If you're a fan of Andrew "Beef" Johnston -- and really, who isn't? -- here's some good news: You're going to be seeing a whole lot more of him on the PGA Tour in the 2016-17 season.

Beef secured playing privileges on the PGA Tour for the new season thanks to a fourth-place finish in the Albertson Boise Open on the Tour over the weekend (part of the Tour's Finals series). Beef was playing as a non-member, having earned enough PGA Tour dollars in 2015-16 to have placed in the top 200 in the FedExCup standings if he had been eligible.

The top 25 on the Tour Finals money list earn PGA Tour cards, and by earning $54,910 through his first two events (sixth on the list) Beef has already earned enough to play on Tour full time.

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In April, the 27-year-old Englishman won the Real Club Valderrama Open de España on the European Tour and instantly became an internet star with these post-victory comments (skip to the :24 mark):

Johnston, who also finished eighth in the Open Championship, was a little more reserved when he earned his Tour card on Sunday:

Great stuff.

Earlier in the week, Beef was asked what it would be like to be a member of the 2018 European Ryder Cup team.

"Chaos!" he said. "I'd love it man. I'd have loved to play this one in the States. I think it would have been really difficult for you guys (Laughs). But yeah, I'd love to. That's what you want to do. You grow up watching it, and you want to be a part of things like that."

And what if he had made it on the 2016 team teeing off at Hazeltine in less than two weeks?

"I think it'd be great fun man," he said. "Even if they booed me for like three days solid, I'd still have love for them after. It's like part of the tournament, and I think it'd be good fun anyways, and it'd be good trying to silence them for three days. Then maybe having a good hug with them afterwards with them."