Golf Buzz

February 17, 2015 - 4:52pm
mark.aumann's picture
Fred Couples
USA Today Images
Two-time Northern Trust Open winner Fred Couples is making his 33rd appearance.

A product of the Roaring Twenties and a place for stars of Hollywood's Golden Age to hobnob, Riviera Country Club has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour for decades.

The course, in the Santa Monica Canyon in Pacific Palisades, was designed by George C. Thomas, opened in 1927 and selected to host the annual Tour stop in Los Angeles two years later. It's been the permanent host since 1973, with the exception of two years when the course hosted other major tournaments.

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Its nickname – "Hogan's Alley" – refers to the stranglehold Ben Hogan had on the place shortly after World War II. Hogan won both the 1948 U.S. Open and L.A. Open at Riviera, setting a course record in the process.

Riviera holds a special place in golf's efforts toward diversity. Champion boxer Joe Louis became the first African-American to compete in a PGA sanctioned event there in 1952. Charlie Sifford, the first African-American member of the PGA Tour, won the L.A. Open in 1969. And Tiger Woods made his PGA Tour debut there as an amateur in 1992.

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Some of Riviera's holes are among the most unique on the schedule. The par-3 sixth has a bunker placed in the middle of the green. And the par-4 10th is a driveable 315 yards, but the narrow angled green is guarded by bunkers.

Since 1992, three players have won the Northern Trust Open and Masters in the same season: Bubba Watson (2014), Mike Weir (2003) and Fred Couples (1992).

With that, here are five players to watch this week.

5. Fred Couples
2014 Northern Trust Open:
Missed cut
Reason to watch: Couples, a two-time winner at Riviera, is making his 33rd appearance in this tournament. His first win came in 1990 -- when Rory McIlroy was nine months old. You might think the addition of Couples -- who's primarily a fixture on the Champions Tour now -- is a nice tip of the cap. But there's nobody in the field who knows Riviera any better. Consider his third-place finish in 2009, the fact that he led after 36 holes and wound up seventh in 2011, and missed the cut last year by one stroke.

4. Sergio Garcia
2014 Northern Trust Open:
Did not play
Reason to watch: This is Garcia's first foray to the States in 2015, after missing the cut at Dubai. He could be a touch rusty, but this is a course where he could find his sharpness in a hurry. In eight previous trips to Riviera, Garcia's best finish came in 2012, when he finished fourth, two shots out of a playoff, and shot 64 in the final round. If he's looking for a perfect course to assess his game heading into the Masters, this is it.

3. Alex Prugh
2014 Northern Trust Open:
Did not play
Reason to watch: There's something about the West Coast swing that appeals to this native of Spokane, Wash. Maybe it's the poa annua greens, or the kikuyu fairways? In any case, Prugh's doing the right things to make sure he keeps a secure hold on his Tour card this time around.

How good as he been so far this season? Only four of his 26 rounds have been 72 or higher. He put together four under-par rounds at Torrey Pines to finish tied for fifth, then had four consecutive sub-70 rounds at Pebble Beach, earning him another top 10.

The last time Prugh had three consecutive top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour? Try 2010, at the Humana, Farmers and Northern Trust.

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2.Dustin Johnson
2014 Northern Trust Open:
Reason to watch: After knocking off the rust at Torrey Pines, Johnson put together perhaps the most-overlooked consecutive sub-70s rounds at Pebble Beach last week, shooting 69-67-68-66 to finish in a tie for fourth behind eventual winner Brandt Snedeker. It seemed like playing partner and father-in-law Wayne Gretzky got more air time than Dustin.

If not for Bubba Watson's bogey-free weekend at Riviera last year, Johnson might have walked away with the trophy. He had bookend 66s to finish two shots behind. It's also the place where he was docked two shots in 2011 for missing his tee time. Bet that doesn't happen again.

1. Bubba Watson
2014 Northern Trust Open: Winner
Reason to watch: Coming into last year's Northern Trust Open, Watson hadn't won a golf tournament since the 2012 Masters. And after struggling just to make the cut, he was nine shots behind heading into Saturday's play. That's when Watson's game kicked into another gear. He shot 64-64 over the weekend, playing the final 39 holes without a bogey and winning by two shots over Dustin Johnson.

And in the process, Watson carried that momentum into Augusta, winning his second green jacket. Can the sequel be as good? We'll know Sunday afternoon.

San Diego State University women's golf team
Via YouTube
The Lady Aztecs of San Diego State use hands, feet, clubs and even clothes in their new trick-shot video.
Here at, we enjoy bringing you fun videos of trick shots – and over the past year or two, we've found plenty of them to share. The vast majority of them feature guys, but we all know that there are plenty of women who know their way around a golf club, too.
And today, we ran across this: A new trick-shot video from the women's golf team at San Diego State University. 
The Lady Aztecs base their routine on Tiger Woods' famous ball-bouncing trick, but add several of their own twists to it. They even do a couple versions of the old hidden-ball trick, and close with a pretty cool exhibition of inline putting.
So give it a look – it is well worth the 55 seconds of your time to check out. And if you want to see the Aztecs in action, they open their spring schedule on Feb. 23 at the UC-Irvine Invitational in Santa Ana, California.
Dell Curry and Stephen Curry
USA Today Sports Images
Golden State guard Stephen Curry had a memorable NBA All-Star Weekend with his dad, Dell Curry, who introduced him to golf as a child.
Golden Star guard Stephen Curry had a weekend to remember in New York – he topped LeBron James to win then NBA All-Star fan vote, then won the Three-Point Contest, and his Western Conference team won the All-Star Game.
Curry, a self-admitted golf freak, recently admitted that he sometimes daydreams about golf when he's sitting on the bench during games. We don't know what was on his mind while he and his teammates were beating the East, but he couldn't be blamed for thinking about golf at some point – after all, he's getting a brand-new putter to mark the occasion.
Bettinardi Golf took a BB Zero blade putter and touched it up in Golden State colors. Curry's name is on the back of the face, and the sole features Curry's number and commemorates that his fan vote victory.
The BB line of putters is classic Bettinardi – Curry's is a heel-toe-weighed blade made of mild carbon steel with what Bettinardi calls its "hyper honeycomb" pattern on the face. The standard vesions retail for $299.99.
No word yet on when Curry will get to take his new baby out to the course – he is an avid player during the NBA offseason, but says he only gets to play a couple times during the season. When he does, though, let's hope his All-Star memories don't distract him from what's really important – his putting!
Here's a look at his putter:
Peter Lawrie
USA Today Sports Images
"I went from such a high on sugar to such a dramatic low" as he tried to quit drinking "liters a day" of soft drinks, says Peter Lawrie.
Peter Lawrie tied for 16th at the Maybank Malaysia Open a week ago, and couldn't have been happier. The 40-year-old Irishman wasn't celebrating a mere top-20 finish – he was celebrating the fact that his golf game is rounding back into shape after he kicked an addiction that had taken over his life. 
Lawrie, it turns out, had become addicted to soft drinks – so much so, he told the Irish radio station Newstalk, that he was drinking several liters per day of fizzy sodas. And when he tried to stop, it almost ruined him.
"I wouldn't say I went for a breakdown, but I definitely got exceptionally emotional" as he tried to quit cold turkey, he said in an interview that aired over the weekend. "Even in the hottest country, like Malaysia," he added, he would drink soda on the "golf course because I was addicted to it."
Lawrie – no relation to 1999 British Open winner Paul Lawrie of Scotland – was in the top 200 in the world after he tied for 10th place in the 2013 Irish Open. Soon after, he began trying to wean himself off the carbonated drinks, and his struggle sent him plummeting down the ranking – he fell as low as No. 909 after missing the cut in the South African Open in January.
"I went from such a high on sugar to such a dramatic low" in the weeks and months after the Irish Open, "and I never recovered from it," he said. "I lost all confidence in myself."
His results over the past 18 months or so dramatically illustrate how much trouble he was having. From that tie for 10th in the 2013 Irish Open through the end of 2014, he missed 33 cuts and had only eight finishes in the money. In 2014 alone, he made only six cuts in 27 European Tour starts and earned only $63,870.
"It was very difficult to deal with all of the situations coming at me," he told the radio station. 
This year, though, he's turned the corner. He's feeling better and his results on the course are rebounding. He's made each of his last three cuts, and he's already won almost as much money this year as he did in all of 2014.
Now, he says, he's only drinking two or three cans of soft drinks per day. And his tie for 16th place in Malaysia a week ago was his best finish since his ordeal began.
February 16, 2015 - 12:46pm
mark.aumann's picture
Gloria Resorts
Gloria Hotels and Resorts
Gloria Hotels and Resorts has two championship 18-hole courses on site.

During last month's PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, there were several booths sponsored by national tourism boards, each touting their country as a top golf destination.

Not surprisingly, Scotland, Ireland and Wales were represented, along with Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Spain and Turkey. 

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Turkey? If you didn't realize it, Turkey's one of the hottest new golf destinations, especially for Europeans trying to find a warm winter vacation spot. And the country has responded to that demand by offering all-inclusive golf packages that have been welcomed in a big way.

David Clare, a former national coach of the Turkish golf team and current golf director at the Gloria Hotels and Resorts, said it's hard to imagine how quickly Turkey has caught on as a golf mecca -- given that the first course in the Belek region didn't open until 1995.

"The hotels there had no winter business, so there was a market for it," Clare said. "The golfers started coming from Europe because the temperatures in Turkey between November and March are 60 to 70 degrees. There's no snow at all.

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"Couple that with the all-inclusive packages with the hotels -- at about $1,000 a week for lodging and five rounds of golf -- that's the reason it grew so fast in places like Germany, Scandinavia, Great Britain, where the winter weather is bad."

For most parts of Europe, the flight to Antalya is between two and three hours. Because North America has its own winter destinations -- think Arizona, Florida and the Caribbean -- Turkey's not nearly as affordable, or accessible. Still, Clare said he sees a growing number of Americans visiting his resort.

If there's an untapped market for Turkey, it could be Asia, Clare said.

How popular has golf in Turkey become? Clare has some eye-popping stats.

"At the end of 2014, there were 600,000 rounds played on 17 courses from September through to May," Clare said. "We're No. 1, with 85,000 rounds during the season over three courses. No. 2 is Anatayla Golf Club."

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That's the home of the Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Course, which hosts the European Tour's Turkish Airlines Open. And where Tiger Woods played in the fall of 2013, a development that caught the world's attention.

Suddenly, everyone in the industry wanted to know more about Turkey.

"What's interesting is what happened after we did the Tiger Woods event and the publicity that received," Clare said. "I had been coming to this show for six years and after that, suddenly people were coming up to the booth and asking us more about it. We've noticed a difference since then."

What makes the golf course industry in Turkey so unusual is that the country owns the land, and the hotel resorts lease the property over a 50-year period.

Clare said the sandy soil is perfect for golf. It drains well, Bermuda takes to it, and it can be overseeded. 

The fact that Turkey's golf industry has grown expotentially in two decades is good thing, but it's also created one problem.  

"We're actually full," Clare said. "The government isn't giving permission to build additional courses now. And the hotels know building one course in one area just won't do it.

"In order for it to be a destination, you need four or five courses. There's land available elsewhere on the coast. It would just need two or three hotel owners to say, 'Let's throw the money in and create a new destination.'"