October 17, 2014 - 9:15am
andrew.prezioso's picture
Willie Park Sr.
PGA of America
In this photo dated back to the 1850s, Willie Park Sr. is the one in the center. Park would go on to win the first professional golf tournament in 1860.

Today's an important date in golf history. The professional part of the game is turning 154 years old today. 

While not played for the Claret Jug at the time, that tournament is the precursor to the Open Championship. In fact, the first Claret Jug would not be presented to the winner until 1873. 

So what was golf like back then? Here's the description of the event, which was won by Willie Park Sr., from the Open Championship website: 

[Park] opened his bid for the first championship at Prestwick in 1860 with a tremendous tee shot that was described by one onlooker as “sounding as if it had been shot from some rocket apparatus” and after three rounds of the 12-hole course he came to the final hole with a one shot lead over his great rival Old Tom Morris. Two putts from 10 yards would have secured him victory, but in his usual fashion he gave the ball a firm rap and it bumped and bobbled across the uneven surface before diving into the hole. He was the first champion golfer by two clear shots.

And who was this Park? Here's how the Open Championship website describes him: 

Willie Park, winner of the first Open Championship in 1860, was the Arnold Palmer of his day. "He goes bold at everything," was the generally held view, "especially with his long putts." It was felt that his aggressive style of play, so often successful in match play, would let him down over 36 holes of stroke-play in the first championship, but he was emphatically to prove his detractors wrong with four Open titles and four runner-up places in a 16-year spell.

 

Happy birthday, professional golf
October 17, 2014 - 8:28am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
eagle
YouTube
This is one of those rare times when an eagle on the golf course isn't a good thing.

An eagle on the golf course is usually a great thing.

In this particular case, however, it didn't help anyone's scorecard.

Check out this video where an actual, real life eagle picks a golf ball up of the green and takes off:

So what do you do if this happens to you? That's covered under decision 18-1 in the Rules of Golf:
 
If a ball at rest is moved by an outside agency, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.

 

Eagle steals man's golf ball
October 17, 2014 - 7:53am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rafa Nadal
YouTube
In this video, tennis star Rafa Nadal works on his poker face by trying to convince two golfers he has amnesia after being struck in the head with a golf ball.

What's better than a well-executed prank?

That's exactly what tennis star Rafa Nadal pulled off recently on a course in Majorca, Spain, on a couple of unsuspecting golfers.

It was all part of a hidden-video prank by PokerStars, in which Nadal would work on his, "poker face," to convince the golfers he had been hit in the head with a ball and had amnesia.

Check it out here:

Now that was good stuff. The two golfers looked genuinely concerned when they saw a man down on the green and then you could see on their faces it quickly escalated to panic when they realized the man down was one of the world's most famous athletes.

Tennis star Rafa Nadal pranks unsuspecting golfers
Mikko Ilonen's scorecard
European Tour
Mikko Ilonen's magic number on Thursday at the Volvo World Match Play Championship was 3.
It's mid-October, but this is a big week in golf around the globe. The PGA Tour is in Las Vegas, the LPGA Tour is in South Korea, the Champions Tour is in North Carolina, and the European Tour has a pair of events going on: the Hong Kong Open in Asia and the Volvo World Match Play Championship outside of London.
 
As we most recently saw at the Ryder Cup, match-play golf is a unique animal that often produces memorable scorecards. It happened again on Thursday on the second day of the Volvo Match Play.
 
Defending champion and Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell faced off against Mikko Ilonen of Finland in a match that McDowell was almost universally expected to win. But he lost, 2 and 1, because Ilonen carded 12 3s over the 17 holes of their match.
 
5 TO WATCH: See who T.J. Auclair has his eye on at the Shriners Hopitals for Children Open
 
Check out the card posted above. After a par on the par-5 opening hole, Ilonen ran off three 3s in a row to build a 2-up lead. He then parred the par-5 sixth hole to see his lead drop to one hole, then carded four more 3s in succession to grab a 4-up lead through 10 holes. From there, he went 4-3-5-3-5-3-3.
 
Amazing, 12 3s. Perhaps even more amazing considering how well he was playing, Ilonen didn't make birdie or eagle on any of the four par-5 holes. 
 
McDowell, for his part, didn't play poorly – he had seven 3s on his own card, and he halved six of the holes on which he made a 3. Between the two of them, they had 13 birdies and no bogeys.
 
Scorecard of the Day: Mikko Ilonen at the Volvo World Match Play Championship
October 15, 2014 - 1:32pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Camilo Villegas
USA Today Sports Images
Camilo Villegas saved his 2013-14 PGA Tour season with a late victory. Will that get him off to a fast start in 2014-15?

The PGA Tour is in Las Vegas this week for the second event on the 2014-15 calendar -- the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Webb Simpson returns to the tournament as the defending champion in a field that will include the likes of FedExCup Champion Billy Horschel, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker.

Birdies are a must at TPC Summerlin -- that's always the case and there always seems to be a 59-watch.

RELATED: Tee times | U.S. Ryder Cup Task Force | Kaymer wins Grand Slam of Golf

Because of that, here are some birdie monsters you might want to keep an eye on this week.

5. Charley Hoffman
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
First start
Reason to watch: Hoffman is making his first start since the BMW Championship. A year ago, his fourth-place finish in Las Vegas was one of five top-10s on the year. In 93 rounds played on Tour in 2013-14, Hoffman was 11th overall in birdies made with 93. That should bode well for Hoffman this week -- of course, he's going to need to shake off some rust.

4. Camilo Villegas
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
First start
Reason to watch: The lone top-10 finish in 2013-14 for Villegas happened to be a rather unexpected win at the Wyndham Championship. The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open was one of eight missed cuts for Villegas in 29 starts a season ago, but that doesn't matter to me too much. He was 14th on Tour in birdies last year. In order to have a better season, he's going to need to limit the big mistakes. You can't make that many birdies and not finish among the top 10 more often.

3. Harris English
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Missed cut at Frys.com
Reason to watch: Though he's coming off a missed cut a week ago, I'm not going to read too deeply into that for English. He was 15th on the PGA Tour in birdies last season, collecting seven top-10 finishes, including a win at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba --the second of his career. English makes birdies and bunches and seems to play his best toward the end of the calendar year, which for him, would make for a great start to a new season.

2. Charles Howell III
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T71 at Frys.com
Reason to watch: It still boggles my mind that Charles Howell III has just two wins on the PGA Tour. How is that even possible? There's so much talent there. He was fourth on the PGA Tour in birdies made last season with six, top-10 finishes. He tied for fifth in Vegas last year. I like his chances this week.

1. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
63rd at Frys.com
Reason to watch: If he's not "the" favorite this week, Walker is certainly "a" favorite. He led the PGA Tour in birdies a season ago and also racked up three wins -- the first three of his career on Tour. A tie for 12th in Vegas was one of an incredible 19 top-25 finishes in 27 starts for Walker. He's become one of those names you expect to see on the first page of the leaderboard week in and week out.

2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open | Five players to watch
October 15, 2014 - 10:02am
mark.aumann's picture
Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson
Even the world's best have to battle the wind sometimes, like Wednesday at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

Making a golf ball do what you want it to do on a calm day is tough enough, but when the wind begins to blow, it can be a real challenge, even for the world's best golfers.

PGA GRAND SLAM OF GOLF: Live scoring, photos, video, updates

That was the case Wednesday in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda. Even world No. 1 Rory McIlroy had to acclimate himself to the changing conditions.

"The wind's up a little bit and from a slightly different direction," McIlroy said. "It's a little tricky out there today."

For Bubba Watson, trying to putt while being buffeted by the wind might be more difficult than trying to shape a shot.

LESSON LEARNED: Tips for putting on a windy day

So what can you do to combat windy conditions? PGA professional Nicole Weller of The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga., offers five tips for amateurs to keep the ball low and in control:

1. When it’s breezy, swing it easy. Don’t fight the wind, work with it. Allow the ball to ride the wind when downwind and plan for it in club choice into the wind.

2. Sometimes when hitting an approach shot into the wind, it’s pretty cool to take 1-2 clubs extra, depending on the wind’s force and plan for the ball to be hit so that it would end up past the hole but then watch as the wind "knocks it down" right near the flagstick.

BROADCAST SCHEDULE: Follow Wednesday's action on TNT, 4 p.m. ET

3. Into the wind, I find success teeing the ball higher so I can level out the approach to the shot and send it more driving into the air instead of teeing it lower and having to then go down after the ball, creating more cut and spin that lifts it too high into the air.

4. If the flag is blowing pretty hard, I’d club up or down one club or play at least 5-10 yards left or right to allow for drift. If the flagstick is actually bending a lot in the wind, I’d club up or down 2-3 clubs or play at least 10-15 yards left or right to allow for drift.

5. Stinger or three-quarter punch shots into the wind can hold the lines fairly well. Instead of a high sweeping finish with low irons, take one or two extra clubs and use all the energy in a three-quarters swing with a finish pointing right at the target, not up into the sky.

 

 

 

Five tips for conquering the wind