April 26, 2017 - 3:07pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Zurich Classic
USA Today Sports Images
The Zurich Classic has a new format this week, one we're really excited about. Rickie Fowler and Jason Day make up one of 80 two-man teams.

This should be a fun week on the PGA Tour.

For the first time, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will be a two-man team event. Here's how it will work:

The new 72-hole stroke play format will feature Foursomes (alternate shot) during the first and third rounds and Four-Ball (best ball) during the second and fourth rounds. The starting field will consist of 80 teams (160 players). The top 35 teams -- and ties -- will make the 36-hole cut.

RELATED: Zurich Classic leaderboard | USGA, R&A announce new video review rules

With this format comes some awesome duos who will be pegging it together.

These are the nine we're most excited about:

9. Bryson DeChambeau and Rory Sabbatini
What's that they say? Opposites attract? I'm not sure you'll find a team of two in the field more opposite than this one. DeChambeau is as methodical as they come. Sabbatini, meanwhile, doesn't waste any time. He gets to his ball and hits it. They're also quite different style and personality-wise.

8. Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley
Aside from both having attended Alabama and being rabid Crimson Tide fans, these two aren't just teammates, but also roommates... not on the road, but at the home these buddies share in Jupiter, Florida. They've played tons and tons of golf together. Despite the fact that they're among the younger teammates in this event, you might be hard-pressed to find a pair that has played more golf together.

7. Daniel Berger and Thomas Pieters
There's a very real possibility that while these two are teammates this week, they could be foes two years from now in the 2018 Ryder Cup. Berger just missed a spot on the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team, while Pieters was a star rookie for the losing European side at Hazeltine. Both are long, long hitters.

6. Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly
Get your cheeseheads out, folks. The tournament might be in Saints country, but expect to see a lot of Green Bay Packers fans following these Wisconsinites. Stricker and Kelly have been a force in team events through the years that aren't considered "official PGA Tour" events. There's no reason to think they couldn't keep that chemistry going this week.

5. Steven Bowditch and Boo Weekley
All I can think when I look at this team is "fun." Like, lots of fun. Bowditch is the most self-deprecating player on the PGA Tour today. Weekley, meanwhile, is one of the most unintentionally funny (or is it?) players in PGA Tour history. The two are great friends. Check out their Twitter accounts and you'll see photos of them on fishing trips together and playing practice rounds together. Bowditch has had a tough go with his game these last couple of years, so maybe a relaxed format like this with a goof buddy is just what he needs.

4. Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer
Two Dallas boys with a ton of game. Palmer is the kind of player who has been known to rack up top 10s. With Spieth rocking a hot putter, life could be a little easier down the stretch for Palmer. Expect a lot of Cowboys talk between these two.

3. Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes
Two of the biggest hitters in the game, there's a chance that this could potentially be a sneak peek at a pairing for the 2018 Ryder Cup in France. The duo has played in five Ryder Cups between them, but have never been players on the same team, though Watson was an assistant captain and Holmes a player on the winning 2016 team. Interestingly, Holmes is the only U.S. Ryder Cup player since Corey Pavin in 1993 who can count his first two Ryder Cup starts (2008, 2016) as victories. The only issue for this pair could come on the greens.

2. Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose
We've already seen how good these two are in a Ryder Cup setting together. What will they bring to the table in an event that isn't nearly the pressure cooker and they can literally go all out on every single hole? Based on world ranking, this is the strongest team at the Zurich Classic. Reigning Open Champion Stenson is ranked No. 6, currently, while Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open Champion, 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist and 2017 Masters runner up is No. 8.

1. Jason Day and Rickie Fowler
Easy. Over the last five years, they've been two of the most exciting players to watch in all of golf. Day owns the only major between the pair -- the 2015 PGA Championship -- but both players have consistently racked up major top 10s outside Day's win and they're also both winners of the Players Championship. On paper, they're the second-best team in the field. Day is ranked No. 3 in the world while Fowler is No. 9.

9 teams we can't wait to watch at the Zurich Classic this week
Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington
USA Today Sports Images
To call the relationship between Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia "icy" through the years might be an understatement. However, it appears that iciness has thawed between the major champions after a chat at Rory McIlroy's wedding.

By now you've heard that Rory McIlroy tied the knot with Erica Stoll in a lavish wedding at a castle in Ireland last week, featuring performances by Stevie Wonder and Ed Sheeran.

But the biggest headline coming out of the otherwise private affair seems to involve two of the wedding guests -- major champions Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington.

Through the years, the European Ryder Cup teammates have never been all that chummy with one another.

Harrington defeated Garcia in a playoff at the 2007 Open Championship and Garcia was a runner up to Harrington in the 2008 PGA Championship. So, there was a bit of a rivalry there, but that only scratched the surface.

Harrington was never a fan of Garcia's on-course antics, which years ago included Garcia spitting in a hole on a green in frustration, an incident that didn't sit well with his peers and especially Harrington.

In the wake of Garcia's win at the Masters a few weeks ago where he finally shed that dreaded title of best-player-never-to-win-a-major, Harrington was interviewed and asked about his thoughts on the Spaniard finally snatching up that long-lost major.

Here's what Harrington had to say in his interview with 2FM in Ireland:

"We were such opposites...I worked at it, grinded it out, got the best out of it.

"I’m very strong on the etiquette of the game, so I don’t tolerate people spitting in the hole, throwing their shoes or their golf clubs. That would be my attitude. That would be quite clear from where I came from.

"Then we would have went into the majors, and obviously I beat him. I gave him every out I possibly could have at the 2007 Open.

"I was as polite as I could and was as generous as I could be, but he was a very sore loser. And he continued to be a very sore loser.

"Clearly, after that, we have had a very sticky [relationship]."

Harrington did admit that he and Garcia were on better terms because of their association with the Ryder Cup but had said hello through "gritted teeth" at the Masters.

"The Ryder Cup improves it no end, but we say hello to each other every day we meet, but it’s with gritted teeth. There’s no doubt about it," he added.

"It’s just one of those things... we’re rivals.

"I was delighted to see the emotion on the 18th green. Anybody watching that has got to feel for him. You could see in that moment in time that he has paid his dues.”

Understandably, the words that made headlines in the Harrington interview was his description of Garcia as a "sore loser."

Well, as fate would have it, Garcia was the first person Harrington saw upon checking in for the McIlroy nuptials.

Awkward, you might think. But, according to Harrington, it wasn't that way at all. Just the opposite, in fact.

Brian Keogh from www.irishgolfdesk.com, spoke to Harrington about that meeting with Garcia:

And while the Dubliner was bracing himself for a frosty reception after clouding his post Masters comments about being “happy” for Garcia in his moment of glory by recalling how he’d been a “sore loser” in the past, he was amazed at Garcia’s reaction. Two weeks after the storm broke, all is calm again.

“I would say to you that right now at this very moment, my relationship with Sergio is the best it has ever been," Harrington revealed.

Harrington told Keogh that the "sore loser" comments he made had to be dealt with and the were. He said, "Myself and Sergio are on a much better footing than we have ever been.”

So there you have it. All is now well on the Harrington/Garcia front. 

Rory McIlroy wedding brings two people together... Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia
April 25, 2017 - 1:28pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Topgolf gave 2,251 free lessons on National Golf Day in 2016 and is hoping to surpass that this year.

Wednesday, April 26, is the 10th annual National Golf Day -- a day where a coalition of golf’s leading organizations heads to Washington, D.C., to educate our country's lawmakers about the game's significant impact.

As part of the National Golf Day celebration, popular Topgolf has announced that it is attempting to break a company record for the most lessons taught in a single day.

To hit that mark, Topgolf is offering a free, five-minute lesson to any guest who visits a Topgolf venue on April 26. In 2016, Topgolf venues gave 2,251 free lessons on National Golf Day.

“We are proud to celebrate the game on National Golf Day by offering our guests a free and easy way to improve their swing,” said Topgolf Entertainment Group Co-Chairman and CEO Erik Anderson. “Thanks to our Topgolf U instructional program, Topgolf is doubling down on our commitment to help grow the game by introducing our guests to the sport in a high-energy, fun and laid-back environment.”

What gets covered in the five-minute lesson is entirely up to you. The Topgolf website says, "That’s five minutes of fix-whatever-you-want-to-become-the-incredible-golfer-you-were-destined-to-be. If you’re looking to take a closer look at your swing, slow-motion video analysis through the Topgolf U instructional program will also be available."

"Topgolf has exhibited great interest in helping the golf industry with its growth of the game efforts, so partnering with them once again for National Golf Day is natural as we celebrate the event's 10th anniversary," said Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation. "In the last decade, the awareness of National Golf Day has grown significantly, and free lessons at Topgolf's venues in major metropolitan areas will help us continue reaching and engaging new audiences." 

Topgolf to offer free lessons for National Golf Day
April 25, 2017 - 11:24am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Lexi Thompson
USA Today Sports Images
A few weeks after Lexi Thompson incurred a four-stroke penalty at the ANA Inspiration due to a video review, the USGA and R&A announced new rules on Tuesday that limits the use of video in a review.

If you recall, it was just a few weeks ago that Lexi Thompson lost in a playoff at the ANA Inspiration -- the LPGA's first major of the season.

After completing the 12th hole in her final round, Thompson was informed that she was receiving a four-stroke penalty for an infraction that occurred a day earlier in the third round.

Thompson improperly replaced her marked ball -- on a 15-inch putt -- and was assessed a two-shot penalty for not returning the ball to its original spot. She was then assessed an additional two-stroke penalty for signing for an incorrect score.

A fan emailed the LPGA to make officials aware of the infraction the day of the final round and after review, informed Thompson.

The decision sent social media abuzz, questioning: 1. Whether viewers should be allowed to call in violations; 2. How much time should be allowed to pass between an unknown infraction and when it's enforced; and 3. Are these call-in/email infractions fair to the top players who receive most of the televison coverage?

RELATED: Thompson accessed four-stroke penalty day after infraction | Social media reacts

Under the new rules, call-ins will still be allowed, but players who receive the bulk of the TV time will not be held to a higher standard than the rest of the field. For example, "a player who unknowingly touches a few grains of sand in taking a backswing with a club in a bunker when making a stroke."

Under the new rule, "If the committee concludes that such facts could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye and the player was not otherwise aware of the potential breach, the player will be deemed not to have breached the Rules, even when video technology shows otherwise. This is an extension of the provision on ball-at-rest-moved cases, which was introduced in 2014."

The second rule comes into play when a player determines a spot, point, position, line, area, distance or other location in applying the Rules, and "recognizes that a player should not be held to the degree of precision that can sometimes be provided by video technology. Examples include determining the nearest point of relief or replacing a lifted ball."

That one applies to Thompson.

"So long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted, even if later shown to be inaccurate by the use of video evidence," according to the press release issued by the USGA and R&A.

Here is the complete statement:

New Rules of Golf Decision Limits Use of Video Review

FAR HILLS, N.J., USA AND ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (April 25, 2017) -- The USGA and The R&A have issued a new Decision on the Rules of Golf to limit the use of video evidence in the game, effective immediately.

The two organizations have also established a working group of LPGA, PGA Tour, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America representatives to immediately begin a comprehensive review of broader video issues, including viewer call-ins, which arise in televised competitions.

New Decision 34-3/10 implements two standards for Rules committees to limit the use of video: 1) when video reveals evidence that could not reasonably be seen with the “naked eye,” and 2) when players use their “reasonable judgment” to determine a specific location when applying the Rules. The full language of the Decision can be found here.

The first standard states, “the use of video technology can make it possible to identify things that could not be seen with the naked eye.” An example includes a player who unknowingly touches a few grains of sand in taking a backswing with a club in a bunker when making a stroke.

If the committee concludes that such facts could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye and the player was not otherwise aware of the potential breach, the player will be deemed not to have breached the Rules, even when video technology shows otherwise. This is an extension of the provision on ball-at-rest-moved cases, which was introduced in 2014.

The second standard applies when a player determines a spot, point, position, line, area, distance or other location in applying the Rules, and recognizes that a player should not be held to the degree of precision that can sometimes be provided by video technology. Examples include determining the nearest point of relief or replacing a lifted ball.

So long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted, even if later shown to be inaccurate by the use of video evidence.

Both of these standards have been extensively discussed as part of the Rules modernization initiative. The USGA and The R&A have decided to enact this Decision immediately because of the many difficult issues arising from video review in televised golf.

The standards in the Decision do not change any of the current requirements in the Rules, as the player must still act with care, report all known breaches of the Rules and try to do what is reasonably expected in making an accurate determination when applying the Rules.

Video-related topics that require a deeper evaluation by the working group include the use of information from sources other than participants such as phone calls, email or social media, and the application of penalties after a score card has been returned.

USGA Executive Director/CEO Mike Davis said, “This important first step provides officials with tools that can have a direct and positive impact on the game. We recognize there is more work to be done. Advancements in video technology are enhancing the viewing experience for fans, but can also significantly affect the competition. We need to balance those advances with what is fair for all players when applying the Rules.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have been considering the impact of video review on the game and feel it is important to introduce a Decision to give greater clarity in this area. Golf has always been a game of integrity and we want to ensure that the emphasis remains as much as possible on the reasonable judgment of the player rather than on what video technology can show.”

The USGA and The R&A will consider additional modifications recommended by the working group for implementation in advance of Jan. 1, 2019, when the new code resulting from the collaborative work to modernize golf’s Rules takes effect. 

USGA, R&A introduce new rules regarding review
April 25, 2017 - 8:28am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
It's not uncommon to stumble upon alligators while playing a round of golf in certain parts of the country. But two gators rumbling? That doesn't happen every day.

The list of things I hope not to encounter on a golf course isn't very long. But, among the highlights are these three, in no particular order:

1. A score worse than bogey (pretty much unavoidable, so I've learned to live with it)

2. Snakes

3. Alligators

The topic for this piece is entry No. 3: alligators.

I can't stand the people who say, "If you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone." Guys, those things are like water dinosaurs!

Last week on the 18th hole at Panthers Run at Ocean Ridge Plantation in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., YouTube user derekreed36d captured video of two gators all-out rumbling in a body of water that skirts the fairway of the hole.

Here it is:

Those gators were huge. No, thank you. 

Two, huge gators duke it out on North Carolina golf course
April 23, 2017 - 2:31pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
summer golf goals
Dan McDonald/PGA.com
Setting golf goals for the summer ahead -- big or small, it doesn't matter -- will give you something to shoot for when you get out on the course and something to look back on when your season ends.

There's no such thing as "too much golf," right?

Chances are if you're playing a good bit of golf, you're doing it for many reasons, two of which are: because you love it; because you're trying to shoot the best round you can every time you get out there.

With an emphasis on that "trying to shoot the best round you can every time you get out there" reason, we asked the 414,000+ in PGA.com Facebook Nation to share with us their golf goals for this summer.

RELATED: Fond memories shared from times spent on public golf courses

As usual, you did not disappoint with nearly 400 replies.

Here's a collection of our favorite responses and good luck to all of you in meeting your goals:

"Break 80 at my new local course. Beautiful but difficult." -- Sam Nord

"Shoot par! Been close, hopefully this is the year." -- Shannon Holt

"To have the family break 50 on nine holes." -- Jake Busbia

"Get my 13 handicap to single digits... and make my first hole in one." -- Todd Evans

"To be able to play twice a month." -- Michael McKinnon

"Work to get to 80. Started playing at age 52, now 68. Still learning." -- Dave Hake

"Improve my short game." -- Mark Davidson

"Be consistent, patient, and not get mad about a bad shot!" -- Gerald Adams

"Same as every year. Play more and lower my handicap." -- Phil Nykamp

"Pass the PAT in June. Feeling pretty good about it." -- Chris Shearer

"To play 40 rounds." -- Jim St Pierre

"Just keeping it in the fairway would be nice." -- Dave Harvey

"Helping my 12 year old break 80." -- Josh Spangler

"Cut down on the number of houses I hit." -- Lou Madray

"To see more golf tournaments." -- Joe O'Malley

"Reach 76 or lower. Lowest as of now is 80 I think it's reasonable." -- Matt Duider

"Win one of the 3 tournaments I play in with my friends, and break my best score of 76." -- Mike Nash

"Play twice a week. Shoot in low 80s. Get one birdie each week. Six pars each round. Nine bogeys each round." -- Mark Budahl

"Win some tournaments. Plus get my index from 12 into single digits. I have a good PGA instructor." -- Phillip Nahkai

"Completed my goal last summer. Moved to Florida, now I play all year." -- Lou Berlingeri

"Since I'm still a newbie...my goal now is to break 100. Absolutely love the game!" -- Michael Barnett

"Get out as much as I can. Enjoy where I'm at and who I'm with. And beat my last score." -- Brent Ruark

"Win my first Amateur tournaments and play at least 100 rounds this year." -- Mayur Patel

"I'm the living definition of the weekend hack, my goal is to play twice a week, and break 90 on my home course." -- John Golinsky

"It's always to play more, but this year I want to introduce my kids to the game I love so much and to get my handicap down to below 6." -- Rob Hampton

"I want to have fun and laugh a lot." -- Henry Velasquez

That last one is our favorite. No better way to end this piece. 

Your golf goals for this summer