October 15, 2014 - 1:32pm
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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
Patrick Reed getting "shushed"
IMG Golf via Twitter
Patrick Reed got "shushed" by some Ryder Cup opponents, but couldn't help but laugh.
It's been a couple weeks already, but Patrick Reed's playful "sssshhhing" of the gallery on Sunday at the Ryder Cup remains one of our most distinctive memories from the week at Gleneagles.
 
Several members of the European Ryder Cup team remember Reed as well, and on Tuesday he got a light-hearted taste of his own medicine. In the run-up to this week's Volvo World Match Play Championship in London, Reed got "shushed" by five of his opponents from Gleneagles.
 
As you can see in the photo above, Reed took the joke in the spirit it was intended. From left to right, the "shushers" are Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher.
 
Reed – the standout player for the United States at Gleneagles – is the only American among the 16 players in the Volvo World Match Play field, and he has promised to "let his emotions fly" when he kicks off the tournament on Wednesday.
 
''Am I going to get as rowdy as I did at the Ryder Cup? Probably not,'' Reed said Tuesday. ''But playing great golf always gets me excited, no matter what. Whether I'm back home or playing with my buddies or whether I'm on the PGA Tour or I'm over here, if I'm making birdies and playing well, there's going be to fist-pumps and excitement.''  
 
The young Texan became a target of some fans after he put his finger to his lips and gave the hush sign after rolling in a big birdie during the singles on Sunday en route to winning the last of his 3 ½ points on the week. But if it seemed like the gallery was against him, Reed said the response he got was quite the opposite.
 
''I got 45 emails when I got home,'' Reed recalled. ''Only five were from Americans, all the others were European and every one of them was positive. They absolutely loved it.''
 
And what did his opponents think?
 
''He's a little controversial, but he backs it up,'' said McDowell. ''It's exciting for golf.''
 
 
Patrick Reed gets shushed by European Ryder Cup players
Paula Creamer at the DMZ in Korea
Paula Creamer via Instagram
Paula Creamer's visit to the Demilitarized Zone included throwing hand grenades and tomahawks.
Anyone who keeps up with Paula Creamer knows she is an unabashed supporter of the military.
 
Creamer, whose father was a Navy pilot, proved it again this week on her way to the LPGA Tour's KEB-Hana Bank Championship near Seoul, South Korea. The Pink Panther spent Monday visiting the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division up near the Demilitarized Zone near the border with North Korea.
 
Creamer dropped in on several outposts, met with the troops, fired machine guns, hosted a golf clinic – and also learned how to throw tomahawks and hand grenades. "Not many people can say they've done that," she noted.
 
She also participated in a closest-to-the-pin contest with a few soldiers on the "world's most dangerous hole" – a 192-yard par 3 at Camp Bonifas that is about 400 yards from the Demilitarized Zone and surrounded by land mines on three sides. 
 
"I don't know how they do it being so far away from their families and keeping your country safe and fighting for us," Creamer said of her hosts. "Their faces light up when you talk about sport in general, but being a female golfer coming in there and being able to hit chip shots or balls on the range and play the toughest par 3 in the world, that's pretty cool." 
 
You can see several more images of her visit on her Instagram account, and I encourage you to take a look – her tomahawk-throwing form is outstanding
 
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
 
 

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Bird's-eye view of playing golf's "most dangerous hole" at Camp Bonifas #PCvisits2ID

View on Instagram

 
Paula Creamer visits troops near DMZ in Korea
Port Royal clubhouse
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
The steady breeze at Port Royal on Tuesday likely will get stronger as Hurricane Gonzalo closes in on Bermuda later this week.
By Josh Ball, PGA.com Contributor
 
SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – Having been battered by Tropical Storm Fay last weekend, Bermuda is bracing itself for potentially another direct hit later this week from Hurricane Gonzalo.
 
Predicted to be a Category 2 storm at least, the weather system is forcing tourists to change travel plans, while locals glance nervously at satellite images for regular updates. As of Tuesday evening, Gonzalo had winds of about 110 miles an hour as it moved northward from Puerto Rico and was expected to hit, or pass near, Bermuda sometime Friday.
 
And the PGA of America, having narrowly avoided disaster before the start of the PGA Grand Slam, is busy making contingency plans for its on-site staff, many of whom aren't scheduled to leave until Friday.
 
The fact that all the flights off the island are now fully booked until Monday says much for the belief that the storm could be a big one.
 
 
Even so, David Charles, the PGA's senior director of championships, is not overly concerned about packing up in time.
 
"Obviously we're tracking what's coming our way," he said. "But I think it's a Friday scenario, and typically we would have everything off the golf course and packed up by the end of the day Thursday. Timing wise we're fine.
 
"A lot of people have tried to change flights, but there's not a lot of availability. Most people are leaving Thursday, obviously it's contingent that Thursday's okay as well."
 
For now all the PGA staff can do is watch and wait.
 
"Hopefully the storm goes between us and the East Coast, and misses us by 100 miles or so," said Charles.
 
 
 
 
As Hurricane Gonzalo approaches Bermuda, PGA Grand Slam casts eyes to the skies
Bubba Watson and Kevin Durant
Getty Images
Bubba Watson got two very big souvenirs from Kevin Durant, and one very big regret.
About a month after he won won the Masters for the second time last spring, Bubba Watson made a new friend – Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his excitement to meet the NBA's MVP, Watson asked Durant for his shoes after the Thunder eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers.
 
Durant immediately agreed, and handed his shoes to Watson, who was sitting courtside at the Staples Center for the big game. 
 
So Watson headed home with two very big souvenirs – and one very big regret.
 
"As soon as it came out of my mouth," Watson said this week at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, he wished he'd never asked.
 
"If somebody did that to me at the Masters, I would be so mad," he admitted. "But maybe [Durant] likes me enough." 
 
 
As Watson explained in Bermuda, he met Durant at a Bible study in Los Angeles the day before the game. As they chatted afterward, Watson said, "hey, why don't you give me your shoes after the game? It'd be funny."
 
And, as PGA.com's T.J. Auclair reported, "Moments after winning the Game 6 showdown … Durant slipped off his game-worn shoes and ran them over to Watson." The two shared a hug and Watson wished Durant well the rest of the way.
 
Watson is a huge NBA fan, and has been seen at several practices and games the last couple of years. In fact, his wife, Angie, is a former WNBA player.
 
But it sounds like his days of big-time souvenir hunting might be over.
 
Here are a couple of videos, first of Watson getting the shoes, and then of Watson explaining his second thoughts:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bubba Watson regrets asking Kevin Durant for his game-worn shoes