March 10, 2016 - 7:44pm
PGA Tour via YouTube
Central Florida apparently had a difficult fall and winter for growing grass, and the greens at Innisbrook this week are said to be not as pristine as they otherwise might be. The best way to deal with those difficult putting surfaces is – to putt on them as infrequently as possible.
One way to do that is to just knock your approach shots into the hole. That's what Blayne Barber did on Thursday, draining a 148-yarder for an eagle on the par-4 12th hole on the Copperhead Course in the first round of the Valspar Championship.
Barber's shot was extra-impressive on a couple of levels. First, it hit the green, took one big hop and came down right in the cup. Second, the ball held its line over its entire flight despite the fact that the wind was whipping most of the day.
That one goes down as our shot of the day, but there were some other real contenders. A little before Barber's heroics, Jason Gore hit a similar shot into the cup for an eagle on the par-4 sixth hole. After a huge drive, his 128-yard second shot drew nicely onto the green before bouncing a couple times and finding the bottom of the cup.
Our co-runner-up is David Toms, whose tee shot on the 211-yard, par-3 eighth hole banged solidly off the flagstick and settled down a couple feet from the hole – with just a tiny bit of luck, it could have fallen in for a hole-in-one. And unlike Barber and Gore, who hit wedges, Toms used a hybrid for his big shot.
Barber finished with an even-par 71, while Gore had a 1-over 72 and Toms carded a 2-over 73. But depite none of them being near the lead, they all have something to talk about tonight at dinner.
Here are their shots:
Blayne Barber sinks 148-yard shot for eagle at Valspar Championship
March 10, 2016 - 5:23pm
USA Today Sports Images
I grew up in a small town in West Texas, where fame and fortune seemed very far away. The most famous sporting figure to emerge from there is Bennie "Chip" Woolley, a horse trainer who won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2009 with Mine That Bird in one of horse racing's great Cinderella stories.
My little town's brush with sporting glory makes me wonder what it's like to have a real global superstar emerge from your ranks. That's certainly the case for the people of Holywood, Northern Ireland, where Rory McIlroy was born and raised.
As part of a BBC project called "School Report," the kids at McIlroy's old high school – Sullivan Upper School – got to ask McIlroy 10 questions about his life now and his days sitting the same desks they sit in and even listening to some of the same teachers they have.
Some of his answers are pretty funny – one of my favorites is that, because he walked to school every day, he liked to go on school bus trips. But all of them are thoughtful, and very much what you'd expect from the young man we in the golf world have gotten to know in recent years.
Here's a few:
Q: When you were a child did you ever think that you were going to become one of the world's best golfers? When did you start to realise your potential?
A: I don't really remember, but from about the age of five I told anyone who would listen that I was going to be the best golfer in the world. They were, mostly, kind enough to humour me with a pat on the head and say: "Of course you are, son". But I started to really believe in myself, and my abilities, when I won the World Under-10 championship in Doral, Florida. I was nine and saw for the first time that I was amongst the best players in the world for my age. This was a massive confidence-builder for me.
Q: What was the worst thing you did in school but were never caught for? Did you ever have a detention and, if so, what for?
A: In all honesty, I never actually did anything wrong (in my eyes, at least) at school or misbehaved in any big way. If it was anything, it was probably just a lot of clowning around. I was detained a couple of times but that was for not handing in homework because I was playing golf or not present because I was playing golf. There was a theme evolving.
Q: If you could change something about your time at Sullivan what would you change and why?
A: I would change nothing, just as I said before. OK then, maybe the food in the canteen! But in a serious sense, wanting to change something from the past doesn't work for me – change something you don't enjoy now rather than regretting it later.
McIlroy also talks about his favorite subjects and memories from school, what else he might have done for a living, when he realized that golf might take over his life, and more.
If you're any kind of McIlroy fan, I encourage you to click on over and read the whole piece – even the comments from the student reporters down at the bottom. I love it that one of them wonders whether, after he's finished with professional golf, McIlroy might return to the school and become the PE teacher!
Rory McIlroy answers questions from students at his old school
March 10, 2016 - 1:40pm
Brandon Jones via Twitter
Phoenix is one of the nation's top golf markets, and is also the home of this weekend's races on the NASCAR schedule. And golf and racing will come together at Phoenix International Raceway as golf cart maker E-Z-GO will sponsor a car in the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.
The No. 33 Chevrolet Camaro will be driven by Brandon Jones and is owned by Richard Childress Racing, one of the sport's powerhouse organizations. Jones is an Xfinity Series rookie, but is fourth in the standings after the first three races of the new season – so there's a good chance the car will contend and get a lot of TV time for E-Z-GO.
The company, a division of Textron, also makes a variety of utility vehicles and personal transportation vehicles. E-Z-GO has been involved in motorsports off an on over the years, having sponsored cars and even races in various NASCAR series.
You can see the paint scheme above. That car looks pretty cool – but there's no trunk or passenger seats, so where do you put your golf clubs?
E-Z-GO to sponsor car in NASCAR Xfinity Series race in Phoenix
March 9, 2016 - 5:18pm
Lydia Ko via Twitter
The LPGA Tour is off this week, so world No. 1 Lydia Ko is up in the Bay Area for a little work and a little play. The work is doing some promotion for the upcoming Swinging Skirts Classic, which will be played in San Francisco in late April.
The play – goofing around with the NBa Champion Golden State Warriors at their pre-game shootaround. She also plans to attend their game tonight against the Utah Jazz.
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We're not sure how much practice the Warriors got in before everyone took a break to watch Ko show off her putting – on the court, with Curry and another avid golfer, Andre Iguodala. We've haven't seen much video yet, but the photos look like everyone was having a lot fun – though maybe not quite as much fun as Curry and Iguodala had when they played Augusta National last week – in their full-court putting contest.
One funny moment: Curry was asked about playing golf with Ko, and he replied that "I don't want that beatdown!"
Here are some photos and video:
A video posted by Golf Magazine (@si_golf) on
Lydia Ko putts with Stephen Curry and Golden State Warriors – on court!
March 8, 2016 - 10:28pm
Jason Dufner via Instagram
Jason Dufner was born in Ohio and lives in Alabama – so naturally, he's a Toronto Blue Jays fan.
Okay, well, maybe the Jays aren't necessarily near and dear to his heart. But the 2013 PGA Champion has become friends with fellow Auburn Tiger alum Josh Donaldson, the Jays' All-Star third baseman and reigning American League MVP.
Donaldson is also a golfer, and played in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last month, where he hung out with Dufner and another good ol' southern boy, Justin Timberlake. So Dufner dropped by Jays camp in Dunedin, Fla., this week, where he shagged some flies and took some cuts.
"We've been talking about it over the years," Donaldson said of Dufner's day at Spring Training. "It's fun to experience something different – to play Pebble Beach was a one-in-a-lifetime experience for me."
Dufner, who played a lot of baseball as a kid, judged his batting practice session as "a pretty good effort on my part," considering he hadn't swung a bat "in probably 10 years." The wind was blowing in, Donaldson said, and that prevented Dufner from hitting any home runs, and Donaldson added that he wanted to get Dufner up to the Rogers Centre in Toronto for another session in the cage.
At age 39, Dufner admitted that his window for playing professional baseball has long been closed. But Donaldson, at age 30, has plenty more years to make it as a professional golfer. So would he consider trading his bats for golf clubs on a full-time basis?
"I'm not even close to how good those guys are," he said. "I go out and hack it around out there."
Speaking of hacks, you can see some photos of Dufner taking his hacks here, and here's an Instagram video:
Jason Dufner takes batting practice with Toronto Blue Jays
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