July 9, 2014 - 8:41am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Zach Johnson
USA Today Sports Images
It's hard not to like Zach Johnson at the John Deere Classic. He's a former winner and always seems to be in the mix.

The PGA Tour is in Silvis, Ill., this week for the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run. It's the final event on Tour before next week's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

Though it's the week before a major and a long way from England, many of the top players on Tour, including Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth, are in the field.

Johnson and Spieth are both past champions at John Deere. In fact, Spieth outlasted Johnson in a playoff there just last year. You're going to want to keep an eye on those two players as well as a few others this week.

RELATED: John Deere Classic tee times | Photos from John Deere | July reader photos

5. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: Moore has been steady pretty much all season long, racking up 10 top-25 finishes in 17 starts. His latest effort was a tie for fifth at the Travelers Championship. His best finish at the John Deere Classic was a tie for eighth in 2012. I just feel like he's been playing well, contending regularly and that trend will continue this week.

4. Harris English
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba
Reason to watch: In his lone John Deere Classic start, English tied for 15th a year ago. He has seven top-10 finishes this season, including a tie for seventh at the Travelers Championship in his last start. English won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba back in November, which was part of the new wraparound schedule. After that T15 in Silvis last year, English finished T15 the following week at the Open Championship and then T14 in his next start -- the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. To me, it looks like there's something about this time of the year on the Tour schedule that fancies English. We'll see if that plays out again this time around at TPC Deere Run.

3. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T6 at the Memorial Tournament
Reason to watch: Johnson has said many times before -- this is his fifth major. The former Masters champ is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, less than 100 miles from Silvis, Ill. This is his PGA Tour "home game." Johnson counts the 2012 John Deere Classic among his 11 PGA Tour wins. He also came up short in a playoff a year ago, tied for third in 2011 and tied for second in 2009. You have to go all the way back to March for Johnson's last top-10 finish on Tour. He's keen to change that this week -- especially before heading over to England for the Open next week.

2. Steve Stricker
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T6 at the Memorial Tournament
Reason to watch: Stricker is taking heat this week from some in the golf industry for his decision to withdraw from next week's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. It's the second year in a row that Stricker -- who has been playing a "limited schedule" -- has decided to take a pass on the game's oldest major. With that, he's playing the John Deere Classic this week, an event that he won three consecutive years beginning in 2009. He tied for 10th in the tournament a year ago. When it comes to "horses for courses" few fit the bill quite like Stricker at TPC Deere Run. Plus, he'd like to give everyone something else to talk about.

1. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Second at Hyundai Tournament of Champions and T2 at the Masters
Reason to watch: Spieth's lone PGA Tour win came at this very tournament one year ago in dramatic fashion. He holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole (which he successfully recreated recently) to earn a spot in a playoff before outlasting David Hearn and Zach Johnson. Since then, it seems Spieth has done everything but win on the PGA Tour. In 19 starts this season, Spieth has finished in the top-25 on 15 occasions, including six top 10s. It's only a matter of time before Spieth wins again, so why not this week where he's the defending champ.


2014 John Deere Classic | Five players to watch
July 8, 2014 - 9:17am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Phil Mickelson
Many argue that Phil Mickelson possesses the most imaginative short game in golf history. This is one of those reasons.

There's a video making the rounds on social media this morning of Phil Mickelson playing a flop shot backwards that's pretty amazing.

A flop shot backwards? Yes. The pin is behind Mickelson and -- aiming away from the hole -- he takes a mighty swing, the ball sails over his head (backwards) and settles within a few feet of the cup.

The video is said to have been shot on Monday at Royal Aberdeen where Mickelson was taking in a practice round before defending his title in this week's Scottish Open.

Here it is:


We've seen Mickelson hit this shot many times before. Very cool, but not as cool as this one from his instructional video:

Come on, Phil. Seriously?


Mickelson's backwards flop shot
July 8, 2014 - 8:16am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
John Singleton
John Singleton, a 30-year-old resin plant factory worker from England, made it through a qualifier last week and will play in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

When I first stumbled upon this story, I thought for a minute that it had to be a leaked script for a new sports-inspired Disney movie.

Turns out the story of John Singleton is, indeed, real life.

And it's awesome.

Singleton is a 30-year-old factory worker -- resin plant mixer -- at Advanced Electrical Varnishes in Birkenhead, England.

READ: Canadian golf professional saves man from sinking minivan

Borrowing two wedges from a friend, Singleton earned a spot in next week's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool via a qualifier at Hillside Golf Club in Southport last Tuesday.

Singleton shot rounds of 72-66 in the 36-hole qualifier before advancing in a playoff.

Absolutely incredible.

The only question left was whether or not Singleton would be able to get the time off of work to play in the Open.

His boss came up aces.

Singleton was granted two weeks off -- this week so he can practice and next week so he can compete. On top of that, his boss wanted to be fair to the other workers.

"Because we cut John some slack we thought we ought to cut everybody else some," Richard Tweddle said. "We gave them a day's holiday and said if they want to take it on Thursday and go to the Open we would buy them tickets."

How cool is that? 

Factory worker qualifies for Open Championship
July 8, 2014 - 7:29am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Josh Gardner
Josh Gardner, a head golf professional in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, saved a man from a minivan on Saturday moments after it crashed into a pond not far from where Gardner was on the practice tee giving a lesson.

Head golf professionals wear many hats. Among their duties? Organize tournaments, give lessons, mentor assistant professionals, run a pro shop -- the list goes on.

One duty you wouldn't expect to find on that list is "life saver." However, you can now add that to Josh Gardner's resume.

Gardner, the head golf professional at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, quickly sprung into action when he saw something you don't see everyday on the golf course this past Saturday.

READ: Weirdest things you've seen on the golf courseMcNeill learns of sister's death moments after 61

As he was giving a lesson, Gardner noticed a minivan coming down a hill behind him. Moments later, it went airborne and plunged into the middle of a pond on the course.

Gardner immediately directed one of his assistants to call 911. Gardner called out to the driver several times, but when he didn't get a response, he made the decision to jump into the water.

Here's what Gardner told the Calgary Sun:

"He wasn't responding so I just made the choice to go into the water," he said.

"(The minivan) started to go down, I could see the water level rising in it."

Gardner said he swam out about 20 metres to the van, which was sinking in water he estimates was about 12 metres deep.

"I swam in through the driver's side window and got his seatbelt off," he said.

"The water was coming in strong, it was up to his chest."

Gardner safely got the driver -- a man in his 40s, who emergency crews believe experienced a medical situation before the crash -- back to dry land.

With a belief that there may be another person in the minivan, Gardner jumped right back into the water to inspect. It turns out the driver was the only occupant.

"It's a great feeling (to have helped save him), but I just did what anybody would do," Gardner told the Calgary Sun. "It was an emotional day, but it was a best case scenario for that situation."

Canadian golf professional saves man from sinking minivan
Sclaff might be the world of the day, but it's probably got a ways to go before it makes it into a game of golf bingo.
Every day, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website posts its "word of the day." I'm usually pretty good at knowing them, but I have to admit that I had never heard of today's word.
Even worse for someone who's worked in golf journalism for a couple of decades now, it's a golf word.
So here it is: "Sclaff."
OK, golfers, ever heard of it? Know what it means?
Time's up.
Sclaff, according to Merriam-Webster, is a verb that means "to scrape the ground instead of hitting the ball cleanly on a golf stroke."
Here's an example they cited:
"Despite a bogey on his penultimate hole of the morning, where he sclaffed about in the sand and made things worse with three putts, it was a second consecutive 72 for the former Open champion." — Paul Forsyth, Scotland on Sunday, April 13, 2003
To me, "sclaff" sounds like a combination of "scrape" and "laugh" – which, heck, just might be where it comes from.
Or maybe not. But hey, either way, you learned something today!
Do you know the golf word of the day?
Angel Cabrera
USA Today Images
Angel Cabrera won his first non-major PGA Tour event Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic.

PGA Professional Charlie Epps has watched Angel Cabrera grow from an unpolished caddie in Argentina to a two-time major champion. Epps, who has been working as Cabrera's instructor since 2007, spoke with PGA.com on Monday about his years teaching Cabrera. 

PGA.com: You lived in Argentina from 1954-1967. How did you first meet Angel Cabrera?

Epps: I first met Angel playing in the Argentine Open. We played practice rounds together. Plus, I grew up on the same golf course where he grew up, but 20 years apart. I really met him when he was about 18 years old as a young caddie. Then, over the years, the relationship grew because we played together. I never helped him with his game early on. But then in 2007, his manager called me and wanted to know if I would be interested in helping him with his putting, mainly just putting. That’s when it all started.

MORE: Watch: Cabrera hole out for eagle | What's in Cabrera's bag | Cabrera wins Greenbrier Classic

PGA.com: From a teaching standpoint, what is something that you and Angel had to overcome in order for him to have such a successful career?

Epps: He’s a perfectionist, and sometimes a missed shot bothers him more than it should. He has a hard time letting go of a bad shot and bouncing back. Even today, I told him a couple months ago, I said, ‘Angel, you’re letting things get to you too much. Your anger is hurting you.’ He said, ‘Listen, I won two majors with this attitude.’ And I said, ‘yeah, but you could have won eight more.’ So I’m always trying to teach him to be more patient with himself. And, especially now, at the age of 44, when some shots happen just because you’re 44, not because of your motor skills. He’s still really demanding of himself.

PGA.com: What element of Cabrera’s game do you believe has improved the most since you’ve been working with him?

Epps: All I can help Angel with is practice, training more, spending more time putting. We were able to use a couple of teaching aids that accomplished what I want him to do without having him have to think. See, he grew up as young caddie, who No. 1) he wasn’t allowed on the golf course, so he’d sneak on the golf course. And No. 2) there was no driving range, so they were just players. They never hit balls. They saw each other’s swing, and this area where he comes from there were some great golfers. And so he learned with his eyes and not with his thoughts.

The one people who don’t put up to their expectations. They go to the practice green, and if they don’t make some putts, they leave out of frustration. Well, there’s a teaching device called "Inside Down the Line" by Momentus. And in 2009, I got that and I was able to get him in a training cycle, where he could make 100 putts in a row. The training device helped me control his path more. Like most people, he liked right-to-left putts. But left-to-right putts were very difficult for him. This allowed me to get him to aim correctly, control the path and have the face square to the direction the ball needed to go. It’s worked quite well.

PGA.com: How did you celebrate after Cabrera’s win at The Greenbrier Classic?

Epps: We flew home to Houston late last night, because on Friday we go to the British Open. It was just he and I on a private plane, having a few adult beverages and reminiscing of all the hard work he’s put in over the last few months. There were a few months there where we weren’t getting a lot out of a round, shooting some 72s, 73s, missing the cut by one. But we both knew that it was close. It was close at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. He went on to the Travelers (Championship) and finished 11th, and then he went to Congressional and finished in the top 20. Golf is so much about momentum and making the par putts at the right time is what really keeps round going. Yesterday afternoon (Sunday), he hit his worst drive of the tournament on No. 2, but ended up making a great 4. That really, really was the turning point of that round, and he just went on to play an incredible round of golf.

PGA.com: How does Cabrera’s game set up for Hoylake?

Epps: He can flight the ball as well as anyone, and he’s healthy. In 2010, we went to St. Andrews, and he had tendonitis in his thumb so bad that he didn’t play for three months in the fall of 2010. Last year, he had some problems with his shoulder and really didn’t play for four months. You really put some wear and tear on your body, playing as much golf as he has over the years. But now he’s pretty healthy. 

You can follow Epps on Twitter @TheGolf_Doctor

Angel Cabrera's rise through the eyes of his instructor