A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to spend a day with two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer. The first 20 minutes of this week's "The 19th Hole Golf Show" is dedicated to that experience and Langer, his approach to the game and some additional tidbits about the German, including the calls he had with 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley last summer.
The final fourth of the program is dedicated to the conundrum Tiger Woods faces about playing in the Masters. Woods' friend Notah Begay III said this week Woods is "50-50" to play in the year's first major, but if he chooses not to play, when could Woods conceivably play again with confidence?
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Aaron Baddeley's tee shot the drivable par-4 17th at TPC San Antonio on Thursday had flown into an unplayable lie. The Aussie decided he would re-tee, hitting 3 from the tee box.
Well, Baddeley put a 3 on his scorecard.
That's because Baddeley holed his second tee ball, dropping in the cup from 336 yards away for the most incredible birdie ever.
"I hit the second one, man, why didn't I do that the first time? And it rolls up and goes in," said Baddeley after the round.
The birdie got Baddeley to 4 under on a difficult scoring day in Round 1 of the Valero Texas Open. He capped off the round with a closing par to shoot 68 on the par-72 track to trail Charley Hoffman by a shot. The incredible escape could prove huge in Baddeley's quest for a fourth PGA Tour win and first since the 2011 Northern Trust Open.
World No. 3 Stacy Lewis went several extra miles this week for one of her biggest fans she met last fall.
Last October, producers from the syndicated TV show "The Doctors" contacted Lewis to see if she would help them for a segment they were doing on 10-year-old Marley Franklin, a young girl who fell in love with golf after receiving bone-marrow transparents to treat sickle-cell anemia. Franklin said Lewis was her favorite player. Lewis was more than happy to connect with Franklin, doing so over Skype.
But it didn't stop there. Through her sponsor Bridgestone, Lewis sent some equipment and apparel to Franklin. Lewis also invited Franklin and her family to this week's Kia Classic.
However, Lewis went even further, hosting Franklin and her family, as well as teeing it up with Franklin during the pro-am. Franklin got to shadow the two-time major winner, including attending the pro-am party and having a seat on stage for Lewis' pre-tournament news conference.
"Golf is very important to me," Franklin said on stage. "I love how it just makes me feel. I play almost like every day."
Franklin has been playing for two years now and is ranked 55th in the world in the Girls 10-11 age group -- quite an achievement for any player.
Even better, Marley's sister Maya, who donated the bone marrow used in the transplant, is starting to take up the game.
"Sometimes she'll mimic me putt," Franklin said, "and she'll be like, 'I made it. I'm going to beat sissy some day.'"
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Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot to the par-4 12th at TPC San Antontio in Round 1 of of the Valero Texas Open into a fairway bunker. After a short conversation with caddie Jim Mackay, Mickelson settled on an 8-iron for the 154-yard approach.
Mickelson took the club back and through the ball. After impact, the club suddenly felt a whole lot lighter. That's because the club head had come off the iron and flown just outside the bunker.
Naturally, Mickelson was befuddled as his ball didn't land even close to his target.
Unfortunately, Mickelson went on to make bogey on the hole. However, he did shoot 2-under 70 in tough conditions.
It's ugly out there on Day 1 of the Valero Texas Open.
Combine a tough TPC San Antonio course with up to 35 mph winds, and scores ballooned for the entire field. Among the morning wave of 72 players, three withdrew and 22 shot 80 or higher on the par-72 layout. By comparison, entering Thursday, there had been just 57 total rounds of 80 or higher to date on the 2014-15 PGA Tour season.
Johnson Wagner shot 15-over 87. Major champions Geoff Ogilvy and Martin Kaymer each shot 82 -- a career-worst round for the reigning U.S. Open champion. Past Valero Texas Open winner Ben Curtis shot 80.
A year ago, the scoring average for Round 1 was 73. Through the morning wave, it was trending toward 79. By comparison, the scoring average during the nearly impossible final round of the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills was 78.73.
The winner among the morning players was Matt Kuchar, whose 72 was astounding considering the conditions and what he did relative to the field.
When asked what he thought of the day and the round, Kuchar said he was just happy it was over.
First, the bad news: Tiger Woods' friend and Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay III believes the 14-time major winner is a "50/50 chance" to play in the Masters in two weeks.
Now, the good news: Begay's analysis has improved the odds from a "1-in-10" shot just three weeks ago.
“I think his golf game as a whole is in a great place,” Begay said in a 120 Sports interview. “I think it was good for him to take a step back and assess a variety of things and do things on his timeline. It’s easy to get bullied into trying to acquiesce to the media’s concerns, or the PGA Tour’s concerns, or other people’s agendas."
Woods said Feb. 11 that he would not play tournament golf again until his game was "tournament ready." He's skipped The Honda Classic, played in his adopted hometown, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he was won a record eight times. Ranked 96th in this week's Official World Golf Ranking, Woods didn't even qualify for the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier in the month.
Begay insisted he's seen Woods get better, particularly in his mental approach.
“I don’t know there was any one thing in specific that a player looks at," Begay said, "but it’s simply something a player feels when they step on a golf course and they feel like they can go out there and defend themselves."
However, what Begay said is somewhat contradictory. If Woods' game is in a "great place," then he shouldn't be a coin flip to play the first major of the year, right?
You've probably noticed a change in Rory McIlroy's physique over the last couple of years. The world No. 1 has made the commitment to improving his conditioning with the expectation that it will make him a better golfer.
In this video produced by Nike, McIlroy explains what he's trying to accomplish in the gym and what it does for him in a tournament. He's not trying to build glamour muscles, as some have accused Tiger Woods of doing, but is instead trying to build strength to control his golf swing and endurance to give him the energy to finish out a big event.
While McIlroy hasn't played his best in three Florida Swing starts, there's no doubting the impact fitness has on his game and confidence. Now, if he can just figure out wedge play outside of the gym, he'll have a great opportunity to build on his astounding second half of 2014.
No one seems to have any clue whether or not Tiger Woods is going to play in the Masters in two weeks, but 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III knows Woods anticipates making his Hazeltine-bound team.
"He's expecting to make the team," Love said in an interview on BBC Radio. "He and I keep in touch a lot more than we have. He still has a good attitude and is working hard."
Love, however, is in the dark like the rest of us about Woods' status for the Masters.
"I spoke to a few people who tell me he's working very hard and is eager to get back," Love said. "I suppose he has a plan for the Masters. We're hoping to see him back soon."
Woods announced Feb. 11 that he would not play again on the PGA Tour until his game is "tournament ready." He has since skipped The Honda Classic, just minutes from his home in Jupiter Island, Fla., and last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he has won eight times.
Notah Begay III, Woods' friend and former Stanford teammates, said on 120 Sports that the 14-time major winner is essentially a coin flip on if he'll play in the year's first major.
On Tuesday, the Golden Bear got the gold.
In Washington, D.C., Jack Nicklaus was awarded with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow. Congressional leaders attended the ceremony, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
Among Nicklaus' friends in attendance included his wife Barbara, five children and 22 grandchildren. Arnold Palmer even made the trip to the nation's capital, as Nicklaus did the same when Palmer received the same honor in 2012. Members of the Ohio State University marching band, where Nicklaus went to school and dotted the "i" in Ohio in 2006 during their famous pre-football game manuever, were there, too. CBS Sports announcer Jim Nantz was also on hand, delivering remarks.
"Thank you, Jack, for being the most prolific winner in the history of the greatest sport of all time," Nantz said during the ceremony, "and for showing us what it looks like when one dedicates a lifetime to service to others and a lifetime to devotion to family. You've let us all see it right up close."
Nicklaus, who has won a record 18 professional (as he'd say) majors and 73 PGA Tour events, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the executive branch equivalent of the Congressional Gold Medal -- by George W. Bush in 2005. He joins Palmer as the only other golfer, and just one of seven athletes, to earn the Congressional Gold Medal.
The 75-year-old graciously heaped praise on wife Barbara, crediting her with his incredible career.
“She is responsible for 15 of my major championships,” Nicklaus said with a smile. “I’ll give myself three of them.”
Nicklaus concluded his remarks with what a joke that may have played off Pelosi's remarks, when she called him "saintly."
He said, “Anything I’m not proud of was from before the Internet was invented."
After a solid first week with the short putter and a more traditional putting stroke, Adam Scott has struggled.
In his last six PGA Tour rounds between the Valspar Championship -- where Scott missed his first cut, ending a streak of 45 made cuts -- and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Scott has lost 9.3 shots to the field with the flatstick. That's not good. That's on the heels of gaining 3.1 strokes on the field at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, where he first put the traditional-length putter into play.
The bad results from Innisbrook and Bay Hill have Scott considering a change back to the broomstick and anchored stroke one last time at Augusta National in two weeks.
"Putting with a longer putter is maybe the smarter thing to do," Scott said to PGATour.com on Sunday at Bay Hill, where he finished T-35 after having a win in his hands a year ago. "I don't know. It's all about the lag putting. It's such a difference in weight of club and stroke and everything. I'm just trying to figure it all out."
The anchored putting stroke will become illegal on Jan. 1, 2016, so Scott will have to make a permanent transition soon enough. However, Scott intends to make the most of one last crack at the Masters with the long putter.
"It's not exactly where I want to be, but it doesn't matter when it comes to the Masters," said the 2013 Masters champ. "I've got two weeks and a really clear idea of what to work on."
Bubba Watson made a guest appearance on "The Tonight Show" on Monday to promote the first day of registration for the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt competition. However, no golfer goes on Jimmy Fallon's show and simply talks golf. There has to be an exhibition.
So, Fallon and his staff came up with a game called "Pie Golf," where Fallon and Watson each took turns chipping Velcro golf balls to a wall down stage. Each time a player's ball stuck to the wall, their opponent was hit with a pie by actress January Jones. The first to hit the target three times won.
You might guess who won, but it was closer than you might have thought.
Magnolia Lane is in view, but the Masters won't be here until the PGA Tour takes a two-week detour through Texas beginning with the Valero Texas Open.
Steven Bowditch is the defending champion at the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio. Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson are the headliners this week, with the likes of Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson looking to get Masters ready.
here are our top five players for this week:
1. Jordan Spieth -- Spieth won the Valspar and is a top-10 machine, including a 10th-place finish here last year.
2. Jim Furyk -- Furyk's looked very good this year and has been in the top six in his last two Valero starts.
3. Dustin Johnson -- Johnson has never played in this event, but you have to love his current form, including that Doral win.
4. Jason Kokrak -- Kokrak has looked good of late, with a T-7 in Tampa and a T-6 at Bay Hill. He's not a great putter, which could hurt him on these Greg Norman greens.
5. Brendan Steele -- Steele picked up his first PGA Tour win here in 2011, then was T-4 in his title defense. He's been in the money a lot of late.
Matt Every had just hit his approach shot into the par-4 18th at Bay Hill, his 72nd hole of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. If he made the 17-foot birdie putt he left himself, perhaps he would win at the King's Orlando digs for a second consecutive year.
"I walked up to the green and this guy in the crowd kept like coughing like, 'Straight putt, straight putt,'" Every said Sunday.
"I was like, This guy is a really d--- if he's lying to me," drawing laughter, "because it's a pretty important moment."
Straight in. That's what Matt Every saw. He couldn't believe it. He went to his yardage book, hoping to find some kind of advice on a putt that could get him back to the Masters. But he went with his read and stroked the downhill putt, knowing that it wouldn't come up short.
It looked good right off the blade, but it had to feel like an eternity before it reached the cup.
"The last three feet I was begging for it to hang and I was like, 'Gosh, these are the ones that always lip out. Be so cool to see this one dive in' and it did," Every explained.
The putt went in, Every made birdie and pumped his fist as he finished off a final-round 66 to give him a 72-hole total of 19 under par. Just a few minutes later, Henrik Stenson missed a sliding birdie putt to force a playoff. Every had won again at Bay Hill. It was the kind of finish Every hoped would someday happen for him.
"It was cool because you watch tournaments on TV and guys make a 20-footer on the last and everybody goes nuts," he said of his second PGA Tour win. "It's cool to close one out like that."
For the first three rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Henrik Stenson ranked second in the field in strokes gained putting.
In the final round at Bay Hill, Stenson was last in the field.
That pretty well explains why Stenson lost a two-shot lead entering the final round, finishing second to defending champion Matt Every and becoming the ninth consecutive 54-hole leader or co-leader to fail to seal the deal on the PGA Tour.
A pair of critical three-putts -- or what amounted to three-putts -- down the stretch were the difference between winning and losing by a shot.
Stenson hit the green at the par-4 15th, leaving himself 45 feet for birdie. The Swede got overly aggressive with the birdie bid, sending his putt a little over 5 feet beyond the hole. He missed the comebacker to drop a shot as Every was charging.
On the par-5 16th, Stenson's second shot went just over the green, landing in the fringe. He hit the fast putt too hard, leaving himself 10 feet for birdie. He missed, tapping in for par on the one stretch hole with the best chance for birdie.
Stenson said afterwards he was unhappy with PGA Tour rules officials who put him and playing competitor Morgan Hoffmann on the clock on the 15th hole. Stenson said he rushed his reads down the stretch to avoid falling behind further. Ultimately, his 2-under 70 simply wasn't good enough to win.
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Defending Arnold Palmer Invitational champion Matt Every said he told 2012 and '13 champion Tiger Woods that he would "hold it down for him until he gets back."
Every did just that, winning at Bay Hill for a second consecutive year with a closing 6-under 66 that gave him a one-shot win over 54-hole leader Henrik Stenson.
On the final hole, Every, who is a student of Woods' former teacher Sean Foley, stuck his approach 17 feet behind the pin for a fairly straight birdie putt. He drained it for a closing 3 and put the pressure on Stenson, who failed to make birdie at the par-5 16th after finishing just behind the green in two shots. The Swede made par on the long par-3 17th, then needed a birdie at the last to force a playoff. Stenson hit the green with his second shot and got a read from playing competitor Morgan Hoffmann before he had to stroke the potential tying putt. However, Stenson misread the left-to-right swinger. Every had won again.
The Florida native, who had a number of family and friends in his gallery this week, hadn't posted a top-25 finish on the PGA Tour since a T-3 finish in Memphis last June. The win gets Every into the Masters in a couple of weeks and thrusts him into the top 40 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
For his part, Stenson was not pleased PGA Tour rules officials put his final group on the clock for falling behind the pace. He said it caused him to take less time reading putts, including on the 16th, which was a turning point in the tournament. Stenson said he made a gesture to the rules official near the group after he made an ill-timed par.
While Stenson didn't specify the gesture, we're fairly certain it wasn't a thumbs up.
There had never been an albatross made in the Arnold Palmer Invitational until Daniel Berger broke the ice on Saturday.
On Sunday, Zach Johnson made the second.
Using a 5-iron from 207 yards in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Johnson made a 2 to go from 5 under to 8 under on the round.
In a typical PGA Tour year since the Tour started keeping such statistics in 1983, there are three or four albatrosses per season. However, from 1983 to 2003, there were just 56. From 2004 onward, there have now been 54, including two in the last two days.
The sixth hole at Bay Hill is probably the only par 5 on the PGA Tour that a player could -- at least conceivably -- reach in one. It's a 342-yard carry from the tee box to the green.
In 1998, John Daly tried to carry the massive lake around which the hole runs. He put six balls in the water en route to a tournament record 18 on the hole.
However, it's hard to appreciate how long that carry is unless you have the perspective of a golf ball sailing over all that score-endangering water. That's what NBC Sports executive producer Tommy Roy provided to fans on Saturday during the Peacock's third-round telecast of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Throughout the telecast, Roy gave viewers a glimpse at a different view of Palmer's Orlando digs with the help of drones. No, they're not the drones the military uses. They're now the kind of drone to which the middle-aged dad down the street from you straps his GoPro. These are powerful pieces of aircraft that can go where blimps and helicopters -- golf broadcast mainstays -- can not.
Using drones is nothing new. Roy used them wonderfully during the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the last for NBC as the USGA transitions to a new partnership with Fox Sports. However, soon after Martin Kaymer had won his second major, the Federal Aviation Administration put a halt to commercial drone use, wanting to offer guidance. In February, the FAA approved eight companies to use drones anywhere in the country. NBC hooked up with one such company, Los Angeles-based Aerial Mob, to help them in shooting Bay Hill from a never-seen perspective.
"The drone can go under the limb of a tree. It can go three feet above the rocks on the (water-guarded) 18th," Roy said Saturday in a telephone interview. "It can be more versatile and mobile than a helicopter could ever get."
Were the FAA to relax its regulations, golf fans could come out winners. Drones, if kept out of the way of players and spectators, could provide real-time perspective simply impossible for a standard camera -- even one perched in a crane well above the course.
Roy said that drones could become a bigger part of golf telecasts, adding with an audible smile on his face, "I already have ideas for the future."
Rory McIlroy couldn't have picked a much worse time to have a letdown.
Standing on the 14th tee on Saturday at Bay Hill, McIlroy was just a shot out of the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after birdies on the 12th and 13th holes. However, a poor tee shot at the long par-3 led to a bogey, the first of three consecutive dropped shots that moved McIlroy from a contender to a straggler.
“Everything was going really well for 13 holes,” McIlroy said after his 1-under 71. “I got myself right into the tournament and then three bogies in quick succession."
On the par-4 15th, McIlroy's par putt hit a spike mark, sending it offline for a bogey. At the short par-5 16th, McIlroy missed the green in two, but stubbed a chip and three-putted to a tough hole location for a third consecutive dropped shot.
Leader Henrik Stenson, who McIlroy trails by seven heading into Sunday, surged in that three-hole stretch, going par-birdie-eagle. A closing birdie gave the Swede a three-round total of 16-under 200.
McIlroy knows he'll need a hot start and a whole lot of help to have a chance down the stretch, so the world No. 1 can use this last competitive round before the Masters to work out a few kinks in his game.
"There’s times when I’m really comfortable and then times that I’m still not too comfortable," he said, "so it’s highlighted a couple of different things but for the most part I’ve got what I wanted out of it."
There had never been an albatross made in the Arnold Palmer Invitational -- that is, until Saturday.
Daniel Berger, who lost in a playoff for The Honda Classic to Padraig Harrington at the start of the Florida Swing, made a deuce on the seven-shaped par-5 sixth at Bay Hill. Curiously, the sixth is the same hole where John Daly made a tournament record 18 in 1998.
The albatross moved Berger from 1 over on the round to 2 under. He wound up shooting 4-under 68 to get to 7 under for the week and nine shots behind leader Henrik Stenson.
Giulia Molinaro earned a spot in this week's JTBC Founders Cup on the LPGA Tour through a Monday qualifier, then she earned a set of wheels in Round 1 on Thursday.
Molinaro made an ace at the par-3 17th at host Wildfire Golf Club. With the hole-in-one came a new Kia.
The Italian-born player had no idea the prize came along with the 1 on her card.
"The first reaction was like, 'Oh, great, hole-in-one,'" said Molinaro. "Then it clicked that it actually was a car, so I think I screamed 'car' in Italian."
It was the second hole-in-one of the day for the field, with former world No. 1 Ai Miyazato making hers on the par-3 fourth hole.
Molinaro shot 2-under 70 in the first round to trail leader Stacy Lewis by six shots.
For anyone who was concerned, Rory McIlroy looked Friday like a guy who was ready to take a crack at the career Grand Slam at the Masters.
McIlroy, in his first start at Bay Hill, shot 6-under 66 in Round 2 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational that has him in the conversation for the weekend. At 8-under 136, McIlroy trails Morgan Hoffmann by five shots heading into Saturday.
The world No. 1 made his hay on his back nine of the round, the front side at Palmer's Orlando club, making five consecutive birdies before dropping a shot on his 17th hole of the day. All told, McIlroy made seven birdies on the day with just the one bogey.
The winner of the last two major championships, McIlroy got out of the gate hot to start 2015, finishing runner-up in Abu Dhabi and winning in Dubai. However, McIlroy has been somewhat lackluster in the States this year. He missed the cut on the bad side of the draw at The Honda Classic and looked inconsistent -- not to mention visibly frustrated -- in at T-9 showing at Doral.
Perhaps McIlroy was boosted by being in the presence of the tournament host for dinner on Thursday night. The pair were together for almost three hours at Bay Hill, sharing stories alongside their respective managers.
“[He] made me have a banana split,” McIlroy said after his second round. “I’ll be going to the gym this afternoon.”
If McIlroy is superstitious at all, he'll have another banana split tonight.
One of the big questions going into 2015 was how players who have been employing the anchored putting stroke would make the transition to a traditional stroke.
With the anchored stroke set to become illegal on Jan. 1, 2016, it would be a matter of time before a player would have to make the change, but how and when piqued the interest of a many in the game.
As it turns out, a number of players have decided to ditch the anchored stroke now rather than wait until the last minute. That group includes Keegan Bradley, who has made the switch to the short putter away from the anchored belly putter. It's starting to show results. After a 4-under 68 on Thursday to open the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bradley talked about the process.
"It's been going great," Bradley said. "I haven't been putting great, haven't been putting bad."
The 2011 PGA champion noted how it's a different deal for the likes of him and Webb Simpson -- young guys who have used the anchored stroke for years, and not necessarily as a Band-Aid for a flimsy stroke.
"It's just for guys like me and Webb, every round that we play is so big for us because it's just another round under our belt that we haven't had," he said. "This is new for all of us."
Bradley kept the change as simple as possible, simply cutting down the length of the Odyssey belly putter he had been using.
"I just was starting to keep it as similar as possible, grip it the same spot, all that stuff," he said. "Trying to keep it as similar as I can."
Winning on the PGA Tour no doubt takes skill, but it also takes getting some things to unexpectedly go your way.
If Brandt Snedeker winds up winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his second win of 2015, he'll probably look back on the break he got on No. 18 on Thursday as one that saved his week.
Snedeker found the fairway with his tee shot at the trying closing hole at Bay Hill in Orlando, leaving himself a clean look at the green mostly guarded by water. The ball didn't fly as far as it needed and landed in the rocks just short of the green, precariously bouncing in the air. It then struck another rock and bounded toward the green, winding up just 6 feet from the hole.
Turns out, Snedeker was playing with a new set of irons, putting a set of Bridgestone Golf J715s in the bag.
“I wanted to put them in for Augusta, I wanted to make sure I had tried them before then,” Snedeker said. “They were awesome. Best I hit my irons all year long."
He wasn't quite dialed in on that one approach, but was otherwise brilliant. The Pebble Beach winner from earlier this year shot 4-under 68 on Thursday to trail leader Morgan Hoffmann by two heading into Round 2.
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Bernhard Langer makes golf look easy. He makes it sound easy.
Standing on the range at Delaire Country Club, he explains to a small gathering of members and guests at a private Adams Golf event how to work the golf ball. For him, there's nothing different in hitting the ball dead straight, hooking it left or a pulling off a banana cut. It's a matter of where he grips the club and where he aims his feet -- both questions of how far left or right he should go.
Psssh. The ball flies right and turns left on cue. Pssh. There goes that butter cut that lands soft.
Even when he's demonstrating how to hit shots poorly, he does it well.
It's that approach to golf that has served the two-time Masters winner well. Langer had his best season last year on the Champions Tour, winning five times, including two major championships, bringing his tally of 50-plus majors to four.
Go ahead, make jokes about his German lineage and how he's a machine. He'll chuckle a little. However, it's a regimented approach to his game that keeps him at the top.
The approach is rooted in a love of golf. Langer still watches pro tournaments when he's not competing. He really enjoys the game, whether it's watching, competing or designing courses.
He also loves learning more about the golf swing, deepening his knowledge of a game you can never entirely know. Langer turned pro when he was 18, working as a teen on staff at a Berlin country club, giving lessons to members. He has an eye for mechanics, not just a feel for his own. As he walked up and down the line of people hacking away next to him, he quickly found trouble spots and offered precise tips to fix them. Find a problem, offer a solution.
Over time, Langer has found what works for him, and he's changed as technology evolves. He embraces launch monitors and the influx of data players have at their hands, although data can only inform his equipment choices so much. He put his hands on Adams' new Red hybrid for the first time during the demo and promptly ripped it down the middle with a perfect draw. He got another just like it and took them both on the course after the demo.
"When I make an equipment change, it has to perform as well, if not better, than what's already in the bag," Langer said. Don't mess with what works.
You'll notice Langer never grounds his driver. He learned long ago that his swing gets stuck when the club drags along the ground. He effortlessly pounds a drive 310 yards down the right side of the fairway. We'd all do a handstand as part of our pre-shot routine if we could do that a lot of the time.
However, change is coming for Langer. The game's governing bodies have outlawed the anchored putting stroke as of Jan. 1, 2016, and that means the days are number for Langer's broomstick putter. He's decided to wait until the end of the year to figure out what to do next. The Champions Tour off-season is two months, long enough, Langer said, to decide on a new approach.
Langer isn't happy he's been targeted after Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open and Ernie Els won the Open Championship with an anchored stroke. What's done is done, however, he said. He's looking for an answer. He won the Masters with a traditional stroke in 1985 and the Matt Kuchar approach in 1993. During our round together, Langer went back to that putter-grip-up-the-arm approach with a traditional-length putter from a player in our group. He stroked it cross-handed. It came up a revolution short for birdie. He'll be just fine; it's just a matter of finding what let him putt his best.
On the final hole, Langer pipes a drive down the right-side of the fairway, hugging a bunker and a hazard a little more astray. As I mistakenly try the same shot and end up with a worse fate, I joke that golf's more fun when taking a risk.
Langer laughs, then says, "What's so boring about down the middle?"
Bubba Watson has withdrawn from this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational following the death of a childhood friend.
Watson's manager Jens Beck confirmed the world No. 2 told tournament officials Wednesday. Watson's friend passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday and the two-time Masters winner has chosen to attend funeral services.
Watson will be replaced in the field by Kevin Kisner, who will play alongside Adam Scott and Brooks Koepka for the first two days of the event.
Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Sean O'Hair gave us the Show of the Year at the Valspar Championship. What did we learn about Jordan Spieth as he won his second PGA Tour title, and what has he learned in the year since holding the lead on Sunday at last year's Masters that gives him a better chance to finish the deal and win a green jacket?
Meanwhile, Patrick Reed showed that he has the ability to seize professional opportunities unlike maybe any of his young peers. Is Reed's ability to remain focused on winning an edge to win his first major?
Sean O'Hair showed us how to get out of a funk, and he spoke at the Arnold Palmer Invitational about how that might apply to Tiger Woods. As the theory evolves on Woods' woes from the physical yips to a confidence problem, it seems like it will take longer for the 14-time major winner to find a solution.
When The King speaks, golf listens.
Arnold Palmer held court on Wednesday ahead of the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational, his annual PGA Tour stop at Bay Hill in Orlando. The 85-year-old was asked about -- and answered with candor -- a slew of topics, but the conversation naturally turned to Tiger Woods, who is missing Palmer's event for the second consecutive year despite having won it previously eight times.
Woods announced the Friday before the tournament that he wasn't playing and had called Palmer to let him know. Somehow, that quick call turned into a rumor that it was an hour-long meeting of the minds. Palmer put that rumor to rest.
"Whoever told you it was an hour is full of s---," Palmer said, drawing laughter.
The conversation sounded like a rehashing of what Woods has shared publicly and his M.O. since announcing Feb. 11 that he won't play on the PGA Tour again until his game is "tournament ready."
"He just, first of all, he said, 'Arnold, you know, I can't think of anything that I'd rather do than be there to play,' and then he explained that he didn't feel like his game was ready," Palmer said, describing their conversation. "He really wanted to work on it and get it ready to play, and I don't blame him. I think if I were in his position I would probably have said somewhat similar things.
Palmer added, "I told him how much we would miss him and how sorry we were that he wasn't coming because his record at this golf course is the best record in golf on any single situation such as his."
Of course, Palmer was asked what advice he'd offer to the 14-time major winner. Similar to the more recent theories about Woods' woes, Palmer believes Woods' return to form is predicated on regaining a mental edge that some would argue has been gone for years.
"There's only one thing I can say, and that's practice. And confidence," Palmer said. "Regain the confidence he had when he was starting out, and that was what made him what he is and that's the way he'll get it back. Just regain the confidence and the ability to hit the golf ball."
Sean O'Hair understands what it's like to lose your game. He also knows what it takes to get it back.
O'Hair made a somewhat surprising run at the Valspar Championship last week, winding up in the playoff with Patrick Reed and eventual winner Jordan Spieth. It's been a long road back to relevanace for O'Hair, who has four PGA Tour wins, but none since 2011. O'Hair, who first won on Tour in 2005 at age 22, had to go through the Web.com Tour Finals gauntlet to retain his status. He got into the Tampa-area event on a sponsor's exemption.
Perhaps that makes O'Hair a good person to talk to about Tiger Woods' struggles. Woods, who said Feb. 11 that he won't play on the PGA Tour again until his game is "tournament ready," is skipping this week's Arnold Palmer Inviational, an event he's won eight times. Woods' short game is in shambles, he's been spraying drives 50 yards off target and it all came together for a career-worst 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Woods hopes to play in the Masters. If he's going to start at Augusta National, O'Hair believes Woods has to get his mind right.
"I just think that he's lost," O'Hair said Tuesday at Bay Hill. "The only reason why I say that is because I see it in his eyes, and I see it in how he's walking and I see it in how he's playing because that's where I've been. I've been living it."
O'Hair, who battled a swing change that he eventually had to undo, doesn't think his problem is mechanical -- which may make getting to the solution even more difficult.
"I just think that his mind is just a little clouded and I don't think it has anything to do with his golf swing," he said. "I just think there's something there that's just bothering him, and I think once he addresses that he'll be right back where he was."
Bubba Watson may have accidentally stepped in it a little yesterday.
The two-time and defending Masters champion was talking about his excitement for the year's first major in a news conference last week, and he used a term that will make the ears of international golf fans -- and many American fans -- perk up.
"Even though I'm 36, I still feel like a kid when I get to Augusta," Watson said. "It's the home of golf. It's the mecca of golf.
"I mean, who doesn't want to be a member there? Who doesn't want to be able to play there? Who doesn't want to put on that green jacket? Everybody gets excited there."
Hmm. "Home of golf?" The R&A might want a word with Watson, especially considering St. Andrews -- the game's true home -- hosts the Open Championship this year, as it does every five years.
Watson clearly didn't mean a slight here. He loves Augusta National and the Masters more than any other major, and it's not even close. If there were a contest to decide the American "home of golf," Augusta National would be a top contender along with Pine Valley and Pebble Beach Golf Links.
So, before you try to troll Watson on Twitter because of this turn of phrase, delete that tweet.
The PGA Tour's Florida Swing started with Jack Nicklaus' Bear Trap at PGA National and it concludes this week in Orlando at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill with the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
A strong field is assembled to take on the King's Florida digs, including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson. In such a top-heavy field, you'd expect us to rank the top players highly, but our top five players may not come in the order you'd expect.
1. Henrik Stenson — The Swede didn’t get the job done at Tampa, but it was a great debut at the Valspar Championship. Stenson has never missed an API cut and has been in the top eight here each of the last two years.
2. Adam Scott — The Aussie let this one slip away from him last year to Matt Every. Scott was the 54-hole leader, finishing alone in third. His cuts-made streak ended last week at 45 events, concluding the Tour's longest active streak.
3. Jason Day — Day is playing the golf of his life, but finished a modest T-31 in Miami. He wasn’t a part of the 2014 event, but was T-45 in 2013. If you pick him, don’t do it based on his Bay Hill record.
4. Bubba Watson — Bubba should be able to overpower Bay Hill and dominate it in windy conditions. However, his record at Arnie’s place is inconsistent. He has three top-15 finishes in nine career starts, but pulled out after an 83 to open last year. Then he won the Masters. He gave it a good run at Doral, but came up a bit short and looked flustered as he faltered.
5. J.B. Holmes — Gotta like Holmes here as a guy almost a mortal lock to make the cut. He’s eight for eight here and posted his best-ever API finish, a T-10 effort, last year. He almost won at Doral.
EA Sports has a new face on the cover of its PGA Tour golf franchise, and it's world No. 1 Rory McIlroy.
The video-game maker has renamed its annual golf game to "EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour," with the Ulsterman replacing Tiger Woods in the game. Woods and EA Sports ended a 15-year relationship in 2013, with the company not producing a golf title in 2014. EA Sports announced it would be releasing a 2015 game last June, but the title did not have McIlroy's name in it.
McIlroy has been a playable character in each of the last two editions of the game and appeared on a Europe-only cover of the game in 2013, "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '14."
The reboot of the franchise is expected to debut in June.
As you might guess, the Masters makes a lot of money for Augusta National Golf Club. However, it rakes in only a fraction of what would be possible, according to a new report.
Golf Digest estimates Augusta National will pull in $115 million from this year's tournament. After subtracting costs and taxes, the club will turn an estimated $29 million profit from the seven-day event. That profit is four times higher than what the magazine reported as the Masters' bottom line in 1997, the year of Tiger Woods' first of four wins in the event.
The Masters, guided by chairman Billy Payne, continues to offer patrons and television viewers the most pure tournament golf experience in the game.
There are no logos on the grounds other than the slew of club logos found on member jackets and merchandise. Corporate presences are well hidden, but the accommodations are world-class, including the 100,000-square-foot Berckmans Place. Opened in 2013, the facility off the fifth hole holds up to 2,000 people, has five restaurants, an exclusive merchandise shop and replicas of three greens on the course. For the average person, weekly badge prices are $325, low compared to its major peers. Concessions are incredibly reasonable, with sandwiches still running less than $2, and probably a break-even line item. Merchandise is sold at a modest mark-up.
On television, the telecast is rarely interrupted, with key domestic sponsors -- Mercedes-Benz, IBM and AT&T -- all chipping in on the club's behalf so it is a break-even production for the club and the Eye and ESPN, which has the rights to weekday coverage. Both broadcast the tournament on one-year contracts with the club. A source told Golf Digest that Augusta National could command well north of the $93 million annual rights fee the USGA will get from Fox Sports for its championships, led by the U.S. Open. However, what the club gives up in money, it retains in complete control over how the event is broadcast. The brand is not diluted.
With that sizable, yet not maximized, annual profit, the club has been able to build Berckmans Place, more hospitality off the 10th hole, its astounding practice facility and more. There are suggestions the club intends to demolish the existing permanent media building off the first fairway and move it further from the course. It could be replaced with housing for members during the year and competitors during the Masters.
The club also makes donations and investments in golf, including The First Tee, creating the Asia Pacific and Latin America Amateur Championships and hosting the Drive, Chip and Putt competition, now in its second year.
All together, Augusta National presents the world's most famous golf tournament with great control over its brand, restraint to protect the consumer experience and with an eye toward investing back in both Augusta National and the broader game.
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The Valspar Championship was the year's most thrilling tournament, with a back nine and playoff complete with unlikely up-and-downs, clutch putts and a sudden, decisive winner.
While Jordan Spieth picked up his second PGA Tour win with a 28-foot birdie putt to topple Patrick Reed and Sean O'Hair, the finale demonstrates why Spieth and Reed -- both in the Masters field -- will be in the mix in four weeks for a green jacket.
Spieth was in trouble after Ryan Moore holed out for eagle on the par-4 sixth, where the Texan made his second straight bogey. However, a no-putt par at the seventh kept him near the pace and steadied him until a back nine move with consecutive birdies to get him back into contention. With the pressure on and his game waning in the final holes, Spieth found ways to get up-and-down for par, including a clutch, playoff-securing recovery on the 72nd hole with Patrick Reed and Sean O'Hair watching.
It wasn't easy for Reed to get to the house at 10 under par, either, needing a 30-foot birdie putt on his final hole of regulation to secure the clubhouse lead. No matter what you think of him personally, it's difficult not to admire the professional tenacity to consistently seize opportunities to win, including the 5-under 66 to finish at the Copperhead Course.
The playoff was a delight, too, with Reed getting up-and-down from an impossibly tough, buried lie for a playoff-continuing par. However, on the third extra hole, it was Spieth's time to win, making that unlikely birdie to lock up the title.
Spieth, who shot a final round of 2-under 69 despite the roller-coaster ride, demonstrated he can win without his best stuff -- an important moment for any top-tier professional. He also avenged a playoff loss to Reed at the 2013 Wyndham Championship, a win that set off the Augusta State product's four-win run into the world top 15, where he now sits in the Official World Golf Ranking. The 21-year-old, who held the lead midway through the final round of last year's Masters, learned he can battle with one of the world's best and find his game when it came time to win.
For his part, Reed was able to put aside some self-inflicted bad PR this week and come close to seizing another opportunity to win on the PGA Tour. After letting a similar chance slip away at The Honda Classic in that Monday finish, Reed got back on the horse and didn't beat himself.
Both of these under-25 stars, who were already in the conversation for Masters favorites, have to now be considered even stronger alternatives to Rory McIlroy or Bubba Watson to win the year's first major. If the Valspar finale is anything like the back nine on Sunday at Augusta National, Masters patrons should be in store for an all-time great finish.
Derek Ernst has one top-25 finish in 61 prior PGA Tour starts. It was a win at the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship, when he was ranked 1,207th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
He is on the verge of a second top-25 finish on Sunday at the Valspar Championship, and it could well be his second win.
Ernst is alone in third at Innisbrook's Copperhead Course, two behind leader Ryan Moore heading into the final round of the PGA Tour's Tampa-area stop. The 24-year-old UNLV product is at 7 under par and playing the weekend for just the fifth time in 12 starts in the 2014-15 season.
Needless to say, this is unexpected. However, Ernst said Saturday that his belief in his game hasn't been shaken despite missing seven of his last eight cuts.
"All belief in yourself," he said. "Golf is so mental and this week I just flipped the switch and started believing in myself and had some positive affirmations I've been telling myself. It shows obviously right there."
Ernst, who said he prefers to play from behind, has nothing to lose amid a stacked leaderboard of top-10 players and multi-time PGA Tour winners. That may make him very dangerous, like two years ago in Charlotte.
"I think there I was also a couple back going into the final round and I'm just kind of playing one shot a time," he said. "Feels good to get the competitive juices going again. I'm having a great time."
While Tiger Woods remains on golf's sidelines, his game apparently not yet "tournament ready" enough to play in next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, we have a chance to marvel at just how great he once was.
Adam Scott missed the cut at this week's Valspar Championship, ending what had been the longest active cuts-made streak on the PGA Tour at 45 events, a run that began at the 2012 Memorial.
''It had to happen eventually,'' Scott said.
Certainly, but don't blame the missed cut, at least entirely, on the switch to the short putter from the broomstick he's used to guide him to world No. 1 and to become the first Australian winner of the Masters.
"Some loose shots, and some loose lag putts and some loose short putts," Scott said Friday. "There's not many courses we play you can get away with that. I've got to tighten it up a little bit. Overall, I feel pretty good."
Then there's the matter of losing sleep as a first-time father to daughter Bo Vera.
Steve Stricker, who is in semi-retirement and hasn't played since the 2014 PGA Championship, now holds the longest streak on Tour at 35 events.
Both stretches are woefully short of Tiger Woods' record mark of 142 consecutive cuts made from the 1998 Buick Invitational (now Farmers Insurance Open) through the 2005 Wachovia Championship (now Wells Fargo Championship). Woods' streak ended with a missed cut, by a shot, at the 2005 Byron Nelson Championship.
Meanwhile, Woods missed consecutive cuts for the first time in his PGA Tour career when he missed the weekend badly at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. How things have changed.
Tiger Woods will not play in the 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods, an eight-time champion of the Orlando event at Bay Hill, announced Friday he is skipping the tournament.
"I've put in a lot of time and work on my game and I'm making strides, but like I've said, I won't return to the PGA Tour until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level," Woods said on his website Friday.
"I hope to be ready for the Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta."
The 14-time major champion announced Feb. 11 that he would not play on the PGA Tour again until his game is "tournament ready." In two 2015 starts, Woods missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open following a career-worst 82 in Round 2 at TPC Scottsdale. A week later, Woods withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open after 11 holes, citing back pain.
Consider Henrik Stenson in the camp of professional golfers who think there's no drug that can truly enhance their performance -- except for maybe one.
Stenson was asked ahead of this week's Valspar Championship about the PGA Tour's anti-doping program, particularly after John Daly said on his SiriusXM show earlier in the week that he didn't feel the Tour's drug testing was random and expected to be asked for a urine sample after his second round on Friday.
While Stenson wasn't fazed about the concept of testing, he didn't seem to find much wisdom in it.
"Long and straight. Viagra might be the only one that's going to get you anywhere," Stenson joked. "I don't know. What else? I don't know what else you take for performance enhancement in golf."
The Swede said he tended to get tested earlier in the season, saying he had given samples at Doral during last week's WGC-Cadillac Championship. He said he was conflicted as to is he felt the Tour's approach felt random to him.
Overall, however, Stenson understands the need for golf, which is now a part of the Olympic program, to maintain a stringent drug-testing program.
"I think it's good," he said. "I don't spend too much time thinking about it."
It's always good to play the last two holes of any round in four shots, but it's particularly great when both holes result in eagles.
Morten Madsen of Denmark did just that on Thursday in the opening round of the Tshwane Open in South Africa, earning a share of the lead with David Horsey after a 7-under 63 at Pretoria C.C.
First, Madsen made a hole-in-one at the 135-yard, par-3 eighth for his first European Tour ace. The Dane had seen that coming.
"I think a hole-in-one is in the cards pretty soon," Madsen said he told his caddie last week at the Africa Open.
Then he punctuated his round with a driver and a long iron into the 549-yard ninth hole. He then drained the 10-footer after his second shot for back-to-back eagles and a spot atop the leaderboard.
The 26-year-old may be close to a breakthrough win. He finished T-3 in the Africa Open and, earlier in the year, finished T-4 at a stacked Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Patrick Reed has escalated a conflict with author Shane Ryan over allegations in a forthcoming book, but it's only hurting his cause. Why did Reed choose not to acknowledge his past in a different way instead of trying to use his influence to affect allegations he cheated and stole from teammates in college?
Has Doral become a dud? There was a distinct lack of buzz around the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and it's time to wonder if something has to change with the global series.
Meanwhile, John Daly assailed the PGA Tour's anti-doping program, already under fire for how it has handled the cases of Vijay Singh and Dustin Johnson. What can the Tour do differently to offer more transparency and provide maximum protection for its members?
In making public his request for a publisher and author to retract an excerpt about him from an upcoming book, Patrick Reed told Golf Channel he had obtained sworn statements from two of his collegiate golf coaches, claiming they proved allegations of stealing from teammates and cheating in qualifying tournaments were untrue.
However, one of those statements has now been made public, and it doesn't appear to provide the proof Reed believes it does to help his case.
Reed claims that a portion of author Shane Ryan's forthcoming book, “Slaying the Tiger: A year inside the ropes on the new PGA Tour," is untrue. That section discusses why Reed was dismissed from the University of Georgia golf program and includes claims from anonymous sources that he cheated at qualifying tournaments at both Georgia and Augusta State University, where Reed transferred after leaving Athens.
The world No. 16 obtained a statement from University of Georgia coach Chris Haack, which was obtained by Wei Under Par through a Georgia Open Records Act request. The statement, carefully parsed, reads in part: "While Patrick Reed was at UGA, I was not aware of any allegations of cheating or theft against him, and therefore, allegations of cheating or theft played no role in his dismissal from the UGA golf team."
Unfortunately for Reed, Haack's statement offers nothing that contradicts with Ryan's passage.
Ryan did not claim Reed was dismissed for allegations of cheating or stealing, but rather for two alcohol citations, including one Reed and his family tried to hide from Haack.
Haack also said that he was not aware of the allegations of cheating and theft against Reed until he was ousted from the program.
One of Haack's former assistants, Jason Payne, provided his own statement to Wei Under Par, saying the cheating and stealing allegations were known to players and some coaches on the UGA staff while Reed was still part of the team.
"The story that has been reported by Shane Ryan is an accurate account of his college career at UGA —including the suspicions held by his former teammates," Payne's statement said in part.
Ryan continues to stand behind his work and reporting as Reed continues to push for a retraction.
Alligators are pretty common on golf courses in Florida. However, it's not every day that you see one this enormous walking across your green.
That's exactly what happened, however, to several players at Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood, Fla. This dinosaur-looking gator was spotted on the seventh green at the club's White Course. The club posted several photos of the gator to its Facebook page.
That guy is not about to let you play through without losing a limb.
Naturally, there are and will be a number of skeptics who think the pictures were Photoshopped or otherwise doctored, but that gator looks very real from where I sit – a safe, comfortable, 1,000-mile distance from that gator.
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John Daly has a tee time at the Valspar Championship on Friday. He also expects to have a pee time.
On his SiriusXM radio show, "Hit It Hard with John Daly," on Tuesday, Daly told host Patrick Meagher that he does not believe the Tour's drug-testing program is random and that he is certain he'll be tested after his second round is finished.
"I'm gonna play at 1:50 on Friday so they're [going to] get me about 6:52, 7 o'clock," Daly said, according to ESPN.com.
Daly continued, "Oh yeah, this'll be the fifth or sixth year in a row I'm going to get drug tested [at this event]. It's the biggest bulls***. I'm sorry. I'm gonna say it; fine me. I don't care what you do, fix 'em right now, fine me, but I'm tired of it. It's not random; it's big a joke. This whole drug testing is a joke."
He suggested other players know when they're going to be tested as well.
"I know when I'm getting drug tested," said Daly, who recorded his first PGA Tour top-10 finish in almost three years at last week's Puerto Rico Open. "That's sad. They all know when we're getting drug tested. And for you dopers and all that s*** on the PGA Tour, you know you're getting drug tested, you got it made! You got it made! And I'm tired of it."
The two-time major winner called out PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and chief of operations Andy Pazder to "fix" the issue.
The Tour responded on Wednesday afternoon saying, in a statement, that its testing is “both random and selective,” and that, “contrary to his assertions, John Daly has never been targeted for testing and his claim that players know when they will be tested is simply not true.”
The Tour's drug-testing program has been the subject of scrutiny and legal action.
Vijay Singh is currently suing the PGA Tour over their handling of his case when he admitted in a January 2013 Sports Illustrated piece that he took deer-antler spray, which contains a substance banned under the Tour's program. Singh's admission was tantamount to a positive test. However, before the PGA Tour levied a six-month suspension on Singh, it consulted with the World Anti-Doping Agency, which told the Tour it only considered the direct injection of the banned ingredient IGF-1 into the blood to warrant a suspension.
Dustin Johnson took a six-month "leave of absence" from the PGA Tour which ended with his return at the Farmers Insurance Open. Johnson admitted to "personal challenges" but did not care to detail them specifically. Golf.com reported last summer that Johnson had been suspended by the Tour after testing positive for cocaine. The Tour denied that charge. However, commissioner Finchem can choose not to suspend any player who tests positive for a banned substance under the Tour's anti-doping program and in cases of "drugs of abuse" can require rehabilitation in lieu of a suspension or fine. Last week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Finchem contended fans aren't interested in increased transparency related to fines and suspensions.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has also been recently critical of the Tour's program, which only collects urine samples from players. The Tour is unable to test for banned substances like human growth hormone (HGH) without taking a blood sample. A Tour official responded to the charges, saying taking the small sample from players could inhibit their on-course performance.
Phil Mickelson and Jim Mackay have been a team for a long time, dating back to 1992. However, Mackay got the job by telling Mickelson's Arizona State golf coach Steve Loy who else should get the job.
Loy approached Mackay at a Tour stop that year, soliciting some names Mickelson could contact to become his full-time looper. That conversation was cut short, as the New York Times shared, when Mackay's then-boss had arrived, ready to get to work. Mackay sent a note to Loy shortly thereafter, apologizing for having to leave and making himself available for further conversation.
Well, that next conversation turned into a job offer from Mickelson, who saw Mackay's note and was impressed. Mickelson hired Mackay in time for his professional PGA Tour debut at the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Their partnership has led to 41 PGA Tour wins, including five major titles.
The PGA Tour's Florida Swing enters the Snake Pit this week as Innisbrook Resort hosts the Valspar Championship.
John Senden is defending champion at the Tampa-area event, with Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth among the headlining names this week.
Innisbrook's Copperhead Course is not as difficult as Trump Doral's Blue Monster bomber's paradise from last week, but ballstriking is a must to get the job done.
Here are our top five picks for the week.
1. Luke Donald — Luke Donald won here in 2012 around the peak of his powers and has been T-4 here in the last two years. Looked good in a T-7 effort at Honda, but was simply outmatched by Doral’s length.
2. Jim Furyk — I can see the comments now about Jim Furyk and closing tournaments, so save them. The 2010 champion was part of the four-man playoff in 2012 and was T-7 in 2013. He’s a horse for this course.
3. Jordan Spieth — Spieth looked very good in stretches at Doral but slipped to a T-17 finish. He was in the top 10 in two West Coast starts and was T-7 here two years ago.
4. Adam Scott — How can you not like Adam Scott most any week he plays? This week, with his tee-to-green game, he’s a green light. If he can repeat his first positive week in the switch to a short putter, he’s a huge threat to win.
5. Matt Kuchar — Gotta like Kooch this week. He was T-23 at Doral, which was too long for his game. However, Innisbrook is the right length. In three of his last four Tampa starts, Kuchar has finished in the top 15.
The day is inevitable. There will one day be a PGA Tour without Tiger Woods. When that will be is anyone's guess, but Tour commissioner Tim Finchem isn't all that worried about it.
Why? The Tour has already faced long stretches without Woods, including for nine months after the 2008 U.S. Open, the first quarter of 2010, three months in 2011 and much of 2014.
Finchem sees Woods walking away as a double-edged proposition.
“So it’s good news, bad news. I mean, it’s more bad news than good news because it’s like Michael Jordan stepping away to play baseball that year," Finchem said Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. "He’s your No. 1 player. He’s the player that on balance fans want to watch play more than any other."
Finchem believes Woods will continue to be the Tour's top draw for "a long time." However, he knows from experience that the sport eventually moves on to the next big thing.
"I remember how long it took for all of us, fans, media, to come to grips with Jack (Nicklaus) stepping away. It took years," Finchem said. "Nobody wanted to let Jack go and finally he started playing some on the Champions Tour."
If the Tour can develop new stars -- the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Brooks Koepka come to mind -- then Finchem believes any long-lasting decline in Woods' game won't be that big of a detriment.
“The PGA Tour is going to be fine," Finchem said. "But when you lose your No. 1 player, in a time when
he’s still at an age where he can really play -- if he can get back to that level -- it’s not going to let you perform at the same level as you would with him."
Inbee Park made $217,500 on Sunday. She made $210,000 for winning the HSBC Women's Champions by two over world No. 1 Lydia Ko and $7,500 off her dad.
Park, who didn't much care for host Sentosa Country Club's Serapong course, made a bet with her father early in the week to encourage her to make birdies. They agreed her dad would pay $500 for every birdie she made, while Park would have to fork over $1,000 for every bogey she made.
For the week, Park made 15 birdies and no bogeys. That's $7,500 in her pocket.
She doesn't expect her dad to pay up right away, saying, "I don't think he will pay me today. He ran out of money since yesterday."
Adding together Park's bogey-free week and a flawless 20 holes at last week's Honda LPGA Thailand gives Park a 92-hole bogey-free streak.
It didn't take long for Dustin Johnson to win after his return to the PGA Tour.
Johnson won the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Sunday at Doral by a shot over J.B. Holmes and two over Bubba Watson for his ninth career PGA Tour win, marking the eighth consecutive season where Johnson has won at least one event.
Since returning to the Tour after a six-month leave of absence to face "personal challenges," Johnson has played five times. He's missed the cut twice (Farmers Insurance Open, The Honda Classic), finished T-4 at Pebble Beach, lost in a playoff at Riviera and won at Doral. Consider the Torrey missed cut the result of ring rust and the missed cut at Honda part of landing on the wrong side of the draw. For the three starts that really matter, he's been right there.
Now the question is: Can Johnson find a way to take what he learned in his time away from competitive golf and combine it with his raw talent to finally win a major? Maybe the Masters?
Despite the great results on similarly difficult courses, Johnson can't be a Masters favorite -- at least not ahead of the likes of a middling Rory McIlroy and a strong Bubba Watson. Adam Scott, who looked good with the short putter this week at Doral, and Jordan Spieth, who had the Masters lead on the first nine on Sunday a year ago, are ahead of Johnson on the favorites list.
Then there's the matter of Johnson's Masters record. In five Masters starts, Johnson has made four cuts and finished inside the top 15 once (T-13 in 2013). He missed the cut last year at Augusta National.
However, this is a new Dustin Johnson -- a guy now in his 30s, a father and a man who seems focused on seizing his best golf years. After the win on Sunday, he made a strong statement that it's time to show what he can do.
“I knew I was really good,” he said. “I just knew there was something that I was missing that could make me great.”
If he has found that missing link, he'll chain together a lot of wins -- and quickly.
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Patrick Reed is demanding that an excerpt from a forthcoming book claiming he cheated and stole from teammates in college be retracted before the book becomes available.
Author Shane Ryan published an excerpt from the book, “Slaying the Tiger: A year inside the ropes on the new PGA Tour," about Reed on the website tobaccoroadblues.com in January. In the excerpt, anonymous sources claim Reed, while briefly at the University of Georgia, stole a putter and $400 in cash from a teammate. Further anonymous sources at University of Georgia and Augusta State University (now Georgia Regents University), where he transferred, claim Reed was caught cheating during qualifying events for both squads.
Reed told Golf Channel he will instruct his lawyers to send letters to the book's publisher, Ballantine Books, and Ryan asking for a full retraction of those claims. The four-time PGA Tour winner claims he has sworn statements from University of Georgia golf coach Chris Haack and former Augusta State coach Josh Gregory saying Ryan's claims are untrue.
“I was shocked. That was the first time I heard about it. To read something like and see how degrading and false it is, to have someone say something like that without coming to me first and asking me, it’s shocking,” Reed said.
Reed also said he was dismissed from the Georgia golf team for a pair of drinking incidents.
If the excerpt is not retracted, Reed said he could consider suing Ryan and the publisher.
“All options are open. We’re not 100 percent sure on that yet,” he said.
Ryan responded to Reed's claims on Monday via Twitter, saying, "Just want to say quickly here that I stand behind my reporting 100%, and I also stand behind the truth of what I wrote."
Until Saturday, it had been 25 years since someone had made a hole-in-one during a PGA Tour event at the par-3 fourth at TPC Blue Monster at Doral. In a 20-minue stretch during Round 3 of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, there were two aces.
Dustin Johnson and J.B. Holmes made the holes-in-one, each using a 7-iron to the 207-yard, water-guarded par 3.
First, it was Johnson.
Then, it was Holmes' turn.
We liked Holmes' celebration much better than Johnson's effort.
Holmes got to 1 under par on the round with the ace but turned in even par. However, Holmes closed with four consecutive birdies before a typical bogey at the last to carry a five-shot edge over Johnson and Bubba Watson heading into the final round.
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Rory McIlroy's 3-iron was at the bottom of a hazard at TPC Blue Monster on Friday. By Saturday night, it might be on eBay.
A diver waded into the hazard on Saturday and retrieved the club McIlroy threw after his second shot in Round 2 wound up well left of his intended target and at the bottom of the drink.
McIlroy said after the 2-under 70 on Friday that he was fine with chucking the club because he didn't believe he would need it for the final 10 holes of the day.
The world No. 1 shot 72 on Saturday. While that number was worse than his Friday score, he at least finished up with all 14 clubs in the bag.
Rory McIlroy has been frustrated the first two days of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral. It boiled over on Friday, with one of McIlroy's clubs paying the price.
McIlroy's second shot from 222 yards to the par-5 eighth found a water hazard. In response, McIlroy hurled his club into the water after his ball.
The world No. 1 went on to make bogey on the hole and left to play the rest of his round with 13 clubs.
Things really couldn't be going better for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He's celebrating a fourth Super Bowl win, has Gisele Bundchen for a wife and can pretty much ride off into the sunset whenever he feels like it.
Now he has a tee time next week at Augusta National with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy. Golf Channel reports the duo will tee it up at the home of the Masters.
Next week @McIlroyRory will play Augusta National with Tom Brady. A 4-time Super Bowl champ walking the fairways with a 4-time Major champ.— Todd Lewis (@ToddLewisGC) March 4, 2015
Given their professional precociousness, the pair should have plenty to talk about as McIlroy prepares for his first crack at the career grand slam in April.
We're pretty sure McIlroy, who shot 1-over 73 to open the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Thursday, won't back out on the round -- unlike Phil Mickelson, who said earlier this week he bailed on a planned Augusta National practice round because he was tired.
This'll bring a smile to your face. As part of Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars," an upcoming telethon to raise money to fight autism, Adam Sandler and Bob Barker reunited to reprise their sadistically cruel "Happy Gilmore" roles of smartass punk kid and bitter, devious old man. And they carried it off beautifully. Seriously, this is the funniest Sandler has been in decades.
Give this one a chance to wash over you. It escalates every 30 seconds, concluding with a welcome payoff to fans of the original flick. And speaking of that movie: if, for some insane reason, you haven't seen the "Happy Gilmore" sequence on which this was based, here you go. Caution for one semi-NSFW word, but if you don't know that by now, come on ... this movie's nearly 20 freaking years old:
Here, a handy GIF to clip and save:
Friends, Bob Barker is a national treasure.
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
Former PGA of America president Ted Bishop believes Phil Mickelson got precisely what he wanted from the now-dissolved Ryder Cup task force, acting as the "grandmaster" of the 11-man committee.
Writing for Golf Magazine, Bishop said Mickelson got the captain he wanted in Davis Love III, even though at the 2014 Ryder Cup he explicitly named Paul Azinger and favoring his approach. However, Bishop also contends Mickelson didn't care for Azinger's sometimes brash leadership style. The five-time major winner liked the framework, which Love employed in building a four-point lead heading into the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Bishop believes Fred Couples, three times the winning U.S. Presidents Cup captain, will get the nod to lead in France in 2018, followed by Steve Stricker in his native Wisconsin in 2020, Jim Furyk in 2022 and Phil Mickelson taking his turn at Bethpage Black in 2024.
Perhaps most interesting was Bishop's suggestion that the Ryder Cup is now Mickelson's baby, and may somewhat explain why fellow task force member Tiger Woods didn't show to last week's news conference to announce the changes.
"Phil made his presence felt. I can't help but think that Phil's taking charge of the U.S. Ryder Cup process might represent the first time in years that he isn't living in Tiger's shadow," Bishop wrote. "I wonder if that has motivated Phil, because he certainly seems energized by the task at hand."
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Ch-ch-ch-changes aplenty this week for Adam Scott.
Scott, who is making his 2015 debut at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, is a new father to a daughter and has been wielding a new, traditional-length putter at Doral. He is expected to play this week with a short putter for just the second time since the 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, when he made the switch to the anchored broomstick.
Scott came to the decision after testing a slew of putters in his offseason.
"I’ve kind of enjoyed experimenting at home the last couple months because I’ve had so much time up my sleeve,” said Scott. “I’ve got about 50 putters I’ve collected over my career back home in the garage, so to speak, but then I’ve also tried out lots of other putters at home in Australia over the these last few weeks.”
Scott still had not decided on the putter he'd use this week on Monday at Doral, when he was working with four putters on the practice greens.
The Aussie is making the change now instead of waiting until later in the season. The anchored putting stroke, which Scott used in tandem with the long putter to win the 2013 Masters, becomes illegal on Jan. 1, 2016. Though he knows there will be a transition, Scott seems confident the switch will go well.
“You know, I’ll just go out there and like I said, just stay patient with it all,” Scott said. “It’s going to be demanding, certainly if the wind is blowing. But I’m thinking, you know, my stroke and everything feels as good as it ever has."
If someone told you that, if you stayed up for 48 consecutive hours, you could play Augusta National Golf Club, there's a good chance you would run to your nearest coffee machine and start brewing.
If you had to give a kidney to play the home of the Masters, there's a chance you'd handle the scalpel yourself.
Not Phil Mickelson, though. The three-time Masters winner has probably played Augusta National more times than he can ever remember. So, not that it's old hat, but he can go there pretty much whenever he wants. Perhaps that's why he canceled a scheduled Tuesday practice round there. Why?
"Just tired," Mickelson said Monday after The Honda Classic.
Mickelson then made the short drive from PGA National to Seminole Golf Club for its famous, star-studded pro-member tournament. Along with partner and Augusta National member Jimmy Payne, Mickelson came in a tie for eighth, four shots behind the winning duo of Rory McIlroy and John Pinkham.
Ah, the life of a golf legend.
Trick-shot videos are hot right now in golf.
The Bryan Brothers light it up on a regular basis, while a host of others are trying to make a name for themselves by showing what they can do with a club, a ball and the occasional prop.
However, two-time Remax World Long-Drive champion Jamie Sadlowski has taken the art form to a new level. Sadlowski, a Callaway Golf staffer, teamed up with YouTube mega-sensations Dude Perfect for a trick-shot compilation that will blow your mind.
This five-minute video has a little bit of everything in it. Of course, there's the requisite GoPro cameras and lots of high-fiving and man-hugging. However, the tricks are dynamite.
Here's a set list:
Sadlowski hits a 100-yard punch shot to a small target attached to a basketball hoop, knocking a suspended ball into the basket
He hits a putter some 170 yards on a par 3, then makes the birdie putt in a great one-club challenge, then later makes a 132-foot putt with his driver
Several everyday items are demolished at point-blank range of Sadlowski's drives, including fruit, action figures and candy
The Dude Perfect guys ride jet skis to catch a golf ball Sadlowski blasts off the U.S.S. Midway
Finally, Sadlowski hits a kiddie pool set up 250 yards away from him
Does this have anything to do with pro golf? Not at all. But the skill set Sadlowski showed on these trick shots should tell you the kind of showmen some of the longest hitters in the world are.
The PGA Tour splits off this week, with the best players in the world in the Miami area for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral. The Gil Hanse-renovated TPC Blue Monster hosts the top 50 players in the world and a slew of money leaders from global tours.
Patrick Reed is defending champion this week, but the headliner is again Rory McIlroy, who will look to bounce back in this no-cut event after missing the weekend at The Honda Classic.
Here are my top five picks for the week.
1. Rory McIlroy -- McIlroy didn't make the cut at Honda, but he had an awful draw along with half the field. He was T-25 here a year ago. He's a very different player since then.
2. Jordan Spieth -- Hey, maybe we'll see Jordan Spieth on TV this week. Spieth is a top-10 machine at the moment, taking that mantle from Matt Kuchar. His game plays anywhere and should be handy in windy conditions.
3. Dustin Johnson -- Johnson got cut at Honda playing alongside McIlroy and Brooks Koepka. He's been close to wins in two of his last three starts and was T-4 here last year, as well a runner-up in 2011.
4. Patrick Reed -- Reed came up short (in the drink) on Monday at The Honda Classic, making the rare mistake with a chance to win. However, he's playing very well and would love to defend a title at Doral.
5. Bubba Watson -- Watson was runner-up here a year ago, and he's been in the top 14 in his last five starts. If the wind picks up, he's a must-have since his length and ability to flight the ball as needed will be a huge asset.
Greg Norman thinks some modern PGA Tour pros are a little too happy to get fat on top-20 finishes instead of chasing down wins.
“Certain players are happy just going through the motions," Norman said to the Wall St. Journal. "They don’t want to be the leader, they would rather be a sheep. They enjoy grazing the field and getting fat and sassy."
Perhaps Norman, who turned 60 in February, has a point -- or just a different frame of reference. A total of 96 PGA Tour players earned over $1 million during the 2013-14 season. In 1996, the year Norman led a six-shot lead slip away in the final round of the Masters, just nine players made seven figures.
However, the Aussie also believes many players have the hunger to live in golf's spotlight, including Jason Day, who said in January that he'd like to get to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“To say he wants to be the best in the world, that’s a big statement to make to yourself, let alone publicly. So he is willing to put it out there," Norman said of his fellow Aussie.
Norman also lauded another fellow countryman, Adam Scott, who makes his 2015 debut this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship after becoming a father two weeks ago. The Shark thinks the 2013 Masters winner could be due for even bigger things now that he's a dad.
“His life is solidified," Norman said. "He has everything except more tournaments. So let’s go win some more tournaments.”
Former PGA Tour player Dan Olsen made a serious accusation on Friday: that Tiger Woods had been suspended by the Tour for a month.
Olsen, who was an exempt player for the 2004 PGA Tour season, made the claim Friday on radio station WVFN to host David DeMarco. The Michigan-based pro claimed his sources were "exempt Tour players," but that Woods was not suspended for taking testosterone.
“I think when it’s all said and done, he’s going to surpass Lance Armstrong in infamy," Olsen said.
Both Tiger Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, and the PGA Tour vehemently deny Olsen's claims.
“These claims are absolutely, unequivocally and completely false," Steinberg said in a statement. "They are unsourced, unverified and completely ridiculous. The PGA Tour has confirmed that there is no truth to these claims.”
“Regarding the allegations made by Dan Olsen concerning Tiger Woods, there is no truth whatsoever to his claims and the PGA Tour categorically denies them," said PGA Tour media official Joel Schuchmann in a statement made on behalf of the Tour.
Olsen went on to make other claims, including that Nike Golf had provided Tiger Woods with a golf ball that gave him an advantage over other players and that Olsen would "almost bet hadn't been tested."
"So he's really playing with -- I'm not gonna say a cheater ball, because he has the help of the establishment, really -- but he played a ball that nobody else could play. ...
"So that combined with his enhancement issues, like having a Canadian blood spinning doctor in his phone, you know? I mean, I think people are starting to openly call it what it is, which is gonna be a problem for him."
In a statement, Nike Golf said, "Every ball Tiger has put in competitive play from Nike has been thoroughly tested and approved by the USGA and R&A in accordance with their governing rules."
Olsen also said he believed Woods was faking the back injury the 14-time major winner cited in withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open.
Woods announced Feb. 11 that he would not play again on the PGA Tour until his game was "tournament ready."
On Monday, Olsen backed off his claims.
"Everything I said on that radio interview was only my opinion and not based on any firsthand knowledge or facts," Olsen said to ESPN.com. "I want to make a full retraction to everything I said for the entire radio interview, and I apologize to Tiger, Nike, Phil [Mickelson], [commissioner] Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour."