Category Archives: PGA Tour

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2017 PGA Championship Preview

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Jordan Spieth’s finishing flurry to claim the British Open title ended the revolving door of first-time major winners and instead put the Tour awesomely back on the doorstep of major history.

With a win at this week’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, Spieth would become the youngest player ever to achieve golf’s career Grand Slam. Spieth has been installed as the co-favorite according to this site here to do just that, along with Rory McIroy, a past champion at Quail Hollow and the course record holder.

Were Spieth to pull it off, he’d bag an avalanche of career accolades the likes of which even Tiger Woods can’t match and also put himself squarely in the driver’s seat to be the Tour’s player of the year. He would also further threaten Dustin Johnson’s position as world No. 1.

Will Johnson, McIlroy or another world elite stand in the way, or will Spieth make some head-turning history that would give the Tour a dramatic finish to the major season?

We’ll start to find out on Thurs. Here’s a look at the top storylines heading into the week.

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Jordan Rules? – By going 5-under over the final four holes at Royal Birkdale to claim the Claret Jug, Spieth put the Tour back on some refreshing historical footing. Only five men have claimed the career Grand Slam and Spieth is gunning to become the sixth and faster than any of them.

Spieth enters the PGA on a run of consecutive victories and aiming to topple Tiger as the youngest player ever to claim the career Slam, doing so with some Tiger-esque moments such as jarring a 50-foot eagle putt at the British to spark his final charge.

Spieth’s impeccable putter and short game have earned him his place in history. But on a long and difficult driving golf course, will it be enough to get the career Slam up-and-down?

One of the few reasons to doubt:L He doesn’t have a track record here (he’s only played once in the Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship); his co-favorite does.

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Rory’s Quail Tale – Though he hasn’t won on Tour in 2017, Rory is listed as co-favorite largely because of his track record at Quail.

Rory has two victories and six top-10s at Quail Hollow and holds the course record (61). After a slow start at the British, McIlroy rebounded to show flashes of his old self. McIlroy has battled a fractured rib much of the season, but he and his game finally look healthy again. At the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, McIroy set a 54-hole record with 38 drivers over 300 yards.

That particularly matters going to the PGA at Quail Hollow, because …

Bombs Away – Quail Hollow is a bomber’s course. The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee noted to start the week that the majority of past champions at Quail can be found atop the driving stats for the week.
The recently re-designed course sets the tone with an opening par 4 that plays to 524 yards. It’s one of three for the week playing over 500 yards for the week.

That plays to Rory’s favor, but it will also have other tour big boppers, such as world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, looking to cash in and capture the year’s final major. Johnson’s driver is never in doubt, but will his putter hold up? Same goes for McIroy, who’s playing with a new caddie, a switch that didn’t go so well for Phil Mickelson at the British Open.

In a close contest where every stroke matters, will Rory’s decision come back to haunt him? The door is certainly wide open for second-guessing. If Rory wins and slams it shut, he’ll have major momentum going for his own career slam again at the Masters in 2018.

Will There Be Reign or Just Rain? –
As of now, the forecast for the week is a major bummer. A wet week seems in store, with a projected 100 percent chance of rain on Friday. The Charlotte Observer says a solid 50 percent chance is in the forecast for every day up to Sunday.

Who will dodge the bogeys between rains drops and make birdies when the sun shines? Will the elements even more favor a player with a track record at Quail Hollow? If so, besides McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson head that list.

Or will the wet Bermuda roof tilt the advantage to strong iron players? If so, advantage Spieth. But a soggy slog to the title seems certain for someone.

No.8pga - pga.com

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Hello, PGA in May – New PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan is looking to shake up the Tour schedule, which has major implications for the PGA Championship.

The Tour announced the PGA will move to May starting in 2019, placing it between the Masters and the U.S. Open with its vacated August date allowing for early start to the FedEx Cup playoffs.

You’ll undoubtedly hear the changed debated during the 2017 PGA broadcast, which seems ideal Thurs./Fri. rainy day talk. When it turns to the weekend, however, Spieth will be the most talked about Jordan since Michael in North Carolina if he’s got the Grand Slam in his sights. Can he just do it? We start to find out on Thurs.

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2017 British Open Preview

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As the pros travel overseas to Royal Birkdale for the year’s third major, the name of the championship seems particularly fitting – The Open.

In a year lacking a dominate player, parity has become the norm on a wide-open Tour. That’s best illustrated by the majors, where we’ve now seen eight straight first-time major champions after Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open.

Will a former champion step forward to claim the Claret Jug or will first-timers continue to break through? And if so, who? Rickie Fowler? John Rahm? Tommy Fleetwood? Hideki Matsuyama?

Last year, it was Henrik Stenson’s turn after an epic duel with Phil Mickelson, who opened the tournament with a 63 and lost to Stenson’s 63 on Sunday. Conditions don’t seem so conducive for scoring this year. Blustery weather is in the forecast.

Who will weather the weather and the unique tests of links golf? We’ll start to find out on Thurs. Here’s a look at the top storylines going into the week.

Major Parity – Rookies rule right now when it comes to major championships. But rather than celebrate the depth of the Tour, the media has instead clamored for someone to seize the season.

A year ago, Dustin Johnson began a run of dominance after a win at the U.S. Open that led to him being named Player of the Year. If you had to vote right now, who’d it be? Rookie John Rahm? He’s one of the few to have multiple victories and consistent strong showings on Tour. Otherwise, many of the Tour’s best have either been hampered by injuries or inconsistency.

Stenson is among those having a ho-hum season. If he can get his game together, he has a chance to be the first repeat Open champion since Padraig Harrington in 2008-09.

But eyes will also be on last year’s runner-up because of …

bonesphil

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Phil’s Major Change – Mickelson stunned the golf world after the U.S. Open (he didn’t play because of his daughter’s graduation) when he announced the end of his relationship with long-time caddy Jim “Bones” MacKay, who was on the bag when Phil won his last major at the British in 2013.

This time, Mickelson’s brother Tim will be on the bag and MacKay will be in the booth working for the Golf Channel. Having listened to MacKay on a few Callaway Golf podcasts, I for one am excited to hear his unique take on the game and insights from 25 years of touring with Mickelson. (What’s the over/under on Phil stories told during the tournament?)

Will the change help Mickelson rediscover his winning ways? He hasn’t won any Tour event since that victory in 2013, even though he’s played some of the most consistent golf of his career.

After skipping the U.S. Open, will Mickelson be rested or rusty? He’s professed a new-found love of links golf. Will it love him back again this week?

Can Rickie Shake His Case Of The Sundays? – Fowler was in contention on Sunday at the Masters and the U.S. Open – and never made a charge. Similarly, he failed to make a move Sunday at the Scottish Open.

A few analysts criticized Fowler for overly conservative play on Sunday at the U.S. Open. Will he find the formula to finally contend and close at Royal Birkdale?

At just age 28, Fowler finds himself carrying the mantle of best player to have never won a major. Will he change that at the Open or carry the title onto the PGA Championship and maybe into 2018? Sunday will be the key if Fowler contends again. Will he muster the effort to finally conquer a major?

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www.royalbirkdale.com

When It’s Breezy … – It hardly seems like an Open without a spot of weather. This year, the forecast is dry but high winds are predicted.

Will that forecast favor the Europeans, who are used to these conditions, or possible a Texan (Jordan Spieth?) also accustomed to playing in the wind?

Given the usual penchant for parity that comes with the bounces and breaks of links golf, a windy forecast makes a wildcard winner seem an even more likely outcome.

Where’s The Beef? – Heavily bearded Brit Andrew “Beef” Johnston became a cult hero during last year’s Open and a running subplot amidst the Mickelson/Stenson duel.

Playing on home soil, Johnston seems likely to have a sizeable and vocal gallery this week. That actually seems the only safe prediction coming into a week where the Tour and trophy are there for the taking if someone can rise to the occasion like Stenson did a year ago. As always, it’ll be great fun to watch it all start to unfold across the pond on Thurs.

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2017 U.S. Open Preview

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Photos: www.erinhills.com

Like Chambers Bay in 2015, Erin Hills is a first-time U.S. Open venue and a relative unknown to the pros as it has little tournament history. It hosted a U.S. Amateur in 2011 as a preparation for the Open.

The heavily bunkered, tree-less course, which opened in 2006, by description sounds comparable to Oakmont, last year’s U.S. Open venue, where Dustin Johnson’s length and short-game prowess powered him to a break through major championship.

That win catapulted Johnson to the most dominant stretch of his career and the world No. 1 ranking. That momentum was stalled at the Masters after a freak fall caused him to withdraw with a back injury. Can he return to form on a course that will play to his strengths – namely length? Or will another big bomber raise the trophy?

On Thurs., we start to find out. Here’s a look at the leading storylines heading into the first U.S. Open ever in the state of Wisconsin.

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The Unknown – The knowns are these: the rough is thick and the course in long, because that’s what a traditional U.S. Open set up is. But practically everything else about the longest course in U.S. Open history (7,741 yards) remains a mystery.

The pros will be using their practice rounds to get used to the new layout and particularly its treacherous bunkers, of which there are three types, the nuances of its rolling terrain and the sight lines for a number of blind semi-blind approaches.

The course is such an unknown that ESPN golf analyst Andy North, a Wisconsin native, gave a 30-shot range for predicting the winning score.

“We really don’t know if it’s going to be closer to 15-over or 15-under,” he said.

Of note: the last major played in Wisconsin, the 2015 PGA at Whistling Straits, saw Jason Day post a major championship scoring record of 20-under.

Will someone solve Erin Hills and go on a similar birdie binge or will it be a week that sees a barrage of bogeys? We seem to have a true wildcard course on our hands, but there’s no such mystery about the favorite: It’s Dustin Johnson.

A Double For D.J.? – There hasn’t been repeat champion at the U.S Open since Curtis Strange defended in 1989. Will the 117th Open see Johnson snap that streak?

The fairways are reportedly twice as wide as the ones Johnson dominated at Oakmont a year, so the set-up is friendly to his prodigious length, but it’s his improved wedge and short game that has really been the game changer for his 2017 dominance.

Johnson, however, hasn’t seemed to have quite the same sharpness since returning to competition after the Masters. He missed the cut at his last event (the Memorial), but some analysts viewed that as a blessing in disguise because it allowed him to get a head start on his Open preparation.

We’ll soon see if that extra preparation pays off and Johnson can reclaim the dominating form he had going into the Masters, before which he had reeled off three straight victories.

If D.J. is right, are you betting against him? His putting has improved as well this year and he’s part of a Tour trend.

Rory TM putter

Photo: Golf Digest

How They Roll – Rory McIlroy is the latest to add a mallet putter to his bag in a last-minute equipment change this week. The mallet is becoming the preferred style on Tour. Putting is always key, but a hot putter could really get on a roll this week due to the impeccable course conditions.

Erin Hills has been closed since October to ensure premium conditions for the Open, especially on the greens, which, unlike Chambers Bay, are yielding compliments from the pros. The pros who figures out the greens the fastest could gain an early edge. Martin Kaymer solved Pinehurst once by putting from off the greens.

Who will wield the magic wand this week that will lead to victory this week? Will it be a past major winner or a championship newcomer like it has been in the previous six majors?

Break On Through, Take 7? – Sergio Garcia’s win at the Masters pushed the streak of first-time major winners to six. Can another first-timer get hot and continue the streak? Rickie Fowler? John Rahm? Justin Thomas?

Understandably, the Tour’s top bombers dominate the list of favorites. Will one of them prevail if D.J. can’t recapture his A game? If bogeys abound, it could turn into a real scramble (think British Open) and the bounces could favor another first-timer. But if U.S. Open experience prevails …

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Can recent history repeat? – Before D.J., the previous three U.S. Open winners were Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose. Rory McIlroy is also a past champion and the holder of the Open scoring record, 16-under in 2011.

Rose is on something akin to a major hot streak of his own. He finished runner-up to Garcia at Augusta and previously won the gold medal in the Rio Olympics playing under course conditions that sound a bit similar to what he’ll be facing this week at Erin Hills. GolfWeek actually has Rose listed as its No. 2 pick behind D.J. and ahead of Jason Day to raise the trophy this week (that’s a TaylorMade trio, by the way) and then rounds out its top five with Spieth and McIlroy.

Will one of the favorites prevail or will we major-victory rookies resume their rise at the majors? We’ll start to get some clues when the major fun begins on Thurs.

US Open trophy

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2017 Masters Preview

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Photo: www.techagesite.com

The golf world entered last year’s Masters buzzing about the looming rise of a youthful Big Four. A year later, there’s mostly only talk of an emerging Big One – and it isn’t that guy.

DJ, not TW, is turning into the Tour Goliath that his tremendous talent suggested possible but hadn’t been realized. His breakthrough win at the 2016 U.S. Open appears to have changed all that.

After being named Player of the Year in 2016, DJ has only built on that momentum by rising to world No. 1 and flattening the field on the way to three straight victories coming into Augusta.

Will DJ continue his Tour dominance with a win at Augusta National, a place where he doesn’t have a great track record? Or will players with a better history and feel for the place (Spieth, Mickelson, etc.) stem the tide and deny him the green jacket?

The question: Can DJ’s greatly improved short game and putting stand up to the staunch test at Augusta?

We ponder that and four other storylines coming into what many regard as the best week in golf. Here’s a look at our top five.

Will DJ continue to dominate? – His nearly unrivaled length has always made him a fearsome force on the Tour, but it’s his newfound touch on and around the greens that has changed his game and has him lifting more trophies.

DJ finished a very quiet T-4 last year, which is best finish at Augusta and followed a T-6 in 2016. If he’s stealthily been stalking the jacket, then the new DJ might be ready.

The Golf Channel shared a story about all the work Johnson has put in honing his game inside the scoring zone (125 yards and in) in the past year, and his second major and a fourth straight victory will likely be riding on it. But most critical, will his recently steady putting touch stand up to the test of the slick Augusta greens?

Will Jordan rebound? – We would likely be talking about a two-time defending champion going for a third straight green jacket had Jordan Spieth not gotten two consecutive tee shots wet on the par-3 12th a year ago. That turned what looked to be a runaway into an open door for underdog Danny Willett to sneak in and claim the championship.

Spieth claims not to be haunted by No. 12, having returned to Augusta last Dec. and played the hole without issue. Still, you can be sure the replays of his meltdown will roll when Jordan steps to the 12 tee on Thursday.

Spieth seemed to burn out a bit a year ago after playing a hectic schedule. He’s dialed that back this year and seems to have rediscovered much of the form that had him chasing the Grand Slam two years ago.

We know Spieth can putt the notorious greens of Augusta, but will his ball striking hold up under what are expected to be challenging conditions on Thurs. and Fri.? But if Spieth gets into the weekend around the lead, it’ll be hard not like his chances. With a T2, 1, T2 history at Augusta, would you bet against him?

He’ll certainly be seeking redemption on No. 12 and savoring another chance to win back the green jacket.

Is Rory ready to go Grand? – The Masters is the only gap in Rory’s major resume. Is this the year he completes the career Grand Slam? He seems to have found his form again after being briefly sidelined with a rib injury.

As one of the few on Tour who can challenge DJ off the tee, that’d be a power pairing if it happened on the weekend. Is Rory ready to end his major drought? It’d certainly put some juice into the Augusta gallery if he’s contending going into Sunday.

Can Lefty be right one more time? – Though he’s played some of the most consistent golf of his career and been around the lead often (see the British last year), Phil hasn’t won since he won the British in 2013. Can he pull out one more major surprise with that famous Augusta-friendly short game?

If he’s steady off the tee, the decider for Phil will likely be that claw putting grip he remains committed to. Can he roll it for four rounds again like he did at the British last year? If so, look out for Lefty.

Will it be a favorite or will it be someone like Willett? – More than the course, the weather may be the wildcard to answering this question.

With windy and possible wet weather on tap for the first two days, it could open the door for some underdogs to secure some previous landscape near the top of the weekend leaderboard.

The forecasted cool conditions are being likened to 2007, when Zach Johnson used some clutch and calculated wedge play to surgically conquer Augusta National and the field. Will a similar approach prevail this year?

The Tour saw four first-timers last year claim all the majors a year ago. Will that trend continue or will a favorite emerge victorious? We’ll soon find out during one of the best weeks in golf.

Masters coozy

Boxed in

Southland Golf: Chris Mayson Lesson Series

Feb. South

I thoroughly enjoyed producing these lesson pieces for the Feb. issue of Southland Golf with elite instructor Chris Mayson and photographer Joey Cobbs. February is the instruction issue of Southland and these pieces were part of the cover story. Enjoy.

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Boxed in

Clock method

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Ten Questions About Tiger Woods In 2017

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Photo: Zimbio.com

After more than a year out of competition on the PGA Tour while recovering from back surgery, Tiger Woods finally made his tournament return in December in what some might deem to be the biggest story of the year for golf.

Four rounds at the Hero World Challenge against a field of some of the world’s best players is a small sample size, but it’s just enough to speculate about what 2017 might look like for Tiger. Here are 10 questions that we have while waiting for word of Tiger’s 2017 schedule.

Is he back?

Yes – with a qualifier. We’re not talking about the old Tiger in his prime. That guy will probably never be back. We’re talking about the return of Tiger to competitive golf and being able to tee it up on Tour. When Tiger leads the field in birdies, which he did at the Hero World Challenge, putts like he did in your prime AND, just as important, walks off the course pain-free, that’s back in our book.

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The renovated North Course at Torrey Pines


Where will be play next?

His only commitment thus far is to the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in LA, a tournament he hasn’t played since 2006 but to which his foundation now has a tie. That’s Feb. 13-19. Tour stops at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego and the Waste Management Open in Phoenix loom prior on the West Coast swing.

Tiger has a stellar track record at Torrey, where he won his last major in 2008, and has played Phoenix in the past as well. Is he ready to take on consecutive tournaments or will he choose one over the other? You’d think he wouldn’t pass up the comfort of Torrey, but there’s also a wild card in play: His agent has indicated foreign tournaments have come calling. It will be interesting to see what he chooses.

What might success look like for Tiger in 2017?

Playing and finishing tournaments, to start. Just doing that will be more than he did in his most recent tournament stints. Getting back into the groove and grind of the Tour will be accomplishment enough in the early. But if he can do that, then we start to ask …

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Can he win? Can he win a major?

Merely playing is one thing. Contending is another, winning is something else and a winning a major is a meteoric leap from there, but if he would happen to put a jolt in a tournament early on (lead for a round? Finish top 10?) such talk will quickly stir.

His putting was stellar in the Bahamas and his swing speed measured up to Tour specs, however, he’s conceded his days of overpowering courses are over, which means he’ll lean more on course management and a strong short game. That formula reminds us a current Tour star: Jordan Spieth. That game plan nearly won Spieth the Grand Slam two years ago. If it worked for Jordan, it can work for Tiger, who historically is one of the best putters ever.

Why might fate favor him for a major in 2017?

Tiger’s winning track record has somewhat been amassed by piling up wins at a handful of courses (Torrey, Bay Hill, Augusta, etc.) Quail Hollow, where he won in 2007 and has three top-11 finishes, is considered a Tiger-friendly track and home to the 2017 PGA Championship. The British Open is at Royal Birkdale, where he contended in 1998. The U.S. Open is at first-time venue Erin Hills.

Could the Masters be his best chance?

See the previous reference to Jordan Spieth. A hot putter can master Augusta National, especially when there’s veteran savvy behind it. The only caveat is that Tiger hasn’t won in Augusta since the course was “Tiger-proofed” in 2006. Another factor is how tournament-ready to contend he can be by April. A better bet might be the British, which is later in the calendar year and has a better track record of producing random winners due to the factors of weather and the quirky breaks of links golf.

What’s the biggest obstacle to him being competitive again?

The Tour itself. This is the Tour Tiger wrought, where fitness, equipment, training and talent has never been better. To illustrate the depth and balance of the field, golf had four first-time major winners last year, when it was predicted a Big Four (Jordan, Rickie, Rory and Jason) would carry the year. It didn’t happen. Is there room for Tiger to get back in that mix? That’s a very tall order for a Woods far removed from his prime and now past age 40.

What would even a semi-competitive Tiger mean for the Tour?

Two words: Ratings. Buzz. His return tournament posted one of the highest ratings in the history of the Golf Channel. He still has the “it” factor and attracts eyeballs and galleries to the game like no one else. Having some of that back can only be good for the game. The pursuit of the major record is likely lost, but Sam Snead’s career wins record is still within reach. He needs four to tie Slammin’ Sam at 82. While a consolation prize give what was once possible for Woods, it’s not nothing.

Worst case: What if his back goes out again?

Oh, boy. Woods has admitted he contemplated retirement when his back woes were at their worst. You’d think a relapse would be competitive curtains, the only fate worse than a return of the short-game yips that plagued his last comeback but seem quieted for now.

Best case: What if it doesn’t – and it looks like he’s really BACK?

The dream scenario for the PGA Tour. Tiger stalking leaderboards and chasing championships again would put a serious second wind into the game and hopefully give it a much-needed boost in interest and participation. This is the Woods windfall many believe he delivered to the game in his prime and having a little of that back would be refreshing on several levels. A competitive mix of young lions and steely veterans would be also be a great one for the Tour and its fans.

Now that the Chicago Cubs have finally won the World Series again, you could say another major win for Woods is the biggest story left on-deck in sports. Can he deliver? The safe bet: the world will be watching if he does.

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Socalgolfblog’s 2016 PGA Championship Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

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The PGA Tour’s major championship season began with talk of a Big Four – Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler – taking over the tour. Instead, three first-time major winners have taken home the major hardware, the latest being Henrik Stenson at the British Open.

Will one of the young guns rally this week to keep the Big Four from going 0-for-4 in majors in 2016? San Diego golf instructor Chris Mayson says yes, but you’ll have to wait a bit to find out who he likes this week at Baltusrol GC. First, here’s a look at a few storylines going into the week.

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Photo: www.sportingnews.com

DJ For POY? – Henrik Stenson is the man of the moment coming off his epic triumph at Royal Troon, but Dustin Johnson remains the hottest player on tour. After finishing in a tie for second at the Canadian Open, Johnson has now gone 5, 1, 1, T9, T2 in his last five starts, including a U.S. Open victory, and hasn’t missed a cut all year.

Talk of DJ for player of the year is stirring and he’d turn up the volume considerably with a win this week. A hot putter and an adept short game helped DJ clinch victory at the U.S. Open. His putter waned on the weekend in Canada after he never really got his game going in Scotland on a course many expected him to dominate. Which D.J. will we see this week?

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Photo: www.golfweek.com

A British Bounce For Henrik/Phil? – After staging a duel for the ages, Stenson and Mickelson are right back on the major stage two weeks later due to a compacted Tour season to accommodate the Olympics. Mickelson, who won the last PGA at Baltusrol in 2005, is paired with 2014 PGA champion Rory McIlroy and 2015 winner Jason Day. Will Mickelson put behind what must have been an emotional recovery from finishing second at the British to muster any other championship-worthy effort? He’s got a group that can certainly go low. McIroy shot a solid 67 on Sunday to give him momentum going into the PGA.

As for Stenson, we know the ball striking will be spot on at a venue that demands it. Baltusrol has hosted seven U.S. Opens and figures to be a demanding test where hitting fairways will be at a premium. Speaking of which …

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Photo: www.mygolfspy.com

The Driving Iron Is Back – Baltusrol is home to one of the most famous one-iron shots in golf, the one struck by Jack Nicklaus on No. 18 in 1967 that has its own plaque. For a few decades now, however, the driving iron has existed as more of a Lee Trevino punch line – search “what club should I hold up in a lightning storm” – than an equipment option. That has changed this year and you’ll notice several pros, including Day, now carrying driving irons and hitting them long and straight with ease. Here Chris Mayson explains how and why the driving iron has made a comeback:

“I’ve noticed many PGA Tour players going back to the driving iron this year. Callaway and Titleist have made very good models that are easy to hit off the tee or fairway and a lot of the guys have gone to this club for certain courses on tour.

“I believes it is a natural move away from the hybrid. I think the hybrid is fantastic utility club for everybody except the players with high swing speeds. The club companies like to make them a little closed at address to encourage a draw, and you couple this with the extra loft on the face and the best players fear the hook with a hybrid. So naturally more players have been adding a 5/6 wood or more recently a driving iron to find those tight fairways.

“The driving iron goes about 240-270 yards for the world’s top players so it is perfect for a short par 4 or tight tee shot.

“Keep an eye out at Baltusrol and I’ll bet you notice more driving irons than you thought were on Tour.”

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Photo: www.wgt.com

A Unique Double Par 5 Finish – Strategically Baltusrol is the flip of Royal Troon in the respect that the front nine at Troon offered early scoring opportunities and challenged the players to hold on throughout the back. Baltusrol is the flip and uniquely closes with consecutive par 5s.
That finish will set the table for big hitters – hello, DJ – down the stretch, but they could also be digging out of a hole from not being patient on the front. Whoever manages the course and their emotions the best on the front could go a long way toward deciding who lifts the trophy on Sunday. Will it be an experienced former major champion or …

Will We See A Fourth First-Timer? – Strong performances in recent majors have some sentiment in golf circles leaning toward Lee Westwood or Sergio Garcia. Farmers Insurance Open champ Brandt Snedeker and Matt Kuchar are also garnering favor. Trivia alert: We haven’t seen four first-timers sweep the majors since 2011. Can you name them? … Time’s up. They are Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke, Keegan Bradley and … the man Chris Mayson is picking this week.

Now onto Chris’ prediction and pick:

Rory - www.cbsports.com

Photo: www.cbssports.com

It’s amazing to me that the PGA championship is here already. With the Olympics added to the schedule this year it seems that all the big tournaments are slammed together and of course we are going into the FedEx Cup soon after as well.

I have heard from players on the PGA Tour that the rough is very thick at Baltusrol this year and that should add to the charm and challenge of the year’s final major. With the rain at Oakmont for the U.S. Open, it never really played as hard as the USGA intended. I am wondering if the PGA will trick up Baltusrol this year.

There have been first-time winners at each major this year without any of them really being a major surprise. But I don’t think that there will be another first-time winner at the PGA. I expect someone with a little more major experience to take this one.

Due to the extreme rough and the premium on hitting fairways I am going to keep my pick the same as for the British Open and stay with Rory McIlroy. He hasn’t won in America this year and is certainly due, and although he didn’t win at Royal Troon, he did have a very strong fifth-place finish.

He is No. 1 in strokes gained off the tee and I believe that will be the difference maker for him at Baltusrol this year. (Editor’s note, courtesy of the European Tour: In seven PGA appearances, Rory has four top 5s and two championships.)

I expect my own student, Brendan Steele, to also have a strong showing. He is a fantastic driver of the golf ball, is currently ranked 15th in strokes gained off the tee and he had a strong 15th-place finish at last year’s PGA championship at Whistling Straits. It’s a great course for him and he has been playing well all year. Enjoy the PGA and the rush finish to the major championship season.

Maderas: 2016 Masters Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

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Photo: www.pgatour.com

Part of the charm of Masters week is the nostalgia and history that comes along with it, and in that sense this one packs a little more than most.

The print and television run-up this week has included revisiting Jack Nicklaus’ legendary 1986 Masters victory on its 30th anniversary. Included in the coverage is an excellent tribute documentary the Golf Channel aired Tuesday night.

Will this year’s event be another one for the ages? It certainly seems to have that potential.

Several past Master champions come in playing well – Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, etc. Will they make more history or will the green jacket find a new closet? On Thursday, we start to find out. Here’s a look at a few storylines for the week and then Chris Mayson seeks to pick a repeat winner at August (he called Spieth a year ago).

Will Day Have His Day? – Can the hottest player in golf double up on majors with a win at Augusta? He took last week off to arrive early and practice at a place where he’s had a solid history (T2 in 2011; 3rd in 2013), but never a victory.

A past championship here is the only thing Day doesn’t have going for him as he rolls into Augusta having definitively declared since winning the 2015 PGA Championship that it’s indeed a different day for his game. Can we make the Masters leap?

Jordan Rules Again? – The odds of a Jordan Spieth repeat seem a little easier to fathom with his impeccable putting stroke returning to form, but his ball striking has been uneven and a source of audible frustration on the course. Nobody has repeated here since – guess who? – Tiger in 2001-2002.

What Spieth accomplished a year ago, much less what it led to, will be hard to recapture, but he has the confidence of having done it against a field playing at its peak – and putting is always at a premium at Augusta. When he’s right, he reminds us of that guy who won back in 1986.

Stat: Spieth’s winning total of 18-under was the best since Woods posted that number in 1997. How low will the winner have to go this year?

Will Phil Thrill Again? – Mickelson retooled his swing after a year where his game peaked for majors but rarely for regular tour events.

This year, Phil, save for a second-round flameout at the Farmers, has been consistently in contention leading up to Augusta. We know Phil has the veteran saavy and short game to tame the course, but will his new swing be enough to put him over the top once more?

Phil’s last major victory was the 2013 British Open after a back-nine charge. Will he muster another at age 45 and six years removed from his last Masters win?

Speaking Of Lefties –
Starting with Mike Weir in 2003, half the champions since have been lefties. Tiger-proofing the course made it friendly for left-handers and Phil and Bubba Watson in particular have cashed in. Will Bubba bomb his way around Augusta again and make enough putts to win? He’s been putting well enough that he’s among the favorites again.

Au-Gust-A: Will Weather Determine The Winner? – There’s a bit of rain in the forecast for Thursday and high winds through Saturday. The winds are notoriously baffling at Augusta, which certainly would seem to hand an advantage to players with a longer history here who have seen the course under a range of conditions. Several in the field fit that saavy veteran pedigree (Louis Oosthuizen, Zach Johnson, etc.). The player Chris Mayson has in mind will be making his seventh Masters start.

Now onto Chris’s predictions:

I can’t believe it’s Masters time already. It truly signals that summer is right around the corner, and the best players in the world will be hoping that their games are starting to peak or are peaking! It seems that this Masters is a little more up for grabs than past Masters, and I am having a hard time really identifying a true front runner.
Typically Jordan Spieth would be a firm favorite but his form in 2016 has been patchy at best. But a solid tied 13th last week shows his game isn’t far away, and he will be more than determined to defend his crown this week.

Jason Day and Rory McIlroy will be high on everyone’s list, and well they should be. Day has been on a tear the last month and is the new world No. 1, and Rory always seems to play well at Augusta. Bubba Watson loves Augusta too, but he has been hampered with a sinus infection that has haltered his preparations.

There’s a saying on tour that if you want to know who is going to win this week, then look who finished second last week. That was Henrik Stenson, and he has been playing very well of late including a third-place finish at Bay Hill two weeks before. He is certainly trending up and he will be hoping to complete the 3rd-2nd-1st streak. I am not going to pick him, though, because he is not a stellar putter, and that is needed rounded Augusta.

There were many contenders who will be very happy with last week’s work including Phil Mickelson (13th), Rickie Fowler (10th), Patrick Reed (10th), but I am going to go with the man who finished third last week and has been on the cusp of a major championship for some time now…….Dustin Johnson. DJ hits the ball far off the tee, which is a must at Augusta, has silky hands around the green and is an underrated putter. He seems to have a great demeanor to not get flustered, and I feel that Day and McIlroy want this championship too badly. DJ is my pick for the 2016 Masters.

Corey Ross is the Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media at Maderas. He will be live tweeting the Masters two days. Follow @maderasgolf for details.

ignite

Southland: The Story Behind Rickie Fowler’s Hi-Tops

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While the golf world continues to debate whether it’s being ruled by a Big Three or Four, when it comes to fashion and flair, it’s a Big One.

Cobra Puma’s Rickie Fowler has long had the most emulated look on tour amongst fans and in January, he gave them another reason to walk in his shoes – literally.

A hi-top shoe Fowler unveiled at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua proved an instant hit and will now get a chance to back it up in sales when it hits store shelves in June.

But Cobra Puma CEO and President Bob Philion is already counting on the impact of the new IGNITE shoe to be nothing less than major.

“The feedback and response has been tremendous,” Philion said.

With a “perfect-fit” Velcro strap, the shoe recalls the look of an 1980s-90s-ish hi-top basketball shoe, but it’s for the course, not the court. Tour players Keegan Bradly and Michelle Wie have been reported to have worn something similar.

The idea for Rickie’s shoe stemmed from a conversation Philion and Fowler had last year in Japan. Fowler, long an influential voice for Cobra Puma style, expressed an interest in his course style reflecting more of his personal style. He then mentioned he wears high tops off the course.

“He expressed an interest in wearing a hi-top cleated shoe on the course,” Philion said. “The result is the IGNITE hi-top, which we paired with a jogger style pant. We work closely with our Tour players throughout the development and design process to ensure we’re pushing the limits of when it comes to performance and style. That’s very important to us as a brand.”

Cobra Puma Head of Footwear and Accessories Grant Knudson said the media buzz the shoes created at Kapalua coincided with a hugely positive fan response on social media.

“I’ve never really seen anything like it for a shoe,” Knudson said. “The shoes went viral. It was truly lightning in a bottle. It has blown everyone’s expectations away.”

Cobra

In its current design, the shoes is in black and white, which is a bit understated given Cobra Puma’s splashy use of pastels. Knudson said color may be incorporated into future designs, but the initial offering will only be black and white.

When the staff projected the target demographics for the shoe, Knudson said ages 12 to 30, Fowler’s usual target, was projected, but the interest has actually trended much older.

Knudson said the shoe was originally thought of fashion over function. The staff discounted older golfers who had lower body instability or injury and see the shoe as having an orthopedic advantage on the course.

“That was something we didn’t foresee,” Knudson said. “People are looking at it as a way to perform better, and it has started a conversation internally of what really is the best shoe for people to wear. This shoe has some excellent potential benefits.”

We’ll all start to learn more when the shoes, which will retail for $200, hit store shelves.
Further stoking the shoe’s popularity and visibility, Knudson said, is Fowler’s continued strong start to the season, which has included a win in Abu Dhabi at the HSBC Golf Championship.

Adding a retail victory will only underscore for Knudson that Fowler’s career is soaring on all levels.

Knudson said, “Rickie’s truly at the top of his game right now.”

Tanay

PGA Magazine: The FIO Pro-Am Completes A Dream Month For Seattle Golfer

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Photo by David Mulvaney of www.pacificphotodesign.com

You can find this story in print here

Billy Tanay once smashed a drive over 500 yards in a long drive competition. That’s the shot the now 59-year-old sees in his dreams.

In terms of his golf life, however, that shot is like another lifetime ago for the Seattle resident as age and injury had eroded his skills and limited his play.

Tanay didn’t recapture that titanic distance during a dream playing opportunity in January, but he perhaps got the next best thing: Three days of playing and practicing amongst the pros.

Tanay won an online contest sponsored by Hyundai to participate in the pro-ams of the first three PGA tournaments of 2016. After being the only one chosen from around 17,000 entrants, he slogged through the rain in Kapalua alongside J.B. Holmes, strolled in the Palm Springs sun next to Stewart Cink and hiked the lush fairways of ocean-side Torrey Pines paired with Billy Horschel.

Tanay didn’t card a birdie over three rounds, but you’d never know it from the wide smile he flashed walking off the final green on Torrey’s North Course in January.

“It was a great day,” he said. “Being around these guys in an environment like this, it’s hard not to have a great day.”

Tanay’s Bunyan-esque stature towered over his group, including Horschel, but he admitted feeling humbled by the game at which he used to excel. He played sparingly a year ago after having reconstructive shoulder surgery. He then made about “six to eight” trips to the driving range after getting the call about the contest in early Dec.

In his prime, Tanay had a drive measured at 486 yards in a long-drive competition. That’s his recorded record. The aforementioned 500-yard drive comes with a bit of lore.

“It was off the end of the grid. They couldn’t find it. But it was estimated north of 500,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately, I’m at least 100 yards short of what I used to be.”

A reminder from J.B. Holmes to take the club away “low and slow” helped but Tanay says he never really regained his old swing during his three-week “whirlwind golf career” in January, though he did have a promising range session at Torrey.

“But I lost it on the first tee,” he said. “It’s frustrating to get this opportunity and not play well, but I’ve just lost touch with my swing after being away this long.”

The highlights, instead, belonged to Tanay’s professional playing partners, most notably J.B. Holmes on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

“J.B. Holmes played so well in Maui even though it poured rain and we had 30 mph wind for the first nine holes. It just didn’t affect him at all – and it killed everybody else.

“He had a 20-foot putt and got his hat blown off. He still drained it.”

Tanay said moments like that were the real lessons of his tour.

“Just watching them play you can learn so much. It’s fun. It really is.”

Tanay’s wife Debbie traveled with him to each stop and called it a thrill to see her husband have the experience.

“But I think I’ve been more nervous than he has,” she said. “He just gets up there and plays.”

Tanay said his competitive long-drive days got him accustomed to crowds. He wasn’t fazed by the galleries, nor hitting alongside the pros.

“All three were fantastic to play with. And the caddies and everybody were just great.”

Horschel gave Tanay a signed caddie bib after the Torrey round. Tanay said he’ll also have a few autographed group photos arriving in the mail from his tour.

“Those are fun,” he said. “They’ll take up a nice wall somewhere.”

But Tanay said the best takeaway was a re-discovered love of the game.

“This made me realize how much I miss getting out there and playing like I used to. I will get out and play a lot more from this point. It put me back in touch with the game,” he said.

Michael Stewart of Hyundai, who played with Tanay at Torrey, said that’s the outcome Hyundai wanted for Tanay and what it hopes to instill in more players.

“Golf has been a great sport for Hyundai. All of golf is a good audience for us and we want to get more people interested in playing,” Stewart said.

Tanay will have a new set of TaylorMade RSI irons in hand while he ramp his rounds in 2016.

“I’m glad I jumped at the chance to do this,” he said.