Category Archives: Phil Mickelson

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.

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Southland: North Course Renovation Finally On Tap For Torrey

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After three years of discussion and preparation, the North Course at Torrey Pines is finally having its date with a bulldozer in 2016.

The renovation is set to begin days after the Farmers Insurance Open and is slated to take six months to complete.

Tom Weiskopf, a PGA Tour veteran who had his first tour win at Torrey in 1968, and his design group are set to execute the redesign plan originally awarded to Phil Mickelson. City of San Diego Golf Operations Manager Mark Marney says the core concepts of the plan remain intact with only subtle differences in Weiskopf’s execution as opposed to Mickelson’s.

“There were core things we wanted to have and then it came down to what we could afford,” Marney said of a project that’s tabbed to between $12.6 million.

The core objectives are: Rebuilt, enlarged and re-contoured greens; new greenside and fairway bunkers; a cart path system; and a new irrigation and pumping system.

Players shouldn’t find the course tougher, Marney said, and some will find it more accessible.

“The course isn’t getting any longer, and we’re rebuilding a few tee boxes and adding an extra set of forward tees,” he said.

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Increases in difficulty and cost have been the primary concerns expressed by locals, some of whom play up to 150 rounds a year at Torrey. For them, the North is reprieve from the challenges of the tougher South Course, site of the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Opens.

“For a lot of them, it’d be pretty brutal to play the South all the time,” he said. “The North is a little more forgiving and we have players who prefer that.”

Marney said Torrey hasn’t raised its rates in five years and any future in case won’t be tied to the construction costs.

The North hosts between 80,000 and 85,000 a year – nearly 20,000 more than the South – and Marney said was long overdue for an update of the original William Bell design.

Amateur and professional players will benefit, Marney said, as the North is used during the first two days of the Farmers Insurance Open. During the tournament, the North on average plays three strokes easier than the South, a gap Marney said the new North course will be able to close if tournament officials choose.

“They’ll have an opportunity to pick some pin positions that will make it as tough as they want to make it,” he said. “But I’m not sure Tour players want us to close that gap. They like having the chance to go over to the North and shoot something lower and make hay when the sun shines.”

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As much of their play, Marney is look forward the Tour players’ reviews of the new North at the Farmers in 2017. Lots of dirt and sand will be moved between now and then – and possibly water. An El Nino winter could hamper construction, but Marney said delaying the project again wasn’t an option.

“Every time we delay, the construction costs increase. If we put it off again, the costs could’ve gone up another 10 percent,” he said. “Next year is uncertain too. We need to plan and be as ready as we can be.”

The project is scheduled to be done months before the 2017 Farmers. That’ll provide time for the course to round into shape, and sodding instead of seeding the greens is being done to expedite the conversion, Marney said.

“That’ll give us a finished green surface sooner but there are some risks involved,” he said. “We’ll have to put in extra work to make sure we don’t get a build up of organic material in the sodded greens, and we’ll have time to fix other construction scars.”

Overall, Marney said after years of delay, Torrey is finally poised to successfully give birth to a new North.

“We’ve got a good plan and a great designer and contractor who understand what we’re looking for,” he said. “I’m excited about the time a year when we’ll finally have the big unveiling.”

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Maderas: Maderas’ 2016 Farmers Insurance Open Preview W/Chris Mayson Pick and Predictions

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When the PGA Tour arrived at Torrey Pines a year ago, it was a Tour in transition. A year later, there’s raging debate about whether golf is being led by a Big Three or a full-fledged foursome.

Two of the players in golf’s most prestige pack – Rickie Fowler and Jason Day – are in the Farmers Insurance Open Field this week. Fowler is fresh off a win in Abu Dhabi over major winners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy. Day is the defending champion at Torrey, but reportedly battling the flu.

This is set to be Day’s 2016 Tour debut and first chance to make a statement against his peers. He ended the 2015 major season by capturing the title at the PGA Championship by shooting 25-under to set a major championship scoring record. He briefly thereafter vaulted to No. 1 in the world.

Day’s win a year ago at Torrey started to set the Tour on a new course during a week that began with Tiger Woods withdrawing with a back injury. This week Day and Fowler have a chance to contribute to golf’s great debate. Will they deliver? We’ll start finding out on Thurs.

http://www.maderasgolf.com/The-Maderas-2016-Farmers-Insura.blog

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SCGA: The Comeback At Callaway

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Without even taking a swing, Chip Brewer knew one of the first clubs to cross his desk as CEO of Callaway Golf was a miss.

Looking at the prototype, a 3-wood, Brewer shook his head. As the new President and CEO, just a few weeks into his tenure in the spring of 2012, he was unimpressed. Perhaps worse, as a golfer, he was bored.

The club, just by its look and feel, was … ordinary.

This is what Callaway had become, which was not what it had been and certainly not what Brewer envisioned it would be again.

His play? “Send it back.”

Unaccustomed to rejection, a stunned R &D team’s response could best be summed up as: “He said what?”

“You’ve got to do better,” Brewer commanded.

Ultimately, that rejection changed the trajectory of Callaway Golf and started what has it soaring today.

You can find the rest of this article at: editiondigital.net/publication/?i=276926&p=44

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Four Observations About The Playing Experience At Pauma Valley

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There are some calls in Southern California golf that simply must be answered. You don’t turn down a tee time at Torrey Pines South, nor do you tell Sherwood Country Club, or a handful of elite others in the LA area, to hold. I’m guessing the same holds true for Pebble Beach, Pelican Hill, etc., but my caller ID hasn’t put me to that test yet (but line one is open).

Pauma Valley is one of those. You have to know SoCal golf on a certain level to know about Pauma Valley, kind of like that cool club in a tourist town only locals seem to know about it. Pauma maintains a low profile in its mountain surrounds but holds a high profile for, among others, golfers looking to retire with the game or live the lifestyle it offers.

Pauma Valley provides all of that from sun up to twilight and course to clubhouse. It’s a place where you can live the game and get lost in it in quiet isolation from the outside world if you so choose.

And for decades, host of Hollywood celebrities and others have done just that often via the club’s private landing strip, which still does steady traffic.

Intrigued yet? Here’s an overview of the Pauma Valley experience.

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A True Golf Oasis – Finding Pauma Valley is the first challenge. That’s more easily done in these days of GPS, but you’ll hardly be the first to drive the 76 and wonder if a course actually exists. Even more so than some of the covert country clubs in SoCal, Pauma Valley truly gives you no clue until the gates suddenly appear.

But when you arrive? Pure golf paradise. The stunning mountain backdrop and fountains spouting amongst the greens make an indelible first impression that speaks to any golfer no matter your level of connection to the game.
I don’t know how many courses you remember seeing for the first time … but this will be one of them.

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A Fair Test of Golf –
Pauma Valley was Robert Trent Jones Sr.’s first California course project and among his most prized anywhere (I’m told he only ranked Spyglass ahead of it). The word “fair” is a tenant of Jones’ design philosophy and it rings impeccably true at Pauma Valley. Good shots have good outcomes. The rest? Well, it’s best to learn where you can miss at Pauma Valley, but it’s rare that you’ll get a result you didn’t feel was deserved. And sometimes the course even helps you out. I had a shot stop short of a woodchip-base OB boundary that I still can’t believe held up, but it allowed me to salvage par from my best drive of the day.

And unlike some California courses that can have split-personality nines, Pauma is a consistent test, though the back is more elevated and thus the more scenic side of the two. The bunkers at Pauma visually challenge golfers repeatedly but aren’t overly penal compared to some of the other elite courses in SoCal (Torrey South, anyone?).
Also unlike Torrey South, the par 4s are of reasonable distance on a course that can be had with a hot round.

There’s no hole here that seems unconquerable (I nearly parred the No. 1-handicap hole on my first try) and you quickly learn mostly that position it as a premium for success, a true shot-makers golf course.

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Left: The plot of the former John Wayne home. Right: No. 14.

The Legend and the Lore – The first time I played Pauma Valley, I had little insight into its rich history and its celebrity membership over the years. A passing “Oh, that’s John Wayne’s house” on No. 14 was the closest I got to a true history lesson – and that was a bit inaccurate (it’s the plot, yes, but not the house).

I got a more detailed introduction the second time … and even a book on the subject.

You can read tales about the days of Rev. Billy Graham’s time as a member as well as about when a program called “Challenge Golf,” produced by Arnold Palmer, recorded the likes of legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player competing at Pauma Valley shortly after it opened in 1961.

These days you’re more likely to hear about Huey Lewis shot in his latest round. But there are always tales to be told at Pauma Valley.

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A Mountain Masterpiece of Design – If you truly appreciate course design, Pauma Valley must be seen – and, naturally, played. The way the mountain views unfold around you as the round evolves are the product of a master truly understanding his canvas. The course could not seem more naturally, or artfully, placed in its surroundings. No mountain course along the I-15 quite blends in its surroundings so serenely and pleasurably as Pauma Valley. You are truly at one with your golf environment in the most undisturbed way possible.

The back nine, in particular, starting with the uphill par-4 10th, gives you two courses to enjoy – the one looking forward and the one behind. A 360-view of the course is required to truly appreciate all its nuances and aesthetic touches.

If you’re prone to golf tunnel vision, do yourself a favor and pace yourself here – perhaps walk? – so you’re fully aware of the complete golf experience available to you. The pet peeves of public play – pace, etiquette, etc. – couldn’t be more removed here.

Yet if you really want to be alone with you game, this is a great place to do it and why such pros as Phil Mickelson have found their golf solace here.

A telling detail of the design comes when asking someone about the signature, or their favorite, hole. My host was legitimately stumped, as am I after playing it twice now. I have favorite stretches, but to choose a single hole over another is too much hair-splitting. It’s simply that close amongst a number of worthy candidates.

Wherever you made your last birdie is a likely tie-breaker, and here’s hoping you get that chance soon.

For information about membership at Pauma Valley, or holding a private event, you can contact Scott Shinner at sshinner@paumavalleycc.com or 760.742.3721, ext. 111.

Six Observations About Chambers Bay and the U.S. Open

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1. “Old” School Is Cool – When I walked onto Chambers Bay for the first time, I immediately felt transported back to my couch in past Augusts at 5 a.m. when the TV greeting of “We’re coming to you live from Royal Birkdale/Troon/Portrush, etc.” would send a giddy chill down my golf spine.

I’ve never been to a British, but it has to feel a lot like this, or at least that’s the impression you get as you start to walk and discover this tree-free (OK, one) and bunkered beautiful behemoth.

It’s an 8-year-old course with the feeling of something much older and ancient because of the aged look of the course and its link to links golf, the birth of the game. Chambers feels like it’s always been here, yet its history is being made in real time. How rare and incredibly cool for golf.

For sports comparison, let’s just say, the first football to fly at Jerry World was probably cool … but not this cool.

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2. Background … Check – Chambers is really two experiences in one. There’s the course and then there’s the setting, which is breathtaking. The Puget Sound background would be awesome all but itself, but the touches of the tree and the train are not only stunning scenery but also incredibly smart visual branding of the course (more on this in a second).

On TV, Chambers is doing for the Pacific Northwest what the Farmers does for San Diego: It’s the best TV commercial it could ask for. Someone on local sports radio said as much yesterday … and that was by noon.

Experiencing Seattle for the first time, I can tell you the representation is spot on. The awesome just kind of keeps on going here. The only way it could be better at Chambers is if they could reposition Mt. Rainier behind a par 3 or put it on a floating barge for the week.

A scenic aside: I saw a sunset here on Wed. that blew me away. The mountains not only reflected pink, but a pink shaft of light seemed to connect the mountains to the clouds. As a sunset connoisseur … wow. My only regret is that I was massively out of position for a camera phone photo.

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3. Three Words: Trains Are Awesome – I’d been on the course for five minutes when the first train came by. I just happened to be on No. 16 and captured the photo at top. How incredibly cool, and what an awesome way to incorporate the culture of the area into the course design.

The use of the train in the framing of the holes is an absolute masterstroke of course design. It evokes the same appreciation I have for California course designers in the way they use the ocean and mountains. There’s a serious art to this, and it’s my favorite thing about the game from a creative perspective.

Moreover, what the train does is give added identity to holes in a way you don’t see on the British courses. Aside from a few holes on St. Andrews (The Road Hole & No. 18), I can’t conjure exact visual reference of many specific holes in the British Open rotation. No disrespect, but I just see a bunch of heavily bunkered and flat generic holes, which is purely my TV perspective.

By the time Sunday is over, I think golfers will have a lot of visual reference of Chambers, partly due to the train. I realized this as soon as I sent the above photo to a golf friend, who texted back, “What hole is this? I can’t wait to watch it on TV.”

The use of the train as added backdrop for greens and tees is equally brilliant. And my guess is if/when the Open comes back here, someone will have bought a branded locomotive. In the old days, that would’ve been a total TaylorMade move.

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4. Nos. 13-18, What A Finish – Watching the holes in progression for the first time yesterday, I was struck by how visually strong this course becomes from 13 (the tough par 4) on. During the practice round near this stretch, I was highly curious how it would translate on TV. The answer: It could scarcely be better.

What I really like is that the visual intimidation factor of the course comes across akin to how it does at TPC Sawgrass. This is made-for-TV golf that totally works and will only become more dramatic and effective as the tournament pressure and circumstances ramp up.

Dear Golf Gods: Can you please send us a Sunday horserace?

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5. TV, Take Two – Aside from greens that aren’t well, green, (I had people asking me what was wrong with them), there’s another problem: The ball and hole aren’t always easy to track here, partly due to the lack of white-green contrast you normally get in golf. “Where’s the ball?” was a common refrain in our viewing session. Golf shouldn’t be like trying to track the puck in hockey, but that’s a bit of what we’ve got here. (Switch to orange balls, anyone?)

As for the hole issue, Fox actually highlighted one with a lime green circle late in the round. That didn’t seem to be the answer, but it was good to know someone had at least identified the problem and was trying.

Otherwise, the reverse angles of the course from Fox Island (and a barge perhaps; can I sign up to run Barge Cam?) are added awesome to an overall visual production full of it.

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6. The Spectator Experience, The Other Shoe – Following this tournament on the ground is a combination of brutal and impossible, more so than just your usual difficulty at a PGA Tour event. This course is walkable in the same way the Himalayas are … it really isn’t. By comparison, Torrey Pines, for example, is a literal and figurative walk in the park.

On the ground, Chambers Bay is a steep, dirty sand box to negotiate with very few places for foot soldiers to get a great glimpse of the action. (That said, I didn’t get to 15, 16, 17, where it undoubtedly has to better than in the higher elevations.)

In what few view areas they are, fans are herded there like wildebeests meaning hardly anyone sees anything. I “heard” Phil and Bubba hit tee shots yesterday but in reality saw nothing. It’s just not very possible here.

I’m not going to drag this section out as to not detract from an overall fantastic experience. From the hospitality suite (the Trophy Room) overlooking the course on Wed., I had a blast, and that’s the way to play Chambers Bay from a fan’s perspective. You pay a little more, but you enjoy it more, are a lot less frustrated and have a perspective on golf unlike anyone other. It’s a lot like what you see on TV, which is what this place is really all about it. That’s not a criticism, just reality.

I’ve seen it before and am happy to enjoy it that way until the day I actually come here and play, which I suspect millions will want to do after seeing the broadcast this week.

Maderas: 2015 U.S. Open Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

The venue alone already guarantees the 115th U.S. Open will be like no other. Built specifically for the purpose of hosting an Open, Chambers Bay is the first course to bring major championship golf to the Pacific Northwest.

If you’ve caught a glimpse of the course on ESPN or the Golf Channel, the Puget Sound backdrop all but guarantees this will be the most scenic venue ever for an Open. Whether it makes for great golf remains to be seen as no PGA event has ever been contested here. Chambers, the University of Washington’s college course, is a mere eight years old.

The uniqueness of the venue is the lead story, but the place holds the potential of an epic Open due to the game’s elite players playing their best right now. The tour could’ve scarcely scheduled the winners any better thus far to make the case for golf’s next generation.

What follows is our Open overview with predictions to follow from Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson, who’s turning into something of a savant at this. He’s 2 for 2 in 2015 (Farmers, Masters) at picking the winner. Can he go 3 for 3? You’ll see in a few minutes.

On to the preview …

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1. Hello, Chambers Bay – Built on ground that used to be a gravel quarry, one that helped pave many Seattle streets and roads, Chambers is links-like. It only has one tree, thus making for a venue you’re used to seeing over the pond. But the elevation changes are what keeps it from being a true links. The course is truly a roller coaster right down to its complex greens, which make Maderas’ look downright flat. You get the impression Chambers will look like golf in a pinball machine. Will it drive the best golfers in the world to tilt?

2. U.S. Open or British Open? – Like Pinehurst a year ago, Chambers is a departure from the U.S. Open norm of deep rough beating the field into submission. You may recall that Martin Kaymer putted his way to victory at Pinehurst, choosing the flat stick repeatedly in green-side scenarios. A similar game plan could be one of the keys to victory at Chambers.

The course is one of the longest in Open history, but advance reports suggest that length might be mitigated by dry conditions that are allowing the ball to roll. Two weeks of pristine, and unseasonably dry, Seattle weather have made for a fast course.

Predicting a score at with no professional track record is tricky, but ESPN’s Andy North suggests the pros have already caught a break with calm winds in the forecast. With its teeth in, North suggested, even par or worse might win.

3. Spieth-Mode – The last time Jordan Spieth was seen in a major, he was at the Masters doing a Marshawn Lynch impersonation – unstoppable.

It’s continued to be his year on Tour and he’s a favorite again at Chambers for two reasons: His caddie knows the place and Spieth is one of the few to have played Chamber in competition (the 2010 U.S. Amateur).

Given the way his year is going, it’s nearly unfathomable to envision Spieth not in contention and if it comes down to putting, who would you take over him right now? Anybody? Some are suggesting he’s knocking on the door of being the best putter in Tour history.

4. The Case for Rory – On his way to becoming world No. 1 – Spieth is 2 – Rory shredded Muirfield a year ago to win the British. So clearly this style of golf suits him.

Is Rory ready to re-capture his major momentum in what’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for him? There’s no question he’s got the length. But can he find the consistency to put together four steady rounds during what might become, as many are suggesting, a war of attrition and supreme test of patience?

5. Creativity Counts – Many golfers, including Tiger, have talked about how many ways there are to play the holes at Chambers Bay. Andy North suggested it’d take “25 to 30” rounds to truly learn the place.

There’s an emphasis on creativity and there’s no more creative player on Tour than Phil Mickelson. Could Mickelson at his crafty best pull it off this week to complete the career Grand Slam?

Mickelson went T-2 at the Masters showing he can still get up for the majors. He’s a dark horse this week, but an under-the-radar Phil could be dangerous.

Now on to our expert … Chris Mayson.

Chris: From what I have heard from the PGA Tour players, it sounds like Chambers Bay is pretty long and open but will throw up some tricky tests around the green. I have a feeling that this will produce a random winner from outside the top 40 in the world. Maybe a European who is used to playing links golf?!

My safe pick is Rory McIlory. Very boring choice, but he grew up on links golf, he hits it long and straight and is clearly the best player in the world.

Video Post: The Top Five “This is ESPN” Commercials – Golf Edition

One of the best things ESPN does is its in-house commercials. Consistently creative, funny and total rewatchable, I was moved to do this list after introducing a friend to the Lebron commercial, undoubtedly his best commercial performance, during the NBA Finals.

That naturally led to revisiting the greatest golf, or for that matter any, “This Is SportsCenter” of all time: Arnold Palmer making an Arnold Palmer – a masterpiece combo of concept and minimalist dialogue. That got me pondering the best of the rest for golf. What follows is one man’s opinion, but you’ll notice Bubba gets as many mentions as he has green jackets.

Speaking of …

No. 2 – Bubba

No. 3 – Tiger

No. 4 – Phil

No. 5 – Bubba

SD Tourism Infographic: 15 Reasons To Tee Off in San Diego

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This is a first for the blog: We were part of compiling an infographic overview of San Diego golf for the San Diego Tourism Authority. Thanks to Casual Fridays for the creative partnership.

Follow the link to find out about San Diego golf by the numbers.

blog.sandiego.org/2015/05/golf-infographic/?sf9016470=1

Maderas: Masters Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

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Photo courtesy of www.thegolfchannel.com

For the majority of the country who knows what it’s like to take a mandatory climatological break from the game, the Masters represents the annual rebirth of golf.

On the coast, where clubs never stopped swinging and multiple professional tournaments have passed through, the Masters doesn’t have quite the same significance, but it’s no less meaningful. This is the tournament that makes you fall in love with the game all over again, no matter what you shot in your last round.

For us golfers, this is the best week in sports, when the true competitive juices of the game at the professional level flow again. The scenery, the history, the pageantry (the Par 3 contest, honorary starters, etc.) – we watch for all of it.

And, as usual, there’s no lack of storylines at the Masters in 2015 and “major” history is in play, although likely not of the Tiger Woods variety. Making a run right now for Tiger is considered making the cut. And another blow-up round like what we saw in Phoenix might have people talking retirement.

But Tiger does make the cut for our top storylines going into Augusta.

1. Rory’s Run at History –
Golf history is teed high for Rory McIroy, but will be able to take advantage in a year where his game has yet to quite come together?

Besides giving him a third straight major win, a victory would earn McIlroy the rare and coveted career Grand Slam by age 25. He’s the favorite though he’s never won here. He’s most remembered at Augusta for squandering a four-shot lead on Sunday in 2011.

But McIlroy has come a long way since then and masters major moments now far more than shrinks from them. His game at its best is the best in the game, but will he be at his best at Augusta?

History is waiting to find out.

2. Bubba Has Mastered Augusta National – Having won two of the last three Masters, Bubba Watson’s game clearly sets up well for the course. It seems he should be in contention every year here as long as his putter shows up, and after the way he dominated last year, would it really surprise anybody if he eventually won four or five green jackets? Since the course changes, the layout is increasingly friendly to lefties, which brings us to …

3. Paging Mr. Mickelson – After his quietest year ever on Tour, some are pulling for Phil Mickelson’s game to come out of hibernation at Augusta, where the premium will always be on the short game, his forte. Mickelson’s game showed signs of life last week at the Houston Open, where he led early before settling into a 17th-place finish. Can Phil muster enough Masters’ magic for a fourth victory here? His putting, which has dogged him all year, will likely have something to say about it.

4. Has Tiger Tamed His Game? – Everyone will be watching when Tiger plays his first competitive round in nine weeks on Thursday to see he’s still fighting the short-game demons that have dragged his game to a career low. Even the most optimistic outlook has Tiger being more subplot than plot at Augusta. Him just making the cut is being touted as a major achievement. By the way, Tiger now hasn’t won here since 2005. The only history he’s guaranteed is his 20th Masters start.

5. Major Momentum – After a year when three of the four majors were runaways (only the PGA Championship was close), the Tour could use something akin to the Watson/Oosthuizen dual of three years ago to get the major season off to a competitive start and stir TV interest. TV rankings for most of the majors slumped a year ago.

Rory in contention would certainly turn on television sets as might a breakthrough win by someone such as Jordan Spieth. A Tiger scenario seems far-fetched, but Mickelson making another run isn’t out of the question. The tournament hasn’t truly had an outlier champion since Charl Schwartzl in 2011. In a Tour era where seemingly everyone can win, little truly surprises you anymore.

Chris Mayson prediction:

1. Jason Day: I picked him for the Farmers (he won) and I’m sticking with him. Day has always liked Augusta and played well there. He has prodigious length and hits the ball extremely high, which is very beneficial on the hard and fast greens. With the fairways playing soft after this week’s rain, his high ball flight and long carry should suit him even better. He already won at Torrey Pines this year, another very long and difficult course, and he has to be one of the favorites for this year.

2. Jordan Spieth: There is a saying on tour that if you want to find the winner of this week’s event, look no further than the top five of the previous week. Spieth finished second in Houston and also second last year at The Masters and has been playing very well all year. With a point to prove from last year, he won’t be far off the lead come the back nine on Sunday.

3. Dustin Johnson