Category Archives: Tiger Woods

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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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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: PGA Championship Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

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A truly historic season for the PGA Tour hits the home stretch by returning to Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship – and Rory McIlroy’s surprise return from injury to defend his title and his No. 1 ranking only adds to the intrigue.

Here are four storylines teed high for the PGA, including Rory’s risky decision, followed by Chris Mayson’s picks to end what’s been an MVP prediction season (including the Farmers, he’s three for four picking the winners). He’s got a Masters champion pegged for the PGA (Hint: Not Tiger). It’s a doubly special week for Chris because he has a student, Brendan Steele, in the field.

Why Is Rory Risking It? – I’m going to cede the floor early to Mr. Mayson to address the week’s hot topic: Why would Rory McIroy return from the Achilles injury that cost him a spot in the British Open to play such a tough golf course and risk re-injury? Is it simply the ego of being world’s No. 1 and the PGA defending champ?

Chris: “I am not sure why Rory McIlroy is playing and risking his health. The only reason behind his quick recovery and entry into this week is surely because he covets majors more than the Fed Ex Cup.

“It would have made much more sense to take another two weeks off and comeback for the playoffs, but I can only assume that he wants another major that badly and it is worth the risk. It would be great to see a McIlroy and Spieth duel this week, but I think he is going to be way too rusty to compete at that level.”
And this is the same player who once WD’d over a toothache. Obviously, Rory has found a new pain tolerance, but the gain may only negligible or worse.

No Grand Slam But A Historic Hat Trick? – The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee wasted no time predicting a third major for Jordan Spieth this week after his near-miss at the British Open. While he’s running away with Player of the Year, will he tote home a trophy for his mantel to go along with The Masters and U.S. Open?
It would surprise no one if he did to cap The Summer Spieth, and it would certainly send a message to the Tour that it might be more of the same in 2016.

Spieth and McIlroy are paired on Thursday and Friday. Two men enter, one man makes the weekend? If it’s two, we might get a preview of 2016 earlier than any of us expected. It would be a fitting finish to the year of Jordan, Rory and Rickie.

Or Spieth could find himself in a familiar scenario …

A Familiar Foe – And A Haunted One Here – We’re, of course, talking about Dustin Johnson here, whose name was first synonymous with “bunker ruling” at Whistling Straits before “three-putt” at Chambers Bay.

Will poetic justice arrive at a place where DJ has all the usual DJ advantages, or will he be felled again by his familiar fails in majors?

But you can be sure DJ will check his rulebook once and twice to determine which bunkers are naughty (traps) and which ones are nice (waste areas) for grounding your club.

Will the rulebook blindside anyone else this week, or did DJ teach an eternal lesson?

Straits or Straights? – The early feedback from the practice rounds has been about how tough the rough is, particularly off the tee. Finding fairways will be especially critical this week in a PGA that sounds like the traditional U.S. Open instead of what we got at Chamber Bay this year.

Chamblee on tee shots: “Big misses here have big consequences.”

He was, naturally, talking about Tiger, whose resurgence is in debate but there’s no debate that he has a tame track record here. In 2010, he’d just switched swing coaches and spent the week tinkering. Is he still tinkering again in 2015 or he has finally tamed his new swing?

Chris Mayson has another Masters champ in mind this week, and he’s about to tell you why.

The final major of the year is upon us and it seems that golf season has only just begun. The first two majors were won by the best player in the world this year, Jordan Spieth. St. Andrews was too much of a weather pot luck to produce the best player, but Spieth’s run at three consecutive major victories was extremely admirable. You would have to assume that he will be in contention again this week.

My pick this week is one of the longest players on the PGA Tour, Bubba Watson. I always go by the belief that if you want to know who is going to win this week, look no further than who finished second last week – and that was Bubba at Bridgestone. He is clearly playing well and he loves to shape the ball, which you have to do on all Pete Dye golf courses, and his prodigious length will allow him to cut off some of the dog legs.

My other sleeper pick is my own student, Brendan Steele. Brendan hits is very long and straight, can move the ball both ways and is coming off a strong seventh-place finish last week on the PGA Tour. I know I am biased, but I think Whistling Straights is going to be a great course for him.

No matter the contenders, I’m sure that Whistling Straights will produce some drama, the same way it did last time.

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Making The Case For A Tiger Woods Comeback

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Photo courtesy of www.cbssports.com

The week Comic-Con arrived in San Diego, a friend and follower of my work asked me if I was going to blog about it.

I told him it hadn’t occurred to me.

“Well, it’s travel, right?” he stated, to which I replied, “Yes.”

“And doesn’t golf have a super hero?” he asked, to which I, after a contemplative pause, responded, “We used to.”

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The headline hit my email inbox the Friday of the British Open, a day before Tiger Woods would officially miss the cut, but that conclusion was already foregone.

The Golf Digest headline popped up: “Tiger Woods Officially Finished”.

I copied it and popped it into a text to a few golf friends and contacts.

One replied immediately: “No, he isn’t.”

The dissenting voice was my former instructor, and golf swing mentor, at the Golf Academy of America, Michael Flanagan.

He followed with a text briefly backing up his belief. I offered to take up the matter with him in a future blog post. He agreed. And here we are.

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One day in school in 2012 that I’ll never forget is the first time we were shown how to use V1, a video analysis program to teach the golf swing.

Among the many things you can do on V1 is take professional swings and break them down through sequencing and slow motion. You can also draw on the screen, which is done primarily to reinforce how well the pros maintain their posture.

The first swing we were shown to demonstrate the system was Tiger in his prime at the Masters. When you study a swing, the first thing you do is draw two lines – one along the spine and a vertical behind their behind. Then you draw a circle around the head. This tells you how well a player holds their form.

The instructor did this with Tiger’s swing … and pushed play.

Tiger tore into the golf ball and the video stopped just past impact. He hadn’t moved a micron within the circle or off his lines.

The instructor turned to the class and asked, “So what was there to fix?”

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Being an instructor and a student of the game, Michael Flanagan studies golf swings the way Ron Jaworski studies quarterbacks. He has studied players past and present and can tell you exactly what makes a player’s swing his swing … in great detail. For instance, he can tell you, and show you, the 15 things that define Ernie El’s golf swing.

He’s analyzed swings for decades now – Hogan to Weiskopf to Woods – and is something of a swing Yoda. When he tells you something about a swing, it’s the truth. Whether you chose to believe or not is up to you. When he’s teaching you, his bluntness comes at you like a crowbar, but a bruised ego is a necessary part of the process when you’re trying to find the elusive greatness in your golf swing.

So what does Flanagan see when he looks at Tiger? A fundamentally flawed player who used to be the avatar of swing perfection.

“From a technical standpoint, the biggest issue he has is in his backswing. He lowers his head, which we call bobbing. When he swings, he’s got to pop up to clear. If he could just stay level, he’d be fine.”

And that’s it?

“Yes. He’s just got to stay level in the backswing, no matter what pattern he’s using.”

Wow. He could make that fix in the morning and win a major in the afternoon.

“Then he needs to just get out of his own way and let it happen. I’m telling you, he’s close.”

Unbeknownst to Mike, while he was teaching class, Tiger had reeled off his first four-birdie binge in nearly two years at the Quicken Loans National in Washington, D.C.

“See?”

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When you’re trying to figure out the state of Tiger’s game by listening to him talking, it gets confusing. But it turns out, it isn’t so much about reading between the lines with Tiger as it is speaking Tiger-ese. Not surprisingly, Mike speaks Tiger.

Here’s a Tiger term: Patterns. Explain.

“What he really means is technique. Great athletes, like Tiger, feel they can adapt to any swing technique, which he calls patterns. He’s got his patterns mixed up. And you can’t mix and match. You’ve got to be committed to one belief.”

Then Mike begins to deconstruct Tiger through his coaches and you see what he means. In basics, the philosophies of his four professional coaches are the four swings he’s tried on tour, three of which he’s won with, two of which had him on pace to be the greatest player of all time.

Those swing “patterns” conflict. It’s like speaking English, French, Chinese and Arabic. Trying to speak them all at once would be communication chaos. Even two at would make tongue-tied, or swing-tied in Tiger’s case.

“And I think Sean Foley (Tiger’s third teacher) was really trying to get him to swing around his limitation (his knee),” Flanagan says. “But there are a lot different ways to swing the golf club. The method employed is of no significance as long as it’s repetitive.”

So Tiger is having trouble scrubbing his swing hard drive? His formula for success is just rinse, swing, repeat?

He’s that close?

“Yes.”

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After a recent round where he spent another day moonwalking the leaderboard instead of charging up it, Tiger mentioned that he needed to check his “spin rate.”

This had the heads of the largely golf ignorant mainstream media spinning.

“His what?!?!?!?” was the outcry.

Those who know the teaching side of the game recognize this as TrackMan talk. TrackMan is the revolutionary swing tracking system that has literally changed the game in the last five years by being able to detect things imperceivable to the human eye, such as face angle at impact. (My favorite TrackMan term is Smash Factor – a number that quantifies centerdness of contact and velocity.)

Tiger is talking about a stat that, among other things, tells you how far your shot is offline. High spin means low fairways hit. Get it?

Which brings us to our next Tiger topic, which is him saying he can’t take his game from the range, where he’s rumored to strike it beautifully, to the course.

Mike has seen this before. It’s the difference between range mentality and game mentality.

“He’s not letting it happen on the course. He’s trying to make it happen. On the course, he’s thinking about mechanics, not his target, which is the course. He’s ball-bound.”

So does Tiger need to play more or practice more to get it back?

“I think you should practice as much as you play and play as much as you practice. But he needs to play more and get back in the heat of the competition. “

Oh, and lose his coach.

“Tiger knows enough now that he doesn’t need a coach. He knows more about the golf swing than most instructors do because he’s won at all levels, no matter what swing technique he’s used.”

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Speaking of winning, Tiger now hasn’t won a major since the U.S. Open at Torrey in 2008, where he famously won a playoff with Rocco Mediate while playing on a broken leg.

So the last time Tiger played truly healthy is more than seven years ago. We might just be seeing it again now.

“Health is important to a golfer. You’ve got to be physically strong to play this game. Look how much they walk. They’re on their feet all day playing and practicing.”

If Tiger’s truly health, Mike still trusts the talent.

“How many guys have won on a broken leg?”

In fact, Mike was a believer for the British. In case you didn’t hear, that didn’t go well.

But maybe there’s hope for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in two weeks?

“Most people will think he has no shot. But he’s striking the ball well and just needs to see results. If he gets that driver under control …

“You’ve got to be able to drive it, wedge it and putt it. Tiger has always been able to do those three. But without any one of those three, it makes it difficult to play the game … for any player.”

Mike is keeping the faith Tiger will find his driver. Yes, he’s predicting a comeback.

“He will be back because of his work ethic. He’s dedicated to the game. He stills loves it and stills wants to excel. And he still wants to win majors.”

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Tiger’s decline has denied the sports world – not just golf – the greatest sports storyline of our lives – Tiger surpassing Jack’s 18 majors. As we all know, he’s been stuck on 14 since Torrey. Mike doesn’t believe he’ll stay stuck.

“He can still win golf tournaments, including majors.”

What stands against him, even if he returns to his peak, is his age and the field … and time.

“He’s 39, and he’s past his prime. But with is experience, which is worth a lot, he can still get it done. Hey, Jack won at 46. That’s 24 majors away for Tiger.

“He’s still got all the tools in the toolbox. But he’s got to use them all to accomplish it because of all the talent that’s out there on the PGA Tour today. There was nobody close to him when he won the Tiger Slam.”

Now there’s Rory, Rickie, Dustin and, of course, Jordan.

“He inspired those guys and now he’s got to compete against them. But I think he can.

“Golf is the power game, the short game, the putting game, mental game and the course management game. He’s got to use them all.”

And if he does …

“He can win a major and even more than one.”

While Tiger’s victories have gone away, his galleries have not. Mike finds this fascinating … and telling.

“Everybody’s waiting for him to show up. They want to see it one more time because it was so unbelievable when he was doing it.”

So there’s a chance Tiger could be standing on the tee with history on deck at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2021?

“Wouldn’t it be great for the game of golf?”

St. Andrews Swilcan Bridge Old Course

Maderas: British Open Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

St. Andrews Swilcan Bridge Old Course

A season the Tour couldn’t have scripted any better to make a case for its next generation now collides with one of the game’s special venues to make for a potentially historically epic British Open at St. Andrews.

The possibility of a third straight major for phenom Jordan Spieth hovers over the home of golf, setting the stage for a possible Grand Slam at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

As Spieth’s hole out at 17 for eagle on Saturday at the John Deere shows, little is seeming beyond belief any more when it comes to the 21-year-old Texan. And him hoisting the Claret Judge became a little more likely when defending champion Rory McIlroy withdrew with an ankle injury.

Will history march on at St. Andrews or will it succumb to the quirks and breaks of links golf that Spieth survived at Chambers Bay?

The sure bet is the golf world will be tuning in early to find out. Here’s an overview of the week followed by a few thoughts and a prediction from Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson.

Jordan Rules? – In a season where Spieth seems to be able to do no wrong, some are quibbling with his decision to play the John Deere the week prior instead of working on his links game playing the Scottish Open or prepping at St. Andrews. And then there’s jetlag.

Just as Spieth’s impeccable putting continues to defy all belief and reason, so may he again in prevailing over the skeptics of which there shall remain few, if any, if he wins this week.

The possible payoff not just for Spieth but for golf is huge. What’s already become the Summer of Spieth will drown out NFL training camp noise in August as the holy grail of a golf Grand Slam will dominate the headlines and discussion and give us something not even Tiger could deliver.

Given Spieth’s ability to thrive in pressure situations and elevate himself against the best, and seemingly not succumb to hype, a Sunday run at St. Andrews is the only way this story gets more incredible. And it takes no imagination to imagine that right now.

Rickie’s Run – Following a slip at the U.S. Open, Rickie Fowler regained his momentum from winning The Players to win the Scottish Open and put himself in the discussion at the British. The last five winners of the British have played the Scottish the week before. Will Rickie make it six?

Chambers aside, Rickie’s record in recent majors as good as anybody not named Rory or Jordan, and we know only one of those two is teeing it up this week.

A Tall Tiger Tale? – You have heard Tiger Woods is still playing golf and just did so reasonably well for the first time in a long time – but not a win, mind you.

This has led many, including head Tiger doubter Hank Haney, to predict a big week, and maybe even a win, for Woods – which would be consistent with Haney’s prediction in his book, by the way.

Even with Tiger’s pedigree at St. Andrews (two wins) that seems like an awful big leap after a lot of awful golf, but reviving golf’s most dormant story line is the only thing that could shake up the world more than a Spieth victory.

(By the way, just for fun, can we refer to him as Old Tiger Woods just for this week? Can we? Lord knows the dude has been playing this tournament long enough … )

Louie, Louie – Given his track record in links golf, strong play at Chambers Bay (three rounds in the 60s) and the fact he won the Open the last time it was at St. Andrews in 2010, Louie Oosthuizen is carrying contender status this week.

Will Oosthuizen be that saavy veteran (think Phil two years ago) to peak and get it done again?

Grab a Jacket – For the first time in a few years, it sounds like we’re going to have some real deal British Open weather. The Golf Channel analysts are already talking about scores soaring on Saturday as the winds as predicted to pick up considerably – up to 40 mph – after heavy rains on Friday.

That would make it an old-school Open where the champion is the one who best survives the conditions as much as the course. We haven’t seen one of those in a while, but that could be the story of 2015.

Can Spieth weather the storm, or will he just morph into Hurricane Jordan and whisk away the Claret Jug. Very soon we will begin to know. Happy Open week.

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Now on to Chris Mayson’s prediction:

This British Open is tough to call. With the tournament being held at St Andrews it usually goes to a player that knows the intricacy of the course and has experience playing it.

With Tiger far from his best and Rory out through injury, it seems that the door is wide open for Jordan Spieth to get his third in a row but I don’t see that happening. There is so much pressure for him to do well, and he just came off a win that will certainly take some energy away. I will be so impressed if he is close to the lead, let alone win it.

I do think the course is ideal for Dustin Johnson to play well but the scars from the U.S. Open I believe will be too fresh. Typically he would be my pick.

The weather is going to be bad this week so someone is going to have to be mentally tough and know how to play in cold, wind and rain. That’s why I am going for Henrik Stenson. He’s played well the last month and even won in Sweden when it was cold and windy.

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

Southland: La Costa Celebrates 50 Years

Valley Promenade cropped

Editor’s note: This is an expanded version of my piece in the June issue of Southland Golf.

Tiger Woods won here. Gary Adams tested some of the first TaylorMade clubs here – and the metalwood made its PGA Tour debut here. Richard Nixon and Jackie Kennedy stayed here.

Yes, Omni La Costa Resort and Spa has packed a lot into its first 50 years. As it celebrates its milestone anniversary this year, the challenge now is to balance a prestigious past with a progressive future.

The first steps toward that future were actually taken 10 years ago when La Costa embarked on a $50 million renovation that included a new spa, two new restaurants and layout tweaks to its two championship golf courses.

The renovation was completed two years ago when the Legends (South) Course re-opened. New Director of Golf Pat Miller arrived shortly after and discovered a resort with a balance of new sparkle and classic charm.

“A lot of times new owners want to change things, but I give a lot of credit to past owners that so much has stayed the same,” he says. “La Costa has largely stood the test of time. There’s a nice balance now been what has worked in the past and what’s new.”

On the golf side, what’s most recently new is an experience now weighted more toward player/game development and improvement. Among other things, a Cobra Golf Tour truck – nicknamed The Snake Pit – is on the range to provide custom fittings, and La Costa has established The Golf Performance Institute (GPI), a comprehensive training center meant to enhance the golf lifestyle.

“It’s now more of an overall experience here than just a place where you show up and tee off,” Miller says.

And the experience after you tee off has significantly evolved with the re-designs of both 18s and continues to, Miller says. He says the Legends Course is still settling into its new greens but is starting to discover its peak shape.

“There’s been a little of a learning curve from a maintenance stand point,” he says. “The greens started out very hard on the Legends, but we’re working to soften them. That side isn’t as its peak yet, but it’s still very good.”

Legends Course [15]

The Legends plays as the tougher of the two sides, especially when an ocean wind is whipping, making the home stretch, the famed “Longest Mile in Golf,” even longer.

“We do get the ocean breeze, and it can make as much as two-clubs difference,” Miller says. “I played it like that the other day and it’ll make you work to get it to the green in regulation.”

LaCosta_Champions Course Hole 11 Wide cropped

The Champions side tends to be a little more welcoming to first-timers and higher handicaps, Miller says, largely because of its wider fairways.

“It’s easier to hit the fairways, but the greens are more protected with bunkers. You’ve got to make a lot of carries,” he says. “Both courses are challenging in their own right.”

In its heyday, professionals from Snead and Nicklaus to Mickelson and Woods competed at La Costa, most notably in the PGA’s annual match play. That relationship ended in 2006.

Miller says La Costa is seeking to re-raise its competitive profile. The course held the SCGA’s state amateur last year and will hold the Gifford Collegiate, a top-tier men’s event hosted by UCLA, this fall.

The course also hosted an industry cup for staffers at Southern California’s major equipment companies.

“We’re always looking for ways to showcase the facility,” Miller says.

And for ways to correct a common misconception about La Costa: That it’s members only.

The course is actually a resort course that rotates member and guest play between the two courses on alternating days.

“We want outside guests, hotel guests and people traveling for business to see what La Costa has to offer,” he says.

What they’ll find, Miller says, are a couple of still classically great golf courses, a whole host of new amenities and an all-encompassing golf experience.

In its 50th anniversary year, Miller still finds the nostalgia factor for La Costa to be a strong one and would like to do more to capitalize on that.

“I love the history of the game and hearing about the great stories of the past and seeing the old photos,” he says. “This is where a lot of golf history happened, and I want to do more with that. That’s part of what makes golf here meaningful and memorable.”

Coastal Events Center fountain 240dpi 6x4

La Costa By The Numbers:

1963 –
The year two future owners and developers discovered the property while riding equestrian

1965 – The year La Costa opened as a golf, tennis and resort facility

1969 –
The inaugural year of PGA match play at La Costa

2006 –
The final year of PGA match play at La Costa

$50 million – Cost of La Costa’s extensive recent renovation

$1.5 million – The cost to build the original golf course in 1964

La_Costa Champions 18 at 8x6 200dpi

SD Tourism: Four Great Golf Finishing Holes in San Diego



Editor’s note: This post is part of an occasional series for the San Diego Tourism Authority – www.sandiego.org – promoting golf in San Diego. http://blog.sandiego.org/2015/07/great-finishing-golf-holes/

Like the ending to a great book or movie, the 18th hole of a golf course should offer an experience that’s both satisfying and memorable.

Few things in golf beat a walk-off birdie, so consider this a short bucket list of places you’d like be lucky to score one in San Diego. The following is a list of some of the best finishing holes San Diego golf courses have to offer:

RBI 18

1. Rancho Bernardo Inn –
William Bell, the designer of Torrey Pines and many other public courses in San Diego, did some of his best work on No. 18 at Rancho Bernardo Inn, a hole that’s as scenic as it is strategic.

This closing par 5 begins with a decision off the tee: Do you try to drive the culvert crossing the fairway at around 250 yards or do you lay up? From there, it’s all about positioning to this uphill hole protected by ponds and a stream. That’s a lot of watery waters for things to go wrong trying to reach this narrow, triple-tiered green. But whether you make birdie or bogey, the setting, which includes two fountains, makes the hole and experience unforgettable.

Aviara Golf Club

2. Aviara Golf Club – Possibly the most beautiful finishing hole in San Diego is also its most difficult. This dogleg right par 4 wraps around a lake with a magnificent waterfall and offers a gorgeous view of Batiquitos Lagoon on the left. The lake is a popular destination for tee shots – and second shots, as finding the fairway is no guarantee of anything. The second shot, while played to a sizeable green, is deceivingly difficult. The approach is played into a Pacific Ocean breeze that can push your ball right into the water or out of bounds left. Par feels like a birdie here. The pros on the LPGA Tour are even tested by this one.

new Maderas 18

3. Maderas Golf Club –
This straight away par 5 starts with an elevated tee shot over a ravine to a fairway where a majestic giant oak marks the right side. Aim for the oak and then pour all you’ve got into your second shot on this long finishing hole. The green is situated in front of the Maderas clubhouse, which has the look of an Italian villa. You can putt out and then retire to the patio and enjoy a great view of the hole you just played.

18 torrey

4. Torrey Pines (South Course)
– Design-wise, this flat, straightaway closing par 5 may seem fairly ordinary, but what’s happened here makes it extraordinary. As the finishing hole for the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, it gets the most TV time of any hole in San Diego. But the lore of No. 18 really ties back to 2008 and the iconic U.S. Open. This is where Tiger Woods trickled in a tricky 12-foot birdie to force the playoff with Rocco Mediate that made that Open legendary and turned Torrey into hallowed ground in golf. Here’s your chance to recreate history.

Honorable mentions: Golf Club of California, Balboa Park Golf Course, La Costa, The Vineyard, Coronado Municipal Golf Course

Maderas: Masters Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

augusta_13_304[1]

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