Tag Archives: Masters

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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.

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19th Hole Media: Five Reasons Why Spring Of 2017 Is Prime Time For Your Golf Course’s Social Media

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The start to the 2017 golf season in California has been – pardon the pun – a water hazard.

A deluge unlike any seen in decades has washed away the drought but also plenty of tee times along with it. The windfall of a wet winter, however, will be paid forward in the spring when courses can boast impeccable course conditions and can look forward to significant savings on water costs.

Are you ready to capitalize and make a quick recovery from your lost rounds? Then look toward your social media.
Here are five reasons why spring of 2017 is prime time to leverage your social media and reap the benefits.

Green Equals Green –
A tour of courses in February showed course conditions the likes of which haven’t been seen in years in California due to the drought. It’s a perfect time to be updating your course photos and videos and let them work for you on social media.

Don’t tell golfers you have great course conditions – show them! Between Facebook, Instagram and your web site, you’ve got the tools to impress golfers and lure them to your course. You might even want to consider a drone shoot. Drone video footage is gold and plays very nicely with the changes to Facebook’s algorithm to help golfers discover your course.

If you rarely or infrequently post photos of your course, you’ll want to up your game this spring and help golfers visualize playing at your course under the best of conditions.

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Tourism Traffic – We’re not out of the winter tourism window, especially when an otherwise mild winter is just starting to play the back nine in most of the country. And usually a winter reprieve means a prolonged ending that drags into spring.

If that pattern repeats, there’s still a chance for you to coax golfers to the coast … but they have to be able to find you! Your web site will do some of that work for you, but social media is the BEST way to reach to the golf world and show them what you have to offer.

Much of the rest of country’s courses don’t become truly playable until around May, thus giving you March and April to still re-capture some of that lost tourism traffic from the winter.

If you get active on social there’s still time to catch the eye of that buddy’s trip or other groups that might be looking to escape the winter doldrums for a few rounds under the California sun. There’s still time, partly because …

The Time’s A Changin’ – The time change kicks in on March 12, giving courses back those lost precious hours. If you want sure to keep your course stays busy til sundown, social is your ticket, especially if you plan to lean on discounted rounds, specials, etc. You’ll want to be aggressively communicating those to your golf audience, and social is the ideal way to do it.

Pent-up demand – After a few months of California cabin fever, your golfers are itching to get back to golf as usual, which means making up for lost rounds. You want to make sure that’s happening at your course.

Again, put your course out there to coax them – and it’s also a perfect time to dangle membership specials, lessons offers, etc. to help them get back in the swing of things. Help your golfers get back in the game by convincing them your course is the place to do it – and then engage them with online interactions that make it more likely to happen.

Every time you create a post, you create an opportunity for a conversation and an increased awareness of your course and the potential to book a tee time. But you’ve got be willing to invest the time and resources. That’s where 19th Hole Media is here to help. We specialize in engaging golfers and driving interest in your course.

If you don’t have time for your social media, guess what? We do! Because that’s all we do! Let us do it for you!

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The Masters – The first major will be here before you know it, and in a way it already is. The TV commercial blitz has been going for some time now, stirring the hibernating hearts of golfers who live for April and Augusta, which ushers in the new golf season for much of the country.

Interest, enthusiasm and exposure for golf piques up to and during The Masters. You can play off that sentiment by talking about the Tour on your social channels, promoting The Masters countdown and maybe even by planning a Masters contest or promotion for your course.

Social media is the perfect platform for all of it. If your course is behind on its social media, it’s a prime time to catch up – and there’s still time, but you have to start now! Followers and engagement don’t happen overnight, but they can happen more quickly when you’re putting out the right messages and images.

I’ll close by saying, Congratulations! Your course has likely never looked better! Now you need to make sure golfers know about it. 19th Hole Media is here to help. Are you ready for a conversation and free consultation?

Contact me at corey.ross@yahoo.com to set an appointment and put your course on a path to spring social media success.

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.

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

August 2014 Southland Golf

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www.southlandgolfmagazine.com

A guide to my stories in the digital mag at top right. Sorry for the redirect, but direct links haven’t been working.

A Flying Start: A look at the PGA Tour Grill in the SD Airport, page 12

Names in the Game: Guan Tianlang. Catch up with the Chinese phenom from Masters lore, page 14

A New SKLZ Set: A look at how an elite athlete training company trains golfers, page 30

Shop SKLZ Golf – Game Improvement Tools to Improve Distance, Accuracy, Putting and Fitness

Revisiting “The Big Miss” and Hank Haney’s Predictions About Tiger and Majors

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I use the word “revisit” but that’s mostly in reference to myself as I have yet to meet someone in California who actually “visited” Hank Haney’s tell-all about coaching Tiger Woods when it was released prior to the 2012 Masters.

So, for almost all of you, the passages I’m about to quote from the closing chapter of “The Big Miss” will be entirely new.  For what I remember reading at the time, that chapter, titled “Adding It Up,” didn’t get any play in the press coverage of the book, which focused almost exclusively on injuries Tiger incurred while being fixated for a time on being a Navy SEAL and training toward that end.

That was the easy tabloid takeaway at the time from a book that actually gave quite a bit of insight into Tiger and his game, enough that you never watch him the same way again after reading it.

The title ends up having multiple meanings and applications in the book, but its literal meaning is “the big miss” the pros fear off the tee. In Tiger’s case, that’s a big duck hook that comes out under pressure and can ruin runs at titles, and, in the bigger picture Tiger is always measured in, majors.

Haney contends in the book that Woods has more or less become scared of his driver and controlling his otherworldly swing speed, thus the club he rode to greatness and domination becoming his nemesis as this point in his career.

That’s why Haney concludes that if Tiger is to break Jack’s record of 18 majors, he’ll have to do it via British Opens, where the courses are hard and fast and more conducive to iron play off the tee.

Eight majors have passed for Tiger since the book was published and so far the predictions in “The Big Miss” are 8-0. I thought about this after the Farmers, when Haney and Tiger got into a media tiff about how much his emphasis on weight training has hampered his swing.

Haney certainly seems to have plenty of appetite left for his issues with Tiger, who now has not won a major since his epic U.S. Open win at Torrey in 2008, leaving him stuck on 14 majors, five short of passing Jack.

As we all recall, Tiger bombed out of the Farmers this year, not even making it to Sunday on a week that many predicted would be just another victory lap at Torrey Pines for Tiger.

That wasn’t the way anyone expected Tiger to start up a new year that followed five wins and another Player of the Year honor in 2013. Momentum seemed to be building again for him and many looked at the Tiger-friendly majors line up and had already predicted, of all things, multiple major victories for him in 2014.

You haven’t heard much from those people since Torrey, but we have heard from Haney, whose book I recently tracked down and partially re-read. Since the Jack vs. Tiger debate is always just bubbling below the surface in golf when it’s not at a full boil, I thought I’d go back and quote a few portions of the book and see how it scores two years out.

I was going to wait to do this prior to the Masters, but Tiger and Hank’s media squabble prompted me to move it up.

So here’s some of what you missed in “The Big Miss” when you missed it the first time.

         “The most asked question about Tiger is whether he’ll break Jack’s record for major championships. … Certainly there are questions of health, physique and technique to consider, but to me the most important issue is desire.”

Here’s where Haney picks up his familiar theme of questioning Tiger’s practice habits and it echoes those of people who wondered how much Tiger prepped for Torrey.

         “I’ve never known a player who lost his hunger for practice to regain that same level of hunger. Nick Faldo, who in his prime was one of the most diligent and intense workers the game has ever known, said that after he won the 1996 Masters, he lost the drive to practice. … That drop-off marked the end of his career as a champion.”

But then Haney’s tone changes and he seems to forecast Tiger being an exception.

     “If Tiger can keep his work ethic strong, he’ll sort out his golf swing. Whatever theory he’s using, he’ll find a way – either in concert with Sean Foley or another teacher or by finding his own accommodation of their theories.”

        However …

        “However, I don’t think simply solidifying his technique alone will fix his problem with the driver. There is a mental issue there that needs to be addressed, and the odds are against it ever being completely resolved.”

And here’s what mean when I talk about this book changing how you watch Tiger. Remember the British Open last year when Tiger couldn’t keep up with co-leader Lee Westwood on Saturday? Westwood was hitting driver and blowing it by him, while Tiger was settling for 3-wood/5-wood/irons and finding traps and losing ground. According to an SB Nation column from the tourney, Woods didn’t hit his first driver until the 39th hole of the tourney. You can look up the column by Emily Kay that basically reads like it came right out of Haney’s book.

Which brings us to Haney’s British Open theory.

        “(The driver issue is) a weakness that tells the most in majors. It’s why, unless he finds some kind of late-career fix with the driver, Tiger’s best chances in majors will come on courses with firm, fast-running fairways that will allow him to him irons off the tee. Of the four majors, the British Open best fits this profile.”

After a strong start, Tiger finished tied for sixth, five shots behind winner Phil Mickelson. His week at Muirfield played into Tiger’s new trend of fading on the weekends of majors.

And it’s largely due to putting. Tiger seems to lose his touch and feel for the greens, which he was already struggling with when Haney wrote his book.

Here’s Hank on Tiger’s putting:

        “I’m not sure what to make of Tiger’s putting problems. Technically, he still looks good over the ball and has a textbook stroke. But putting is undone by the smallest and most mysterious of errors, and players rarely improve their putting after their mid-30s. … His putting, both his ability to lag long ones close and his solidness in holing from within six feet, was the foundation of Tiger’s ability to close out victories when he had the lead.”

And save for a few flurries of vintage Tiger putting in 2013, he largely didn’t look like the player we’ve known.

And if you can’t putt in the clutch, you can’t close, which is what leads Haney to doing a little math about how many majors Tiger will likely need to contend in to get five major victories. And this was Hank’s math going into 2012.

         “He’s not quite the same closer kind of closer, or not quite as fortunate as he’s been, (so) it could take 15 or more such opportunities. It seems like a tall order for the Tiger who enters 2012.”

And now for the Tiger who enters 2014 staring at basically the same equation, but now at age 38.

Hank closes by playing into an argument Johnny Miller trumpets of how intense the media scrutiny will become if/once Tiger moves off 14 and gets his majors train moving again. And this is also where Haney sees the biggest difference from Nicklaus.

         “A final factor to consider it that, whereas Jack Nicklaus’s final few majors were won in a historical vacuum and were essentially padding to his record, Tiger will face ever mounting pressure and scrutiny the closer he gets to No. 19. Assuming the erosions of age, for Tiger, the soon he can get to 18, the better.”

Haney then predicts Tiger needed a major in 2012 to put a restrictor plate on the pressure he’ll feel to go faster to catch Jack as the battle with age and time sets in. Well, we know how that turned out.

Haney closes with a hopeful note on never counting out Tiger’s genius, but then gets back to a central theme of  how Tiger’s personal turmoil caused him to lose his mental edge – and caused his biggest miss, a shot at golf history.

         “Unlike the Tiger who in his 20s and early 30s was virtually indomitable, today’s Tiger has discovered that in life real disaster lurks. … That realization creates doubt, and in competitive golf doubt is a killer.

         “The big miss found its way into his life. If it’s ingrained, primed to emerge at moments of crisis, his march toward golf history is over.”

So there you have it. You can question Hank Haney’s motivations, and especially his ethics, for writing the book, but his observations to date are spot on.

Like I said, I found the book an insightful read, though a bit of a flat one, and it adds perspective to understanding of the greatest sports chase/storyline of our lifetimes and the debate that will never die until Tiger either breaks Jack’s record or hangs up his clubs.

We’ve got a lot of years left on this debate, but the score for “The Big Miss” going into year three post-publish is that it hasn’t missed yet.


Friday Photo Post: Torrey Tournament-Ready and Hosting A Phenom

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      Just a quick photo today of Torrey Pines in tournament condition. Starting tomorrow, Torrey will host the Junior World Golf Championships. In the field is Tianlang Guan, who golf fans will recall was the youngest player ever to compete at the Masters two years ago at age 14. He’s still riding the celebrity of those two rounds as evidenced by the many photo opp. requests he received while playing his practice round today. And he graciously granted every one.

      The young man still seems to enjoy the spotlight and not be burned out by the attention. He happily complied with an interview request, the results of which you’ll see here at a later date.

       He also received his share of well wishes for the tournament and his future. The blog can second that. Look for his name in the local headlines in the coming weeks.

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JC Golf: Drive, Chip and Putt at Encinitas Ranch Q & A

 

 

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   A year ago, the PGA instituted its answer to the NFL’s long-standing “Punt, Pass and Kick” youth skills competition with “Drive, Chip & Putt.”

          The competition culminated in the finals being held at Augusta National the week of the Masters, which got the attention of youth golfers everywhere – and their parents.

          Seeing the finalists on television at the Masters, including 11-year-old Lucy Li, who played in last week’s LPGA U.S. Open, has already sparked a rise in this year’s turnout. To handle the anticipated increase, the Southern California PGA has expanded the number of Southern California local qualifiers from 10 to 14, including one for the first time at Encinitas Ranch on July 7th.

          Finalists in the four age divisions for boys and girls at Encinitas Ranch will advance to a sub-regional on Aug. 18th at La Costa Resort and Spa and then on to Torrey Pines on Sept. 13th to compete for the trip to Augusta.

          Matt Gilson, Player Development Manager at the Southern California PGA, took a few minutes recently to answer some questions about this year’s competition.

Q. Southern California had two winners at last year’s inaugural competition at Augusta. What was their experience like?

A. Everybody had a blast. They got to meet (past champion) Adam Scott and (current champion) Bubba Watson. Going to the Master is every golfer’s dream come true. And they got everything covered for them and one parent, including tickets to the practice round on Monday. The whole package was really good.”

Q. How much has seeing all that one TV stirred interest this time around?

Sign-ups were a little slow because we were competing with school, but they’re starting to pick up. We’re definitely seeing an increase in participation. And I’ve seen kids who’ve never picked up a club before now going to the range the week before. There’s definitely motivation there with kids realizing they could end up on TV.

Q. Besides the increased number of qualifiers, how has the competition changed in year two? And what are the age categories?

Last year, we maxed out our qualifiers at 120 participants and this year it’s 200. The age ranges are 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 with both boys and girls division. And those ages are determined by how old they would be on April 5th, 2015, which is the date of the national championship, so the youngest age to enter would be 6 if they would but 7 on or by April 5th, 2015.

Q. How does the competition work?

It’s a nine-shot competition that starts with putting. There’s a 6-foot putt, a 15 foot and a 30 foot. The hole is surrounded by scoring rings that provide points for how close they get. The max is 25 points for a holed putt.

They then have three chip shots, from about 12-15 yards, to a hole with scoring rings out to 10 feet and a make, again, is worth 25 points.

Then they have three swings on a 40-by-300-yard grid on a driving range. Beyond 300 yards is 25 points.

The highest total score wins and the top three in each age division advances from that age group’s qualifier to the next round. The top two in the sub-regional advance to Torrey Pines and the boy and girl winner in each division advances to the championship at Augusta.

Q. How do players or parents register, and how much does it cost?

Registration is free, and players sign up at www.drivechipandputt.com.

Q. What’s the atmosphere like at these events?

It’s competitive, but we still want kids to have fun. That’s the most important thing.

 

JC Golf: Our Professionals Pick the Masters

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         The Masters, the week that speaks to every golfer’s soul, is here.

The world’s No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, not being in the field due to back surgery has left the tournament without a clear favorite.

While a Tiger-less Masters is a buzz kill for some, true golf fans will tune in regardless to see who slips on the coveted green jacket this year.

Some of the professionals at JC Golf sized up the field this week and dared to predict a winner. You’ll find their picks and rationale below, but feel free to add your favorite in the comments.

Enjoy the Masters, and we look forward to you resuming your regularly scheduled golf season with us after.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch

Pick: Harris English.

Why: “He’s my dark horse pick. He’s a Georgia boy. He’s been on a really good run over the last year and a half or so. He’s very confident. He changed every club in his bag going into this season and he hasn’t seen a fall off, which I think is amazing.

“He even changed his putter after he won two or three times with it. That just speaks to his confidence.”

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn

Pick: Angel Cabrera

Why: “After losing the playoff to Adam Scott in 2013, it has been forgotten how clutch Cabrera was down the stretch.  Angel is in the middle of the 18th fairway when Adam Scott rolls in a 15-footer for birdie to take a one-stroke lead.  And the Augusta crowd erupts with a Sunday roar!

“Imagine watching that scene unfold in front of you.

“Cabrera, in the middle of the 18th fairway, once tied, is now watching Scott celebrate the lead.  After the green clears, in a heavy downpour, Cabrera stays in the moment and sticks his approach shot to two feet, forcing the playoff.   This type of clutch performance wins major championships and should not be overlooked.  Angel Cabrera is my 2014 Masters pick.”

Troy Ferguson, Head Professional, Twin Oaks

Pick: Graham DeLaet

Why: “Go Canada!” (Troy is from Alberta; Graham is from near Saskatchewan.)

Eric Jeska, Director of Golf, Twin Oaks

Pick: Pat Perez

Why: “He’s a San Diego boy, and nobody else will pick him. Then I can celebrate by myself after he wins.”

Paul Miernicki, Director of Instruction, Twin Oaks

Pick: Matt Kuchar

Why: “He’s the hot guy right now. He should’ve won the last two tournaments. He was just two bad swings away. He’s still won a million dollars more than me the past two weeks. My money’s on him.”

Note: Paul’s second choice is Jason Day.

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Oaks North & Reidy Creek

Pick: Charl Schwartzel

Why: “He has been in the hunt before, he has good experience at Augusta (2011 champion), and he’s a great putter.”

Curtis Rowe, Director of Golf, Temecula Creek Inn

Pick: Sergio Garcia

Why: “I think he’s due to win a major, and he’s a great player, good enough to a major. And everybody hates Sergio. I’ll go against the haters.”

Note: Curtis’ American pick is Ryan Moore.

The Story Behind My Masters Ball

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      Masters fever has officially set in. Seeing as I can’t watch it yet, I can at least write about it, and this will be brief because I’ve only got one story to tell. It’s about the ball pictured above.

      The photo above probably leads you to believe I have been to the Masters. Sadly, I have not. The closest I’ve been is that souvenir ball, which a grateful and generous story subject gave to me after I wrote about his trip to Augusta. The significance of the story was that my friend had gone to the Masters and thus completed his own Grand Slam by having attended all four majors.

      At the time, that made him the coolest person on the planet to me, so I wrote about him for the travel section of the magazine I edited at the time. I now know many people who’ve made the hallowed journey, but at the time, he was about the only one. He told the usual stories about the landscape being so pristine it didn’t seem real, about the iconic Butler Cabin clubhouse and about eating a pimento sandwich. (For the record, that’s now two pimento sandwich references in the blog. Who ever saw that coming?)

      Anyway, the story I remember most is about him attending a day where they had a split start due to weather, meaning one round needed to be finished before the next could begin. He staked out Amen Corner and watched like five or six groups come through, as I recall, and each group had player put a ball in the water on the par-3 12th, where famously Fred Couples’ ball resisted that fate and basic physics during his victory in 2002.

     The detail I recall most is that after the groups came through, prior to the third round, the landscape crews who’d shaved the bank that morning, about 90 minutes after doing so the first time came out and shaved the bank … again. To anyone who knows about course set up, this is rather commonplace, but back then it just seemed a juicy detail and fun and part of the lore of Augusta.

    The story ended with my friend noting a player in each of the first six groups of the next round each went in the water. And that was that. I don’t keep much of my old stuff, but that’s one story I kinda of wish I still had hanging around. Oh, well. I’ve still got the ball. And now a blog post.

     Is it Thursday yet?