Tag Archives: Phil Mickelson

masters-4k[1]

2017 Masters Preview

masters-4k[1]

Photo: www.techagesite.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Masters coozy

PGA - www.razorgator.com

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

PGA - www.razorgator.com

Photo: www.razorgator.com

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

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

DJ - www.sportinews.com

Photo: www.sportingnews.com

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

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

Henrik putt - www.golfweek

Photo: www.golfweek.com

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

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

TMAG-UDI-2[1]

Photo: www.mygolfspy.com

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

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

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

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

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

PGA - www.wgt.com

Photo: www.wgt.com

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

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

Now onto Chris’ prediction and pick:

Rory - www.cbsports.com

Photo: www.cbssports.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

SCGA: The Comeback At Callaway

headquarters-front-2013-004-5x7

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

Maderas: Premiercaddie.org at Maderas – Course Expertise and Confidence at Your Service for Hire

CADDY-734450[1]

Editor’s note: This post also appears on the blog at www.maderasgolf.com.
Also for a related read, scroll down a few posts to read a ranking of the most walkable courses in San Diego

Buy 1 SLDR S Driver & Get a Fairway or Rescue Free! Ends November 6, 2014

Learning the nuances and proper plays of any golf course, and particularly one as undulating as Maderas Golf Club, takes time and is usually knowledge acquired over numerous rounds.

One way to expedite the process, however, is to outsource it by hiring a caddy.

Maderas is part of a group of San Diego courses that makes caddie services available to its guests through a partnership with premiercaddie.org.

Premier Caddie is owned by former UCLA golfers and experienced Southern California caddies Chad Beckley and Joel Tabachnick. Their staff of nearly 50, some of whom has their PGA card, caddies primarily at Maderas, Torrey Pines, the Grand Del Mar, Del Mar Country Club and Rancho Santa Fe Country Club, but can also be requested to work other area courses.

Beckley and Tabachnick founded their company two years ago with a mission of enhancing the service and experience for golfers on area courses and have been happily looping weekly rounds ever since.

Beckley’s particular caddying career grew from a love and talent for reading greens, he says.

“I’ve always read greens really well and that helped me get into caddying, which has honed my skills even more,” he says. “Caddying, for me, is extension of the playing experience that provides you another perspective on the game.

“Doing it made me fall in the love with the area courses all over again.”

That love has produced a thriving business. Beckley says Premier Caddie staffs around 200 rounds a month and is seeking to expand its course client base. The company staffs both recreational and competitive rounds as well as private events.

Beckley is a great promoter of the caddie experience and the benefits of hiring one.

“There’s no real relationship in sports like a caddie relationship,” he says. “A caddie can give you a confidence and comfort level on the course you may not have known before.

“That can help you score lower, or just have a better experience. For instance, if you’re going back and forth on the wind, or a yardage, or a putt, the caddie can give you the reassurance you need to commit to that play.”

And Beckley says that sometimes a play that, especially an amateur, wouldn’t make on his or her own.

“A lot of amateur golfers are timid,” he says. “For example, I’m an aggressive short-game player. A lot of amateurs don’t attack the golf course the way that I do, but I can give you the confidence to play that way.

“At a minimum, the caddie gives you another way to think about the course.”

Maderas13

Save over 50% on RocketBallz Fairway Woods Plus Free Shipping Exclusively at TaylorMadegolf.com! Offer good for a limited time.

The difficulty of putting Maderas’ large, undulating greens and the wide variety of shot options on some tee shots are a course reasons a caddie can be a great aid at Maderas, but neither of those are Beckley’s primary reason.

“The course plays a lot differently depending on speed, which varies there. If it’s fast and firm, you need a lot of knowledge to be able to go low there partly because the greens have so much slope and undulation,” he says. “And if it’s windy, which is there almost every day, the right play there can go a long way.”

Beckley says a caddie experience at Maderas is a great complement to the service experience.

“Their customer service is amazing from the top down there, so the partnership has been seamless.”

Not every caddie customer is looking to shoot a number, Beckley says. He says some just want a competent guide, or even a good friend, on the course.

“Resort caddying and competitive caddying are completely different, but for both the customer-service aspect is the main thing,” he says. “We have a lot of customers who just want to have a good time and get to know you over those 4 ½ hours. A good caddie is able to tell a few jokes and be able to relate to people.

“A lot of times they just want to get to know you and learn from your experience.”

Making the most of a caddie experience, Beckley says, is making the caddie aware of your expectation.

“When you hire a caddie, be very upfront,” he says. “The caddie isn’t just there to be there. He’s going to club you right and read the greens, and it’s your job to let him know he’s doing a good job.

“Or if you don’t want them to do something, like read greens, you’ve got to let them know that too. It’s as much a friendship as a partnership, so treat them like a friend.”

And friends share stories, which caddies also seem to have a ready supply of, especially about famous clients.

Among others, Beckley has caddied for professional golfers (Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples), professional baseball players (David Wells, Bobby Bonilla), professional football players (Kyle Boller), professional basketball players (Jordan Farmar) and … the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

One of the best non-PGA players? Professional hockey player Jeremy Roenick.

“Heck of a player,” he says. “Hockey players always have that nice takeaway and stay down through impact.”

Another of Beckley’s caddie testimonials comes from last year’s Farmers Insurance Open. Despite hitting 18 of 18 greens, Beckley’s player didn’t make the cut. He suggested a putter grip change to the player after the tournament.

“Being confident enough to make a suggestion to one of the best golfers in the world takes some guts,” he says, “but that’s part of the job. You’re there to help the player in any way you can.”

The levels of caddying service vary (a regular caddie or a fore caddie, for instance), but Beckley says a standard rate at Maderas is $160 to carry two bags and $115 for one. A standard gratuity is $100-plus.

Caddies can be booked as far as advance as you like, Beckley says, or at little as 24-hour notice.

And while you may ride during your round at Maderas, Beckley will walk, which he says is a good workout always, but especially at Maderas.

“It’s a pretty good walk,” he says, with a chuckle. “But walking is good for you and it gives you different perspective on the game.”

Maderas General Manager Bill O’Brien says Premier Caddie has provided a consistently excellent experience to golfers at the course, and he extols the virtues of the service.

“The caddie experience really enhances a round of golf,” O’Brien says. “Most of us, regardless of our abilities, day dream about what playing golf inside the ropes might feel like. Taking a caddy is the closest to that experience most will get. It’s so worth it.

“The memories tied to a round of golf with a caddy are some of my favorite.”

Save Up to $100 On the Speedblade Irons + Free Shipping for a Limited Time at TaylorMadeGolf.com!

Editor’s Note: Why I Re-Posted “Revisiting ‘The Big Miss'”

tiger_woods_the_open[1]

Photo courtesy of www.ibtimes.com.


          Well, we made more blog history this a.m. I just did a re-post for the first time this morning, the day after the blog broke its single-day traffic record.

Amongst the searches yesterday, and all week, has been a post I did after the Farmers Insurance Open this year about Hank Haney’s book, “The Big Miss,” published a few years ago. “The Big Miss” is Haney’s tell-all about his years coaching Tiger, and my post focused on Haney’s predictions about Tiger in majors and his pursuit of Jack’s record.

You can read the post to see how Haney’s predictions have fared, but you will notice at least one that’s quite timely. Based on Tiger’s inability to tame his driver, Haney predicted that if Tiger broke the record it would be via British Opens, the least driver-dependent major or the one that least penalized scattering the ball.

And, low and behold, Tiger had to pull driver yesterday and we all saw how that went. I turned on the Golf Channel last night and watched Tiger get completely dismantled, a day after, of course, some people had him winning the thing.  It was a veritable analyst feeding frenzy on Tiger and his game capped by analyst Steve Flesch saying, “Tiger’s a 25-handicap with his driver right now.” Ouch. Not sure Johnny M would’ve even gone there.

But Tiger puts himself on a tee, so to speak, when he does what he does and says he still expects victory despite only one competitive round since his back surgery. The criticism that he should’ve squeezed in another tourney before the British if he really expected to contend is entirely valid and also gets back to a Haney book bullet point – Tiger’s dedication.

You can love Hank or hate him, or certainly quibble with his ethics, but he’s been dead on as Tiger’s Nostradamus. (Ooops, I just gave way the ending of the re-post, but that zero in Tiger’s major record since Torrey in 2008 probably told you that.)

Personally, I wish Haney wouldn’t swing at every pitch when it comes to opportunities to criticize Tiger. Pick your spots. It’s becoming a bit much and seems a little unprofessional and piling on at this point.

Anyway, it isn’t Haney’s name that is coming up in the searches by the way. It’s Sean Foley, Tiger’s only swing coach sink Hank.  And the word “ruin” is being with “Foley” in searches.

So that’s my gauge for what people are talking about out and the blog aims to be timely and provide a place to have the debate.

Feel free to leave a comment. I appreciate the feedback and, like in this case, sometimes it can guide the content on the blog.

Enjoy the rest of the British. Rory has been something to behold. Feels like the door is slamming on the Tiger/Phil era this year and especially this week given what Phil did a year ago and how feeble he’s been in 2014. Just saying …


JC Golf: British Open Preview and Picks By Our Pros

3c571fea3ff6df1baee0c6a0636bb3e22a3eb91e117602dd6677568aa8f97680_large[1]


Storylines abound as the Tour makes its annual trek across the pond for the third major of the year, the British Open, which begins Thursday at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake.

Just like the course, we don’t allow slow play on the blog, so let’s get right to the tournament preview followed by predictions from our pros.

Tiger And His Healed Back Are Back – After missing the Masters and the U.S. Open while recovering from back surgery, Tiger Woods returns to major championship competition at the site of one of his most revered major wins.

Woods famously rode his iron play to victory at Hoylake in 2006. Hitting just one driver, Woods negotiated a veritable minefield of bunkers without going into a single one to claim the Claret Jug.

Having played just one tournament since his return (he missed the cut), Woods will have to find his form quickly to have a chance to notch his first major victory since the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.

Regardless of how he plays, him merely teeing it up to resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus and the major victories record is sure to at least be worth a bump in the Open’s TV ratings.

With just the British and PGA Championship remaining, Woods is looking at another year of losing ground to history if he can’t get a win.

Can Phil Two-Peat? – A year ago, Mickelson book-ended a win at the Scottish Open with astellar Sunday charge to claim his first victory in the Open championship to get him to three-fourths of career Grand Slam.

Mickelson wasn’t even on the first page of the leaderboard when the day began, but he bolted past the field with a birdie binge to pull out a thrilling win, one of the best in recent major championship history.

Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes, including a legendary 3-wood into the par-5 17th to set up birdie. Mickelson’s caddie, Jim “Bones” McKay would later compare the shot to someone driving it through their garage door from nearly 300 yards out. Mickelson put it to 25 feet.

“Best round I’ve even him play,” McKay told Fox Sports.

A year later, Mickelson has just one top-10 finish and his year mostly consists of being the media darling in the run up to the U.S. Open, where Mickelson finished tied for 28th after battling his putter all week long.

Like everyone else, Mickelson spent the weekend chasing Martin Kaymer in futility as Kaymer dusted the field at Pinehurst, which brings us to …

What Can Kaymer Do For An Encore? – Kaymer’s methodical march to the title at Pinehurst after posting opening 65s was pure dominance.

Can Kaymer do it again? History, of course, says it’s unlikely. The last player to win repeat majors was Padraig Harrington in 2008 (the British and the PGA).

Then again, Kaymer only wins the biggies. His only three Tour wins are the PGA Championship and this year’s U.S. Open and the Players Championship.

Kaymer’s best British finish is T7 in 2010. He finish T32 last year.

By the way, according to Bleacher Report, the U.S. Open-British Open championship has been accomplished four times.

Favorite Son, Justin Rose – A year ago, it was Lee Westwood. This year, Justin Rose, coming off consecutive victories, including the Scottish Open, is the countryman of choice.

To do it, he’ll have to pull out a performance his championship resume doesn’t currently qualify him for. He’s missed five of the last six cuts, including the last two years.

But you never count out the hot guy, especially when he’s proven himself consistently to be among the best ball strikers in the world.

Is the Winning Strategy Tiger 2.0? – Can someone just do what Tiger did in 2006 and basically bag the driver?

Well, the course is reportedly only 54 yards longer than 2006 and actually has fewer bunkers, so it seems plausible.

Will Tiger try it again? Will anyone? Tune in very early tomm. a.m. and we’ll start to find out.

Happy British Open week.

Now the predictions from our pros …

 

Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn – Rory McIroy is overdue to win his third major.

Troy Ferguson, Head Professional, Twin Oaks – Miguel Angel Cabrera

 

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Oaks North –I like Justin Rose . Maybe the hottest player in the world. He is from Europe and knows the style of golf.

My second choice is Martin Kaymer – pure golf swing and great putter.

Scott Butler, Tournament Sales Director at Twin Oaks – Adam Scott by six or eight shots – or Tiger in a close one.

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn – It’s all about crisp irons and great putting in order to capture the Claret Jug.  Justin Rose is one of the best long iron players on the planet, while possessing an incredible short game

For such a talented player, though, he has had a poor track record at the Open since his breakthrough performance in 1998. I expect Justin to do what Phil Mickelson did last year; Go back to back, winning the Scottish Open and following it up by winning the Open Championship, bringing an end to the drought of Englishmen to win since Nick Faldo in 1992.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch – Rickie Fowler: Time for him to break through and win a big event. After his showing at the U.S Open, he could finally be ready.  Great ball striker with a lot of imagination around the greens.

Martin Kaymer – perfect ball flight for links course (as proven at the US open) and loves to putt around the greens.  At 20-1, he’s also a great value!

But, Erik adds, …

I would love to see Tiger win. It would be great for the sport.  With his deteriorating health over the last few years, we may not get to see much more of the brilliance that he has spoiled us with for over 16 years.

JC Golf: U.S. Open Preview & Picks By The Pros

Image

          As the year’s second major, the U.S. Open, arrives, storylines abound that, refreshingly, don’t involve Tiger Woods.

Unlike the Masters, Woods’ absence at Pinehurst has been barely a blip on the media radar this week. Instead, players who are actually playing in the tournament have been the storyline and, of course, the course itself.

According to my golf-centric Twitter feed, these are the lead stories going into the tournament.

  1. Can Phil Mickelson complete his career Grand Slam?

After his win at the British Open last year, Mickelson has now won them all, save for the Open, at which he’s finish second an incredible six times, including at Pinehurst 15 years ago. Despite his clout of having won five majors, a Mickelson victory seems a bit unlikely when you consider his atypically quiet year on Tour. And he’s tinkering with his putting grip (going to the claw), which is already drawing doubters. As one columnist wrote, “There goes Mickelson, out-thinking himself again.”

But a Mickelson victory would certain give the Tour season a shot in the arm. As would …

2. Will Jordan Spieth Finally Break Through?

The Next Big Thing in golf would erase the “Next” with a major championship. To do it, he’ll have to learn to close, something he’s been unable to do thus far this season. But after finishing second to Bubba Watson at the Masters, a breakthrough at the U.S. Open would announce an arrival that seems inevitable. But as Jack Nicklaus says of Tiger Woods’ major chase: You haven’t done it until you’ve done it.

3. A Classic Venue Restored

Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore oversaw a $2.5 million renovation of the No. 2 course to restore it to the original Donald Ross design and a more natural state. Among other things, that meant removing turf and restoring bunkers and waste areas. As a result, this Open isn’t expected to play like an Open in that it won’t have ankle-high rough. However, in the practice rounds the pros have reported that the greens have been tough to hit, thus the winner’s chance possible riding on a strong short game, which (back to No. 1) … hello, Lefty.

But the course setup has some forecasting controversy …

4.  Could We See A Rules Controversy Like the 2010 PGA?

The 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits is where a rules controversy erased Dustin Johnson’s best chance at a major victory. He grounded his club in what he believed to be a waste area instead of a bunker. He thus invoked a two-stroke penalty that cost him the championship.   

Similar course conditions at Pinehurst abound, meaning the rules official is certain to get a workout this week. Something to watch for, but here’s hoping we don’t have another major overshadowed by a rules controversy.

There’s also the chance for Bubba Watson to notch a second major and really put some sizzle into the Tour season. But none of our JC pros chose him. Their picks are listed below.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch

Rory McIlroy – I think he has momentum on his side and his game 9and mind) are now sharp enough to return to top form

Adam Scott – He has become one of the most consistent players on the planet (hence his No. 1 world ranking), he is one of the best ball-strikers in the game, so if the putter is working he should be a favorite

Long Shot…..Webb Simpson – Wait a second, a former champion as a long-shot?  After the 2012 championship, his game has fallen off, but he is getting hot at the right time and has the experience to prevail.

Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn –

Webb Simpson – Played well in the FedEx.

Troy Ferguson, Head Golf Professional, Twin Oaks –

Graham DeLaet. Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn

Jordan Spieth – Too young to be scared of the U.S. Open.

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Reidy Creek and Oaks North

Sergio Garcia – My wife’s favorite.

Carlsbad: Golf’s Ground Zero

Image


Editor’s Note: This is the my unpublished draft of the Carlsbad golf industry story you have read in the April issue of Southland Golf. Due to the constraints of traditional publishing (space limits, etc.) a shorter version of this piece ran in the mag. I wanted to post the original because I think it provides a lot of detail that was left out of the printed version. Hope you enjoy.

         Three days after Phil Mickelson’s Gulfstream V touched down in California following his thrilling comeback victory at the British Open in Scotland last July, Mickelson texted Callaway CEO Chip Brewer to ask if it’d be OK for him to drop by the company headquarters in Carlsbad.

Mickelson wanted to personally thank the Callaway team. Oh, and he had a special guest.

That afternoon, Mickelson, dressed California casual in golf shorts and flip-flops, emerged through the glass doors of Callaway clutching the Claret Jug and with bottles of champagne in tow. He was greeted to cheers by many of the 518-person Callaway staff and an impromptu celebration ensued in the lobby, the same space where workers had been greeted by live bagpipe music days before to herald Mickelson’s victory.

The party eventually moved back to R & D and the team Mickelson had worked with closely, especially on his then-custom X Hot 3 Deep 3-wood, the club that produced two now legendary shots on the par-5 17 at Muirfield.

Among those included in the celebration was long-time Callaway club designer Austie Rollinson, the designer of the Odyssey Versa #9 putter Mickelson used to roll in the victory-clinching putt.

“I got to take a sip out of the Claret Jug,” Rollinson says, looking at a photo of the moment captured on his iPhone. “That was pretty cool.”

It was a special day at Callaway, but in the golf industry at large in Carlsbad it was another day.

It’s plausible that in that same week Dustin Johnson had dropped by TaylorMade to again test the limits of the Kingdom’s driving range, or Rickie Fowler had popped into Cobra Puma Golf to check out what vibrant color patterns the company would be dressing him in next. And maybe light up the launch monitor.

Over in Oceanside, on the expansive and lush range of Titleist’s test facility, pros from various pro tours could’ve been putting the next generation of the Pro-V1 into orbit.

Were Carlsbad to make its own version of the “This is ESPN” commercials, this is what they might look like. The difference? Carlsbad wouldn’t be making any of it up.

Welcome to golf’s Ground Zero.

***

         Carlsbad’s tourism moniker is the “The Village by the Sea,” but that hardly captures what actually makes Carlsbad unique – namely, its place in the golf industry.

With a population of just below 110,000, as they say in boxing, Carlsbad punches well above its weight when it comes to influence in the golf equipment world.

The combined operations of Carlsbad-based TaylorMade, Callaway and Cobra Puma are akin to golf’s version of Silicon Valley. (Titleist has a presence here, too, but is actually based in Fairhaven, Mass.)

In terms of product development, R & D and setting golf’s equipment agenda years in advance for North America and the world, Carlsbad is it.

“The music of the golf industry plays through Carlsbad,” says Bob Philion, President of Cobra Puma Golf.

And, increasingly, Carlsbad’s equipment tune is played to the background music of a cash register. The companies combined reportedly amassed about $3 billion in sales in 2013, with TaylorMade, golf’s top brand, pulling in more than half, $1.7 billion.

How big is the golf industry in San Diego? Well, in 2008, an economic impact study pegged its contribution at $2.6 billion, making it larger than the sectors of legal services, agriculture, computer software and even aerospace.

How did Carlsbad become the hub for all of this? A Sports Illustrated/Golf.com piece in February, titled “Golf’s Ultimate Playground,” delved into those origins, relying heavily on an interview with TaylorMade CEO Mark King.

King challenged the local legend that the industry’s establishment in Carlsbad is tied to golf’s common interests with the military in terms of technology and manufacturing (club casting, in particular) needs as equipment transitioned into its current metal-based technology boom away from wooden clubs.

Instead, King said Callaway coming to Carlsbad in 1985 and TaylorMade in 1982, both destined to change golf forever with the first metal woods and drivers, was more happenstance than plan.

“It’s all folklore,” King told SI. “The whole thing was coincidental. After he sold the vineyard, Ely Callaway bought into a little company in Carlsbad that made hickory-shafted golf clubs.

“Gary Adams founded TaylorMade in Chicago but his West Coast (partner) lived in Carlsbad … so the company moved out here, too. It was all a big accident,” King concludes, noting Cobra golf was established in Carlsbad around the same time.

Ely Callaway got into golf when he used the profits from his winery to buy Hickory Sticks, USA, a golf company in Temecula, in 1982. He moved it to Cathedral City, but the lack of a robust labor pool caused him to move the company Carlsbad, where a golf labor pool existed at TaylorMade and Cobra.

Some of those workers became the original Callaway Carlsbad crew, thus beginning the now common experience of people being recruited from one company to another.

While some of the origins of the golf industry in Carlsbad may be in doubt, the impact is not.

The companies not only changed how clubs are made, but how they’re sold and marketed. Austie Rollinson, who joined Callaway as a club designer in 1991, recalls how clubs were largely only sold at golf courses when he started and how Mr. Callaway was the among the first to transition the business into the retail big-box model we see today.

Rollinson arrived as the industry was transitioning from more mom-and-pop into the manufacturing and marketing machine we see today. Rollinson says the companies maintain a friendly competitive balance, but it’s nothing like the stories he’s heard of the camaraderie of the 80s.

“If Callaway was making clubs that day and was out of Dynamic Gold golf shafts, they’d just call Cobra,” Rollinson says. “I couldn’t see that happening now. It was a much more friendly industry back then, but there wasn’t as much at stake and it was as competitive as it is now, either.”

Palomar Airport Road, a major thoroughfare in Carlsbad that leads to all three company’s offices, was a dirt road when Rollinson arrived. It’s now a major six-lane highway.

Jose Miraflor, Director of Product Marketing at Cobra Puma, recalls the dirt-road days as well.

“Now people pass me doing 70 on that thing!” he recalls with a laugh, knowing it’s possibly one of his competitors, whom he sees frequently.

“When you go out to a lunch meeting, if you’re talking products or design, you have to look over your shoulder to see else is (in the restaurant). We’re a big industry in a small community, and you never lose sight of that.”

Strangely, the one answer you don’t hear as to why Carlsbad became the center of the golf equipment universe is the one that seems most obvious – the weather.

Miraflor says that’s the reason he can’t imagine the equipment companies being anywhere else.

“We’re identifying products right now for 2016. To be that far ahead, you need to be hitting prototypes in Jan./Feb., and really the only place to do that is California,” he says.

But access to that perpetual sunshine doesn’t come cheap.

“It’s expensive,” Miraflor says, referring to taxes, real estate, etc. “The operational cost is high, but the advantages, including the weather, can’t be beat.”

***

         If you’re looking for the future of golf, look no further than TaylorMade’s posh fitting center and driving range, The Kingdom.

Situated across the street from the company’s headquarters, it’s where many of its contracted players come to practice, be fitted and hone their games in a high-tech environment.

Like golf courses, The Kingdom has a graduated set of tee boxes. During a visit there last fall, players from three pro tours were hitting, but none from what would be the tips.

I asked Frank Firman, a Category Manager at TaylorMade, where the company’s big hitters, such as Dustin Johnson, hit from when they come to practice.

“We have to ask Dustin to stand over there (pointing to the back right of the box) and hit it over there (pointing to the remote left side of the range),” Firman says. “Otherwise, if he loses it right, it’s look out College Boulevard.”

Translation: While testing clubs, Dustin Johnson is making TaylorMade’s spacious driving range seem obsolete.

More than high-profile faces for the company, its product and its brands, players have a major impact on product testing and development. The rationale largely is that if the product works for the pros, the product – or a version of – will work for every level of player below.

On my visit to Callaway, Rollinson noted how some clubs the pros use, such as the famed Phrankenwood 3-wood Mickelson once carried, don’t ever become retail products, but the technology advance gives birth to the next generation of retail clubs, such as the X Hot 3 Deep.

Rollinson also mentioned how a custom shaft bend requested by a tour player in the last year gave birth to a new Odyssey putter design.

Rollinson says attention to detail is more acute than ever amongst companies looking to make millions off of what can be fractional advantages in innovation. And the scrutiny of the public, between round-the-clock coverage on The Golf Channel and Internet pundits, has never been higher.

“Our products are watched more closely than ever,” he says.

Tens of millions of dollars annually are put into R & D to keep pace with product launch cycle that is no longer seasonal and, as TaylorMade showed last year, can produce two new drivers in the same calendar year.

But Cobra’s Philion says that competitive pressure has more advantages than drawbacks.

“It puts a lot of pressure on R & D to bring something new and better to the market place,” he says. “But it’s exciting for because we can launch more products and enhance our brand experience for the consumer.

“We like that cadence. It allows us to on bringing innovation to the market place every day instead of just pumping out units.”

But the companies do watch other closely and do exhaustive studies of competing technologies to separate the scientific truth from the marketing hype.

And then there’s brand differentiation, which right now at Cobra is summed up in the succinct motto, “Enjoy Golf,” emphasizing the many pleasures of the game aside from just what’s on the scorecard.

Knowing the competition intimately allows for greater ability to separate, Philion says.

“It gives us a chance to differentiate ourselves,” he says. “We like to zig when others zag.”

Philion launched the Puma golf brand and then oversaw its merger with Cobra in 2009. The company started with 28 employees and now has 150 in Carlsbad and 350 worldwide.

In 1998, TaylorMade was purchased by Adidas and has 1,800 employees worldwide, 800 in Carlsbad.

Callaway has gone through some down-sizing and leadership turmoil in recent years, but after hiring CEO Chip Brewer is back on the uptick.

While the balance of power right now is squarely with TaylorMade, things like Mickelson’s victory at the British can be a game-changer, Rollinson says.

Mickelson’s victory wasn’t just a major for him, it was a major for Callaway, too.

“It’s very satisfying when the fruits of your labor pay off like that and you know you got one of the best players in the world to perform at his very best at a crucial moment. It makes you proud,” Rollinson says.

“It’s bolsters you, and it’s great motivation when you get back to work on Monday.”

 

 

 

FIO Day One: A Salute To A Classy Tradition

Image

When I arrived at the course today, I made a point to make the 14th hole on the South Course my first stop. I’d heard about the tournament’s annual tribute to the military and wanted to see it for myself.

What I witnessed is an incredibly classy use of a golf hole.

For those unfamiliar with a tradition that is now in its fifth year, the flag on 14 is an American flag. When the golfers reach the green, one of the caddies removes the flag and hands it to one of two waiting servicemen, who are in full dress.

The servicemen hold the flagstick to prevent the flag from touching the ground in a breach of flag etiquette.

When play of the hole is finished, the caddie retrieves and replaces the flagstick and then two more servicemen rotate in for the next group.

This is all staged at a hole were the grandstand, called the Patriots’ Outpost, is filled with active-duty soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard, all of whom receive free admission to the tournament.

What a great way to give back to the veterans and honor their service.

The hole is sponsored this year by a company called ViaSat, which is a provider of network services.

ViaSat President Rick Baldridge says half his company’s business involves the military so sponsoring the hole was a natural. The sponsorship included providing the attending servicemen with free Wi-Fi at the event.

“San Diego is a great military town, and giving these guys a venue to come out and bring their families, it’s exciting to them. The military guys love golf. That’s why all the bases have golf courses.

“It’s a noble game and it’s a noble way to honor their contributions.”

I can’t improve on that, but I’ll just say I wish all, instead of some, golfers acknowledged the servicemen before moving on to the 15th tee. Doesn’t seem much to ask.

Image

Pro-Spective: No. 13 on the South

 Image

         This mini-feature is an attempt to look at a pivotal hole each day through the eyes of a former pro who has played the tournament.

Our pro is Scott Bentley, who played the tournament three times in the 80s-90s, which, of course, is before the redesign of the South. Still, 11, 12, 13 was a pivotal stretch then and certainly is now.

Bentley says it’s hard to talk about 13 without mentioning the holes that precede it, 11 being a long par-3 and 12 being a notoriously tough par-4 back toward the ocean. Then 13 is a par-5 that played over 600 yards on Thursday.

“I always felt like if you bogeyed 11 or 12, or both, it deflated you a bit,” Bentley says. “But if you parred those, you were ready to score on 13.”

There are two tee boxes for No. 13, one being far right that makes the hole more of a dogleg left. That’s how it was played Thursday.

And it was a three-shotter for each of the groups I saw come through. The ones who struggled the most were those playing their second shots from the thick left rough. That included Tiger, but unlike the others, who bogeyed, he managed to save par.

The 13th green is front by tiered bunkers, making coming up short quite undesirable.

“You’ve really got to think about your second shot there if you don’t get home in two, because you want to leave it on an upslope. The greens are firm and won’t hold shorter shots.

“But if you birdie 13, it sets you up to make a little run.”

Bentley is now the Golf Course Manager at Torrey Pines and Mission Bay. He’ll give his hole insights daily here, and we thank for him volunteering.

Gearing Up

Image

If you haven’t yet seen it on TV, you won’t be able to miss it at the course.

Adidas is debuting it’s new adizero blue shoe at the tournament. It’s being sported by all the TaylorMade players and is prominently displayed around the course, including the patio of the clubhouse.

The shoe, in its many styles of blue, is a pleasing color contrast to the launch of the initial line and is certainly less loud that the Big Bird-yellow shoes many players wore a year ago.

It’s also worth a mention is Phil Mickelson’s blue KPMG hat is on sale at the merchandise tent on the South Course.

The proceeds of sales of the hat go to fight illiteracy.

You can learn more at philsbluehat.com.

Broadcast Byte

Tiger Woods’ 2014 tournament debut prompted another round of will-he-or-won’t-he regarding breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for victories in major championships.

As most golfers on the planet should know, Jack’s record is 18 and Tiger has been holding at 14 for five years now.

I didn’t discover this until I got home and watched the tape of the broadcast, but The Golf Channel’s Gary McCord added a new two-cents of perspective on the chase.

McCord talked about Tiger now being age 38 and what it would take to break Jack’s record with 19 majors.

He used Phil Mickelson’s five majors as a gauge.

“So to get to 19, he’s got to have Phil’s career starting at age 38,” McCord said.

He didn’t really finish that thought, but I imagined him humming, “Things That Make You Go … Hmmm.”

  

 

Short-Game Saturday: Take It From Phil

Image

For those of you who didn’t wake up to see Phil Mickelson on The Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive,” or tape it on Friday, as I did, here’s a review of the last 10 minutes, where Phil provided his insight about short-game basics.

For many of you, this will be Short Game 101 or even Golf 10, but he echoes something I see often that people don’t seem to factor into their short games: weight shift.

So, here it is, Phil telling it like it is in response to a question about one tip he’d give amateurs.

First, a little philosophical Phil:

“What’s interesting about chipping is that it’s not like putting or your golf swing. There are a million ways to swing a club or a million ways to putt (belly putter, cross-hand, etc.). But there aren’t multiple ways to chip, because everything in chipping is designed to keep the leading edge of the club down and underneath the ball.”

Phil’s first short-game commandment:

“You’ve got to have your weight on your front foot. If you chip with your weight back, the leading edge (of the club) is coming up, and most people chip with their weight level or back, which is just terrible.

“You’ve got to have 70 to 80 percent on your front foot.”

After weight shift, Phil discussed stance to bring it home.

“You either play (a chip) off your front foot or your back foot. Back foot if you want to hit it low; front if you want to hit it high. You NEVER chip with the ball between your feet, yet every amateur chips with the ball (in the middle). It’s not making a decision. How can you commit to a shot when you haven’t even decided what shot you’re hitting?”

One thing that I left the Academy with is a competence to teach the short game. They teach a system that applies to every short-game scenario and uses a universal stroke. You just change clubs to fit the shot/distance.

The one thing people seem to constantly need to be reminded of, until it’s ingrained, is the weight shift. It doesn’t work without it.

Anyway, as an ending aside, if you’ve never watched one of Phil’s short-game videos, hunt one down. It’s mesmerizing stuff, especially the trick shots, which show you the mind-bending possibilities for this wonderful game.