Friday, April 24, 2015

These Trick-Shot Pros Must Really Hate Brussels Sprouts

Yes, those are Brussels sprouts you see flying in the screengrab above - poor, innocent Brussels sprouts. Oh, sure, they are among the most-hated vegetables by people who, well, hate vegetables. But is that any reason to destroy a bag of them with a golf ball and a driver?

It is if you are PGA professionals Peter Finch and Rick Shiels. These two are YouTube pros in addition to being golf teaching pros, and a compilation of their trick shots is in the video below. It also includes the destruction of a bottle of champagne. Proving just how dangerous drinking and driving really is.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Erica Stoll is Rory McIlroy's New Girlfriend

Who is Rory McIlroy dating these days? A PGA of America employee named Erica Stoll.

Rumors of a McIlroy-Stoll romance first cropped up in early 2015, but something that just happened is pretty much the confirmation that they are dating. And what was that? McIlroy ventured to Rochester, New York, for a date with Stoll, who is from the area.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper reported:

The top-ranked golfer in the world was seen Saturday night having dinner at 2Vine in downtown Rochester and then stopped in at Magpie Pub in the trendy Park Avenue neighborhood. ...

"As they were leaving, everybody in the restaurant was shouting, 'Oh my God, that's Rory McIlroy! That's Rory McIlroy!' " 2Vine hostess Jordan Cannan said.

The dinner reservation for four was in Stoll's name, said another hostess, Dakotah Schickling.

Stoll is 29 years old, three years older than McIlroy, and is the manager of championship volunteer operations for the PGA of America. In addition to graduating high school in Rochester, she also graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She first worked for the PGA when the Senior PGA Championship was played at Oak Hill Country Club in 2008. Stoll was hired as an office manager for the tournament office.

McIlroy and Stoll were first spotted together publicly when she was seen with McIlroy in his native Ireland over the New Year's time period in early 2015. They have kept a very low profile - no photos of them together have yet emerged - and Stoll has tightened up the privacy settings on her social media accounts (when she still uses them at all, which is rarely).

If Stoll and McIlroy have a future together, then they also have something that a lot of couples wish they had: a great story about how they met. That was at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah in Chicago, where, misunderstanding which time zone he was in, Rory was a no-show for the longest time on the day of the singles matches. Stoll is the PGA of America employee who finally noticed that nobody had seen McIlroy and alerted officials higher up the chain of command. A sleepy McIlroy was finally roused and given a police escort to the course, arriving just in the nick of time.

McIlroy wound up winning that match, helping lead the amazing Team Europe comeback to win. (Thanks Erica!) Rory was with Caroline Wozniacki at the time, but when that relationship split up McIlroy and Stoll became reacquainted.

Just a couple crazy kids in love. Or at least lust. Best wishes to them.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

LPGA Rookie Chips In to Force Playoff, Holes Out to Win

Now this is how you git-r-done in golf:

LPGA rookie Sei Young Kim - already a winner once in 2015 - trailed Inbee Park by one shot on the last green at the 2015 LOTTE Championship. Kim was off the green chipping, and had to hole it to force a playoff.

So she holed it.

And, on the first playoff hole, she holed it again - only the second time from over 150 yards for a tournament winning eagle. If this had happened at a major, it would live forever in golf history and legend. As it is, Kim deserves a standing ovation for that incredible finish.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Lyrics to the Masters Theme Song You Never Knew Existed

You know the Masters theme song, right? That's the instrumental music that plays at the start of every Masters TV broadcast on CBS. That song has a name - Augusta (surprise, surprise) - and it was composed by Dave Loggins. But the TV version every golf fan knows doesn't have any words:

The opening strains of that music send a tingle through many a golfer. Lots of golfers have even used the music in their weddings. But, c'mon now, let's be honest: If this music wasn't so closely associated with The Masters, would you ever listen to it? Of course not! It's awful! It's what you'd hear in an elevator. An elevator whose music was programmed by somebody with very bad taste.

There's only one way to make the song worse. And that's add some overwrought lyrics about golf, lyrics that sing of Augusta National as a holy shrine and include callouts to great golfers. Silly, silly lyrics.

It turns out that Loggins has just such lyrics ready. Yes, the Masters theme song (Augusta) does have lyrics, and Loggins himself has performed the song singing those lyrics. Here, in all it's cringe-worthy glory, it is:

Wow. That's bad. (If you disagree, we are no longer friends.)

Here are the Augusta lyrics spelled out:

Well, it’s springtime in the valley
On Magnolia Lane
It’s the Augusta National
And the master of the game

Who’ll wear that green coat
On Sunday afternoon
Who’ll walk that 18th fairway
Singin’ this tune

Oh, Augusta
Your dogwoods and pines
They play on my mind like a song
Oh, Augusta
It’s you that I love
It’s you that I miss when I’m gone

Well, it’s Watson and Byron Nelson
And Demaret, and Player, and Snead
And it’s Amen Corner
It’s Hogan’s perfect swing
It’s Sarazen’s double eagle
At the fifteenth In '35
And the spirit of Clifford Roberts
That keeps it alive

Oh, Augusta
Your dogwoods and pines
They play on my mind like a song
Oh, Augusta
It’s you that I love
It’s you that I miss when I’m gone

It’s the legions of Arnie’s Army
And the Golden Bear’s throne
The wooden-shafted legend of Bobby Jones

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's Up With Pro Golfers Giving the Finger(s) on the Green?

A few years back I was chatting with a teaching professional who was interested in writing a golf instructional book. Those books are a dime a dozen, I reminded him, and unless you have some kind of great hook for one, it's unlikely yet another instructional book will make any money. Oh, I have a hook, he said: green reading.

Green reading? Yes, the teaching pro replied: think about it - green reading is one of the most important facets of golf, yet it's never really taught. New golfers are just expected to pick it up as they go. Oh, they might hear very broad advice about methods of visualizing break, but nothing really specific, nothing really in-depth.

I did think about it. And I had to admit, that was a good hook.

Unfortunately for my friend, he never got around to writing a book explaining in-depth how to read greens. And somebody else beat him to it - probably, let's be honest, with a much better system anyway. What system? The one that has professional golfers doing this on the pro tours:

That's Lydia Ko and Adam Scott "giving the finger" to the break, using the AimPoint Express green reading system.

Some background on AimPoint: It originated about half a decade ago when a fella named Mark Sweeney invented a software program that read the break on putting greens and then showed you the proper putting path - the path the ball would follow to the hole if the golfer hit it at the proper speed. AimPoint first came to prominence on Golf Channel broadcasts when the network started using it to show viewers the break any given golfer was facing on a putt. It was certainly very whiz-bang in the those early days when AimPoint's projected putting line was shown on screen overlaid on a green, and then a golfer's putt perfectly tracked that line right into the hole.

But Sweeney soon realized something: The insights about putting and break and reading greens that went into AimPoint could also turn the system into a great tool to teach green reading.

The original AimPoint Green Reading system was adopted by some pros, such as Stacy Lewis. But only after AimPoint Express was introduced - a simpler version - did adoption by tour pros really take off. Here's a news report about AimPoint's adoption by the pros that provides some insight into the system, and why golfers are holding up fingers on the green:

How does AimPoint Express work? One thing AimPoint does is to teach a golfer to read greens first and primarily with one's feet rather than one's eyes. That is, stand behind your ball or ballmarker facing the hole and feel the slope of the green. Next, assign a number value to what you feel - 0 for no slope (a flat green) up to 7 for a very sloping putt. The numbers from 0 to 7 represent degrees of the slope of a green, a 1-degree slope, a 5-degree slope, and so on. (According to Sweeney, golfers almost never encounter putts breaking across slopes of more than 7-degrees.)

Once you have a number, pick out the line you want to start your putt on, assuming you'll be able to put the proper pace on the putter (proper speed is the speed that will send your ball 1.5 feet past the cup if you miss). Then hold up a finger or fingers in front of you - the number of fingers corresponding to the number from 0 to 7 that represents the amount of slope. When Adam Scott holds up one finger, it's because he feels a slope of 1 degree; when Lydia Ko holds up three fingers, she has rated the slope of the green a 3.

What Sweeney discovered - happy coincidence - is that the width of our fingers corresponds very closely to the line you'll have to putt to accommodate the break for the slope you've felt. That is, when Scott holds up one finger, he is going to start his putt on a line that appears to him one finger's width off the flagstick.

And that's the basics of AimPoint Express. Obviously that bare bones description isn't enough for you to run out and start making great reads all the time. But that's the gist of the Express version of AimPoint, and that's why you see so many pro golfers now holding up fingers on the green.

Go to YouTube and you'll find many videos about AimPoint Express. But if you want the full package, if you want to learn the full system, its ins and outs, and get the full benefit, you'll want to check out the DVD:

Friday, March 27, 2015

84-Year-Old Woman Uses Face-On Putting Style to Win Car on 'Price Is Right'

You know how the game called Hole In One works on The Price Is Right, right? You sink a putt, you win the big prize.

Today on the game show, and 84-year-old woman named Margaret sank a putt (actually her second try) and won herself a $16,000 car. But it's more the way she sank the putt that caught my eye:

Yep, that's right, dear ol' Margaret went face-on for her putt attempts. Face-on putting is actually picking up some adherents around the golf world these days. Gary McCord is probably the best-known, and McCord swears by face-on. His buddy Peter Kostis - who learned face-on from Sam Snead back in the day (it was usually called sidesaddle back then) is also a fan.

And 84-year-old Margaret is definitely a fan.

Related: Paula Creamer on 'The Price is Right'

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Watch: Phil Mickelson's Clubhead Flies Off on Sand Shot

Well, that's something you don't see every day - especially on an iron shot. The head of Phil Mickelson's club just flew right off. Mickelson was playing a sand shot during the first round of the 2015 Texas Open. His club didn't even hit a bunker lip or anything. It struck the sand and the ball - and the clubhead - went flying.

Watch:

That look on Phil's face! Apparently Golf Channel also picked up some audio, aired later, of Mickelson muttering, "What the heck?"

I feel your pain, Phil. Been there, done that. Except it happened to me with a driver. Brand new driver, too, about 20 years ago. I teed off on a par-5 I was hoping to reach in two; instead, my club broke in two. It snapped at the hosel and the clubhead went flying about 75 yards forward - right into a water hazard. Not a good feeling.

'Permanent' Masters Trophy Goes Up for Auction

Every year at The Masters Tournament the winner is given a trophy - a replica of the Augusta National clubhouse that, around its base, has the names of all the Masters Champions engraved. The trophy the winner gets is a much smaller replica of the permanent Masters trophy that resides inside the Augusta National clubhouse and never leaves the grounds.

So why is Green Jacket Auctions claiming it has the "Permanent" Masters Trophy up for auction right now? Because that's the nickname given to this particular rendition of the trophy, an intermediary size that was commissioned by Augusta National in 2000. This trophy is smaller than the real permanent trophy that is inside the Augusta clubhouse; but it's much bigger than the replicas given to Masters winners. So in collecting circles, it's become known as the "Permanent" Masters Trophy.

So where does this trophy come from? According to Green Jacket Auctions, it was commissioned by Augusta National in 2000 for a golf museum that was being planned for Augusta, Ga. The club gave the trophy to the museum, but attached a rider: if the trophy is ever put up for sale, the club has first option to purchase.

That museum never reached fruition, however, and the trophy was, indeed, offered for sale. But Augusta declined to buy it back. And so the trophy went out into the collecting world. It's been in the collection of an Atlanta businessman for many years, but now it is on the auction block.

The auction house started it with a minimum opening bid of $10,000, and as I write this the bidding is up to $37,978. The reserve price has not yet been met. The auction runs through April 11. You can follow it on the auction page.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Don't Look Now But One of Lydia Ko's Age Records Has Already Fallen

Lydia Ko is still only 17 years old, and she's set a lot of age-related records in golf along her way to superstardom. But, believe it or not, one of Ko's age records has already been broken.

Back in 2011, a 13-year-old Ko became the youngest-ever golfer to play in the Bing Lee NSW Women´s Open. That's a big tournament in Australia for golfers on the ALPG Tour.

But at the 2015 Bing Lee Fujitsu NSW Women´s Open, an even younger golfer is in the field: a 12-year-old. Which makes 12-year-old amateur Belinda Ji the first person to break one of Ko's age-related records in a professional tournament.

Don't get the idea that Ji is the next Ko, though. Although Ji is clearly a very talented golfer for her age, one who might have a bright future ahead in golf, she's farther away from reaching the pro level than Ko was at a similar age. Compare the results: Ji shot her age, in a manner of speaking - she's 12, she shot 12-over par 84 in the first round.

When Ko made her NSW Open debut at 13, she nearly won the tournament. She made it to the final green with the lead, but three-putted and lost by one shot.

Of course, Ko was 13 then, and Ji is only 12 now. Ji began playing golf at age 7. At age 9 she was a 9-handicap. At age 10, Ji won a "scholarship" to a local golf club and entered that club's junior development program. Now, at age 12, she plays off a 3 handicap.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Photo: Otter On the Green at HSBC Women's Champions

Golf and wildlife sometimes mix, and over the years we've seen birds carry off golf balls, as well as visits to (or at least near) the putting green by dogs, cats, alligators, snakes ... even bears. But we've never seen an otter on the green. Until today.

Here's a photo that LPGA golfer Mirim Lee posted on Facebook:

Lee, in charming broken English, wrote, "I saw the otter on golf course :) his so cute. I love it."

The tournament was the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. A 2014 article in the Singapore newspaper The Straits Times explained that otters were moving into the city:

Wild otters have started breeding in the heart of the city, the first- ever known here to have done so.

Now, experts are worrying about how to best protect them.

Some researchers had considered Singapore's southern coast around Gardens by the Bay too built-up for these threatened native marine mammals that are often found at sea but need a source of fresh water nearby.

But a pair of smooth-coated otters, which first caused a stir in February with their visits to the downtown park, have now raised five pups.

Videos posted on social media over the last month show the family roaming and eating fish along the banks of Marina Reservoir.

They have also been seen inside the Gardens and in its lakes.

... Others have also been spotted at East Coast Park and as far inland as Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.