Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Joy of Six? Golf's First 6-Piece Golf Ball

Maxfli used to be one of the biggest, most prominent, best-selling brands of golf balls in the game. Now, it's a house brand at Golf Galaxy and Dick's Sporting Goods. A house brand? That means that there's no more innovation taking place under the Maxfli name, right?

Wrong. That's what "house brand" means for a lot of formerly independent brands, but not, apparently, at Maxfli. Because Maxfli just became the first to market a 6-piece golf ball, the U/6.

Man, I'm so old I can remember when a 3-piece ball seemed like a luxury!

My first reaction to the news was to think of those 5-blade razors and triple cheeseburgers. If two beef patties are good, why not put three on your burger? If twin blades shave close, why not add three more blades? If 3- and 4-layer golf balls are selling, let's add ... more ... layers! Yes! Marketing genius! More, more, more!

But Maxfli makes the case that each of the six layers that make up its U/6 ball is there for a good reason, and serves a good purpose. Here's a screengrab from the Maxfli website (click to enlarge it if you can't read it as is):


My second thought after hearing about the Maxfli U/6 was: How many layers can manufacturers squeeze into a golf ball? Let's face it: So much of the technical jargon manufacturers use to sell their clubs is gobbledygook to many golfers. It sounds good, but how many golfers actually understand golf designers' techspeak?

So if a 6-piece golf ball sounds good, won't another manufacturer come along and make an 8-piece? A 12-piece? A 75-layer golf ball! Is there a limit? Yes, there is: The size of the core.

Core sizes in golf balls are getting bigger; they'd have to get smaller to squeeze ever more layers into a golf ball. So there is probably a "speed limit" on the number of layers manufacturers can squeeze into a golf ball.

If you try the Maxfli U/6 ball, tell us about it in comments. You can find them at Dick's and Golf Galaxy, and you can also order online on the websites of those two retailers.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How Far Has Michelle Wie Fallen? This Far

Michelle Wie has fallen so far that she is back to needing a sponsor exemption to get into an LPGA tournament.

Back when she was young - say, 14, 15, 16 years old - Wie could have any sponsor exemption she wanted. She was an incredible talent, and a huge, huge draw, not just in women's golf but in golf in general. She needed sponsor exemptions because she wasn't yet an LPGA member.

But this week Wie needed an invitation from the sponsor to get into the field at the HSBC Women's Champions tournament in Singapore because she's fallen so far on the money list and in the world rankings.

Granted, the HSBC is not a full-field tournament, so it's not as bad as it first sounds. But it's still pretty disconcerting for any Wie fans, and probably for Wie herself, that she's back in this position.

And for how much longer will it still be easy for Wie to get sponsor exemptions? Wie is still one of the first few golfers trotted out by tournament organizers to promote an event. Will that continue for much longer if Wie's game doesn't perk back up?

After beginning the 2013 season with a missed cut followed by a 45th-place showing, Wie is now No. 73 in the world rankings. That's not awful - it's better than, for example, Vicky Hurst, Maria Hjorth, Sophie Gustafson and Natalie Gulbis, to name just a few - but it's so far away from where everyone thought Wie would be. And Wie is on a downward track.

Wie hasn't had a Top 10 finish since last August, but has had four missed cuts in that time frame. She had only one Top 10 in all of 2012, vs. 10 missed cuts. She fell to 64th on the money list.

You could write books about Wie's predicament, but please don't give me that song about how things would be so much different if only Wie had done things the right way. Professional golf is littered with the corpses of careers of golfers who did things "the right way."

Meanwhile, in European and Asian golf, young women (and men) golf phenoms routinely do things "the wrong way" (meaning, forego amateur golf to cash in at a young age), and some of them go on to be major stars. Many of them don't - because most golfers who turn pro fail to become stars. Nearly all of them, in fact.

Wie could have done everything "the right way" - whatever your definition of that happens to be - and wound up in exactly the same place. And maybe, had she not suffered serious injuries to both wrists when she was 17, Wie would be the superstar right now everyone thought she'd become. There's simply no way to know, and it's a mug's game trying to pretend otherwise.

(One thing I do know is this: By traveling the path she did, Wie became very rich very young, and if she's played her cards right financially is set for life.)

Wie might still become a frequent winner on the LPGA tour, she might still become a dominant player in the game. I sincerely hope she does. It's just so weird that, at only 23, it feels like time is already running out for her.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

LPGA Players In Car Crash In Thailand

Three LPGA stars - Paula Creamer, Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen - were among the people involved in an auto accident in Thailand on Sunday. The three players plus their entourages and a few family members were spread among five cars heading to the airport following the conclusion of the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament. Creamer and Miyazato were experiencing some neck pain afterward, according to Pettersen.

Pettersen posted a photo she snapped of the crash aftermath:

(Photo: @suzannpettersen/Twitter.com)

And Pettersen provided some details in a post on her blog:
On our way to the airport we were in a car accident! Paula, Ai, my mum and myself with the rest of our entourage! We were driving on the highway pretty fast and at times maybe to ruff. Meaning, no room for errors what so ever! And it was just a matter of time we must say before something actually happend! Don’t know how it all went down, but in a split second the entourage of our 5 cars was all crushed together! Paula said she felt like a ping ping ball being hit from both ends pretty hard! I was in the last car and manage somehow to just miss the rest! Out of all the cars, the car I was in was the only car suited to take us to the airport! We are just happy no one got more seriously injured from the impact! Ai and Paula and some of the guys had some pain in their necks! It was a scary split second, where u realize how quick it can go!
 
Here's hoping Paula's and Ai's soreness fades quickly and everyone is OK.

Update: Paula Creamer has tweeted some updates on her experience and condition:

Miniature Golfers Have Tested Positive for Doping. Seriously.

Is there doping in professional golf? I'll repeat what I said in an earlier post: Of course there is! Any sport or game in which there is big money and big prestige on the line will have doping; there will always be some players who are willing to try PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs) just on the off chance they might help.

But miniature golf? Surely there can't be doping in miniature golf? What could doping in minigolf possibly accomplish - help you zip that orange ball past the windmill's blades? help you zero in on that clown's mouth?

But guess what: There is doping in miniature golf! Really!

A New York Times article today focuses on drug testing in little-known sports, sports that are so little-known that many sports fans are probably not aware they exist. The article focuses on ice fishing - yes, there is drug testing in ice fishing! (What are they testing for, Icy Hot? Old Bay seasoning?)

But it briefly mentions a few other sports/games/activities in which the US Anti-Doping Agency or other World Anti-Doping Agency-affiliated group has conducted drug testing:

Two minigolfers tested positive for banned substances, out of 76 tested in 2011, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency. That year, one chess player also tested positive, as did two bowlers, eight roller sport athletes and one tug-of-war competitor.

But, seriously, what could a minigolfer possibly hope to accomplish by taking a substance that is on the WADA list of banned performance-enhancing drugs? I am willing to bet these cases had something to do with calming nerves - beta blockers, maybe, something along those lines. (I am also willing to bet that there are PGA Tour pros and other professional golfers who have dabbled or are dabbling in substances they think might help with putting nerves.)

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of news coverage of the world of professional mini-golf. But if you're one of those people who likes to believe that golf is free from doping, just remember: There's even doping in miniature golf.

Are Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren Back Together?

I'm so old I can remember when all the rumors were about Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn hooking up!

But to answer the question in the headline: No, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren are not back together (probably). But they are together again, in a way!

The gossip website TMZ.com acquired photos of Woods and Nordegren together at a recent event for their kids. It's the first time the two have been photographed in public together since those infamous incidents around Thanksgiving 2009. Tiger showed up first, Elin arrived about an hour later. They appeared friendly with one another while watching over the kids. Then, someone started snapping photos of them (later sold to TMZ, obviously), and Woods and Nordegren split - leaving together in Elin's vehicle.

From this, some are concluding that there must have been some truth to those National Enquirer-fueled rumors a couple months ago about Tiger trying to woo Elin back. (Those rumors actually predated the Tiger-Lindsey Vonn rumors.) You remember those rumors, right? Woods was allegedly offering Nordegren a $200 million guarantee that he wouldn't cheat on her again, if only she would get back together with him.

Who knows what's going on in Tiger's personal life? I don't, you don't, not even TMZ knows. But gossip is fun! That's why every human society on earth engages in it.

Here's what I do know about Tiger and Elin getting together at an event for their kids: They are doing what divorced couples are supposed to do. They are putting on a brave face and making nice for the sake of the children. Mature, responsible divorced parents do the exact same thing hundreds of thousands of times a day all around the world. (And loser parents just keep acting like jerks in front of the kids, and jerking the kids around. Losers.)

Tiger and Elin deserve credit, they deserve kudos for acting like adults, for not letting their own issues affect their time with the children.

So good for them.

Is there anything more to it than that? I seriously doubt it. Tiger would never cheat on Lindsey with Elin, right?

(Update 3/18/2013: Tiger and Lindsey confirm they are dating.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chris Kirk's Hot Wife

PGA Tour golfer Chris Kirk is married to a hottie, and he can't believe his luck. Here, look:

And his hot wife? Her name is Tahnee:

 
Chris' tweet led one of his friends to tweet back a question: "Is she also blind?"

His tweet above isn't the first time Chris has bragged about the wife he bagged on Twitter. It wouldn't be your first time, either! Look at her, she's gorgeous:

 Not sure where this hot blonde came from but I hope she stick... on Twitpic

And here is Tahnee Kirk sharing the cover of a magazine with Matt Kuchar's wife:



Tahnee used to write a blog called The Kirks on the Road; alas, she appears to have let it lapse. But you can still see the archives at thekirksontheroad.blogspot.com. But it's understandable that Tahnee hasn't had time to blog lately - she's busy with the Kirks' new baby, a son named Sawyer. Congratulations to Chris and Tahnee. And to Chris for nabbing Tahnee.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Exhibitionists and Flashers on the PGA Tour (Or: No Panties, No Putt)

You sometimes see the strangest things on a golf course during a PGA Tour tournament. Like, for example, a guy in the gallery next to a green sticking his hand down his female companion's pants as Charl Schwartzel is about to putt:


That screen capture and headline tell the tale (or should that be "tail"?) of what happened during the Northern Trust Open and was captured by CBS cameras. But if you'd like, you can watch the clip on Deadspin.

This incident reminded me of another that I read about in a book by caddie J.J. James. The book is Caddie Confidential: Inside Stories from the Caddies of the PGA Tour. It includes this nugget:

We were on the 17th hole, par-3. Around that area there was always a lot of action near the green, fans betting and tons of chatter. On the slope of the green, directly at the end of Hal Sutton's sight line for the putt was a young lady wearing a mini-skirt. She was sitting cross-legged, and wouldn't you know it, wearing absolutely nothing under her skirt.

The other caddie, (other) pro and I all went over to "help" Hal line up his putt. He had no idea why we were all standing behind him. "Look up, Hal," I said. "Oh my God," he replied, "I've got no chance of making this putt." He was right. He 3-putted.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

PGA Tour Players' Photos of Rare Snow Delay at WGC Match Play

The WGC Accenture World Match Play Championship got off to a cold and snowy start this morning in Arizona. Yes, snowy. There was some rain, then there was snow. Want pictures of the PGA Tour's snow delay? PGA Tour player who tweet have that covered:


Here's a photo Ian Poulter shared on Instagram:



And one from Rickie Fowler:


Another from Poults:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lorena Ochoa Breaks the Glass on Big Break Mexico

Big Break Mexico is the name of the next Big Break season on Golf Channel. And given the location, it's only natural that Lorena Ochoa paid a guest visit. Here she is trying her hand at the glass break challenge:

Big Break Mexico is the 19th season (!) of The Big Break on Golf Channel. It begins airing on Monday, May 13, with a cast evenly split between guys and gals.

Monday, February 18, 2013

1 Cup, 9 Balls, 9 Simultaneous Putts

The fellas in this video are part of the PGA Golf Management program at Campbell University in North Carolina. (That's the program that trains folks to become club professionals, including all the business, financial and managerial skills.) As part of a school competition, they taped themselves - nine of them - attempting to sink nine putts simultaneously. The idea was based on a similar video that came out last year of six students at the Golf Academy of America in Apopka, Florida, simultaneously striking and making six putts. Obviously, the more golf balls you add to the task, the more difficult the task becomes because you are backing away from the cup with each added ball.

Nike Files Patent for Adjustable Grooves on Irons

One of the most interesting golf blogs out there is Golf-Patents.com, a site run by an intellectual property attorney who scans patent filings looking for new stuff from golf manufacturers. And he often finds amazing things.

Such as? Well, Nike Golf has filed a patent for adjustable grooves on irons. Now, filing a patent doesn't necessarily mean that a company is anywhere close to manufacturing the described item. Many companies seek patents as protections of possible licensing fees as much as for protection of a product they hope to make. Or simply to troll other companies.

But the golf world is adjustability-crazy, and it's only a matter of time before adjustable irons start showing up in numbers.

But adjustable grooves? I have a hard time picturing how that would work. Grooves are manufactured to such tight specifications for sharpness, shape, depth, width. How do you maintain those tolerances with adjustability? Can you adjust grooves enough for 99.9-percent of golfers to notice any difference?
Also, as pointed out by Golf World Monday, the word "piezoelectric" appears dozens and dozens of times throughout the patent application. Golf-Patents.com concludes its post by asking, "What do you think, will we ever see irons with piezoelectric adjustable grooves?"

Piezoelectricity refers to electricity generated through pressure. Wikipedia explains, "Piezoelectricity is found in useful applications such as the production and detection of sound, generation of high voltages, electronic frequency generation, microbalances, and ultrafine focusing of optical assemblies. It is also the basis of a number of scientific instrumental techniques with atomic resolution, the scanning probe microscopies such as STM, AFM, MTA, SNOM, etc., and everyday uses such as acting as the ignition source for cigarette lighters and push-start propane barbecues."

Well, allrighty then! Microbalances, maybe? Again, having a hard time envisioning why an electric charge is necessary for adjustable grooves, not to the mention the efficacy of adjustable grooves.

But these days in the golf manufacturing world, things changes fast. Stay tuned. And if you want to see the full Nike Golf adjustable grooves patent, check it out here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Am Not An Animal, I Am a PGA Tour Winner!

John Merrick won the 2013 Northern Trust Open, becoming the first Elephant Man to win on the PGA Tour.

I wonder if John Merrick's childhood friends - or enemies - called him "Elephant Man"? I wonder how many readers are wondering what the hell I'm talking about? It's not easy going through life carrying the same name as someone who is famous for his deformities - or infamous, or notorious. (Pity all the guys out there named Jeffrey Dahmer.)

In the movie The Elephant Man , the Victorian-era title individual was called "John Merrick." The real-life Elephant Man, however, was actually named Joseph Merrick. And, fact is, to this day nobody can say with certainy what the disease was or diseases were that caused Merrick's deformities.

If John Merrick the golfer ever gets the yips, that's what we'll be saying about him, too. But he doesn't have the yips, he has the Northern Trust Open trophy. I am not an animal, I am the King of Riviera Country Club!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Life and Times of Metal Spikes (Or: When Phil Called Vijay a Mother******)

Last week, Phil Mickelson fell down on the rocks beside the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach, looking for a wayward drive. Everyone had a good laugh - except, of course, Phil, who probably had a sore bum afterward.

But what I thought of when I watched Phil's spill was this: Damn those metal spikes! Mickelson was always one of the pro golfers who stuck with metal spikes (a k a nails) rather than switching to plastic cleats. And metal spikes simply are not designed for walking on slick rock surfaces.

Around 25-percent of PGA Tour pros still use metal spikes, according to Golf Digest. In one way, that's pretty surprising: The rest of the golf world has moved on, after all; it's not easy for a recreational golfer to buy metal spikes anymore, and if even one could, nearly all public courses and many private courses ban them. (Some high-end, niche golf shoe makers still offer metal spikes.)

But on the other hand: SoftSpikes, which were introduced in 1993, and all the plastic-cleated and spikeless golf shoes that are the offspring of SoftSpikes, don't really improve a golfer's game. They improve the conditioning of the golf course, but not, by any appreciable degree, the golfer's game. So if you're a famous, rich pro golfer dude and believe that nails on the bottoms of your shoes are a performance upgrade over plastic cleats - and the tour allows you to still use them - well, you might just do that. And, as noted, about a quarter of PGA Tour guys feel that way.

Do you even remember metal spikes? If you're under 30, you might not. I am not under 30; in fact, I'm so old that I played in metal spikes for the first 10-15 years of my golf "career."

About the only thing I miss about them is the sound they made when walking on concrete or other hard surfaces. That trilling "cruch, crunch, crunch."

In my early 20s I knew a woman who did not play golf but loved the sound of metal spikes on concrete. So when she knew I was golfing, she would ask me to stop by her house - just so I could walk the sidewalk in my spikes to let her hear that clickety-clackety.

Did I do it? You bet I did! She was hot. I'd have danced the complete Riverdance in my metal spikes had she asked me to.

But, like Phil Mickelson on the Pebble Beach rocks, I sometimes had trouble staying on my feet in those things. Many golfers did, depending on the quality of the walking surface.

For example, some of the municipal courses I grew up playing put down Astroturf or that green felt used on putt-putt courses inside their clubhouses to provide a safe walking surface for golfers in their spikes.

But one that I often played did not; it had only a worn stone tile. And that tile was slick. It was comical watching all the golfers moving so gingerly in an attempt to avoid tumbling. But if you took a corner too fast? You might be going down. Or, perhaps even worse, just one foot would slide out from underneath, testing the elasticity of your groin muscle. Ouch!

Looking back, it surprises me that course never faced any lawsuits from spiked golfers who fell inside its clubhouse.

But those old metal spikes caused plenty of problems and disagreements among pro golfers on tour, too. And going back a long time, too.

I remember an interview that Hale Irwin did about 15 years ago in which Chi Chi Rodriguez's "sword dance" came up. Irwin acknowledged that Chi Chi's dance was very popular with fans, but, he said, "Chi Chi spiked up a lot of greens doing that."

Mickelson was involved in his own metal spikes incident with another player, too. At the 2005 Masters, Vijay Singh - playing one group behind Mickelson - complained to a rules official about Mickelson's shoes. Vijay claimed Phil's spikes must have been longer than the allowable limit, claiming they were tearing up the greens. (Ah, that Vijay, he's a charmer!)

Masters officials then confronted Mickelson between holes and examined his metal spikes.
Nothing was found to be wrong with Mickelson's spikes. Singh refused to talk about the incident, but Mickelson released a statement apologizing if his spike marks had caused problems for anyone and promising to do a better job tamping them down. He also said that he thought Singh (not mentioned by name) was way out of line to bring up the issue in the middle of the round.

That's the story most of the golfing public heard. Here's what happened - according to insider reports at the time - behind the scenes: Following the round, Mickelson entered Augusta's champions lockerroom just in time to overhear Singh badmouthing Phil to other champions present. Mickelson yelled across the room at Singh, calling him an obscene name that has 12 letters and starts with "mother." Other champions scattered, afraid that fisticuffs were about to break out. They didn't.

The next day on the Augusta range, Singh spent most of his time glaring at Mickelson, who spent all of his time refusing to look in Vijay's direction.

Another prickly pro, Steve Elkington, was involved in a metal-spikes-related incident one year later. Elkington was entered into a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Houston. He showed up for it wearing metal spikes. Only problem, metal spikes were not allowed. The USGA allows nails at the U.S. Open proper, but in the qualifiers the cleat policy is up to the host club. The Houston club for that qualifier was a softspikes-only facility, ergo, no metal spikes in the qualifier.

That prohibition was included in the registration forms, which Elkington signed; and entered golfers were reminded of the shoe policy in another info packet they all received.

Elkington's response? When he showed up in metal spikes and was told he had to change shoes, he threw a fit and stormed out. He walked away from a chance to qualify for the U.S. Open all because he wasn't willing to switch from spikes to softspikes.

As for Mickelson? Come to find that he (and Tiger Woods) mostly use plastic cleats these days. So my initial reaction to that video clip of Phil falling on his keister (blame the metal spikes!) was wrong. But that's OK. It gave me an excuse to write this post.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

10 Facts About Lydia Ko

Lydia Ko is young teen phenom tearing it up in women's golf right now, only 15 at the time of this writing but already a multiple winner in pro tournaments. Here are 10 facts about Ko:

1. Lydia Ko was born in South Korea, but her family moved to New Zealand and she now competes under the New Zealand flag.

2. She was introduced to golf by an aunt; neither her mother nor her father played golf at the time Ko took up the game.
3. When she was young (!) - as in before she started gaining notice in the golf world - Ko idolized Michelle Wie.

4. She told Golf Digest in early 2013 that her dream foursome is Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Rory McIlroy.

5. Her coach since age five is Guy Wilson, golf pro and owner of a pro shop in Auckland, New Zealand.

6. When Ko won the ALPG Bing Lee/Samsung Women's NSW Open in 2012, she became the youngest-ever winner - male or female - of a pro tournament on a world-rankings-recognized world golf tour. (Some people now cite Brooke Henderson, who won shortly after Ko's ALPG victory and at a younger age, on the Women's Canadian Tour, as the youngest-ever pro winner. But the Women's Canadian Tour does not award world ranking points, while the ALPG does. The Women's Canadian Tour qualifies as a mini-tour.)

7. When Ko won the 2012 Women's Canadian Open on the LPGA, she became the youngest-ever winner of a LPGA tournament, besting the previous recordholder by nearly 18 months.

8. The first-prize check at the 2012 Women's Canadian Open was $300,000. As an amateur, Ko received none of it - but her parents did give her a $500 reward for winning.

9. Ko is a member of Gulf Harbour Golf Club in North Harbour, Auckland, New Zealand.

10. Her favorite food comes from In-N-Out Burger. Which she can only get on travels to America.

(Photo credit: Singapore Sports Council/Flickr)

Some Courses Use Dogs to Chase Away Old Coots

Don't worry, senior golfers, you're not the old coots we're talking about! We're talking about the migratory waterfowl. Coots and other migratory birds can descend on golf course ponds and waterways in huge numbers, causing all kinds of problems. Problems such as:

"... the fowls can really screw up a course. They tend to eat the grass seed and mature grass, too, he said.

"Droppings are a nuisance, of course," he said. "They tend to gum up the equipment and also the golfers' shoes. And during mating season, they can attack golfers."

Coincidentally, human coots can also attack golfers, although it's doubtful mating season has anything to do with it.

A local columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal was suprised on a recent golf outing to find the superintendent driving around with a dog in his cart, a dog he trained to chase coots and other waterfowl off the course:

"Leroy is my dog," he said. "He's an Australian shepherd. I bring Leroy to work every day with me, and I've trained him to chase away the coots and the geese from the course."

... Other than the dog, I wondered what other methods could be employed to stave off the coots. Brian said there are several, but none are really all that good.

"You can buy chemicals to make the grass and water taste bad; both are bad ideas," he said. "Floats with laser beams that scare away the birds are another way. Decoys work for a little while until the birds become familiar with them. Air cannons are noisy to the golfers and residents, and putting up fences around the lakes ruins the ambiance."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Golfers Do the Harlem Shake

Important questions you might have: 1. What is the Harlem Shake? 2. Does the Harlem Shake cause the yips?

We have some Harlem Shake videos for you, because, according to the bylaws of blogging, we are required to share any social media/YouTube memes when they touch golf. And thanks to the following golfers, the Harlem Shake has come go golf.The Villanova men's golf team doing the Harlem Shake:



University of South Dakota's men's golf team:



Guilford College men's golf team:



At the Minnesota Golf Show:



From Callaway Golf Interactive (the Callaway Pre-Owned folks):



Here's one from GolfPigeon.com (nice Rickie Fowler homage):

Random people on a golf course:










The Championship the USGA Forgot: Senior Women's Open Is Long Overdue

You probably saw the news a couple days ago about the USGA dropping two long-running championships in favor of two newly created national championships. The United States Amateur Public Links Championship (founded 1922) and the Women's Amateur Public Links Championship (founded 1977) got the kibosh.

And in their place, the USGA is launching the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

Whatever. I don't really care one way or the other about this change. But notice that in both cases, there are two versions of the same event: the Public Links has a men's tournament and a women's tournament; the four-ball will have a men's tournament and women's tournament.

Go down the list of USGA championships and that's true of them all (almost). The Opens? Men's open, women's open. U.S. Amateur, U.S. Women's Amateur. Boys Amateur, Girls Amateur. Mid-Amateur, Women's Mid-Amateur. Walker Cup, Curtis Cup. Men's State Team, Women's State Team. Senior Amateur, Women's Senior Amateur. Senior Open ...

Aha! There's is a U.S. Senior Open, but there is no Senior Open for women! Every USGA championship has both a men's and women's field - except one, the Senior Open. There is no U.S. Senior Women's Open.

What sense does that make? Why have men's and women's fields for every championship except one?

Well, you could say that the U.S. Senior Open gets televised and that no network would want to televise a Senior Women's Open. You might even be right. You could claim that not many golf fans would care about a Senior Women's Open, and maybe you'd be right about that, too.

But so what? Who cares about, or watches, the State Team Championships? Is anyone going to watch the new Four-Balls? Were the networks scrambling to put the Public Links championships on the air?

A U.S. Senior Women's Open, if it was played in 2013, would have in its field the likes of Juli Inkster, Beth Daniel, Betsy King, Rosie Jones, Amy Alcott, Patty Sheehan and Nancy Lopez and the list goes on. Laura Davies, Meg Mallon, Helen Alfredsson and Dottie Pepper would be eligible soon; Annika Sorenstam isn't that far away.

It would also have a bunch of senior women golfers who were never tour players, or who were tour players of minor achievement, and one of them might very well win the championship. Is that a drawback? Well, you could argue that it is.

But again, so what? If an Allen Doyle or a Michael Allen wins the U.S. Senior Open, instead of a Tom Watson or Fred Couples, does that denigrate the championship? Does that cause the USGA to re-think holding it? Of course not.

Maybe the field for a U.S. Senior Women's Open wouldn't be strong enough, or the scores might be too high, for an over-50 women's event. Maybe! So what! Adjust accordingly. Here's a little-known fact: When the USGA instituted the men's Senior Open in 1980, golfers had to be 55 to play. The age of 50 isn't set in stone. Start the Senior Women's Open with an age cutoff of 45, rather than 50, and see how it goes.

The concept of "equity" is front and center in the Rules of Golf. But there is no equity in the USGA staging men's and women's versions of every one of its championships except one.

There are legends of women's golf who deserve a chance to compete for a national senior championship. There are no-name senior women who are phenomenal golfers who deserve a chance to qualify to play in such a tournament and perhaps pull off a shocking win.

The USGA should add a U.S. Senior Women's Open out of basic fairness. Out of a simple sense of equity. It's the right thing to do, and it's long overdue.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This Is a Real Photo of a Golfer Next to Yao Ming

It almost looks fake, doesn't it? The size disparity is just huge. But it's a real photo. That's former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming next to professional golfer Frances Bondad. Yao, just to be clear, is the big one. Frances plays on the ALPG tour and LET.

We spotted this photo when Frances made it her Twitter background, but she actually posted it a while back, with this message:

Yao, by the way, does play golf. At least, he attempts to - he's a good sport, taking part in charity events when his swing make Charles Barkley look like Sam Snead. Not sure what we mean? Watch this.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

15-Year-Old Lydia Ko Is the Best Teen Golfer Ever

There have been a lot of phenoms in women's golf over recent decades. So many phenoms, at such a young age, that although they are making their marks in women's golf, they themselves are still girls. Teen-agers.

And among these golfers, Lydia Ko is the best of all-time.

Wait, let me clarify: I have no idea if Ko has an amazing career as a pro golfer ahead of her. (OK, actually I have some idea.) But if we look at the teen girls who've practically fallen out of the womb and onto the LPGA Tour recently, which accomplished the most before turning pro?

No question about it: That's Lydia Ko. And that's what the headline of this post refers to - Ko, who is 15 years old and an amateur as I write this - has already accomplished more than any other teen girl golfer ever.

She's won plenty of important amateur tournaments, including the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur. And - what spurred me to type these thoughts - she just her third pro tournament, the New Zealand Women's Open. She's now the youngest-ever winner on the ALPG (that happened in early 2012, age 14); the youngest-ever winner on the LPGA (that happened in mid-2012, age 15, Canadian Women's Open); and the youngest-ever LET winner.

Ko has already accomplished more - far, far more - as a teen-aged amateur than Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Morgan Pressel or Paula Creamer did. Which is also the way I'd rank them:

Greatest Female Golfers Ranked Based on Accomplishments as Teens Before Turning Pro
1. Lydia Ko
2. Michelle Wie
3. Lexi Thompson
4. Morgan Pressel
5. Paula Creamer

These are all players of recent vintage, as you might have noticed. And if you want to make an argument that Marlene Bauer or Aree Song or someone else was better than Ko, go right ahead! But I'm sticking with Ko.

Let's All Laugh at Phil Mickelson Falling on His Backside

Phil Mickelson fell down:

Ha ha, hee hee! There's always something funny about seeing someone fall on their butt - so long as they don't get hurt in the fall, of course. And the only thing Mickelson hurt with this slip is his pride.

And, indirectly, his score, since he was walking on those slippery rocks in spikes in search of his golf ball (didn't find it) on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. And that is not a place a golfer wants to be on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

Mickelson wound up making an 8 on the hole. Which, coincidentally, is the same score he received from the Russian judge for his dismount.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Lindsey Vonn? She's Got a Ticket to Ride ... Tiger's Plane

(Update 3/18/2013: Tiger and Lindsey confirm they are dating.)

The latest evidence of a Tiger Woods-Lindsey Vonn romance? Tiger sent his private plane to Austria to give Lindsey a lift back to the United States.

TMZ originally reported it. You might have heard that Vonn was involved in a serious ski accident that will keep her out of competition the rest of the year. Vonn's crash happened during the Alpine World Championships in Schladming, Austria. She is returning to the U.S. for the necessary surgery. And she's flying on Tiger Woods' plane.

Woods' plane picked Vonn up in Austria on Friday.

Related posts:
Woods, Vonn pass up chances to deny romance
Are Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn dating?

Jiyai Shin Goes Skydiving

Couple photos shared on Twitter by LPGA star Jiyai Shin:

Shin is in Australia ahead of the LPGA season opener there, and went skydiving over Gold Coast.

Shin is one of my favorites on the LPGA; her bright, smiling face is always nice to see. But she's also, almost certainly, going to be another golfer like Lorena Ochoa: A star who leaves the LPGA early to start a family. Jiyai has made it clear that's what she wants.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

You'll Need Some Scratch for this $1,000 Putter

How much scratch does it take to buy the new special-edition putter from Scratch Golf? Nine-hundred and ninety-nine dollars worth of scratch.

But that's still $49,000 cheaper that the cheapest implements regularly made by Scratch's partner in the production of the Scratch Golf by James Ingles handmade putters. Charles Hellis and Sons Firearm Company in London, England (which is owned by the James Ingles whose name is on the putter), hand-makes shotguns and rifles for the luxury market. None of the company's firearms sell for less than $50,000.

The company's craftsmen bring the same attention to the new weapon for golfers, shaping, engraving and finishing each putter head by hand. That attention is a big part of the $999 price tag. Something else is, too: "... there is no paint fill in the putter. Instead, all the markings are filled with precious metals like 24k gold, sterling silver and copper."

Scratch Golf started taking orders for the James Ingles putters on Feb. 1, 2013. Note that $999 is the base price. See scratchgolf.com/putters.html for more info.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Phil Mickelson's Backwards Shot

Phil Mickelson is never in over his head, but he sometimes hits a golf ball over his head - as in backwards. Phil's famous backwards flop shop was spotlighted in Mickelson's Secrets of the Short Game instructional DVD set (more info about the DVD). Here's the clip from that DVD in which Phil demonstrates the backwards shot:

Lefty is mighty enthusiastic in that clip, isn't he? He must have been hopped up on In-n-Out burgers on the day of the shoot.

Mickelson didn't invent this shot; the backwards golf shot has been part of golf trick-shot artists' routines for many, many years, and it's not a difficult shot to pull off for very skilled golfers (assuming the circumstances are right for it, of course).

An interesting nugget from the above clip is when Phil explains that he has had to use the backwards shot in competition before.

Here's another look at Phil's over-the-head shot, in which he blames the ball not going in on the grain of the green (funny Phil!):

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The First 'Gangnam Style' Video in Months That You'll Enjoy

That's James Hahn going "Gangnam Style" after a birdie on No. 16 during the 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Now let us resolve that this is the last "Gangnam Style" video ever posted anywhere.

The Fastest Rounds of Golf on the Pro Tours

Thomas Levet celebrated his 500th European Tour event on Sunday by finishing up the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in just 2 hours, 9 minutes. Here, the Euro Tour confirms it:

Levet, alas, was in last play entering the final round, which meant he had the first tee time. And because there was an odd number of players starting the final round, Levet played alone. Which meant he could go as fast as he wanted.

Levet let the European Tour know that he could have gone even faster:

I love playing fast myself, starting a round alone first off the tee. And like Levet, I've run into this problem:

So, 2 hours, 9 minutes in a high-level pro tour tournament. How does that rate among the fastest rounds ever played? There's no way to know for sure because none of the major pro tours keep this record.

But, for example, at the 2010 PGA Championship Jeff Overton teed off first and alone in the final round and went around Whistling Straits in 2 hours, 9 minutes - same time as Levet at the 2013 Dubai Desert Classic.

Back in 2010, the UK publication Golf Today did an article rounding up some of the fastest pro rounds for which it cound find a record. And it turns out, Levet is a piker! Two hours, 9 minutes doesn't come close to the fastest known rounds.

And those fastest-known rounds are ... Greg Norman and Mark O'Meara, 1998 Tour Championship: 1 hour, 24 minutes. This is shockingly fast, given that it was a twosome. Both shot 79 and finished at the bottom.

Why did they go so fast? Because Norman had a plane to catch. Seriously! Obviously, these two (unlike Levet) weren't really trying to play well, they just wanted to get it over with.

According to Golf Today, both Norman and O'Meara received warnings from the PGA Tour for not trying hard enough to play well. As did John Daly and Mark Calcavecchia at the 1992 Players Championship when they sped around TPC Sawgrass in 2 hours, 3 minutes.

There are also at least two instances of twosomes making it around Augusta National during The Masters in less than two hours: George Bayer/Jack Fleck (72/74) played in 1 hour 52 minutes, in 1960; and Gene Sarazen/George Fazio (70/76) played in 1 hour, 57 minutes in 1947.

Truth is, there were probably a lot of sub-2-hours rounds prior to the 1960s, when golf moved along at a much quicker pace in general. (Blame TV, Jack Nicklaus, thick rough and super-fast greens, among other factors, for slowing the game down.) And there are plenty of other similar instances of golfers like Levet going out first and alone on the final day and flying through their round. But nobody tracks this.

Do you know of other sub-2-hours rounds? If you remember one, post it in comments.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Picking Up Water Balls, Put 'Em In a Basket

Here is an ESPN piece about golf ball divers - the guys and gals who jump into the water on golf courses and retrieve golf balls. If you've golfed, you've probably, at one time or another, bought a few golf balls off one of these guys. The piece points out that by some estimates 300 million golf balls a year are lost in the United States alone.

I did some golf ball diving myself back in my high school days - but nothing as advanced as what we see in the video. No wetsuits, no snorkel. Just a scrawny kid in jean shorts going into the water.

Our tactic was to stick to the shallow waters and use our feet to feel the balls. That meant walking barefoot through the muck. Which also meant choosing our ponds carefully. Snapping turtles? No thanks, I like my toes.

The golf course we worked used effluent water in all its ponds. Which is pretty disgusting thinking back on it. At the time it didn't bother us. We'd fill up a pillow case with balls, then walk the course offering 10 balls for a dollar to each group of golfers we ran across.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dustin Johnson Wants to Make Sure Everyone Knows He's Tappin' That

Ah, young love (or lust, anyway) in the age of social media. Enjoy engaging in public displays of affection? With Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, et.al., you can take your PDAs to a whole new level of "P." (Hmm, wonder what Vine will add to this dynamic ...)

Dustin Johnson is into Paulina Gretzky. And if you were Dustin Johnson, you would be, too! Just a few weeks ago we learned that Wayne's not-so-innocent little girl was dating DJ when she showed up - in high heels and tight, low-cut dress - in Dustin's gallery at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Now Dustin is sharing makeout and snuggly-wuggly pics through his Instagram account (@djohnsonpga):

Johnson is breaking new ground in golf here. Golf doesn't normally see these kinds of made-for-TMZ couplings.

But Paulina Greztky - who has always used her Instagram (@pmgypsy) to show off - is sharing plenty of her own pics of DJ & Paulina. Such as:

And yes, Paulina Gretzky plays golf:

Previous article:
Dustin Johnson's gallery girl this year is Paulina Gretzky

No Hope for the Tournament of Hope?

The Tournament of Hope was supposed to be one of the richest tournaments in golf, and it was supposed to be the centerpiece of a global AIDS awareness effort led by the South Africa-based Sunshine Tour.

It was originally supposed to be the fifth World Golf Championship. And it was supposed to be played for the first time in November 2013.

Now, none of those suppositions are coming to fruition.

Will they ever? Depends on who you ask, depends on how optimistic you are. Our guess is: No.

The Tournament of Hope was originally announced a couple years ago, to great fanfare, because it was supposed to be the fifth tournament with the WGC designation, and because it was planned to offer an $8.5 million purse.

It lost the WGC designation early on, however, when the tournament couldn't meet its 2012 launch date. Its debut was pushed back to 2013, and now that debut has also been canceled.

The International Federation of PGA Tours press release says that the event "has been postponed." But the Sunshine Tour's own press release uses stronger terminology: the Tournament of Hope "has regrettably been put on hold for the foreseeable future."

The Sunshine Tour announcement continues:

Scheduled for a first staging in late November 2013, the Tournament of Hope is sanctioned by all the member Tours that make up the International Federation of PGA Tours. However, the Sunshine Tour has confirmed that its commercial partner has been unable to fulfill the expectations of potential sponsors for various reasons beyond its control.

While the necessary funding for the event was originally in place, the recent weakening of the Rand has added more pressure to the budget and it has been decided it would be unreasonable to expect sponsors to commit to the event at this stage.

Recent weakening of South Africa's Rand currency is cited as contributing to budget problems, and the cash crunch is put in stark terms by the Sunshine Tour's executive director Selwyn Nathan: "We as a Tour cannot be associated with an event that cannot deliver all of our sponsors expectations at a fair price and therefore puts them and us at risk."

But is there no hope for the Tournament of Hope? There might be a ray of hope in the closing paragraphs of the Sunshine Tour's announcement of the postponement:

The Sunshine Tour has been engaged in ongoing discussions with Sun International and Nedbank to explore the possibility of combining the Tournament of Hope and the Nedbank Golf Challenge. With these recent developments, both Sun International and Nedbank have reaffirmed their commitment both to the growth of the game in South Africa and to the staging of the 33rd Nedbank Golf Challenge in its traditional year-end period within the Sunshine Tour’s 2013 summer swing.

Further announcements about the date and the final format of the 2013 Nedbank Golf Challenge will be made in due course.

Best Golfers to Follow on Instagram

The "Extra Mustard" section of SI.com (the website of Sports Illustrated) recently published its ranking of the 60 best athletes to follow on Instagram.

Did any golfers make the list? Yes, five of them, including one in the Top 10. Here are those five golfers, along with two samples of the types of images they post to Instagram:

Michelle Wie (@themichellewie): Ranked No. 7 on the Extra Mustard list

Rickie Fowler (@therealrickiefowler)Ranked No. 20 on the Extra Mustard list

Paula Creamer (@paulacreamer1): No. 44 on the Extra Mustard list

Anna Rawson (@annarawson): No. 48 on the Extra Mustard list

Ben Crane (@bencranegolf): No. 57 on the Extra Mustard list

Who are some of your favorite golfers to follow on Instagram? Who else would put on a list of the best golfers on Instagram?