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News & Tours

Tiger Woods had an extraordinarily ordinary first round at Firestone

By Dave Shedloski

AKRON, Ohio -- Bounce back was the theme of the day for Tiger Woods in the opening round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, even if there wasn't an appreciable bounce in his step.
 
Woods looked a bit lethargic on a brilliant Thursday afternoon at Firestone CC, becoming animated only after a poor approach shot into the 14th green, which prompted swiping angrily at the ground, ripping off his glove and burying his head in his cap. But he saved par as part of a largely solid two-under 68 at the venue where he has won eight times.
 
"Yeah, I feel like I made some progress," Woods, 38, said of a round that included six birdies against two bogeys and one double bogey. "As I said, this is only my seventh round back, so it's just going to take a little time. I'm starting to get in the flow of things. If you look at my iron shots into the holes today, a majority of them were pin high. So I'm starting to get the feel back in my hands and get the ball, my trajectory under control. I'm starting to get the shots hitting the ball the correct numbers again."

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He also is showing signs of scoring. After each of his three holes over par, including a three-putt from 10 feet at the first, Woods answered with a birdie. He got up and down for par on four of the six holes at which he missed the green, including all three on his inward nine.
 
At two under par, Woods was tied for ninth place, four behind Marc Leishman. Only twice has Woods shot par or worse to begin this event.
 
Despite the decent result, Woods appeared subdued on the course. Playing with U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, who shot 77, Woods didn't even offer a smile after he made consecutive birdies at Nos. 5 and 6, the former with a kick-in after a near ace.
 
Meanwhile, he did hit a few squirrely shots. Among them a drive at No. 2 that ended up in the third fairway -- from where he made birdie -- and an iron shot off the tee at 17 that traveled just 217 yards and elicited an exasperated look.
 
"Yeah, I got a little ticked out there today because … I know what I can do, and I know the shots that I need to hit, and I know I need to place the ball, and I didn't do it a couple times," Woods said. "And I didn't take advantage of some of the iron shots I had in there too."
 
That could only be construed as a good sign, as was the final tally.
 
"Overall, I was very pleased with today. I hit a lot of good shots," he said. "I dropped shots at three holes out there today, got it right back on the very next hole. That was nice to have three good bounce‑backs. Overall, it was a good, solid day."
 
Woods is playing in just his third event following back surgery March 31. After visiting with the media following his round, he walked directly to the fitness trailer to have his back worked on.

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News & Tours

Dustin Johnson takes leave of absence from golf to seek "professional help"

Dustin Johnson said he is taking an indefinite leave of absence from professional golf, announcing in a statement on Thursday he will be seeking "professional help for personal challenges I have faced."

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The 30-year-old Johnson, who had brushes with the law when he was younger and whose lifestyle alongside fiancee Paulina Gretzky has been well-chronicled on social media, had already withdrawn from this week's Bridgestone Invitational, and will miss next week's PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Cub.

Johnson, who is currently fifth on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, has also informed the PGA of America he will not participate in the Ryder Cup matches this September. Since the top nine players automatically earn spots on the team, the 10th-ranked player will now qualify.

A photo posted by Gretzky on Monday showed Johnson caddieing for her. Gretzky has since taken down the photo from her Instagram account.


"By committing the time and resources necessary to improve my mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation, I am confident that I will be better equipped to fulfill my potential and become a consistent champion," Johnson said in the statement.

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News & Tours

Fox Sports adds Brad Faxon, David Fay to its golf broadcast team

By John Strege

Fox Sports continued to build its golf broadcast team with the addition of Brad Faxon as a studio analyst and hole announcer and former USGA executive director David Fay as its rules analyst.

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“Long-known for his smooth putting stroke, Brad's transition to broadcasting has been just as easy,” Fox Sports’ coordinating golf producer Mark Loomis said in a news release. “He still has great relationships with, and knowledge of, today's tour players, and that insight will prove invaluable to our telecasts. David has been synonymous with the USGA, its championships and history for decades, so adding him to our team was a no-brainer."

Previously, Fox Sports announced that Joe Buck would anchor its telecasts of USGA championships, including the U.S. Open, beginning in 2015, while Greg Norman will be its lead analyst. Earlier this month, it added former Golf Channel Morning Drive host Holly Sonders as a golf reporter and host.

Related: The Fox & The Peacock

In 2010, Faxon was hired to work as a commentator on NBC’s golf telecasts and most recently has been an analyst with Golf Channel. Fay, who left the USGA in 2010, previously served as a rules expert for NBC on its Open telecasts.

Fox Sports’ 12-year contract to televise USGA championships begins in 2015.

(Getty Images photo)

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Equipment

And you thought you had too many old golf clubs in the garage?

By Geoff Shackelford

Thinking maybe you had a hoarder streak after keeping a few too many old clubs laying around the garage? Think again!

Related: More weird golf news

Placed in the Orange County section of Craigslist and updated since, the seller lists just about every conceivable brand as available from the, uh, collection. There is a catch: the buyer must take it all. That's 20,000 clubs for $7,500, which, as the seller notes, amounts to 38 cents a club. The 50 bags mentioned are thrown in as part of the package based on the seller remarks.

The reader who tipped us off to this sale had a friend stop in for a visit and reported that this club collector "had irons everywhere at two houses, two garages, inside a truck (with flat tires) and in a shed out back too. Very remarkable in all my years of collecting."

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Click here if you're interested.

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News & Tours

A reason David Feherty rooting for U.S. in Ryder Cup: 'When I say that, it pisses off Colin Montgomerie'

By John Strege

There are many reasons to appreciate professional golfer turned CBS golf analyst David Feherty, among them his inherent irreverence.

It surfaced again in an interview with Los Angeles Times’ columnist Bill Dwyre.

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The background: Feherty, a native of Northern Ireland, played on the European Ryder Cup team in 1991, the War by the Shore. In 2010, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

So, who is he rooting for in the Ryder Cup this year?

“I'll root for the Americans," Feherty told Dwyre. "I pledged allegiance to the flag. Also, when I say that, it pisses off Colin Montgomerie."

The two have engaged in a feud of sorts, the basis of which apparently was Feherty having dubbed Montgomerie “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“I christened him Mrs. Doubtfire,” Feherty told Jay Leno on the Tonight Show in February of 2013, “because he just looked like Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“Did he take umbrage with that?” Leno asked.

“Let’s just say he was a little miffed,” Feherty replied.

In 2012, Feherty also said he was rooting for the U.S., though without adding the Montgomerie jab.

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Gear & Equipment

Mizuno's MP-15 iron is crammed with modern design but still appeals to better players

By E. MIchael Johnson

Mizuno has combined carbon steel and titanium before, in its MP-59 irons. With the launch of its new MP-15 irons, the company builds off that foundation.

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Whereas the MP-59 removed 20 grams of weight and replaced them with 11 grams of titanium, the MP-15 removes 38 grams and replaces them with 10 grams of titanium. The result provided designers with 19 grams of discretionary weight.

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The club also took elements from the MP-64 iron to produce a compact look to appeal to better players. In fact, Luke Donald gave feedback on the MP-15 during the design stage. The clubs ($1,000 for a set of eight, steel shafts) were shown to tour staff at the British Open and will be available at retail in September.


Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment.

 

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News & Tours

The Tiger Woods Nostalgia Tour and recalling a remarkable match-play victory

By John Strege

The Tiger Woods Nostalgia Tour opens today in Akron, Ohio, site of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament, we note wistfully, he has won eight times.

There was a time that Woods, in pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors, forced us to look ahead. These days, we are left looking back.

This brings us to the prestigious Western Amateur, now underway in Chicago. The Western Amateur has a gilded history, its winners including Francis Ouimet, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson and, yes, Tiger Woods.

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An 18-year-old Tiger Woods (Getty Images photo)

Tiger’s victory in the Western Amateur in 1994, when he was 18, included what has to rank among the best matches in the history of this tournament that began in 1899.

In a quarterfinal match with Chris Tidland, Woods opened a 4-up lead with six holes remaining. Tidland birdied each of the last six holes (including a chip-in from 60 feet at the 18th), which required that Woods birdie two of the last six just to take the match to extra holes.

Related: Dissecting Tiger Woods’ post-surgery swing

On the second extra hole, Tidland made another birdie, his seventh in eight holes, while Woods faced a 20-foot downhill putt for eagle. Woods, as he was wont to do in those days, holed the eagle putt to win the match on the 38th hole.

An aside to that Western Amateur:

Woods and his father, Earl, caught in Chicago traffic, missed their flight home after the final match, requiring that they add their names to the standby list for a later flight. They were mistakenly given boarding passes to the later flight, only to be asked to surrender them to the passengers for whom they were intended. They were then moved to the top of the standby list and made the flight home.

Had they not made that flight, Woods would have missed the U.S. Amateur qualifier the next day. Instead, he was able to play, qualified and the following month won the U.S. Amateur at the TPC Sawgrass.

The rest, as they say, is history, back when Woods routinely was making it.

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Instruction

#HelpMeGolfDigest: Solve your backswing issues with Brian Manzella

By Matthew Rudy

Golf Digest 50 Best Instructor Brian Manzella is known for his devotion to advancing the science of golf instruction -- and for his devoted internet fan base. The spirited instruction discussions on the forums at brianmanzella.com have received hundreds of thousands of page views in the last five years, and Manzella interacts daily with hundreds of teachers on his golf science Facebook page. 

This week, the popular pro from New Orleans mixes science with experience to break down several hashtagged swings submitted by GolfDigest.com readers for the regular #HelpMeGolfDigest project.

The first swing comes from @tom.carroll, who can get more power and control by trimming some extraneous moves from his swing. 

"Good swing, Tom, but we can make it better by eliminating some of the slack," says Manzella, who is based at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans. "Try to have your arms and club swing away from the ball while you make a little shift to your right foot. Your torso or hips should only be turning from that arm swing away from the ball. When the club is around parallel to the ground, push up from the ground from the inside of your right foot, which will help you get your left shoulder down more as the right shoulder goes up from that push. Then, push off that right foot as the club nears the top, so you can shift over to your left leg by the time your left arm is parallel to the ground coming down, which is earlier than you're doing now. Through impact, you want your left shoulder as far away from the ball as you can get it, with your hips forward and around and your body back like you're trying to hit a high shot. Do some mirror work and use the Angel Cabrera swing sequence as a model."

Reader @mike_haugen's backswing needs some adjusting to launch the ball with his driver.     
"Move your hands slightly more away from you as the take the club back, and rotate your left arm more when the club is about halfway," says Manzella, who has worked with David Toms and a host of other professional and top amateur players. "Those moves are going to temper your across-the-line position at the top. As you come down, rotate that left arm a little more while you start to twist the shaft closed. This will keep the club from getting too steep too soon. As you come down to the ball, you can go through with more of a covering moving with your right shoulder and arm, like you're trying to bounce a ball down the target line. Work on this with a middle iron and work your way up to your driver."

Manzella says a few upgrades are all that stand between @taylorcart1993 and a low single-digit handicap.     
"Swing toward the top feeling like your right arm is turning so that you could look into your hand," says Manzella. "This will have the effect of getting the club into a steeper position instead of being overly laid off. You can let that left elbow fly a little, like Jack Nicklaus did, which will help the club be less open at the top. You won't have to chase after it so much with your upper body on the downswing trying to square the face. Practice hitting shots behind some trees and using your new moves to launch it high, keeping your head back until you're near the finish."

With any change, Manzella says he likes to see players make a succession about a dozen of back-and-forth swings in succession to develop a feel for the new movements. "It helps smooth out all the rough edges," he says. "With an iron, you should be making a little divot both going and coming." 

Be sure to submit your swing videos via Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HelpMeGolfDigest. Another top teacher will be reviewing swings here next week. 

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Courses & Travel

Higher handicap golfers can enjoy Bandon Dunes, too

By Ashley Mayo

In 2013, I went to Bandon Dunes with three other guys. Our ages ranged from 26 to 32, and our handicaps ranged from 2 to 5. This year, I went to Bandon with seven other guys. Our ages ranged from 28 to 70, and our handicaps from 1 to 25. Same destination, two very different groups, one very similar outcome: we all had a blast.

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Our crew played The Preserve as an eightsome on the day we arrived. 

Whether you're an avid, accomplished golfer who thrives on a good challenge, or a weekend warrior who attempts to avoid any and all trouble, the five courses at Bandon Dunes manage to offer enough of a test for single-digit-handicap golfers without being too overwhelming for double-digit-handicap golfers.
 
Our higher-handicappers had this tremendous fear of losing a lot of golf balls. As it turns out, they lost very few. Don Scheck, a 23-handicapper, lost just one ball in five rounds (he lost it at Pacific Dunes), and says the courses are playable because there aren't a lot of forced carries, especially off the tees. "My drives mostly landed short of trouble as long as I hit them straight," says Scheck. "Approach shots and putting are what did me in."

Brian Bakst, a 22-handicapper, says he returned home with more balls than he brought. "And better ones," says Bakst. "When I went into the junk, I often came out with two or three beauties."
 
Scott Davies, who started playing golf when he was 65 years old (he’s now 69), says that the courses are not as intimidating as they might seem. "Having a caddie was a big assist," says the 25-handicapper. "And playing Preserve (the 13-hole par 3 course) first really increased my sense that I could play these courses and have fun. I lost a couple balls at Pacific Dunes but not otherwise."
 
The best decision we made all week was taking a "Links Lesson" led by Master PGA Professional Grant Rogers and PGA Professional Jake Sestero. They taught us, in just one hour, how to play golf in the wind, how to hit bump-and-run shots with putters, irons and hybrids, and how to lag putt.
 
"Some of the lessons I learned there carried with me the whole week," says Eric Hyland, an 11 handicapper. Among them: 

--Light hands on fast putts. 
--If you can run the ball up to the green, run the ball up to the green. Keep it low.
--Remember, the golf holes like to win, too.
--You might as well be the person having the most fun in your foursome.

That lesson was equally important to our higher-handicappers as it was to Tom Freeman, our 1-handicapper. "There aren't many courses in the United States where you'll learn how to hit a bump-and-run hybrid 123 yards, and then use it to give yourself a 4-foot birdie putt," says Freeman. "It's something I'll laugh and smile about for years."
 
I asked everyone in our group to answer the classic question that all golfers should answer after they’ve played each of the four regulation-length courses at Bandon Dunes: If you had 10 rounds to play at Bandon, how would you divvy them up? Collectively, our double-digit handicap golfers slightly prefer Old Macdonald—wild bounces on that course generally feed toward the green and can turn so-so shots into stellar ones, and it’s actually quite difficult to lose a ball there—and our single-digit handicap golfers would rather face Pacific Dunes—Tom Doak’s extreme design requires shot-making skills.

Other than that, our higher-handicappers and lower-handicappers appreciated Bandon Dunes just the same. "You better laugh when you think at the start of your shot that you're putting for birdie and then leave the hole with a double," says Tom Scheck, a 9-handicapper. "Good shots are going to roll under the lip of a bunker. It's a lot like life. You better roll with the good and bad bounces or you'll spend most of your time in misery."

But isn't it that kind of misery that keeps us nutty golfers coming back for more?

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News & Tours

Golf Digest contributor Dave Anderson on PEN/ESPN Award: 'I put that on same level as Pulitzer'

By John Strege

Dave Anderson, a Golf Digest Contributing Editor and long-time New York Times columnist, has been named the recipient of the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing.

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“I put that right on the same level as the Pulitzer Prize,” Anderson said via telephone from his New Jersey home. Anderson, whose career has spanned more than 50 years, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1981.

The PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award is “given to one living American or U.S.-based writer each year to celebrate their body of work and long-time contributions to the field of literary sports writing.”

Anderson is the fourth winner of the award, joining Roger Angell, Golf Digest’s Dan Jenkins, and Frank Deford, “three of my great heroes in life,” Anderson said.

The judges — Kostya Kennedy, David Rosenthal and John Schulian — noted that “for more than half a century, Dave Anderson has waded into the hurly-burly of sportswriting with quiet dignity and a true craftsman’s regard for the language. You didn’t read him for bombast or half-cocked opinion. You read him because, quite simply, he knew whereof he wrote…His integrity never wavered, his grace never disappeared on deadline, and his readers never got cheated. That’s the way pros operate, and Dave Anderson was the ultimate pro.”

Anderson has been a frequent contributor to Golf World, as well. His most recent column was on Babe Ruth’s golf obsession and can be read here.

(Getty Images photo)

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July 28, 2014

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