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News & Tours

Lexi Thompson threw a really terrible first pitch at a Miami Marlins game

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Lexi Thompson may be one the longer hitters on the LPGA Tour, but that skill doesn't seem to translate to the baseball mound.

Bestowed with the honor of throwing out the first pitch at the Miami Marlins game on Wednesday, the LPGA's newest major champ seemed excited in the build up.

But it didn't go so well. Lexi threw the ball wide left and into the dirt, sending the mascot who was assigned to catch the ball running in a desperate attempt to save it. She even tweeted about her throw afterwards. Notice how the smiley face turned into a concerned face.

That said, it's hard to imagine Lexi losing any sleep over it. She does have a nice, new major championship to cheer her up, after all.

Here's a clip of her talking about her throw on Golf Channel:

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News & Tours

7 pictures that explain Friday at the RBC Heritage

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- As expected, after a glorious day on Thursday, cold, wet and rainy weather rolled into the RBC Heritage on Friday. Most of the morning groups finished but 65 players were left on the course when play was suspended and, eventually, called for the day. It will resume at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

"It's not fun when it's blowing 20 miles an hour every different direction and it's raining at the same time," Robert Allenby said. "It was nice to get out of there." Allenby moved from two-under to four-under and into second place by the time play was called.

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Luke Donald also sprung up the leader board. His Friday 69 moved him into T-3 by the time play was called. "It looks like I'm on the right side of the draw this week," Donald said. "I hit 15 greens today. If I got a little hotter with the putter, it could have been really special."

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But by the time play was called, the lead belonged to K.J. Choi and his yellow golf ball, which he is using for the first time this week. His four-under 67 was the low round of the day by the time play was called, and left him a shot clear of Robert Allenby.

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In non-weather news, after an opening-round 72, an injury to Ball Haas' wrist forced him to withdraw from this year's tournament before his 12:50 p.m. tee time. Here's a picture of him looking some combination of angry and sad:

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John Daly opened with a three-over 74, and then returned on Friday wearing pants with scantily-clad women on them. "I'm going to try to make them smile today," Daly said of his pants before his round.

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Jordan Spieth got a taste of his own medicine on Friday when he was beat by someone younger than him. Reigning U.S. Amateur Champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, 19, was two-under for most of the day before making a double bogey in bad weather on the 16th hole. He still finished with an even-par 71, one shot better than Jordan Spieth through 36-holes.

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Finally, we conducted an audit on PGA Tour players' headwear at the 2014 RBC Heritage. How'd it turn out? Unsurprisingly, a vast majority of players -- almost 80 percent -- still prefer traditional hats. What's more interesting, though, is how flat brims seem to be gaining in popularity. Of the players counted, visors held just an eight percentage point lead over flat brims. Could there be a new preferred secondary-choice of headwear on the PGA Tour sometime soon?

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Style

Flat brims are losing the war against normal hats, but they're gaining ground on visors

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- You may not realize it, but there's a war raging on the PGA Tour. It's between people who like flat brims, people who don't like flat brims, and people who don't really care about flat brims or the war.

On second thought, the word "war" might be a bit much, but since Rickie Fowler and his flat brim burst onto the scene, the ground is definitely shifting.

Related: Is it OK for Fowler to wear hat backwards?

For reasons unknown even to us, we decided to conduct an audit of what everybody in the RBC Heritage field wore on Friday to help give us gauge the current state of affairs. Of the 131 players in who teed it up on Friday, here's how the headwear demographic breaks down:

103 (78 percent) normal hats
18 (14 percent) visors
8 (6 percent) flat brims
2 (~1 percent) no hat
1 (~1 percent) miscellaneous hats

First things first: you're probably wondering what a "miscellaneous hat" is. I classified a miscellaneous hat as any piece of headwear that isn't a flat brim, visor or normal hat. A straw hat, for example, or this thing:

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Anyway, as you can see, normal hats are obviously pretty far out in front, but flat brims are getting pretty close to visors. In theory, should flat brims manage to convert a few of those four non-traditional hat enthusiasts (John Daly, perhaps? He's one of the two non-hat wearers) and continue drawing from the pool of normal hat-wearers as they have done over the last few years, there could soon be a new secondary headwear choice on the PGA Tour. Buckle up.

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News & Tours

John Daly is wearing pants with scantily-clad women on them

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- It makes sense that on a cold and wet day at the RBC Heritage, John Daly's pants continue to be a ray of sunshine on the PGA Tour.

Daly, whose Loudmouth pants have made him something of a cult style icon in recent years, donned a pair of pants featuring a print of seductive-looking women. For those interested, the Loudmouth website lists the "Galaxy Girls" pants for $100.

Related: Some woman was crazy enough to let John Daly hit a golf ball out of her mouth

"I'm going to try to make them smile today," Daly said about his pants on the putting green before his second round tee-time. He shot a three-over 74 in the first round of the RBC Heritage.

Here's a picture of John Daly wearing his pants, smoking and putting. Or, in other words, multi-tasking:

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Another:

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Celebrity

5 things to talk about with your buddies on the course this weekend

By Alex Myers

From sports to TV to politics (OK, so mostly the first two), we offer five hot topics that are sure to liven up your round of golf:

1. The Masters: There wasn't the usual Sunday back-nine drama at Augusta National, but there was still plenty to talk about. Bubba Watson's perfect 366-yard slice drive on No. 13? Ridiculous. A 20-year-old making a run at the green jacket? Amazing. A bunch of 50-year-olds playing their way into contention? More amazing. Speaking of which, Miguel Angel Jimenez will join Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer again this week when he makes his Champions Tour debut. Watching old guys play golf has never seemed so cool.

Related: The 18 shots that defined the Masters

2. The NBA Playoffs: The NBA's postseason begins this weekend with 16 teams believing they have a chance to win a title. Silly teams. In the East, it's a two-man show between the Heat and the Pacers, while the West is a little more open with four teams (Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, and Rockets) having a legit chance. Eh, make that three teams. Sorry, Rockets. Of course, if you don't get around to talking about the playoffs this week, it's OK. They go on for an eternity.

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Chris Paul vs. Stephen Curry in the first round? Yes, please.

3. The NHL Playoffs: Pro hockey's postseason is just getting underway as well! (Disclaimer: I am only mentioning this because my boss is a HUGE hockey fan -- one of 17 in this country.) Unlike in the NBA, any of the 16 teams have a chance to "ride a hot goalie to a Stanley Cup," says [insert expert hockey analyst's name]. We're going with the New York Rangers to win it all (Another disclaimer: My boss is a HUGE Rangers fan) because we've actually heard of heard good things about their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist.

4. "Transcendence": Apparently, this is the big movie opening in theaters this weekend. It's a sci-fi thriller involving experiments with human emotions. Wait, didn't this already come out? Ohh, that was "Inception." I guess the big twist here is that this movie stars Johnny Depp instead of Leonardo DiCaprio. I know, I shouldn't judge a movie by its title, especially when it's slim pickings out there. Hollywood must be in a post-Masters lull as well.

Related: Our favorite golf movie scenes

5. "Mrs. Doubtfire 2": Speaking of movies in the news, it seems as though a sequel of this 1993 film starring Robin Williams is in the works -- leading to so many questions. Why now? Would anyone actually miss that girl who said she doesn't want to be in it? Is Colin Montgomerie OK?! Poor guy. Just when he thought those Mrs. Doubtfire comparisons were finally dying down . . .

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Equipment

TaylorMade's SLDR brings white back

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By Mike Stachura

To show how quickly attitudes change in the golf industry, ten months ago TaylorMade introduced a limited edition black version of its white R1 driver. This week, it's launching a limited edition white version of its SLDR driver, called SLDR White. 

TaylorMade changed perceptions three years ago by introducing an all-white driver that featured a black face. The idea was the white body contrasted with the black face enabled the golfer to better focus on the intended target line. They even included studies by an opthamologist suggesting the contrast better activated optical neurons and retinal ganglion cells. 

By contrast, the decision to launch a black version was meant to resonate with the segment of the golf population that was emotionally disinclined to playing white drivers. The company then followed the R1 Black with the SLDR, which was neither white nor black, but a charcoal gray, almost a throwback to the color of metalwoods in the 1990s. 

Interestingly, while TaylorMade drivers comfortably  lead in the number of drivers played on the PGA Tour, only a year ago that number was overwhelmingly dominated by white drivers. Now, there's only about a handful in play on a weekly basis. Most TaylorMade players are using the original SLDR, but Kevin Stadler won at Waste Management in February using the white-crowned Burner SuperFast 2.0, the last win on the PGA Tour for a white driver, and is still using it.

Tom Kroll, TaylorMade product evangelist, described the company's position on white last summer this way. "We still as a company strongly believe in the performance and technology of white and the contrast of a white crown with a black face, and how it aids alignment and the entire aspect that white represents. I think we’re definitely standing behind that. It’s a part of our culture, and people have come to associate TaylorMade with white." 

In referring to the R1 Black last year, though, Kroll said, "It's more that we’re tugging at a heartstring that’s emotional for the golfer so that when they set this thing down and look at it they just got to have it."

Now, SLDR White ($400) comes to market extolling the same technological benefits as the original SLDR but in a color the company believes will resonate with consumers who purchased white metalwoods since they were first introduced in 2011. And there were plenty of those purchased, given the company's dominance of the metalwood market over those years. It's what TaylorMade's Brian Bazzel, senior director of metalwood product creation, calls "a remarkable appearance at address."

In addition to the white crown, the club features a black "button back" feature in the rear of the crown, designed to aid in alignment.

The key platform behind the SLDR driver is a center of gravity position that is low and forward. The idea is that this location produces lower spin and a more efficient energy transfer. The company believes the low spin benefits are best experienced when players utilize a higher loft than they might normally play in previous drivers. SLDR also includes two levels of adjustability. The hosel can be rotated to one of 12 locations that increase or decrease loft by as much as 1.5 degrees. Also, a sliding 20-gram weight in the sole can be positioned toward the heel, center or toe to effect draw, neutral or fade ballflights.

SLDR White will be in stores May 2.

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Instruction

The many putting grips of Hilton Head

By Matthew Rudy

Harbour Town's short, tight holes and tiny greens provide an almost unique challenge on today's PGA Tour. Appropriately enough, the collection of players at the top of the leader board Friday approach putting with a variety of unconventional techniques. Matt Kuchar, Tim Herron, K.J. Choi, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Jordan Spieth not only all use non-traditional putting grips, they all use a different flavor.

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Many instructors see Matt Kuchar's forearm-braced technique as the way forward for tour players who currently anchor a long putter at the chest or in the belly -- methods that will be banned for the 2016 season. Kuchar's grip and longer handle provide stability for those shaky hands and wrists, but within the rules. Kuchar ranks 22nd in total putting on the PGA Tour for 2014. 

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K.J. Choi uses a conventional length putter and hand position, but adds a dramatically oversize grip to his putter to reduce hand action. The big grip promotes a rocking-shoulders stroke, vs one manipulated by the hands. Choi is 53rd in total putting for 2014. 

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Jordan Spieth incorporates both a larger diameter grip and a cross-handed technique, with his left hand lower than his right. Spieth went to a cross-handed grip as a high school player to help square his shoulders at address and reduce his reliance on manually opening the face to square it through impact. Spieth is 52nd in total putting. 

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Tim Herron uses a claw grip--with his right hand turned so palm faces his thighs and the grip held like a pencil in the first two fingers and thumb. He's used a variation of the claw for more than a decade in a effort to beat the yips. Last year, he was 160th in the total putting. 

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19-year-old amateur Matthew Fitzpatrick uses a modified overlapping grip, with all four fingers of the right hand overlapping the fingers of the left hand, and the left index finger extended down the shaft. This grip also reduces the influence of the right hand on the putting stroke. Last year, Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Amateur and was low amateur at the British Open. He's expected to turn pro this year. 

If anything, Adam Scott's triumphant putt to win the Masters last year established that whatever stigma used to be attached to alternative putting styles is gone.  

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News & Tours

Weird Golf News of the Week: An airport is worried about stray golf balls on its runway

By Alex Myers

For the past month, Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Carter County, Tenn., has been dealing with stray golf balls on its runway. A lot of golf balls.

In the report, airport manager Dan Cogan said there have been "well over 100 balls" at the east end of the runway where planes take off and land. The balls have appeared on four different occasions during daily inspections for the airport, which handles about 100 flights per day.

Related: More weird golf news

So what's the big deal?

"An engine can suck a golf ball up into it causing engine failure or damage to the engine and can run into a lot of money right away. And then if it's a moving aircraft you could have a major incident causing up to loss of life," Cogan said.

In other words, as tempting as it is, don't use your nearest airport as a driving range.

Local authorities aren't categorizing this as a crime yet, but Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said there's potential for a "reckless endangerment" charge. Whoever is hitting the golf balls might not be doing it maliciously, but they don't seem to be getting there by accident. Especially considering the nearest golf course is seven miles away.

Here's the report from WJHL News Channel 11:

(h/t Yahoo!)

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Gear & Equipment

Move over Shot Tracker. Here's an app that lets you map out your round like a tour pro

By Brendan Mohler

With numerous apps on the market designed to help you navigate the golf course, discerning one from another can be difficult. The new entry from Hole19 could add to the confusion, or it could make things easier thanks to its cool look and simple operation.

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In addition to giving GPS yardages, the Hole19 app maps each shot you play, creating a graphic record similar to the PGA Tour's Shot Tracker (see larger below). The app uses map services to portray a satellite view of each hole, giving you a vivid picture of the dangers that lurk on the course. It can calculate your stats (GIR, fairways, etc.) to pinpoint areas for improvement.

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Best of all is the price: It's free in the iTunes app store, and each course is free to download.
 
Follow @brendanmohlerGW

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My Usual Game

Mean weather and the value of a shank-in-one

By David Owen

On the day after Income Tax Day, the weather in the Northeast turned vindictive, and my golf course -- which had been back in operation for less than a week -- disappeared under two inches of snow and ice. I had to travel that day, so I couldn’t have played anyway, but I still felt bullied. 

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The weather is going to have to win my trust back one day at a time, beginning this afternoon (assuming I can finish a couple of things I’m supposed to be working on). Still, I have less reason to be upset than Mike Reilly, a reader and a member of the World’s Second-Best Golf Club, whose first trip to the Masters, on practice-round Monday, was rained out after two hours. “Their rain-out policy is ‘better luck next year,’ he wrote from a motel room in Augusta (the club offered refunds). “I understand why it is that way, but that was a long way to drive to watch eight guys tee off No. 1.”

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While the weather was misbehaving, several of my friends conducted an email debate about the Sunday Morning Group’s hole-in-one policy, which Hacker (real name) implemented a couple of years ago. We collect $15 a man on Sundays, and three of those dollars go into the S.M.G. Slush Fund, with which we pay for things like community service, international relief efforts, and bottle openers. The Slush Fund also underwrites the S.M.G. hole-in-one prize, which is $500 if the hole-in-one occurs during our regular Sunday game, and $250 if it occurs during a sanctioned S.M.G. event on a different day or time. (A sanctioned event is any round of golf that the whole group knows about in advance, including the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday versions of our regular Sunday game.)

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No one has ever won the $500 prize, and only Reese has won the $250 prize (which he spent on drinks for everyone -- see photo above). That means that, by now, the hole-in-one prize is probably over-endowed, at least in theory. David W. asked whether a hole-in-one on our ninth hole (a short par 4, which long hitters occasionally reach from the tee) would count. The answer to that one was yes, of course. Then Fritz asked about holing out on No. 2 (a par 4) with your tee shot on No. 7 (a par 3). The second green is slightly closer to the seventh tee than the seventh green is, although the shot is probably tougher, because there are pine trees in the way. Addison said he thought the shot ought to count as long as it was a genuine shank. In other words, you can’t just aim for it. Further study.

Meanwhile, the wind on Monday was so strong that it peeled the moss right off a stump: 

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It also sent Hacker's pushcart rolling into a bunker and tipped it over. (Maybe there should be a prize for that, too.)

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