There wasn’t much snow to begin with, and most of what there was melted quickly, but Gary, our terrific superintendent, closed the course temporarily, because it was so cold that the remaining snow and frost were unlikely to go away before dark. That didn’t affect me directly, because I was traveling without my clubs for a little over a week, on a reporting assignment only tangentially related to golf. It didn’t affect Hacker (real name), either, because he had decided that, paradoxically, playing golf for three consecutive days with a broken finger had made the finger worse, not better. Still -- and I think I speak for everyone -- I am opposed to any form of weather that causes golf to be suspended. And then, on Monday, Gary closed our course for the season.
Before the bad weather hit, I had an opportunity to test two new pieces of equipment. Both are from eBags, one of a select group of companies for which I am an unpaid shill. The first item is the eBags Crew Cooler II:
It was designed as carry-on luggage for pilots and flight attendants, but it's perfectly suited to golf. It has an insulated cold compartment with a removable -- and replaceable -- waterproof liner, for beer and ice; it has a zippered top insulated compartment for stuff that doesn't have to be kept super cold, like sandwiches and Snickers bars; and it has lots of other useful features, including two mesh pouches, on the sides, for beverage bottles, plus a slot on the back that lets you slide the whole thing onto a roller bag, so that you can make it do double duty as a carry-on bag when you travel to play golf:
I attached mine to my pushcart by tightening the shoulder strap around my golf bag:
Just above my Crew Cooler I attached another recent acquisition: an eBags Padded Pouch -- the blue thing in the photo below. It contains my laser rangefinder, and I like it much better than the case that came with the rangefinder, because it's softer (though padded!) and it doesn't stick out as much I used a little carabiner to attach it to the towel ring on my bag, along with (as you can see) a lot of other stuff:
Padded Pouches come in sets of three, and they're incredibly useful for carrying or packing smallish delicate or annoying items, like phones, cameras, chargers, cables, batteries, power cords, whatever:
I've got six, and I traveled with four of them last week, including one that I filled with the CDs of the audio version of Book Three of A Game of Thrones, which I listened to as I spent a week driving through Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California.
Lydia Ko: With a playoff victory at the LPGA's CME Group Tour Championship, Ko not only won the season finale, but also claimed the tour's all-time biggest payday. Ko took home two trophies and a box containing $1 million in cash (nice touch, LPGA) for winning the tour's inaugural "Race to CME Globe." Keep in mind Ko turned pro about a year ago. How's that for good timing?
Henrik Stenson: Another golf "race" ended in Dubai, and while Stenson couldn't catch Rory McIlroy for the season-long bonus, he managed to defend his title at the DP World Tour Championship. Nothing could ever top the Swede's 2013 in which he won the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup to claim nearly $20 million in on-course earnings, but his 2014 wasn't bad, either. Hank the Tank is back to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking and No. 1 in the unofficial goofy trophy photos ranking:
Chris Como: Tiger Woods is turning an old 39 soon. Como, 37, is a relatively young instructor who also happens to be a specialist in biomechanics. This seems to be a good match if Woods ever hopes to have another injury-free year, let alone challenge Jack Nicklaus' major mark. At least we hope it's a good match for Tiger's sake. Being a guest contributor to a website doesn't pay quite as well as being a superstar golfer.
Stacy Lewis: While Ko was Sunday's big winner, it was Lewis who wrapped up all three major season-long awards. With her T-9, she clinched the LPGA's player of the year, finished first on the money list, and won the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. It's the second time in three years Lewis has won POY, but she's the first American to sweep those three distinctions in the same season since Betsy King in 1993. Congrats, Stacy, but we still think we'd rather have that box of cash.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello: Leading in Dubai with three holes to play, the Spaniard was in position for the biggest win of his career. Then he imploded. A double bogey on No. 16 was followed by another double bogey and Cabrera-Bello wound up T-9. Speaking of letting things get away from you quickly on the golf course. . .
John Hahn: How do you shoot 58 and only finish T-50 in a tournament? Easy. You back it up with a 78 the next day. The worst part of Hahn's remarkable 20-shot swing in the wrong direction was that it came in an event (European Tour Q School) where just finishing in the top 25 was the goal. Like Odell Beckham Jr.'s incredible catch coming in a loss by the New York Giants, Hahn's 58 will go down as one of the most useless great scores in golf history.
Engaged Paula Creamer: No, we're not jealous. We're just pointing out Creamer's struggles on the course as her wedding day approaches next month. After getting off to a good start in 2014 with a win and two T-3s in her first four events, Creamer had just one top 10 the rest of the year. That being said, she looks great and more importantly, she looks happy. We're looking forward to (hopefully) seeing the wedding photos and to seeing some better golf in 2015.
Nothing to speak of other than the Australian Masters. Take a break, golf fans. You've earned it.
Random tournament fact: Of course, Thanksgiving used to mean the Skins Game. With that, we remember the last Skins Game in 2008 when (*Googles "Skins Game"*) K.J. Choi beat then two-time defending champion Stephen Ames. Yep, that might have something to do with this event not being around anymore.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- A 17-year-old will win next year's FedEx Cup: 1 million-to-1 odds
-- Fred Couples misses the Skins Game: 10-to-1 odds
-- Stephen Ames misses the Skins Game: LOCK
WARDROBE PHOTOS OF THE WEEK
Apparently, former Golf Channel host Holly Sonders did a photo shoot with Sports Illustrated at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. Apparently, the photos aren't very, um, golf-y. . .
WARDROBE MALFUNCTION PHOTO OF THE WEEK
What's worse than opening with a 76? Opening with a 76 and splitting open your pants. Luke Donald found out the hard way:
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Alcohol!" -- A smiling Lydia Ko after being handed a bottle of champagne moments after securing the biggest payday in LPGA history. Lydia Ko is awesome.
THIS WEEK IN
LINDSEY VONN RORY MCILROY MAKING US LOOK BAD WITH HER HIS TRAINING
Well played, Justin. Well played.
VIRAL VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
Rory made us feel a bit better with this self-described "fat, low, duck-hook runner":
And then there's this beauty from Tiger's new coach, Chris Como. Apparently, making a golf swing while in mid-air is difficult.
We give him an 'A' for his effort, but just a 6 for the landing.
THIS WEEK IN AMANDA DUFNER-JASON DUFNER
PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION EXOTIC TRAVEL PHOTOS
While most people in the U.S. dealt with a brutal cold front, the Dufners seemed to enjoy their time in Thailand.
THIS AND THAT
Barack Obama and Derek Jeter enjoyed their first round of golf together so much that they stayed out to play another nine holes. It probably didn't hurt that they were playing Las Vegas' exclusive Shadow Creek. . . . Renato Paratore, 17, was one of 27 players to earn their European Tour cards for next season. If it weren't for Lydia Ko, the golf world would probably be making a bigger deal about this. . . . People are stealing disc golf baskets in Wisconsin. No, really. . . . Congrats to Director of Photography Christian Iooss for winning the 12th annual Golf Digest Turkey Putt. Instead of taking home a big box of cash, he had to settle for a turkey and taking some embarrassing photos.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Will the Skins Game ever return?
Who will wind up with more majors: Lydia or Rory?
What does it feel like to sit on $1 million in cash?
Now golf fans will have another offering to fill up their plate/throw off their dinner schedule.
Fox Sports, which officially becomes the broadcast partner of the USGA in 2015, gets an early jump into golf this Thursday with the rebroadcast of the 60-minute documentary "1962 U.S. Open: Jack's First Major." The film originally aired in 2012 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus' playoff win over Arnold Palmer at Oakmont Country Club and was the first documentary produced by the USGA for broadcast TV.
It won't take much to get die-hard golfers interested in watching the program, but here's a trailer for the film to tease you:
The film airs at 3 p.m. EST, preceding Fox's NFL Pregame show and the 4:30 p.m. broadcast of the Philadelphia-Dallas football game. Our suggestion: Gobble down your turkey at 2 p.m., push away from the table to watch Jack and Arnie at 3, then go for seconds on the turkey at 4.
The company is offering three bags -- Vibe and Pulse (above) carry bags and the Rhythm cart bag -- ranging from $120 to $190. Each features a wireless speaker (below, left) that plays out of a pocket that can also hold your smartphone, iPod or music device. An auxiliary cord is included to connect with your device.
The speaker's battery will last at least one round and can be charged from an outlet or computer (adaptor included). The bags come in multiple colors and has a cooler pocket in each style to keep drinks cold.
And for those looking to listen to music without disturbing other golfers, Orlimar is offering wireless headphones (below, right) for $29.
The Ojam Jambags will be available in January.
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But as Deadspin pointed out, Beckham really only used three of his right fingers to make his one-handed highlight. So why are we mentioning it on a golf blog?
Well, Ben Hogan advocated practicing with just a three-finger grip in the right hand in his iconic instruction book, "Five Lessons." Hogan suggested taking the thumb and forefinger -- "potential swing-wreckers" -- off the club and taking practice swings to give a golfer "a wonderful sense of having just one corporate hand on the club." Here are the drawings on page 31 of what it should look like:
So go ahead and try Hogan's drill while you're stuck indoors this winter to get that correct feeling of having your hands work together in the golf swing. If you're playing football this Thanksgiving, though, it's probably best to leave the back-bending, gravity-defying, full-extending, one-handed catch attempts to the pros.
McIlroy, 25, wrapped up his season on the European Tour with a T-2 at the DP World Tour Championship. He had already sewed up the season-long Race to Dubai title and $1.25 million bonus without even playing in the tour's first three playoff events.
Two months ago, the World No. 1 finished an even more impressive campaign on the PGA Tour. McIlroy was nipped in the FedEx Cup Playoffs by a red-hot Billy Horschel, but his $8.2 million in non-bonus earnings led the tour.
Aside from the money, though, McIlroy's results on the world's two biggest tours in 2014 stood out for their remarkable consistency. McIlroy may not have been sharp in every round -- his Day 2 struggles were well documented -- but he really struggled just once the entire season.
McIlroy shot 74-69 to miss the cut at the Irish Open and even that performance came with a built-in excuse. McIlroy was jet-lagged from flying to Ireland from the previous week's U.S. Open and his clubs didn't show up until Wednesday after the airline lost them for a couple of days.
That's it. One bad week. And it wasn't even that bad. And it wasn't even all his fault.
Overall, McIlroy played in 24 events. He finished in the top 25 in every tournament other than the Irish Open and racked up 17 top 10s and four wins, including two major championships and the Euro Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA. Isolating his PGA Tour performance, McIlroy finished in the top 25 in all 17 starts and in the top 10 on 12 of those occasions.
Placing McIlroy's 2014 among golf's all-time great seasons isn't a stretch when you consider that kind of consistency. Of course, it's not quite Tiger Woods' 2000 campaign (nine wins, three majors, 22 of 22 top 25s and 19 of 22 top 10s), but what is?
In contrast, McIlroy had 27 top 10s and 38 top 25s in 70 career PGA Tour starts entering this season. The weeks in which he's on his game have always impressed, but now his ability to play solid golf even when he's off has brought him to another level.
Wherever McIlroy makes his PGA Tour return in 2015, he'll arrive with 17 straight top 25s, having won two straight majors, and having had one straight all-time great seasons. How's that for streaky?
There is still a dent in the ceiling at the Westlake Golf Course golf shop that Chris Como left when he was swinging a club as a teenager growing up north of Los Angeles. "I didn't come from money, so I'd pick up balls at the range and read a lot about golf instruction," Como said after leaving his lesson with Trevor Immelman over the weekend. "I was studying what was out there, but not buying into anything."
That dent Como left could be famous someday, as the 37-year-old biomechanist/ swing instructor has been entrusted with one of the most important roles in modern golf history. As the newly named "swing consultant" for Tiger Woods, Como hopes his teaching background and education in biomechanics could be the elements that reinvigorate the race to Jack Nicklaus' major-championship record. Como is not the big name many anticipated, but among instruction circles he is far from a no-name, and to those who know his work and background, Como is the right man for the job.
Of course Notah Begay III would say that, because he handpicked Como. And so would instructors like Grant Waite and Mike Adams, because Como has worked alongside or under them. So why is he perfect for Woods, six years without a major, about to turn 39, and coming off a season that was continually interrupted by back issues? "Because he's not a method teacher," Begay said.
In his role as sounding board, a job that started with a heart-to-heart talk among Stanford teammates after the PGA, Begay believed that Woods needed to go back to what he did well in the '90s. Como hopes to help Woods find some of that feel.
"It's such an interesting story, where he's ended up," Southern Cal coach Chris Zambri said of Como. "He's so smart, but more important, he's always searching. He never takes anything for granted that he read or heard. That's why he is where he is."
It wasn't long ago that Como was building his lesson book at Gleneagles CC in Plano, Texas, and taking night courses at Texas Women's University in North Dallas. Driving an old Chevy Trail Blazer, he was talking to Zambri at a light when the old SUV started smoking. When we spoke, Como laughed about driving a vehicle worth $1,000 with a $25,000 Track- Man in the back seat that he took out a loan to buy.
That's when Begay met him. Como spent his first 16 years as a coach working as an intern at the David Leadbetter Academy, spending time with Hank Haney and going through a Mac O'Grady MORAD program, but it was a less famous group of instructors and ultimately professors who were more influential.
As for working with a rock star like Tiger, Como admitted to being nervous when they started working together three weeks ago. After some meditation, he asked himself if he felt like the best person to help Tiger. He came away feeling, "I do."
"I would say once we got in the mode of talking golf swing, that's my Zen, that's my world," Como said. "When I'm into that world, on the range, teaching, talking golf swings, that's sort of what I do."
To Como, it's all about using the science, using the teaching and always searching for ways to make the golfer autonomous. "The idea of having a person rely on a teacher is bad," Como said. "You have to know about yourself, rely on yourself."