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PGA Tour

How I ruined Jordan Spieth's Masters chances


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Here's the thing: I picked Jordan Spieth to win the Masters. It wasn't an unheard of choice. The guy could play. It wasn't like I was tabbing Michael McCoy. Or Craig Stadler.


The weird thing was I picked Spieth based on a formula. A statistical forecast. Sort of like Nate Silver. Only he's actually smart and uses valid means of interpolating data, regression analysis, and, well, other numbers-type stuff things. I just know how to work Microsoft Excel. A little. 

In any case, I crunched the PGA Tour stats leading up to the Masters in four categories I thought might be important skill sets: driving distance, greens in regulation, scrambling and strokes gained/putting. (Those were arbitrary choices, which I believe is Latin for "makes sense to me, but I could be way off base here.") I compared the averages in those categories for the last 10 Masters winners and found an overall average for those figures. Then, I found the current PGA Tour player with a cumulative statistical average right in line with the 10-year average. That turned out to be Jordan Spieth. (Actually, David Hearn had pretty much the same number but he had the misfortune of not actually being a participant in the Masters. I deemed that a fairly solid reason for not picking him.)

So Spieth came close. In this completely random format. Last time I tried something similar, I wasn't close at all. (Boo Weekley missed the cut at last year's U.S. Open despite having a perfectly matching stat number, what I somewhat regrettably referred to at the time as "Super Rank," which as things turned out, is precisely what it was.) 

But I have faith in the numbers, and in another way, they were pretty accurate. Turns out, the guy with the lowest cumulative average in my four ranking statistical criteria was, that's right, Dustin Johnson.  OK, not that impressive. But the guy who made the cut at the Masters who had the lowest Super Rank? That guy was Bubba Watson. So, there, it's really quite predictive. Until some youngster finds himself leading the biggest tournament in golf on Sunday afternoon. No amount of statistics can account for that. 


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News & Tours

Preparing for the anchor ban, Tim Clark practices sidesaddle putting

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Tim Clark is one of the players most likely to be affected by the USGA's upcoming ban on anchored putting, and not just because he's been using such a stroke for almost 20 years.

Clark has a rare condition that prevents him from being able to supinate his wrists. So, while other pros can return to a short putter, Clark's condition physically eliminates that option. 

"Now we are going to have to explore our options," Clark told Golf World last year. "I planned to play until I physically no longer could play. Now I've been told I'm going to have to change the way I putt in a few years. Now my future is uncertain."

Related: GIF: Tim Clark makes hole-in-one on Oak Hill's longest par 3

But with change fast-approaching, Tim Clark, who ordinarily anchors his putter into his chest, is preparing for the future ahead. On the putting green the day before the first round of the 2014 RBC Heritage, Clark discussed the upcoming ban with members of his team and hit a handful of putts sidesaddle.


Sam Snead popularized the method after putting sidesaddle for the tail-end of his career. On the opposite end of the spectrum, comedian Larry David said on 'Feherty' that he putts sidesaddle because he finds it more fun than putting conventionally.

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Clark said that while he's obviously aware of the upcoming ban, he's still a long way from deciding what method he will employ.

"I've tinkered around with a handful of techniques, but I haven't really looked into it much further" Clark said. "I don't have a clear idea yet of what I'm going to do."



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Celebrity

This Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher might love golf more than anyone

By Alex Myers

Meet Kyle Lohse. A total golf fanatic, who just happens to be a starting pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Related: Baseball stars who love playing golf

On Monday, Lohse appeared on MLB Network's "Intentional Talk," and golf, not the Brewers' hot start to the season, was the main topic of conversation. Here's the clip:

Among the highlights:

-- Lohse is a member of Whisper Rock Golf Club. (He holds a 1.3 handicap index)

-- Lohse recently joined Twitter (@KyleLohse26) because he lost a golf bet. Considering it was against three golfers playing a scramble, though, it's tough to really count that as a loss. 

-- Lohse was ranked T-33 in Golf Digest's 2009 ranking of the Top 150 Athlete-Golfers. Lohse was NOT happy to be ranked behind former teammates Adam Wainwright and Nick Punto. "I'm going to have check their scorecards and see what scores they're putting in."

-- Lohse said his dream golf foursome would be Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and himself. Man, this guy really loves golf. 

-- Lohse also said the teammate he'd least like to play 18 holes with is fellow pitcher Marco Estrada, because a round "should take three and a half to four hours, but with him it takes five." He's against slow play as well!

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Now that Lohse is on Twitter, his background picture is of a golf course -- presumably Whisper Rock -- and one of his first tweets asked followers to check out a Brewers music video while they waited for Masters TV coverage to start. Again, this guy really loves golf.

At 35, Lohse, who has never had a golf lesson and whose handicap is just above his best ever (1.1), is also pitching as well as ever. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.05 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, 21 strikeouts and seven walks in 20.2 innings. You probably wish you drafted him on your fantasy baseball team right about now, don't you?

The Grind: Everything you need to know from the week in golf

Unfortunately for him, the start of the baseball season seems to have slowed down his golf. After putting 14 scores in the computer before April, he hasn't played since. Then again, he might just be keeping his playing a secret from his manager. . .

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News & Tours

Joe Buck: 'Bag of autographed baseballs will get you on a lot of great golf courses'

By John Strege

The report from Sports Business Daily on Tuesday that Joe Buck would anchor Fox Sports’ golf telecasts was not a surprise, given that he is the de facto voice of Fox Sports and an avid golfer.

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He is a member of Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis and Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo., and has a handicap index of 3.6. Old Warson hosted the Ryder Cup in 1971 and Boone Valley was named the best course in Missouri on Golf Digest’s Best in State rankings.

Five years ago, at the American Century Championship, the annual Lake Tahoe celebrity tournament, I spent some time with him, talking about his passion for the game.

“When I was doing 162 Cardinals games a year, we'd be in San Francisco for three and play all day at the Olympic Club, or we'd go to Chicago and play Medinah,” he said then. “Don't tell anybody, but a bag of autographed baseballs, especially when Mark McGwire is on the team, that will get you on a lot of great golf courses.”

He also said then that he had a residence at the El Dorado Golf and Beach Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, “where I see Hank Haney a lot, where a lot of the PGA Tour players go to relax and play. I played with Freddie Couples this year a couple of times. Pat Perez is there all the time. It's a worthy golf course and probably the toughest, best greens I've ever played.”

Buck, 44, said, “I put as much time into my golf game as just about anything in my life, and probably have since I turned 25 or 26.” He said he would just as soon hit balls on the range as playing 18 holes, citing the solitude. “I like to be in my own corner of the range, not talking,” he said. “I talk for a living. I get sick of hearing myself talk.”

Last year, Fox Sports reached a 12-year agreement with the USGA to broadcast its events, beginning in 2015.

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News & Tours

Jordan Spieth recovered from his Masters loss by playing Ping-Pong

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- After the final round of the 2014 Masters, Jordan Spieth's mind kept drifting: to thoughts of losing the Masters; of one day winning it; to Sunday's tee shot on the 12th hole -- the only shot, he said, he would like to have taken a mulligan on.

"I let the 20-year-old inside of me just barely slip out," he said. "I held it in so long of playing safe, and I hate having a 9-iron and not being able to go at the pin."

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Related: Table tennis becomes the go-to game on tour

When Spieth got home after the round he was, by every measure, exhausted. Here's what he said about unwinding on Sunday night:

"I just wanted to hang out with (my friends and family) and just kind of soak in the week. Although I did that in between rounds, as well, I wasn't able to kind of really have the full experience of just seeing everybody. I tried to stay away from talking golf and stay away from the tournament.

"We went back and had some dinner back at [my manager's] house, and just played some Ping-Pong, pool, hung out for the night. After the media and everything, when we got away from the golf course it was pretty late. We just slept it. . .it meant a lot to me to have close family and family friends there."

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News & Tours

No end to the roll the Alabama men are on in the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll

By Ryan Herrington

If surprise is what you're looking for from this edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf men's Division I college coaches' poll, then I'm sorry to disappoint you. Alabama sitting in the top spot is the farthest thing from surprising, having held the No. 1 ranking all season.

The Crimson Tide got back to their winning ways with a victory at the Mason Rudolph Championship earlier this month. It was Alabama's sixth tournament triumph in nine starts this season as the squad prepares to defend the SEC title it has won the last two seasons and see if they can also make it back-to-back victories at the NCAA Championship.

Suffice it to say, there wasn't a whole lot of movement within the top 25 overall as teams settle in for conference championship season:


poll-men-d1-0421-518.jpgA few tidbits from the latest D-I poll:

* Oklahoma State picked up the other first-place vote and moved into the No. 2 spot in the ranking. The Cowboys have four victories in 2013-14 and have finished no worse than fourth in their 10 starts as they too prepare for their conference championship.

* Alabama found its way into the top five of the Golf World poll for the 51st time since the poll was reinstated in 2001-02. That's the third most top-five appearances of any men's program. The only two programs to have been in the top five more often are Oklahoma State (77) and Georgia (56). UCLA is now alone in fourth place at 50.

* Vanderbilt finished second to Alabama at the Mason Rudolph, its home tournament. The finish, coupled with a victory the previous week at the Talis Park Challenge helped the Commodores move into the No. 14 spot in the latest poll, the highest the school has been ranked since the polls resumed.



poll-men-d2-0421-250.jpgBarry University remained the unanimous choice for the No. 1 ranking in the latest Division II men’s coaches’ poll. The Buccaneers earned all 16 first-place votes as won their fifth tournament of the 2013-14 season at their home event at the end of last month. After voting closed, they also managed to win their conference championship as they prepared for the NCAA post-season in which they hope to defend their national title.
 
USC-Aiken moved from No. 5 to No. 2 in the most recent poll, with Lynn, CSU-Monterey Bay and Chico State rounding out the top five.


poll-men-d3-0421-250.jpgIllinois Wesleyan held on to the top ranking in the latest Division III coaches’ poll. The Titans have two victories and a runner-up finish to show for their play thus far in the spring semester as they claimed nine of the 14 available first-place votes. The squad begins the postseason this week with its conference championship.
 
Jumping one place into the No. 2 spot in the poll is Oglethorpe. The Stormy Petrels prepare for their conference championship after winning two of four stroke-play events this spring and four overall in the 2013-14 season.

poll-men-naia-0421-250.jpgOklahoma City reclaimed its spot atop the latest NAIA coaches’ poll. The Stars earned three of nine first-place votes to move from the No. 2 spot in the last poll thanks to victories at the Battle at Primm and the Oklahoma Baptist Spring Invitational, lifting their season-long win total to five.
 
Previously No. 1 Wayland Baptist dropped just one spot and claimed two first-place votes. The Pioneers finished runner-up to Oklahoma City at the Battle at Primm and were sixth at the Bash at The Beach.

poll-men-njcaa-0421-250.jpgOdessa and South Mountain claimed the top spots in the latest NJCAA Division I and Division II polls, respectively. Odessa moved up from No. 2 in the previous D-I poll while South Mountain retained its No. 1 ranking in D-II, earning five of the seven available first-place votes.
 
McLennan, the previous No. 1 ranked team in D-I fell to No. 3 with Midland filling the No. 2 spot.


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Instruction

Here are three drills Nick Faldo is doing that might help your game

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Nick Faldo isn't playing in the RBC Heritage Pro-Am on Wednesday but he was on the range anyway, geeking out to videos just like in 1985. But this time, he's going through some of the same struggles that are daunting golfers everywhere as the season starts up again.

Faldo says he can't turn as much as he used to -- a common trait, he says, among golfers his age (56). He's also coming too far from the inside on the way through, leading to blocks and hooks. And he can't hit as many balls as he used to because of his bothersome shoulder, so he's trying to fix the first two things without spending all day on the range.

"Just trying to rekindle the old magic," Faldo said. "When you get older everything stiffens, so you've got to really work to get the muscles moving."

Related: My Shot: Nick Faldo

Here's a video of him on the range, doing some drills that he says helps him fight back time:

In the first drill, Faldo is hitting normal shots making sure the golf glove under his left armpit stays there. If the glove falls out during the swing, Faldo says that means his arms are moving too far right on the downswing, leading to blocks and hooks.

The second clip is what Faldo does to feel a bigger turn on the backswing. He says he'll hit five balls or so, then back away and make five or so practice swings, feeling like he's stretching into the position he wants. "I'm trying to feel like I'm getting deeper with my arms; making a big turn and trying to hold it for a second or so more."


The third clip is a drill Faldo uses to work on his transition from the backswing to the downswing. It's called the "pump" drill because that's what it looks like; Faldo will get to the top of his backswing, pump the first move of the downswing without hitting the ball, then turn back again and swing through. This helps Faldo get his arms into the position he wants, while quickly ingraining his preferred move into muscle memory.

And finally, he always makes sure to practice with a goal in mind:

"I'm trying to match the 1996 Masters swing with the 1990 [British] Open putting stroke", he says. "If I can do that, I'll be in good shape."

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Courses & Travel

Unofficial Guide: Hilton Head Island

By Matthew Rudy

Water Wonderland
Ask about any "best of" on the PGA Tour and you won't get many undisputed responses. One is Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island for "Best party scene, non-college division." The Phoenix Open has mega-grandstands and football-type crowds. Hilton Head has the tour's greatest hospitality tents--both public and private--and Calibogue Sound as its 18th hole venue. 

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Boats both rented and private flock to the Harbour Town Yacht Basin for tournament week, acting as golf viewing platforms during the day and floating speakeasies at night. Enjoy the Heritage's sprawling Grey Goose hospitality venue for cocktails at lunch then troll the sound and soak up the sun in the afternoon -- assuming you've either made the right friends or spent $975 for a 12-hour boat rental (crew not included) at H20 Sports

Hole in One
Hilton Head Island is golf crazy this week, but every day is cornhole day. The legendary Southern tailgating game --a kind of beanbag-tossing version of horseshoes--has gone civilized, with bars setting up their own games for patrons to play while enjoying a drink. The Old Town Dispensary in downtown Bluffton has a full array of indoor and outdoor entertainment -- the Southern Slammer burger topped with smoked pork, cole slaw, pickles and barbecue mayo, live bands nightly and a firepit and cornhole "arena." Just remember that cornhole takes a lifetime (or three beers) to master. Like in golf, spin produces control. 

Spring Training
With another round of freezing temperatures and snow in the Northeast and Midwest, Hilton Head looks even better as a quick spring golf getaway. The island has a terrific airport, and temperatures in mid-April average in the low 70s. Hilton Head has been a golf destination since the late 1950s, and there are dozens of courses within 20 miles of Harbour Town. The package deals offered by the Heritage Collection are a great opportunity to sample some of the best. The group is made up of seven tracks -- Oyster Reef, Palmetto Hall's Cupp and Hills courses, Port Royal's Robber's Row, Planter's Row and Barony courses and the Shipyard Golf Club. Combine two to five of the courses for rates ranging from $238 to $470. Rees Jones' Oyster Reef is the one you can't miss. 

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Fantasy Golf

Fantasy Fix: Who will take home the plaid jacket?

By Alex Myers

Believe it or not, there's another PGA Tour event this week. The Masters has come and gone, but the tour moves on. This week, it stops at one of players' favorite courses: Harbour Town GL. Another jacket is up for grabs, but it's plaid instead of green. In other words, the Masters may be tougher to win than the RBC Heritage, but winners in Hilton Head always have a trickier time matching their shirts to their new sport coat. Here are our thoughts on who will face that dilemma come Sunday:

The Grind: Why Bubba Watson really went to the Waffle House after winning the Masters

Starters -- (A-List): Luke Donald. Other than last week's missed cut at Augusta National, Donald has been in the top 25 in all four stroke-play starts in 2014. It's hard not to see that streak continuing at an event where he's finished in the top three four of the past five years.

(B-List): Zach Johnson. Another guy who missed the cut at the Masters, Johnson doesn't have as strong of a record at Harbour Town as Donald, although he did finish runner-up in 2012. We're more banking on the fact ZJ won't have two bad weeks in a row.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

(B-List): Jim Furyk. The Grinder has been in the top 20 in four of his last five starts, including a T-14 at Augusta National. Furyk has a win and two runner-ups at Harbour Town.

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(C-List): Harris English. A missed cut at the Masters was his the first of the season for a man who trails only Matt Kuchar in top 10s on the PGA Tour this season.

Bench/Backups: Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas, Stewart Cink, and Kevin Na.

Related: 11 sleepers to watch in 2014

Knockout/One-and-done pick: Jim Furyk. We're going with our lone starter who played the weekend at Augusta National last week. Furyk has quietly (and slowly) played some solid golf this year. We hope he's wearing something on Sunday that looks good with plaid -- preferably, something different than what's shown above. . .

Previously used: Keegan Bradley (Doral), Tim Clark (Sony), Graham DeLaet (Phoenix), Luke Donald (Valspar), Rickie Fowler (Honda Classic), Bill Haas (Farmers), Charles Howell III (Humana), Freddie Jacobson (Valero), Dustin Johnson (Northern Trust), Martin Laird (Kapalua), Graeme McDowell (Bay Hill), Adam Scott (Masters), Jordan Spieth (Houston), Jimmy Walker (Pebble -- winner!).

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News & Tours

Missing links: Bubba’s tears, Augusta’s roars and Jimenez’ cigars

By John Strege

Stories of interest you might have missed...

A blubbering Bubba is a given anytime Bubba Watson wins a tournament. A serial weeper, Watson broke down as soon as he holed his final putt at Augusta National on Sunday (see photo below). Why, a headline on this story by Helen Branswell of the Canadian Press asked, do we cry tears of joy? Branswell sought an answer from a professor of clinical psychology, a crying expert.

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(Getty Images photo)

The roars at Augusta National, though largely missing on an anti-climactic back nine on Sunday, are magical. “You can hear the cheers and groans at Augusta like no other place,” Ben Crenshaw said. John Paul Newport of the Wall Street Journal investigates the reasons why.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson virtually has guaranteed Tiger Woods a spot on the team. The question is why, given Woods’ Ryder Cup record and the fact he’s likely to miss much of the season in the run-up to the Ryder Cup? Good question, too, and it was posed by James Corrigan of the Telegraph.

Speaking of the Ryder Cup, the teams are beginning to take form, even five months before the matches begin at Scotland’s Gleneagles. Martin Dempster of the Scotsman provides an early analysis.

Once again, Miguel Angel Jimenez captivated us with his performance, stretching routine, lifestyle. Now 50, he finished fourth in the Masters. Here, in an older story that resurfaced on its website in the wake of Jimenez’ performance, is a Cigar Aficionado account of that lifestyle.

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