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News & Tours

Is the prep class of 2011 threatening to stage a PGA Tour coup?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Is this the beginning of a PGA Tour coup? Or a better question: Who let them out of day care?

OK, so they're actually high school graduates, class of 2011, and college dropouts. But already they are making an impact on the PGA Tour.

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(Getty Images)

"Our graduating class of 2011 has probably eight or nine tour players that will come out of it," the trendsetter among them, Jordan Spieth, said. "There's, what, three or four on the PGA Tour, another couple on the [Web.com Tour] already, and we should still be in school."

Two of this group turned up on the leader board midway through the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Friday -- Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas. Each is 21 and turned professional after their sophomore years in college, Berger from Florida State and Thomas from Alabama.

And suddenly, Phil Mickelson, 44, and Tiger Woods, 39, look even older, having missed the cut here.

Spieth, Thomas and Berger have been competing against one another since their junior golf days. Thomas and Spieth, meanwhile, are close friends, who clearly enjoy the banter.

"I hope we can compete, getting in the thick of things," Spieth said. "It's been awhile, a couple of college events we've been able to do so together. I will bring up a couple of those events, like the national championship. We played a match against each other. He hates when I bring that up."

Spieth already is a tour winner and a factor, and Thomas is closing quickly, having finished in the top seven in three of his last four tour events, including a tie for seventh in the Humana Challenge last week.

"The last three winners of the Haskins Award [as college player of the year] have all been 2011s," Thomas, the 2012 winner, said. Patrick Rodgers of Stanford won it last year and Michael Kim of California in 2013.

"I think it's really cool, because in two, three, four, five years there will be a lot of us up there."

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News & Tours

Somehow, Tiger Woods conjures up comedy in wake of his worst round as a pro

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Well, there’s always stand-up comedy should professional golf cease to be an option for Tiger Woods. Or not.

After signing for the worst score of his professional career, an 11-over par 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Woods stepped to the podiumat the TPC Scottsdale for a brief interview session.

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“I’m just doing this so I don’t get fined,” he said with a smile, playfully echoing Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.

Good that he was able to laugh in the wake of a pitiful performance that sent him packing early. But the chipping yips, if that indeed is what he is experiencing, are no laughing matter.

And there is a growing coalition of those who opt for yips over technique to explain the inexplicable, the inability of arguably the best player in history to execute shots once considered routine.

On Thursday, Golf Channel’s Arron Oberholser cited the yips. Colt Knost and Dottie Pepper used the word in Tweets on Friday.

“Never fun seeing, let along reporting on, 2 dreaded topics in golf: shanks & yips,” Pepper wrote. “Sadly, Tiger has the latter. Nerves not mechanics.”

The worst of his short-game mishaps came on the par-3 fifth hole, where Woods bladed a chip over the green and into a bunker.

“Well, it’s the pattern,” he said, citing the swing changes he has made with instructor Chris Como as the cause of his short-game woes. “My attack angle was much deeper with Sean [Foley, his previous instructor]. Now I’m very shallow. So that in turn affects the chipping. I’m not bottoming out in the same spot. It’s a different spot.”

He did allow that it’s a mental problem as well, “because the physical pattern is different. So the trust is not quite there. I’m not bottoming out in the same spot. Yeah, to an extent, it is [mental], but I need to physically get the club in a better spot.”

The chipping yips are debilitating and capable of ending careers. Australian Brett Ogle won twice on the PGA Tour when he developed the putting yips that spread to other parts of his game, including chipping. He even tried chipping left-handed for a time before he was driven into retirement.

A European Tour rookie, Jason Palmer, has successfully countered the yips by chipping one-handed.

Woods is not that desperate, notwithstanding a front nine on a cool wet day here that would seem to call for desperate measures. He double-bogeyed his fifth hole and tripled his sixth en route to an eight-over par 44, equaling the worst nine of his career.

“We all have days like this,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, mine was in a public setting. We take the good with the bad.”

Woods then headed straight to his courtesy car and would soon be heading home to Florida to practice in advance of his start in the Farmers Insurance Open next week in San Diego.

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Trending

The world is in a collective state of disbelief after Tiger's 82

What is there left to say after Tiger Woods' 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open? More than you think, actually.

As the world tries to comprehend how a 14-time major champion, the best player of his or possibly any generation, can duff, fluff, flub, and blade his way to the worst score of his professional career, a great deal of the hand-wringing was taking place on Twitter. A sampling:

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Celebrity

5 things to talk about on the course: The Super Bowl, Tiger's troubles, and Apple's domination

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 Super Bowl: OK, we're ready to put "Deflategate" to bed and move onto the actual game. Well, first check out these incredible fumble stats by the Patriots since teams were allowed to use their own footballs on offense. A bit shady, right? OK, now we're moving on. What a matchup. Brady vs. Wilson. Belichick vs. Carroll. Revis vs. Sherman. Gronk vs. Beast Mode. And yes, there's plenty to talk about with Marshawn Lynch's refusal to talk about anything, but again, we're focused on the game since this could be an instant classic.

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As someone rooting as hard for the Seahawks as your typical golf writer roots against a Monday playoff, my biggest fear is the Patriots' cornerbacks completely shutting down Seattle's unimpressive wide receivers. As a result, I'm going to (gulp) predict New England wins 24-19. But boy, do I hope I'm wrong. PLEASE let me be wrong.

Related: NFL stars who love playing golf

2. Tiger's return: The week got off to an inauspicious start when he bladed a bunker shot into the crowd on TPC Scottsdale's 16th hole. Some claimed Woods did that on purpose, but "LOL" to that as the kids say. He then chunked, bladed and blocked his way around the course for most of Thursday, giving the Golf Channel cameramen a real workout before hitting a couple brilliant shots on the way in to salvage a 73. And it got worse on Friday, including a double bogey-triple bogey stretch during a front-nine 44. So much for Woods playing on Super Bowl Sunday. Instead, he's going to have to find something else to do to kill time in Phoenix before going to the game.

3. Apple: On Tuesday, the technology giant released an earnings report for the ages. Apple announced it made a record $75 BILLION in total revenue during the previous quarter to crush projections. Think Secretariat winning by 31 lengths or the Seahawks beating the Broncos 43-8 in last year's Super Bowl (Let's do it again, Seattle!). How did the company pull this off? Well, it certainly didn't hurt that it sold 34,000 iPhones per hour every day for the past three months. To those of you who just had to buy the newest update as soon as it came out, Apple's shareholders send a warm and hearty "thank you."

PHOTOS: The year in golf WAGs

4. Klay Thompson: Speaking of record-setting quarters, if you didn't see what this guy did last Friday night (Hey, that's a line from a potential Katy Perry Super Bowl halftime song!), you need to immediately. No, really, check this out right now:

Thompson, who on Thursday was named to his first NBA All-Star team, scored 37 points on a perfect 13-of-13 shooting, including making nine three-pointers. Again, this is in one quarter. (The previous record of 33 was held by George Gervin, who pointed out this week he didn't have the benefit of the three-point line.) I'd say that's the kind of stuff you only see in a video game, but I don't think that's even possible in a video game. Not even when a player was "on fire" in the old NBA Jam.

PHOTOS: The Oscars shows its anti-golf bias once again

5. Mitt Romney: In somewhat of a surprise, Romney announced on Friday that he's taking the air out of another possible campaign and not running for President in 2016. No offense to the guy, but should you even be allowed to run three times for the highest office in the land if you lose your first two attempts? And while we're talking limitations, should the Patriots even get a third chance to win a fourth Super Bowl? Yep, it all comes back to the big game. Enjoy it, folks, and remember, we are ALL Seattle on Sunday.

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Equipment

Callaway Golf makes profit in 2014, best year since 2008

xr-driver-sole-b.jpgIn the nearly three years since Chip Brewer took over the reins as president and CEO of Callaway Golf, much has been made about the company’s comeback. Belts were tightened, product innovation grew and sales numbers were up. Indeed, general consumer perception was changing along with the company’s re-emerging presence in the professional ranks, too. Thursday, the company put those changes in the clearest perspective.

For the first full year since 2008, Callaway Golf made money. In a year that had been in many circles troubling for the golf industry, Callaway announced that full-year income for 2014 increased by five percent to $887 million, up from $843 million in 2013. Its gross profit of $358 million was the highest since 2010, and fully diluted earnings per share were $0.20 versus a $0.31 loss in 2013. 

“When looking just at the currency neutral basis you can see that we’ve made nice progress,” Brewer told investors on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call Thursday. “What we’ll continue to need to do is basically the things that we’ve been doing in operational improvements and revenue growth. On a currency-neutral basis I believe this was and is trending on a very positive basis.”

Among the highlights for 2014 were increased sales in woods (8 percent), irons (12 percent) and golf balls (4 percent). The company saw also sales increases in all regions of the world, including an 11 percent gain in Europe. 

Still, the company is cautious about its 2015 forecast, suggesting that operating costs will increase due to spending on tour support and marketing. But the big drag will be weakening foreign currency. Callaway is forecasting a decrease in net sales based solely on unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates. Still, on a constant currency basis, Callaway is forecasting an increase in net sales to a high end of $920 million, or as much as 5 percent, including an estimated growth of 5-6 percent in core channel business. 

Brewer also said Callaway increased its investment in the driving range/entertainment franchise TopGolf to $50.4 million. “We continue to be excited about the prospects of that business, and we think that’s going to be a positive for the shareholders of Callaway Golf,” he said. 

Brewer also touted the company’s newly launched XR line of clubs and Chrome Soft ball and noted golfers’ acceptance of higher-priced products.

“Given the strength of our product line for 2015, and anticipated additional improvements in our operations, we expect for 2015 on a constant currency basis not only sales growth and market share gains, but also further improvements in gross margins and profitability. Golf is a momentum business and fortunately momentum is now on our side." 

Callaway’s stock price was up 3 percent in trading this morning.
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News & Tours

Rocco Mediate gave a brutal assessment of Tiger Woods' game on "Feherty" Thursday night

Either Rocco Mediate is still a little bitter about that 2008 U.S. Open, or he really doesn't like the direction Tiger Woods is taking his game.

Speaking on a live edition of David Feherty on Thursday night, Rocco posed the question: "For some reason the best short game that was ever alive in the entire history of the world is gone. Why is that?"

Rocco had a couple thoughts on how Tiger could get back to his best, but his main criticism involved Woods' newly installed swing coach, Chris Como, who Mediate suggested was ill-qualified for the job. Mediate instead thought Woods should enlist the help of somebody who played the game professionally, like Lee Trevino.

The full clip:

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News & Tours

Returns of Tiger's short game are in: 'Worst I've ever seen a tour pro around the greens'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The returns are in on Tiger Woods’ chipping and pitching woes during the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Thursday and they’re not good.

Golf Channel’s crew on site provided among the most pointed critiques.

Arron Oberholser flatly called them the yips. “I hate to say it, but I think the greatest player that I’ve ever seen has the yips,” he said on Thursday. “Whether that’s because of a release pattern or whether it’s not enough reps, it’s flat out the disease. He’s got the yips.”

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(Getty Images)

Brandel Chamblee called it “the worst I’ve ever seen a tour pro around the greens and it is a long way from there to playing competitive golf again.”

Woods opened with a two-over par 73 that he isn’t likely to match in round two given his horrendous start that included a double bogey on his fifth hole and a triple bogey on his sixth.

“The issues around the greens, this is an issue that I’ve really never seen anybody fully recover from,” Chamblee said. “And those that came to his defense at Isleworth talked about the difficult turf conditions at Isleworth. These [at the TPC Scottsdale] are some of the most friendly turf conditions that players will face all year.”

Notah Begay III concurred with Chamblee’s analysis and said, “here’s a a man 11 times player of the year…he is struggling with something that so many players around the world struggle with.”

Twice on Thursday, Woods used a putter from well off the green. “That’s all out defense. Pull the putter out,” Chamblee said. “That’s a heads-up play. That’s what you’ve got to do when you can’t get it on the green.”

Then there was this Tweet from former PGA Tour player Paul Stankowski:

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News & Tours

The anatomy of a short-game collapse

For the first time in memory, one of the greatest alpha predators in the history of the PGA Tour looks scared. 

Six weeks after botching a dozen short-game shots at the Hero World Challenge, Woods came to one of the easiest courses on the tour and had an experience that was arguably worse. 


In addition to the chunked and bladed chips -- he had six more of those -- Woods went into full short-game retreat, using a 4-iron to hit bump-and-runs in obvious pitching situations and putting from off the green in others.   

Even with the, um, strategic adjustment, the numbers were ugly. He missed eight greens Thursday and got up and down successfully just three times. On two of his alternative-club chips, he left the ball more than 15 feet from the cup -- a terrible miss for a tour player. 


Woods alluded to the mechanical part of the problem in his post-round press conference Thursday, saying some residual "steepness" has stayed in his chipping stroke. It doesn't match with both a new "release pattern" he's using in his work with Chris Como, and he also mentioned a new grind on the sole of his sand wedge. 

In English (and in real life), Woods is coming into the ball on a too-vertical angle -- more of a chop than a sweep. Sensing this, he tries to save the shot by getting less vertical -- flexing his right knee, tilting his shoulders back and pulling his hands through impact ahead of the clubhead. 

Instead of creating a long flat spot in his swing around the ball (with a big margin for error), he's making the club bottom out in one specific place, with the leading edge exposed to the grass. If his timing isn't right, he'll hit behind it and chunk the chip, or hit too much ball and blade it.

It isn't very different from how he's always chipped, says one top teacher. Woods just doesn't have the sharpness to pull it off anymore. His hands aren't covering up the technical quirk.  

The damage is manifesting on more than just the scorecard. 

For 20 years, Woods has been a short-game virtuoso. His parabolic chip-in birdie on the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters is universally considered one of the greatest shots in major-championship history. 

Now, he's actively avoiding what used to be his basic, bread-and-butter shot. He's placing some of the blame for the bad shots on the new bounce grind on his wedge -- the club he presumably hit thousands of times over the last month.   

He no longer has a "standard" shot he can play in the dozens of vanilla situations it's required week in and week out, or get up and hit without a second thought under pressure. Woods is now thinking -- hard -- about what used to be as natural as Jimmy Page's grip on a guitar pick. 

As another top teacher said this week, it's impossible to play championship-level golf if you're afraid to miss the green.

Or if you aren't around on the weekend.

As the same teacher said, either Tiger doesn't know exactly why his chipping has deserted him, a troublesome thought. Or he does, and it's happening anyway. 

That has to be terrifying for the guy who has almost always been able to summon whatever shot he's needed. 

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Trending

Michelle Wie to guest star on "Hawaii Five-O," because of course she is

Michelle Wie will guest star on an episode of "Hawaii Five-O" on Feb. 20 on CBS. But before you get too excited about seeing what kind of acting chops the LPGA star has, you should know she'll be playing herself and not some criminal mastermind.

Related: Our favorite golf movie scenes

In the episode, Wie, a native of Hawaii, will give advice to Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett (played by Alex O'Loughlin) on how to beat Captain/SWAT Commander Lou Grover (played by Chi McBride) at a charity golf event. Here's a photo of Wie and McBride in action:

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Another athlete, former UFC champion Randy Couture also guest stars, but he gets to play the much cooler role of a serial arsonist. And in case you're wondering, this isn't the episode in which a pro golfer is allegedly kidnapped, beaten, and robbed after leaving a Hawaiian wine bar.

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News & Tours

Watch Bubba Watson hit a 341 yard drive to six feet (and then miss the putt)

Bubba Watson shot a six-under 65 on Thursday at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, which left him one shot off the lead with 54-holes to play. The highlight of his round was, undoubtedly, this peach of a drive on the par-4 17th hole that rolled to six-feet.

"I hit a low-cut driver just trying to get it over the bunker and made a run up to the green," Bubba said after the round. "I hit it perfect."

How'd it turn out?

"I missed a six-foot putt," Bubba said. "It was a great shot. I wish I would have made the putt. That would have been a lot better story."

Only Bubba.


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