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News & Tours

Tiger, McIlroy and Lydia Ko fuel interest for 2015

It never hurts in golf’s quest for relevance during football season for Tiger Woods to make headlines, as he did twice last week. He clearly has no intention to go away quietly.

The rest of the golf news on what was tantamount to the final week of the season (notwithstanding quirky schedules here and abroad and the unavoidable silly-season) won’t similarly command attention, but it was a memorable sendoff for a sport that has much to recommend it going forward.

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Race to Dubai winner Rory McIlroy (Getty Images photo)

Where do we start? As usual, with this: WWTD? What will Tiger do in 2015, now that he’s apparently healthy and has been breaking in a new instructor, Chris Como?

He’ll provide only a snapshot at best at his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge next month; not much can be gleaned from it given the tiny field (18 players) and what for most of his career was his home course, Isleworth Golf and Country Club, in Windermere, Fla.

Still, he’ll draw scrutiny. Woods remains the most intriguing figure in the game, to wit the attention he garnered simply for an innocuous Tweet on Saturday announcing he had hired Como. Interest in this heretofore relatively unknown instructor shut down Como’s website in the immediate aftermath of Woods’ announcement.

Interest in Woods will be piqued further by what might be another two-month hiatus he’ll take after the World Challenge and before his likely return at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in February.

The European Tour, meanwhile, concluded its 2014 season in style, crowning World No. 1 Rory McIlroy the winner of the Race to Dubai and No. 2 Henrik Stenson the winner of the DP World Tour Championship.

Nos. 3 and 4 also have exhibited form that along with McIlroy’s bid to complete the career grand slam at the Masters promises a fascinating year ahead. Adam Scott finished second in the Australian Masters on Sunday and Bubba Watson won the WGC-HSBC Champions earlier this month.

But the best reason to look ahead surfacing on Sunday was the performance of Lydia Ko, still five months shy of her 18th birthday. Ko’s encore in the wake of her having been awarded the Rolex Rookie of the Year was a $1.5 million payday -- $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe and $500,000 for winning the CME Group Tour Championship. All told, she earned in excess of $3 million this year, providing a clear picture of what she’s going to be when she grows up: Wealthy.

Arguments abound that golf’s off-season is too short, but on this day, on this week and in this month and what it portends, one could argue that it is too long.

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Celebrity

Barack Obama and Derek Jeter really seemed to enjoy their round of golf together

Michael Jordan recently said President Barack Obama wouldn't be in his dream golf foursome. Another one of sport's biggest names, though, really seemed to enjoy his time on the course with the most powerful man in the world.

The First Golfer: Photos of President Obama playing golf

On Saturday, Derek Jeter, fresh off wrapping up a 20-year legendary career as a New York Yankee, teed it up with Obama at Las Vegas' exclusive Shadow Creek Golf Course. The two -- along with Democratic Party donor Stephen Cloobeck and Las Vegas Sun newspaper owner Brian Greenspun -- reportedly played in about five hours.

Jordan, who called Obama a "hack" golfer had been worried about pace of play with the President. But despite the lengthy round, Jeter and Obama played an additional nine holes. We wonder if Jeter was using the clubs he received from the Houston Astros as one of his many retirement gifts:

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Last year, Obama played with Tiger Woods. In Jeter, who Golf Digest last listed as a 30-handicap (although that number should get better quicker now that he's done with baseball), the 18-ish handicapper Obama seems to have found a more competitive celebrity match.

Hmm. Tiger. Jeter. Obama. There's still room for a fourth, Michael. . .

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News & Tours

Chris Como just got a new full-time job as Tiger Woods' coach

For the last 10 years, the three most famous instructors in golf have been Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and whoever is teaching Tiger Woods. 

Now, it's Chris Como's turn to join the group. Woods tweeted the news just before noon, immediately sending the teacher's name to the top of Twitter's trend list and crashing Como's website from the traffic explosion:

The soft-spoken 36-year-old is based at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas, and works with Aaron Baddeley, Jamie Lovemark and Richard Lee on the PGA Tour. He was recently ranked on Golf Digest's list of Best Young Teachers.

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He also brings a very useful area of expertise to Woods' camp. Como is finishing up a master's degree in biomechanics at Texas Woman's University, where he is studying under Dr. Young-Hoo Kwon. 

Dr. Kwon is widely considered the foremost expert in golf biomechanics and "sport injury mechanism," or how sports movements impact the body, and he developed his own super-advanced three-dimensional swing analysis software package, Kwon3D, to show instructors exactly what their students' bodies are doing. 

It's a good bet that Como, Woods and Kwon will be spending some quality time together this offseason, taking apart the most famous swing puzzle in golf and trying to put it back together in a way that works for Tiger's age, mileage and fragile back.   

Plenty of other teachers have weighed in on what they believe are Woods' swing issues. Como took a more circumspect route when we asked him about it in August, saying it was hard to know for sure without all the facts. "It's easy to play armchair quarterback, but there are so many factors with Tiger's body and the history of his game we don't know," he said. "Everybody has their idea of what they would want him to do, but it's a different story when you get in there and see what's going on. Without being inside, it's all just speculation."

Not anymore, at least for him.




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Instruction

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #37: Bomb It Big

Everyone wants to hit their golf ball farther! Although it helps to be built for power, anyone can very quickly learn to train themselves into a little more club head speed. 

This week's challenge was presented to me while running my Nike Junior Golf Camps in Pebble Beach. I had hired a good young coach named Jim Waldron to teach on staff and run the fitness component of our program. Jim won the Arizona Long Drive Championship Series in 2014 with a ball of 426 yards. As someone who is built for power, Jim's clubhead speed has been clocked as high as 147 miles per hour!

One morning before camp, I was awakened to the sound of a feverish lashing coming from outside the walls of our camp housing. The continuous "whoosh" was powerful, crisp and concise as if being executed by the hand of an accomplished swordsman like "Zorro" himself. As I walked out to investigate, I saw Jim working on a technique he called "overspeed training." Just like the exercise demonstrated in the video below, Jim would alternate between max speed swings with a light object and slow, elongated, muscle stretching swings with a heavier weighted club. He would spend 10-15 minutes with the practice, training three-four times per week. 

Anything you can do to work towards hitting it harder is worth the effort. I guarantee within your first time trying this exercise you'll begin to notice and "feel" where speed is lacking and how to start producing it. Go as fast as you can with the light shaft or alignment stick swing, but make sure the long weighted club swings are slow and deliberate as to avoid injury. 

Dedicate a few minutes to trying out big Jim's training routine and you can count this week's challenge as complete.

BENEFITS
Increased Club Head Speed
Longer Drives
More Fun

Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf

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Gear & Equipment

Wilson Golf leans on tour-player input with design of its new FG Tour V4 irons

Although Wilson Staff irons might not get the first look from golfers, the FG Tour V4 has some meaningful technological achievements. Gone is the boxy toe of recent Wilson models, replaced by a rounder shape and a sole grind that matches that preferred by staff player Kevin Streelman.

loop-wilson-FG-iron-300.jpgThe irons are forged from a soft 8620 carbon steel and have an 18-gram tungsten weight in the sole of the 3- through 7-irons. The idea is to help players hit shots with irons that are often the toughest to launch and stop shots on greens using a steeper trajectory rather than relying on spin.

The upper portion of the face area, where impacts are least likely to occur, was thinned by 11 percent with the saved weight moved lower and to the heel and toe areas to assist mis-hits.

The irons ($900) come standard in a 4-iron through gap wedge set and will be available Jan. 15.

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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Books

Book Review: The Red Smith Reader

Each week GolfDigest.com will highlight a golf book that it finds of interest to readers. This week is:

The Red Smith Reader

Edited by Dave Anderson
Skyhorse Publishing, $17.95, paperback, 308 pages

loop-Red-Smith-Reader-275.jpgI see the book this week serving multiple purposes. The most important, however, could be the least obvious: to keep the name of a legendary sportswriter "out there" for today's current sports crowd to know and appreciate should not be underestimated. I've already heard people are asking "Who is Arnold Palmer?" If that's happening, does Red Smith have a shot at staying on the public-awareness meter? For a sportswriter as lauded as Smith, a Pulitzer Prize winner closely associated with New York sports, how tough is it to keep his legacy alive?

This book, which was first released in 1982, does the legend justice and fulfills its other purposes of entertaining, educating and enlightening readers about a bygone world of sports that was embraced by the people who lived it and desired by those who came after it. It reprints 131 of his 800-word columns on subjects such as football, baseball, fishing, boxing, racing and a hodgepodge of other subjects -- including golf -- a diversity that is another of the book's purposes. Any stop within the Red Smith Reader instantly broadens your mind and educates you on a subject you might not know too well.

Related: Catch up on other Golf Digest book reviews

Born in Green Bay, Wis., Smith went to Notre Dame and worked the majority of his career in New York for the Herald Tribune and The New York Times. In 1976 he was given the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. He died in 1982 at 76. Anderson, a colleague at the Times and a fellow Pulitzer winner, compiled the columns the first time around in 1982 and was involved in this reworking for a new paperback. In a new introduction, he acknowledges the value of an updated edition to bring Red Smith to new readers. He told a middle-aged friend who was not familiar with Smith's writing, only his name, that "They're republishing The Red Smith Reader. You can read him now."

I particularly enjoyed: As far as the writing, I found even the fringe topics good reading. What impressed me the most was making a recent visit to see Anderson and observing his meticulous personal filing on the subjects he covered, with cabinets full of clippings and background material. It reinforced in my mind that he did his homework on selecting these Smith columns, many Dave said he read in his formative years as a columnist.

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News & Tours

Missing Links: The answer to U.S. Ryder Cup woes? Play better, LPGA players say

Stories of interest you might have missed…

The U.S. Ryder Cup woes have been debated ad nauseam, even causing the PGA of America to form a task force to help solve them. But a better answer came from those playing in the LPGA’s CME Group Classic this week: Play better. “Actually there is nothing wrong,” Angela Stanford said in this story by Dave Kempton of the News-Press. “You just get outplayed.”

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(Getty Images photo)

Recalling the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012, one would assume that Ian Poulter was the least likely candidate to need a putting lesson. Yet he missed a short putt to tie on the last hole at the Turkish Airlines Open last week, after which Greg Norman was on the phone with some putting advice. “The pair spoke on Tuesday night after Norman spotted something while watching Poulter throw away a golden opportunity to win the Turkish Airlines Open,” Derek Lawrenson writes in the Daily Mail.

***

Charley Hull already is a marquee player at home in Europe. But what about the bigger stage, the LPGA? Hull has entered the final stage of LPGA Qualifying, but it is not do-or-die for this teen mature beyond her years. “I am only 18 so there is no rush to go and play in the States,” she said in this story by Ewan Murray of the Guardian. “I still want to enjoy my childhood, I still have lots of other things in my life that I want to enjoy and I think I should be enjoying at my age.”

***

Is there nothing 17-year-old Lydia Ko, the LPGA’s Rolex Rookie of the Year, can’t do? “Ko was sweating an acceptance speech she'd have to deliver in roughly 10 hours, when she'd stand in front of a packed ballroom of friends, peers, assembled media and many of the LPGA Tour's top brass,” Steve DiMeglio writes in USA Today. “Turns out she needn't have worried one bit. Ko killed it.”

***

“Has the big China golf course boom finally gone bust?” Dan Washburn, an expert in all matters Chinese golf and the author of the book, “The Forbidden Game,” ponders that question in this missive on his website. “During my recent two weeks in China, I encountered more pessimism and uncertainty from those in the industry than ever before. Everyone quoted the rumor that up to 100 courses would soon be shut down…Beijing, as it had a handful of times over the previous decade, reiterated its oft referenced but rarely enforced ban on golf course construction. It did so again just this week. Things do appear to be ratcheting up.”

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Celebrity

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

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. Woods v. Jenkins: By now you've heard all about the article Tiger Woods wrote for Derek Jeter's website, The Players Tribune, in which he voices his complaint about Dan Jenkins' satirical Q&A in the December issue of Golf Digest. But the whole situation leaves us with a much more pressing question than who was right or wrong. We wonder which one of Jeter's senior editors -- Russell Wilson, Blake Griffin or Danica Patrick -- had to post Tiger's story?

Related: Tiger Woods' long list of enemies

2. Buffalo: SEVEN feet of snow? In TWO days? In NOVEMBER? We feel for . . . Buffaloans? Buffalites? (*checks Google*) Buffalonians. Seriously, this is awful as Buffalo is on pace to match its annual snowfall (93.6 inches) by the end of the week. Wherever else you live that's being affected by this brutal cold front, just remember, it could be worse.

3. Giancarlo Stanton: Two weeks ago, the Miami Marlins slugger turned 25. This week, he signed a 13-year contract for $325 MILLION. In case you've never seen Stanton destroy a baseball, watch this:

The contract is heavily backloaded to allow the team to sign other players and Stanton has an opt-out clause after the sixth year if he's not happy with the team at that point. But that would mean Stanton walking away from the final seven years and $218 MILLION. Yeah, that's not happening.

4. Oakland Raiders: So this happened near the end of Oakland's upset win over Kansas City. Here's the funniest take (via @Hokey_Wartooth on Twitter) on the couple bozos celebrating a Raiders sack instead of getting back on defense, playing off that recent Geico commercial with Ickey Woods:

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Thank goodness for ex-Giant and two-time Super Bowl champion Justin Tuck (miss you on the Giants, Justin!) alertly calling a timeout before the Chiefs had a free play with an 11-to-9 player advantage. Then again, what should we expect from a team that had lost 16 straight games?

Related: NFL stars who love playing golf

5. Sexiest man alive: Chris Hemsworth? Really? The actor was chosen by People Magazine, which apparently forgot that Matthew McConaughey is still alive. Here is Hemsworth, who looks like a slightly manlier version of James Van Der Beek:

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Sorry, don't see it. And here's Hemsworth with his actress/model wife, Elsa Pataky.

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OK, so he must have something going for him.

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Photos

The guy from this crazy photo atop the World Trade Center visits the finished product

Before Friday, Kevin Sabbagh had never seen the World Trade Center in its completion. He’d known it only as a skeleton of a building, with exposed  iron and steel. And he’d known it well -- Sabbagh, a fifth-generation ironworker, helped build the World Trade Center from start to finish. (His great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather helped build the Empire State Building.) 

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On September 22, 2012, Sabbagh, a 2-handicap golfer, felt compelled to replicate the famous shot of an ironworker who hit a golf ball off a beam while constructing Rockefeller Center

"I was 100 feet from the top when I posed for this photo,” says Sabbagh. “I aimed down Tenth Avenue. I originally wanted to hit the ball, but the wind was howling that day so I couldn’t.”

Sabbagh clearly knows what it takes to make a balanced swing. He also knows how to slaughter his drives -- he generates a clubhead speed of 120 MPH and hits his tee shots more than 300 yards. 

His tips for balance, distance and scoring:
  • My legs are flexed and in an athletic position at setup. A strong base is everything.
  • As an ironworker, my strength is mainly in my legs, my back and my hands. All three of these things help me hit it far.
  • Focus on the task at hand. As someone who works way above ground, I can’t afford to let anything distract me. My ability to really home in on whatever it is I’m doing helps on the golf course, since I never think about anything but the shot I’m hitting.

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As a longtime Golf Digest reader, we were excited to give Sabbagh his first tour of the building we now call our workplace. He walked around the perimeter of our offices, recalling memories and pointing out spots he'd known only as beams. 

Thanks for constructing our great new home, Kevin. The views are terrific. 

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video

Rory McIlroy's "fat, low, duck-hook runner" will make you feel better about your golf game

Even World No. 1 Rory McIlroy hits a clunker every once in awhile. McIlroy wasn't sharp during Friday's second round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and the lowlight came on the seventh hole with a 5-wood. Take it away, Rory!

Of course, while average hackers everywhere can appreciate that beauty, not being sharp means something different when you're the best golfer on the planet. Despite the miscue -- and a water ball on No. 18 -- McIlroy managed a two-under 70 and stayed within two shots of leader Henrik Stenson.

Related: Rory and Jagermeister: An unauthorized history

After the round, McIlroy drew laughs when he described the shot as "A fat, low, duck-hook runner that was not intentional." Now that's well played.

(h/t Geoff Shackelford)

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