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A serious, scentific examination of the greatest upsets in golf history

Joey Chestnut, the reigning eight-time champion of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, was usurped from this throne by Matt Stonie -- a man referred to as "the Jordan Spieth of tubed beef" -- this weekend in what the event’s emcee called “one of the greatest upsets in sports history.”

Granted, this might be a tad hyperbolic, but such is to be expected from an event that awards its winner a mustard-plated belt.

The proclamation did get us thinking: what are some of the biggest shockers in the history of golf?

Francis Ouimet’s legacy withstanding that terrible Shia LeBeouf movie

You would think pulling off the thriller of the century -- Ouimet, a 20-year-old amateur besting two of the game’s best in Harry Vardon and Ted Ray --- would be tough to tarnish. But that LeBeouf film came damn close.

Jack Fleck over Ben Hogan, 1955 U.S. Open

Hogan was the unquestioned face of the game, while Fleck was a club pro in Davenport, Iowa. Tied after 72 holes at the Olympic Club, the two faced off in an 18-hole playoff, with Fleck winning by three shots. To rub salt in the wound, Fleck won with a set of clubs manufactured by Hogan’s company.

If something similar happened today, the First Take guys would have a collective heart attack.

Rory McIlory defeats alarm clock, Keegan Bradley

McIlory almost missed his tee time on the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup, excusing his tardiness for time-zone confusion. The explanation was flimsy; if McIlory thought he was on the East Coast, wouldn’t he be early for his match at Medinah, which, thanks to its Illinois location, resides in Central Standard Time?

The 39th Ryder Cup - Day Three : News Photo

Despite only getting a few practice putts, McIlory managed to beat his opponent Bradley, and helped spur the European team to an epic comeback.

Orville Moody, 1969 U.S. Open

A military man, Moody retired from the Army to attempt a career on the PGA Tour. In his third year on the professional circuit, Moody won the 1969 U.S. Open, finishing ahead of a crowded leader board featuring Al Geiberger, Bob Rosburg, Deane Beman, Miller Barber and Arnold Palmer.

Alas, it would be Moody’s lone victory, further adding to the aura of his national championship.

John Daly’s “Hit it Hard” song charting

When an athlete produces a record, 99.9 percent of the time, it will make one’s ears bleed. But Daly’s “Hit it Hard” ballad, shockingly, isn’t terrible! You know, for a country song, that is. It even reached as high as No. 10 on the HIGHWAY Hot 45 Countdown, which I’m told is a real thing.

Larry Mize, 1987 Masters

Not sure what’s more impressive: Mize, an Augusta native, winning the Masters in a playoff over Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros with a chip-in at the 11th, or somehow avoiding scorn for that purple ensemble he was rocking. C’mon, Larry, only the Hornets can make the lavender-n-green combo work.

Zero streaker incidents at the 16th hole, Waste Management Open

Perhaps we should add the caveat of “Yet.”

Jack Nicklaus, 1986 Masters

It would be blasphemy to even consider making light of this moment. Long live the Golden Bear.

Happy Gilmore over Shooter McGavin, Tour Championship

Carl Weathers And Adam Sandler In 'Happy Gilmore' : News Photo

Bonus points to Happy for overcoming a hit-n-run from a Volkswagen, the death of his mentor and a TV tower blocking his line on the 18th green.

Y.E. Yang beats Tiger Woods, 2009 PGA Championship

Not sure if you’ve been keeping up with Woods, but he's been in a tad of a major slump ever since his runner-up finish at Hazeltine.


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How He Hit That: Roll the rock with your wedge like Robert Streb

Top 50 teacher Kevin Weeks works with a half dozen tour players on their putting, but the technique Robert Streb used at the Greenbrier Classic was one Weeks usually only teaches on the practice green.

After breaking his putter with a careless toss toward his bag behind the ninth green, Streb was forced to putt with his 56-degree sand wedge. It apparently wasn't much of a handicap. Streb made five birdies with the alternative flatstick, and made it into a playoff with Danny Lee, David Hearn and Kevin Kisner.

"Some people go with driver, some people go with hybrid, but I think he made the right call using wedge there," says Weeks, who is based at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, IL. "If you're going to to try it, take your normal putting setup and normal putting grip, and favor your lead lead leg while tilting your spine slightly back. Move the ball slightly forward in your stance to make sure you hit up on the ball with the leading edge of the wedge, then make your same putting stroke."

If you hit the ball near the equator, it will come off the leading edge of the wedge and roll just like it would with a putter. "It's actually a great way to practice even if you have your putter with you," says Weeks. "If you can consistently hit the equator of the ball with your wedge, you're doing lots of nice things with your putting stroke. You aren't flipping your hands or hitting down on the ball, and you're staying nice and quiet with your body." 

Streb was able to replace his putter before the playoff, but he didn't get a chance to try the new blade. He missed the green on the first hole, and watched Hearn and Lee make birdie putts that knocked him out. 


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News & Tours

Danny Lee is happy about winning $1.2 million, but still sad about not having a girlfriend

Danny Lee is currently the man of the moment on the PGA Tour after winning his first title and taking home $1.2 million. But something is still missing for the 24-year-old New Zealander.

Like the Beatles always said, "Can't buy me love."

After his breakthrough victory, Lee was asked about coming to West Virginia for the Greenbrier Classic and this was his amusing/glum response:

"It was just amazing. It's phenomenal. It's my fourth time playing here, and I liked it every single year. Only one wish I had was if I had a girlfriend, it wouldn't be as lonely in the room."

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

Awww :(

Hopefully, Danny doesn't follow Keegan Bradley's girlfirend, Jillian Stacey, on Instagram. Because this will just make him even more sad.

One of my favorite places in the world #Greenbrier #WV #Americasresort 🇺🇿

A photo posted by Jillian Stacey (@jillianfstacey) on

The Greenbrier is such a nice resort that Keegan and Jillian even brought their dog, Penny, along for the trip:

Penny loves @the_greenbrier almost as much as I do ❿ᅬ🐶 #Greenbrier #Americasresort #travelingpenny

A photo posted by Jillian Stacey (@jillianfstacey) on

Hmm. Maybe Danny should start with a pet?


(h/t For The Win)

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Kevin Kisner is the best in the world . . . at losing in playoffs

Poor Kevin Kisner. In less than three months, he's lost three playoffs following his latest close call at The Greenbrier Classic. Even Greg Norman must feel bad for him.

If you're saying, "That seems like an awful lot of playoffs for one guy to be involved in," you're right! In fact, Kisner is just the fourth active PGA Tour pro to have played in three playoffs in a single season, according to Golf News Net.

Kisner joins Steve Elkington (1992), Sergio Garcia (2008), Bill Haas (2011) and Webb Simpson (2011) on this rare list. The difference is all four of those guys at least one won of their attempts in extra holes.

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

Instead, after being eliminated on the first sudden-death hole on Sunday, Kisner fell to 0-3. He previously lost to Jim Furyk at Harbour Town and to Rickie Fowler at the Players.

In contrast, Bubba Watson won the week before at the Travelers Championship to run his career playoff record to a sparkling 5-1. And Tiger Woods is an incredible 11-1 in his career on tour.

Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer share the record for most wins in playoffs with 14, but both also had 10 losses. Ben Hogan holds the record for most playoff losses with 12, so Kisner has a long way to go. But he also has a long way to go to match the Hawk's eight playoff wins. Norman, who lost in a playoff at all four majors, lost seven of his first eight playoffs on the PGA Tour before finishing with a 4-8 career record.

So many playoff losses -- especially in such a short period of time -- can't be good for your health. In fact, Kisner already acknowledged he "drank" when asked what he did to cope with his first two heartbreakers. Of course, those two were probably tougher to handle.

At Harbour Town, Kisner birdied the first extra hole, but so did Furyk, who also birdied the second to end his long winless drought. At the Players, Kisner played the three-hole aggregate playoff in one under to tie with Fowler. Then Fowler birdied the 17th hole again to beat Kisner's par. Dagger.

"It's tough to win out here, man. I've had a heckuva year," Kisner said after his third P-2 finish on Sunday. "If I keep playing like this, I'll get plenty of wins."

That's right, Kevin. Keep posting the low 72-hole score at a tournaments and eventually you'll have to win. We think.


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News & Tours

Does Rory McIlroy deserve to get ripped for his ankle injury?

The buzz going into next week's British Open has shifted for the moment, as World No. 1 Rory McIlroy announced his severe ankle injury on Instagram Monday morning. Instead of Jordan Spieth taking on the next leg of the Grand Slam at St. Andrews, Rory's ruptured ligament is dominating the conversation.

So does Rory deserve criticism for his off-the-course injury? Or should we give the 26-year-old a pass for enjoying himself with his friends? The Twitter reaction has been mixed, but this much is true: The issue will remain a polarizing one, particularly if the defending Open champion must formally withdraw from St. Andrews in the next few days.

Keep the hot takes coming!


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News & Tours

How has Rory McIlroy's injury affected betting for the British Open?

Depending on where you looked, Rory McIlroy was either the favorite or the co-favorite with Jordan Spieth heading into the Open Championship at St. Andrews. News of his ankle injury obviously has changed that, but not as much as you might think.

Related: 19 things you should know about Rory McIlroy

Jeff Sherman, the golf oddsmaker at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, now lists McIlroy at 8-to-1 odds to win, up from his previous 5-to-1. Not surprisingly, Spieth, winner of the year's first two majors, is now a heavy favorite.

But how can someone be given a 12 percent chance of winning if his management team is only giving him a 10 percent chance of playing? And how could anyone bet on McIlroy defending his Open title?

Ah, OK. Still, it doesn't seem like a smart bet. Sherman also addressed questions about pending bets on McIlroy's number of major wins this year. Essentially, unless you made the bet after the U.S. Open, those wagers still stand. Bad news if you thought McIlroy would add to his major total this year, but good news if you thought he'd get shut out.

One non-Rory betting note: Tiger Woods is now 25-to-1 odds to win at St. Andrews, where he won two of his Open titles. Following his missed cut at the U.S. Open, Woods had fallen to 60-to-1. Apparently, a T-32 at the Greenbrier Classic goes a long way these days.


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Callaway launches widest wedge line ever this week on tour

Callaway’s most extensive wedge offering, the new MD3 (or Mack Daddy 3), came about because wedge fitting today isn’t merely about a math problem or a numbers game. Wedge fitting is about getting the right spin for each wedge in your bag—even if that means less spin for certain shots.

The new line debuts at the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour this week. There will be three sole grinds and three different grooves, all in an effort to produce the optimal amount of spin for the type of shot normally played by a particular wedge loft.

For example, the grooves on the lower lofts in the set (46-52) will have a groove in line with the groove typically found in an iron set since these wedges tend to be used in a full-swing mode most often. The grooves in the middle lofts (54-56 degrees) will transition to a more aggressive edge (in line with the groove on the 47-54 degree wedges in the MD2 line). And the highest loft wedges (58-60 degrees) will have the widest grooves with the steepest sidewall. Weight is drilled out of the back of each wedge with a row of four dots. The effect is to slightly raise the center of gravity to better control spin and trajectory.

“The flow of spin really matches up well all the way through your set to where you need the most spin in your lob category,” Cleveland says. “You want as aggressive a groove as you can to wick out as much material when you short-side yourself or get into the rough around the green. But that type of groove is not ideal in your gap wedge. 

“It’s a very thought out line and it really helps you control your spin and trajectory for shots like trying to hit a back pin. You don’t want a 52-degree to a back pin ripping back. ”

The 15 lofts in the MD3 line are spread across three sole grinds: a standard “S” grind aimed at the broadest array of conditions and swing types; a heel-and-toe relief “C” grind aimed at firmer conditions; and a more forgiving wide-sole “W” grind geared to softer conditions and steeper swing types. 

The thinking is that wedge fitting needs to be more subtle than fitting to a particular bounce angle, and that things like the attack angle of your swing, your typical turf and bunker conditions and even the types of shots you hit are more in line with a type of sole grind than a particular bounce angle measurement. The company considered some 48 prototypes before settling on the new designs, involving the input of its tour staff in settling on the new shapes.

Cleveland calls the new “C” grind “a little more generous” than previous Callaway “C” grinds and refers to the “S” grind as “universal,” and simply calls the “W” “really a friendly wedge.”

“We’ve learned a lot from the MD2 and we’ve received extensive input from the tour,” said Callaway wedge guru Roger Cleveland. “We’ve incorporated some of the best ideas from the X Tour and Tour Grind in the MD3 silhouette.”

The MD3 line debuts at retail Sept. 4 in both satin chrome and black finishes ($130).


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Missing Links

Defending Rory McIlroy's soccer: 'It's not the end of the world. No one's after dying'

Stories of interest you might have missed…

Should Rory McIlroy have been playing soccer two weeks before the British Open? Why not, Ireland’s Shane Lowry argues in this story by Brian Keogh of the Irish Golf Desk. “I mean, he's only 25 or 26. It's a case of, 'let's go out for a kickaround'; 'yeah, no problem’. People think because you're good at something you should just do that and focus on that, but that's not what life is about. Obviously his career's after suffering now because of it, but it's not the end of the world. No one's after dying.”

McIlroy at St. Andrews last year (Getty Images)

Justin Rose is the defending champion in this week’s Scottish Open and a former U.S. Open champion who is looking at the next five years to burnish his record and possibly enter the rarefied air occupied by countryman Nick Faldo. “I see no reason why I can’t now draw a line and have a good five-year period at The Open,” he told Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail. “I still haven’t given up on edging past Sir Nick Faldo to be England’s finest, but I’m aware I have to get a move on,” he said.


“It's awfully presumptive of anyone to start questioning the game plan of only the sixth player in history to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year,” Scott Michaux of the Augusta Chronicle writes in this story on Jordan Spieth and his decision to play the John Deere Classic in advance of the British Open. “I'm not sure Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods had a lot of people criticizing their strategic tactics. Frankly, there are only three players alive who can relate to what Spieth is going through right now -- Palmer, Nicklaus and Woods.”


Michelle Wie is the defending champion of the U.S. Women’s Open this week, but “based on her LPGA Tour performance this season, Wie might receive attention more for her prodigious drives and her unique putting style - bending from the waist at a 90-degree angle with her head directly over the ball - than having an excellent chance to repeat,” Joe Juliano of the Philadelphia Inquirer News writes.


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British Open

Rory McIlroy ruptures ankle ligament playing soccer, Open status questionable

And you thought Rory McIlroy's first two majors this season were disappointments. After late rallies to post top 10s in the Masters and the U.S. Open, the World No. 1 might not even be able to play in next week's British Open due to injury.

The defending Open champion posted this picture to Instagram Monday morning of him in crutches and wearing a boot on his left foot. According to McIlroy, he ruptured the left ankle ligament kicking a soccer ball with friends on Saturday. He made no reference to a timetable for returning, only that he's already begun rehabbing vigorously.

Update: McIlroy's management company told CNN there's a "10 percent chance" the golfer will play at St. Andrews, and that he's under the supervision of sports scientist Dr. Steven McGregor.

McIlroy was scheduled to play this week's Scottish Open before heading to St. Andrews, where he finished T-3 at the British Open in 2010.

According to the National Institute of Health, ankle ligament tear's like McIlroy's are best treated through therapy and not surgery. Some 10 to 30 percent of people who tear their ankle ligaments continue to have chronic symptoms.

A paper by Karim Khan and Peter Bruker of the Olympic Sports Medicine Clinic in Australia states a Grade III injury like McIlroy's requires "initial conservative management over a 6 week period."

In other words, in all likelihood McIlroy's major season is over.


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Winner's bag: The driver change that led to Danny Lee's first PGA Tour title

Driver changes seem to work at the Greenbrier Classic. Last year Angel Cabrera won the tournament in his first week using Ping's G30 driver and this year Danny Lee emerged victorious after switching to a 9-degree Callaway XR with an Aldila Rogue Black 70x shaft. Lee hit 43 of 56 fairways (76.8 percent) for the week, ranking T-17 in that stat.

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft
Driver: Callaway XR (Aldila Rogue Black 70x), 9 degrees
3-wood: Callaway X2 Hot, 15 degrees
5-wood: Callaway RAZRFit, 18 degrees
Irons (3-4): Callaway Apex UT; (5-PW): Callaway RAZR X MB
Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 2 (52, 60 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey Works Versa #9


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