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News & Tours

Missing links: Charley Hull, a kindred spirit, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, bon vivant

By John Strege

Stories of interest you might have missed…

Future Hall of Famer Laura Davies sees some of herself in Charley Hull’s game: “She gets her driver out on pretty much every hole, goes for pins and isn't scared of messing things up, because she is trying to win,” Davies tells Ewan Murray of the Guardian.

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Charley Hull at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. (Getty Images photo)

“[Miguel Angel Jimenez is] a walking billboard for the priceless benefits of being comfortable in your own skin,” Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail writes, chronicling the popular and entertaining Spaniard and his bid to play on the European Ryder Cup team at 50.

Beverly Hanson, a pioneer in women’s golf, died in virtual obscurity a few weeks ago, a slight that the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson attempts to correct here. Hanson won 15 tournaments on the LPGA, including three majors, and in 1950 won the U.S. Women’s Amateur at East Lake and was presented the trophy by none other than Bobby Jones.

Andrew Parr, a Canadian professional who estimates the annual cost of playing full-time tournament golf at $75,000, has taken a different approach than traditional sponsors to financing his dream: Crowdsourcing. So far, he’s raised $42,000, according to this story by Scott Stinson in the National Post.

Paula Creamer, a Northern California native, returns to the homeland this for the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Country Club in San Francisco. Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle has her homecoming story.


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Courses & Travel

How different is Augusta National from the members tees?

By Alex Myers

We know how Augusta National plays for the pros at the Masters, but how does it play for its members? A look at the scorecard reveals some interesting facts about one of the most famous courses in the world.

Related: Augusta National's unwritten rules

Golf.com's Eamon Lynch was one of the fortunate winners of this year's media lottery and had the opportunity to play the day after Bubba Watson slipped on a green jacket for the second time. He tweeted this photo of the current scorecard:

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First off, just look at the yardage. In an age where courses are being stretched out -- and certainly Augusta National has done the same for the pros -- it's neat that Augusta's members tees have remained a very playable 6,365 yards. Of course, the greens still provide just a bit of a challenge.

Related: Photos from one editor's round at Augusta National

But the handicap ratings are where we want to focus. For the members, the four par 5s play as the toughest four holes on the course. While it's not unusual for par 5s to be rated tough (there are more opportunities for an average golfer to hit a bad shot), this is certainly a huge difference than how these holes play for the pros. Even with Nos. 13 and 15 not yielding as many eagles as usual at this year's tournament, the four par 5s were easily the four easiest holes. No. 2 is the No. 1 handicap hole, but it played the second-easiest during the Masters.

Meanwhile, members rarely give strokes on Augusta National's four par 3s. This is also fairly standard, but those holes were no pushover during competition. No. 16 played as the easiest non-par 5, but No. 6 played as the 10th most difficult hole and Nos. 12 (4th toughest) and 4 (2nd toughest) gave the players fits. The 70-yard difference in the members tee to the Masters tee on No. 4 might have something to do with pros making almost 10 times as many over-par scores than birdies for the four days.

What about the par 4s? No. 11 was the hardest for the pros, which shouldn't be any surprise. The 505-hole averaged nearly a half stroke over par during the tournament, but for the members, it's just the No. 8 handicap hole. No. 1 (9 handicap) also plays considerably tougher in the tournament (3rd toughest), while No. 9 plays much easier (12th toughest during the Masters, but the No. 7 handicap hole).

Related: The defining shots of the 2014 Masters

So, what's the overall slope and rating of the course? Augusta National doesn't have official USGA ratings, but uses its own system established by co-founder Clifford Roberts instead (of course). However, that didn't stop Dean Knuth, the developer of the USGA's slope and rating system, from investigating. He determined before the 2010 Masters that from the tips, Augusta National had a course rating of 78.1 and a slope of 137.

That doesn't give us a rating or slope from the members tees, but does it really matter? We'll offer an unofficial rating of the greens: they're hard. You don't have to be a member to know that.

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Style

Impact: Billy the Kid claims his first PGA Tour title

By Alex Holmes

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"I'm never going to be a flat-line guy. My heart is going to be on my sleeve with every shot." -- Billy Horschel


Horschel secured his first PGA Tour win in all sorts of style a year ago at the Zurich Classic. It began by him making six straight birdies during the final round at TPC Louisiana to get into contention on a weather-plagued day. Then he holed a 27-foot birdie putt on the 18th (after waiting out a 50-minute delay to play the final hole) to secure a final-round 64, matching the course record and holding off D.A points by a one stroke. Finally, there was his exuberant celebration, the always emotive Horschel pumping his arms and letting out a triumphant yell.

The 27-year-old former Florida Gator All-American returns to the bayou this week to navigate his way around Pete Dye's TPC track and defend his 2013 title.

Getty Images (2013)
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Instruction

Swing emergency? Fix it with #HelpMeGolfDigest

By Matthew Rudy

General tips from the game's best instructors are great, but everybody needs a one-to-one swing intervention from time to time. It doesn't matter if you're topping tee shots, shanking wedges, leaving it in the bunker or yipping your short putts. Take a video of your problem and help could be just a hashtag away. 

Post your quick swing clip to Twitter or Instagram (like the one shown below) and add the hashtag #HelpMeGolfDigest. Every week, we'll show the most interesting clips to a select group of our best teachers for a personalized analysis and swing prescription.    


To have the best chance to get your video picked, follow a few basic guidelines to produce easy-to-analyze footage. Instagram limits videos to 15 seconds, and Vine videos are just six seconds, so use the time wisely. Pick the "best" example of the swing you don't want your playing partners to see, and shoot it from the appropriate angle. You can find a simple, thorough guide to shooting a swing with your smartphone here. Good lighting and interesting backgrounds always help, too. 

We'll be picking a handful of swings every week, so don't hesitate to submit more of your problem swings throughout the year if your first one doesn't make the cut.   

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News & Tours

Florida's Buddy Alexander to retire after more than 30 years in college coaching

By Ryan Herrington

loop-buddy-alexander-518.jpgFlorida's Buddy Alexander has always been a no-nonsense college golf coach, and he continued to display this dominating trait even in the wake of his decision to retire after 27 seasons in Gainesville.

Upon revealing the news Tuesday, the 61-year-old Alexander didn't gloss over the fact that the timing was far from ideal. The Gators have struggled in 2013-14, finishing in the top five in just two of 10 starts. The team must win the SEC Championship this weekend at Sea Island G.C. to earn an automatic qualifying spot into NCAA regionals, otherwise its string of 13 straight NCAA Championships appearances -- the longest active streak in the country -- will end as the Gators' sub-.500 head-to-head record this season makes them ineligible for an at-large bid to regionals.

"This has been a tough year, but in reality, the last three years have not been up to our/my expected standards,'' Alexander said in a letter he prepared for Gator golf boosters. "Coaching is a young man's game and it is simply time for me to turn the reins over to someone else and allow this great university, athletic department and golf program to be everything it should be. "Life and golf are so similar," continued Alexander, who is the second-longest tenured coach in any sport in school history. "There are many ups and downs and highs and lows. Today is one of those days that stir all kinds of emotion, it's sad that my time has come, but I'm happy everything worked out so well. I am in a good place, as will our golf program in the future."

Recent results notwithstanding, Alexander's record at Florida was the envy of most of his coaching brethren. In his more than two decades overseeing the Gators, his squads won two NCAA titles, had 11 top-10 finishes at nationals, captured eight SEC Championships and 79 tournaments overall. Thirty-one of his Florida players (include Camilo Villegas, above, from the 2001 NCAA title team) moved on to careers on the PGA Tour.

"He's one of the all-time greats,'' Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release. "He's had a heck of a run. There's no better Gator than Buddy Alexander."

Alexander first broke into coaching in 1977, taking over as head man at his alma mater, Georgia Southern, until 1980. He also held the top job at LSU from 1983 to 1987, where he won two SEC titles and distinguished himself as a player by winning the 1986 U.S. Amateur title. He left Baton Rouge to take a position with management firm IMG, but jumped back into coaching when the Florida job opened.

"I came to Florida because I thought it gave me a great chance to compete,'' Alexander said. "You get into coaching initially because you love golf, you love kids and you love to compete. What I was thinking when I came here was that it was an elite college golf program that has been down since [former coach] Buster [Bishop] was around, and I thought it was an opportunity to turn it back around in the other direction."

Alexander officially steps down at Florida June 30.

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Golf & Business

A golf company that qualifies as a 'great growth stock'?

By Peter Finch

Shares in ClubCorp have been popular among investors, and lately the company has been getting some love in the financial media, too. Barron’s offered a glowing appraisal of the golf course owner/operator over the weekend. The newspaper noted ClubCorp stock (MYCC) is up 30 percent since going public last September and declared that it “looks ready to bound higher.”

A few weeks earlier, Zacks Equity Research suggested ClubCorp qualifies as “a great growth stock.”

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One of the reasons people like ClubCorp so much is there’s a lot of potential for growth through acquisition. It is the country’s largest owner/operator of country clubs, with nearly 160 in its portfolio, but it still controls “only a tiny share of the highly fragmented country-club market,” Barron’s notes. Last year it bought 11 clubs and this year the CEO is hinting at 40 to 50 more.

I like the way the company is focused on producing more revenue, not simply squeezing every last dollar for greater profit. I talked about this with Cathy Harbin, ClubCorp’s vice president of golf revenue, for a column in the current issue of Golf Digest. (The column is about getting
a job in the golf business, and you can see it here.) One of the points she makes: Most golf businesses have cut so far back, there’s not much left to trim. “Growing the top line”—that is, increasing revenue—may be the only way to grow for a while.

It’s about time, in my opinion. For too long, golf course owners and operators assumed they’d always have a line of eager customers stretched around the block. Now that reality has sunk in, they’re working hard to bring golfers in the door with promotions and discounts and actual marketing campaigns.

Is ClubCorp any good at that stuff? A lot of investors are betting it is.

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Celebrity

Harry Styles gets lesson from Dave Stockton Jr., father of the year

By John Strege

The father of the year is the dad who introduces his 15-year-old daughter to Harry Styles, lead singer of the popular boy band, One Direction. Accordingly, Dave Stockton Jr. staked his claim to the award last week.

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Stockton gave Styles a lesson at Stone Eagle Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif. “I didn’t know he was going to be there,” Stockton said. “I was giving a lesson to Irving Azoff and his two sons, Jeffrey and Cameron. And he said, ‘this is Harry.’”

Azoff, whom Stockton has known for several years, is a music industry icon who has a home in the desert and a membership at the Madison Club in La Quinta. Styles, 20, was in town to attend the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

When Azoff introduced him to Styles, Stockton recognized him immediately. “I knew who he was when I saw his face,” he said, noting that his daughter, Serena, has posters of him in her room. “It’s my daughter’s favorite band in the world.”

Stockton said he worked with the Azoffs and Styles on chipping and putting for about an hour, he said. “Nice guy. Shoots in the 80s.”

Stockton’s son Jake was there, too. Jake went home and told Serena that their father was giving Styles a lesson. Serena immediately called her father to scold him for not telling her.

“I didn’t know he was going to be here,” he told her. Then he handed the phone to Styles and said, “Harry, say hello to my daughter, Serena.”

Stockton’s wife eventually brought Serena to the club and she was able to have her photograph taken with Styles.

“Best day ever,” Serena posted on Twitter, while also posting the photo shown here.

“Now I’m the father of the year,” Stockton said.

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News & Tours

Report: Lindsey Vonn and Elin Nordegren are "close friends"

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Who says burned bridges can't be mended?

Tiger Woods' ex-wife Elin Nordegren and current girlfriend Lindsey Vonn have become friends, according to a report in Us Weekly.

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When Nordegren discovered that Vonn would be spending time with her children, she apparently reached out to the Olympic skier so they could get to know each other. Elin reportedly liked that Vonn was a "strong woman," and that proved to be the start of a happy friendship between the two.

Related: PGA Tour Wives And Girlfriends

According to the report:

The source adds that the whole group recently went on vacation together, and that the fellow blondes occasionally took off on their own to grab drinks together, while Woods stayed with the kids. "Lindsey is really good for Tiger. She's strong, opinionated, and keeps him in line," the source explains. "Elin found that they are very similar and have a lot in common. They laugh and talk like they have been girlfriends forever."


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News & Tours

The Grind: Kuchar gets a jacket, hornets terrorize, and Jimenez shows his youth

By Alex Myers

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we never thought the week after the Masters could be so exciting. The guy who could have won at Augusta and the girl who once upon a time thought she would compete there both ended winless droughts in thrilling fashion. Plus, there was everybody's favorite cigar-smoking, wine-swigging senior making a flashy debut on the Champions Tour, and a swarm of hornets wreaking havoc on the European Tour. So apply some extra bug spray and settle in for a rundown of a surprisingly bzzzy (Sorry, couldn't resist) week in golf.

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It's not green, but at least Matt Kuchar wound up winning a jacket.

WE'RE BUYING

Matt Kuchar: Apparently, Kuchar's recent final-round problems stemmed from being too close to the 54-hole lead. After finding himself on our naughty list three weeks in a row for letting Sunday opportunities slip through his fingers, Kuchar closed out a much-needed victory at Harbour Town with the shot of year. A holed bunker shot on the final hole capped a 64 and erased a horrific three-putt on No. 17. Last year, we established the Matt Kuchar Rule, which stated Kuchar never plays poorly in back-to-back weeks. We might have to update it to just say he never plays poorly.

Michelle Wie: Kuchar's victory might have felt like it was a long time in the making, but Wie's win really was. A Sunday 67 allowed her to erase a four-shot deficit and win in her home state of Hawaii, her first title in nearly four years. Don't expect her to go another 79 tournaments without winning. Wie has been the best golfer on the LPGA Tour in 2014.

Miguel Angel Jimenez: Gee, we didn't see this coming. One week after finishing fourth at the Masters, Jimenez made his debut on the Champions Tour and won. Luckily for other senior golfers, Jimenez's focus is still on playing European and PGA Tour events in an effort to qualify for the Ryder Cup team. Well, that and finding a good cigar-wine combo to celebrate all the money he's been raking in of late.

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Lee Westwood: Adding to the impressive roster of winners this week was the former World No. 1, who cruised to a seven-shot victory at the Malaysian Open. At 40, Westwood hinted he thinks his best golf could still be ahead of him. Throw in guys like Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson along with Matt Kuchar and this current crop of "best player without a major" candidates might be the strongest it's ever been.

WE'RE SELLING

Hornets: Did you see what happened to Pablo Larrazabal at the Malaysian Open?! A swarm of these buggers attacked him on Friday, leading him to jump into a lake to escape them. We just looked up hornets and unlike bees, they can sting you more than once. In other words, they're the worst. "I've never been so scared," said Larrazabal, who was stung by 30 to 40 hornets. Amazingly, with his pants still wet, he managed to birdie that hole on his way to a 68. The European Tour should have given him its Comeback Player of the Year Award on the spot.

Josh Broadaway: The Web.com Tour player voiced his displeasure that Nick Faldo was taking a spot in the field at Hilton Head. While there is a growing problem of guys not getting into tournaments -- particularly because of pros exploiting medical exemptions -- it's silly for someone to focus on a player who hadn't played in a PGA Tour event in the U.S. since 2006. Plus, the player in question won SIX majors. Hey, Josh, show some respect. And play better.

Luke Donald's luck: This guy just can't win at Harbour Town no matter what he does. Three runner-ups and two third-place finishes in the past six years? Being that close and not winning at least once might be tougher than winning the same tournament five of six years. Speaking of close calls. . .

Losing "majors": How did this putt for the win not drop for me?!

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It's been a few days and I still can't get over losing Golf Digest's Spring Opener, one of two annual official office putting contests, in extra holes to Steve Hennessey (I could have won a jacket like Kuchar!). It makes me wonder how the pros ever get over losing actual majors. Seriously, Sergio/Lee/Luke/etc., do you have any tips?

ON TAP

The PGA Tour heads to Louisiana for the Zurich Classic, aka that tournament played in the quiet little town of New Orleans.

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

Random tournament fact: There have been a bunch of events won this year at single digits under par, but don't expect that this week. That's only happened once in the past 40 years despite three different courses hosting the tournament in that span.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK 

-- A PGA Tour pro will jump in a lake at TPC Louisiana to avoid hornets: 1 million-to-1 odds (Remember this guy from last year?

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

-- Miguel Angel Jimenez is smoking a cigar as you read this: Even odds

-- Matt Kuchar will have his least stressful Sunday in more than a month: LOCK

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Thanks to Twitter user @d_malkiewicz for capturing this magical moment. What are the odds?!

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THIS WEEK IN DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

Our favorite Golf Digest cover couple is back!

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"Loving Cabo with my babe @djohnsonpga," Paulina wrote on Instagram.

Related: DJ & Paulina's magical year in pictures

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK

In case you missed it, John Daly is still hitting golf balls teed up in people's mouths. It's amazing and absolutely terrifying at once.

INAPPROPRIATE COMMERCIAL OF THE WEEK

This Top Flite ad is pretty -- dare we say -- ballsy. . .

The top 25 viral golf videos of 2013

THIS AND THAT

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Fox appears to have settled on Joe Buck and Greg Norman to lead its golf coverage, which starts with next year's U.S. Open. We can't talk about this anymore. The thought of no more Johnny Miller in the booth that week is too sad. . . . Speaking of the U.S. Open, Mike Davis says Pinehurst is ready to host both the men and women this year on back-to-back weeks. Never has a man so hoped there won't be a playoff. . . . Ted Scott, Bubba Watson's caddie, shot a 1-under-par 71 in a Monday qualifier for the Zurich Classic, but didn't get into the tournament. He'll have to settle for a week off. . . . For all the people who complain about me posting too many pictures of scantily-clad females, here's a picture of a shirtless Rickie Fowler playing golf. Now that's what we call fair coverage.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

Has Rickie been doing more crunches lately?

Will Westwood or Kuchar ever win a major?

How did that putt not fall for me?!

-- Alex Myers is an Associate Editor for GolfDigest.com. Feel free to email him and please follow him on Twitter since he has self-esteem issues.

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News & Tours

Peter Dawson, now set to retire in 2015, has served the R&A well in a time of transition

By John Huggan

News that the R&A's first-ever chief executive, Peter Dawson, will retire from his post in September 2015 after 16 years on the job comes as no real surprise. With golf in the Olympics and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews finally set to vote on the vexing issue of allowing female members, maybe the 64-year-old Cambridge graduate felt there was nothing much left for him to achieve. Then again, perhaps it is simply time to be at home more with his wife, Juliet -- who has recently not enjoyed the best of health -- and working on the swing that made him a 1-handicapper at his best.

Whatever, what might be called the "Dawson era" is one that brought with it changes and challenges almost unprecedented in the now 260 years of the golf club's existence. Indeed, Dawson's hiring at the back end of the last century surely had much to do with the need for the "R&A GC" to separate itself from the corporate business of being the game's rule maker outside the United States and Mexico.

loop-peter-dawson-clubhouse.jpgPeter Dawson, right, will retire from his chief executive position in September 2015 after overseeing the R&A for 16 years. (Getty Images)

No one in the famous old clubhouse that sits behind the first tee on the Old Course needs to be reminded of the uncomfortable sight of then R&A secretary, five-time British Amateur champion Michael Bonallack, being served with a writ by the Karsten Manufacturing during the 1989 Walker Cup in Atlanta. That incident alone confirmed how much the R&A and its 2,500 or so members needed insulation for the club from the specter of legal action being brought against the governing body.

So it was that Dawson, with a career that climaxed as head of sales and marketing in Europe, Africa and the Far East for U.S.-based Grove Manufacturing ("the biggest manufacturers of hydraulic cranes in the world"), was the right man with the right experience for such a delicate task.

Dawson's background has surely also been an asset in dealing with on-going club and ball issues, what he has called "the most intellectually demanding aspect of my tenure, both technically and philosophically." But through it all, the impression here is that he has always thought more as a golfer than an engineering graduate. While publicly he has consistently defended the actions of the R&A and USGA when the subject of driving distances is raised, it would be no surprise -- eventually -- to hear Dawson's private feelings on large-headed drivers and the modern golf ball do not exactly mirror the party line.

For all his successes though, the Aberdeen-born Scot's tenure has not been without criticism or controversy. His dealings with the media, an aspect of the job in which he had little or no previous experience, have often been strained. More than once his irritation with awkward questions has been apparent, especially when the subject has been the R&A's lack of women members. 

Related: Royal & Ancient GC to vote on allowing female members

Since 2004, when the R&A and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club went their separate ways, Dawson has more concerned himself with the set-up of British Open venues. All have been lengthened and many have been subjected to what some critics have euphemistically dubbed "the treatment." This year, for example, the first hole at Hoylake will see a new green courtesy of architect Martin Hawtree that bears little or no resemblance to any other on the course. Likewise, the controversial 17th green at Royal Birkdale has seen many informed observers query Dawson's level of involvement in this often-esoteric area of the game.

Looking forward, the R&A has announced that Dawson's successor will be in place before September next year so that an "appropriate handover period" can take place. Exactly who that man will be remains unclear, as do the qualifications he will most require going forward.

Bonallack was a figurehead at a time when that was what the R&A needed. Dawson's lengthy experience in business was the quality missing from the club's hierarchy back in 1999. The next incumbent is likely to be a mixture of both.

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