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News & Tours

Rory McIlroy's grand slam quest might have to go through Texans

The Masters is on the horizon, and with Tiger Woods lost somewhere inside his head the focus falls on a lone star, Rory McIlroy. Maybe it should fall on the Lone Star State, too.

Prognostication in a sport that produced 20 different winners in its first 20 events is pointless, but any list that doesn’t have Texans Jimmy Walker and Jordan Spieth somewhere near the top of potential winners at Augusta in two weeks is not one worth considering.

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Jimmy Walker (Getty Images)

Walker, who lives outside San Antonio, made his case emphatically on Sunday, winning the Valero Texas Open by four shots to become the first to win multiple times on the PGA Tour this season. Spieth, who resides in the Dallas area, finished second, two weeks after winning the Valspar Championship.

McIlroy is a green jacket shy of the career grand slam, and we hear about inevitability (“If Rory doesn't win at Augusta in a few weeks’ time, he’ll win next year. And if he doesn't win next year, then he'll win it the year after,” Darren Clarke said last week). But don’t summon a tailor just yet.

Walker, who has two victories and a playoff loss in 2015, now has five PGA Tour victories in less than 18 months, the impetus for a rapid ascension that has landed him in the top 10 in the World Ranking.

Spieth, 21, came into the Texas Open ranked sixth in the world and is aiming higher. “I'd like to at some point be the number one ranked player in the world,” he said earlier in the week. “I'd like to win at least one major championship, try to get one before we look forward from there. But ultimately I'd like to be one of the best players to ever play the game.”

Bettors seem to have been slow to board the Walker bandwagon, despite a record that argued on his behalf. Prior to the Texas Open, odds on Walker winning the Masters were as high as 45 to 1.

It’s one thing, of course, to win the Texas Open or the Sony Open of Hawaii (his two victories in 2015), another to win a major championship. But consider this: Last year, with scant experience in majors, he finished in the top 10 in three of them, including a tie for eighth in the Masters.

Walker’s focus is on Augusta National, where he’ll be Monday and Tuesday for two days of practice, his second visit there in the last two months.

Spieth, meanwhile, already is a consistent force who held a share of the 54-hole lead at Augusta last year, before derailing on the back nine and tying for second.

Both pose a credible threat to McIlroy, who has to pass through Texans en route to the Butler Cabin.

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Equipment

Winner's bag: Jimmy Walker's loyalty to his Scotty Cameron putter pays off

Scotty Cameron has a loyal -- some might say almost cult-like -- following, which has led many that use Cameron putters to hold onto them well after they have been banished from the bag. Jimmy Walker is one of those folks. In October Walker sent his 11-year-old Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter to the Scotty Cameron Custom Shop to be refurbished. Walker had good memories with the club as he won twice and topped the Nationwide Tour money list in 2004. In addition to a little sprucing up, Walker also had tungsten added to the sole to get the feel Walker desired.

Related: Golf Digest's My Shot with Jimmy Walker

Walker used the putter earlier this year in winning the Sony Open and it was still in the bag at the Valero Texas Open where Walker had an impressive 2.585 in strokes gained/putting. Put another way, Walker gained more than 10 strokes on the field on the greens over the four rounds.

 

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Titleist 915D2 (Aldila Rogue Tour X), 9.5 degrees
3-Wood: Titleist 915F, 15 degrees
5-Wood: Titleist 915F, 18 degrees
Irons (3-9): Titleist MB 714; (PW): Titleist Vokey SM4
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 (54, 60 degrees)
Putter: Scotty Cameron By Titleist Newport2 303 GSS

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Gear & Equipment

The story behind the technology hidden in Nike's Method Converge putters

Putters sometimes get noticed more for what people see on the outside. However, it's the materials and structures inside the clubhead and grip that are the game-changers on Nike's new Method Converge.

Each of the four head styles uses a proprietary resin polymer ("RZN") between the face and back to improve how the ball rolls. The company says the polymer material can control sidespin on off-center strikes so toe and heel misses come off the face consistently straighter.

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Even more intriguing is what's inside the grip. On the Nike's 35- and 38-inch counterbalanced models (called CounterFlex), a 75-gram weight can be shifted within the 15-inch grip to let golfers adjust how much counterbalance they want.

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There are four models in the series, with standard designs ($170) available in May and the CounterFlex ($230) available in June.

Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digest Stix, 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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News & Tours

Keegan Bradley and Luke Donald get schooled at basketball by Michael Jordan and Tom Brady

More proof that life is really, really good as PGA Tour pro.

After a round of golf together earlier that day...


Keegan Bradley, Luke Donald, MJ and Tom Brady decided to keep move things over to MJ's domain. Keegan said that things had gone well on the course. But on the basketball court? Not so much.


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Books

Was golf "back in the day" better than it is now?

GolfDigest.com regularly highlights golf books we find of interest to readers. This week is:


Men In Green
loop-men-in-green-book-300.jpgBy Michael Bamberger, Simon & Schuster, $27, hardback, 260 pages

When a book's premise matches a reader's present state of mind, that's a problem-free read. When the book doesn't quite take you on the journey you expected, that's problematic. That's where I was with Men in Green, acclaimed Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger's new book. I felt closely aligned with the subject matter. The author is at that middle-age stage as I am, when the nostalgia and charm of events and eras from the past can be overwhelming and the players and moments from today just don't seem to measure up. The past, however, creates issues and questions that must be answered. In Men in Green, Bamberger talks with various golf figures about questions such as: What do you remember about the old days? Does it match up with what I remember? Were you happier then or would you have wanted to have done what you did in today's environment? Was golf better back in the day?

To help answer his questions, Bamberger did some pondering with the help of Living Legends and Secret Legends, nine names of each group he came up with as he wondered about these concerns. The Living Legends were all former players, while the Secret Legends was a hodgepodge ranging from a writer to caddies to golf's grand old man, Sandy Tatum, a former USGA president, NCAA champion and Tom Watson comrade. Watson is among Bamberger's Living Legends, which include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Mickey Wright, Curtis Strange, Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, and Ken Venturi, who passed away in May 2013 but who did talk with the author for the book.

Related: Catch up on other Golf Digest book reviews

When Bamberger created his list, it was fall 2012. He mapped out where his 18 legends lived and saw they were spread around the country. Going on a Grand Tour that's more upbeat than George Jones', Bamberger is accompanied by Mike Donald, the tour player who was Hale Irwin's vanquished playoff foe from the 1990 U.S. Open. The stories the subjects tell bring golf from the era of late 1950s to the 1980s back in full vigor, sprinkled with some flowery language from the unexpected (Arnie saying the F-word) that proved more humanizing than shocking.

If you're familiar with golf of the last 50-plus years, the stories, the names and the events will entertain and enthrall. I felt, however, there was a lack of answering the central question surrounding if golf was better then than now. The mini-visits with subjects were biographical but not analytical about what they felt about the time they had in the golf spotlight. Bamberger weaves some common threads though the book, such as the infamous rules dispute Venturi couldn't let go of from the 1958 Masters, in which he felt Palmer cheated the runners-up Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins. The Masters itself and its workings are another common subject throughout.

Regardless of answers left unsaid, Men in Green did not disappoint as a nostalgic visit and reminiscence with those who fashioned golf history. Was golf better back in the day? Was the thrill of adventure watching our golfing heroes better then? Yes or no, it sure seemed to me that everyone was having a helluva time.

I particularly liked: Anything written about LPGA Hall of Famer Mickey Wright, the notoriously reclusive superstar who Ben Hogan said had the best swing, male or female, he had ever seen. Considering it is so difficult to find anything fresh about her, the several nuggets Bamberger reveals are to be cherished, especially the part that includes a letter she wrote about the old days.

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Style

Think Lululemon is just a women's apparel brand? Don't tell PGA Tour caddies

Tour players are typically the ones influencing golf fashion. The team at Lululemon, however, has tour caddies to thank for the growing popularly of its men's apparel line.

The company most commonly associated with women's athletic wear (ask your wife or girl friend, they'll know the name) expanded into men's products a few years ago, starting with underwear before venturing into shorts, pants and polos. Using moisture-wicking materials with stretch fabric and flat-seam construction, the company created comfortable products, particularly for those who do a lot of walking in warm weather -- the general working conditions for tour caddies.

Word spread among loopers -- Scott Vail, caddie for Brandt Snedeker, is a convert -- about the products. Suffice it to say, the performance of the clothes offset any potential anxiety of Lululemon being "just for women."

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The ABC pants ($125 in five colors) come in a five-pocket design with an easy access pocket for your cellphone, as do the ABC shorts ($78 in six colors). The Union Polo shirt ($78) is anti-microbial and offers UVA protection.

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Interested in more stories on apparel? Signup to receive Golf Digest Stix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things fashion.

 

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Missing Links

Turnberry's full 'Trump treatment' to include suite in iconic lighthouse

Stories of interest you might have missed…

“Turnberry is getting the full ‘Trump treatment’ as its billionaire owner bids to turn the Ayrshire resort into the jewel in his golfing crown,” Martin Dempster writes in the Scotsman. “A raft of ‘exciting’ changes are to be made, both to the Ailsa Course and the hotel. Trump is even going to turn the iconic lighthouse into a Halfway House that will also incorporate a luxurious two-bedroomed suite for guests.”

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Phil Mickelson used one of two annual exemptions to skip the pro-am at the Valero Texas Open and arrived into San Antonio on Wednesday night. He was coming from Augusta National. “Mickelson is 44 years old, toward the end of his prime, and this is a significant moment in his career. When Mickelson goes back to Augusta, he wants to be in position to win his fourth green jacket,” columnist Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express writes in this look at Mickelson’s pre-Masters preparation that includes the Valero Texas Open.

***

Much of the news surrounding Tiger Woods in the run-up to the Masters has focused on his short-game woes. Golf Monthly’s Jeremy Ellwood has a Q&A with Chris DiMarco, the victim of one of Tiger’s greatest short-game shots, on the 16th green of the last round in the 2005 Masters. “I was definitely not counting on that,” DiMarco said. “And like he said in his interview afterwards, he was just trying to chip it inside me so he knew what he had to do. But great champions produce great things in the biggest moments, and that’s what he did.”

***

The marquee star in the LPGA’s Kia Classic this week is Michelle Wie, who has a Kia endorsement contract and appeared in a two-page ad for the tournament in U-T San Diego on Monday. “It’s just that the splash isn’t very well-timed for the current state of Wie’s game, which has very literally been infirmed,” Tod Leonard of the U-T writes. “Wie came down with strep throat and then a sinus infection. ‘Feeling sick sucks, especially if you feel sick for a month,’ Wie said. I feel a lot better, and I think I’m kind of hopefully getting over it now.”

***

“As he drank a glass of milk in the afterglow of that Pinehurst win - March 21, 1940, as meaningful a date as any in Hogan’s career - you could sense the feeling of relief wash over him,” Bill Fields writes at PGATour.com, in this look back at the 75th anniversary of Hogan’s victory in the North and South that jump-started his career. “I won one just in time,” Hogan said. “I had finished second and third so many times, I was beginning to think I was an also-ran. I needed that win. They’ve kidded me about practicing so much. I’d go out there before a round and practice, and when I was through, I’d practice some more. Well, they can kid me all they want because it finally paid off.”

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Tenuous golf connection

So what if this Price Is Right contestant's putting stroke is blatantly illegal? It still won her a new car

Something tells us that when 84-year-old Margaret is riding in the new $16,000 car she won on The Price Is Right, she won't be lamenting her violation of the Rules of Golf. Nor should she -- last we checked, a TV soundstage is not a regulation golf course, and it was good enough to net her a new set of wheels.

Here's the video:



We're happy for Margaret, but as the designated wet blankets in charge, we'd be remiss in not pointing out that the clinching putt is in violation of Rule 16-1e: Standing Astride or on Line of Putt. The rule was adopted after Sam Snead reverted to this stroke in the mid-1960s when his normal stroke abandoned him. 

Here's Sam:

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As Snead told Sports Illustrated in 1967, the stroke was ideal for players of advanced age. “Not too many people can bend over quite as well as I can, but I think it is good for old golfers," he said. "They don't have to coordinate two hands, only one."

The stroke was deemed objectionable by a number of golf people, including Bobby Jones, and it was made illegal by the USGA in 1968, with the rule stating: 

The player must not make a stroke on the putting green from a stance astride, or with either foot touching, the line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball. 

For the record, the penalty here is two strokes or a loss of hole, but for now, we'll let Margaret off with a warning.

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European Tour

Thomas Levet and alleviating slow play on tour: For my next trick...

Slow play is the scourge of professional golf, but maybe France’s Thomas Levet has found a way to help alleviate the problem: Not by playing faster, but by providing entertainment while we wait.

Finland’s Mikko Korhonen, his playing partner in the first two rounds of the European Tour’s Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, took this photo of Levet performing a balancing act during a wait on Friday and posted it to his Twitter account:

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Trending

Giant Florida gator named "Goliath" returns, satisfies his appetite by chomping on a turtle

A couple weeks ago, a giant gator at Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood, Fla., became a viral sensation. Well, that scary-looking reptile -- appropriately named "Goliath" by the club -- surfaced again on Thursday and this time it had company.

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Oh, you can't see what other creature is there? Here's a closer look:

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Yep, that's a helpless turtle in Goliath's mouth. When we said Goliath had company, we meant Goliath had a snack. Hey, Goliath's gotta eat.

Related: 5 things to talk about on the golf course this weekend

The club posted those two photos of Goliath (what a great name!) to its Facebook page along with the following message: "Lots of people are asking what alligators eat...here is Goliath having a turtle for breakfast. (Sorta nasty to see but it's the reality of wild animals)"

Very true. Just stay away from the golfers, Goliath, and we're cool.

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