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News & Tours

Woods looking to build on success Down Under at Chevron

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Was Australia an illusion or a turning point for Tiger Woods? Are more than two years of injuries and distractions behind him as the new Sean Foley-crafted swing kicks in or was that Sunday singles success at the Presidents Cup another one-off tease?
Nothing that happens this week at the Chevron World Challenge will provide definitive answers to those questions surrounding Woods.  That will come next year in full-field tournaments, especially the majors. But it will be fascinating to see if Woods can build on his success Down Under.
tiger_chevron_470.jpgFor Woods, this week's Chevron World Challenge feels more like the first tournament of 2012 than the last event of 2011. Photo by Getty Images.

"Playing Oz for two weeks, it was fantastic," Woods said on Wednesday after the pro-am round at Sherwood CC. "I hit all shots and all shapes. I was trusting my trajectory again. You get exposed in the wind. I felt very comfortable in that wind."

Related: Tiger's dramatic past two years

If the weather forecasters are correct, Tiger's new swing and growing confidence will certainly get another good test in Thursday's first round of the Chevron. The prediction is for sustained wind of 25 to 35 miles per hour, with gusts up to 50 mph. "If it blows like that, it will be a challenge," he said.

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Gear & Equipment

Take a golf lesson live, at your desk

Those who might not have the time to take a lesson now have the opportunity to do so at their desk, 10 minutes a session, live, with a teaching professional, via the Internet.

It's called Golf Coach Direct and is the brainchild of Phil Auerbach, an entrepreneur and self-described golf nut, who has played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and is a 10-time club champion at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, N.Y.

Golf Coach Direct.jpg

"What we've found is that lessons are not affordable or they're not accessible," Auerbach said. "People have limited time for golf. They'd rather play at golf than work at golf."

Golf Coach Direct takes the time and cost constraints out of the equation. "Ten minutes, $20," Auerbach said. "You just upload your swing and pick your coach."

It's a simple process that begins with video of your swing, which can be taken with any kind of device, even a smart phone. It's uploaded to Golf Coach Direct and analyzed by your instructor, chosen from among 100 of them from around the country, with whom you communicate via webcam.

"There are four different screens during the lesson," Auerbach said. "Picture the Ayatollah, Frank Chirkinian [the late CBS Sports director] in his truck deciding whether to go to the 15th or the 17th hole at Augusta National. Not only can your coach do that, he call put up a split screen and pull up a swing of yours from a different day, or one from his own locker to compare yours with, or even put up a tour pro's swing. Our library of tour pros' swings run the gamut -- Phil and Tiger, McIlroy, Mahan, a lot of great women players. Another view is when the coach comes onto the camera itself and shows you what you're doing wrong."

The instructor also can use lines and arrows and such to demonstrate where your club is supposed to be at various points of the swing. At the conclusion of your lesson, it is saved in your locker for referencing at your leisure.

Eventually, Auerbach said, he intends to add a fitness component to it as well.

"I'm proud to say the site is working incredibly well," Auerbach said. "It's a whole new age way of thinking."

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Court system on Sharp Park's side... for now

A preliminary injunction sought by opponents of Sharp Park golf course in Pacifica, Calif., to stop pumping and mowing on half of the 1932 Alister Mackenzie layout -- measures that would have effectively shut it down -- has been denied by a California court.

In a 15-page ruling issued Tuesday in San Francisco, U.S. District Court judge Susan Illston wrote that the the plaintiffs had "failed to meet their burden of showing irreparable harm to the California Red-Legged Frog or the San Francisco Garter Snake" caused by the operation of the municipal course.


Photo by Bill Fields

A group of non-profit conservation groups has sued the City of San Francisco, arguing that the operation of the course has caused "taking" of the frog, a threatened species, and the snake, an endangered species. The city and advocates of Sharp Park, including the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, argued that the course has been taking actions to protect the two species, including egg masses of the frog.

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News & Tours

First time the charm at Q school for recent collegians?

With the final stage of both PGA Tour and LPGA Qualifying School beginning tomorrow, the former out at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., the latter at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., it's interesting to see just how many participants are fresh from the college golf ranks. And when I say interesting, I mean that in two different ways.

My quick glance at the field at PGA Tour Q school found only five players who competed for college teams in the spring:

Chris DeForest, Illinois
Harris English, Georgia
Paul Haley, Georgia Tech
Tom Hoge, TCU
Hudson Swafford, Georgia

Five seems like a small number to me (thus being "interesting" because of its paucity; there were at least seven last year.) Particularly too when you consider that in the last eight years, at least one player straight out of college have not only reached the final stage but actually earned PGA Tour cards (see below). With only the top 25 and ties making it out of a field of 173, the percentages suggest that having one of the five make it through could be difficult, let alone more than one.

2010 Joseph Bramlett, Stanford; Ben Martin, Clemson;
2009 Rickie Fowler, Okla. State; Billy Horschel, Florida; Cameron Tringale, Ga. Tech
2008 Derek Fathauer, Louisville; Webb Simpson, Wake Forest
2007 Dustin Johnson, Coastal Carolina
2006 Anthony Kim, Oklahoma; Kyle Reifers, Wake Forest
2005 J.B. Holmes, Kentucky; Nicholas Thompson, Ga. Tech
2004 Matt Davidson, Furman
2003 Hunter Mahan, Okla.State

* A quick aside: Before the PGA Tour decides to re-jigger Qualifying School by not offering ANY PGA Tour cards to participants and instead only providing access to the Nationwide Tour, look at the names above. Six of the 14 players who jumped straight from college to the pros eventually played on U.S. Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup teams. That's 42.8 percent, a pretty high success rate in my mind. Why again, then, is the tour going to cut off this direct route to the major leagues, forcing talented, exciting, fresh blood from making it to the PGA Tour—and succeeding—without first having a stint on the Nationwide Tour? 

Conversely, at LPGA Q school, my count has 19 players in the field of 140 who were on college rosters in 2010-11 and two players who are currently seniors in college competing as amateurs this week in hopes of earning a card (LPGA or Futures Tour) that can be used after the end of the spring semester.

Anya Alvarez, Washington
Sandra Changkija, Nova Southeastern
Carlota Ciganda, Arizona State
Cydney Clanton, Auburn
Emma de Groot, Chattanooga
Brianna Do, UCLA*
Rebecca Durham, Stanford
Martina Gavier, Kent State
Numa Gulyanamitta, Purdue
Danielle Kang, Pepperdine
Mitsuki Katahira, Daytona Beach
Stephanie Kono, UCLA*
Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, Purdue
Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Texas
Camilla Lennarth, Alabama
Alejandra Llaneza, Arizona
Aimee Neff, Michigan State
Calle Nielson, Virginia  
Lizette Salas, USC
Natalie Sheary, Wake Forest
Macarena Silva, Florida State
* current playing college golf
This number is interesting to me because it actually seems high, particularly too when you consider that of the 19, 17 were Division I players and of those 17 only three ever claimed first-team All-American honors. It hints at a greater depth of talent than perhaps in the past.
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Monday Swing Analysis: Kuchar and Woodland, the Odd Couple

Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the game of a recent tour winner and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. This week, Kevin examines the amazing driving ability of Gary Woodland and discusses how his game contrasts with Matt Kuchar's. The American duo captured the World Cup in China over the weekend, coming from behind in the final round firing an alternate-shot 67 to win by two strokes over Germany and England.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

Kevin Hinton: When you examine the stats of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, you quickly see the contrast in their games. Kuchar is a shorter but more accurate driver of the ball and a better putter, while Woodland can bomb it off the tee and then hit a lot of greens with wedges and short irons. But Woodland can use some work on the greens. They would have won by four or five strokes if Matt could have putted for Gary in the final round. Together, however, their individual talents blossomed, and they showed tremendous fire and confidence on the final day to pull off the win over a strong field that included Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell of Ireland, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose of England, Martin Kaymer and Alex Cjeka of Germany, and Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.

Let's take a closer look at their stats: Kuchar ranks only 128th in Driving Distance while Woodland is ranked fifth. Meanwhile, Kuchar is 52nd in Driving Accuracy while Woodland is an unimpressive 137th. But Kuchar ranks only 50th in GIR while Woodland ranks 12th. Clearly, Woodland is a bomb and gouger with immense talent for hitting the ball really long, and he often drives with his 2-iron just to keep the ball short of trouble. Let's see how he does it in the video here:

You can clearly see Woodland's two-way action, in which the club is still going back as his lower body begins to move forward. Ben Hogan talked a lot about this type of move. It adds to the lag and down-cocking of the club on the downswing, similar to the action of Sergio Garcia, which we analyzed a few weeks ago.
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News & Tours

For Woods, Chevron is much more than an exhibition

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Two years ago, the host was conspicuous by his absence at the Chevron World Challenge. Too much was happening too quickly for Tiger Woods in the wake of his Thanksgiving night car crash to make an appearance at Sherwood CC less than a week later.

Last year, going into Sunday with a four-stroke lead, it seemed Tiger would get his first victory since the incident of Nov. 27, 2009, and the subsequent revelations about his personal life. But sloppy work on the greens by Woods early and Graeme McDowell's hot putter late took care of that.


Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

This year, Woods comes into the Chevron with more reason for optimism than at any point in a winless streak that is now in its third year. Strong efforts at the Emirates Australian Open and the Presidents Cup suggest the longest run of futility in Tiger's pro career could end this week.

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Gear & Equipment

Renegar Golf: Wedges for the 21st century

The new Renegar Golf wedges have been 18 years in the making, but 80 years overdue, the company founder said.


Bob Renegar, a former director of research and development for the Ben Hogan Company and Pro Group (Arnold Palmer's former equipment company), said he conceived of the idea at his mother-in-law's kitchen table nearly two decades ago. He developed a prototype in 1995 that went through various iterations, including the Solus wedge.

The new Renegar Rx12 wedges evolved from those earlier models, Renegar said, and have achieved what once was thought impossible -- lowering the leading edge, while increasing the bounce on the sole.

"The product itself is a complete rethinking of what a wedge product ought to be, from the sole contour to the butt end of the grip," Renegar said. "After 80 years of the Gene Sarazen sole contour, we're opening the door to the next generation of wedge category."

The bounce that makes a wedge so effective from a bunker, developed by Gene Sarazen in the '30s, raises the leading edge, which complicates shots around the green. Renegar's mandate was to "think outside the bunker," he said.

"The Sarazen-based offerings in the marketplace right now are perfectly acceptable for bunker play," Renegar said. "There's nothing wrong with them. But the problem is that that's only about 20 percent of your short-game play."

The sole contour of the Rx12 wedges has been designed in a way that lowers the leading edge to less than half the height of traditional soles, the company claims, while actually increasing the bounce and the versatility.

The shafts were developed in collaboration with Aldila and feature a firmer tip and higher flex point. "It's a fairly heavy composite shaft [105 grams]," Renegar said. "It gives you the ability to control the trajectory."

The Lamkin grips, too, were designed specifically for the wedges. They're an inch longer with a larger right-hand diameter to allow for choking down on the club.

Renegar received a utility patent on the sole design in 2009. "That utility patent is the basis on which we're launching this company," Renegar said. The wedges are available on the company's website at They sell for $195 each and come in lofts of 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees.

The website features a video library with live shot demonstrations, among other features.

-- John Strege

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Weekend Tip: How to putt on bad greens

Many of you are probably still recovering from overindulging at the dinner table the past couple of days. And if you're as tired of watching football as I am, you're probably itching to work off some of those calories by getting out on the course for a quick nine or even a full round. Just one problem: The greens this time of year in the North are probably slow and bumpy. If you've headed south for some warmer weather, you'll likely face Bermuda greens that have been overseeded with Rye grass--again slower and with some grain. Here are some tips to help you make more putts, gleaned from the pages of Golf Digest:

--Remember, it's the green, not you. When you miss a putt or two that you normally would make, don't start questioning your stroke or your alignment or your green-reading skills. That only putts doubt in your mind. Tell yourself it's the condition of the greens and that everyone has the same problem. And then follow the advice below:

-- Play less break, and hit the putt firmer. Slower, bumpy greens simply don't break as much because the ball is rolling faster through most of the putt. Putts that roll slower (like on faster greens) will break more because gravity can have more effect.

-- Concentrate on hitting the putt solid.
Tom Watson has often described an image that really works for him. He says to think of a tack in the back of the ball, and he uses the putter to "tap the tack into the ball" at impact. That image ensures you'll hit the ball solidly with the sweet spot of the putter to get the ball rolling smoothly and on line. A putt hit off-center will not hold it's line as well on a fast, smooth green, and it certainly has no chance on a slower, bumpy green.

-- Leave yourself uphill putts. When the greens are bumpy or grainy, uphill putts are better than downhillers because you can hit the putt firmly, thereby reducing the effect of the green's blemishes or grain. So try to get your chips or first putts to finish below the hole. Those short putts will be a lot easier to handle.

--Hit short putts to the back of the cup. Paul Runyan used to practice three- and four-footers for hours, trying to get the ball to hit the back of the cup. One the practice green he would put a tee in the back of the cup and make the ball hit the tee. On the course, pretend there's a tee in the back of the cup. It's an effective strategy on bumpy or grainy greens.

Hope these tips help your game this weekend. We'll see you on Monday.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Thanksgiving's morning after, and the truth about carbs

Editor's note: Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. He gives you a health and fitness tip or an exercise or stretch to get your body warmed up for the weekend. This week, as you recover from your Thanksgiving eating overload, he tells you how all carbohydrates are not created equal, and which ones might be better for your golf game. Look for Saturday Morning Tip tomorrow, have a great Thanksgiving weekend, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest

Here's Ron: Carbohydrates have somehow become a bad word in nutrition. People often associate them with weight gain, Type II diabetes and, generally speaking, poor eating habits. But what many people don't understand is that not all carbohydrates are alike. Think of it this way. Is a piece of lean, wild salmon the same quality of protein as a hot dog? Of course not. So then understand that there are good carbs and there are bad carbs, and if you're playing golf, knowing the difference can not only improve your health, but it can also lower your scores.
Here's an example of how carbohydrates can impact your game: Player A is playing a morning match against Player B. Both ate in the clubhouse dining room before the match and had a sensible breakfast that included protein, carbohydrates, some fat and fiber. But as they make the turn, both are feeling a little hungry. Player A pulls an apple out of his bag and munches on that. Player B gets a granola bar from the snack shop. Now, both food items are high in carbohydrates so the snack choices should have little impact on the match, right? Answer: Maybe. Player B will likely suffer from a "sugar crash" somewhere on the back nine and his energy level and concentration might deteriorate. Perhaps it's on the last hole when he needs to make a crucial five-footer to win the match. Player A will likely feel full much longer and demonstrate the same energy and concentration levels he had on the front nine.
If you want to know why, click on the link here and read about carbs in Golf Digest's December issue (with Webb Simpson on the cover). Considering the fact that you're probably reading this while suffering from a Thanksgiving hangover, the information should be useful as you start your new eating plan.

Ron Kaspriske
Fitness Editor
Golf Digest
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Courses & Travel

I'm thankful for . . .

Thanksgiving. It’s the Cypress Point of holidays. Nothing compares. It’s certainly my favorite. Like Cypress Point, Thanksgiving starts out with a handshake or a hug, some playable holes, feels like the gathering of family, and then builds to the presentation of the Big Bird, or the 16th tee. By the 18th green, you want to unbutton your pants, find a spot on the sofa, and drift into tryptophanic dreams of John Madden awarding you a turducken drumstick for being the game’s MVP. 
So, what am I thankful for?

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