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Fact Check: Is Andrew Loupe really that slow?

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

The slow play issue once again cast a long shadow during the Valero Texas Open last weekend.

Andrew Loupe, whose strong finish to the 2013 Web.com season earned him a PGA Tour card for 2014, started pumping the breaks almost as quickly as he rose into contention. Loupe's pre-shot routine reached up to 1:15 seconds on Sunday. He was eventually put on the clock by a rules official, but even then, his routine lasted more than 50 seconds, earning him an official warning.

Related: Fact Check: Is playing with Kevin Na really unfair?

Those were extremes, but here's a clip of Loupe's normal pre-shot routine, from after the tee is in the ground until he pulls the trigger, which runs 39 seconds. 


Relative to the rest of the tour, is 39 seconds really that slow? Even 1:15 seconds; how big a deal is that?

We decided to find out by timing video footage of random players' pre-shot routines on drives. The timer started when players were done teeing up the ball, and ended right before they started their swing. Each name on the list had at least two pre-shot routines timed, which were averaged out to the numbers listed. (The only numbers that weren't averaged were those of Na, Furyk, Loupe and Scott from the four specified events -- we included those just for interest.)

Here's how it shook out:

Bill Haas: 13 seconds
Angel Cabrera: 14 seconds
Rickie Fowler: 15 seconds
Steve Stricker: 19 seconds
Kevin Na: 19 seconds
Adam Scott 20 (2013 Masters Playoff)
Phil Mickelson: 21 seconds
Dustin Johnson: 21 seconds
Tiger Woods: 22 seconds
Rory McIlroy: 22 seconds
Adam Scott 23 seconds
Jason Dufner: 26 seconds
Matt Kuchar: 29 seconds
Jim Furyk: 31 seconds
Justin Rose: 33 seconds
Andrew Loupe: 39 seconds
Jum Furyk: 57 seconds (2013 PGA Championship)
Kevin Na: 1:10 seconds (2011 Players Championship)
Andrew Loupe: 1.15 seconds (2014 Valero Texas Open)
 
Related: Fact Check: Is Patrick Reed really a top five player in the world?

As you can see, Loupe's 0.39 second routine, relative to the other players on the list, is substantially slower than average. And with that routine seemingly slowing down even more under pressure, it's easy to see people getting increasingly annoyed. Johnny Miller seemed to put it best:


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Gear & Equipment

Impact: The place where Sam Snead couldn't keep from winning

By Alex Holmes


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"To be consistently effective, you must put a certain distance between yourself and what happens to you on the golf course. This is not indifference, it's detachment." -- Sam Snead

You could safely describe Snead as "consistently effective" when it came to playing in the Greater Greensboro Open. In April 1965, the Slammer secured his eighth victory in the Greensboro, N.C., event, the 82nd (and last) PGA Tour win of his illustrious career.

Snead's trophy tally at the GGO (now known as the Wyndham Championship) still stands as the tour's top mark for most wins at a single event, although he got company in the record book last year when Tiger Woods tied him with his eighth victory at the Arnold Palmer invitational at Bay Hill. 

Photo: Getty Images (1956)
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News & Tours

'Is it time to look beyond Tiger and Phil?'

By John Strege

SAN ANTONIO -- Google "Phil Mickelson" and "tinkering" and more than 69,000 results turn up. Mickelson tinkers with his swing, his putting stroke, his equipment, attempting to find the square peg that fits a round hole.

This time, at the Valero Texas Open, he was tinkering with a driver swing to take to the Masters, working on a custom fit for Augusta National's generous fairway widths. He was swinging hard and hitting it high and hurt himself doing so.

Mickelson pulled an oblique muscle hitting driver on the first tee (his 10th hole) on Saturday and withdrew from the tournament. His status for the Shell Houston Open this week and even the Masters the following week is not yet known.

Couple Mickelson's injury with Tiger Woods' bulging disc and his own uncertainty about Augusta, and a question posed by Dottie Pepper recently gives one pause.

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"We've been pretty spoiled with easy story lines and high expectations for a very long time. Is it time to look beyond @TigerWoods and Phil?" she wrote on Twitter.

It's not time yet -- Woods won five tournaments last year, Mickelson three, including the British Open. But sooner clearly is gaining on later, and when the day comes, the hangover golf might experience could be colossal.

Woods and Mickelson have anchored golf's marquee for nearly two decades. A television promo for the Valero Texas Open began this way: "Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy. Every week champions will rise. Every week history will be made."

The first two names have 19 major championships and 121 PGA Tour victories between them. The second duo have three majors and 16 PGA Tour wins between them. McIlroy is equipped to help fill the eventual void, but it remains an open question as to whether he will.

Related: More from John Strege 

Woods' dominion over the game has resulted in tournaments being categorized: Tiger tournaments, those in which he played, and the others, those in which he did not play. The buzz in the former is palpable, but its falloff in the latter is usually dramatic.

Mickelson in the Tiger era, meanwhile, has always been an entertaining second fiddle, one capable of playing lead violin from time to time, and he might have been on the cusp of doing so again at Augusta.

The Texas Open was the first of what was to be a three-week run of tournament golf, culminating with the Masters. Each of the three times Mickelson won at Augusta, it was his third straight tournament. Ditto the British Open he won last year and the Players Championship he won in 2007. On the 10 occasions that he played the two weeks prior to the Masters, he finished out of the top 10 only once.

Friday, Mickelson was borderline euphoric about the state of his game and health. "I actually really like the way I'm driving the ball," he said. "My speed is back, my back feels great, my body feels great and I'm able to hit the ball hard again."

A day later, he joined Woods on the disabled list. They'll still dominate story lines in the run-up to the Masters, but by Thursday's start, we might already be looking beyond Tiger and Phil, for one week, at least.

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Style

Paul Stankowski (and his belt company) can help you with your waist management

By Marty Hackel

If there's a fashion constant for me, it's that a stylish belt is critical to completing a great outfit. A lux accessory around your waist sophisticates your look without sacrificing personal style.

It's something Paul Stankowski knew when he played the PGA Tour and has adopted in launching Francis Edward. The exotic leather-goods company Stankowski (middle name: Francis) and business partner Mike Vicary (middle name: Edward) created in 2013 uses materials such as calf, lizard, bison and alligator skins to produce men's and women's belts, cash covers and, coming soon, yardage-book covers.
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Superior quality and craftsmanship is why the products are available only via specialty orders (prices start at $159) and in select high-end golf shops.

Francis Edward is a reminder that veteran golfers ("I'm not retired," says Stankowski, 44, "just on pause.") don't stop playing. They just start new businesses.

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News & Tours

Phil Mickelson pulls oblique muscle, 12 days before Masters

By John Strege

SAN ANTONIO -- Phil Mickelson has joined Tiger Woods on the disabled list, at least temporarily, having withdrawn from the Valero Texas Open with a pulled oblique muscle 10 holes into the third round on Saturday.

PhilWD.jpg

"My back's feeling great, my body's been feeling great, I felt as good as I have all year," Mickelson said. "My speed is back, I was hitting the ball hard, driving it great. I pulled a muscle on my downswing trying to hit the ball hard on the second hole. It just killed and wouldn't subside for 10 or 12 seconds.

"I'm going to go back to San Diego for a couple of days and have a doctor take a look at it, but there's really not much you can do for a pulled muscle. I hope I'll be OK to play the Shell in Houston, but I just don't know."

Mickelson was using the Valero Texas Open and next week's Shell Houston Open as preparation for the Masters the following week.

Earlier this year, Mickelson withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open with back issues.

Woods, meanwhile, withdrew in the final round of the Honda Classic, limped through the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, then was unable to defend his championship in the Arnold Palmer Invitational as a result of a bulging disc in his back. It remains uncertain whether Woods will be able to play in the Masters.

(Getty Images photo)

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News & Tours

Are you playing a 'loser's game' at the golf course and in the stock market?

A few weeks ago, I posted an item about the nine ways active traders and golfers are alike. It was based on an interview with Kelli Keough, senior vice president in charge of client experience at Charles Schwab Co., who came up with the list of nine golfer-trader similarities.

concluded with a 10th similarity of my own: "Golfers and traders can both be delusional about their abilities at times."

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Marketplace.com blogger George Sisti has a piece today that explores the same theme, and reaches some thoughtful conclusions. His point is that investing is a "loser's game."

That doesn't mean you're bound to lose money. But Sisti suggests you should abandon hope of "beating the market." Focus instead on minimizing trading and investing in passive, low-cost mutual funds. Sisti links to a thought-provoking article by financial author Charles D. Ellis from 1975, "The Loser's Game."

Quoting Sisti here:

The title comes from Ellis' assertion that professional athletes play a Winner's Game' and amateur athletes play a 'Loser's Game.' For example, the winner of a professional golf tournament must execute difficult shots and outperform the competition. Professional golf is a Winner's Game -- the winner defeats his opponent by superior play. The winner of an amateur golf tournament is often the player who makes the fewest mistakes, shuns risky shots and avoids penalty strokes. Amateur golf is a Loser's Game -- the loser usually defeats himself by poor play.

With all due respect to Schwab's active traders, I'm with Sisti on this one. 

As he puts it: "Unlike golf and tennis, investing is a Loser's Game for both professionals and amateurs. The biggest mistake amateur investors make is playing the stock-picking, market timing game that even the pros can't win. Create a financial plan, keep a long-term view and don't be rattled by the market's daily noise."

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News & Tours

Masters Mood Guide: All things Adam Scott

By Geoff Shackelford

Now that you've been supplied with a playlist and podcasts to hear about all things Masters, the mood setting requires you do a little reading. Celebrating all things defending champion is a great tradition of the Masters because no winner of this event can turn down the many inquiries to relive their epic triumph.

Related: This playlist will put you in the mood for the Masters

Adam Scott has been no stranger to writers grilling him about last year's epic, and why not? A dreary and lifeless-by-Masters-standards final round exploded in the final 90 minutes to produce a thrilling playoff win for Scott over Angel Cabrera.

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Golf Digest's Tom Callahan's April issue column focuses on Scott's triumphant return home to Australia last December and Scott's gentle nature. And in case you were wondering about Scott's recent struggles at Bay Hill, Callahan reminds us that the putter acted up all the way up until Sunday's back nine.

The Sunday that Scott won the Masters, he didn't putt well, you know. "I was very, very shaky with my speed control," he said, "leaving everything short on the front nine, incredibly short. On the back nine I just told myself, This is it. You have to be bold now."

Golf Magazine's Alan Bastable filed a lengthy Q&A where Scott shows how he is one of the more underrated interviews in golf. An unfortunate photo accompanies the piece, but just scroll on by that and get to the good stuff about the win, Augusta and his views on some of the course changes.

The Augusta Chronicle has won countless awards for their stories on defending champions, and Scott Michaux undertook the grueling task of visiting Australia to see the Alister MacKenzie courses built prior to Augusta National, checking out the great Barnbougle Dunes resort in Tasmania (positively nothing to do with Adam Scott!) and Michaux reconsiders the amazing sportsmanship that places the 2013 Masters in the pantheon of great tournaments. But the main Chronicle story focuses in depth on how Scott rebuilt his approach to majors after hitting rock bottom in 2008, with extensive tracing back to the early part of Scott's career with many details that may surprise you.

Many factors contributed to his professional free fall - a broken hand that got smashed in a car door before the U.S. Open; a break-up with his longtime girlfriend, Marie Kojzar; a "mystery illness" that haunted him with recurring throat infections doctors could best attribute to fatigue; and a kneecap he dislocated running out of the surf in Queensland at the end of 2008.

Related: Adam Scott's singular style

The Augusta Chronicle also featured this video of a Scott Q&A in Australia where he talks about the Green Jacket and various rules associated with its care while he is champion. You will also see just how much his win meant to the great sporting nation of Australia.

http://youtu.be/W-BNUQKVVag

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Gear & Equipment

So you're in charge of running this year's Masters pool. Well, there's an app for that

By Stephen Hennessey

The Masters is less than two weeks away, and many golf fans are likely to enter pools to predict who will contend for the green jacket at Augusta National. If that sounds like you, a new smartphone app that launched this month could prove helpful.

DraftKings (available in iTunes) is believed to be the first fantasy app that incorporates golf (along with pro and college football and basketball, baseball and hockey). Fans can use the app to run their own free Masters pools--or hold similar weekly PGA Tour fantasy competitions.


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If you want to run a league where more is on the line than simply pride, DraftKings also hosts individual leagues for a small commission based on the overall purse that's available.

The app offers several public golf contests with cash prizes for the winners, each requiring an entry fee to play. (Last week, I won $45 on a $12 entry fee for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.)

For the Masters, DraftKings is running a contest with $300,000 in guaranteed payouts, including a $100,000 prize to first place. The cost, however, is not for the faint of heart. To get into the game requires a $200 entry fee.

For more, go to DraftKings.com.



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Gear & Equipment

New Cleveland wedges offer 'sole' solution around the greens for high-handicappers

A Golf Digest study by statistician Peter Sanders, founder of the game-analysis website shotbyshot.com, showed the average 16-handicapper misses the green entirely from a greenside bunker more than a third of the time. For 20-handicappers and higher, it's more than 40 percent.
 
With those players in mind, Cleveland introduced the Smart Sole wedges ($100). The "S" version is a 58-degree model with an extra-wide sole meant to prevent excess digging in the sand. The club's higher bounce angle is one key to allowing a player to maintain speed through the sand. The design also encourages an easier, square setup.

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The Smart Sole line includes a 42-degree club for chipping, called the Smart Sole "C."

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Style

Impact: He wore plus fours, but he'll be remembered for his 2

By Alex Holmes

Countdown to Augusta - Each Friday from now through the Masters we take a look back at impactful images from the tournament's storied history.

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"The more I practice, the luckier I get." -- Gene Sarazen

It's April 1935, and Gene Sarazen is playing in a nascent invitational tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. He stands in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 15th hole in the final round. Craig Wood had just tapped in for birdie on 18, and Sarazen is now three strokes back. Stuck between clubs, he pulls his turf rider 4-wood, makes a pure pass and watches as the ball carries the pond guarding the green and into the hole for a double-eagle 2. He follows the miraculous shot with three solid pars, then bests Wood in a 36-hole playoff the following day.

Sarazen's swing on the 15th became known as the "shot heard 'round the world" and helped provide the moment to turn the Augusta National Invitation Tournament into the Masters.

Photo: Getty Images (1936)
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July 28, 2014

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