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Tiger, McIlroy and Lydia Ko fuel interest for 2015

It never hurts in golf’s quest for relevance during football season for Tiger Woods to make headlines, as he did twice last week. He clearly has no intention to go away quietly.

The rest of the golf news on what was tantamount to the final week of the season (notwithstanding quirky schedules here and abroad and the unavoidable silly-season) won’t similarly command attention, but it was a memorable sendoff for a sport that has much to recommend it going forward.

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Race to Dubai winner Rory McIlroy (Getty Images photo)

Where do we start? As usual, with this: WWTD? What will Tiger do in 2015, now that he’s apparently healthy and has been breaking in a new instructor, Chris Como?

He’ll provide only a snapshot at best at his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge next month; not much can be gleaned from it given the tiny field (18 players) and what for most of his career was his home course, Isleworth Golf and Country Club, in Windermere, Fla.

Still, he’ll draw scrutiny. Woods remains the most intriguing figure in the game, to wit the attention he garnered simply for an innocuous Tweet on Saturday announcing he had hired Como. Interest in this heretofore relatively unknown instructor shut down Como’s website in the immediate aftermath of Woods’ announcement.

Interest in Woods will be piqued further by what might be another two-month hiatus he’ll take after the World Challenge and before his likely return at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in February.

The European Tour, meanwhile, concluded its 2014 season in style, crowning World No. 1 Rory McIlroy the winner of the Race to Dubai and No. 2 Henrik Stenson the winner of the DP World Tour Championship.

Nos. 3 and 4 also have exhibited form that along with McIlroy’s bid to complete the career grand slam at the Masters promises a fascinating year ahead. Adam Scott finished second in the Australian Masters on Sunday and Bubba Watson won the WGC-HSBC Champions earlier this month.

But the best reason to look ahead surfacing on Sunday was the performance of Lydia Ko, still five months shy of her 18th birthday. Ko’s encore in the wake of her having been awarded the Rolex Rookie of the Year was a $1.5 million payday -- $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe and $500,000 for winning the CME Group Tour Championship. All told, she earned in excess of $3 million this year, providing a clear picture of what she’s going to be when she grows up: Wealthy.

Arguments abound that golf’s off-season is too short, but on this day, on this week and in this month and what it portends, one could argue that it is too long.

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News & Tours

Chris Como just got a new full-time job as Tiger Woods' coach

For the last 10 years, the three most famous instructors in golf have been Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and whoever is teaching Tiger Woods. 

Now, it's Chris Como's turn to join the group. Woods tweeted the news just before noon, immediately sending the teacher's name to the top of Twitter's trend list and crashing Como's website from the traffic explosion:

The soft-spoken 36-year-old is based at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas, and works with Aaron Baddeley, Jamie Lovemark and Richard Lee on the PGA Tour. He was recently ranked on Golf Digest's list of Best Young Teachers.

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He also brings a very useful area of expertise to Woods' camp. Como is finishing up a master's degree in biomechanics at Texas Woman's University, where he is studying under Dr. Young-Hoo Kwon. 

Dr. Kwon is widely considered the foremost expert in golf biomechanics and "sport injury mechanism," or how sports movements impact the body, and he developed his own super-advanced three-dimensional swing analysis software package, Kwon3D, to show instructors exactly what their students' bodies are doing. 

It's a good bet that Como, Woods and Kwon will be spending some quality time together this offseason, taking apart the most famous swing puzzle in golf and trying to put it back together in a way that works for Tiger's age, mileage and fragile back.   

Plenty of other teachers have weighed in on what they believe are Woods' swing issues. Como took a more circumspect route when we asked him about it in August, saying it was hard to know for sure without all the facts. "It's easy to play armchair quarterback, but there are so many factors with Tiger's body and the history of his game we don't know," he said. "Everybody has their idea of what they would want him to do, but it's a different story when you get in there and see what's going on. Without being inside, it's all just speculation."

Not anymore, at least for him.




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News & Tours

Missing Links: The answer to U.S. Ryder Cup woes? Play better, LPGA players say

Stories of interest you might have missed…

The U.S. Ryder Cup woes have been debated ad nauseam, even causing the PGA of America to form a task force to help solve them. But a better answer came from those playing in the LPGA’s CME Group Classic this week: Play better. “Actually there is nothing wrong,” Angela Stanford said in this story by Dave Kempton of the News-Press. “You just get outplayed.”

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(Getty Images photo)

Recalling the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012, one would assume that Ian Poulter was the least likely candidate to need a putting lesson. Yet he missed a short putt to tie on the last hole at the Turkish Airlines Open last week, after which Greg Norman was on the phone with some putting advice. “The pair spoke on Tuesday night after Norman spotted something while watching Poulter throw away a golden opportunity to win the Turkish Airlines Open,” Derek Lawrenson writes in the Daily Mail.

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Charley Hull already is a marquee player at home in Europe. But what about the bigger stage, the LPGA? Hull has entered the final stage of LPGA Qualifying, but it is not do-or-die for this teen mature beyond her years. “I am only 18 so there is no rush to go and play in the States,” she said in this story by Ewan Murray of the Guardian. “I still want to enjoy my childhood, I still have lots of other things in my life that I want to enjoy and I think I should be enjoying at my age.”

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Is there nothing 17-year-old Lydia Ko, the LPGA’s Rolex Rookie of the Year, can’t do? “Ko was sweating an acceptance speech she'd have to deliver in roughly 10 hours, when she'd stand in front of a packed ballroom of friends, peers, assembled media and many of the LPGA Tour's top brass,” Steve DiMeglio writes in USA Today. “Turns out she needn't have worried one bit. Ko killed it.”

***

“Has the big China golf course boom finally gone bust?” Dan Washburn, an expert in all matters Chinese golf and the author of the book, “The Forbidden Game,” ponders that question in this missive on his website. “During my recent two weeks in China, I encountered more pessimism and uncertainty from those in the industry than ever before. Everyone quoted the rumor that up to 100 courses would soon be shut down…Beijing, as it had a handful of times over the previous decade, reiterated its oft referenced but rarely enforced ban on golf course construction. It did so again just this week. Things do appear to be ratcheting up.”

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Rory McIlroy's "fat, low, duck-hook runner" will make you feel better about your golf game

Even World No. 1 Rory McIlroy hits a clunker every once in awhile. McIlroy wasn't sharp during Friday's second round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and the lowlight came on the seventh hole with a 5-wood. Take it away, Rory!

Of course, while average hackers everywhere can appreciate that beauty, not being sharp means something different when you're the best golfer on the planet. Despite the miscue -- and a water ball on No. 18 -- McIlroy managed a two-under 70 and stayed within two shots of leader Henrik Stenson.

Related: Rory and Jagermeister: An unauthorized history

After the round, McIlroy drew laughs when he described the shot as "A fat, low, duck-hook runner that was not intentional." Now that's well played.

(h/t Geoff Shackelford)

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News & Tours

Matteo Manassero is an old man compared to this Italian teen who just earned his European Tour card

Meet Renato Paratore, one of 27 golfers to lock up their European Tour cards for 2015 on Thursday:

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If you're saying to yourself, "That guy looks young," you're right. He's 17.

In fact, Paratore is so young that 21-year-old paisan Matteo Manassero is one of his mentors. But despite his age, the native of Rome and apparent New York Yankees fan was the Q School leader at the PGA Catalunya Resort until a final-round 73 dropped him to third.

Related: Golf's all-time biggest phenoms

Overall, it was a great day for Italian golf as Andrea Pavan, 25, and Alessandro Tadini, 40, also earned their tour cards for 2015. The trio will join fellow countrymen like Manassero and former Ryder Cuppers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari on the European Tour next year.

Related: Golfer shoots 58, still doesn't come close to earning his tour card

Paratore won the gold medal in the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, in August and entered this week ranked No. 6 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Incredibly, despite all his accomplishments, Paratore is lagging behind the pace set by Manassero, who made the cut at the Masters before turning 17 and won his first of four European Tour titles later that year.

Andiamo, Renato!

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News & Tours

Luke Donald (and his pants) had a rough day in Dubai

Luke Donald had a bad day in Dubai, but he kept a good sense of humor. On top of not playing well, this happened:

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"#playedlikeanasstoday" read part of the caption. Donald shot an opening-round 76 and is ahead of just one player in the 60-man field. Not that his score is too surprising.

It's been two and a half years since Donald won on either the European or PGA Tours. He has fallen to 39th in the Official World Golf Ranking after being ranked No. 1 as recently as August 2012.

Related: Floyd Mayweather's Bentley golf cart and the Dufners go to Thailand

Earlier this month, Donald said he was switching back to his old swing coach, Pat Goss, after spending a little more than a year with Chuck Cook. Goss was Donald's coach at Northwestern.

Hmm. Those pants look to be a Wildcats' purple. If they're holdovers from Donald's time there, it was time for a change anyway.

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News & Tours

Serious golfers are watching the women more on TV than the old guys

Bolstered by major wins from young stars Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie and an dramatic player-of-the-year race to be decided between Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park this week at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, 2014 has been a dream year for the LPGA Tour in terms of exciting and marketability. And it looks like that success has translated to TV audience growth.

loop-michelle-wie-tv-ratings-518.jpgIn Golf Datatech's most recent study of serious golfers (16-plus rounds played per year), the LPGA rated the second-most-watched pro golf tour, passing the Champions Tour for the first time since spring 2010.

LPGA viewership was up 4 percentage points from summer 2013, with 65 percent of survey participants saying they watch regularly (99 percent said they watch the PGA Tour).

The seniors dropped from 65 percent in 2013 to 63, with the European Tour (38 percent) and Web.com Tour (23 percent) the next highest ranked.

Photo: J.D. Cuban

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News & Tours

Weird Golf News Of The Week: Club's dress code crackdown leads to a violent uprising

Don't get the powers-that-be at Weston Golf Club started on jeans in the clubhouse.

Back in September, the President of the Boston-based golf club began a McCarthy-esqe crackdown on those members who didn't adhere to the club's dress code, which strictly prohibits any form of jeans apart from white jeans for lady members.

The President opened an "investigation" into potential violations and as a result suspended 10 members for three months, according to the Boston Globe, who first reported the story.

And it turns out, the harshness of the crackdown actually led to a violent uprising. Stephen and Charlotte Weeple, two guests planning on meeting one of their member-friends, were walking into the clubhouse on a Saturday in September (the report has just been made public). That's when Tom Ferry -- the president -- stopped the couple in their tracks and informed them they were in violation of the dress code. Things came to blows not long after, and the police were called to help cool things down.

Basically everyone involved declined to comment to the Boston Globe except for a spokesperson for Weston Golf Club, who offered this nugget:

“The dress code is meant to encourage people to present themselves in ways that engender pride in the club."

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News & Tours

Study finds that work gets in the way of CEO's golf games

Technically speaking, the study, which was published by Lee Biggerstaff at Miami University, David Cicero at the University of Alabama, and Andy Puckett at the University of Tennessee, analyzes USGA records from more than 360 CEOs and finds that the ones who play the most golf tend to preside over less successful businesses.

The study also finds some other interesting snippets, like how CEOs who play more golf tend to lose their jobs faster than non-golfing CEOs, and that CEOs tend to play more golf the longer they are CEO.

But no mention of the adverse effects all that work has on the CEOs' golf game? I mean, they obviously love golf so much that they're willing to sacrifice their own company's performance for their games. That sounds pretty honorable to us. They're heroes, really. 

Here's the full study:


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News & Tours

A day after shooting 58 at European Tour Q School, John Hahn has a meltdown

In the latest example of golf being, well, golf, John Hahn shot 78 at European Tour Q School. You may be saying, "so what?" and "who the heck is John Hahn?"

We remind you this is the same John Hahn who shot 58, yes, 58 the day before. To be fair, Hahn's higher score came on a different course (Stadium) at the PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain and it was unclear if preferred lies were in effect again, but still. Twenty shots?

The Grind: Floyd Mayweather's Bentley golf cart and the Dufners go to Thailand

The good news for Hahn is there's still a sixth and final round remaining for those trying to play their way onto the European Tour in 2015. The bad news is Hahn dropped from T-12 to T-49 with a five-round total of 354 (67-79-72-58-78). The top 25 and ties earn tour cards.

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Also good news is Hahn will be back on the shorter Tour Course for Thursday's final round. He'll need to go really low if he wants to earn a tour card. Hey, at least, he knows it's possible.

UPDATE: Hahn shot a final-round 72 to finish T-50 and fail to earn his European Tour card.

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