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Is golf being unfairly targeted in California in wake of governor's order to curb water usage?

Golf courses seem to be bearing the brunt of public opprobrium in California in the wake of Governor Jerry Brown’s recent executive order to reduce water consumption in the drought-stricken state.

“We have kind of taken it that way,” Marc Connerly, executive director of the California Golf Course Owners Association said on Friday.

It is easy to see why. A story in the Daily Beast about Bermuda Dunes in the Coachella Valley east of Los Angeles carried this headline: “Town with 11 golf courses is sucking California dry.”

(Getty Images)

“We feel that some of the comments are a little unfair and maybe have called some negative attention to us that is undeserved,” Connerly said. “I have been in communication with the governor’s office. His staff has tried to make it clear that they’re really not targeting us, but was using us an example of large landscaping, large turf areas. We just kind of fall under that category.

“We’re tyring to use that attention to get our message out there, and to start to share how efficient golf courses have been for many years, and how proactive we’ve been to use our water very wisely.

“The thing the public needs to realize, too, is that golf course superintendents have a great deal of education and training that go into their position. They know so much more about what it takes to care for a lawn than the average homeowner or landscape maintenance guy at a park or office complex. There’s really lot we can learn from superintendents. It is unfortunate people look at golf courses as water wasters. It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

A point that tends to be missing from any discussions of golf courses and water usage in a drought that has entered its fourth year is “the importance of golf to the economy,” Connerly said.

“It’s a $13 billion industry and employs 128,000 people [in California]. Golf courses uses less than one percent of potable water. So be careful what you ask for. If you want to take away that one percent, are you prepared to put 128,000 people out of work and send a $13 billion hit to state’s economy?”

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5 things to talk about on the course: NBA Playoffs, "Get Hard," and Britt McHenry

From sports to TV to politics (OK, so mostly the first two), we offer five hot topics that are sure to liven up your round of golf:

1. Jordan Spieth: It's been nearly a week since his historic win, but golf -- and more importantly, sports -- fans are still buzzing. In case you didn't know, Spieth is only 21. And he's already won a green jacket and generated a LOT of hype. Can he catch Rory McIlroy in the world rankings? Is he the next Tiger?! How many majors will he win in his career? Will he win every major this year?! There's a lot to discuss, but pace yourselves. This guy should be around for awhile.

Related: 19 things you need to know about Jordan Spieth

2. NBA Playoffs: After another long regular season, a long postseason is here. In the East, we have about a month to wait before the Cavaliers will take on the Atlanta Hawks in the conference finals. But in the West, oh boy, do things get real right away. The last day of the regular season wasn't good if you're a Spurs or Clippers fan. Despite being the hottest two teams in the league down the stretch, these two title contenders (and there probably are only four legit title contenders with the Cavs and the Warriors being the other two) will have to play each other in the first round. Rough. I'm thinking the Spurs get by and go all the way. It's tough to imagine anyone beating them in a seven-game series after the clinic they put on in last year's NBA Finals.

Related: NBA stars who love to play golf

3. NHL Playoffs: Hockey's postseason has already started? (*Remembers boss is a big Rangers fan*) Oh, I mean, hockey's postseason has already started! Hooray! Last year, I picked the Rangers to win the Stanley Cup and they nearly did so I'm rolling with them again. This year, "the Blueshirts" -- as they're known to us big fans -- won the Presidents Trophy for having the NHL's best regular season record. They last achieved that in 1994, the last time they won the Stanley Cup. Boom! I just dropped some serious hockey knowledge on you.


4. Britt McHenry: A video of the ESPN reporter going off on a towing company worker went viral on Thursday ("Lose some weight, baby girl"). It also prompted a fair discussion of whether McHenry (pictured above) deserved the week suspension she got from her employer for something that happened in her private life. No matter what your take is, I think we can all agree: Not acting like a horrible human being is usually a better strategy than acting like a horrible human being.

5. "Get Hard": My fiancee and I saw this Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart movie and it was as stupid as the previews made it seem. In other words, it was fantastic. OK, so fantastic is a bit strong, but it certainly topped my expectations. Hart was funny, and Ferrell? Well, he could read the telephone book out loud and I'd laugh hysterically. Hmm. "Telephone Book," starring Will Ferrell. You're welcome, Hollywood.

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News & Tours

We saw this coming: Masters champ Jordan Spieth struggles at Hilton Head

After winning the Masters, many were surprised Jordan Spieth was even playing in the RBC Heritage. But no one is shocked he's playing poorly at Hilton Head.

Related: 19 things you need to know about Jordan Spieth

Spieth spent two days on a whirlwind media tour of New York, doing 24 interviews in a 24-hour period and making appearances on everything from the "Today Show" to the "Late Show with David Letterman." Spieth made it to his Wednesday pre-tournament press conference, but he didn't play a practice hole before teeing off on Thursday.

"Yesterday my energy level was maybe at a two," Spieth said on Wednesday. "Today I'm back up to about a six. I should be at a nine tomorrow."

Despite being 21, we're going to assume Spieth didn't bounce back from his as quickly as he predicted based on his play. After making a record 28 birdies at Augusta National in four days, it took Spieth 15 holes to make his first birdie at Harbour Town. He shot a 3-over 74 to end a streak of 16 consecutive rounds under par.

This also might snap Spieth's run of four straight top-two finishes. Not that he'll be too upset having just claimed golf's most coveted piece of clothing.

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Bubba Watson looks like he's really enjoying playing night golf in China

Following a disappointing Masters defense in which he finished T-38, Bubba Watson flew to China to compete in the Shenzhen International. We're guessing Watson is being compensated well for his troubles, but he's also taking the time abroad to mix pleasure with business.

On Thursday, Watson posted two videos of him playing night golf at Genzon Golf Club's other course. "The one with the lights," as Watson describes it.

Related: The top 25 viral golf videos of 2014

Watson looked pretty comfortable talking while playing two long par 3s and hitting good shots. "If that doesn't go in..." he says before being cut off in the second video and he gives a little dance and his patented "You're welcome" in the first one.

There's also a video of Watson's caddie, Ted Scott, hitting a shot that's preceded by Bubba scratching his butt and then running behind him. Again, this is the guy who was too serious to participate in the long-drive contest at the PGA Championship.

Watson didn't make it look quite as easy on Genzon Golf Club's tournament course on Day 1 of the tournament. He shot an opening 70 and is four shots off the pace set by Huang Wenyi.

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Throwback Thursday

Arnold Palmer sort of had a thing for winning first-time PGA Tour events

Arnold Palmer was a first-timer in many golf milestones, such as being the first golfer to earn $1 million in career PGA Tour earnings, but with the RBC Heritage Classic this week, his proficiency at winning a tournament's inaugural event is example No. 1.

The debut of the Heritage Classic in 1969 was held shortly after Pete Dye designed Harbour Town Golf Links, with assistance from Jack Nicklaus. We are used to the Heritage being held the week after the Masters, as it is this week for its 47th playing, but the '69 inaugural event was held on Thanksgiving week, Nov. 27-30. Palmer, then 40, had been winless for 14 months when he put together rounds of 68-71-70-74 -- 283 to win by three shots. Winning at Harbour Town was so new that in a photo of Palmer being given the winner's plaque from tournament chairman Charles Fraser the still-under-construction lighthouse can be seen in the background (see below). Palmer felt like he had won his first tour event all over again: "I think this is one of my most important wins, almost like the first one. I wanted to win this one as much as I would a U.S. Open or Masters, or any other tournament."


Palmer was the inaugural winner in several tour events among his 62 victories. Of the tournaments on the current tour schedule, Nicklaus won the first playing in three: The Players (1974), WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (1976, known as the World Series of Golf), and The Barclays (1967, as Westchester Classic). Palmer is next with two: the RBC Heritage and Humana Challenge (the Palm Springs Golf Classic when he won in 1960). Others with two are Harry Cooper, Ted Kroll, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead.

But Palmer won the first playing of five other tour events no longer on the schedule, including the 1968 Kemper Open, the 1963 Whitemarsh Open (Philadelphia) and the 1963 Cleveland Open. With the 1969 Diplomat Classic and 1958 Pepsi Golf Championship only being held for one year, Palmer was both the first and last winner in those events.

Photo: Golf Digest Resource Center

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News & Tours

This highlight video of Jordan Spieth talking to his golf ball at the Masters is priceless

One of the most entertaing parts of the Masters this year? Jordan Spieth talking to his ball. Hands down. It was must-listen TV. Even if you never listen to a golf telecast with sound, you had to turn the volume up. Listening to Jordan Spieth conversations with his ball while it was in the air, then to his caddie after his shot, was more compelling audio than Jim Nantz.

You can re-live all the times Spieth talked to his ball during the final round in this video.

Our favorites? On 16 when he's begging the ball to "bite...softly. SOFT!" Then on 17, too, repeating "softly" has the potential to catch on among all golfers. And his approaches on 13 and 15 were crucial moments with equally good convos with his Titleist.

(h/t @ShaneBacon)

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News & Tours

Brandt Snedeker loses Twitter battle and possibly an NHL Playoffs bet with Luke Donald

Not surprisingly, Nashville native and resident Brandt Snedeker is a big Nashville Predators fan. And not surprisingly, he got pretty excited when his team jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Game 1 of its NHL Playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

That drew this response from big Blackhawks fan Luke Donald:

From there, the two went back and forth:

The Grind: Jordan Spieth's smooch seen around the world

When Chicago tied the game about 10 minutes later (the Blackhawks scored three second-period goals to quickly erase the deficit), Donald tweeted this photo from the movie "Anchorman":

The Blackhawks wound up winning the game 4-3 in double overtime and there were no more tweets between Donald and Snedeker. Either they took their conversation offline or Donald realized rubbing it in after such a rough loss wouldn't be very nice. As Ron Burgundy would say, "Stay classy, PGA Tour."

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Fantasy Golf

Curse you, DJ! How this guy at home was a couple of Masters miscues away from winning $1 million

Like many people last week, Jim Picarella heard about DraftKings' Masters contest offering a top prize of $1 million and decided to start an account with the online fantasy sports website so he could enter. Sure, the odds were long, but all he needed was $20 and a dream.

And a great team.

Picarella, a self-described golf fanatic who is "always watching the Golf Channel" had no problem fielding just that. DraftKings gives participants a budget of $50,000 in imaginary cash and you choose six players who earn points based on their scores and position. In addition to big names like Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson, Picarella's lineup also included lesser-known -- but in form -- players like Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Henley and Charley Hoffman.


Picarella was glued to his TV throughout the tournament, but not to his computer screen. Once it got to be Saturday afternoon and everyone on his team was playing well, though, the 27-year-old Manhattan resident checked the DraftKings site and saw his name high on a leader board of 125,900 entrants.

Related: 15 revealing moments from the Masters

"From that point on, I literally couldn't move from the couch," said a superstitious Picarella. "There was no looking at the phone, no talking to anybody. Nothing."

Well, except for his girlfriend, who actually helped him pick Spieth and who went out to get food. Picarella didn't want to keep monitoring his status on DraftKings because he knew it would be a "rollercoaster" and he didn't want to get his "hopes up." Late during the final round, however, he checked. And this is what he saw:


Currently Winning: $1,000,000.00.

"I started freaking out and all the nerves kicked in," Picarella said. "The whole thing was too surreal. I was just sitting there trying not to get too caught up in it. I didn't know how to comprehend winning that much money."

Unfortunately, he never had to. Despite Spieth hanging on for the victory and Matsuyama matching the low round of the day, there was a painful bogey by Zach Johnson on the final hole and a devastating double bogey by Dustin Johnson on No. 16.

"When that ball went into the water, it was a punch to the gut," Picarella said.

After the tournament concluded, Picarella was too nervous to check how his entry had ended up until 8:30 p.m. When he finally got the nerve? Third place. $50,000.

"To be honest, it was a little disheartening, but obviously, I'm very happy to win $50,000," he said.

"The whole thing was grueling. On birdies and eagles, we were getting more pumped up than the players."

The Grind: Jordan Spieth's kiss seen around the world

An entry of Spieth, Hoffman, Henley, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, and Kevin Na won the top payout of $1 million -- more than what any player not named Jordan Spieth won in the actual tournament. And a team of Spieth, DJ, Matsuyama, Hoffman, Na, and Ian Poulter edged Picarella for second to earn $100K. (Both of those participants declined our interview requests.)

Still, 50 Gs isn't bad for watching golf from your couch all weekend. Picarella says he plans to enter similar big contests, but he "won't go crazy." He's happy with his Masters haul -- and he's a big fan of the golfers who helped him earn it.

"The six of them are all literally my favorite players now," he said.

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AT&T didn't waste any time creating a new Jordan Spieth commercial and it works

Watch out, Rory McIlroy.

We already knew Jordan Spieth was coming after the top spot in the world rankings. But now, he's quickly matching McIlroy in heartwarming commercials about young golfers growing up to become champions.

Related: 19 things you need to know about Jordan Spieth

On Wednesday, one of Spieth's sponsors, AT&T (remember all those commercials about texting and driving during the Masters?), released a new ad featuring the young Masters winner and footage of him as an even younger teen with an "ultimate goal . . . to win the Masters." Check it out:

Less than two weeks ago, Nike came out with a commercial depicting a young Rory following in Tiger Woods' footsteps until he winds up becoming one of Woods' peers, playing with him at a tournament in the final scene. Incredibly, that scenario came true just days later when the two were paired for the final round of the Masters.

The Grind: Jordan Spieth's kiss seen around the world

Of course, neither could touch Spieth at Augusta National as he cruised to a first green jacket. As a result, he already has his first big commercial as a major champ. We'll go out on a limb and predict it won't be his last.

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Fantasy Golf

Fantasy Fix: Why we're NOT picking Jordan Spieth (gasp!) at Hilton Head

Despite the universe all but telling me to pick Jordan Spieth at the Masters, I ignored it. What a stupid I am. And while the "Young Master" is back in action this week at the RBC Heritage, I'm staying away again. No one is hotter than Spieth, but no golfer is going to be as drained as he will be when he steps to the tee at Harbour Town on Thursday after a wild few days of toting the green jacket around NYC. Frankly, it's just impressive that Spieth kept his commitment to the event after winning the year's first major. If he keeps his streak of four consecutive top-two finishes up this week, it might be even more impressive than his record-tying performance at Augusta National. In any event, here's a look at who we're playing in our Yahoo! weekly lineup instead:

The Grind: Jordan Spieth's kiss seen around the world and a new ping-pong master

Starters -- (A-List): Jim Furyk. We boldly predicted he'd end his winless drought in San Antonio. . . and he let us down. But here's another week where we could see the streak coming to an end. In the last 10 years, Furyk has a win, two runner-ups, a solo fourth and two other top 10s at Harbour Town.

Related: The top 25 viral golf videos of 2014

(B-List): Zach Johnson. It's surprising ZJ hasn't had more success at this Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus track that's much more about precision than power. Johnson was a runner-up in 2012, but only has one other top 10 in his 10 trips to Hilton Head. We'll ride him based on his pair of recent T-9s at the Masters and Bay Hill.

(B-List): Matt Kuchar. The PGA Tour ATM machine is on as cold of a two-week stretch as we can remember, with a 70th-place finish in Houston and a T-46 at the Masters. We always say Kuchar never has two bad weeks in a row so certainly, he can't have three, right?

(C-List): Charley Hoffman. It wasn't a great Sunday at Augusta National for Hoffman, but he still picked up his best finish ever at a major with a T-9. That came on the heels of back-to-back T-11 performances in Texas, which just added to a terrific season that also includes a win and a runner-up. No reason to not like his chances this week at an event where he has two top 10s in the past three years.

Bench/Backups: Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Graeme McDowell, Brendon de Jonge.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

Knockout/One-and-done pick: Matt Kuchar. At the start of the year, we figured we'd save Kuchar for a bigger event, but after not using him at the Masters, it's tough to envision taking him at a major. Plus, he won this event last year (remember that clutch bunker shot?) and there have already been three players defend titles this season. Let's make it a foursome, Matt! And Jordan, please go easy on the rest of the guys this week.

Previously used: Keegan Bradley (Bay Hill), Paul Casey (Honda), Jason Day (Famers -- WINNER!), Luke Donald (Valspar), Jamie Donaldson (Doral), Jim Furyk (Valero), Bill Haas (Riviera), Charles Howell III (Sony), Dustin Johnson (Pebble), Geoff Ogilvy (Hyundai), Louis Oosthuizen (Houston), Ryan Palmer (Humana), Brendan Steele (Phoenix).

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