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You probably didn't notice . . . Golf's latest long-driving sensation is a 23-year-old Canadian

By Alex Myers

Meet Taylor Pendrith. The 23-year-old Canadian is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and he can hit a golf ball farther than you can. A LOT farther.

Pendrith made his PGA Tour debut at last week's Canadian Open and finished T-43 to grab low amateur honors. The recent Kent State graduate garnered attention for an opening 65, but he turned more heads for how he attacked Royal Montreal GC.

Related: Jim Furyk is really, REALLY good at finishing runner-up

On Thursday, Pendrith posted the four longest drives of anyone in the field. He wound up with seven of the longest 30 drives for the week, and finished second overall in driving distance to Patrick Rodgers. When counting all drives and not just the two holes per day that are officially measured at PGA Tour events, Pendrith was first with an average of 306.9 yards.

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If those numbers seem relatively low, that's because hitting driver at the tight track wasn't always the best plan of action. But Pendrith managed to poke a 365-yard drive on the eighth hole in the first round and hit 16 drives of at least 330 yards over four days.

Before being a two-time Mid-American Conference Golfer of the Year while at Kent State, Pendrith won the Canadian Junior Long Drive Championship with a 349-yard clout and had his ball speed measured at 190 mph (The average for a PGA Tour pro in 2013 was 167). The Ontario native's biggest win to date was a five-shot rout at the 2013 Porter Cup.

Pendrith plans on turning pro in the fall after the circuit of big amateur tournaments conclude. When he does, his prodigious power should make him a crowd favorite -- even when he's not playing in his home country.

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News & Tours

Why is Tiger Woods always among the betting favorites, even when he's not the actual favorite?

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

A lot of people really love Tiger Woods. They love him more than other tour pros, and at times, they seem to love him more than their own money.

In my item in the new digital edition of Golf World, I enlisted the help of Steve Bamford, a PGA Tour betting expert who runs the website GolfBettingSystem.co.uk, to help answer a question that tends to pop up around the majors: Why is Tiger Woods always one of the betting favorites, even when he's not playing very well?

Despite his poor play so far this season, Tiger, at 15-1, is second only to Rory McIlroy in terms of having the best odds to win next week's PGA Championship. He hovered around the same odds for last month's British Open (don't have to tell you he didn't win that one) and the U.S. Open at Pinehurst -- an event he seemed to have no chance of even playing in after his March 31 back surgery. Why is that the case?

The answer has to do with incentives. Bookmakers do factor in things like recent form when they set odds, but mostly they're just trying to set prices that will entice people into placing a bet.

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The general public tends to bet off its basic knowledge, so people who know Tiger won a lot in the past will typically bet on him no matter what. Meanwhile, a guy like Jimmy Walker may be putting together a much better season, but casual golf fans aren't as familiar with Walker as they are with Woods. To get more bets flowing in on a guy like Walker, bookmakers need to grab people's attention with the prospect of a bigger payoff. That's why Walker is 50-1 to win the PGA Championship despite already winning three times this season, and Tiger is 15-1. Betting experts, like Bamford, make their living by finding value amidst all this sound and noise.

"Tiger Woods still has an aura about him for many, many [bettors]," Bamford said. "Tiger in his pomp was a bully . . . that aura still exists today, and that has a direct effect on bookmakers who will always cover themselves pricewise on Tiger because he is still a hugely popular figure with the betting public."

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News & Tours

Jim Furyk is really, REALLY good at finishing runner-up

By Alex Myers

You'd think moving ahead of one of your most successful contemporaries (Vijay Singh) and within one of two others who happen to be all-time greats on any list (Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson) would be cause for celebration. But for Jim Furyk, it's just another reminder of what could've been.

Furyk finished runner-up at the Canadian Open by a shot to Tim Clark on Sunday for the 28th second-place finish of his great -- probably Hall of Fame -- career on the PGA Tour. However, his 16 wins pale in comparison to the 155 combined victories by those three giants of this era.

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No one is saying Furyk is as good as those other three guys, although he seems to be when it comes to finishing second. But 28 runner-ups and just 16 wins? Something doesn't add up.

Related: Why Jim Furyk (and Jordan Spieth) should have more PGA Tour wins

This season, although a success overall, has to be particularly painful for the 44-year-old Furyk. Three runner-ups since May (plus a solo fourth at the British Open) have Furyk up to No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking -- the highest he's been since the start of the 2011 season. The difference is that then Furyk was coming off a three-win season in 2010 that ended with him winning the FedEx Cup and PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.

Furyk has continued to pile up high finishes, but he hasn't won since the 2010 Tour Championship. In nearly four years, he's added six runner-ups and three third-place finishes, and that doesn't even count the 2012 U.S. Open, in which he had the lead before bogeying two of the final three holes at Olympic Club to finish T-4. Even a 59 in the second round of last year's BMW Championship wasn't enough to put Furyk over the top.

At the Canadian Open, Furyk had a three-shot lead through 54 holes, but Clark's final-round 65 clipped him by four. According to Adam Sarson, Furyk now has a dismal 37-percent success rate with 54-hole leads (9 of 24). Comparing him again to Woods (89 percent), Mickelson (67) and Singh (64) in that category isn't pretty.

The funny thing about that stat is that if you take out Furyk's current streak of seven straight failures, you could argue he was once pretty good at closing out tournaments, with a 9-of-17 record between 1994-2010.

Related: Check out this week's Golf World

But it's easy to say Furyk should have more career wins. In fact, after Furyk's runner-up at the Players two months ago, we argued he should have anywhere between 20 and 24 tour titles based on how many times he's finished in the top three. His 27-percent win rate in those situations isn't awful (Luke Donald's 17 percent is, for instance), but it's below average and well below the marks of Woods (61), Mickelson (44) and Singh (44). The numbers say that even bad "finishers" will win if they put themselves in position to do so enough times.

Of course, finishing second these days on the PGA Tour has its perks. Furyk made $615,600 for his latest close call to push his 2014 on-course earnings to more than $4 million. But at this point in his career, he's much more concerned about trophies than his bank account.

"I'm definitely disappointed not to get over the hump," Furyk said Sunday. "It's been a long time since I've won, and it stings to finish second again."

Again. For the 28th time. Hang in there, Jim, it's bound to happen. No one should be this good at coming in second.

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News & Tours

The golf ball that Rory McIlroy threw into the crowd at the British Open is for sale

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

You know that ball? The one Rory McIlroy threw into the 72nd hole crowd seconds after winning the British Open -- what ever happened to it?

Well, it was caught by Leeds, England resident Lee Horner, who kept it for a few days before Green Jacket Auctions -- the same company that sold a set of Ben Hogan's clubs from 1953 earlier this year -- tracked him down and acquired the ball for an undisclosed sum. Green Jacket Auctions documented Rory's custom Nike RZN Black "Rors" ball and then quickly put it up for auction.

Bidding started last Wednesday and is slated to end Aug. 9. By the start of the day on Monday, 13 bids had been lodged on the site, the highest standing at $2,852.

"Memorabilia like this is usually lost forever," Ryan Carey, one of the co-founders of the site, said, "so we're very excited that we quickly tracked down the guy who caught it."

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News & Tours

Weird Golf News of the Week: A big green dinosaur was stolen (then returned) to a mini-golf course

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

It's been a strange week for golf news. First, a man was attacked by an alligator for a second time and wants to go back for more, and then a big green dinosaur was held for ransom.

"Ransom" might be a big strong, but according to the Springfield News-Leader, a beloved six-foot green dinosaur that lives on Fun Acre Mini Golf's sixth hole in Missouri was stolen on Wednesday. The dinosaur cost about $2,000, according to the report, and had remained at the course since 1987.

But not to worry. After a $3,000 reward went unclaimed, police found a man wandering around with the dinosaur (it matched the description, apparently), and returned the prehistoric beast to its rightful home. The police have yet to arrest the suspect, who claims he bought the dinosaur from somebody else. 

Here's a picture of the dinosaur pre-theft, courtesy of KY3:

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News & Tours

The New Yorker just unlocked its archive. Here's why that's good for golfers

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

The New Yorker announced earlier this week that it was giving the public free access on its website for all of its archived articles published since 2007. What does that have to do with golf? Well, it may not happen as much as longform articles about global politics, but the New Yorker does write about golf on occasion. And when it does, it's almost always worth reading.

So, if you have some time this weekend and fancy digging into a longer golf article from the past, here are some of our favorites you can now access through the archives:

FORE! By Larry David

Comedian Larry David confronts the fact that he isn't very good at golf -- and is strangely liberating by it.

The Ghost Course, By David Owen

Owen, a Golf Digest Contributing Editor, describes the far-flung scene he finds at Askernish Golf Club in South Uist, Scotland.

Rip Van Golfer, By John McPhee

This one might be considered slightly too long for some tastes, but McPhee travels to Oakmont for the week for the 2007 U.S. Open.

The Yips, By David Owen

Owen takes a coldly analytical look at the thing that golfers everywhere dreads the most: The yips.

Linksland and Bottle, By John McPhee

McPhee's story about the soul of St. Andrews also features a stunning photograph from Golf Digest Senior Staff Photographer Dom Furore.

Branded a Cheat, By James Surowiecki

Surowiecki runs through what made Tiger such a marketing phenomenon, and what his infidelity scandal changes means for that.

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News & Tours

Thanks a lot, Jack! Nicklaus paints Watson into corner, says Tiger should "absolutely" be on Ryder Cup team


Are you ready for the ad nauseam discussion over whether Tiger Woods deserves to be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team? No? Too bad, because it's already well under way.

After Woods himself chimed in on Sunday at the British Open to say he would contribute to captain Tom Watson's team, Jack Nicklaus said on Thursday a Woods wildcard pick is essentially a no-brainer. But hey, no pressure, Tom!

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"Oh, absolutely," Nicklaus said on a conference call Thursday with reporters to promote the PGA Championship. "I couldn't imagine [Woods] not being on a Ryder Cup team, unless he does absolutely nothing in recovering from his game between now and then."

The endorsement can be parsed a bunch of different ways -- what's the definition of doing "nothing in recovering"? -- but it's clear Nicklaus believes the U.S. team is better off with Woods than without him. If Woods does not play his way onto the team in the next two weeks -- he probably needs a win in either the Bridgestone or the PGA -- he would have to rely on one of Watson's three captain's picks Sept. 2. And to hear Nicklaus put it, his old rival would be crazy to pass on the 14-time major winner.

"I don't care what he does between now and then. If Tiger wants to play, I would certainly choose him," Nicklaus said. "My guess is that Tom feels pretty much the same way. Tom would certainly like to have Tiger on his team and I think anybody in their right mind, unless he just doesn't want to play or doesn't think he could play, would not choose him."


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News & Tours

Why the International Crown is a great idea

By Ron Sirak

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The history of women's golf changed forever in one dramatic hour at Killeen Castle in the 2011 Solheim Cup, when Europe stormed from behind to victory over the United States.

That rally had as much to do with the creation of the International Crown as anything, and in one fun Thursday at Caves Valley GC it became abundantly obvious this competition is one cool idea.

Related: 6 things you need to know about the International Crown

Before the comeback at Killeen, the Americans had won three Solheim Cups in a row and eight of 11. The pressure to add the rest of the world and create an International Team was significant.

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And when Team Europe saved the Solheim Cup with its comeback win, the LPGA was smart enough to think outside the box when creating an event that could include non-Solheim eligible nations.

Instead of putting together an artificial International Team, the idea was to have eight nations qualify off the Rolex Rankings and put together four-woman squads also based on the rankings.

The spirited beginning to the competition showed that the idea worked. Each nation had team bags and each team was introduced on the No. 1 tee to their national anthems. There were some tears of pride.

Part of the problem with the Presidents Cup -- other than the fact the United States has won eight of the 10 competitions -- is that the International team is a completely contrived entity.

The sizzle factor is conspicuously absent. The nations that comprise the International Team have nothing in common other than the fact they are not eligible for the Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup team and the Solheim Cup team representing Europe have an identity. The European Union has a flag, an anthem and its colors are blue and gold. The International Team is a pick-up squad off leftover players -- albeit great ones.

The players representing the eight nations competing here this week -- the United States, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand -- have a sense of national pride that adds an intensity to the tournament.

Among the many really cool moments during the opening ceremony were the times you saw a player singing along with her country's national anthem. There was a real, emotional connection to why they were here.

The Grind: Jagermeister in the claret jug? Really, Rory?

Another big difference that distinguishes the International Crown from not only the Presidents Cup but also the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup is that nations qualify for the event.

You get the feeling that the players fortunate enough to be here this week will share with their colleagues what a great experience this was. And that will motivate countries not here -- like Scotland, England and China -- to work harder to get to get to the next edition of this tournament at Rich Harvest Farms in 2016.

The very good year the LPGA is having got a lot better this week with the inaugural International Crown. Simply put, it's a great idea. Now let's see if the golf lives up to the event.

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News & Tours

Sorry, Nadia, it looks like Rory McIlroy has a new girl

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Everything about Rory McIlroy has been a hot topic since his third major victory last week. And with the British Open champion's engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki over, his love life has been a particular point of interest.

Rory had been linked with Irish model Nadia Forde after the two were reportedly set up by mutual friends. But rumors they were an item were slightly overstated, it turns out; she "wasn't his type", apparently.

But new reports are surfacing that Rory has been seeing someone else: 23-year-old part-time model, part-time receptionist Sasha Gale. The two have been spotted around town, and The Sun quotes an anonymous source saying their romance was "blossoming."

Sasha's people aren't commenting on the matter, but she did tweet this the right after Rory's victory at Royal Liverpool:

And in case you want to get more familiar with Rory's prospective new girlfriend, here are some pictures from her Twitter feed:

Some people think she looks a little like Mila Kunis.

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News & Tours

7 reasons why you should enjoy Tiger Woods while you can

By Bob Carney

Enjoy the PGA Championship. Enjoy Tiger, the greatest or second-greatest player ever, depending how you judge it. Enjoy even this recovery-room version of Tiger. As Brandel Chamblee said this week: "There will never be another."
 
Given the way the professional game is proceeding, the chance of there being another golfer as dominant as either Tiger or Jack Nicklaus is nil. Nicklaus continues to hold the majors record, with Woods close behind. Woods has a record, too, that will never be matched: He's won a record 27 percent of the professional tournaments in which he's played. That's like batting .400 for a career.
 
Some of us have been spoiled to able to watch the two of them in their primes. And whether Tiger ever reaches Jack's record or not, their two careers, entwined by this fictional total-majors race, will one day be as distant as Joe DiMaggio's hit streak, Oscar Robertson's triple-double per-game season, Gretzky's 92 goals, Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA.
 
Eighteen majors? Fifteen majors? Doesn't matter. Neither will ever happen again. Enjoy it while it lasts.
 
There will be McIlroys and Trevinos and Millers and Faldos and Kaymers and Mickelsons. There will be Watsons and Els and Stensons. But no more Tigers and no more Jacks.
 
Here's why:

1. Physical toll

Jack Nicklaus has argued, for as long as I can remember, that kids should play lots of sports and wait to specialize. But who does that anymore? Kids start beating balls in elementary school and don't stop until they're 50…maybe. They don't play golf, they work golf, and like the ACLs of adult basketball players who've been doing it since they were 5, their bodies can't take it. Ask Tiger Woods. Work ethic is a two-edged weapon; it gets you there, but it breaks you down on the way. The current insistence on specialization, on long hours of practice, some of it purposeful, some of it not, takes a toll. Professional golfers will get younger, like Jordan Spieth, and they will, effectively, retire younger, too. Major winners in the future could be very young, but they won't be very old. The Masters at 46? Not again, despite the fact that players work to stay fit longer.

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2. Stress of the work-life "balance"

It's de rigueur these days for golfers to leave or skip tournaments to attend the birth of their children, or, in Phil Mickelson's well-celebrated case, the graduation of his grade-schooler. Jack Nicklaus built his schedule around majors in part to attend to family obligations, redefining what it meant to be great. Modern players, especially married younger players -- McIlroy dodged that one -- expect even more balance in an unbalanced profession. Graeme McDowell talked about missing the Scottish Open for family obligations. In his Q&A Henrik Stenson was asked about his motivation for winning, given that he's amassed so much prize money and has a wonderful wife and two children. It's not a question Jimmy Demaret got, I suspect. It will get more and more difficult to maintain the kind of focus that Woods and Nicklaus have had on golf. Even if the body holds up, the mind, and the tug of family obligations, will work to undermine it. Grinding from grade school to grandfatherdom will burn players out mentally even faster than physical wear and tear. "If they're 40 and have been out here for almost 20 years and have earned their $40 million or $50 million or whatever it is, it's a grind," veteran Chris DiMarco said. "There are other things they might want to do."

3. The schedule

The FedEx Cup, not to mention the World Golf Championships, dangles so much money in front of players, it forces them to play events beyond the majors that increase the challenge of Nos. 1 and 2. Would Jack have said no to the FedEx Cup to stay with his major concentration? Would Tiger have said yes if it were there at the beginning of his career? "The tough thing for myself and a number of other Americans is it's a huge stretch from here through The Tour Championship," Matt Kuchar said of his scheduling changes. "It would really be a tough stretch with the British Open followed by the Canadian Open, followed by the Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship, Greensboro, and then right away our four playoff events start. So to have any sort of chance to play well through that stretch, hard to figure out just how much to play beforehand." He did not mention that there are, in alternate years, the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. Jack was able to plan his schedule around the majors. Tiger has, but has compromised by playing in these other events. His body may be paying the toll.

4. The money

In the same way that the enormous purses can alter schedules, they can also alter career goals -- and longevity. Take the FedEx Cup. With $10 million on the line, where does a player focus? If you're not chasing history, how much money do you need? If you've won a major or two, have lucrative endorsement deals, does it matter if you're considered the "best ever"? Will a player with the potential to win double-digit majors even see the point? Some people who know Tiger well say the idea of his chasing Jack's record was ours, not his. Not sure I buy that, but how many massively talented players in the future will see the point anyway of chasing either Woods or Nicklaus' majors record? I don't hear Rory talking like that.

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5. Competitive definition of greatness

Nicklaus refined the definition of golf greatness by accentuating the importance of the four majors. Winning majors, and, to an extent not emphasized until he came along, winning all four of them at least once, became the goal. Today, "near majors" like the the Players, the WGC events, and the FedEx Cup, have grown in significance, and Ryder Cup participation means more than in its "exhibition" days. Will majors remain the main measure? It's not a sure thing. Over time the near-majors may lessen the weight of the four, and give players the opportunity to define their success differently.

6. The @#$%^! media

As Tiger knows, and learned for certain in 2009, there is no place to hide. The unceasing pressure from media of all kinds, in good times and especially bad, will only grow, with social media showing the capacity to intrude even further than print, TV or web. Such scrutiny only increases as a player succeeds. Will any player tolerate this kind of pressure for, say, 20-25 years? One might argue that Tiger was the modern media's first "major" victim.

7. Heavier competition

It appears that more of America's best athletes are choosing golf, and so are many athletes globally. The Olympics should magnify the appeal of golf in many countries where it's a lesser sport now, deepening the depth of competition. (China alone changes the balance.) As more talent chasing more money with more and more technical and consultative help enters the game, the dream of dominance diminishes.
 
Enjoy Tiger while you can. There won't be another.

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July 28, 2014

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