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Fantasy Golf

Fantasy Fix: Why we're taking Steve Stricker over Jordan Spieth at the John Deere Classic

Many people disagree with Jordan Spieth's decision to play in this week's John Deere Classic, but a certain tractor-making sect of the population is revving up its farm equipment in excitement over the return of the young superstar.

While I commend Spieth honoring his commitment to play in the event where he won his first PGA Tour title, I'm not (gasp) recommending you play him in your fantasy golf leagues this week. We're all familiar with the phrase "look-ahead game" in sports, right? Well, this is the ultimate look-ahead situation for Spieth, who will be looking to win a third straight major next week at the most famous golf course in the world (This is also the final tournament of Segment 1 and I've already maxed out on Spieth starts). There's NO no probably no way he plays well this week. Of course, I didn't think we'd ever see a 21-year-old golfer win the first two legs of the Grand Slam, either. . . In any matter, here's who I'm going with (gulp) instead this week in my PGA Tour Fantasy Golf lineup:

Related: Sign up for PGA Tour Fantasy Golf Driven By Avis

Steve Stricker: There are three certainties in this life: Death, taxes, and Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic. The three-time winner of this event, hasn't had a top 25 in six events this season, but that changes this week. Even when he played sparingly last year, he dropped by to post a T-7 at TPC Deere Run. Just sit back and watch the Strick Show. . .

Incredibly, it looks like Stricker isn't picking himself this week.


That's either a mistake or the man is way too modest. Moving on. . .

Zach Johnson: Another Midwesterner who treats this event like a major, ZJ has been just as reliable as Stricker at TPC Deere Run with five top-three finishes in the past six trips. That run includes an incredible streak of 24(!) straight rounds in the 60s here.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

Kevin Kisner: Another week, another playoff loss for Kisner. The Kiz became the first player since Horton Smith in 1937 to lose three PGA Tour playoffs in a single season. But not even ol' Horton pulled off the feat in less than three months. I might have to ride him until he finally breaks through.

Tony Finau: I was going to go with another one of last week's playoff losers, David Hearn, in this spot, but opted with the high-powered Finau for his driving stats. Plus, the PGA Tour rookie has quietly put together a streak of seven straight top 25s.

The Grind: Jimenez's Wimbledon snooze and DJ-Paulina's Fourth fireworks

Bench: David Hearn and Brian Harman.

And for those of you playing other fantasy golf formats:

Yahoo! lineup: Steve Stricker, Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson and Tony Finau.
Bench/backups: Harris English, Brian Harman, Patrick Rodgers and David Hearn.

Knockout/One-and-done pick: Steve Stricker.

Previously used: Keegan Bradley (Bay Hill), Paul Casey (Honda), Jason Day (Farmers -- WINNER!), Luke Donald (Valspar), Jamie Donaldson (Doral), Jim Furyk (Valero), Sergio Garcia (Players), Bill Haas (Riviera), Billy Horschel (Memphis), Charles Howell III (Sony), Dustin Johnson (Pebble), Zach Johnson (Colonial), Matt Kuchar (Heritage), Marc Leishman (Nelson), Phil Mickelson (U.S. Open), Geoff Ogilvy (Hyundai), Louis Oosthuizen (Houston), Ryan Palmer (Humana), Webb Simpson (Greenbrier), Brandt Snedeker (Travelers), Brendan Steele (Phoenix), Jimmy Walker (Masters).


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PGA Tour

Here's how Ian Poulter prepares for his round during a rain delay

There was a three-hour rain delay this morning at Colonial and Ian Poulter turned to Periscope to burn time. While sporting a Nike workout shirt and a Ferrari baseball cap, Poulter answered a slew of questions. Among his revelations: he thinks Atlanta airport is the world in the world; he doesn't travel with pillows; he's driving an Escalade this week; and he thinks his pants are "classy" not "wacky." Plus, he showed us what he'll be wearing today and he explained the very complicated way in which he wraps his grips.

But perhaps the most insightful thing he did was show us how he's preparing for his round. First, he pulled up the PGA Tour leader board to see how low the guys are going, then he pulled up the hourly forecast to gauge wind direction (hey, I do that too!), then he walked us through every hole in his yardage book.

Poulter shared where he intends to hit his shots on every hole and how the wind might affect his game plan. At one point during his livestream Poulter said, "I like this Periscope thing, it's fun." We do too, Poults. Thanks for the insight.

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PGA Tour

Is Rory seriously going to retire at 40?

Rory McIlroy was having a chat with the BBC, and they started to talk about his longevity in the sport. Here's what Rory had to say: 

"I don't anticipate playing senior golf or Champions Tour golf. I used to think [I'd retire at] 40. That's still 14 years away. That's a longer career than most sports people have. I've already had nearly an 8-year-career… 25 years at this game should hopefully be enough to help me achieve what I want to."

Rory during the Wells Fargo, his most recent win. Getty Images

Now before you despair over Rory not playing tournament golf, consider that he's merely eight years into what he plans to be a 25-year career. He's got another 17 to go -- which means he'll be 43 years old when he retires. And that's a long way off. 

Between he and Lydia Ko (who said she'd retire at 30 to become a psychologist), it sounds like the current World Number Ones aren't interested in slowly leaving the game. Once they're done dominating, they could very well be done with professional tours for good. 

Lucky for us, their 30th and 40th birthdays are many years away. 

A link to the full BBC interview can be found here

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News & Tours

There's a method behind the madness of rerouting Harding Park

One glance at TPC Harding Park's rerouting is enough to make your head hurt. 

As haphazard as the rerouting seems, there's a smart method behind the madness. Hole Nos. 14-18 represent the course's toughest (and greatest) stretch. And since the majority of match-play matches end on No. 16, playing TPC Harding Park as is would mean most golfers would never even reach the course's finest gems. The re-routing is meant to maximize thrills and entertainment.

wgc aerial.jpg
While the routing for the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship and 2010 Charles Schwab Cup Championship followed the daily public layout, the 2009 Presidents Cup featured a similar layout to this week's Match Play, although it used Harding's 18th as its 15th (this week, Harding's 18th will serve as the WGC's 14th). This week's routing might just be the perfect guinea pig for the 2025 Presidents Cup, which will be held at TPC Harding Park.

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How He Hit That: Sang-Moon Bae's pressure-proof deep-grass chip

Sang-Moon Bae had already won once on the PGA Tour -- at the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship -- but you wouldn't have known it by the results leading up to the 2014-15 season opener at the Open. 

The 28-year-old South Korean hadn't recorded a top-10 finish since the Nelson triumph, and his time out of the spotlight showed early on the back nine Sunday. Bae bogeyed the 11th, 13th and 14th holes with three-putts as he saw four of the six-stroke advantage he had built disappear with Steven Bowditch safely in the clubhouse after shooting a closing 67.

But on the par-5 16th, Bae made a clutch up-and-down from deep greenside grass to save par, preserve his lead and, ultimately, pave the way to his second tour victory. "Under pressure, you'll see a lot of players struggle with that shot from deep grass to a relatively close pin, even on tour," says top Georgia teacher Brandon Stooksbury, who is the director of instruction at Idle Hour Club in Macon. "It takes some speed on the clubhead to make it through the deeper grass, and the player is afraid to make that big of a swing under the circumstances."

But with the right club and setup -- a 56-degree wedge with 8 to 12 degrees of bounce, played open with the ball in the middle of the stance -- you can reduce the risk that comes from swinging with more speed. "The two things that are important to pulling off the shot are using the bounce on the bottom of the club effectively and coming in at a steep angle of attack," Stooksbury says. "You want to think of the swing shape as a V. Hinge your wrists quickly on the backswing until the club gets to parallel with the ground, then deliver the club quickly and sharply to the back of the ball. If you come in too shallow or slow, the clubhead will get caught in the grass."

With the clubface open, more clubhead speed will produce more height without a lot of extra distance -- another safety buffer that should help you swing more freely. "Look how big Bae's backswing was compared to the follow-through," Stooksbury says. "The grass absorbed all the energy from the swing. He also had some room to let the shot roll out. If it had been a tighter pin, he could have made an even bigger swing and hit a higher shot. You just have to trust the loft of the club."
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How He Hit That: Billy Horschel's turf-digging chunk at the Deutsche Bank

All misses count the same, but the strokes Billy Horschel lost on the 18th hole Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship probably don't feel that way right now. 


Horschel was in the middle of the fairway, 198 yards away from reaching the par 5 in two. He trailed Chris Kirk by a shot, but was playing a hole he had birdied the previous three times he played it. 

Instead of setting himself up for the win -- or at least a spot in a playoff -- Horschel made what he called his worst swing of the week at TPC Boston, chunking his 6-iron so badly that it not only didn't carry the hazard in front of the green, it barely made it into the marsh. After dropping, pitching on and missing his putt, he signed for a 69 and a three-way tie for second with Russell Henley and Geoff Ogilvy. 

"A chunk isn't uncommon when pressure is at its highest," says Jorge Parada, a head instructor at the Tour Academy at TPC Sawgrass. "Your body is physically reacting to the pressure -- your pupils dilate, your muscles constrict and your breathing gets shallow. Your body moves slower, and your rhythm isn't the same. It's easy for a motion as complex as a golf swing to get thrown off."

The secret to avoiding a heavy shot like Horschel's is the one Tiger Woods has used to win so many tournaments -- familiarity. "The only way to handle pressure is to put yourself in those positions as often as possible," says Parada, who works with Jonas Blixt, David Lingmerth and Anna Nordqvist among other tour players. "During your practice time, give yourself scenarios where you need to execute a shot to win something important. Go through your entire routine and focus on slowing your breathing and keeping a normal rhythm. Hit the shot and grade yourself on the result."

To amp up the pressure training, do a vigorous set of wind sprints or jumping jacks just before you hit the shot. Give yourself 45 seconds to go through your routine, modulate your breathing and make your swing. "At first, you'll be shocked at how hard it is to even hit a five-foot putt with your heart rate up and adrenaline pumping," says Parada. "But the more you practice it and work on slowing down your breathing, you'll feel your muscles relax and your heart rate slow down. That's a great tool to have when you need it over an important shot."

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PGA Tour

Ryo Ishikawa has the best putting green etiquette of anyone ever

Two days before the first round of the Deutsche Bank, I and two of Golf Digest's finest hopped in the car, put on our best techno playlist, and went to Norton to check out the scene at TPC Boston. 

I get to see a lot of very cool stuff when I go to events -- like Bubba's driver and Adam Scott's face -- and what I spotted Ryo Ishikawa doing on the practice green at the second FedEx Cup playoff event now ranks high on that list as well. 

ryo towel putting.jpg
(Photo: Keely Levins. Apologies for the flagrant porta potty in the background. I was too distracted by Ryo's stylish pants to notice it while I was snapping the photo.) 

He was doing some putting drills, tees strategically placed to help keep the clubface square, while standing on a towel. I couldn't think of any benefits to his technique explained by that last part, so we went up to his caddie and asked the reason for the towel. His response: Ryo likes standing on the towel because he doesn't want to damage the greens. 

When you stand in one place on a green for a while, your spikes leave substantial marks that can be annoying for the next person trying to putt at that hole, and cringe-worthy for greenkeepers everywhere. 

The effect to the green isn't catastrophic, but the fact that Ryo is aware of it and cares enough to make a little extra effort during his practice session to avoid it shows a level of selflessness that you don't always see from professional athletes. Literally no one would ever make a comment about a player leaving spike marks after doing drills on a practice green. But Ryo leaving the green without having made marks deserves a nod of appreciation. Well done, Ryo.  
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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Rory McIlroy used to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-rory-winnersbag-bridgestone-518.jpgAs was the case during his British Open triumph last month, Rory McIlroy won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational thanks in large part to his Nike VRS Covert 2.0 driver. The new World No. 1 led the field in driving distance at Firestone CC (334.8 yards) and finished 12th in accuracy (60.71 percent fairways hit).

There were only minor differences in McIlroy's club lineup in his encore victory in Akron, Ohio. Instead of the Nike MM proto 2-iron he carried at Hoylake, McIlroy had a VRS Covert 5-wood (19 degrees). He also took out his VR Pro Blade 3-iron in favor of a third VR Forged wedge, adding the 52 degree to the 54 and 59 degree models he previously carried.

Here is McIlroy's bag in its entirety at Firestone.

Ball: Nike RZN Black

Driver: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70X), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Nike VRS Covert, 15 degrees
5-wood: Nike VRS Covert, 19 degrees
Irons (4-9):
Nike VR Pro Blade; (PW): Nike VR Forged
Wedges: Nike VR Forged (52, 54, 59 degrees)
Putter: Nike Method 006

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News & Tours

Column: The PGA Tour's pretend drug policy

By Matthew Rudy

When I wrote the first national story about the steroids-in-golf issue for Golf Digest back in 2007, I was struck most by two pieces of information that came out of the reporting. 

It was fascinating to learn how easy it would be for a player to find and use a $40 cream that would give him (or her) 10 percent more clubhead speed and do it with virtually no long-term health risk. 

And it was illuminating to hear Dr. Charles Yesalis, the Penn State professor who literally wrote the book on steroids, lay out the pragmatist's guide to building an anti-doping policy. 

"You'd want to keep control of the testing, so that if a star tested positive, you could cover it up and deal with it internally,"Yesalis said. "You want to pick specific drugs that apply to your sport. There are loopholes, but what we're talking about is the perception, not the actual ethics or morals of what is happening."

The PGA Tour must have been taking good notes, because what Yesalis described is exactly what has happened over the last six years.  

It took less than a day for Dustin Johnson's announcement that he was taking a leave from tour golf to work on personal problems to be followed by reports that the PGA Tour actually suspended Johnson for six months for his third failed drug test -- once for marijuana in 2009 and twice for cocaine, in 2012 and 2014. Johnson was reportedly suspended before, for the failed 2012 test, but maintained publicly than he missed time for a back injury (the tour has refuted the published reports by maintaining Johnson has not been suspended). 

The timing of the reports about an official suspension only matters because the PGA Tour doesn't disclose player conduct violations or suspensions. Johnson could be the only player who failed a test since 2009, or he could be one of 100 who did. The tour is content to stand by its statement that it forbids the use of (certain) performance enhancing and recreational drugs, and that it will punish players that violate the rules. 

Commissioner Tim Finchem told me in 2007 that he believed in golf's culture of integrity and rule-following, and that "the notion that a player would cheat in this sport is an anathema to the athletes."

If that's really true, the tour's policy should be complete transparency in its drug program. If cheating (or recreational drug use) is so rare, the occasional player who is announced to have been suspended would only serve as more of a reminder about how dedicated the tour is at preserving fair play and protecting the health of its members. 

If you're following Vijay Singh's legal dispute against the tour over his suspension for admitting he tried deer-antler spray -- a substance for which the tour doesn't even test -- for its performance-enhancing benefits, it's easy to see why the tour is fighting so hard to keep from having to reveal what players have tested positive for a banned substance and what the punishments have been for those violations. 

The term "punishment" can be pretty elastic when everything happens in secret. 

How would it look if a journeyman like Doug Barron got suspended for a year for elevated testosterone and a star player received a different punishment for the same violation? Or if one player got fined for a positive test, while another got some secret time off or received no punishment at all? 

It would mean the tour's primary concern is a player's marketing value, not enforcing basic fairness. 

Say it isn't so. 

Nobody believes Finchem and the tour will adopt Olympic-level openness about anti-doping. In a couple of years, we'll see if it matters. PGA Tour players will go to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics -- where they'll get the same random drug tests as the swimmers and track stars, and be held to standards that make the tour's drug policy look like a junior high science project.

If the winner loses his gold medal because he used testosterone cream or smoked a joint, I'll bet we hear about it. And I bet they won't give it back if he promises not to do it again.  

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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Tim Clark used to win the RBC Canadian Open

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-tim-clark-celebration-290.jpgThere was something apropos about the pictures of Tim Clark fist-pumping in celebration Sunday at Royal Montreal G.C. In his other hand was the club that the new winner of the RBC Canadian Open has become most associated with: an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball Long putter.

Clark has used a long putter since his days playing college golf at N.C. State in the 1990s. The South African was among the more vocal players arguing to keep the USGA and R&A from outlawing the anchored stroke when the governing bodies proposed the rule change in 2012. The 38-year-old uses the long putter out of what he says is necessity; a congenital problem with his arms prevents him from supinating his wrists and causes discomfort while using a short putter.

With the anchoring ban having been approved and set to be implemented in January 2016, several players who use belly or long putters have begun to experiment with other shorter models. Clark, however, is among a dozen or so players who remain anchoring holdouts.

Here are the rest of the clubs and ball Clark played in picking up his second PGA Tour title.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Driver: Titleist 913D3 (Accra M4 55), 9.5 degrees
4-wood: Titleist 913Fd, 18 degrees
5-wood: Callaway Steelhead Plus, 18 degrees
TaylorMade Rescue FW Dual, 19 degrees
Irons (4-9): Titleist CB; (PW): Titleist Vokey SM4
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM4 (56 degrees); Titleist Vokey SM5 (60 degrees0
Putter: Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball Long

Photo: Getty Images

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