Apr 23

Graeme McDowell watched the final round of the Masters on TV and took notes

If there is ever a golf tournament that professionals hope to win, it's the Masters. The problem with Augusta National, however, is it doesn't always suit the game of certain professionals.

Lee Trevino famously had trouble with Augusta, winning each of the other three majors twice but only finishing in the top-10 at the Masters two times, and he isn't the only one that struggles when it comes to the opening major of the year.

Enter Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, who has really had issues at Augusta National in his seven Masters starts. McDowell has missed the cut five times at the Masters, with a T-12 in 2012 being his best finish, and after missing the cut this season, decided to spend some time doing some Augusta National homework.

According to the Associated Press' Doug Ferguson, McDowell watched the Sunday broadcast and took notes, hoping to help his chances of understanding the nuances that make Augusta National so tough.

"I watched the coverage on Sunday afternoon, taking notes about the way the balls react around the pin positions," McDowell told the AP. "Like the eighth, for example, Fred Couples leaving the putt 15 feet short down to the corner. Jordan Spieth did the same thing — slowed down in the corner. That's the little nuances you have to know about Augusta. I found myself taking notes on Sunday. Hopefully, I'll need them over the next few years."

It's an interesting nugget that McDowell admitted, but something that happens more than you would think on the PGA Tour. If you were in the final group on a Sunday at the British Open, you don't think you'd pull up the coverage at your hotel room and see how the early groups react to certain pin positions? I sure would, and I'm sure the pros do it when they have a long wait until they get on that first tee.

It also shows that McDowell really wants to be competitive at Augusta National. Being a professional golfer is a life that we all dream of having, and if you're lucky enough to get there your focus has to shift to winning the most cherished of trophies.

McDowell gets that, and wants to spend as much time as possible figuring out this golf course if he wants to really compete for a Masters title at some point in his career.

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Shane Bacon is the editor of Devil Ball Golf and Busted Racquet on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shanebaconblogs@yahoo.com or

Apr 23

The Bacon Mailbag: Multiple majors, Phil on the Ryder Cup and the PGA Tour course you’d play

Each week for the remainder of the golf season we will be rolling out a mailbag, with any and all questions invited from readers and fans around the world. Have a good question you want answered? Hit me up on Twitter at @shanebacon or e-mail me at shanebaconblogs@yahoo.com and we will try to get to it in the coming weeks. Here we go ...

Bacon: First, I'm going to assume that we're talking youth here, because the answer if we were discussing everyone would obviously be Tiger Woods and his 14 majors.

So, I'm throwing out anyone with three or more majors or anyone that is 40 or older.

My default answer is Rory McIlroy, just because he already has two different major wins and by a combined 16 shots. McIlroy might be in a bit of a major slump right now, but as I've said before, Rory seems like the type that will win 4-5 majors over the course of his career simply by bringing his A game to random majors. When his game is clicking there isn't anyone out there on this planet that can compete, so Rory is my default answer.

But, I figured I'd go look at the list of one-time major winners and see which name I like. Here is the list of current one-time major winners with a good shot at winning another major; Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Jason Dufner.

Of that list, the first name that caught my eye was Scott, just because he always seems to be in the hunt at majors over the last three years. But, the killer instinct from Scott isn't exactly there, as we've seen in the past, so I'm going with a kid that I think has the game, and the mentality, to win at the highest level a couple times before he retires.

I think Keegan Bradley, who is just 27, will eventually figure out his weird antics on the golf course and calm them down a bit. When he does that, I think he is the competitive type with enough talent to not only win one or two more majors, but compete in plenty for the next few season.

Scott and Rose will probably win another major at some point in their career, as will Oosthuizen, but for a kid with one PGA Championship under his belt, I see Bradley competing at plenty of majors in the next few years and wouldn't be surprised if he added a Claret Jug or a second Wanamaker Trophy to his resume by the time he turns 30.

Bacon: Wow, what a great question and one that really got me looking around at the courses that host events at a consistent clip.

I'm not counting any random major championship courses, because it would be too easy to pick one of the private clubs that hosts a U.S. or British Open. No, this is going to be true PGA Tour events on true PGA Tour courses that we see each year.

I've played TPC Scottsdale and TPC Sawgrass. I've been lucky enough to go around Pebble Beach and Spyglass, and had plenty of awesome experiences at PGA West.

So looking at the schedule, my first thought was Harbour Town, followed by East Lake, Muirfield and the Plantation Course.

But, I think I'm going Congressional. Sure, it's a venue that occasionally hosts major championships, but this Quicken Loans National event has seemed to call Congressional home and after walking it during the 2011 U.S. Open, I would be pumped to get a chance to play it.

Bacon: At this point, with Tiger in the field or no Tiger in the field, aren't they all "what if" majors?

Seriously, would you bet money on a single golfer right now to win any major in 2014? I sure wouldn't. Phil Mickelson is a guy that is always in the hunt at Augusta National and he missed the cut this season. Rory McIlroy continues to be the favorite while Tiger is away and he hasn't exactly been in contention on a Sunday at a major in quite some time.

I think the thing we all need to embrace, instead of looking at the fact that "OMG TIGER ISN'T HERE WHAT DO WE DO," is the fact that this is an exciting, random time in golf history. Nobody is dominant, nobody is taking control of the tour, and we have a list of 50 or so guys that could win any major and a list of 300 guys that could win any PGA Tour event.

Sure, having a figure to either root for or against helps sports because it allows people to pick a side, but this isn't some terrible time for golf if we could just get past the fact that Tiger is hurt and he isn't coming back anytime soon. While he might be the biggest name in the game, he isn't the game and it would help the viewership, the tournaments and the overall perception of golf if we could spend more time on everyone else and less time on the guy that is home recovering from back surgery.

Bacon: As of now, Phil is in on points, but if he somehow fell out of that I am pretty sure that he would be a pick from Tom Watson.

The Ryder Cup is an important event and the Americans really, really need to win it this year if they don't want it to get out of hand (similar to how I said the Internationals really needed to win that Presidents Cup in 2013 to keep the event interesting). 

That said, the Ryder Cup is also a business, and Mickelson or Woods not being there hurts the business side of things. I don't see Phil missing out on this Ryder Cup, mainly because it could be his last one.

Mickelson turns 44 in June, meaning he will be 46 the next time they play this event. It wouldn't be crazy to think that Phil would qualify in 2016, but with his health issues, how much he loves spending time with his family and his level of passion for the game as he gets older, I could see his game deteriorating over the next 2-3 years, hurting his chances of qualifying for the next Ryder Cup (and he seems like the type that might tell the captain of the next team to pick a younger guy if he didn't qualify, similar to Steve Stricker last year).

So yes, I think Mickelson will be on this team no matter what happens, because he's a guy that a lot of the younger dudes like, and he is a great draw for an American team that would be starting Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Harris English if qualification ended today.

Apr 22

Seven simple things golf courses (and you) can do to help the environment

Golf might be the sport that brings us the closest to nature, but is it really that Eco-friendly? On Earth Day, we decided to look at some simple ways that golf courses, and you the golfer, can change the way we do things to help the environment, trying to find things that aren't overly complicated to help the game we love sustain the planet we inhabit.

Make recycling available everywhere — When I got out of college back some years ago, I went to work at a high-end golf course that prided itself on the golfer's experience. That was all well and good, but one of the things that bugged me the most was that the course didn't recycle. Think about the trash in your golf cart anytime you finish playing 18 holes. It's beer cans, water bottles and cardboard sleeves for the golf balls you used or lost. The majority of things we golfers want to throw away after 18 holes on the golf course can be recycled, but we shouldn't just stop when people finish their rounds. Have recycle bins on the golf course, so when people do want to clean out their carts, they can do so while not tossing away things that don't need to be in the trash.

Electric golf carts over gas carts — The easy solution to all of this is walking 18 holes instead of taking a golf cart, but I'm trying to be realistic here as we still live in the United States and golf carts are available at pretty much any golf course you visit.

Gas carts give off a ton of emissions, even being banned in some parts of California because of this issue. Sure, the batteries in an electric cart have to be replaced, but they are better on the environment than gas and would help to curb unnecessary pollution on the golf course.

Don't overseed the rough — I live in Arizona, and right when the weather starts to turn in the fall every golf course goes under major overseeding. The problem here is, while beautiful, overseeding forces courses to use tons of water. No course is going to stop overseeding, especially during their most lucrative seasons, but why not leave the rough dormant for the winter? It would allow the course to use a lot less water, a lot less electricity to power those sprinklers, and if you hit it in the rough, you probably deserve a gnarly lie.

Xeriscaping as much as possible — Again, in Arizona there is benefit to not having a lavish lawn, because growing grass here is not the easiest of propositions. Target golf is a perfect example of growing, and maintaining grass, only where you need it, and xeriscaping around a golf course means using rocks and natural vegetation over the troubles of growing grass everywhere.

Push Dixon golf balls on beginners — A beginning golfer could care less about what type of golf ball they play. They've probably heard of a Titleist once or twice, but as long as it's round they are good. Why not push Dixon golf balls on beginners, as these golf balls are biodegradable and could drastically cut down on the litter that errant golf shots cause?

Bring your own bottle to the course — Sure, golf courses don't want you stuffing a six-pack of beer in your golf bag to avoid the inflated concession pricing, but I've never had anyone tell me I couldn't bring my own water bottle with me on the course. Bring your own (preferably one you can reuse), and fill it up with the water that the golf courses provide between holes. This cuts down on waste, and also cuts down on how much you're spending while you play.

Be more like Justin Timberlake — Just check out all the stuff his golf course, Mirimichi, does to be as green as possible.

Now your turn ... what are some simple solutions you think could help keep our game as green as possible?

Apr 22

The Shark Swims Again

Greg Norman has never lacked for opinions. It's a trait that should serve the successful golfer and businessman well in his next career: Fox golf analyst.
Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 21

Matt Kuchar has earned more money in the last four weeks than some notable athletes do all year

Matt Kuchar has had a dream April that was capped off on Sunday by a bunker shot on his final hole of the RBC Heritage that disappeared for the unexpected birdie and the seventh PGA Tour win of his career.

But the win wasn't his only large earning over the last month. Kuchar has had an incredible last four weeks, finishing T-4 at the Valero Texas Open, losing in a playoff at the Shell Houston Open, finishing T-5 at the Masters and then the win this past weekend at Harbour Town.

How good has it been for the fifth ranked golfer in the world? The $2.35 million he's pulled in since March 30 is more than the base salary of the following notable professional athletes (based solely on their 2014 base salaries):

  • Robert Griffin III ($2.3 million)
  • Trent Richardson ($2.25 million)
  • Bryce Harper ($2.15 million)
  • Klay Thompson ($2.31 million)
  • Rey Maualuga ($2.25 million)
  • Nate Robinson ($2.01 million)
  • Darren Collison ($1.9 million)
  • Mike Miller ($1.39 million)
  • Al Harrington ($1.39 million)
  • Shaun Livingston ($1.27 million)
  • Matt Carpenter ($1.25 million)
  • Paul Goldschmidt ($1.08 million)
  • His four week total is more than the current money leader on the NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series (Jeff Gordon at $2.03 million)
  • And Kuchar's $2.35 million is 3.8 times more than the leading money winner on the LPGA Tour (Michelle Wie)

So yes, a quick reminder that being a professional golfer and going on a hot streak can do very, very good things for your portfolio. Sadly for Kuchar (and his accountant), he is not in the field this week at the Zurich Classic, meaning his streak will finally come to an end.

 

Apr 21

Lexi Thompson threw out the first pitch at a Marlins game and it was ugly

There are plenty of compliments one could give Lexi Thompson. At just 19, Thompson already has four LPGA wins including the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship, her first major title, and she seems to be on a track for super-duper stardom.

But, I'm not sure Thompson will go the route of Michael Jordan and give up her first love of sports for a chance at professional baseball. Lexi threw out the first pitch at the Marlins game last week, and while it was great to see a professional sports team acknowledge the talents of Thompson, it wasn't exactly a first pitch that will be making highlight reels for years to come.

Thompson's throw barely got off the ground, causing her to have a laugh and even send out this tweet after the game.

Apr 21

Winners and losers from RBC Heritage week

This past weekend saw a lot of great story lines and we are here to give you the good and the bad of it. Here are our winners and losers from the past week in golf.

Winners

Matt Kuchar — The past four weeks have been an interesting stretch for Kuchar, who continued to get in the hunt over the weekend at each event but couldn't close on Sunday and was searching for his first win in 2014. This time, on Sunday at the RBC Heritage, it was Kuchar who was forced to chase the leaders, and his Sunday 64 was highlighted by this incredible bunker shot he holed on the 18th hole for the birdie and the eventual one-shot victory. 

Michelle Wie — It might have been a disappointing conclusion two weeks ago for Wie at the opening major of the LPGA season, but it didn't take her long to bounce back and show just how incredible she is playing this season. Wie's final round 67 was good enough for a third LPGA win over the weekend in Hawaii, showing that all the work she has put in her game is really paying off in 2014.

Ben Martin — It has been a really interesting last few months for Martin, who has either missed the cut on the PGA Tour or had a fantastic week. At Harbour Town it was another good one for Martin, who in his last nine starts on the PGA Tour has seven missed cuts, one third and one tie for third. His Sunday 67 left him two shots back of Kuchar, but it was another fine showing for a man looking to earn every dollar he can to be around for the 2015 season. 

Pablo Larrazabal — He made news over the weekend when he got attacked by hornets on the golf course, eventually taking his clothes off and jumping in a lake to avoid getting stung. He ended his weekend with a Sunday 67 at the Maybank Malaysian Open and a top-10 finish.

Losers

Charl Schwartzel — After a missed cut at the Masters, it looked like the former green jacket winner was going to have a great week at the Heritage, but his Sunday 72 dropped him nine spots on the leaderboard and outside the top-10. Schwartzel, a man that redefined clutch with his four closing birdies to win that 2011 Masters, still sits at one PGA Tour win over his career, a disappointment if you look at the way he won that lone major title.

Hunter Mahan — Struggling with his game, Mahan has now broke 71 just once over his last 16 rounds on the PGA Tour. Mahan missed the cut at the Heritage and now has gone over two years without a PGA Tour win.

Apr 20

Matt Kuchar’s holed bunker shot on the 72nd hole won him the RBC Heritage

Matt Kuchar has made a habit of falling short in PGA Tour events this season, but that all changed on Sunday at the RBC Heritage thanks to an incredible shot on his final hole of the tournament.

Just two weeks removed from a pitch shot that won the Shell Houston Open for Matt Jones, Kuchar faced a bunker shot on the 18th hole on Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links that will be in the running for golf shot of the year.

Kuchar, who made six birdies on his way out on Sunday for a front nine 30, made his first bogey of the day on the 17th hole, and it looked like that shot could ruin his chances of a seventh PGA Tour win. But after his second shot on the 18th hole found the greenside bunker, it was up to Kuchar to try and get it up and down for a final round 65 and an outside chance at a playoff.

He did himself one better, knocking that bunker shot in the hole for the unexpected birdie and a 64 for Kuchar, who had to wait out the rest of the guys on the course to see if he could finally win in 2014.

Luke Donald, who was leading before the day started, made two early birdies on his back nine, but couldn't add another one over his final five holes, meaning a one-shot victory for Kuchar and a bunker shot that will be played on the highlight reels at the end of this season.