Jul 29

Teeing Off: The new Big Three: Tiger, Phil and … ?

Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball Golf editor Shane Bacon and writer Jay Busbee take a topic from the world of golf and shank it off the tee. Today: The new Big Three. You know Arnie, Jack and Gary. You know Tiger and Phil. Is there a third member of the latest Big Three, or are the contenders merely pretenders?

Bacon: Last weekend saw Jim Furyk, now 44, miss out on another shot at a PGA Tour title at the Canadian Open. Furyk, one of the stalwarts on the PGA Tour over the last two decades, hasn't won on tour since 2010, and while his slump continues, I simply ask, of this fading generation, where does Furyk rank in terms of the best players of that group? Tiger Woods is one, Phil Mickelson is two, and while Ernie Els has a great case as the third, is Furyk right behind those huge names?

Busbee: "Right behind" in a list, "five holes behind" on a golf course. This is not meant as a dismissal of Furyk in any way; he's a major winner and has an outside shot at a Hall of Fame berth. But he's a lot closer to the median golfer than outliers like Woods and Mickelson. Had he played in another era, Furyk probably would have beaten the world. He'd have been one of the two or three guys always challenging Nicklaus or Palmer, or absolutely dominant in the pre-Tiger '90s. But now? He's a distant shadow. That's not his fault, obviously, but that's the way it is when you're playing behind a pair of legends. How about your perspective?

Bacon: I think when we look back at Furyk's career, we will be wondering how in the world he didn't win more. The guy has finished in second place 28 times in his career include three this season! That's incredible! Do you think this is a situation where he actually does fall apart down the stretch, or just bad luck when he's in contention (like Tim Clark firing a back-nine 30 to get him by a shot on Sunday at the Canadian Open)?

Busbee: I would like to see a statistical study determining whether players do or don't really fall apart on the back nine on Sunday. It's been proven statistically that there's no such thing as a clutch hitter, and that home-field advantage is mainly a result of ref intimidation. I wonder, are we biased against Furyk because of his high-profile miscues? Or is it much easier to get to second place than to win? Would be fascinating to find out.

I was at the Tour Championship when he needed to get up and down from the sand on the 18th at East Lake to win $10 million, and he did so with ease. But then he's had so many opportunities exactly like you mention where he DIDN'T get the job done. Obviously he's right up there with the next tier of greats of this era. But who else besides Els belongs there? You gotta go Vijay, yes?

Bacon: It's easy to forget how much of a monster Vijay was in his prime. The guy won NINE times in 2004!

I think Vijay has to be No. 4, with Furyk a distant No. 5. Is that close? Would you put anyone else in the conversation?

Busbee: I think you're right. Anybody else we start bringing up based on record alone (Padraig Harrington, Angel Cabrera) has had such a spotty record outside of their highlights that it's tough to justify putting them on the list.

Unless, of course, we look forward. At what point do you think Rory McIlroy cracks this list? Or do we start a new one for him?

Bacon: I think he's in a new generation of golfers that includes (Rickie) Fowler, Dustin (Johnson), Zach Johnson and Bubba (Watson). While the ages might not match up, I feel like all those guys came around at the same time and have won together at a consistent rate.

That said, if Rory ever faces Tiger in a major and beats him (think Tom Watson at Turnberry taking down Jack Nicklaus) we might start seeing those two as generational competitors and we could watch their careers overlap in a sense.

All right, your turn! Who's the best of the best, after the two you know, in the current generation? Have your say below!

Jul 29

Tiger Woods took a vacation after the British Open, beat his kids in Putt-Putt

For those rare athletes that even separate themselves against other professionals, the competitive edge never rests. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird and Tiger Woods are names that come to mind as those ultra-competitive athletes, and no matter if it's a foe or family, they have one goal; winning.

Woods spoke on Monday at a Deutsche Bank Championship press conference, an event he isn't even qualified to play in at this point considering he sits at 215th in FedEx Cup points, and while he talked about his goals this week at Firestone and next week at the PGA Championship, it was the line about playing his kids in Putt-Putt that was the most interesting.

“We had a good little time,” Woods said of his vacation with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and his two kids. “We toured a little bit and even played a little Putt-Putt, which I won every single time.”

Every. Single. Time.

Woods has an extremely uphill battle with these next two tournament starts, not just for the playoffs and beyond, but for Woods to avoid the most disappointing season of his professional career. With him being so far back in the playoff points, Tiger will basically need a win at either the Bridgestone or the PGA Championship to secure a spot at the Barclays.

One thing Tiger could do is add the Wyndham Championship to his schedule, the tournament following the PGA Championship, but that would mean three straight weeks of golf for a man coming off back surgery and if he did get his game together enough to qualify for the playoffs, it would be four straight weeks of competitive golf for Woods.

For now, Woods is focused on a golf tournament he has won eight times in his career on a golf course that has always seemed to bring the best out in Tiger. If the struggles continue this week at Firestone, not only do the playoffs become nearly impossible, but landing a spot on the Ryder Cup team could be something out of reach for a man once thought of as an automatic pick to represent the United States every two years when they go up against Europe for the biggest team trophy in golf.

I guess the only bright side to a short season for Woods is he will have plenty of time in the coming months to keep taking down Charlie and Sam at Putt-Putt if he fails to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Jul 28

Random golfer finds one of President Obama’s golf balls at Congressional

Just like millions of us, President Barack Obama loves golf. The only problem is, he isn't the best at the game. That doesn't stop Obama from teeing it up, and when you aren't the best golfer, that means losing a golf ball or two per round (to be fair, even the best in the world can hit a shot that is never found). 

For you and I, losing a golf ball means somebody, at some time, will pick up our lost ball and either toss it back in the woods or decide to use it. When Obama is involved, that person takes a photo of the personalized Titleist and it goes viral.

An Instagram user named "larrydoh" posted this image after digging this ball out at Congressional on Sunday, and it's pretty hard not to identify this one as one used by the president.

h/t Eye on Golf

Jul 28

Rory McIlroy’s British Open-winning ball is up for auction

In the instant after he putted out to win the 2014 Open Championship, Rory McIlroy reached into the hole, palmed the ball, and sailed it into the crowd. The thought of every single person watching that telecast was the same — somebody's gonna sell that ball for big cash — and now, that expectation has come to pass.

Green Jacket Auctions, which has achieved some notoriety in the golf world for auctioning a very specific item (hint: see the company's name), offered $10,000 on Twitter for the ball right afterward:

 Lee Horner of England caught the ball, describing the action to ESPN.com in a spectacularly British way: "When Rory threw the ball, it hit me in the hand and then fell down," Horner said. "There was a kerfuffle, but I managed to get it and hold it in the air and the crowd went crazy."

Horner initially tossed the ball into a drawer at his office, but found out about Green Jacket Auctions' interest. Green Jacket Auctions and Nike later authenticated the ball, and away it all went. Horner has consigned the ball to auction, and will give Green Jacket 15 percent of the final bidding price.

Bidding was about $3,400 as of Monday morning. You can follow the action at the auction, which lasts until August 9, right here.

Update: As of Tuesday at 1 PM ET, the bidding has gone up to nearly $6,000. Maybe $10,000 wasn't far off!

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook or on Twitter.

Jul 25

Devil Ball Proving Ground: Ping G-30 Driver

Welcome to Devil Ball's Proving Ground, where we put the latest golf gear through its paces. Today we look at the Ping G-30 driver.

Tester — Shane Bacon — Handicap: +0.5

Target Golf Audience — All golfers

Initial thoughts

It would be impossible to talk about a first look at the new Ping G-30 driver without talking about the turbulators. Those raised bumps you see on the top of the driver's crown? Those are the turbulators, something Ping invented to reduce the drag of the driver through the air (this wasn't some cockamamie idea either, with plenty of testing going on at ASU's Windtunnel Laboratory).

The G-30 has a similar finish to all the drivers from I-20 on, with the matte black continuing to look menacing and beautiful, but the first thing you see is the turbulators.

While science isn't our specialty, watching the YouTube video that Ping made showing off the turbulators makes everything a bit clearer. Just look at this screengrab below if you want to see how they perform in the simplest way possible, and then think about your golf club passing through the wind, and the air, and decreasing that amount of drag without having to do anything different with your golf swing.

Screengrab/YouTube (Ping)

I was just on a golf trip at a golf course where the wind routinely blows 20-30 MPH, and with that much wind out there, any help on drag can produce better tee shots that travel further than a clubhead without the turbulators on top (and it worked, as I didn't lose a single golf ball over 143 holes on my trip, which I can promise you had as much to do with the equipment as it did my golf swing).

I also loved the slight bit of color the Ping guys decided to go with on their G-30, with a hint of blue highlighting the bottom of the driver just enough to give it a little extra when you pull the headcover off.

On-Course Thoughts

I've had a few weeks to mess around with the G-30, and I can tell you that I'm consistently as long with this club as any I've hit before, but it isn't the good ones I'm impressed with.

I've been hitting my misses with a pretty good pop, the ones that you didn't totally connect with. That to me is just as important as what happens when you find the sweet spot, and the G-30 seems to be very effective on the misses which means that more bad swings are finding the fairway, and not losing a ton of yardage.

Ping added a new face material, T9S, that is both lightweight and ridiculously strong, so the ball is flying off the clubhead at a faster pace just by the driver switch, meaning more ball speed and more yardage with your tee shots (isn't that what we all want?!).

I've talked about how my misses have produced with this driver, but what about the ones that you actually do catch? I noticed a gain in yardage from the get-go, even taking a picture of one of the better ones I hit with the new G-30 the moment I got to swing it.

First few swings with the G-30 — Shane Bacon

The thing can move, but it's the consistency that I've loved the most (I play a cut, and almost all of those balls ended up in an area that I would have called the "fairway" if this was a real golf course).

I also love how the turbulators almost point you down the line, an alignment aid even if it wasn't meant to be. We've seen dots on the top of drivers and arrows to help you get it right, but the fact that whole top of the face almost points you in the right direction can help just about anyone get the club set in the right spot before taking it back (a huge problem for amateur golfers).

Final Verdict

For whatever reason, Ping drivers and I have got along great, and this G-30 is no different. I love the feel of the driver, how easy it is to work it, and how even the most normal of golf swings can produce power and distance.

People might think the turbulators are a bit odd on the top of a driver, but after a couple of swings you won't even notice they are there, and the added clubhead speed will make you forget about almost everything as you're gaining more and more yards off the tee.

I loved it, and can't wait to take it out again.

www.ping.com, $349

Jul 24

Johnny Miller thinks 1994 Tiger Woods would outdrive Bubba Watson by 30 yards in 2014

If there is a man in golf that isn't scared to say what he's thinking, it's Johnny Miller. The NBC commentator and two-time major champion wrote a piece for Golf.com about Tiger Woods current golf swing, but took a look back at the way Woods swung the golf club when he was winning his first of three straight U.S. Amateur titles.

That was 20 years ago, as Miller points out, and he says that the swing and the power that Woods produced back in his amateur days would lead the tour in driving distance.

"If today’s balls and clubs had been available when Tiger was in college, the 18-year-old Woods would have been 30 yards longer than Bubba is now," Miller said. "Tiger had a mega-wide, mega-long swing built more for a long-drive contest than a U.S. Open, but he tweaked it under Butch Harmon to create arguably the most effective motion in golf history."

It's an interesting theory, and one that you could pin on more than just Tiger Woods. Would Jack Nicklaus have hit the ball 310 yards per pop with today's equipment? What about Ben Hogan or Byron Nelson in their primes?

I do think that Woods produced an incredible amount of power when he was a teenager, and even into his early professional days. When he won the 1997 Masters, it had a lot to do with Woods simply overpowering Augusta National, so much that the course revamped the design to cut down on Tiger hitting 9-irons and wedges into the back nine par-5s.

But, I must say, 30 yards past Bubba is a bit of a stretch. The 2014 Masters champion leads the PGA Tour in driving distance at 313 yards per drive (Woods was 49th a season ago in driving distance, averaging 293 yards per drive), and while I'm sure Woods would be able to get the ball out there with today's equipment and his 1994 golf swing, I'm not sure we would be seeing a man averaging 340 yards per poke.

But Johnny is going to be Johnny, and his point on the power and the length of that early Tiger golf swing had everything to do with clubhead speed and pounding the golf ball as far as possible.

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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

Jul 24

Watch all but one of Rory McIlroy’s golf shots from Sunday at the British Open

One of my favorite trends after major championships is the work of Michael David Murphy.

After majors end, Murphy puts together a short video of all the golf shots hit by the champion on Sunday. We've seen it with Adam Scott after his Masters win, Phil Mickelson after his astonishing win at the Open a year ago, and now we have Rory McIlroy at Royal Liverpool.

You can check out the video below, that takes just 90 seconds to see all but one of the shots Rory hit on his way to a third major championship win. Very cool, and a fun way to relive the drama of this past Sunday at Hoylake.

h/t Shackelford