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    Tiger Woods' absence from the Masters could be one reason the ratings for the event dipped to their lowest point since 1993.
(Chris Keane, Action Images)

    Masters Sunday Missed Tiger and Phil

    Say what you will about whether the media – print and broadcast included – devotes too much time to Tiger Woods, but if the ratings from the final round of the 2014 Masters are any indication, Woods and Phil Mickelson were missed. The Sunday ratings for Bubba Watson’s three-stroke victory …

    Charley Hull is currently leading the LET

    New Documentary Maps Charley Hull’s Rise

    It comes with a growing sense of unease. On Thursday morning, the Ladies European Tour sent out a press release touting a documentary on Charley Hull that will air on BBC One on Easter Sunday afternoon. As is always the case with such things, the program (or programme in local …

    The famous 17th hole will be featured in the newly announced three-hole playoff format for The Players Championship.
(Chris Keane, Reuters/Action Images)

    Players Adopts Three-Hole Playoff

    The news out of Ponte Vedra Beach this morning is that the PGA Tour’s crown jewel, the Players Championship, is shifting from its traditional sudden-death playoff to a three-hole aggregate format. Starting this year, deadlocks at the end of 72 holes will be broken with one more tour of Nos. …

    Masters champion Bubba Watson waves after receiving the traditional green jacket following the final round. (Mike Blake, Reuters/Action Images)

    Beware Of Genius

    Maybe if we all put on 3D glasses we could better understand what Bubba Watson sees in his own mind before he does what he does with his clubs. Not to worry. Enjoy Watson for what he is – a human golf video game – while he’s still in his …

    U.S. golfer Bubba Watson tips his hat after finishing the first round of the 2014 Masters. (Brian Snyder, Reuters/Action Images)

    Takeaways From Masters First Round

    What we learned from the first round of The Masters: Adam Scott is serious about keeping the green jacket with him for another year. Can you blame him? Seven is not a lucky number for Phil Mickelson. He had two of them on his card Thursday, not counting the one …

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      Men’s Pro

      Golf’s Hamlet Without The Prince

      AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | Now we know. The man on the radio didn’t. He referred to the Mastersless Tiger. It was a malapropism, but we understood what he meant. Now we know what the first Masters without Woods was like. We know because we were there in 1995 when he arrived as a pencil-thin, quiet, unassuming amateur and finished tied 41st and we were there this year after he had withdrawn. Though he had missed at least one of each of the other major championships, this was his first absence from The Masters. Again and again last week the memory went back to 1997 when Woods stunned the world of golf with a runaway victory to become the 61st Masters champion. The Times (of London) carried the following headline on April 15, 1997: headline on April 15, 1997: “Golf wakes to the dawn of the Tiger era” and beneath it the subheading: “America hails player whose mastery transcended a tournament and captivated a nation.” In the accompanying story, I wrote: “Just after 5 am yesterday fingers of light broke through to brighten the first days of the Tiger era, golf’s sixth since 1896. … Woods … had broken half as many records as he had clubs in his bag and his smile was as wide as his 12-stroke winning margin.”

      Love Me Two Times, Bubba

      AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | The worry was that Tiger Woods wasn’t here, so would The Masters matter? On a perfectly sun-splashed day amidst the pines and the flowering dogwoods at Augusta National, golf’s future met its present face to face and it all made perfect sense. You can’t win The Masters twice until you’ve won it once and Bubba Watson, with every chance to give this one away, put the doubters to rest as to whether he was bound to be a one-off Masters champion. Watson’s second Masters title in three years came while paired on Sunday with golf’s next big thing, the 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. Behind early and often, Watson doggedly stayed in the game and shot a final-round 69 for a total of 8-under-par 280 to win by three shots. “It’s overwhelming,” Watson said Sunday night. “A small-town guy named Bubba has two green jackets.” And that puts him in elite company with the likes of Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, José María Olazábal and Ben Crenshaw, all of whom have won two Masters. But in Bubba’s world, that’s not how he sees it. “I’m still trying to keep my card,” Watson said. “I got lucky enough to get two green jackets. If people say I’m a good player, that’s one thing. I don’t play golf for people to say I’m one of the greats of the game. I play golf because I love it.”

      Despite Stumble, Spieth Still A Rising Star

      AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | Early Saturday evening, sitting on the third-round Masters lead he shared with Bubba Watson, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth said he wanted to know what it felt like to be in contention at a major on Sunday afternoon. Now he knows. “It’s a stinger,” Speith said Sunday evening. “I had it in my hands.” Spieth had a two-stroke lead with 11 holes remaining in his first Masters. He had made three birdies in four holes. A buzz missing through most of this Masters was riding on the warm April wind. Then it was gone. It took two bogeys and 25 minutes. “I was 3 under through the first seven (holes) so if you had told me that when I woke up (Sunday) morning, I would have thought it would be difficult for me not to win this golf tournament,” Spieth said after finishing tied with Jonas Blixt for second, three behind Watson. This Masters, which had a flatter emotional tone than most, was won by Watson, who plays with a cartoonlike power that allows him to imagine and pull off shots that defy convention and common sense. It felt, though, as if the tournament belonged to Spieth, who was attempting to become the youngest Masters champion in history. “It’s tough to swallow when it was right there,” Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, said. On Saturday night, Spieth had hung out with a few friends, watching a Dallas Mavericks game on television, kicking back like it was a regular night at home in Dallas. Throughout the week, Spieth had kept his television off ESPN and Golf Channel to avoid getting too caught up in the tournament he was attempting to win.

      Tiger Woods will not beat Jack Nicklaus’ major record

      Global Golf Post’s John Hopkins was the award-winning golf correspondent for The Times of London from 1993-2010 and the Sunday Times from 1980-1993. A collection of his columns for both newspapers has been published as Fore! The Best Of John Hopkins On Golf. The following is an excerpt: A friend posed an interesting question the other day. Did Jack Nicklaus have more or fewer challengers to his supremacy all those years ago than Tiger Woods does today? After consideration I said I thought that in Nicklaus’s day there were more really good golfers who were unafraid to challenge him, though fewer really good golfers in all. I said that Arnold Palmer and Gary Player with 16 major championships combined, Tom Watson (8) and Lee Trevino (6) as well as Johnny Miller, Seve Ballesteros and Ray Floyd were more genuine contenders to Nicklaus’ title as the world’s best golfer than Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Sergio García, Pádraig Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy, Retief Goosen are to Woods now. Nicklaus did not spook his opponents the way Woods seems to. This led to a discussion as to whether or not Woods will reach Nicklaus’s total of 18 victories in professional major championships or, indeed, pass it. My view is constant on this and always has been. I will not put any money on Woods even equalling Nicklaus’s record.

      April’s Favorite Tournament Has No Clear Favorite

      AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | Now that Masters week finally has arrived, it's time to think not about what has been lost (the Eisenhower tree) or what is missing (Tiger Woods) but about what is at hand. This is golf’s Christmas morning, decorated with dogwood blossoms and filled with an anticipation that happens only once a year – traditionally ending on the second Sunday in April. This is the 80th anniversary of The Masters and if the first playing had a wonder-what's-going-to-happen feel to it, well, so does this one. Since his history-altering victory 17 years ago, each Masters week has started with Woods, who seemed to provide the emotional center around which the tournament spun until the leaderboard took shape on Sunday afternoon, with or – on rare occasions – without him. With Woods recovering from back surgery, this Masters feels like the state of professional golf at the moment – there for the taking. “You look at the winners on Tour the last few months, it’s been very – it’s been a different guy every week. It’s almost like golf is waiting for someone to stamp their authority on the game and be that dominant player,” Rory McIlroy said last week prior to the Shell Houston Open. “I don’t think it’s just The Masters but golf in general is just very wide open at the moment and I think a few guys need to sort of put their hands up and try and be … the dominant players in this game because that’s what people like to see. It’s great for the sport to have people who are up there week in, week out, that win tournaments and then that creates sort of rivalries and that’s something we haven’t really had in golf for a couple of years.” McIlroy and defending champion Adam Scott share the unofficial role of co-favorites entering this Masters, though neither has won a tournament this year.

      Women’s Pro

      Koch Will Insist On Solheim Good Manners

      Carin Koch, who has been selected to captain the Europeans in the next Solheim Cup, says that good golfing manners are high on the agenda for the match that will take place Sept. 18-20 of 2015 at St Leon-Rot. It was after the contest of 2013 in Colorado that Paul McGinley commented on the way some of the women had been walking off greens before the opposition had putted out. “I would be furious,” said this year’s Ryder Cup captain, “if my players were to do that.” Koch, a 43-year-old Swede whose selection was announced last Friday, says that McGinley’s concerns will be addressed when she and US captain Juli Inkster have a meeting in advance of what will be the 14th match in the series. “I didn’t,” she said, “see any of the incidents for myself but I heard about them. “Everyone knows that players in a Solheim Cup are going to be more excited and nervous than at any other time. In many ways, that’s what brings out the best of them but they do need to be calmed down.” they do need to be calmed down.” Overall, the match of ’13 made for riveting viewing as the Europeans won to the tune of 18-10 under Liselotte Neumann’s captaincy. “Lotta,” said Koch, “created a great spirit within the camp. She was relaxed, she was fun and she was very easy to be around.”

      Whan Emphatic: ‘This One Is Not Going Away’

      RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA | As golf’s first major came to a close in California and all eyes turned toward Augusta and the second, the future name of the tournament formerly known as The Dinah was still up in the air. But its status in the pecking order and place on the LPGA calendar remained as sturdy as the San Jacinto Mountains. Four days before Lexi Thompson approached the edge of the 18th green and made the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan invited a small group to sit down for coffee where he made that very point. “In my commissioner tenure, we’re not going to lose this major,” Whan said, punching each word for emphasis. “Maybe somebody later will have a better idea. But in my tenure, this one is not going away.” That was not bravado. If anything, Whan is a man who undersells and overdelivers. Spending time with him reminds you why he’s considered one of the brightest people in the game, a man who took over a tour in shambles and turned it into the hottest product in professional golf. Four potential sponsors were on site at Mission Hills, looking to replace Kraft Nabisco, which ended its 33-year sponsorship run on Sunday afternoon. But those aren’t the only suitors rapping on Whan’s parlor door. As he put it, “If all I was looking for was sponsorship for another major (in a different location) I’ve got 35 or 40 sponsors who would say, ‘I’ve got that for you, Mike. Just come to where we are.’ ”

      No Longer An Impossible Dream

      ST. ANDREWS | There were six members sitting at the far end of the R&A’s Big Room last Wednesday lunchtime. Whilst keeping half an eye on the golf outside, they would almost certainly have been discussing the news that was about to be announced to the world’s press in the CEO’s office upstairs. Namely that the hierarchy were advising the membership to change their constitution and admit women members for a first time in the club’s 260-year history. The sextet in the Big Room would remain undisturbed: There was no question of any of the journalists, let alone a female of the species, asking for their thoughts. What you wanted to know was whether they were worrying that the whole character of their club might change with the advent of women. Or whether they were agreeing that this was precisely the proverbial kick up the backside they needed to move into the modern world. Yet the latest development is not as sudden as many might suppose. Back in 1867, the members laid out a putting green – the Himalayas – for the ladies. By all accounts, it was rather more than a kindly gesture; they were worried about waiting wives and girlfriends flirting with caddies. When the women got bored of putting, the men allowed them to play on the Old Course and, as you would expect, the ladies were soon eschewing all advice along the lines that they should not swing the club above shoulder level.

      Ko Walking A Little Taller These Days

      SINGAPORE | Though 16-year-old Lydia Ko, who finished 15th at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, looks taller than last year, her mother says that it just seems that way because she has lost weight. Also adding to the “growth” impression is that the teenager has left behind the shy gait of her amateur days and is walking with a confidence of one who feels comfortable in her new surrounds. Things we learned from Lydia in Singapore: 1. She is completing her last year at high school online – and has plans to go on from there with an online degree, possibly in English and/or photography. Regarding the photography, she has just purchased a Canon camera and plans to take pictures of “beautiful landscapes around the world,” starting with those in Queenstown, New Zealand. 2. She devours books, reading them as she eats. Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby get a mention. 3. When nongolfing pals tell her how they once made a hole-in-one at mini golf, she is apt to reply with an admiring, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Never having had a real hole-inone herself, she, too, still gets a buzz from the mini-golf variety. 4. She believes that it was a good thing rather than bad that her parents did not play golf when they all started playing at the same time. “I began with a coach and learned the proper basics, which had to help.” 5. She has met Sir Bob Charles on several occasions back home in New Zealand. The former Open champion has watched her play a couple of New Zealand Women’s Opens and, when she was struggling with her putting, he emphasised the importance of never decelerating on a putt. 6. To be a junior member of a club in New Zealand, as she was, costs no more than $100 per year: “You have access to the swimming pool and the gym as well as the golf course,” marvelled Lydia.

      Creamer Engaged And Still In The Pink

      SINGAPORE | The 27-year-old Paula Creamer describes her career thus far as “100 per cent a family affair.” Her parents, Paul and Karen, have been at her side since she started out on tour in 2005 – and they even paved the way for a meeting at the 2013 Kia Classic between Paula and the man she will marry in December. Creamer – who won the HSBC Women’s Champions on Sunday – chuckles at how her mother, a born matchmaker, had suggested to some old friends that they bring their son to the tournament. The son in question, a pilot like his father and hers (he is in the Air Force where the fathers were in the Navy) duly played ball. Paula thinks that she first noticed the 33-year-old Derek Heath at the back of the seventh green. The couple were formally introduced at the end of the round but no sooner had they shaken hands than Creamer excused herself to go to the practice ground. Heath can hardly have been encouraged by that first encounter but when, later that evening, the families met for dinner, the conversation flowed. “The great thing about Derek is that he ‘gets’ what I do and understands that it’s my time right now,” says Creamer. She, in turn, has any amount of respect for Derek’s work: “He is protecting his country, which is huge.”

      Amateur

      Harvey Reboots His Game, Under A Watchful Eye

      Scott Harvey had just struck one of the finest golf shots in his life – a 189-yard 7-iron on the par-3 fifth hole at Pine Needles. He and partner Brian Westveer were on the fifth hole of a playoff for the Pine Needles Invitational championship in early March, and Harvey’s high draw bounced 6 feet shy of the flag and rolled into the bottom of the cup. His first emotion: jubilation about the accomplishment and the victory. He and Westveer high-fived and hooted and hugged and accepted congratulations from opponents Matt Crenshaw and Chris Cassetta, the victory made all the sweeter by the fact Harvey had rolled in a 12-footer for birdie at No. 4 to keep the playoff alive. His second emotion: emptiness. For years Scott’s first phone call after a round of tournament golf was to his father, Bill, an accomplished and decorated amateur golfer on regional and national levels who died Oct. 13 at age 82 in his Greensboro home, after a long bout with cancer. “I wish I could talk to my dad,” Harvey said, breaking down in tears as he and Westveer walked to their carts for the drive back to the clubhouse. Westveer, a close friend and Harvey’s roommate on the amateur golf circuit, suspected that was coming. “Close your eyes and talk to him,” Westveer responded. “I guarantee you he saw it.”

      Murphy Wins Weather-Plagued Azalea Invitational

      University of South Carolina junior Will Murphy came from well off the pace to claim the Azalea Invitational in a one-hole playoff Sunday at the Country Club of Charleston in South Carolina. Murphy began the final round tied for ninth, four shots behind the leaders, but he shot 3-under-par 68 in very breezy conditions to tie M.J. Maguire at 6-under 207. Maguire, a University of North Florida player, shot 71, punctuated by a final-hole birdie to catch Murphy and force the playoff. Murphy won with a par on the first extra hole. Patrick Christovich fired a final-round 70 to grab low mid-amateur honors and a T3 finish with junior Dylan Meyer. Second round co-leader Brennan King, a mid-amateur who is a member at the host club, couldn’t handle the final-round winds and shot 79, falling back to a T11 finish. For the second year in a row, rain shortened the Azalea. Heavy overnight rains on Friday caused the third round to be cancelled, turning the tournament into a 54- hole affair. That was an improvement on last year, when inclement weather reduced the old-line tournament to 36 holes.

      Remembering Ron Balicki

      Longtime golf writer Ron Balicki succumbed to cancer last week after an eight-month battle. Balicki, 65, wrote for Golfweek for more than 30 years, focusing primarily on college and amateur golf. Indeed, he was a pioneer when it came to covering the amateur game in America. I wrote a column about my friend Ron upon his induction into the College Golf Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010 (click here to read it). Since I don’t feel that I can improve upon it, I turned to others in the golf industry who knew and admired Ron, and asked them to share remembrances of this dedicated golf journalist. Ron Balicki was to college golf what Roger Kahn was to The Boys of Summer. Ron was a talented writer who loved his craft, was passionate about his subject and respected its participants. Ron’s work with college golf over the past 30 years coincided with the unprecedented growth and visibility of the sport. That is more than coincidental. Ron was college golf’s first bard. We lost a good man. WALLY UIHLEIN CHAIRMAN AND CEO ACUSHNET CO. We got to know Ron real well at the old Maxwell college event in Ardmore, Okla. The event was much more than a golf tournament, it was a party ... a real celebration of golf, youth, and their wonderful community. The tournament hosted a day of fishing at Lake Texoma (a world-class striped bass fishery). Ron never went fishing with us until we shamed him into it one year (we later found out it was his first time fishing). I think he caught more stripers than anyone that day, so we “officially” changed his name from “Wrong Ron” to “Striper Ron.” I think he really got a big kick out of it as we called him Striper Ron for the duration of the event. STEVE HAMBLIN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AMERICAN JUNIOR GOLF ASSOCIATION

      College Golf: A Ray Of Hope

      A column I wrote two weeks ago about the American college game’s seeming inability to retain its elite players drew, as I thought it might, considerable response. Some of it was in agreement, some of it was sharply critical, and some of it was humorous. But the most meaningful response came from Stanford University golf coach Conrad Ray. It was Stanford team member Patrick Rodgers who prompted my column after he announced he will turn pro after his junior year. Ray did not agree with my point of view, and in a professional manner, he e-mailed his objections. The point I was trying to make was that NCAA regulations make game improvement for the really elite players virtually impossible. I argued that Rodgers’ decision, just days after becoming the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world and on the heels of the previous top ranked amateur (reigning U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick) leaving Northwestern after just four months, laid bare this shortcoming. Ray knows what he is talking about. He is one of very few men to have won a college national golf championship as a player and as a coach. His opinion is reasoned and based on his experience as an elite college player, former professional, and now an accomplished coach at one of the most academically prestigious universities in the world. A three-year letter winner for the Cardinal golf team, the Minnesota native walked on to the Stanford team as a freshman. He joined a team that won the 1994 NCAA Championship and included Tiger Woods, Casey Martin and Notah Begay. He captained the team in 1997 and was an All-Pac-10 and Pac-10 All-Academic selection that season as well. A four-year man at Stanford, he played in every event during his final two years. Pretty good for a walk on.

      The Girl With The Super-Sized Heart

      Some weeks remind you that there are lots of special people in our game who have nothing to do with the tours. LeeAnn Noble was one. A junior at the University of North Georgia, a 15,000-student military college tucked in the foothills of the Appalachians, Noble had been one of the first players signed to the relatively new women’s program in 2011 by Nighthawks’ coach Leigh Ann Hunter, who said, “I liked her golf game, but more importantly, I was drawn to her maturity, her positive attitude and how she carried herself.” That maturity showed in many ways, not the least of which was the role Noble assumed in her third year. As better recruiting brought in better players, a young woman who had played every tournament as a freshman and sophomore suddenly struggled to qualify against her younger, stronger teammates. But rather than grumble or threaten to transfer, Noble embraced her new role as a mentor for the underclassmen. “She had a lot of drive and determination and competitive spirit,” said UNG athletic director Lindsay Reeves. “But I think the biggest thing her teammates and the rest of the student-athletes learned from her was how kind and giving you can be. More than anything else, LeeAnn wanted to give back.”

      Travel

      Revealing The Mayan Riviera

      PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO | The mere mention of Cancún evokes an immediate handful of images. The beach. Parties. Sunshine. Parties. Spring break. Parties. It’s not entirely inaccurate and for thousands of visitors annually, it’s why Cancún remains a hugely popular destination. But if you’re a golfer, the Cancún area probably hasn’t been high on your must-play travel list. Ah, but fly into Cancún, where the airport control tower sports a Corona beer ad, and take a right past the Walmart billboard and head down the main four-lane highway past the drive-thru Starbucks and, almost before you know it, you’re in an emerging golf destination just a few miles and a world away from the shake and sizzle of Cancún. If you like your golf trips to include warm weather, palm trees, an ocean breeze, world-class hotels that discourage spring breakers, famous-name course designers, a dose of history, unforgettable cuisine and one of the Caribbean’s coolest beach towns, then you can find it along the Riviera Maya. From Puerto Morelos near Cancún in the north to south beyond the Mayan ruins at Tulum, a stretch of more than 30 miles of Caribbean coastline, the Riviera Maya features a collection of sprawling golf and beach resorts. “What we have in Riviera Maya is very good golf and we feel we’re very good competition for Los Cabos, where there aren’t as many courses,” says Omar Velez, golf operations manager at the Riviera Maya Golf Club, a 27 hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. complex on the southern end of the Riviera. With more than a dozen golf courses sprinkled along the Yucatán Peninsula, Riviera Maya can be perfect for a buddies’ golf trip, a couples’ getaway or a family vacation. It’s less than three hours by air from many major airports in the U.S. and its popularity is mushrooming.

      Bone Valley Classic

      BOWLING GREEN, FLORIDA | Bill Coore regularly receives telephone calls from people looking to build or revamp golf courses. After all, he is one of the most sought-after architects in the game, and the courses he has created with his longtime partner Ben Crenshaw, like Sand Hills in Nebraska and Friar’s Head on Long Island, are among the best in the land. But the designer’s dance card is usually full, which means he must say no to most entreaties. So, it was not surprising that Coore graciously declined an invitation from an executive of the Minnesota-based mining giant Mosaic several years ago to visit a site in the Sunshine State from which the company had once dug phosphate rock – and where it now wanted to build a golf resort. “I said that I was really not interested in working on a Florida course,” explains Coore, no doubt fearing the land would be pancake-flat like the vast majority of the state and envisioning a plan that included lots of real estate. “But the guy on the other end of the line kept saying, ‘Please.’ So, I gave in. “The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the sandy soil,” Coore recalls. “And Ben and I love sand. Next, I saw rugged dunes and blowout bunkers stretching in all directions. It was perfect golf ground, and it neither looked nor felt at all like Florida. Then I learned there was not going to be any housing. I immediately got on the phone with Ben and told him he needed to see this place.”

      Reynolds Plantation Abounds In Options

      GREENSBORO, GEORGIA | Nestled among the tall Georgia pines, on the shores of tranquil Lake Oconee, is a golf retreat that is as beautiful to the eye and demanding of your golf game by day as it is soothing to the soul by night. Reynolds Plantation, in many ways, is the state’s best-kept secret. Located halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, Reynolds has 117 holes of signature golf by some of the world’s best-known and most highly regarded architects – Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Bob Cupp and Jim Engh. There’s enough golf – and high- enough quality – to cater to just about any taste. The draw to Reynolds Plantation is golf, but it is first and foremost a real-estate play with 3,800 homeowners on property. Sales associates would love nothing more than to interest you in a homesite on which you could build a custom home. But while you’re looking at property – or if you just want a long weekend getaway – Reynolds offers plenty of amenities to short-term visitors. The 251-room Ritz-Carlton Lodge on the property was redecorated and refurbished last spring and reopened in April. The attached cottages and Presidential House also were renovated and reopened in October. The Lodge also has a 26,000-square-foot spa. And there are plenty of cottages and condos in Reynolds’ rental portfolio that can give you the feel of home-away-from-home during your visit. Reynolds Plantation was developed in the late 1980s on 90 miles of Lake Oconee shoreline and currently has 5,000 undeveloped acres. The company struggled to sell real estate during the housing slump and wound up operating under bank-appointed receivership for more than a year. MetLife, the largest U.S. life insurer, bought Reynolds Plantation in 2012 and Daniel Corp. is developing and managing the property. Once MetLife assumed ownership, the company stepped up with millions of dollars in renovations to the six golf courses, including a new clubhouse at The National.

      Storied London: There’s Golf Here, Too

      ASCOT, ENGLAND | It used to be that when I considered golf in the British Isles, I never thought of London. To be sure, the English capital has long been a favorite destination of mine, for its plays and parks and also the churches, galleries and museums. When it came to teeing it up, however, I only saw London as a place to pass through on my way to golfing points farther north. Like Glasgow and Edinburgh. Shannon and Dublin, too. But as I stood on the second-floor veranda of the white-walled clubhouse at Royal Cinque Ports and gazed across the windswept links where Julius Caesar’s Roman legions once marched, I realized I was now of a very different mind. I had just spent a week exploring the historic heath-land courses just west of London. Then, I played several rounds at this marvelous course on the English Channel, only 90 minutes by train from the city, and also nearby Royal St. George’s. The courses were excellent, the clubs as convivial as any as I have known, and I could not help but ask myself: How did I miss this area for so long? A day later, my journey ended with a round on the Old Course at Sunningdale with John Baldwin, a part-time London resident and well-résuméd golfer who has won the British, Irish and Welsh Senior Amateurs. And I asked him the same question I had posed to myself the previous afternoon to myself. “Don’t feel bad,” he says. “London is a place that often is easily overlooked, and that’s a shame, because it is one of the great golf regions in the world.” At the start of my trek, I would have found that last pronouncement difficult to credit, as the British might say. But hearing it at the conclusion, it made perfect sense. John was exactly right. The track we had just played at Sunningdale, the rugged Old Course designed by Willie Park Jr., was an architectural triumph routed through rolling hills and swaths of heather.

      America’s Home Of Golf

      PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA | As an ardent fan of Bobby Jones, I was pretty much down with anything the golfing great was quoted as saying. Until, that is, I made my first trip some years ago to the Carolina Sandhills. That was when I learned that he once called Pinehurst “the St. Andrews of United States golf.” And frankly, I did not get the analogy. Pinehurst is not built on linksland, nor located by the sea. As its name suggests, loblolly and longleaf pines abound here, and that is not the sort of flora you associate with the Home of Golf. I also found nary a swath of gorse during that maiden journey to Pinehurst, and no one spoke in a Scottish brogue, either. The climate was much more temperate in this Southern retreat, and I learned that the drink of choice at many postround watering holes was bourbon, not single-malt whisky. All of which made me wonder what Bobby Jones was thinking of when he uttered those words. But I went back to Pinehurst a few more times, most recently with the Postmen – my fellow Global Golf Post staffers Andy DeKeuster, Steve Eubanks and Mike Purkey – this past summer. And those visits helped me understand just what the man meant. The village of Pinehurst was laid out in the 1890s by the noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and it exudes the same small-town quaintness of St. Andrews. Both communities have oodles of golf, with there now being more than 40 courses within a 15-mile radius in Pinehurst.

      Gear

      Oakley Creates Its Own Sector

      As far as folks at Oakley see it, they have had the performance-footwear category well covered the with their Carbon Pro and Cipher offerings. And with the recent introduction of the Sector, they now have a formidable entry in the so-called hybrid arena, where shoes need to perform on and off the course. Sector is the first release of Oakley’s Course Cruiser collections, and that model comes in five colors: black, white, gray, blue and green. According to Dave Ortley, the company’s global director of footwear and accessories, the lightweight upper of this shoe is made of a durable, microfiber material that breathes well and looks and performs like genuine leather. While it is not fully waterproof, he says, it repels moisture well and keeps golfers’ feet dry even when the fairways and greens are dewy, or rain is falling. In addition, the Sector boasts an integrated microspike sole that Ortley says provides equal portions of comfort and stability.

      Ping Introduces Karsten Hybrid Iron Set

      With this new offering, named after company founder Karsten Solheim, Ping brings to market what is becoming an increasingly common option in the game, and that is a mixed set of hybrids and irons that are created to make it easier for players to more optimally build their bags. Start with the hybrids, which are available in 3H, 4H and 5H. They feature a deep head profile and wide sole, and the center-of-gravity locations are progressive, farther back in the lower-lofted heads to promote higher launch and lower and more forward in the higher-lofted ones to reduce spin. In addition, company technicians say, extreme internal heel-and-toe weighting raises the moment of inertia to enhance forgiveness. As for the irons, which run from 5 to 9 and also include PW, UW and SW, the heads are constructed of 17-4 stainless steel and made with precision-engineered loft-and-length progressions that are scientifically paired with wide sole designs to produce a deeper CG, for easier launching and higher maximum height.

      True Temper Shafts Get A Boost

      This month marks the rollout of two new graphite-shaft offerings from True Temper, both of which are designed to be used in drivers – and to help make tee shots longer and more accurate. The first is the Boost shaft from Grafalloy, and its primary performance attribute comes from a skinny profile that, according to company technicians, reduces shaft diameter by 15 percent, and by extension reduces drag by some 15 percent, for increased distance. They add that their proprietary VLT technology also enables players to hit their shots higher and achieve “extreme peak trajectory,” while their Micro-Mesh Tip technology helps to maintain stability and promote optimum accuracy. Even with the higher torque values that are inherent in thin-diameter shafts.

      Mini Driver Fills A Gap

      In monitoring the ways that touring professionals and elite amateur golfers utilized their 3-woods in recent years, engineers at TaylorMade noticed that more and more of them were hitting those clubs off the tee as opposed to off the deck. So, they decided to create a version that was designed to accommodate that development. It is called the SLDR Mini Driver. The all-steel, 260cc head of this offering is about 100 ccs larger than your average 3-wood, and it features a deeper face as well as some attributes that TaylorMade has found successful with its drivers, including a Speed Pocket that is made to increase ball speed and reduce spin and Inverted Cone technology that is intended to enhance forgiveness by expanding the sweet spot on the clubface.

      Mizuno Launches JPX EZ

      While Mizuno is best known for its sleek, high-performance irons, the clubmaker also produces high-quality woods. Witness the new JPX EZ line, which is aimed at the game improvement golfer. Start with the JPX EZ driver, which features a Quick Switch mechanism that has eight settings designed to promote an array of flight options. A Rebound Crown is made to increase ball speed for greater distance, while the clubhead geometry has been optimized to initiate a high launch with low spin, for maximum carry and roll out. In addition, the club utilizes a Hot Metal face to create a larger coefficient-of-restitution area for added length and a Ti 811 body material that company technicians made to provide optimum center-of-gravity placement. “This is our first foray into the realm of customizing and adjustability,” says Chuck Couch, vice president of product management for Mizuno’s golf division. “With this driver, we wanted to deliver a product designed for ‘everyday’ average golfers that would aid their game and give the look, feel and overall golf experience that passionate golfers seek.”

      Q&A

      Q&A Mike Keiser

      Mike Keiser is still on the move. In early January, the man who created Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links in Nova Scotia finalized plans for another major golf project called Sand Valley in Central Wisconsin, 15 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids and 100 miles north of Madison. Keiser spoke exclusively with The Post’s Steve Eubanks about the project as well as other topics of interest. THE POST Why Wisconsin? KEISER Easy, that’s where the big dunes are (laughing). No, really, it’s a little bit more than that, because there are big dunes all over the Nebraska sandhills, some parts of Kansas – Prairie Dunes is in Hutchinson, Kansas, for example – and I know there is sand in Idaho. But I didn’t initially know that there were sand dunes in Wisconsin, which has the added benefit of being pretty close to Chicago, Minneapolis, and quite close to Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay. It’s sort of close to nothing and central to a lot of stuff. So that location and the 80-foot sand dunes that no one knew were there other than Plum Creek Timber Company, were the plusses for Wisconsin. THE POST Your other projects have been off the beaten path, but you’ve had the ocean. And you’ve also been able to sell a sense of escapism. People who go to Bandon Dunes talk about it being like another world. Are you concerned that people will not travel to central Wisconsin or that they will not find it as appealing as, say, the Pacific Northwest or the coast of Nova Scotia? KEISER Yes, I am and it is definitely true sand dunes plus the ocean is a stronger draw than just sand dunes. The proximity to people counterbalances some of that, but if (demographics) were all that there was, I don’t think I would have done it.
      GlobalGolfPost-April-01-2013-Page12

      Mike Kerr, Asian Tour CEO

      Lewine Mair recently visited with Mike Kerr, the Asian Tour’s CEO, and the result was a wide-ranging interview focusing, among other things, on how quickly Asian golfers are closing the talent gap. They also discuss an expected closing of the prize money gap that will eventually force the world’s best to play more in and around Asia simply because of the size of the purses.

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