Tuesday, April 15

Back Story: Tiger Not Only One Hurting

By John Christensen

Copyright © 2014 John Christensen. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Tiger Woods (Allison)
TIGER WOODS MAY RECOVER FROM his back injury and play more Masters, and he might even win more majors. But another important story after his recent surgery—the back story, if you will—is that Tiger's not the only one who's hurting.

Golfers are getting injured in unprecedented numbers—amateur and pro alike—and the culprit is the modern golf swing. That's the only possible conclusion based on information I found while researching my ebook about Mike Austin (Perfect Swing,Imperfect Lies: The Legacy of Golf's Longest Hitter).

Here's an excerpt from the book:
In 2008, a report published by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine cited a two-year study which found that 60 percent of golf professionals and 40 percent of amateurs sustained "either a traumatic or overuse injury while golfing." Low back pain was the most common injury by far, followed by those to the elbow, shoulder and wrist. The society also cited a PGA study, which found that one out of three golfers had low back problems that lasted for at least two weeks.

In August 2011, the PGA Tour posted an article on its website by Sean Cochran, who was identified as an expert in golf fitness. Cochran began this way: "Statistics indicate one out of every two golfers will incur a lower back injury at some point in their playing careers."

"Axial rotations" of hips and shoulders, Cochran writes, "load the musculature of the core." On the downswing, the hips and pelvis are subjected to "angular velocities" of 400 to 500 degrees per second while the velocities in the shoulders and back reach 1100 to 1200 degrees per second.
"Every time golfers swing," Cochran concluded, "they are subjecting their lower spine to eight times their body weight." No wonder injuries have reached epidemic proportions. Given those numbers, golf isn't a sport, it's Russian roulette, and it seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

I put together a list of Tour pros with significant injuries based solely on random remarks during telecasts or in online accounts and came up with 30 names. It ranged from older golfers like Fred Couples and Retief Goosen (backs) to younger players in their prime like Dustin Johnson and Ricky Fowler (also backs).

The modern swing winds the upper body against the stationary lower body to create all that velocity Cochran was talking about. But the classic, old-school swing of Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead and Bobby Jones allowed the front heel to rise and fall with the rotation and weight shift, taking pressure off the spine and pelvis and injuries were almost unheard of.

Austin was a journeyman range pro in 1974 when he hit a 515-yard drive with a persimmon driver and a gorgeous, old-school swing. Videos of his swing have been viewed on YouTube more than a million times, and the Golf Channel's Martin Hall featured him on his School of Golf show in April 2013. Hall praised Austin for being "years ahead of his time."

After the show, a golfer named Cyd posted the following on the network's website:

"I've had three back surgeries and I find the Mike Austin swing to be easy on my back. I can go out and hit hundreds of balls and suffer no back pain. With a conventional swing and the torque that is placed on my back, I cannot hit 100 balls and play a round in the same day. Not to mention that after hitting 100 balls using a conventional swing I can barely walk for a day. With the Mike Austin swing, I can practice and play. No problems!"

Fans of the Austin swing have hoped for years that players on the Tour would revive their careers using Austin's explosive and effortless swing. But they never dared dream it might be Tiger Woods—until now.

John Christensen is an author and award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous books, magazines, newspapers and websites.

Monday, April 14

Bubba Golf: Green Jackets and Hash Browns


Bubba Watson, wife Angie and friends celebrate at Waffle House. (Courtesy @judahsmith)
WE KNEW BUBBA HAD ALL THE SHOTS, but this time, this Sunday, the new Lefty was in total control of his game even when the kid (Jordan Spieth) threw a haymaker at him on Augusta's front nine. Bubba took it, and countered with his own combination at holes 8 and 9, cruising to a 69 and a three-shot Masters victory, his second Green Jacket in three years.

None of the other closest challengers broke 70. Runners-up Spieth (72) and Jonas Blixt (71) were unable to mount a back-nine charge. Fifty-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez (71) finished solo fourth. Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler couldn't make it happen on Sunday. Their sluggish 74s landed them in a tie for fifth. Meanwhile, two-time champion Bernard Langer, also on the other side of 50, and Rory McIlroy posted closing 69s to share the eighth spot.

There was an odd tone to the final day.

Judging from the TV coverage and social media, the collective will of the golf universe seemed to be focused on young Spieth. If the sheer force of the media and golf populace could determine the outcome, the former University of Texas standout might today be the youngest Masters champion at age 20. It seemed preordained. At least that's the feeling I got listening to the early coverage. I was reminded that it had been exactly 17 years since Tiger Woods was the youngest player to slip on the Green Jacket, which was 17 years since Seve Ballesteros was the youngest, which was 17 years since Jack Nicklaus was the youngest.

No one told Bubba, who was totally uncooperative and apparently had no sense of history. The fact was, he was just too good, too steady, too smart. Yes, smart. Guile was a part of his arsenal. This was a new Bubba.

There was something odd about that front nine, although I readily admit hindsight is 20/20.

Spieth played some incredible shots and carded four birdies on the first seven holes to take a two-shot lead over the 2012 champion, and yet I didn't feel he was in control of his game. His hand was coming off the club; his misses with his driver and iron shots were going left. My sense was that he didn't have a swing problem, but rather was quick or out of sync with his timing because of the gravity of the situation. It was Sunday at the Masters. The pressure got to him long before he began talking to himself on the final nine.

Bubba took the kid's best punches early and never flinched. After Spieth holed a bunker shot for an improbable birdie at the long par-3 4th hole, Bubba cooly sank his five-footer for a matching two. When the 20-year-old stuffed his iron shot at the par-3 6th hole, Bubba rolled in his mid-range putt for birdie.

Who was this man from Bagdad?

A two-time champion, as it turned out. Bubba controlled his golf ball better than anyone and never stumbled on those frightening Augusta greens.

Spieth made the kind of mistakes you would expect from a 20-year-old, although veterans make them, too, don't they? He parred 8, was short of the green at 9, splashed down at 12. This wasn't his time, but he reminded us of players named Seve, Tiger and Rory. He showed us that he can win a Green Jacket, and nearly did before the young McIlroy.

"This one's a lot different," said Watson after slapping hands with the patrons, his son Caleb on his arm. "The first one, for me, it was almost like I lucked into it."

No, this wasn't luck.

By the way, that "17" number the talking heads were touting early on Sunday afternoon did have significance after all. Bubba Watson is the 17th player to win the Masters twice.

Friday, April 11

'ARNIE': Golf Channel Documentary Begins on Sunday



By Golf Channel Communications

GOLF CHANNEL'S PRIMETIME TELEVISION EVENT, "Arnie," begins with the questions: "How do you tell a story of a life that's larger than life? How do you find a way to put together all the memories, all the accomplishments, all the impact? And do what a story is supposed to do? And ensure it lasts forever? Someday—even decades—maybe centuries from now, they'll hear the name Arnold Palmer and they'll want to know everything."

"Arnie" showcases how the golfing legend revolutionized and transcended the game to become one of the most beloved figures in sports history. "Arnie," a three-night television event, will air on consecutive nights at 10 p.m. ET from Sunday, April 13, following Golf Channel's Live From the Masters, through Tuesday, April 15.

Golf Channel spent the last year traveling with Palmer, collecting interviews from more than 100 people, sifting through hundreds of hours of archived film—including hours of Palmer family video that has never been seen before—and shooting in locations around the world to create television's definitive story of the most influential man to ever pick up a golf club.

"ARNIE": 3-Part Golf Channel Event

Arnie & His Army
Sunday, April 13, 10 p.m. ET (following Live From the Masters)

Arnie & His Majors
Monday, April 14, 10 p.m. ET

Arnie & His Legacy
Tuesday, April 15, 10 p.m. ET

Unbelievable Putts at the Masters



ABSOLUTELY NO WORDS FOR THIS. Just watch the video.

Thursday, April 10

2014 Masters TV Schedule and Tournament Notes




IT’S THE MASTERS, PATRONS! Magnolias, azaleas, Amen Corner, pimento cheese sandwiches and Chuck Norris-style security.

MASTERS NEED TO KNOW

Purse: $8 million
Winner’s share: $1.44 million
Defending champion: Adam Scott

2014 Masters Leaderboard

Masters field
Augusta National Golf Club
First and second round groupings and tee times
Masters photo gallery
Masters newsroom
Masters tournament information
Masters winners
Official Masters site

Masters Talk

"At my first Masters, I got the feeling that if I didn't play well, I wouldn't go to heaven."
Dave Marr

"If the Masters offered no money at all, I would be here trying just as hard."

Ben Hogan

"I miss, I miss, I miss, I make."
Seve Ballesteros, explaining four-putt green at 16

"I've never been to heaven, and thinking back on my life, I probably won't get a chance to go. I guess winning the Masters is a close as I'm going to get."

Fuzzy Zoeller

"I told Hord Hardin I was getting too old to play in the Masters, but he kept saying, Gene, they don't want to see you play, they just want to see if you're still alive."
Gene Sarazen

"On the 15th hole I started thinking how I'd look in the Green Jacket. The next thing I know, they're giving it to Charley Coody."

Johnny Miller 

TV SCHEDULE

Between ESPN, CBS and GOLF CHANNEL, hours and hours of TV coverage are scheduled for the 2014 Masters. Just turn on your TV. (All times are ET.)

Note: Sky Sports has the UK coverage.

Thu, Apr 10
3-7:30 p.m. ESPN (tournament action)
8-11 p.m. ESPN (replay)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live from the Masters 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Live from the Masters 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Fri, Apr 11
3-7:30 p.m. ESPN (tournament action)
8-11 p.m. ESPN (replay)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live from the Masters 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Live from the Masters 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Sat, Apr 12
3-7 p.m. CBS (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live from the Masters 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Live from the Masters 7-9 p.m.

Sun, Apr 13
2-7 p.m. CBS (tournament action)
GOLF CHANNEL:
Live from the Masters 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Live from the Masters 7-10 p.m.

(Image courtesy of PGATour.com)

Wednesday, April 9

My 2014 Masters Preview

Rory McIlroy seems destined to win a Green Jacket. (internetsense)
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S MASTERS EVE. I just got home from a trip to California and figured I better get up to speed fast when asked to go on the radio to preview the Masters.

Some things don't change. Augusta, for one. Pristine fairways and greens. Big, undulating, screaming-fast greens. But no Eisenhower tree in the 17th fairway. It's dead and gone. And no Tiger in the field. He's recovering from surgery. Woods's quest for a 15th major will have to wait.

So who can win on this slice of golf heaven? Who will win?

Throw a dart at the names. The Masters is wide open. That's the way it looks to me. New players are winning week in and week out on the PGA Tour. It's not that much different at Augusta. First-time Masters winners have won six of the last seven. Phil Mickelson is the only recent champion (2010) with multiple victories.

But Mickelson probably doesn't agree that the 2014 edition of the Masters is wide open. The other day he said the greens are at Masters speed, which, according to Lefty, means there are less than a dozen potential winners. Maybe. Or maybe Phil is playing mind games.

So, okay, maybe the Masters isn't utterly wide open. Former Masters champions Ben Crenshaw and Larry Mize won't slip into the Green Jacket again. But there are more than a Mickelson dozen who could make the trip to Butler Cabin on Sunday evening.

In advance of my radio segment at 4:06 p.m., I looked over the names on the odds list ... Adam Scott ... Rory McIlroy ... Phil Mickelson ... Jason Day ... Matt Kuchar ... Sergio Garcia ... Dustin Johnson ... Bubba Watson ... Henrik Stenson ... Justin Rose ... Brandt Snedeker ... and on and on and on and on.

My head started to spin. How do you handicap the Masters, or a major, for that matter?

I jotted down a few thoughts, a Masters criteria of sorts: Who's hungry? Who's playing well right now? Who's ready to win?

Nick Faldo put it another way. The three-time Masters winner said he likes guys with "mental strength." Who are Nick's mentally tough guys? Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed are three he named.

Here are my thoughts on a handful of players:

Adam Scott - I don't expect him to repeat. Too hard. Only three have done it. Their names are Nicklaus, Faldo and Woods.

Rory McIlroy - He's as good a pick as anyone because I think he will definitely win a Green Jacket. It's only a matter of time, or, perhaps, a matter of days.

Phil Mickelson - A three-time Masters winner who you can never count out as long as he's healthy. Keep an eye on Phil.

Matt Kuchar - Kooch might be more dangerous and more ready because he didn't win last week at Houston. Does he have the mental fortitude?

Jason Day - I like him, but I also think the long layoff because of the thumb is not in his favor.

Bubba Watson - Sort of like Phil. All things seem possible with Bubba, whether good or bad.

Dustin Johnson - A lot of people seem to like DJ, but he hasn't had good finishes at Augusta and I wonder about his putting.

I'm just scratching the surface. There are many other players, including up-and-comers such as Reed, Jordan Spieth, Harris English and more. It's an impossible business. Handicapping the Masters, that is. Picking a winner. A bunch of yakkity yak. The talking is about finished. The Masters starts early on Thursday morning.

I do know this: There are plenty of sublime ball-strikers in the Masters field, but the answers will ultimately come on the greens. The winner will have to putt well. Bet on it.

Shot 'Heard Around the World' Still Echoes at Masters

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Gene Sarazen
THE MASTERS IS THE ONE TOURNAMENT of the year that brings golf home to the masses. And much of it is because of Gene Sarazen, the second Masters held in 1935, and the "shot heard around the world."

Gene Sarazen is, in many ways, the most unlikely of golf heroes. In fact, his real name wasn't even Gene Sarazen. He was born Eugenio Saraceni, but changed it because, as he said, his real name sounded more like that of a violinist.

Gene Sarazen sounded like a golfer.

Sarazen came into golf, as did so many early professionals, from the caddie ranks. At the age of eight, the son of a struggling carpenter from Harrison, New York, he took a job caddying at Larchmont Country Club in Westchester. It was his way of helping the family make ends meet. He wasn't thinking about playing the game. As he said, "In those days only brokers and bankers played golf." Three years later he quit school and started caddying full time at the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York.

Then, at the age of 19, Sarazen turned professional and a year later won the U.S. Open held at the Oakmont Country Club, near Pittsburgh. He was the first professional to shoot 70 while winning an event.

Inventor of Sand Wedge

But he had problems as a player. He had no short game, especially out of bunkers. However, with a touch of creative genius, Sarazen solved that problem, and it is perhaps his greatest contribution to the game.

He invented the sand wedge. Watching the way planes lifted off the ground, he thought of welding solder onto the back of a club, building up the flange so it sat lower than the leading edge when soled. The flange, not the leading edge, would contact the sand first, and explode sand as the shot was played. He kept his invention secret going into the 1932 British Open at Prince's Golf Club and walked away with the championship.

Still, Sarazen had more in store for the golfing world.

Famous Shot

At the 1935 Masters, Sarazen was playing the 15th on the final round and trailing Craig Wood by three shots.

When he reached his drive on the par, 550-yard hole known as Firethorn, he saw he had a tight lie and pulled from his bag a newly designed four-wood, called a Turfinder, which had a hollow-back sole that enabled Sarazen to go down after the ball. He played the ball back in his stance and toed the head. And as he came down, he cut slightly across it to give the shot additional loft.

Of that fairway wood, Sarazen would later say, "From the minute I hit the ball there was a feeling in my system that it was going to be close. The ball went straight for the hole, about 235 yards away. It didn't carry the green. It carried short and rolled about 15 feet to the cup and in. The only way I could tell if it dropped or not was because 20 people around the green all jumped up and yelled like hell, and one of them was Bob Jones. He had walked back down from the clubhouse to see (Walter) Hagen and me finish."

The person who made the feat international news, and, in turn, announced this new tournament in Augusta, Georgia, as a major event, was Grantland Rice. The legendary sports writer described the 4-wood double-eagle the next day in his column as the "shot heard around the world."

Rice then went on to write: "A gallery of more than 2,000 was banked back of Sarazen and packed back of the green….the ball left the face of his spoon like a rifle shot. It never wavered from a direct line to the pin. As it struck the green, a loud shout went up, and then suddenly turned into a deafening reverberating roar as the ball spun along the way and finally disappeared into the cup for a double eagle."

Rice, according to Sarazen, missed the number of patrons (as they call spectators at the Masters) by 1,978. But that "shot" established Sarazen as the number-one player in the world and helped create the Masters.

Over the course of his career, Gene Sarazen would win 39 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1935 Masters, the U.S.Open twice, the British Open once, and the PGA Championship three times.

In 1973, to top off a long and brilliant career for this former caddie, Sarazen finished with a hole-in-one at the British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, proving with his life that golf wasn't just for brokers and bankers.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

2014 Masters Odds: Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy at 10/1

HERE ARE THE LATEST MASTERS ODDS from Bovada.

Odds To Win The US Masters 2014 - Augusta, Georgia
Adam Scott 10/1
Rory McIlroy 10/1
Phil Mickelson 12/1
Jason Day 14/1
Matt Kuchar 18/1
Sergio Garcia 20/1
Dustin Johnson 22/1
Bubba Watson 25/1
Henrik Stenson 25/1
Zach Johnson 28/1
Justin Rose 30/1
Brandt Snedeker 33/1
Charl Schwartzel 33/1
Jordan Spieth 33/1
Keegan Bradley 33/1
Jason Dufner 40/1
Lee Westwood 40/1
Hunter Mahan 40/1
Angel Cabrera 50/1
Harris English 50/1
Ian Poulter 50/1
Luke Donald 50/1
Patrick Reed 50/1
Jimmy Walker 55/1
Graeme McDowell 60/1
Graham Delaet 66/1
Louis Oosthuizen 66/1
Rickie Fowler 66/1
Bill Haas 80/1
Gary Woodland 80/1
Hideki Matsuyama 80/1
Jim Furyk 80/1
Steve Stricker 80/1
Webb Simpson 80/1
K.J. Choi 100/1
Marc Leishman 100/1
Ryan Moore 100/1
Victor Dubuisson 100/1

The rest: Ernie Els 125/1 Francesco Molinari 125/1 Fred Couples 125/1 Jamie Donaldson 125/1 Nick Watney 125/1 Peter Hanson 125/1 Russell Henley 125/1 Thorbjorn Olesen 125/1 Billy Horschel 150/1 Martin Kaymer 150/1 Matt Every 150/1 Matt Jones 150/1 Matteo Manassero 150/1 Trevor Immelman 150/1 Branden Grace 200/1 Chris Kirk 200/1 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 200/1 John Senden 200/1 Kevin Streelman 200/1 Miguel Angel Jimenez 200/1 Stephen Gallacher 200/1 Thomas Bjorn 200/1 Bernhard Langer 250/1 Boo Weekley 250/1 Brendon De Jonge 250/1 Jonas Blixt 250/1 Joost Luiten 250/1 Scott Stallings 250/1 Stewart Cink 250/1 Tim Clark 250/1 David Lynn 300/1 John Huh 300/1 Kevin Stadler 300/1 Roberto Castro 300/1 Sang-Moon Bae 300/1 Thongchai Jaidee 300/1 Vijay Singh 300/1 Steven Bowditch 400/1 Yong-Eun Yang 400/1 D.A. Points 500/1 Darren Clarke 500/1 Ken Duke 500/1 Lucas Glover 500/1 Chang Woo Lee 750/1 Mike Weir 750/1 Derek Ernst 1000/1 Jordan Niebrugge 1000/1 Jose Maria Olazabal 1000/1 Mark O'Meara 1000/1 Matthew Fitzpatrick 1000/1 Oliver Goss 1000/1 Tom Watson 1000/1 Michael McCoy 1500/1 Garrick Porteous 2000/1 Sandy Lyle 3000/1 Ben Crenshaw 5000/1 Craig Stadler 5000/1 Ian Woosnam 5000/1 Larry Mize 5000/1