Volume Four Hundred Twenty Eight

An all-Masters Hittin’ The Links. (Well, almost.)

Hittin the LinksWe’re now three and a half months into 2015, and one major championship into the golf season. Jordan Spieth, runner up a year ago, outlasted charges from major winners Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, and Rory McIlroy to win his first green jacket (possibly one of many to come).

Spieth was dominant early on, and was able to coast to a record-tying final score of -18. He’s the second-youngest Masters winner even, trailing only Tiger’s 1997 victory, and he broke or tied just about every record his age didn’t disqualify him from.

Woods himself joined in on the low scoring for a few days before Spieth dominance, and Tiger’s own shoddy play on Sunday, knocked him out of contention.

We also take a look at great tournaments by Phil and Rory, a new limited edition shoe from Nike, bask in a bit of ’90s nostalgia, and check in on old friend Anthony Kim.

Let’s hit the links.

On Tiger Woods and Augusta

Tiger makes his return at Augusta National.

Thrash TalkI’ve started to question recently if I’m truly a golf fan.

Every now and then we’ll get a TST forum member who decides that no one is a “real golf fan.” They believe themselves to be, apparently, the sole member of this rare species. The rest of us are Phil fans, or Tiger fans, or Joost Luiten fans. Maybe they’re right.

I think I’m a real golf fan. I still love playing golf, and I love following it, but there are a lot of ancillary aspects of the sport that grate at me. Golf isn’t a particularly mainstream sport, and I think part of that owes to the general attitude of many golfers. Because allegiances aren’t (grain flow) forged at birth, golf fans tend to pick their favorite golfers irrationally, and that boils over into their general golf fandom. Black-and-white opinions bug me in general, but especially in the golf world, a sport built on a foundation of black-and-white rules, they tend to be the norm. Nuance is lost. Outrage and sensationalism wins out over enjoyment. It stops being entertainment.

Golf has always been entertainment for me. If it ever ceases to be, I’ll move on. Everyone keeps telling me hockey is great.

2015 Masters Preview and Picks

It’s time for the Masters and in case you live under a rock, Tiger is back. This sets up a great 2015 event. Let’s see what the TST staff is looking for this week.

Thrash TalkThe dogwoods are in bloom and Tiger’s jet has been spotted in Augusta’s private airport, it must be time for the Masters. Tiger is playing so the “will he or won’t he” discussion is over and we now anxiously wait for him to miss a green to see if he flubs, shanks, or skulls his chip. Tiger always brings a buzz to the game and this year is no different. Traditionally The Sand Trap staff loves to pick Tiger but something tells me this Masters is going to be different.

Even with the all the buzz around Tiger there are a number of other story lines to talk about in the 2015 Masters. Is Rory going to complete the career grand slam and get the third leg of a grand slam? What about the defending champion Bubba Watson? Which rookies will you be looking out for this year? With that let’s dive into the questions.

Volume Four Hundred Twenty-Seven

(Almost) all majors (mostly the Masters) all the time.

Hittin' the LinksIn other words, 60 percent of the time this week HTL covers the Masters 100 percent of the time.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for golfers. The Masters heralds the arrival (or in the northerly climes the pending arrival) of golf season, at least for those of us who live north of the subtropics. Even in New England, the snow is melting. Yes, it looks like winter is finally losing its hold, and there may be golf soon, even in Augusta, Maine.

In Georgia, the dogwood and azaleas are blooming, the pines are scenting the breeze, and the grass is that amazing shade of green that can only mean that the calendar is right… Spring is here.

On Sunday, the kids had their day on the grounds of Augusta National as the annual Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship took place on the range and 18th green. Next up at that hallowed course: the main event.

The buildup to the season’s first major (real majors aren’t subject to name changes from year to year) has been coming to a crescendo this week. When Tiger’s plane was spotted at the airport in Augusta last week it led to (even more) rampant conjecture as to whether the world #104 (as of April 5) will play (he will). Mickelson’s game finally showed signs of life in the first two rounds at Houston, before a Saturday 75 set him back. McIlroy and Watson will be rested and ready, while Spieth, Holmes, and Walker are riding solid play and recent wins into Augusta. It’s gonna be good. Let’s hit the links.

Volume Four Hundred Twenty Six

Clubs shatter, why you should bet on Walker and Ko, and we still don’t know if Tiger will play Augusta

Hittin' the LinksLast week was a busy time in golf. Augusta is just around the corner and the LPGA is playing a major this week. A lot of weird stuff and a lot of cool stuff happened.

Here’s a guy stealing a set of clubs. If you recognize him, please contact the authorities. A Seattle taxi driver left a customer in the cab while he stopped to hit golf balls. A golf course protest ended when the protester fell out of a tree. Will MacKenzie talked about “carnage” and his days as a safety kayaker on the Gallatin River in Montana. Luke Donald appeared to feel much the same way I do about Disney World. The PGA TOUR took exception to the color of a caddie’s shorts. And Ohio is the third best state for golf. It says so right here.

In the extremely small category of stories about Tiger Woods that don’t revolve around speculating whether he will or won’t play in the Masters, this story about his helping to establish a scholarship honoring Charlie Sifford.

Oh, and Winter is coming. But first Spring and majors season is upon us. So let’s hit the links.

Volume Four Hundred Twenty Five

Every’s repeat, a pair of rare birds, and Jesper’s reality show

Hittin' the LinksIt’s a tough year for 54-hole leaders. At Bay Hill, Henrik Stenson joined the dubious ranks of those who failed to convert their Saturday lead into a Sunday victory. At points, he looked invincible, but a late three-putt undid a lot of solid ball striking.

This week, we got our last look before the Masters at world #1 Rory McIlroy and the short game looked shaky, but he still managed a T11 finish. The Irishman will also be the new face of EA Sports PGA TOUR 2015 video game, replacing Tiger Woods who held that role for 15 years.

Also this week, Arnold Palmer’s course design company announced its first project in Scotland. The King will build a second course at Castle Stuart. And we also saw not one but two albatrosses over the weekend, which was pretty cool.

Let’s hit the links.

Is Patrick Reed a Top Five…Cheater?

Patrick Reed finds himself in some hot water with the golfing press. I explain why he is doing his best to dig the hole even deeper.

Thrash TalkI am no fan of Patrick Reed. My first impression was so bad that he will likely never overcome my dislike, no matter how many Ryder Cup matches he wins. My first impression was his interview stating that he is a top five golfer when he was just starting out. I like confidence but I like it in moderation.

He has proven himself to be a good golfer. There is no denying that. We can argue about whether or not he is in the top five, but he is certainly good enough to play on the US Ryder Cup team. Recently he has been the talk on tour for a piece done about his past. Shane Ryan has been working on a book titled: “Slaying the Tiger: A Year Inside the Ropes on the New PGA Tour”. In it he details the troubled past of one Patrick Reed. The story outlines a troubled young man who cheated, which in golf, is the worst label a guy can get. Patrick has now came back saying in an interview on the Golf Channel that the story is false and he has statements from his former golf coaches saying they are false. Now it has become a good old fashion he said he said scenario. He is now asking for a retraction from the books publishers and also Ryan himself.

Volume Four Hundred Twenty Four

Spieth wins at Innisbrook, Tiger remains sidelined, and golf rap video you’ll probably want to skip.

Hittin the LinksJordan Spieth, who has managed to kick away a few solid leads over the past few years, finally notched another victory at Innisbrook, toppling the red hot Patrick Reed and a hard-charging Sean O’Hair. It took two insane flop shots on the last two holes of regulation and a bomb of a birdie putt in the playoff, but Spieth did manage to close out the Valspar Championship. Spieth now has a two PGA Tour wins, not too bad for a guy who was in first grade when Sean O’Hair turned professional.

This week we also got a check-in on Tiger Woods by Notah Begay III, we heard Patrick Reed attempt to dig himself out of the weeds, and were all witness to the mashup of rap and golf (R.I.P. to both).

Before I get too excited about the prospect of Rory McIlroy and Tom Brady playing Augusta National together, let’s hit the links.

Volume Four Hundred Twenty Three

DJ’s makeover, Rory’s toss, and Harrison’s plane… quite a week.

Hittin' the LinksThe Donald likes a tough golf course. That much was clear this week in Miami at Trump National Doral. J.B. Holmes’ amazing 62 notwithstanding, the pros were struggling to score and, like last year, taking a few shots at the course setup. In the end, only 11 players broke par for the week.

In addition to all the news from Doral, we also learned a few interesting updates to some of the stories noted in Volume 422 of HTL.

For instance, just hours after losing his lead in last Monday’s conclusion to the final round of the Honda Classic, Ian Poulter found some harsh, but cute, criticism at home. In a tweet Monday, he said: “I just got home and my 3-year-old Joshua just said ‘bad daddy, you hit it in the trees’; that’s funny. No more needed to be said. Sorry son.”

And the story about caddies being left in a potentially unsafe tent during a thunderstorm at the Honda Classic got a humorous reprise from Rex Hoggard. After last week’s black eye, I suspect the PGA TOUR will make sure that caddies are well taken care of at tournaments for the remainder of this season.

Let’s hit the links.