Matt Kuchar Wins RBC Heritage for 7th PGA Tour Win

April 20th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Matt Kuchar is known as one of the nice guys on the PGA Tour.  He is polite, kind, thoughtful and the worst you hear out of his mouth is a “gosh darn” or a “golly gee” when he happens to miss a shot.  He is also known as a top ten machine as he racks up top finish after top finish. 

Recently he was on the brink of getting the reputation of not being able to close the door on a victory.  But that all changed today as he slammed the door on the competition with a wild chip in for birdie on eighteen for the win at the RBC Heritage.

Kuchar was cruising along until the seventeenth hole with seven birdies on his card when he uncharacteristically three putted…from four feet.  From birdie to bogey in a flash and it looked like Kuch had let Luke Donald, the final round leader, back in the tournament.   But Kuchar’s brilliant sand shot regained his lead and ended a string of near misses for the ’12 Players champion.

His past three outings had seen him contend for the win but stumble on Sunday.  The most memorable may have been the loss to Matt Jones at The Shell Houston Open when Kuch was done in by Jones’ chip in on the first playoff hole.  The following week at The Masters Kuchar also had a chance but couldn’t find a fairway at Augusta on Sunday.

Now, with a win this season Kuchar’s season can be seen in a new light.  Much was made of his failure to close out a win but he chose to look at the positives.  His ability to be near the top meant he was playing well and playing well puts you in a position to win. 

His stellar 64 today overtook Donald and put him in that position today, a place he is getting very comfortable with.


Michelle Wie: Hometown Girl, Hometown Win

April 20th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Michelle Wie has played the Ko-Olina golf course hundreds of time.  It’s her home course and she is their adopted daughter.  But yesterday’s round was definitely the most significant round she ever played on her favorite course.  In fact, it may be the most important round of her life.

Wie shot an essentially perfect 67 in the final round of the LPGA Lotte Championship to earn her third LPGA title and continue her resurgence in 2014.  Winning at home and in front of a very large and very supportive local crowd Wie was almost speechless afterwards.  “I’m so happy, I can’t think straight,” Wie said “It’s a dream come true.”

The hometown girl overtook final round leader Angela Stanford who had a four shot lead to start the round.  But Stanford struggled and finished behind the charging Wie.  Wie had all her shots and used her experience at Ko-Olina to fashion a near perfect round hitting 15 of 18 greens and 28 putts.  One of those putts was a missed two footer at 17 and an inconsequential short putt at the last when the win was already in the books.wie lotte

Wie has been in the spotlight so long it is easy to forget that she is only 24 years old.  On the national stage at 13 the amazingly gifted Wie started a run of unimaginable play with six top five finishes in LPGA majors by the time she was 16.  Her career upside was limitless but missteps like concentrating on playing with the PGA Tour instead of winning own her own levels sidetracked her progress.

Injuries also hurt Wie and many even criticized her for attending college full time instead of concentrating on her golf career.  When she did graduate from Stanford and was playing full time she promptly went out and fell flat missing 10 cuts in 23 starts.  That was then and this is now.

Now is a new and improved Michelle Wie. We see a Wie that has developed her own putting style, certainly unique among all tours.  We see a Wie that has formed her own view on swing coaches and teaching styles, she refuses to look at her swing on video now relying on “how it feels.”  That’s a true departure from the David Leadbetter school of thought but a successful one. We see a Wie that develops her on course game plan and sticks with it. We see a Wie that leaves her driver in the bag and opts for a Tiger-Like Stinger 3-wood that bisects fairway after fairway.  We see a Wie that has throttled back her long game with the driver (47th in driving distance) and rather hit more greens.  It has worked as she leads the tour in Greens in Regulation at 81%.

More importantly we see a newly relaxed and confident Michelle Wie on the course in 2014.  Two weeks ago at the Kraft Nabisco LPGA Championship Wie and winner Lexi Thompson went head to head in a showcase of the future for the LPGA.  While Wie fell short she displayed grace and humility towards her competitor and friend. 

All of us have witnessed a young girl who, for whatever reason, was put in the spotlight, thrust into untenable situations for an adult, no less a teenager and subjected to pressure and expectations that would have crushed many a soul.  And maybe it did.  Maybe Michelle’s insistence in attending college was her release, her escape from the world of pressure and expectations.  It afforded her the chance to be a college kid and not a phenom.

Call it maturity, call it confidence, call it a young woman that is now comfortable with herself and willing to say no to outside pressures and do things her own way.

At the end of 2013 she took a five week vacation from the game and didn’t swing a club.  What emerged from that hiatus was a newly refreshed and “reborn” player if you will: a player that is happy to be on the course again and happy to be playing a game again and not a job.

Michelle Wie has already lived a lifetime in the spotlight and the first few chapters had been fraught with plenty of pain and heartache.  But these next chapters she is about to write look to be filled with joy, happiness and victories.  She’s off to a great start and this win at home could just be the start of many great things to come. 


Saturday Swing Tip: Launch Your 3 wood

April 19th, 2014 No comments


Trying to Cure The Masters Hangover

April 18th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Our buzz from our Masters hangover continues today as we head into another weekend of fine golf being played around the world.  There is early morning coverage of the European Tour’s Mayback Malaysian Open on The Golf Channel.  That is followed by the Champions Tour’s Greater Gwinnett Championship where The Coolest Guy in Golf, Miguel Angel Jimenez makes his Champions Tour debut.

Any chance to see Miguel strut his stuff, stretching and stogie included, is a treat for all of us.  After that it’s the RBC Heritage from classic Harbour Town Golf Links with Masters contenders Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth trying to rid themselves of their own Masters hangovers.

And to top off a very full day of golf coverage the LPGA is spending the week in Hawaii for the LPGA Lotte Championship.  The Ko Olina Golf Club on Oahu is Michelle Wie’s home course and she is in contention this week.  Ko Olina holds a special place for me as it was the first course in Hawaii I was able to play.  My brothers and I were lucky enough to play it a few years back and we even had a “Michelle Sighting” while we were there.  Great choice Bro.

Even with all that golf and a quick eighteen myself today, I am struggling with this heavy duty Masters Hangover.  Especially when I read articles like these two.  ESPN’s Bob Harig gives us the skinny on the behind the scenes action at Augusta National and all the new improvements they made this year and some inside info on the workings of the club.

Unlike many too-hyped places in a jaded world, Augusta National has this way of impressing time and again. Yes, the club has struggled with progressive issues over the years and it might be a bit too stuffy and elitist for the tastes of some.
But in putting on a golf tournament, in opening its doors to the outside world and welcoming thousands upon thousands onto the grounds each day of tournament week, the place never ceases to amaze.agn

Augusta National is one of the richest clubs in the world and they don’t sit on their cash.  Sarah Max details many of the clubs recent actions for improvements to the club which includes buying almost anything that borders The National and even loaning the town of Augusta $20 million to widen Berckmans Road which borders the club.

Ah, traffic. Those who followed Augusta National’s assembly of land marveled at the trouble and cost for a parking lot. In late 2013, it became clear that there’s more to it. Now the club is eager to improve the traffic flow in and out of the area. Late last year, Augusta National said it would give the city of Augusta an interest-free loan to expedite the widening and realignment of Berckmans Road, which runs north and south, along the club’s original property line. Augusta National will prefund the $20 million project, which will ultimately be paid for by a 1 percent regional sales tax, says Steven Cassell, a traffic engineer for the city of Augusta. Under the new plan, which is scheduled to be completed by the 2016 Masters, the intersection of Berckmans and Washington will be moved about a third of a mile west. It will also improve the grade of Berckmans Road near Augusta National, which could allow for pedestrian underpasses between parking and the club.

Augusta National is an amazing place with visionary leadership focused on improving the club, the Masters and the game of golf.  It’s no wonder my Masters hangover lasts longer each year.

Hat tip to Geoff Shackelford for the links.


Billy Payne, Augusta National’s Radical Chairman

April 17th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The fascination with The Masters and Augusta National grows deeper each year.  Watching that tournament each spring feeds the imagination of any golfer worth their Titleists.  Doesn’t it get better each year?

Some will say that Bubba Watson’s victory was anti-climatic and indeed he wasn’t really challenged on the closing nine.  But there were aspects of this Masters that still made it a memorable one.  And while The Masters cherishes its traditions like no other tournament there is plenty of change going on at Augusta National.

This year the most visible and significant change took place on the Sunday before the Masters when Augusta National hosted the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championships.  The 88 boys and girls and their families were afforded the opportunity to spend the day on the most hallowed of golf grounds as they competed in their respective categories.  It was one of the most exciting days in Augusta’s history.

The man mainly responsible for hosting the competition was Augusta National’s Chairman Billy Payne.  Well, he’s probably responsible for just about everything that goes on at the club.  And from an outsider’s point of view, Augusta National couldn’t be in better hands.billy payne 1

To look at Billy Payne you could easily be mistaken by stereotyping him as one of those old, rich, white guys that inhabit Augusta National and figures the old ways are the best ways.  And you would be right, almost.

Certainly Mr. Payne fits the traditional stereotype of an Augusta National member.  He is white and he is wealthy having made a fair dollar in real estate.  But old?  He’s 66 and age is relative. Stuck in the past?  Old ways the best way?  Not a chance, not this chairman, not Billy Payne.

Billy Payne is a Georgia boy through and through.  He was born in Athens, Ga.  Graduated from the University of Georgia made his money in Georgia and was the man responsible for bringing the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta.  He is a mover and a shaker and a very powerful man outside of Augusta National.  Inside Augusta National is the man.

Since Payne took over from Hootie Johnson in 2006 things have changed at Augusta.  Johnson will be remembered for his stonewalling of Martha Burke and her movement to get women admitted to Augusta National.  Johnson’s not so diplomatic response to Burke was that Augusta will admit women when they want ”but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet.” 

Although Payne wears the same green jacket as Johnson, his is cut from a different cloth.  Payne is a progressive in a green jacket.  He has instituted so many radical changes at Augusta that he can be considered a revolutionary.  Billy Payne, Augusta National’s Designated Revolutionary and he gets things done.

Since he has taken command The Masters has expanded its television coverage and signed its ESPN early round deal.  He instituted the Junior Patrons Program where a child, 8-16 gets into The Master for free with any badge holder.  He did the unthinkable when he licensed the use of Augusta National in the Tiger Woods video game.  Of course their profits from the game goes towards their youth golf program.  It isn’t about making money at Augusta, they have enough from CBS thankfully.

billy payne dcpPayne has embraced the new media and the Masters home page and website are cutting edge and improve each year.  He was critical in starting the Asia-Pacific Amateur and the Latin American Amateur.  And Payne broke down the membership walls when Augusta National added two women members in Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.

Payne’s biggest passion is the familiar cry of “growing the game” and he put his money where his mouth was when he opened up Augusta as the host of the Drive, Chip and Putt.  He called that Sunday, “one of the most powerful days in my life.”  That from a man that rules the most exclusive and powerful membership in the land.

Payne has a passion for growing this game and he has one of the most powerful seats at the table.

At each Masters Augusta National looks the same: decked out with all the azaleas, flowers and perfectly manicured layout.  But that club isn’t the same club it was a few years ago.  There are changes going on, significant, progressive changes.  And Billy Payne is responsible. 

For decades nothing changed except the champion’s dinner menu.  But Billy Payne has started a revolution of change at Augusta National.  He’s Billy Payne, Chairman Augusta National, a green jacketed revolutionary.


Paulina Gretsky…Now In Video

April 16th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

A couple of weeks ago Golf Digest broke the news that Paulina Gretsky would appear on their cover for their fitness issue.  And then the controversy started as plenty of people in and out of the golf industry voiced their opinions on whether Gretsky should have been chosen over an LPGA player.  Well, here’s a video covering the photo shoot.  Let the controversy begin again.  In the mean time watch The Great One’s hot daughter stretch it out. 


Bubba Watson Visits The Morning Drive

April 15th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Bubba Watson is a different kind of golfer and a different kind of person.  And being true to his Bubba persona he eschewed the normal trappings that go with winning The Masters.  He and his crew decided to hit the Waffle House after all the traditional celebrations at Augusta National were over on Sunday night.

Today was no different.  After a few nights at home in Orlando the two time Masters winner decided to surprise the crew at The Morning Drive.  Few professionals embrace the Morning Drive team like Bubba does.  Bubba popped up on the set in full Masters attire, green jacket and tie.  He spent some time with his friends and of course even teared up a bit.  Take a look.


A New & Improved Bubba Watson

April 15th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Bubba Watson’s impressive victory at The Masters continues to resonate through the world of golf.  But there were two drastic differences in his second Masters win from his first. 

His first win in 2012 was filled with drama as he strung together birdies on the back nine to move into the lead and then make history in a playoff with one of the most unforgettable shots in the history of the game.  This Masters wasn’t won on the back nine or from the woods.  Bubba’s 2014 Masters victory was essentially his after the ninth hole. 

Secondly, but more significantly, it was the difference in Bubba himself that allowed him to maintain his composure over that back nine and earn his second green jacket.

In ’12 Bubba was a bundle of live wires as he played in the final moments and an emotional wreck after he sank the winning putt.  But life has changed the hyper, ADD addicted Bubba.bubba and angie 2

On the course he displayed patience and even though we all thought his shot through the trees on fifteen was too risky, he was certain that it was the safe and sure play.  He was as steady as he has ever been on the course over that closing nine.

The Bubba we watched sink the winning putt, hug his son, kiss his wife and don the green jacket was a different Bubba also.  Last time he won at Augusta he had just adopted his son and this year he has two solid years of being a father under his belt.  That translates into two years of change for Bubba.  And it certainly is change for the good.

Bubba’s dedication to his family has given him a new perspective on life and his chosen profession.  Bubba had a history of petulance and impatience on the course when things went bad previously.  He had taken his frustrations out on his caddy, the fans and his game on many occasions.  But this appears to be a new and more composed Bubba.  Nothing fazed him on the course Sunday and he is better prepared to handle the mental pressures of major championship golf.

He says it all stems from his new family and concentrating on being a better father and husband.  He lists his priorities as God, wife, son, friends and family  and then golf.  The past two years as a parent has changed Bubba.  The self described head case is more comfortable with his life both on and off the course.  He displayed a mental toughness on Sunday that had previously escaped him.

But maybe it really wasn’t a mental toughness but his actual lack of caring that worked for him.  He knows no matter what the outcome his son and wife will be there for him.  And while he cares enough to play his best and execute his shot the outcome isn’t life or death. 

To be sure, he still does care but not to the point of making him ineffective.  And to be sure he has so much more in his life to care about and that has freed him up on the course.  That’s the fact that makes him so imposing and should scare the heck out of his fellow professionals.  A Bubba that just cares about the shot and not the outcome could be unstoppable.

Bubba is still a sixteen year old trapped in a 35 year old body.  He loves to joke, have fun and enjoy his life.  He will certainly be posting some crazy video of his adventures soon.  But he is a changed man in that body.  A man with a new perspective on his life and with that perspective comes a new comfortableness with himself and his game.  Two green jackets could be just the beginning.


“Arnie” A Tribute to The King, Of Course It Is

April 14th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Last night after the Golf Channel’s Live at The Masters signed off the much hyped “Arnie” took center stage.  In case you’re a golf fan that happened to be living in a cave and haven’t seen the commercials promoting “Arnie” here’s the skinny.

“Arnie” is a three part series capturing the life and times of Arnold Palmer.  Now, let’s put all the Golf Channel’s cards on the table here: Arnold Palmer is the original and largest investor in The Golf Channel.   Arnie, the man, not the series, is the absolute main reason there is a Golf Channel.  Quite frankly, Arnie is probably the reason golf is on television in the first place. arnold desk

Arnold Palmer and television were a perfect match in the ‘60’s when he came to prominence and televised sports was in its infancy.  So if you are looking for a 60 Minutes style, investigative report on Arnold Palmer go look somewhere else.  This isn’t a documentary as much as it is a tribute to The King.  That is what I expected and to be honest it is just what I wanted. 

The New York Times television critic, Richard Sandomir wanted more of a documentary.  All I can say is that Richard isn’t a golfer.

I watched the first episode last night, DVR’d it and will probably watch it again as I will the rest of the series.  Now, I was no member of Arnie’s Army back in the day (I was much too young) but I have come to respect and admire Arnold and the life he led.  I went into watching the show knowing it would be a tribute to the most beloved man in golf and sorry, Mr. Sandomir, I ate it up. 

Two portions of the first hour stuck with me.  Yes, we all know that Arnie tries to answer each fan letter he receives.  And I had seen a great piece on his “barn” before.  But he saves each of those letters?  Wow.

That barn that seems to house every golf club, golf shoe and golf bag Arnie ever touched along with a million pieces of memorabilia has to be heaven on earth for any Palmer fan.

The other unforgettable story about Arnie was retold by former PGA Tour player and current Champions Tour player and CBS golf analyst Bobby Clampett.  Clampett, a California kid, tells the story of how when he was a 12 year old kid he made it to Pebble Beach in the 70’s to watch The King.  Due to traffic problems he had no ride home.  So what does a 12 year old Arnold Palmer fan do when he needs a ride?  He walks up to The King and asks for a ride home.  True to Arnie’s image, he says, “Sure kid” and gave Clampett a lift home.  Unbelievable.

Sure, it’s a puff piece.  Sure, we will only hear the goodness of Arnie.  Sure, it will be filled with sentiment after sentiment.  Hey, he’s Arnold Palmer, The King and I’ll watch every minute, maybe two or three times.

The first episode airs again today at 11:00am and 5:00pm.  The next two new episodes air tonight and tomorrow at 10:00pm.


Ramblings from the Easy Chair…Masters Style

April 13th, 2014 No comments

by G.Rennie

MastersConventional wisdom has it that the Masters starts on the back nine on Sunday but not this Sunday. The drama started right out of the gate with the final pairing racking up a combined eight birdies on the front side. On the downside, but adding drama to the game, were the four bogeys Spieth and Watson accumulated, with Jordan coming out the on the short end.

The 20 year old Masters rookie struck first with a sliding left to right ten footer on the par-5 second hole. Bubba, who dominated the par fives all week, could only manage birdie after driving into the right fairway bunker. The fun was just beginning as it seemed everyone with a decent chance of making a charge on the front side was scoring. Kuch dropped back to back birds on two and three which tied him at -6 with Spieth. Miguel Angel was in the hunt, along with Rickie and the other Masters first timer, Jonas Blixt.  In the end, none of these players would challenge the eventual winner although they all finished well, top five or better.

The real game was in the last twosome of the day with both winding up and throwing haymakers. Bubba appeared to take the advantage on four when Spieth found the front green side bunker but that was an illusion as Spieth hit his shot of the day by holing out.  Bubba coolly coaxed his bird in on top and the lead stayed at 1. They traded birdies again on the next 3 par, the downhill 6th. The young Texan pushed the lead to two with a gently stroked birdie from above the hole on seven while Bubba save par from the bunker. The tournament seemed like it belonged to the Kid right then but the golf gods giveth and they taketh away.

They took two strokes away from Spieth on holes and nine and they gave them to Watson. A three putt on the eighth was the first crack in Spieth’s game but it wasn’t the last as his approach to nine was repelled down the false front into the fairway below.

In the space of two holes there was a four shot turnaround. The Kid had thrown his best shot at the 2012 champ, had staggered him for a moment, but then couldn’t withstand the counterpunches Bubba delivered, especially the curling birdie putt on 9 that had three feet of break at least. There were nine holes left to play but the 78th Masters was won at the ninth by the most unique player in the game today. Well done, Bubba.

FINAL TALLY for LinksLifeGolf staff picks:
Top Finisher:
The Greek and G. Rennie  split this pot with the Tie 2nd place by Jordan Spieth.
Lil Skins nearly came all the way back with his 50 year old runner, Miguel Angel Jimenez in fourth
Big Dick swung hard and just missed with two players tied fifth, Kuuuuuch and Rickie.
Big Skins continued to fade with a T 14th posted by the defending champ, Adam Scott.