By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM producer
The allure of the belly putter was on full display at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, as Martin Laird and Spencer Levin played in the final group all weekend with the longer flatsticks.
Are the unconventional putters a full-fledged trend on TOUR? Maybe not yet, but it’s worth noting that two of the top 30 in the world ranking now play with them – No. 28 Adam Scott (the full split-grip long putter) and Laird, who cracked the top 30 at No. 21 after winning at Bay Hill with a belly putter.
For Levin, the new putter has a complete game-changer. He switched after he secured his 2011 card late last year, and now he has three top-10s in his last six starts.
“When you're playing, you don't really think about it but looking back, I think I've obviously made more putts with it than I was before,” said Levin, who finished T2 in putts per round at Bay Hill.
“Since I got that belly putter, I've definitely noticed I've been making some more mid-range putts. Before with a normal putter, I was always good -- I was always a good short putter but I wasn't a very good 12- to 20-foot putter. (Now) I feel like I'm making a couple more a round, which is I think probably why I'm scoring better for sure.”
Reigning British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is getting into the act too; check out the Ping belly putter he bought at Augusta National here .
● Speaking of the Masters, world No. 2 Lee Westwood talked Wednesday at the Shell Houston Open about possible changes in his bag for the season’s first major.
“I generally keep the same stuff in, decide last minute whether it's 2-iron or 5 (wood). Augusta is generally 5 because you need to fly the ball in high,” Westwood said. “I've been doing a little bit of work with different bounces on sand irons. It's nice to take a bit of the bounce off the lob wedge at Augusta with the lies you get there and the firmness of the sand in the traps. It's nice to get under the ball a little bit.”
● Tiger Woods went back to his standard Nike VR blades at the Arnold Palmer, taking out the newer-version Nike VR Pro blades he put in the bag at the Chevron World Challenge last year. The VR blades will go to the Masters, too.
As for his continuing putter saga, Woods made an adjustment to the heel-shafted Nike Method that lately has replaced the Scotty Cameron that had been his constant through the years.
“We softened the grooves up to make sure it's not as quick, as I said, and I wanted something more suited for faster greens,” Woods said. “So we softened up the grooves, and it's coming off very similar to my Cameron and releasing obviously how I like it.”
Something more suited for faster greens … hmm. Sounds like a Masters putter.
● Laird won last week with a TaylorMade white driver, but not the more-ballyhooed R11. He used the Burner SuperFast 2.0 while ranking fifth in distance for the week.
“I put that new driver in at Doral three weeks ago, and I’m not someone that changes equipment much,” Laird
said. “I had had my driver before for three years and Taylor Made had been pushing me to try this new one, and I’m glad they did because this thing is unbelievable.”
● K.J. Choi turned heads with the three hybrids he used to finish tied for sixth at Bay Hill (read more here ), but another money club was the Odyssey putter he returned to. Choi’s trademark with putters is the SuperStroke extra-wide grip, said to keep the wrists from breaking down. He used one to win the AT&T National in 2007 and has had it ever since.
● Retief Goosen is going back to the Yes! model putter he used to win two U.S. Opens, our Melanie Hauser writes here .
● PLAYERS champion Tim Clark and others have played with Srixon’s yellow ball, which the company says offers improved visibility , not to mention a distinctive look.
On Twitter, a fan asked Titleist if they would make an orange ProV1 to match Rickie Fowler’s standard Sunday Oklahoma State-inspired outfits. The response: “Highly unlikely!”
● Jack Wulkotte, inducted over the weekend into the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sports Hall of Fame, owns a pretty significant place in golf history. He was Jack Nicklaus’ personal clubmaker while with MacGregor. That ZT Response putter that Nicklaus won with at the 1986 Masters (and that you’ll hear plenty about over the next week)? Wulkotte put the grip on it. Read his story .
HUMBLE, Texas -- New old putter. New grip. New course.
Two-time U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen hopes that’ll do the trick this week at the Shell Houston Open. And, maybe at next week’s Masters, too.
“I think that's the main thing,’’ he said. “You know, I've always done well at Augusta playing the week before when we had the event at Atlanta, and since that was moved, I don't really do that well at Augusta. So I feel playing here hopefully this week will give me the feeling you need to have going into Augusta.’’
What drew him in was the course setup -- fast greens, shaved runoff areas – that emulates conditions players will see next week.
“A lot of the players said it's as close as you can get it to Augusta settings or grass, I should say,’’ he said. “So that's definitely -- that definitely made me decide to play this year.’’
Goosen finished third at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship earlier this year and shared 12th at the Northern Trust Open, but his game still needs work. So, he’s changing his grip and going back to the YES! putter he used to win both of his U.S. Opens.
“Hopefully,’’ he said, “get some good feelings on the greens this week.”
His other concern? Driving.
“The game is not great, not really done much this year,’’ Goosen said. “Couple of good events but not really playing that well. I got my coach here this week, so we're working on a few things, a little bit of a grip change. I think this week, which is always a bit hard, you know, to get comfortable on, but changing my grip slightly this week and hopefully, you know, come tomorrow, start hitting a few good shots and give you some confidence going into next week.’’ -- Melanie Hauser
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Tavistock Cup, which since 2004 has been an interclub match between Isleworth’s and Lake Nona’s golf professional members, will have a different look this week.
For the first time, four clubs will compete for the Tavistock Cup, with 24 players involved in the competition. The first round of the two-day tournament at Isleworth Golf & Country Club begins in less than an hour (10:50 a.m. ET).
Monday’s format will consist of six matches of four-ball ( see schedule below). Tuesday’s competition will be singles matches.
Isleworth and Lake Nona will be two of the clubs in the competition, along with Albany and Queenwood. Albany is a new luxury resort community in The Bahamas and Queenwood is an exclusive private members’ club in the Surrey countryside near London.
Tiger Woods, fresh off his final-round 66 that bumped him up to 10th place at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship on Sunday, will compete for Team Albany. Reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell leads Team Lake Nona ( team rosters below).
Tavistock Cup contestants play for prize money, team hole-in-one prizes and the title of World Golf And Country Club Champion.
The two-tournament will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel starting at Noon ET.
|TEAM ALBANY||TEAM ISLEWORTH||TEAM LAKE NONA||TEAM QUEENWOOD|
|Arjun Atwal||Robert Allenby||Ross Fisher||Thomas Bjorn|
|Ernie Els||Stuart Appleby||Retief Goosen||Darren Clarke|
|Trevor Immelman||Brian Davis||Peter Hanson||David Howell|
|Ian Poulter||J.B. Holmes||Graeme McDowell||Soren Kjeldsen|
|Justin Rose||Sean O’Hair||Henrik Stenson||Paul McGinley|
|Tiger Woods||Lee Janzen||Oliver Wilson||Adam Scott|
MONDAY’S FOUR-BALL MATCHES
|1||Arjun Atwal-Tiger Woods (Albany)||Thomas Bjorn-Adam Scott (Queenwood)|
|2||Robert Allenby-Stuart Appleby (Isleworth)||Peter Hanson-Henrik Stenson (Lake Nona)|
|3||Ian Poulter-Justin Rose (Albany)||Retief Goosen-Graeme McDowell (Lake Nona)|
|4||Brian Davis-J.B. Holmes (Isleworth)||Soren Kjeldsen-Paul McGinley (Queenwood)|
|5||Lee Janzen-Sean O’Hair (Isleworth)||Ross Fisher-Oliver Wilson (Lake Nona)|
|6||Ernie Els-Trevor Immelman (Albany)||Darren Clarke-David Howell (Queenwood)|
MARANA, Ariz. -- No one will have played in all 13 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championships when the opening matches get under way on Wednesday.
Three players have only missed one, though, and are playing in their 12th this week. The answer to that trivia question? Well, you’re right if you said Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink and Padraig Harrington.
Another nine players have played in 11 Accenture Match Play Championships. But only six of those players are competing this week – Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Robert Allenby, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood.
Among the players missing are some pretty interesting names in Vijay Singh, Stuart Appleby, Justin Leonard and David Toms, who won the 2005 Accenture Match Play Championship. The first three have played 11 times previously while Toms has made 10 starts.
Accenture Match Play points breakdown
|550 points – Win||101 points – T5 (loss in the round of eight)|
|315 points – Runner-up||68.25 points – T9 (loss in the round of 16)|
|200 points – Third place||46.56 points – T17 (second round loss)|
|140 points – Fourth place||22.50 points – T33 (loss in the first round)|
For all intents and purposes, the FedExCup has come down to this: Whoever wins THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola of Jim Furyk, Luke Donald and Retief Goosen will win the FedExCup. Paul Casey is still mathematically alive, but realistically he has almost no chance since he couldn’t finish worse than a two-way tie for second and he’s locked in at 5 under with Nick Watney. Furyk, of course, is in the best shape since he leads by two with two holes left.
Jim Furyk has extended his lead to three shots with a birdie at the par-5 15th. With three holes left in THE TOUR Championship, he’s now firmly in control of the tournament.
But his status as future FedExCup champion has yet to be secured.
Even if Furyk wins the tournament, he could still be overtaken in FedExCup points by Paul Casey.
Casey, currently playing the 17th hole, is tied for third with Luke Donald. If Casey can finish solo second, he would acquire the necessary points to overtake Furyk and win the FedExCup.
Casey and Donald are at 6 over. Retief Goosen is currently solo second at 7 under.
Jim Furyk, who currently has a two-shot lead at THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, remains the projected FedExCup winner. Furyk is 9 under with six holes to play.
Nick Watney, Luke Donald and Retief Goosen are tied for second. Watney is projected to finish 11th in FedExCup points, Donald is projected to finish fifth and Goosen is projected to finish at ninth.
Paul Casey, currently at 5 under, is projected to finish sixth.
Retief Goosen had the only bogey-free round of the day – until the 18th hole, where he missed the green left then failed to get up-and-down on the par-3 finishing hole.
On the upside for Goosen, of course, is that he still shot 66 and is within two of the current lead (Jim Furyk is still on the course).
Saturday marked the second straight day that Goosen, who entered the week 17th in the FedExCup standings, shot 66 with just one bogey on his scorecard.
In order for Goosen to win the FedExCup, he’d not only have to win the tournament, he would need Matt Kuchar to finish solo 11th or worse; Dustin Johnson finish in a three-way tie for fourth or worse; Charley Hoffman finish in a three-way tie for third or worse; Steve Stricker finish solo third or worse; Paul Casey finish tied for second or worse; and Jason Day to finish tied for second or worse. -- Brian Wacker