Previewing the 2014 Golf Majors

The 2013 Golf Majors brought much excitement with several unexpected results. As the 2014 Major Season begins tomorrow with the Masters tournament in Augusta, this is a perfect time to preview each Major and take a look at some possible contenders.

2014 Majors Preview

Who will take home these trophies in 2014?

The Masters (April 10 – 13)

Like every year, the Majors kick off with the Masters in spring. A lot of stories are going to surround the first Major of the year, particularly Tiger Woods’ performance there for almost a decade and his absence this year due to back surgery. It’s almost unbelievable that Woods’ last victory at Augusta was back in 2005. Last year’s champ Adam Scott is in fine form to repeat while Rory McEllroy looks to break through at Augusta and earn his first green jacket. The 2014 edition will be Jordan Spieth’s first Masters Tournament, another reason to get excited about it.

US Open (June 12 – 15)

Golf fans around the world will be rooting for their beloved ‘Big Phil’ to win the US Open and complete the career Grand Slam. Phil Mickelson announced that he is going to take part in fewer tournaments over the next seasons in a bid to get the US Open under his belt. The venue for the 2014 US Open is Pinehurst No. 2. This is ironic considering this is the exact same site where Mickelson came in second for the first time. Michael Campbell won the last US Open held there, back in 2005.

British Open (July 17 – 20)

If Tiger recovers fully from his injury and regains his form then the 2014 British Open may be his best bet of winning a Major this year. The venue is the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. The site is hosting the British Open for the first time since 2006. Back then, Tiger won the title by two strokes, defeating Chris DiMarco. Briton Lee Westwood would also be eager to win, having never won a Major in his illustrious career. However, all challengers have to get through Big Phil, who won last year, and is in contention to win again.

PGA Championship (August 7 – 10)

The PGA Championship returns to Valhalla for the first time since 2000. Interestingly, Woods also won the last PGA Championship to be held there, playing one of the best rounds of his career. If history is anything to go by, Woods has a great chance to add a second Major to his tally. Jason Dufner won this Major last year in a closely contested final round against Jim Furyk. The change of venue will hurt his chances but a repeat victory is not out of question at this point in time.

2014 is poised to be another eventful and exciting year for golf enthusiasts. Now that you know what to expect in each Major Championship, clear out your calendars so you can follow all the action and cheer on your favorite golfers.

2013 Masters Preview

2013 Masters

“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 as close as I’m going to get.” Fuzzy Zoeller

With azaleas budding here in Georgia, it is time to for the 2013 Masters. The 77th iteration of this world class tournament that begins on Thursday April 11 in Augusta, promises to be a great event. The main storylines to follow revolve around Bubba Watson, the defending champion, who said he wants to be the number one golfer in the world this year, Tiger Woods, who looks to be playing like the old Tiger again, and Charl Schwartzel, the streaking 2011 Masters champion.

Bubba Watson, who won the 2012 Masters in historic fashion, is back and ready to play. Currently ranked 14th in the world, Watson is planning to make his move again in this tournament, catapulting him back into the top 10. But to do this, he will have to overcome four Americans currently ranked in the top five, as well as number one ranked golfer, Tiger Woods.

Of the five Americans currently ranked in the top 10, none are more feared right now than Tiger Woods. Looking like the pre-meltdown Woods again, Tiger is making a serious run at the Masters this year. And while many were saying the same thing last year, another year of focused play should provide Tiger with just what he needed to get himself back to form for a more serious run at a green jacket – time. Tiger is hungry for a big win in a Major  to put him back on track in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors. This win will also consolidate his recent move to the number one ranking in the world. Watch out for Tiger this weekend.

Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 champ and current number 15 ranked golfer in the world, has been on a tear the last four months. Since November, he has had top five finishes in seven consecutive tournaments spanning multiple continents. Among those finishes, he had back to back wins in Thailand and South Africa. During this four month span, he has accumulated more world ranking points than any other golfer. He has the game to remain in the top five for a long time to come, and is poised to break out on Masters Weekend.

Another interesting aspect to consider are the golf balls of choice of these golf pros. The most commonly used ball on tour is the Titleist Pro v1 and Pro v1x, which just so happens to be the ball of choice for Bubba Watson. Woods and Schwartzel, however, use the Nike One Tour D. There will also be on display a new Nike, the 20XI series, which is McIlroy’s new ball since signing on with Nike.

With so many story lines, this year’s Masters will surely be one to remember. Please, tell us which story lines you are planning to follow in the comments section.


2013 Golf Ball Preview

Golf ball companies have upped the ante every year in the elusive race to produce a better ball than the Titleist Pro V1. So far, TaylorMade has come closest with the Penta TP5. Engineers from companies as diverse as Callaway, Bridgestone, and Nike have taken a crack at beating the Pro V1. Perhaps 2013 is the year of the golf ball breakthrough. The following is a preview of what to expect next year:

Titleist – Titleist lost Rory McIlroy to Nike this offseason. But no matter – the Pro V1 remains the most popular ball on tour. There are rumors that Titleist is testing a new prototype ball. Titleist has big shoes to fill and they should never be expected to replicate the impact of the Pro V1. But if any company can do it again, it’s them.

Nike – Nike has some big challenges ahead in trying to incorporate McIlroy into its golf family. They look to make improvements to the 20XI with the addition of a new RZN core. In addition, sources are reporting that the RZN technology will be added to its ONE line. We covered how Tiger Woods plays with an older ball not available to the public. Will this new RZN core addition persuade him to play with the 20XI? Also, it will be interesting to see what ball McIlroy uses.

TaylorMade – TaylorMade has internet messageboards abuzz with a secret ball dubbed “Project 5”. Justin Rose won the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final last October with the ball. Very little is known about the ball but many speculate that “Project 5”, or whatever it ends up being named, will replace the Penta TP5 as TaylorMade’s flagship ball. Early reviews have been outstanding. Could this be the next great ball?

Bridgestone/Callaway – There isn’t enough information out there, but it would be reasonable to assume that each of these companies will make an improvement to their top of the line balls (Callaway with the HEX Black Tour and Bridgestone with the B330). We’ll post reviews once details become known.

There is a lot at stake on and off the course for golf balls in 2013. Check back to this blog for regular updates and reviews.

Golf Balls used by the Top 5 Pros

As this blog has covered time and time again, the balance between distance and feel is the big question mark hanging over golf ball technology. Golf companies tout their latest achievements by finding new ways to bridge this gap. But as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding”. So what do the golf pros think? Below is a list of golf balls used by the top 5 players in the world:

1. Rory McIlroy – Top ranked golfer Rory McIlroy is in a transitional period. While he has played the Titleist Pro V1 throughout his professional career, reports indicate that he has signed a sponsorship deal with Nike this off season (Nike, for the record, would have Tiger Woods AND Rory McIlroy in their golf wing). Nike is in an interesting position with its golf balls – its current top of the line ball is the 20XI, yet Woods plays with the One Star Tour D, an older ball that is not available for retail. The intriguing question is whether McIlroy will endorse the 20XI, or perhaps an entirely new ball all together.

2. Luke Donald – Donald uses the Titleist Pro V1 as well (it’s not the best selling golf ball without a reason). Unlike McIlroy, he remains signed to the brand going into next season.

3. Tiger Woods – As previously mentioned, Woods plays the Nike One Star Tour D. The 20XI is the One Tour D’s upgrade, yet Woods continues to play with the older generation. The ball is not sold to the public, but perhaps Woods’ continual success will give it a retail life. Look for Golf Balls Unlimited to add this ball to its offering if and when it becomes available in the market.

4. Justin Rose – Rose plays with the TaylorMade Penta TP5 ball. This ball has been gaining popularity with golfers around the globe and many swear that it is just as good if not better than the Titleist Pro V1 ball.

5. Louis Oosthuizen – Surprise, surprise, Oosthuizen plays the Titleist Pro V1. And like Donald, he remains signed to Titleist for the upcoming season.

The biggest takeaway from the top 5 is the unwavering popularity of the Pro V1. We previously covered how much of a game changer the ball was when it debuted over a decade ago and it’s continued popularity is a testament to its unmatched quality. 86 tour winners in 2010 used the Pro V1. Although Justin Rose is the only pro in the top 5 using the Penta TP5, it is also a popular choice among pros. The most intriguing prospect on the list is how McIlroy will take to Nike golf balls next season and how he will shape a new generation of Nike golf ball technology. Needless to say, the Titleist Pro V1 is the holy grail of golf balls.

The PGA Tour Championship: The Competition and the Real Competition

The 2012 PGA Tour concludes this weekend with the Tour Championship in Atlanta (check GBU’s Facebook page for photos throughout the weekend). Players will battle for two titles at the Tour Championship. First, the actual Tour Championship, which comes with a hefty $1.4 million prize. But most importantly, the Fed Ex Cup and the $10 million sum that comes with it.

The Tour Championship field is made up of the top 30 golfers as represented by a point system. The Fed Ex Cup winner represents the top golfer of the year. Rory Mcllroy currently has a 138 point advantage over second placed Tiger Woods, thanks largely in part to his recent PGA Championship win combined with victories at smaller tournaments. With the amount of points at stake, the top 5 players control their own destiny. Simply put, if Rory McIlory, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, or Brandt Snedeker win the Tour Championship, they take home the Fed Ex Cup and the $10 million in prize money (on the other end, it would take 30th ranked golfer Scott Piercy a Tour Championship win along with McIlroy finishing 29th or worse, Woods finishing in a 3 way tie for 6th or worse, Watney finishing 4th or worse, Mickelson finishing 3rd or worse, Snedeker finishing in a three way tie for 2nd or worse, and Louis Oosthuizen to finish tied for 2nd or worse to win the Fed Ex Cup – phew). McIlroy also has a chance to make history and become the first player to win three playoff events in the Cup competition. There is a lot at stake this weekend.

The Tour Championship takes place at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, which happens to be the home city of Golf Balls Unlimited. The Club is the oldest course in Atlanta and was Bobby Jones’s main club. The course underwent a significant redesign in 2008, including rebuilding every green with a new hole location. These changes were considered so significant that many view records in the context of pre-2008 and post-2008. Since 2008, no one has shot lower than 9 under on the new course. Zach Johnson holds the par 70 course record with 10 under while Bryce Molder holds the par 72 record with 8 under. The tournament this weekend will be a par 70. Hitting fairways will be particularly significant for success this weekend.

The Tour Championship marks the end of the PGA golf season and is perhaps the final summer sporting event. While many see Rory McIlroy as the clear favorite, it’s safe to say that the top 15 players have anywhere from a good to a reasonable chance of winning the Tour Championship, the Fed Ex Cup and the $10 million prize. The open ended possibilities point to an exciting finish to the 2012 season.