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.

Recap – The 4 Men’s Golf Majors 2013

Golf Majors

With the golf season drawing to a close, now is the best time to recap the four majors this year. 2013 has been a memorable year for the sport as each of the four majors delivered exciting finishes with dark horses triumphing in at least two of the events. This is the fifth year in a row that the four men’s major golf championships have each produced a different winner.

Masters Tournament

The buildup to the 2013 Masters had been quite unlike any other tournament in the past. The anticipation and expectation was high. Once the event kicked off at Augusta National, it was clear that things weren’t going as planned. Quite surprising was the performance (or lack of) of the three bigwigs, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson had been the odds-on favorite but failed to deliver. McIlroy is going through a dip in form as is Woods .

The tournament featured one of the closest finishes in golf history, instantly making the event a classic. It came down to Aussie Adam Scott and Angel ‘El Pato’ Cabrera. On the 18th hole, Scott hit a birdie placing him in the lead. He thought he had sealed the victory and even started celebrating. However, El Pato hit one of the best No. 18 shots in the tournament’s history, with the ball landing within five feet of the pin. It forced the playoff which Scott won easily. Safe to say, he deserved to win.

This year’s Masters’ also featured 14-year old amateur Chinese golfer Tianlang Guan. He defied the odds by reaching the weekend; however his slow play penalty became one of the biggest talking points of the tournament. Guan easily became the youngest ever golfer to line up a PGA Major.

U.S. Open

Will Big Phil win this time? Having finished runner-up five times before, Phil Mickelson dominated the headlines in the lead up to the 2013 US Open. He led the first and third round before messing up the 16th shot in the final round. True to his reputation, he finished runner-up again, becoming a tournament record.

It was Englishman Justin Rose who managed to make the most of Big Phil’s miss in the last round to take the title, making it his first Major win. Rose’s performance was made even more impressive by the fact that he didn’t card any double-bogeys throughout the duration of the tournament.

British Open Championship

After losing the US Open by a shot, Phil was again the focus of attention as he had never prevailed at the British Open before. Ernie Els entered the tournament as the favorite. However, Mickelson managed to overcome the odds and the pressure to win his first British Open, making it his fifth career major. The highly unpredictable Phil Mickelson always has fans and pundits scratching their heads by finishing runner-up at the tournament he is expected to win and winning the one that he isn’t!

It wasn’t an easy win by any means. Mickelson played an inspired round in the last six holes, managing four birdies. This has to be one of the best golf moments of the year if not in history. He had been five shots off the lead, but his spectacular rally over the last six holes meant that he overtook Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Adam Scott and displaced Henrik Stenson on top of the leader board. The fact that Phil managed to win his first British Open at Muirfield makes it all the more special. Muirfield is described as a golf course for men, not boys.

PGA Championship

The PGA Championship 2013 also produced a first-time winner in American Jason Dufner. It was also his first major title. Fellow countryman Jim Furyk finished runner-up, having been in the lead going into the final round. Second runner-up Henrik Stenson had begun the final round just two shots removed from Furyk, but his performance was not up to the mark. It soon became a contest between the two Americans, with the lead switching after every other shot.

It was at the 17th and 18th holes, the final two holes of the round, that Dufner sealed the win. He managed 11 under par and 10 under par on the holes through the tournament while Furyk scored 9 under par and 8 under par. Compared to the other three majors, the PGA Championship had the least exciting finale. Stenson was never in the contest, and once Dufner took the lead on the 8th hole, the game was virtually over.

This year has been a great one for the PGA Tour. It can be said that golf’s popularity will have increased given the way the four majors panned out. Fans will already be looking forward to the next season’s majors!

Road to the FedEx Cup Tour Championship 2013

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The FedEx Cup is a relatively new addition to the PGA Tour having been introduced in 2007. However, it has become one of the most important competitions and is currently the season closer. The Cup is actually a series of four tournaments contested by the top golfers in the current season. Therefore, the performance in the 33-week long PGA Tour is also taken into account when it comes to determining the golfers who will play in the FedEx Cup.

The FedEx Cup is based mainly on the points the golfers accumulate over the season. Their wins in the Majors and other tournaments contribute not only towards their Official Golf World Ranking, but also their seeding for the FedEx Cup. There are four levels to the points system, namely:

  1. Official PGA Tour Events – The winner earns 500 points
  2. Major Championships – The winner earns 600 points
  3. World Golf Championships – The winner earns 550 points
  4. Additional Tournaments  – The winner earns 300 points

Once the season concludes in mid-August, the official PGA Tour points’ standings are used to determine the standings for the FedEx Cup playoffs. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, Tiger Woods led the standings, having accumulated 3,059 points from the 12 events he took part in. Matt Kuchar was a distant second with 2,293 points despite playing 19 events.

The FedEx Cup carries with it a bonus purse of $35 million. The prize money for the tournaments this year is $32 million, which means that the total purse is $67 million. The winner pockets $10 million while the player ranked 125 receives $70,000.

There are four stages of the FedEx Cup, with week-long tournaments taking place. The format is progressive, with a certain number of players eliminated at each stage. Before the final tournament, the 30 players remaining in the contest are seeded.

The four stages of the FedEx Cup are:

  • The Barclays (New York) – Top 125 Players
  • Deutsche Bank Championship (Boston) – 100 players
  • BMW Championship (Chicago) – 70 players
  • Tour Championship by Coca Cola – 30 players

The Barclays was won by Adam Scott as two of the players who qualified for the tournament withdrew. Of the 123 that took part, 74 progressed to the next round. The Deutsche Bank Championship was won by Henrik Stenson. All 100 players who qualified for the tournament took part. The BMW Championship that is currently in progress will determine the final points and the seeds. Then, the tournament will enter its final stage, i.e. the Tour Championship that starts on Thursday September 19th at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

At this stage, it is difficult to predict who will triumph once the FedEx Cup ends. The picture will become clearer after the BMW Championship concludes by the end of this week. Of the 30 players who make it to the last round, the top five have the best chance of securing the title. Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson are in a strong position having won a tournament each. Stenson, in particular, is in the driver’s seat, as he is currently at the top of the standings.

Regardless of who wins, the two tournaments to be played over the coming weeks are bound to be interesting and exciting.

British Open 2013 Preview

British Open | Muirfield Golf Club

Who will win the Claret Jug this weekend?

Gullane, Scotland will play host to the third men’s Golf Major of 2013, the British Open. The Muirfield Golf Club will be the venue for the event taking place between 18th and 21st July. Muirfield is the place where some of the most famous golfers have won the Open. It is the first time since 2002 that the event is being held here. Interestingly, the winner in 2002, Ernie Els, is competing at this year’s event as well. In fact, Els also won last year’s Open, which was held in Lancashire, England, and this means that he is the defending champion on both counts.

As far as the location is concerned, Muirfield is considered to be among the sternest tests of a golfer’s technique. There are two nine-hole circuits rotating opposite to each other. This means that a golfer has to deal with a different wind direction on virtually every shot. The fairways are relatively wide and this requires the players to control trajectory perfectly. If they don’t possess this skill, they will find it incredibly hard to execute the shot they want.

Weather is often a major factor at the Open but this year the tournament is set to be blessed with good weather for the entire week. Wind is always a concern at the British Open and proper shot selection is going to be a key factor. Due to the nature of the course, it becomes difficult to predict who will triumph at this year’s championship. Given the trend over the past five years, the winners have been from outside the top 10 ranked golfers in the world. So, it can be said that the British Open is the perfect chance for a dark horse or underdog to shine through and win the event. Past winners of the British Open at Muirfield include a spate of Hall of Famers, including Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Gary Player, and of course, Ernie Els. The winner will most certainly join an elite club.

As for the favorites, Els is the front runner, coming in as the defending champion as well as having won on the same venue before. It also remains to be seen whether Phil Mickelson is able to recover from his heartbreak at the US Open earlier this year. Big Phil finished runner-up for the sixth time, which is a record in this sport. While Phil was on song at the US Open, Tiger Woods was not. It has been five years since the man considered to be the best male golfer in history won a Major. His preparation is not ideal, but then again, who knows what surprises are in store?

The British Open 2013 appears to be an exciting and open contest. With the added backdrop of the Muirfield Golf Club, golf fans from around the world are in for a treat. The staff at GolfBallsUnlimited.com hopes that you will enjoy the tournament and we welcome you to share your own thoughts about the tournament and who you think might win this weekend.

You can follow the live leader board at British Open Leader Board.

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.

 

Tips to Improve an Experienced Golfer’s Game

It seems with golf there is tons of advice for novice golfers, but as you become more seasoned, there is an assumption that you don’t need advice anymore. As if once you’ve played for a few years you can no longer improve your game. Of course, if you were to ask the pros, like Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan, the two Americans who played in the championship match at the recently concluded Accenture Match Play Championship, I doubt they would agree. Obviously, you can continue to improve your game, and here are the things experienced golfers need to keep in mind.

One of the easiest ways you can improve your game is through a golf professional. No matter how long you have been playing, there are things a professional can teach you. Even Tiger Woods has a coach, someone who can objectively look at his swing, work with him on his mechanics, and help him to read situations better. The benefits of a few hours with a professional can be immense to your game, no matter how long you’ve been golfing.

Similarly, you can learn a lot by teaching the game to others. In order to teach, you need to really examine the game, including the mechanics. You need to look at what you are doing, what clubs you choose, and some of the things you are doing in your swing and your game which may not be right, because you will be showing your game to someone else. If you have friends or relatives who want to learn the game, teach them. You’ll be amazed how much your game improves from it.

Next, you need to look at your equipment. Clubs are the obvious place to start, everyone who has been playing golf for a while understands the value of quality clubs, but it is surprising how much the rest of your equipment can affect your game. Shoes, for instance, can help you with a slicing issue, help you with your distance, and help you with consistency. Golf Balls, likewise, can have a similar effect. There is a reason every pro doesn’t use the same ball, and you don’t want to fall into the trap of losing distance and accuracy with a ball that is not right for you. With shoes, you unfortunately have to take the plunge and buy a new pair to see if a new pair will help. Luckily golf balls are easier to test. You can try a few used golf balls of each type and see what works for you.

The last tip we’ll leave you with is to remember to keep practicing. Just because you’ve been playing for 10 years doesn’t mean you can skip the range. You are going to plateau as you play the game, it’s natural, but if you push through you will keep learning and growing as a player. You will hit the ball straighter, strike the ball with more consistency, and learn your own game better with time. It may seem like the hours on the greens practicing your putting are showing no results, but each time you swing the club you are improving yourself.

There are plenty of other things which golfers can do to continue to improve as they play. If you have any other tips for experienced golfers, please leave a comment.

What Makes a Good Caddy?

Tiger Woods and Steve Williams at the peak of their very successful relationship.

Tiger Woods and Steve Williams at the peak of their very successful relationship.

Most of us weekend warriors may rarely have someone caddy for us, but a golf caddy is one of the most important and oft-neglected parts of the game. We all remember the wonderful working relationship between Tiger Woods and his long time caddy Steve Williams followed unceremoniously by their bitter fall out. Just goes to prove that a caddy can truly make or break ones game. Let’s take a look at what makes a good caddy.

Some of you have had that caddy who did a great job of carrying your bag, handing your clubs, cleaning golf balls and putting those clubs away but after that round was over, you undoubtedly were left feeling like something was missing; like you were in some way shortchanged by the caddy. But, what did that caddy lack? What exactly are the expected attributes of a good caddy?

Perhaps most importantly, a good caddy should be able to help you choose the correct club based upon your lie. After a few holes, a caddy should have a general idea of your game and be able to help you determine what club makes sense for you. A good caddy should be able to do this because of his unique knowledge of the course. Golf caddies work the same course day in and day out; they have seen the course so many times that they understand the small eccentricities of the course.

They should also have an ability, because of their extensive knowledge of the course, to accurately gauge the distance to the hole. If you are unfamiliar with a particular course, it can be tricky to accurately determine the distance to the green or the hole, but a caddy should be able to properly advise you. Similarly, their experience can make reading greens a much easier task. A caddy who has worked a course before, and understands the oddities of his greens, can guide you through a tough putt.

Finally, a good caddy is someone who can talk you through tough shots, encouraging and advising you as needed, while knowing when to leave you to make your own decisions. If you have a caddy who is too pushy, it can make for an even worse round than an absentee caddy.

Obviously, a qualified caddy can be the difference in a pleasurable afternoon and an afternoon that won’t seem to end. If you have any other thoughts on what makes a good caddy or have had a memorable golf experience with a good caddy, please share them.

 

 

 

 

 

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.