Mahan a part of the 'American young talent' conversation?

By John HawkinsFebruary 27, 2012, 3:01 am

So the guy wrongly accused of killing the U.S. rally at the 2010 Ryder Cup is the new WGC-Accenture Match Play champion, beating a Northern Irishman in the finals, no less, making it a week when justice did more than just prevail. It high-stepped its way to the goal line and broke into an end-zone dance.

Hunter Mahan beat three of the top 14 players in the World Ranking en route to his second WGC title, all three of whom he vanquished after the field was reduced to 16. The last of those victories came against Rory McIlroy, who didn't face anyone in the top 30 until drawing Lee Westwood in the semis. Mahan won 31 holes and lost just 12 after surviving Zach Johnson in his opening match. Most impressively, he never trailed an opponent after winning the fourth hole of his second-round bout against Y.E. Yang.

By any measure, it was an exceptional performance by a guy who has drifted in and out of those 'America's best young golfer' conversations that have proven so popular in recent years. Mahan turns 30 in May, and if the common perception is that a shoddy short game has prevented him from becoming one of the game's best players, the statistics do little to support or debunk such a claim.

In 2011, for instance, Mahan had by far his best all-around season, ranking in the top 25 in putting, birdies, greens in regulation and scoring average. He was a respectable 66th in sand saves and 58th in salvaging par from inside 30 yards. He also didn't win a tournament, and for all the FedEx Cup points and millions of dollars he accumulated, success is measured in Ws, not dollars or overnight-shipping digits.

'Ballstriking is a strength of mine, but I have to chip and putt if I want to win,' Mahan said after deposing of McIlroy. It is especially crucial at the majors, where Mahan has underachieved to the point that he is still searching for his first top-five finish. His performance this past weekend will lure some into thinking he’s ready to become a superstar – I strongly suggest we downplay such chatter, if not ignore it entirely.

Mahan is a very good player, strikingly similar to Westwood, if you’ll pardon the pun, in that he excels from tee to green. The ability to economize strokes when you’re not hitting it precisely, however, is a difficult skill to acquire and even harder to rely on consistently. A vast majority of the world’s best being a superb short game with them to the pros – chipping a golf ball is largely a right-brain exercise mastered by those who find the touch at an early age.

Putting, meanwhile, is a maddening mix of confidence and science. Perhaps it’s worth noting that all four Match Play semifinalists use a standard-length putter to get their ball in the hole, which isn’t likely to quell the protests of those who believe long putters should be illegal. The topic led to some provocative discussion during the Golf Channel’s “State of the Game” forum and remains one of the more persistent issues in my live chats for

Maybe it was the 45-foot broomstick bomb made by Bill Haas to win the playoff at Riviera, the strength of the dissenting cry or a mere surge of common sense, but I have gone from somewhat neutral on the matter to strongly in favor of a long-putter ban. We’re not talking about a “competitive advantage” here, per se, but the inarguable notion that anchoring the club ifies the most obvious (and important) physical task required in putting: prudent lateral movement of the arms and hands.

No question, the growing number of prominent young players who use long putters is both alarming and relevant to the issue itself. You simply cannot push or pull a putt if the instrument is braced against your body, and thus, the “diminished skill” factor is something the Royal & Ancient and USGA must address immediately. 

I honestly don’t care if the 16 handicap at my club shows up with a long putter. What bothers me is that pro golf’s competitive landscape absolutely has been affected – that the game’s most significant pressure-related activity is made easier by something that resembles a crutch in both length and purpose. Long putters may not be saving careers, but you can’t look me in the eye and tell me they aren’t compromising the game’s integrity.

On the seventh hole of his quarterfinal match against Matt Kuchar, Mahan hit a spectacular approach from just over 200 yards, stopping the ball about 6 feet from the flag. Kuchar, whose second shot had barely reached the front of the green, pulled out his bellystick and rolled his 50-footer just inside Mahan’s mark, leaving him 5 feet for par on almost the exact same line as his opponent.

When Mahan burned the right edge, life didn’t seem fair – he’d played the hole much better than his foe but was sure to walk away with a halve. Alas, Kuchar also missed wide-right, anchor and all, at which point a tiny little dose of justice had been served. Golf can be like that sometimes.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)