Apr 30, 2014 | 06:48 AM

Go Ko, Go—Oh, No

It’s been a good few days for Lydia Ko. Mostly. Since turning pro a few months ago, the teenager from New Zealand won her first tournament—the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic—this past weekend, which also was when she reached the ripe old age of 17 and was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People. The New Zealand Herald calculated that since going pro in late October, Ko has earned $5,300 a day (slightly more than $850,000 so far). However, there is a dark cloud at home, a dispute as to whether New Zealand Golf, an agency that promotes the game, should be supporting her efforts to win a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics by applying for more than $200,000 in public funding. “We support athletes and teams from targeted sports who can win on the world’s toughest sporting stages,” said an official of Sport New Zealand who also noted that the application was filed before Ko turned pro and that the funding now is being reviewed. To her credit, Ko has said she is embarrassed by the controversy. Also to her credit, it certainly hasn’t affected her game.

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Apr 29, 2014 | 06:37 AM

U.S. Really Open

With less than two months to go, Pinehurst is ready to host the U.S. Wide Open on a golf course with zero rough. “There will be only two mowing heights,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis to the press assembled for media day last week. "The fairways and the greens.” The restoration of famed course No. 2 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw has produced a layout with wider fairways that flow directly into expanses of sandy waste, wire grass, and pine straw, similar to the way it looked and played when Donald Ross designed it more than a century ago. “We think you’re going to see some of the most spectacular recovery shots in U.S. Open history,” said Coore. The back tees of the par-70 test will stretch to 7,562 yards—nearly 350 yards longer than when Michael Campbell won in 2005—including four par fours of over 500 yards led by the 528-yard 16th. And, of course, No. 2’s famed turtleback greens will be as vexing as ever. The U.S. Open course rating will be 76.0 with a slope of 147. Still, the general feeling is that because of the absence of rough, given decent weather the winning score will likely be a bit lower than usual.

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Apr 28, 2014 | 11:27 AM

Wounded Quail

Last time we saw Quail Hollow on TV a year ago, the greens were such a mess that Sergio Garcia actually used a wedge on a six-foot par putt. Right after the Wells Fargo Championship concluded, the club ripped up the greens and replaced the bent with MineVerde, while also softening the contours. And despite the cold winter, the greens are much improved, although you can expect hard bounces like the players had to deal with at Doral. Another change is the reworking of the last three holes, a/k/a “The Green Mile,” particularly the par-four 16th, which now clocks in at 505 yards. Tom Fazio moved more than 90,000 pounds of dirt to redo the hole with the green now hard by the large lake that sits in the middle of the property (he filled in about an acre of the lake to make the new, lower green). Other changes include a new tee at the course’s signature hole, the par-three 17th, to make the green more receptive and turning the 8th into a potentially drivable par four. Players welcomed the changes, especially in light of the fact that Wells Fargo is expected to sign a new five-year extension to keep the tournament at Quail through 2019, though the event will likely move to Eagle Point near Wilmington in 2017 when Quail hosts the PGA Championship.

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Apr 26, 2014 | 11:35 AM

Instant Fitting

If you can’t get to a club fitter, TaylorMade may just bring one to a course near you soon.  In two shipping containers no less. The company recently unveiled its Tuned Performance Studio, a mobile fitting, club making and retail facility, at Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. TaylorMade fitting experts gathered FlightScope data as customers hit balls and also checked loft and lie angles on their irons. Those numbers were then brought inside the pair of 20-foot long shipping containers to a technician who created customized drivers, metal woods and rescue clubs within minutes (irons are shipped a week later). And it’s all free — the 30-minute fitting that is, not the clubs. The Studio is now at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, California, for the next three weeks. You might also see it at the U.S. Open this June and the PGA Championship in August, with other potential stops at golf resorts and public courses. 






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