Dec 25, 2014 | 06:58 am

Bubba Claus

Along with his very obvious golf skills, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson has other “talents,” as well, including one for making videos and what some would calling singing. Adopting a new persona—that of Bubba Claus, a happy holiday elf who traded a sleigh for a hovercraft—Watson has made a new video for Christmas in which he raps about some of his favorite things. There’s sand instead of snow and we’re not quite sure what Gumby is doing there, but we’ll take a little “ho, ho, ho” however we can get it. Happy holidays, everyone.

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Dec 24, 2014 | 12:04 pm

Christmas Green

If you’re a golf course owner in Southern California this Christmas is much more merry than last. First, there are the recent rains, which the parched fairways have desperately needed. Second, many courses are taking advantage of the Metropolitan Water District’s turf removal incentive program, particularly after the MWD doubled its payment to $2 per square foot to replace grass with drought-tolerant landscaping. That works out to about $87,000 per acre and so far the MWD has committed almost $50 million to the program with nearly another $50 million in requests. There are about 20 courses are in the rebate program, including Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena (22 acres), Oakmont Country Club in Glendale (23 acres), Glendora Country Club in Glendora (25 acres), and North Ranch Country Club in Thousand Oaks (35 acres). The 27-hole North Ranch, for instance, stands to recoup more than $3 million from the MWD, as well as save $500,000 annually in water costs, which have gone from $400,000 in 2005 to $1.5 million today and rising. To save some green, courses have to give up some green these days.

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Dec 23, 2014 | 09:08 am

Changing of the Guard

Rory McIlroy may have had the most dominant year, but a look at the World Golf Rankings for Week 52 shows a few other players with plenty to smile about. Among the Top 10 as we close out 2014, 10th place Rickie Fowler made the biggest leap, from 40th a year ago. Just ahead of him in ninth, Jordan Spieth, on the heels of a strong December, jumped from 22nd place at the close of his rookie season and seems destined to climb even higher next year. The other big gainer was mercurial Bubba Watson who rode his second Masters victory into fourth-place, up 24 spots from last year. Five players--McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, and Justin Rose—retained their top-10 positions, while Phil Mickelson dropped from fifth to 14th, Matt Kuchar went from seventh to 11th place,  and Zach Johnson tumbled from ninth to 18th. The biggest losers?  Steve Stricker, who opted for a reduced schedule and fell from eighth to 41st, and yes, the injury-plagued Tiger Woods, number-one in the world last year (and 11 of the 15 years before that) who finished 2014 ranked 32nd in the world, his worst position since turning pro. Perhaps most telling, the average age of the five players who dropped out of the top 10 is 41 while the average age of their replacements (even with 44-year Jim Furyk among them) is 31.

          2014                            2013
  1 Rory McIlroy          1 Tiger Woods
  2 Henrik Stenson     2 Adam Scott
  3 Adam Scott            3 Henrik Stenson
  4 Bubba Watson      4 Justin Rose
  5 Sergio Garcia        5 Phil Mickelson
  6 Justin Rose           6 Rory McIlroy
  7 Jim Furyk              7 Matt Kuchar
  8 Jason Day             8 Steve Stricker
  9 Jordan Spieth       9 Zach Johnson
10 Rickie Fowler        10 Sergio Garcia
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Dec 22, 2014 | 10:55 am

Need for Speed

While golf might be enjoying its seasonal slowdown, some of the game’s leading lights want to speed things up. World number-one Rory McIlroy was quoted on BBC Radio in Britain recently saying that golf has to get faster if it wants to attract younger participants. “Everything’s so instant now and everyone doesn’t have as much time as they used to. So you maybe try some way of speeding the game up.” McIlroy is singing the same song as the golf organizations, like the USGA, which has been looking for ways to get everyday players to play faster, even conducting scientific tests looking for a culprit and launching its “While We’re Young” campaign last year. “People enjoy watching the game,” McIlroy said, “but gone are the days that you could spend five or six hours on a golf course.” Other pros also have joined the chorus. Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher supported McIlroy, but added that the main offenders are their fellow Tour pros. “I think on the pro tour we have to make it ruthless and say it’s a shot penalty.” Darren Clarke followed suit, saying, “An awful lot of people are getting turned off by the length of time it takes to play and you could, I suppose, blame it on us, the professionals.” If recent golf coverage on TV is any indication, the pros definitely take way too much time. Do you agree they’re the main reason the game has gotten so slow? Let us know.

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