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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Healthy Golf Obsession's One Year Anniversary!

This past weekend, HGO celebrated its first birthday!  Time flies when you are making lots of bogeys.  I wanted to take a quick moment to thank all of you for being loyal readers, and for posting your comments or sending me feedback via email or Twitter.  It is fun talking golf, and it should be interactive, so please stay in touch!  You can follow me on Twitter at @rtbgolfer or drop me a line at [email protected]

I also wanted to run down my five favorite posts of the past year - Enjoy catching up!

5)  Why You Must Care About A Ball Fitting - Get fit for a ball that fits your swing - you will like the results!  The ball is the only equipment in your bag you use for every shot! 

4) Golf Halloween Costume Ideas - These ones never go out of style, so check it out if you want to get a jump on planning for this year's party!

3)  The Bethpage Golf Experience - The only thing I miss about living in Manhattan is that Bethpage is no longer my home golf course.  This is a pilgrimage you have to make before your golf career is over especially to play The Black. 

2)  The Top 5 Coolest Shots in Golf - It does not get any better than hitting these shots.  This one is timely again since the inspiration for the article was the carnival-like atmosphere that surrounds the 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale, where the PGA Tour stops this week.

1)  The Golf Lover's Manifesto - My heartfelt musings on why this is the best game ever played!       

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

America's 20 Toughest Courses

As golfers, at our core, we all have a little bit of a masochistic streak, right?  What else would drive us to come back time and time again to a game that causes ostensibly normal, successful, fully functioning adults to curse uncontrollably, throw and/or break their own property and engage in the type of self-berating and self-loathing reserved normally for those among us who are rightfully removed from polite society?

Even though playing a tough course can sometimes be like walking 18 in a bulap sack, when you hit a good shot, or make a par (or - heaven forbid - a birdie), you know that you can sit back and soak in that moment, because you deserve it!  Who cares about the three triples you made on the front?  You par 10, and you are even on the back!

With this backdrop in mind, Golf Digest recently released its list of America's 20 Toughest Courses, and I wanted to pass along the list to you.  And fear not, not all of the courses on this spectacular list are reserved for members only abuse; ten of the courses are open to the public!

So whether it is Bethpage, Torrey, Pebble, Spyglass or The Straits, put these courses on your bucket list so that you can get a taste of this country's stiffest tests!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bob Hope And His Impact On Golf

This week, the PGA Tour heads back to California for the Humana Challenge, which is being put on in partnership with The Clinton Foundation.  Formerly the Bob Hope Classic, President Clinton stepped up last year to help save a tournament that was in trouble. 

With Hope's iconic name coming off the tournament this year, I wanted to take this opportunity to salute Hope's great contribution to the game that he was as passionate about as he was about making so many people laugh over the years.

Hope, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, was one of the greatest ambassadors the sport has ever had, and helped to popularize golf with the masses.  "Golf is my profession.  I tell jokes to pay my greens fees," Hope used to quip.  He hosted his own PGA Tour event since the mid-1960s, and made that tournament one of the can't miss stops on the Tour calendar.

Hope wrote an entertaining book - "Confessions of a Hooker" - detailing his life in the game and the memories he created along the way.  He has played with Presidents, Kings, movie and music stars, and regular people that he surprised on the course and joined their game.  Hope loved nothing more than to badmouth his own playing abilities, but don't let his frequent self-deprecation fool you - he could get around the course.  After all, he had seven aces in his career!

So as you watch the tournament coverage this weekend, tip your cap to the man who helped make the sport the success that it is today.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Top 5 Golf Storylines for 2012

Golf is officially back! With Stricker taking down the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, the PGA Tour is now in the middle of its first full field event this week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. With the 2012 season nowon usfaster than a Tiger stinger, lets count down the top 5 storylines as we head into this golfing year.

5) Lexi! Lets start off with a nod to the LPGA Tour, which had a nice resurgence last year with an instant classic Solheim Cup and the sheer domination of Yani Tseng. The LPGA is adding some events this year and they have a brand new star whoCommissioner Mike Whan surely hopes will continue moving the positive press train. Lexi Thompson, the 16 year old phenom who already has two professional victoriesunder her belt, joins the Tour full time this year and is brimming with potential. She seems to love the game and has a carefree attitude that shines through hergame. It will be exciting to see whatshe can do this year, and if she can emerge as a real rival to Tseng.

4) More McIlroy and Westwood in the US.After the debacle about missingTHE PLAYERS (the all caps comes from the Tour, not from me,I promise I am not trying to shout at you) last year, the 2012 PGA Tour will have two new high profile members: Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood,who will be playing dual schedules (a la Luke Donald) this year on thePGA andEuropean Tours. This is great for golf fans here at home, who will get to see more of these stars inPGA events.Westwood is still on his quest for a long overdue first major title, and is aiming to retake the World #1 title. McIlroy is poised to launch into super-stardom, and can do sobyfollowing his big 2011 witha couple wins in 2012- especiallyif one of the wins comes at Augusta.He has to be the early favorite.

3)Will the Youth Surge Continue?The biggeststory of the yearin 2011 was thechanging of the guard thatseemingly took place last year, with so manyyoung first time winners, andmarquee performances like Rory at Congressional, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner at the PGA Championship, and Bill Haas taking home the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship. Webb Simpson wasone of the best players on Tour last year. Nick Watney was stellar. Guys like Dustin Johnson andRickie Fowler seem poised to have a monster year. These young guns are all giving Tiger, Phil, Furyk and Stricker all they can handle, and they have really become the newface of the PGA Tour. It was sort of like when The Ultimate Warrior beat Hulk Hogan inWrestlemania VI, signifyingthe new generation reigned supreme. But I think Rors, Fowler and DJ have more staying power. And theydont take steroids either, which probably helps.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hank Haney To Write Tiger Book

Hank Haney, Tiger Wood's former swing coach, has written a book about his time spent coaching one of the greatest golfers of all time.  Titled, "The Big Miss", the book is scheduled to be released on March 27, shortly before The Masters.

Some will say that insiders shouldn't do books like this because it violates the privacy of the people that they worked with, or that this will just be a self-serving defense of his own method with Tiger.  But as a golf fan, you have to be excited about this book coming out, and you can count me in as one of the people who will be eager to read it as it hits the shelves.

This book has real potential, but don't expect a tell-all of Tiger's dalliances.  What I think you can expect to find is some real insight - from a person who was incredibly close to the man - into how Woods thought about his game during his six years with Haney, how he prepared, how he won (29 tournaments including 6 majors during their partnership) and what motivated Tiger to be the best.  I think it will also be fascinating to hear Haney explain the mechanics of Woods's swing and what he was trying to accomplish with the changes he made to the swing that was already the best in golf.

Perhaps the thing to look forward to most is getting Haney's honest assessment of his dealings with Woods.  If the book is anything like his Twitter feed, Haney is not going to hold back or spare feelings in telling readers what really happened.  Tiger has conducted his public affairs in such a tightly spun cacoon that any insight into what made him great would be welcomed with open arms by the golfing public.

What does Haney have to say about it?  This is what he told the Golf Channel:  "If [Tiger] reads it, I dont think it will be a book that bothers him. Its hard to say.  I think anybody who reads it will think its interesting, very fair and honest, and thats what I wanted to do. I was on that job for six years. There were 110 days a year I was with him. I stayed at his house for close to 30 days a year. You make a lot of observations.

As a golfer, I really don't care how many Perkins employees Tiger slept with, but I do care about learning more about what made Tiger one of the greatest ever, and see if I can find any tips or tricks that will help me be a better player.  Haney is a great teacher (despite his failure to teach The Round Mound of Rebound how to swing like a normal human being) and any insight he can provide is worth the read.     

Tiger to Start PGA Tour Schedule at Pebble

Tiger Woods announced on his website today that he will be making his 2012 PGA Tour debut at Pebble Beach.  Tiger has not played the Pebble Pro-Am since 2002, so that has to make the organizers of one of the best non-major events on Tour even happier.  Tiger, who in the past has typically made his Tour debut at Torrey Pines, opted to skip that event this year to play in Abu Dhabi beginning January 26 for what is rumored to be a hefty appearance fee.  Rumors are already rampant about who Tiger's partner will be for the week, and The Golf Channel's Jason Sobel was tweeting that it could well be Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo.

I am excited to see Tiger at Pebble, a course he has dominated in the past.  He closed out 2011 on a high note with a win at the Chevron, and there is no bigger storyline in 2012 than whether Tiger can be Tiger again. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 PGA Tour Season Kicks Off At Kapalua

My drive at #7 when I played Kapalua - too bad I chunked my second shot!
Aloha!  Fear not all of you golf-starved, home-bound prisoners of the igloo that most of the United States becomes during the winter months - hope springs eternal.  Today, the 2012 PGA Tour season kicks off in Hawaii, which means that the start of your own golf season will not be far behind.

The PGA Tour's winners only tourney gets going at the picturesque Kapalua Plantation course later today, and what a venue we have to get started.  The course is spectacular - and quirky.  I had the pleasure of playing it in 2010 on my honeymoon (thanks, honey!) and it was awesome.  The conditions can change by the minute, and players are at the mercy of the winds.  If the winds are calm, you can attack the course and make some birdies.  But if those Kona winds (from the South) kick up, well look out.  You can quickly find your scorecard erupting like the volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian Islands many, many years ago.

Kapalua is one of the most unique courses on the PGA Tour, and the only bummer about this week is that it is not a full field event.  It is a course that rewards local knowledge, as many holes require you to strategically place your tee shot or risk a bad bounce that could leave you staring double in the face.  The greens are also lightening fast and tough to read.  And it is easy to get distracted because, well, you are in paradise.  Not a bad way to get the year started, right?

Stars in the field this week: Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney

What to Watch For:  No question, the drive on #18, the 660+ yard par 5 that is one of the most fun holes in all of golf.  With a large downhill tee shot, you can hit some tape measure shots off this tee.  Bubba Watson swings so hard here he almost falls down.  If you ever get the chance, take aim at the Clubhouse and let her fly! 
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