Masters Coverage

I was lucky enough to attend the 2016 Masters and provide coverage all week for Sportsnet.ca. Not only that, but my name was drawn to *play* Augusta National on Monday as part of the media lottery.

Here are my stories from the week.

Monday: On Mike Weir

Tuesday: On First Times

Wednesday: On The Favourites

Thursday: On Rory McIlroy

Friday: On Bryson DeChambeau

Saturday: On Jason Day, and the chasers

Sunday: On The Meltdown + The Masters Champion 

Monday (again): On playing Augusta National  

Canadian Golf Radio – Episode 7 (Returning in 2016!)

After numerous (and nearly one year’s worth of) technical difficulties, Canadian Golf Radio – my podcast on the happenings in Canadian golf – has returned!

Happy to have Brian Decker from the PGA Tour (usually the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada) on the show this time around. He’s just returned from two straight weeks on the PGA Tour — working the events in Phoenix and in California — and has some great stories!

Take a listen below.

Some 2016 Predictions

It’s that time of year again.

As I’ve done the past few golf seasons, with varying degrees of success, I’ve looked into my foggy crystal ball and made a few haphazard guesses on the year ahead in professional golf. Below, you’ll find my predictions for 2016, along with how I fared in 2015 (Spoiler: not well).

SCOREGolf’s Jason Logan penned a fine piece this week on why 2015 was a great year for Canadian golf – most of which I won’t replicate here – but it’s hard to argue with his statements. Led by 18-year-old Brooke Henderson (a finalist for the Lou Marsh award for Canada’s athlete-of-the-year) and a strong contender for the Canadian Press’ Female Athlete-of-the-Year, and buoyed by David Hearn’s tremendous week at the RBC Canadian Open plus the status of Canadians at Web.com Tour Q-School (not to mention the health of Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada), if you were a golf fan in Canada, you were treated to some great storylines this year.

Professionally, I continued to write for a variety of national and regional outlets (my five favourite stories of 2015 are posted below) and I’ll look to continue that in 2016. So stay tuned to my Twitter feed – @adam_stanley – for all the latest from me. Personally 2015 was a big year as well as Stephanie and I got married on September 12th at King Valley Golf & Country Club (part of the ClubLink family). We had a wonderful ceremony, despite some mixed weather, and can’t thank the staff enough for their efforts. My five favourite Instagram shots of the year are also posted below.

Thanks for all your tweets, shares, comments, and feedback on my work through 2015. I’m really looking forward to what 2016 has in store.

Happy New Year!

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FIVE FAVOURITE INSTAGRAM SHOTS FROM 2015 (plus one bonus)

Yup #AdamStephFOREever

A photo posted by Adam (@adam_stanley1) on

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FIVE FAVOURITE STORIES FROM 2015

My conversation with new European Tour CEO (and Canadian), Keith Pelley (for: Golf Canada)

My feature on Graham DeLaet prior to the RBC Canadian Open (for: PGATOUR.com)

My exclusive with Mike Weir as he begins his comeback in golf (for: Canadian Press)

My comparative story on Brooke Henderson and Connor McDavid (for: Sportsnet)

My in-depth feature on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, and chasing dreams (for: VICE Canada)

Also, this piece for the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business was well received by its readers, and I’m honoured to contribute to RoB occasionally, as a slight departure from my golf reporting.

Finally, I made my television debut on the CTV News Channel in April chatting about The Masters (and I returned to speak on a variety of topics as the year went on).

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Who will be no.1 in the world at this time next year? 

2015: Rory McIlroy (except I don’t think he’ll hold it for the full calendar year)

2016: Although I was half-right on my guess for 2015, Rory played an ill-advised game of footy in July which resulted in a poorly timed injury (he did visit Toronto, though!). My guess for 2016: Rory McIlroy (I’m sensing a pattern)

How many times will Tiger win?

2015: Twice

2016: Tiger barely played two tournaments, let alone sniff the winner’s circle. My guess for 2016: Zero. (P.S. Read this, from my friend Lorne Rubenstein… if, somehow, you haven’t already)

Will any of the ‘Best to Never Win a Major’ win a major?

2015: Yes

2016: I nailed this one, as Jason Day captured the PGA Championship in August to salvage my prediction. My guess for 2016: No, all the winners of the majors in 2016 will have won majors before… except Rickie Fowler will get agonizingly close again.

The winners of the Majors will be?

2015: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson

2016: Oops? In any case, here are my Major predictions for the year ahead — Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day

Ryder Cup?

2015: Presidents Cup prediction: U.S.

2016: Nailed this one, although kind of an easier one (and it looked like the U.S. was stumbling home on Sunday…) but I’m going to go with the U.S. at the Ryder Cup this year, finally leaning on its youthful squad for a big ‘W’ at home.

PGA TOUR Player of the Year?

2015: Rory McIlroy

2016: Jason Day

Some Miscellaneous Predictions: 

  • Stephen Ames will win on the Champions Tour
    • He did not, but, he captured seven top-10’s (and I’ll carry this prediction over to 2016)
  • Brad Fritsch will not win on the Web.com Tour, but he’ll finish within the top-25 and get his PGA Tour Card for 2015-16
    • Neither of these things turned out true, but Fritsch will have full status again on the Web.com Tour to give it another go.
  • Adam Hadwin will challenge at more than one PGA Tour event
    • Hadwin had a very up-and-down debut season on the PGA Tour, but he did enough to earn his card for 2016 (he earned just under $1 million (USD) and notched three top-10 finishes)
  • At least one Canadian will make the Presidents Cup team
    • Missed this one
  • If Mike Weir doesn’t qualify for the British Open, he will play for Canada at the Pan-Am Games in July
    • Wrong here
  • PGA TOUR Canada will add at least one tournament to its schedule this year
    • Incorrect for 2015, but for 2016…
  • I’m going to recycle my 2014 prediction again, and say a Canadian will be PGATC’s PoY
    • Wrong here, too
  • A course that’s never hosted the Canadian Open will be announced to do so for 2016
    • Incorrect (it’s going back to Glen Abbey) but maybe for 2017…
  • There will only be one female Canadian golfer with full LPGA status at the end of 2015
    • Henderson is locked in, but congratulations to Alena Sharp who had her best season ever on the LPGA Tour, and to Maude-Aimee Leblanc, who finished tied for fourth at the LPGA Tour’s Q-school

This year’s random thoughts — 

  • More than one Canadian will win on the Web.com Tour
  • Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada will see a Canadian emerge as its Player of the Year
  • David Hearn will win on the PGA Tour
  • Cabot Links will announce a third course
  • A PGA of Canada professional will make the cut at the RBC Canadian Open
  • RBC will announce another major player signing

 

 

The Powerful Pendrith falls short in Ottawa

Taylor Pendrith hits it further than any Canadian professional golfer. Period. But on Sunday at the National Capital Open to Support our Troops he couldn’t convert a 10-foot birdie attempt – or the short comebacker for par – that would have won him the tournament.

The miss dashed his chances for victory in a playoff for the second time this season, as American Sam Ryder made a four-foot par for his first Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada victory.

But Pendrith didn’t come away from the Ottawa-based Hylands Golf Club empty-handed. Sure, he earned $18,500 CAD for his efforts, but he also earned a legion of new fans.

I walked the full final round with Pendrith and Ryder, and the crowd was certainly pro-Pendrith.

Was there a rooting interest because he was Canadian? Probably.

But some of the thrill of watching someone like Pendrith is because of the way he hits the golf ball (see: Daly, John).

He took a few lines off tees at Hylands Golf Club that a few members were speaking about as “impossible.” The phrase, “I’ve never seen that before” was uttered repeatedly.

And, every time Pendrith would pull out driver – which was frequently on Sunday as he tried to keep up with the very steady play of his American counterpart – the crowd was on their tip toes and strained their necks to watch the magic unfold.

“I’m not short by any means, but he plays a different game for sure,” said Ryder after he emerged victorious from the playoff. “You can’t let that stuff bother you, because he just kills it.”

Even while fellow-American Clayton Rask mounted a charge of his own and briefly tied for the lead briefly Sunday afternoon – he was in the group ahead of Ryder and Pendrith – the crowd never thinned.

Watching Taylor Pendrith hit a golf ball became a spectacle, and the crowd wanted to be a part of it.

Pendrith is used to it.

He became front-page news at the 2014 RBC Canadian Open after shooting an opening-round 65 to tie for third. He garnered national media attention, appeared on the Golf Channel, and was featured in Golf Digest.

The long-hitting Pendrith has always used his power to his advantage – power he developed while playing baseball and hockey growing up (“I had a pretty hard slap-shot” was one of the most obvious comments he’s told me in the past) but what was unique to see is how far along his short game has developed.

On the par-4 4th Sunday, Pendrith was not confident in an approach to the green, as he left himself in jail near a tree. He hit it fat, and it landed in a bunker with an extremely difficult lie. He flopped it high and it landed soft, close enough for a tap-in par.

A member of the gallery, said, “Nothing to it” as Pendrith sheepishly smiled.

For Pendrith, a member of Golf Canada’s Young Pro Program and a graduate of Kent State University, as the rest of his game tightens up and aligns with his incredible distance, the golf world as a whole should be put on notice.

“I took a lot of positives from this week,” he said. “I shot 20-under with 25 birdies and two eagles (Note: the 25 birdies was the most on the Mackenzie Tour in a single week), so that gives me a lot of confidence.

“I had a lot of chances out there, I just couldn’t get it done.”

Although Pendrith was left with no more than a wedge on a number of the holes on both the front and back nine, his approaches averaged 20-30 feet, giving him some difficult looks as the day went on.

Down by one as the sun began to set, Pendrith was able to convert a 25-foot birdie on the par-4 17th which he could later describe as “pretty clutch.”

The crowd cheered, Pendrith dropped a small fist pump and the “match” with Ryder (as it essentially had turned into) went to the short 18th all-square.

Pendrith would emerge on the losing end on this day. But the spectators at Hylands still enjoyed the show.

Pendrith will not be in the Mackenzie Tour field this week in Kingston, he instead goes to Portland to play on the Web.com Tour and try to make the playoffs there. He’ll need a top-five finish, otherwise, he’ll play in the remaining Mackenzie Tour tournaments. 

Thanks to CTV Ottawa for having me on Sunday night to chat about the Mackenzie Tour. Click here for my clip.

How TaylorMade helped me change my game

In terms of golf equipment, there is always going to be major players and minor entrants in the multi-billion-dollar-a-year business.

TaylorMade is a major player.

As for me? I’m not. But earlier this year, I went through a fitting experience with TaylorMade that, so far, has helped.

I’m not an equipment geek by any means. I couldn’t tell you what most of the technical terms represent that are unloaded to golfers through advertisements, in stores, and online. But, when the opportunity for my 12-handicap and I to get fitted by the folks at TaylorMade, I was eager to give it a go.

In March, I was strapped to TaylorMade’s MAT-T system and fitted for a full set of clubs, from driver to putter. The process took about three hours, and is available at both TaylorMade’s head office in Vaughn, Ont. and at its at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont.

I had gone through the process once before (you can read about my first experience here) so I knew what to expect. But my game has slightly evolved from 2012 until now, so I was expecting a few different results.

The MAT-T system is a joint effort between TaylorMade and Motion Reality Incorporated, which combines TaylorMade’s golf knowledge with Motion Reality Incorporated’s motion capture, modeling, and analysis technology to provide a 3D projection of a golfer.

It uses nine video cameras to track the position of multiple markers attached to a golf club and a golfer – kind of like if one was getting recorded for a video game or animated movie – that create a computer animation of a swing to be reviewed later.

During the fitting itself, you’ll hit a 6-iron, wedge, driver, and then a putter, all with the motion-capture markers on. The data from these swings – about half the total fitting time of three hours is dedicated to working indoors – will then produce the best suggested combinations of heads, shafts and grips.

More important than the equipment itself, was the process.

Manufacturers these days are all producing excellent equipment. There’s a healthy mix of professionals who whose gear from both major and minor brands, and if the best players in the world are using all kinds of equipment, then Joe Golfer can as well.

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Many equipment manufacturers have their own way of custom fitting (places like Golf Town, Modern Golf, and The Golf Lab also provide agnostic fitting experiences), but TaylorMade uses this 3D model in order to see what the body, as well as the ball, does. (The picture below is a 3D version of me).

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“The goal is to take standard golf products and specify it to an individual,” explains TaylorMade fitter extraordinaire (and nice player) Stewart Bannatyne. “What the ball does is key, but we work in 3D to see what the body is doing as well.”

Bannatyne is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve spent time with in the golf business, and it’s always a treat to have him explain how, or why, something works (or doesn’t) in a golf club. He even breaks things down into basic terms for someone like me to understand, which I appreciate. I find the strongest aspect of a custom-fitter is the ability to ask questions, and Bannatyne is great at this.

The most interesting thing for me was how different shafts affected the way I was swinging. I grew up playing with a very light shaft, and when my previous set of irons bit the dust (after nearly six years) I moved into a heavier shaft.

This time around, I thought I wanted something in the middle, and Bannatyne fit me into a good one after a combination of anecdotes from me and crunching some data. This was the ideal way for me to get fit. Some people are purely numbers people – and I can’t blame them, the numbers don’t lie – but some are just feel people. I’d like to think I fall in between… I’m a feel golfer because I don’t understand the numbers (Ha.) but I respect them.

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After a long session, I was thrilled with the clubs that were selected for me (full list is below).

TaylorMade has taken some flack over the last couple of years because of how much product it’s put out to the marketplace. There was a lot, yes. But there was a method to the madness, it seemed. And now, TaylorMade has streamlined its operations.

“Once the product is better, we want to get it to marketplace,” explains Bannatyne. “SLDR (TaylorMade’s former no.1 model. Which is still very popular) was impactful to the marketplace. If something is can’t-miss, then, well, we do it.”

I hadn’t swung a club since mid-January when I finally had a chance to play three rounds in three days in early May (it’s a tough job, I know) with my new clubs. I was eager to put them all in play, and over the three days, I felt like I had a different level of confidence.

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I finally felt confident enough to know that I should just swing the club. The clubs did the work they were supposed to. I couldn’t blame them – they’re brand new and custom fit, after all – so having those thoughts in my head just let me swing as freely as possible.

Boys with toys. Is it spring yet? #golf #golflife #golfgear @taylormade_ca

A photo posted by Adam (@adam_stanley1) on

My swing isn’t perfect by any means, but when I was holding clubs I knew would perform well for me, clubs that were built for me, I knew that as long as I just hit the ball, I would be alright. I felt they helped my game, swing after swing.

Just because they were TaylorMade doesn’t mean I may not have had the same sensation with other manufactures. They’re all putting out fine equipment right now. The technological advancements, combined with modern aesthetics give golfers of all levels a plethora of choices in terms of gear. It’s a wonderful time to be a consumer.

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As for me, Bannatyne says the new TaylorMade lineup is the “most consistent and the most-easily fine-tuned. We’ve never had anything better.”

And, well, neither have I.

THE LIST (Nerdy Stuff)

Driver: R15 TP; 10.5*; Graphite Design D1-7; Stiff; STD; Stability/Med.Fade

3-wood: R15 TP; 16.5*; Oban Revenge 8; Stiff; +0.5*; STD

Hybrid: R15 TP; 3-hybrid; RIP Phenom 80HB; Stiff; -0.5″

Irons: RSi 2; 4-PW; KBS C-Taper; Stiff; +0.5″; 1* flat

Wedges: Tour Preferred ATV; 54* & 58*; KBS Tour; Stiff; +0.5″; 1* flat

Putter: Spider DLL; 34″; 2* flat; STD loft

Grips: B&W New Decade; 1 wrap + 2 wraps under bottom hand

SPECIAL

The guys from Modern Golf do work that is half-art, half-science. And, usually, the results are beautiful. Thanks to Ryan at the Modern Golf shop for his special touch on the stamping.

Super Sunday? Canadian Updates

If you’re a Canadian golf fan, this has the making of an exciting Sunday.

Here’s everything you need to know as you enjoy your Sunday-morning coffee.

Brooke’s Big Day

Despite stumbling in with back-to-back bogeys, Smiths Falls, Ont.’s Brooke Henderson is in a position that not many 17-year-olds have ever been in. She has a one-shot lead at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, and will go in the final group with childhood idol Morgan Pressel and South Korea’s Min Seo Kwak.

After a tournament-record 7-under-par 65 Friday, Henderson shot even par Saturday, while Pressel shot the round of the day, a 5-under-par 67. When asked about Pressel’s influence, Henderson said she met Pressel when she was just 8 years old at an event in Ottawa.

“Ever since then (the U.S. Women’s Open in 2014) she’s been very kind to me. I’ve still always been a little nervous around her because I’ve looked up to her my whole life, but I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Henderson, Pressel and Min Seo Kwak tee off at 4:05 p.m. EST.

Note: The last time a Canadian won on the LPGA Tour was 2001. Henderson was three. 

David Hearn just one shot back

At the rain-soaked Zurich Classic of New Orleans, David Hearn sits at -12, just one back of American Erik Compton and Australian Jason Day.

Torrential rain washed out most of round three, and now golfers will have to be back in position early Sunday to complete Moving Day, along with all of their final rounds.

Hearn lost to Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the John Deere Classic in 2013 and is still looking for his maiden PGA Tour victory. Through seven holes of his third round, Hearn is 3-under-par.

Play resumes again at 8:30 a.m. EST.

Svensson wins… again

Adam Svensson just turned professional a few weeks ago, but he’s already notched two victories and $40,000 (USD).

Not a bad way to start your first job.

Svensson, 21, captured the most-recent SwingThought.com Tour event Saturday, thanks to the round of the day, a 65. Coming from a number of shots back, Svensson leap-frogged eight golfers – including fellow Golf Canada Young Pro Mackenzie Hughes – for the win.

This marks Svensson’s second victory in just three professional starts. Perhaps even more exciting in his eyes, this victory guarantees him into the Knoxville News Sentinel Open on the Web.com Tour later this summer.

It’s likely Svensson will get another Web.com Tour exemption – into the Nova Scotia Open – in July. Otherwise, he’ll be most active on PGA Tour Canada.

Other notes

Taylor Pendrith and Sonny Michaud were the lone Canadians to earn status for PGA Tour Canada’s 2015 season at the California Q-school, which concluded Friday. Pendrith is exempt through the first six events of the year and will join five other Golf Canada team members with status on that tour this year… Eight Canadian girls made the cut on the Symetra Tour this week, led by Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, who’s T3… Cam Burke finished second on the eGolf Gateway Tour Saturday…

FootJoy: Fashion Forward

Ninety percent of how you play is how you look.

That’s my belief anyway. Thankfully, FootJoy’s new spring collection is helping with that mantra.

I’ve always been a fan of FootJoy shoes – I mean, they have the word ‘foot’ right there in the name – but over the last couple of seasons, they’ve been releasing some fine apparel options as well.

Golf apparel is a competitive category, no doubt about it. You obviously have industry kingpins like Nike and adidas leading the charge, but how often are you seeing brands like Travis Matthew, J. Lindeberg and Under Armor on some of the worlds best? There’s certainly a lot of fashionable options out there for golfers, along with the long-standing performance brands too.

For FootJoy, they’ve tried hard to trend in the middle of performance and fashion. And frankly, it’s a good spot to be.

This spring there will be four different collections for FootJoy’s ‘performance’ golf apparel collection (available at golf retailers across Canada). A press release distributed by FootJoy says the spring collection “features contemporary colours and patterns in a variety of style and performance fabrics.”

Marco: All-American style with classic nautical blue, red and white solids and stripes

Sonoma: Brilliant combination of graphite blue, silver and chrome yellow in a variety of traditional designs

Charleston: Bold orchid, navy and white prints that ‘guarantee’ you’ll be exuding stylish confidence

Vineyard: Contemporary blue, black and khaki colours that extends your golf style to help fit your daily lifestyle.