Spy on Equipment: Long Putters, Snazzy Shoes and New Mizuno Irons

Golf gear manufacturers release a lot of new equipment during the year. While the vast majority of offerings are simply updated, tricked-out versions of existing models, interesting stuff does come down the pike every now and then.

Here are a few equipment items that caught our attention in recent weeks.

Bellying up – way up

TaylorMade Ghost Spider

TaylorMade's Ghost Spider putter.

Every golfer of a certain age remembers Jack Nicklaus’ stunning Masters triumph in 1986. Most have forgotten the explosion of putter sales that followed his win. Specifically, sales of the mammoth-headed MacGregor Response ZT putter Nicklaus used to make all those back-nine bombs.

In the 2 ½ years following Nicklaus’ sixth Masters victory, MacGregor sold an astounding 350,000 Response ZTs. A similar boom is mushrooming now in the belly and long putter market.

Late-season victories by Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and Webb Simpson put extended flatsticks front and center in the public’s eye. TaylorMade recently tripled fourth-quarter sales expectations for long and belly putters, and accelerated the timeline for launching long versions of its popular Corza Ghost and Ghost Spider models.

Cleveland and Odyssey have reported similar success and product plans.

adidas joins street shoe brigade

Constant innovation is a key benefit of the free-market system. And whenever something original breaks through to a mass audience, copy-cats are sure to follow.

adidas adicross golf shoes

adidas' new adicross golf shoes

Hence, Nirvana begat Bush, the Android rode the iPhone’s coattails, and adidas joined the parade of companies mimicking Ecco’s Street Premiere golf shoes.

The adicross is adidas’ entry into this expanding category, which FootJoy, Nike and startups like Kikkor Golf have joined. (For the record, we consider TRUE Linkswear shoes a somewhat different breed.)

What does adicross offer? Lightweight, full-grain leather, five color combos and, of course, a spikeless sole.

Not to be confused with soul-less tripe. For that, we recommend listening to a Bush album.

Rejoice: Mizuno intros new irons

Few golf brands inspire the loyalty of Mizuno, specifically, the company’s forged irons. (You’ll get my Mizzies when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.)

Mizuno MP-59 irons

Mizuno's MP-59

There’s a new member of the esteemed MP family, the cavity-back MP-59. Like its forebear, the MP-58, the 59 features a hunk of titanium forged into the back of the blade. The company claims a 5-percent larger sweet spot on the MP-59s than the 58s.

Mizuno aims these irons at golfers in the plus-2 to 13 handicap range. In other words, you need to be a decent stick, but not a world-beater, to wield them properly.

Spy on Golf: Shove It, Stevie

This just in: Steve Williams is an idiot.

Make that a bleeping idiot.

Steve Williams

Steve Williams needs to memorize part three of the caddie mantra.

We already knew Williams possessed a vastly inflated sense of importance. Now Tiger Woods’ former caddie has revealed a stupid streak as big as his ego. Maybe bigger.

In case you missed the latest news, Williams took a stupefying shot at Woods during an annual caddie awards ceremony. First, Williams was roasted by colleagues for his infamous display of self-satisfaction following a victory by his new boss, Adam Scott, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Taking his turn to speak, Williams explained.

“My aim was to shove it right back up that black (bleep),” he said, referring to Woods and an unprintable part of Tiger’s anatomy.

The remarks set off another roasting, and not the good-natured kind.

Media issued the requisite calls for discipline by the PGA Tour, Scott, and anyone else in position to punish the surly New Zealander. Williams, naturally, issued an apology while Scott stood by his bag man. The Tour claimed its hands were tied and said Williams’ apology would have to suffice.

As if this month’s Presidents Cup – where Woods will play as a controversial U.S. captain’s pick while Scott anchors the Internationals – needed any extra drama.

There’s a well-known mantra regarding a tour caddie’s on-course responsibilities: “Show up, keep up, shut up.” Williams should learn to follow part three, everywhere he goes.

Golfweek: Old is Best New

Once upon a time, Golfweek compiled an annual list of the 50 best courses opened in the U.S. during the previous year. Then that list dwindled to 40 in 2009. Now, it’s down to a mere 25 – which covers a two-year period and includes two renovations.

Such is the slow state of affairs in the course construction business, victimized by the economic downturn but already suffering growing pains earlier in the decade.

The building boom of the 1980s and ’90s, when several hundred new courses came online each year, created a demand-exceeding glut in supply. Things only got worse when the economy went belly-up. Now, more courses are closing than opening each year.

It’s sad, for sure. But that’s the free market at work, and far worse things have happened during the downturn. Besides, we’ve got a new Golfweek list to peruse.

No surprise at the top: Old Macdonald, the fourth course at Bandon Dunes Resort. Conceived by Tom Doak and right-hand man Jim Urbina, it’s a sprawling ode to Charles Blair Macdonald’s seminal design work at National Golf Links (Long Island), Chicago Golf Club and numerous other Golden Age classics.

The Patriot Golf Club

The Patriot Golf Club

The second spot goes to an equally intriguing project, The Patriot GC in Oklahoma. Robert Trent Jones II leaned on the men who helped him make Chambers Bay (Wash.) such a smash, Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi. The trio hit another home run, carving a compelling course from a rugged, boulder-strewn chunk of northeast Oklahoma.

What makes The Patriot truly special is its purpose. The club is home to the Folds of Honor Foundation, the brainchild of PGA professional and F-16 pilot Major Dan Rooney. Folds of Honor provides scholarships to the kids of service members killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Patriot is a private club, but sets aside three tee times a day for one-time public access. Ten percent of the $150 fee goes to Folds of Honor.

If you’re in the Tulsa area and covet a tee time, or just want to contribute to the cause, visit www.patriotgolfclub.com.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: Worldwide Weekend

Oh, to spend Halloween playing Pumpkin Ridge, the famed Oregon club whose Witch Hollow and Ghost Creek courses scare the knickers off the heartiest golfing souls.

Instead, we’re summing up this weekend’s action from the pro tours while waiting for the trick-or-treaters to trickle in.

Luckily, there’s plenty to report. Golf’s global reach was apparent as a slew of U.S. stars battled in Malaysia and Rory McIlroy won a non-official but highly lucrative event in China, where Taiwan’s Yani Tseng continued to terrorize her so-called competitors.

Carl Spackler costume

Our idea of a Cinderella costume

We’ll make this week’s rundown quick. Gotta slip into our Carl Spackler costume  for tonight.

Golf Claps

Bo Van Pelt: The 36-year-old has quietly become one of the PGA Tour’s steadiest performers, but has had trouble closing the deal when in contention. He practically slammed it on Sunday, winning the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia by six shots. Van Pelt’s final-round 64 earned him a cool $1.3 million and a big shot of confidence from beating Camilo Villegas, Vijay Singh, Robert Allenby and other stars in the Asian Tour event.

Sergio Garcia: It’s fitting that on Halloween, we’re comfortable declaring this of the former poltergeist: He’s baaaack. Garcia followed up his victory at the Castello Masters with another at the Andalucia Masters, beating countryman Miguel Angel Jimenez by a shot. Home cooking has been kind to Garcia, who became the first Spaniard to win a stroke-play even at storied Valderrama.

Rory McIlroy: The international man of mystery pocketed $2 million – golf’s biggest payday – by fending off Anthony Kim in a playoff at the Shanghai Masters. It didn’t get him any closer to Luke Donald’s No. 1 world ranking, but the win confirmed that McIlroy remains plenty hungry following his U.S. Open triumph.

Yani Tseng: The game’s top female made the most of her own trip to China, winning the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open for her 11th worldwide victory this year. That includes a pair of majors and marks Tseng the clear choice as golf’s most dominant player, regardless of gender.

Silent Treatment

450-yard par 4s: For the first time ever, average driving distance on the PGA Tour eclipsed 290 yards for an entire season (290.9 to be precise). To put that in perspective, Lee Janzen’s average tee shot in 2011 was 290.1 yards. In 1993, the year Janzen won his first of two U.S. Opens, he averaged 257.1.

He was 29 then. He’s 47 now. Frightening how much equipment has changed, isn’t it?

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: CMN Hospitals Classic

All hail Luke Donald, the undisputed No. 1 golfer in the world.

Luke Donald

Luke Donald

Finally.

Technically, Donald has stood atop the world golf ranking since May 29, when he unseated fellow Englishman Lee Westwood. But there’s been plenty of clamor in the meantime, his critics arguing that Donald hadn’t done enough to earn the top spot.

Nevermind that no one else had, either, since Tiger Woods abdicated the throne last year. The major-less Donald, who went five years without a PGA Tour win (2006-2011), was an easy target.

With his incredible come-from-behind victory at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Orlando, Donald silenced the doubters. Six straight birdies and a closing 64 were his polite way of saying “Shut up,” in proper King’s English, of course.

As a bonus, Donald leapfrogged Webb Simpson to claim the tour’s money title with a cool $6,683,214 on the year. That’s even more impressive when you consider how much he plays overseas. In fact, Donald’s in position to win the European Tour’s money race as well, which would make him the first person to take both in the same year.

Yeah, he’s No. 1.

Now on to our cheers and jeers, golf style, for the weekend that was:

Golf Claps

Luke Donald: Did we mention that he played alongside Simpson for all four rounds of the CMN? Or that Donald was two shots behind his playing partner, and four shots off the lead, with eight holes to go?

Disney trappings aside, this was a gutsy performance. It may just have locked up PGA Tour Player of the Year honors, too. Donald was one of seven players with a pair of wins this season (not counting two in Europe) and by far the most consistent of the bunch.

The lone missing piece to his resumé remains that elusive major. At age 33, his time is now.

Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia: While Donald was busy stamping his signature on the 2011 season, Garcia marked his resurgence complete with an 11-shot victory at the Castello Masters. The Spaniard thrilled a home crowd with a final-round 63 to lap the field, dedicating his win to the late, great Seve Ballesteros.

Having emerged from the oblivion that was 2010, Garcia may be poised to finally fulfill the potential he flashed as a teenager and 20-something. Welcome back, El Niño.

Silent Treatment

David Duval and Ben Curtis: A pair of former Open Championship winners, Duval and Curtis failed to earn exempt status for the tour in 2012. Duval, who seemed to be inching (ever so slowly) back to something like his old form, slipped to 152nd on the money list by missing the CMN cut. Curtis did likewise to finish 149th for the year.

Spy on Golf: When Pros Attack

For a so-called gentleman’s game, golf sure can turn acrimonious.

The latest examples include the revelation of a years-long, alpha-male spat between Greg Norman and Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy’s stunning split with agent Chubby Chandler. While no nasty words have been exchanged (publicly, at least) in the latter instance, it’s surely not an amicable parting.

Greg Norman

Greg Norman

Who needs reality TV when golf gives us this kind of drama?

All that, plus word on a jaw-dropping new course on the Chinese coast and an adult beverage bearing Arnold Palmer’s name and mug, in our weekly roundup of entertaining golf news.

Shark vs. Tiger

We were thinking Norman’s most recent comments about Tiger’s unworthiness as a Presidents Cup captain’s selection might have been spurred by Woods breaking the course record – shared by Norman – at the Medalist Club in Hobe Sound, Fla.

BTW, Norman designed the course, too. Double-ouch.

Turns out the animosity between the two goes back more than a few weeks, according to this article by Robert Lusetich. Apparently, sharing Butch Harmon’s time when both were under his tutelage was more than these supposed grown-ups could handle.

Norman tried to defuse the rancor in an email to Lusetich. “I have said this before and I will say it again, I hope Tiger does turn his game around,” Norman wrote. “It would be great for golf.

“I have said all I need to say about this.”

Let’s hope not. We’re kind of enjoying this little spat.

Big Mac attack

Another off-course bombshell dropped Friday morning, when news of McIlroy’s defection to Horizon Sports Management hit the wires. The 22-year-old U.S. Open champion spent his formative years with Chandler’s International Sports Management group, whose clients won four of five majors starting with the 2010 Open Championship.

Chandler has been praised for his delicate handling of McIlroy’s career since the Northern Ireland phenom turned pro at age 18. No definitive answer yet as to why McIlroy jumped ship to Horizon, a relatively new firm based in Dublin whose stable includes Ernie Els and Graeme McDowell.

Will this episode become another black eye for the likeable McIlroy, following his dismissive remarks about links golf and a Twitter spat with a TV announcer over McIlroy’s caddie?

Or is it just another sign that McIlroy has an inner ruthlessness that belies his outward charm? Image be damned, that could bode well for his future.

Chinese fireworks from Coore & Crenshaw

We don’t have much to say about the new Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw course in Shanquin Bay, China, except that it looks spectacular. This being a Coore-Crenshaw design and seaside, to boot, it should draw plentiful attention from architecture aficionados.

Darius Oliver has a detailed review and terrific pics at Planet Golf.

Arnold Palmer Hard Malt beverageSorry Arnie, we’ll stick with beer

Not sure about the sales prospects for the new Arnold Palmer Hard Malt beverage – half ice tea, half lemonade, and 5 percent alcohol – but I do know one golfer who won’t be trying it.

That would be me. If Arnie ever slaps his name on a hoppy pale ale or toasty imperial stout, count me in.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: McGladrey Classic

Ben Crane is a funny guy, but he was all business Sunday at the McGladrey Classic.

Ben Crane

Ben Crane

Perhaps best known for his series of quirky YouTube videos and his role in the laughably bad “Golf Boys” routine, Crane ran down Webb Simpson with a final-round 63, then won on the second playoff hole.

All this while his wife was in Dallas prepping for the birth of the couples’ third child (scheduled to arrive Monday via C-section). For good measure, Crane nearly withdrew from the McGladrey Thursday with an aching hip.

Seriously.

As for Simpson, it wasn’t all bad. He overtook Luke Donald for the PGA Tour money lead with one event remaining. The pair will slug it out for the title this week at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Orlando.

Crane, understandably, is skipping the event. Too bad – we were hoping for a duet with Mickey Mouse.

This week’s applause meter goes to 11 -- 12 if you count the 0:

Golf Claps

Bud Cauley: The curly-locked Cauley, a 21-year-old from Alabama, finished T15 to earn $64,000, plenty to put him inside the top 125 on the money list. That gives Cauley PGA Tour exempt status for 2012 – in other words, no Q-School for Bud.

He’s just the sixth player ever to take the express route to the Tour; the others included Tiger Woods.

Tom Lewis: Speaking of Woods, he was one-upped this weekend by Lewis, an English phenom who won in his third professional start. Actually, Lewis two-upped Tiger, who took his sweet time before winning on the fifth try.

Tom Lewis, winner of the Portugal Masters

Tom Lewis

Lewis blew past a bevy of veterans with a final-round 65 at the Portugal Masters. You may have watched the 20-year old in July during the Open Championship, where his Thursday 65 was the lowest round by an amateur in the event’s history.

Silent Treatment

Greg Norman: Maybe the Shark should put a gag order on himself. Then again, his mouth may have already done its damage.

Clearly, Norman believes Woods is washed up. How else to explain his weekend comments stating that Keegan Bradley should’ve gotten the Presidents Cup pick that U.S. captain Fred Couples spent on Tiger.

“I can understand the name of a Tiger Woods and his history of what he’s done on the golf course,” Norman said. “But I pick the guys who I think are ready to get in there and play and have performed to the highest levels leading up to it.”

Psst, Greg: You’re coaching the other team!

It’s not that we disagree with Norman. On the contrary, we’re with him 100 percent. But we’re not coaching against Tiger!

Neither is Couples, who takes a step closer to looking like a genius every time Norman opens his yap.

Spy on Golf: Week’s Headliners Span the Globe

A quick trek around the golf galaxy, with stops in South Korea, Oregon and Jupiter on the itinerary.

Your in-flight movie is “Drive,” so we can all figure out how the film inspired a California man to toss a hot dog in the general direction of Tiger Woods last Sunday. Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction…

Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler

Fowler wins, draws yawns: Much debate this week about Rickie Fowler’s victory at the Korean Open, a stop on the OneAsia tour. Thanks to its remote dateline, Fowler’s first win as a pro was met with a collective so-what by a large chunk of pundits.

But considering he won by six shots over fellow wunderkind Rory McIlroy, we’d say Fowler deserves some credit. Former PGA champion Y.E. Yang finished 11 shots behind despite the home-country advantage.

Prediction: Fowler wins at least twice in 2012. On the PGA Tour, that is.

A-Bandon hope, Pebble Beach: All hail Bandon Dunes, the new king of North American resort golf. So says Golf Digest, and – having yet to make the Bandon pilgrimage -- who am I to argue?

Frankly, I have no desire to debate GD on this one. Given Bandon’s expansion to four courses, all of which rank among America’s 100 best, it was only a matter of time before Mike Keiser’s pure-golf wonderland knocked Pebble Beach Resorts from the top spot.

If you’re thinking of visiting all 75 properties, you’d better be well funded. Nineteen of them feature nightly room rates of $500 or more, including the breathtaking $1,445 commanded by Sandy Lane in Barbados.

At a paltry $250, Bandon’s a relative bargain, too.

Jupiter is the new Orlando: If it often seems the pros’ games are other-worldly, this might be why: A large number of them have relocated to Jupiter.

Sorry, wrong Jupiter. Apparently, Jupiter, Florida, is the hot place to be for the PGA Tour’s elite. Everyone knows Tiger Woods recently moved into his $54 million palace on Jupiter Island, but the likes of Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel have also set up shop in or near the Palm Beach County golf haven.

As luck would have it, this blog is based in Jupiter as well. Here’s hoping some of that pro golfer mojo rubs off on the locals.

Els supplies belly laugh: We nominate this paradoxical gem from Ernie Els, addressing his use of a belly putter, for Quote of the Year: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

Now that honors for the year’s best quote and headline (Saltman wins body weight in ham for hole-in-one) are wrapped up, all that’s left are trivial titles like Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Leading Money Winner.

We almost forgot: Brandon Kelly of Petaluma, Calif., the man who threw the wiener at Woods, is our Tosser of the Year.

Golf Claps & Silent Treatment: Frys.com Open

This weekend’s golf tournaments should’ve been broadcast on the Food Network.

With ham and hot dogs flying on the European and PGA tours, we kept waiting for Alton Brown to take over the play-by-play.

Bryce Molder wins the Frys.com Open

Bryce Molder

In case you missed it, the weekend started with Elliott Saltman winning a Spanish ham for his hole-in-one at the Madrid Masters, and ended with some lunatic tossing a frankfurter – bun and all – at Tiger Woods during the Frys.com Open.

Too bad it wasn’t the Fries.com instead.

The unusual spate of food-related news nearly overshadowed Bryce Molder’s clutch playoff victory over Briny Baird. Actually, Woods’ return from a two-month sabbatical did eclipse Molder’s breakthrough, at least in the eyes of media and fans.

But that’s nothing new.

Herewith, our weekly list of the week’s pros and cons. Ketchup, mustard and relish not included:

Golf Claps

Bryce Molder: Since leaving Georgia Tech in 2001, Molder’s career has been one long cautionary tale. A can’t-miss kid who (mostly) missed, Molder was bounced from the PGA Tour in 2002, spent several years kicking around the Nationwide circuit, then played reasonably well on the big tour the past two seasons.

The beauty of golf, though, is that second acts are common. Molder has clearly matured, evidenced by his gritty, six-hole playoff win capped by a cathartic birdie putt. Having waited until the ripe old age of 31 to grab his maiden victory, maybe Molder can finally start living up to all that promise.

Tiger Woods: It’s tempting to stick him on the Silent Treatment list, what with Woods’ ho-hum tie for 30th at 7-under par. But he seemed to get things heading in the right direction after an opening 73, going 68-68-68 and briefly reaching the top 10 on Sunday.

Everyone forgets how well Tiger played at the Masters, where he tied for fourth and appeared to have his swing changes nearly sorted out. If he can stay healthy long enough for Sean Foley’s teaching to really take, we could see something approaching the Tiger of old pretty soon.

Silent Treatment

Briny Baird: We’re loath to relegate the likeable Baird to the jeers column; he did little wrong during the tournament proper or playoff, holing an eagle chip on 17 to send it to overtime. But Baird had the trophy in his grasp twice during extra holes, and couldn’t convert birdie putts from 8 and 12 feet. Still winless after 348 Tour starts, Baird doesn’t figure to get many more chances like that.

Paul Casey: As the top-ranked player in the field, Casey looked like the favorite despite a two-shot deficit entering the final round. A charge never materialized, however, as Casey stumbled with a pair of sixes on the front nine en route to an even-par 71. He was the only player among the top 23 finishers not to break par Sunday.

Golfer Wins $10K Ham and Other Headline News

Cruising the web, perusing some favorite sites, using our golf-dar to identify random news items upon which to opine.

It’s relatively quiet, aside from a certain player’s return to action (if not form) after a two-month layoff. We did uncover a few stories worth noting, however, including a contender for the title of: Best. Headline. Ever.

Saltman wins body weight in ham for hole-in-one

When Elliott Saltman, a Scottish pro best known for his three-month suspension on charges of cheating, aced the third hole during the first round of the Madrid Masters, he won something better than a new Cadillac or BMW. He won his weight in cured Spanish ham.

Scottish golfer Elliott Saltman

Elliott Saltman

This fellow is no shrimp -- Saltman tips the scales at 240 pounds --  and this is no ordinary ham. Saltman’s hunk of hog is reportedly worth €8,000, or the equivalent of about $10,600.

“This is going to last me until next Christmas,” Saltman told Reuters, “nevermind this one.”

For that matter, he’s got enough to carve out a nice emergency ham, Homer Simpson style.

Can’t wait for Cantlay

American golf fans, desperately seeking one of their own to challenge the world’s top young guns, may have their man: Patrick Cantlay, the 19-year-old wiz kid from UCLA.

Already verging on household-name status thanks to a brilliant summer, Cantlay added another notch to his belt in the first round of the Frys.com Open. Paired with Tiger Woods, Cantlay breezed to a 2-under 69 while Tiger struggled to shoot 73 in his first competitive round since August.

It was nothing new for Cantlay, the NCAA player of the year as a freshman, low amateur at the U.S. Open, and owner of the PGA Tour record for lowest round by an amateur (60, at the Travelers Championship).

Cantlay will return to UCLA for at least one more season at the collegiate level. Hopefully, he’ll soon challenge Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Ryo Ishikawa et al for world supremacy.

Worst shot in golf? The shank tops them all

Golf Digest recently asked readers to name their most frustrating shots. Not surprisingly, the shank was the “winner,” beating out the humiliating whiff, soul-crushing yip and humbling top.

We didn’t vote, but agree that the shank is the worst of the worst. Unlike a whiff or a top, the hosel rocket often ends up unplayable. And while the yips are equally hard to shake, there’s an easy way around them: just pick it up and call it good.

If your partners/competitors complain, ask them if they really want to watch you miss another 2-footer. The yips are contagious little buggers.

Spy on Golf: Rocco’s Wrong, but Short Courses are Alright

Who’s making news in golf this week?

Who else? As we write this, the top eight headlines on golfchannel.com involve Tiger Woods.

Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods

Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods

Among other topics, there’s his new endorsement deal with Rolex, his pending appearance at the Frys.com Open, and Rocco Mediate’s recent comments on the state of Tiger’s game.

Geez, not even the president gets this much attention.

Take Tiger out of the equation and things are relatively quiet around golf. Of course, that’s like saying if you take the sauce off your spaghetti, all that’s left is pasta.

Since we love pasta – and non-Woods-related golf issues – we’ll dig right in…

Im-Mediate reaction: Sorry, we simply must take a bite of sauce before moving on… Mediate is one of our all-time favorite pros. He’d be on the short list for filling out our dream foursome. But when Rocco said Woods’ woes are strictly physical, we let out a big, “Huh?”

No doubt Tiger’s knee troubles and swing changes have something to do with his two-year winless streak. But to assert that Tiger’s psyche is the same as it was pre-scandal is crazy talk.

Our take: Tiger isn’t playing like his old self because he doesn’t feel like his old self. Where he once thrived on being the center of attention, he now feels vulnerable – exposed, even -- when all eyes are on him. No longer bullet-proof between the ears, Woods now bludgeons putts he would have gutted in his glory days.

Maybe Rocco’s right and Woods just needs to get the old swing plane straightened out. We think he needs a different kind of therapy.

Another golf trend we like: Following up on last week’s post, it’s great to see the fun, creative things being done with short courses these days. Next year Bandon Dunes Resort will open a par-3 course called Bandon Preserve, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. It should jump immediately to the top of best-of lists everywhere.

The Golf Purist has more details and a sneak preview of the scorecard.

The Prairie Club, Horse Course

The Prairie Club, Horse Course

At the Prairie Club in Nebraska, the Horse Course is a 10-holer inspired by the basketball game of horse. There are no tee boxes, so the player with honors chooses where the next hole is played from.

How cool is that?

Independent Golf Reviews has photos and a rave review of the Horse Course, at the bottom of a full write-up on the up-and-coming resort.

Other stuff we’re chewing on…

Luke Donald finally three-putts: The world’s No. 1 player went 449 holes without three-jacking before his streak ended last week during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Imagine how good he’d be with a belly putter.

The new Brangelina: The golf world’s collective gag reflex got a workout with the news that Rory McIlroy had given his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, a wedge inscribed with the couple’s pet name: WOZZILROY. Guess LET’SMAKEEVERYONEPUKE wouldn’t fit on the club.

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