Different strokes


Lowry gets opportunity to hit targets
It’s an odd thing that Shane Lowry – ranked 65th in the world – should be left sweating, getting into next weekend’s WGC-Accenture Matchplay championship only thanks to Phil Mickelson’s decision to bypass the event.

Lefty has stuck to a commitment to take his family on holidays, rather than duelling in the desert. Lowry owes him a word of thanks when they next cross paths on the range.

That Lowry’s place in the 64-man field should have been in any doubt is in stark contrast to past championships, especially the 2001 affair when no fewer than 28 players from the top 64 in the world rankings decided not to play. On that occasion, the matchplay was staged in Australia and Steve Stricker, ranked 90th in the world and only squeezing into the field after so many declined to travel, emerged triumphant.

The decision to stage the event in Australia – or anywhere else outside of the United States – was not to be repeated, an indication of the power that the US Tour has in determining where and when WGCs are held and also of the reluctance of many American players to travel out of their comfort zones. Sponsors, too, aren’t best pleased when they’re seen to be ploughing millions of greenbacks into tournaments that are supposedly ranked only one level below that of a Major and so it is safe to assume some arm-twisting took place post-Melbourne.

The Melbourne championship was something of an aberration, it must be admitted. But the move to Tucson has definitely enabled the event to regain its place at the top table and getting into the elite 64-player championship – with a purse of $8.75 million – also presents Lowry with an opportunity to hit some other targets in the near-future.

For instance, those players inside the top-50 on the official world rankings on March 4th will earn a spot in the WGC-Cadillac championship in Doral and those inside the top-50 – not previously exempt – will secure an invite to the Masters in April.

Of course, if the draw for the Accenture which isn’t made until next Monday corresponds with the most recent world rankings, then Lowry’s first task in his debut appearance in the matchplay would be to overcome world number one Rory McIlroy.

And, interestingly, there’s also the possibility of the two other Irish players in the field – Graeme McDowell and Pádraig Harrington – running into each other in the first round.

Lowry, though, could be forgiven for thinking there is a sense of fate about his presence in the desert.

On top of Mickelson’s decision to stay away, there was the fact that Patrick Reed’s final hole birdie in Pebble Beach deprived Fredrik Jacobsen of moving ahead of Lowry in the rankings. If Reed hadn’t made a birdie despite firing his tee shot onto the rocks, Jacobsen would have moved ahead of Lowry in the world rankings.

G-Mac's new eatery

Graeme McDowell – who makes his seasonal reappearance on the US Tour in this week’s Los Angeles Open at Riviera – has chosen St Patrick’s Day as the date to kick-start the party at his new restaurant in Orlando.

The Ulsterman’s entry into the hospitality industry will see “Nona Blue” open its doors to the public on March 17th, with a menu that features a signature dish of G-Mac and Cheese which is a combination of cold water lobster, smoked bacon with a three-cheese blend at the appetising price of $10 per portion.

McDowell’s restaurant will have a number of American classics including ribs and New York strips but he hasn’t forgotten his roots on the Causeway Coast with a menu that also includes traditional fish and chips, an all-day Ulster fry and mussels.

Twitter talk

“Congrats to fellow @MasterCard and @RBC_Golf staffer Brandt Snedeker on a great win. Seems like $12m doesn’t affect motivation! #fedexcup”

– Graeme McDowell on how collecting wheelbarrows of dough at the FedEx play-offs hasn’t affected Snedeker.

“Happy for Sneds – great guy, works hard and deserves all of this success #OnFire”

– Luke Donald spreading the love.

“I think Sneds has won about $19,000,000 dollars in his last 9 tournaments. Need a bigger safe Sneds”

– Ian Poulter tips a hat to the fastest talker on tour.

“Absolutely buzzing for the Matchplay next week.”

– Shane Lowry, breathing a sigh of relief after his gamble not to play in JoBurg paid off.

Bright new future for Golf Pride grips

The days when golf grips were run-of-the-mill black are long gone, and Golf Pride has introduced a distinctive new limited edition grip to underline the trend.

The new Whiteout grip is an extension of the company’s popular New Decade MultiCompound Family of grips and comes in a vibrant green, yellow and white colour combination that is designed to celebrate golf’s annual rite of spring. It is constructed with high performance rubber designed to provide “comfort and responsiveness to the lower hand and brushed cotton cord technology to offer moisture management and improved traction for the upper hand” according to the marketing spiel.

“MultiCompound WhiteoutTM continues to be a popular corded product as is proven by its usage on Tour by top players,” said Brandon Sowell, global sales marketing manager for Eaton’s Golf Grip Division.

“In 2013, the Whiteout models yet again provide golfers with more options than ever before to customise their grip colour preference with Tour proven performance.”

Know the rules . . .

Q In playing a chip shot, a player’s club strikes the ground several inches behind the ball and does not come into contact with the ball. However, the ground is struck with enough force to cause the ball to move. The player’s club continues and strikes the ball while it is moving.

What is the ruling?

A The player must count his stroke and add a penalty stroke under Rule 14-4. Even though the club itself did not initially strike the ball, the ball was put into motion due to the stroke.

In the bag . .

Brandt Snedeker (winner Pebble Beach Pro-Am)

Driver:TaylorMade Burner SuperFast (8.5 degrees) with a Fujikura Motore Speeder 8.0 X shaft

Fairway wood: Tour Edge Exotics CB4 (13 degrees) with a Motore Speeder 8.1 X shaft

Hybrid: Ping Anser (20 degree) with a UST Mamiya VTS 100 X shaft

Irons: Bridgestone J40 Cavity Back (4-PW) with Aerotech SteelFiber i95 Constant Weight S shafts

Wedges: Bridgestone J40 (52-degree, 56-degree) with True Temper X100 shafts; Titleist Vokey Design Spin Milled (60-degree) with a True Temper DG Spinner shaft

Putter: Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie

Ball: Bridgestone Tour B330

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