2014 US Masters preview

The US Masters, golf’s quirky showpiece event begins on April 10th at the Augusta National Golf Club, its home since 1934.

It is the 80th year the course has been the home of The Masters, but this is the 78th edition as World War II caused a halt on play from 1943-45.

But this year something will be different, as Tiger Woods will miss the first Masters tournament in his career, dealing another blow in his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus for the most majors in a career.

But even without Tiger Woods, this 78th edition could be a vintage affair with the field that still includes a who’s who of past champions, current top players and impressive amateurs.

The amateurs receive their places as top two of the US Amateur Championship and winners of the British Amateur, US Mid-Amateur, Asia Pacific Amateur and US Amateur Public links.

The big gun

No doubt those qualifying in this way for the Masters will be happy just to get around the famed course without any huge embarrassments, but for the top golfers that will never be enough.

Without Tiger in the mix, the current US Masters 2014 favourites, according to Coral, are Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy.

Both players are priced at 8/1 and for a simple reason; they are two of the finest golfers in the world and they will have high expectations for themselves at Augusta.

Woods is currently agonisingly stuck on 14 major golf tournament wins, four behind the legendary Jack Nicklaus who holds the record of 18 major wins.

The 38-year-old last won a major in 2008 and since his personal issues arose in 2009 he has not looked quite like the player he was.

If he was healthy, the Californian couldn’t be discounted and he was an 8-1 pick to win the tournament before the injury. He is one of the finest golfers of all-time, and undoubtedly the best of his generation.

McIlroy is a little more complex than Woods, as the Northern Irishman has gone through a rough patch of form in the past few months.

Some of this could be attributed to a change in clubs while his high-profile relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki seems to have had an adverse reaction on his profession.

The 24-year old has already won two majors at the US Open and the PGA Championship, but McIlroy will be itching to get many more majors given his superb skillset.

Defending champion Adam Scott seems to be in the mix in every major tournament, and with Woods out he has a real opportunity here to win back-to-back green jackets.

The dark horse contenders

Behind McIlroy in the betting are Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day.

At bigger prices these players will still need to be taken seriously. James Day played his part last year with Adam Scott in an epic last day battle for the green jacket just 12 months ago.

Even though Tiger Woods isn’t the same player, losing him opens things up considerably for other golfers. Some of the star power is gone from this year’s Masters, but we still may have a tournament to remember.

  

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Great day in Vegas at Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational

Michael Jordan was in his element, chewing on a cigar and hanging out with his celebrity pals on the stunning Shadow Creek golf course for the 11th Annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational (MJCI). I was parked next the tee box on the 18th hole to get some photos as MJ and his entourage pulled up in their carts with music in the background. Everyone at the tournament was having a great time, but Jordan was top dog as usual.

I was in my element as well, enjoying a blowout weekend at the Aria Resort & Casino and hanging out on a beautiful day in the desert as I nursed a hangover from the previous night’s debauchery. As you can see from the slideshow above I had a great view as celebrities from Brandi Chastain, Aaron Rodgers, John Smoltz, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Roger Clemens blasted drives from the 18th tee. A good time was being had by all and the celebs happily mingled with the fans near the tee box.

Brandi Chastain and John Smoltz were in the lead following Saturday’s first round of the celeb-only scramble after shooting a six-under par 66. Hall of Fame broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, and teammate and former baseball all-star Roger Clemens, were two strokes back at 4-under. Clemons hit a monster drive on 18. The two-person, 36-hole celebrity-only scramble continues today with winners to be announced at 3 p.m. The winning celebs each will take home $20,000 for their designated charities. It would have been fun to bet a celebrity tournament link this at a site like bwin.


Michael Jordan chews his cigar with the 18th hole of Shadow Creek in the background

The course at Shadow Creek was simply stunning, and it has to be on your list if you’re a golfer heading to Las Vegas. It’s amazing to pull up to this oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert. With the mountains in the background as you can see from the photo above, the beauty of this course ranks up there with some of the best I’ve seen.

Check back later this week for more details from my stay at Aria, where the restaurants, nightlife and amenities give you everything you’ll need for a Vegas getaway with your gal or your friends.

  

Heading to Las Vegas to cover Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational golf tourament

We’ll use any excuse to hit Las Vegas, but covering the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational (MJCI) definitely qualifies as a trip we’re excited about. This 11th annual charity golf tournament will feature stars like NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers along with Ken Griffey, Jr., Wayne Gretzky, Roger Clemens, Brian Baumgartner, Brett Hull, Maury Povich and Chris Chelios. I’ll be reporting through the weekend here on the blog and you can also follow us on Twitter for photos and updates. I’ll also be staying at the incredible Aria Resort & Casino so this is shaping up to be a great weekend!

It’s also for a number of great causes, as this is a charity golf tournament. Proceeds from the charitable tournament will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, UC San Diego Nevada Cancer Institute, James R. Jordan Foundation, Opportunity Village and Cats Care, the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats’ charity arm. Since its inception in 2001, MJCI has raised more than $6 million for charity.

The tournament is being held at the incredible Shadow Creek golf course, which is opening to the public for only the second time with this tournament. I’m looking forward to getting some great photos.

Tickets may be purchased at any MGM Resorts International box office outlet or online through the links above:

Daily General Admission Pass $30/Thursday-Sunday
Weekly General Admission Pass $100/Thursday-Sunday
Daily VIP Pass $150/Thursday-Sunday
Weekly VIP Pass $500/Thursday-Sunday

VIP spectators will enjoy access to an unparalleled view of the course from the M life VIP tent, an openair venue featuring a “VIP Party Deck” overlooking the par-5, 18th hole, catering and a full-service bar. Discounted tickets are available for military service members with valid identification, and Senior Citizens 65 years of age or older with valid ID; both groups will receive 25 percent off a daily or weekly general admission ticket. Additionally, the tournament has created a special “Bring the Kids for Free” general admission ticket offer, which provides access to Shadow Creek for youth 16 years of age and younger when accompanied by a general admission ticketed adult (up to two children per paid adult).

With the golf tournament with MJ and then the Final Four semi-finals on Saturday night, this should shape us as quite a weekend. I also get to enjoy all the amenities at the Aria and will also see the Cirque du Soleil Viva ELVIS show which should be incredible. I saw the Love show featuring music from The Beatles last year so I’m definitely looking forward to this Elvis show!

  

Sports travel for the winter

The holidays are over, and many people are now thinking about their winter or spring vacations. Unfortunately, for many people around the country, some of the more popular winter sports haven’t been available. With the warm weather in many parts of the country, skiing and snowboarding hasn’t been a very good option, unless you could fly to spots that have had consistent cold weather.

For golf, however, there hasn’t been a problem. For many avid golfers up north, now is the time of year where they are dreaming of golf breaks and plan to escape and spend some time at a beautiful golf resort. Places like Arizona and Florida are great options for many, while others dream of golf in the Algarve and other great European destinations.

Whether you prefer the traditional golf courses in the United Kingdom, the newer pro courses in the United States or Algarve golf options, you’ll end up with a great vacation if you plan ahead.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is getting into shape before you take your trip. A long golf trip can really take a toll, and if you’ve slipped a little after the holidays, you might want to consider some workouts before you go. Hit the treadmill to get your endurance going, and work on your strength and flexibility so you can hit those long drives and collect on bets with your friends.

  

Stylish golf shirts from Sub70

Fashion trends for men have evolved in recent years as a slimmer, more athletic fit has become the standard in everything from suits to t-shirts. This more stylish look has also had an impact on the usually stodgy golf world, as younger golfers have made their mark on the tour.

Sub70 sent us some samples from their golf line which embraces these new style trends as the “classic golf shirt goes modern.” Check out their site and you’ll see a wide variety of European-fit polos in a full range of styles and colors. We checked out the Zane/White golf shirt pictured here and loved the styling. Some of the shirts are trendier than others but the modern styles definitely stand out as something new and fresh. The all-polyester shirts are very comfortable, but they are definitely tighter and the sizes run smaller than expected. They are ideal for a leaner and more athletic build, so it’s not for guys who consistently choose beer and the buffet line over the gym.

The shirts make a great gift for golf enthusiasts who have a sense of style. If you’re an avid golfer and want to break free from the more traditional look, these shirts are for you as well.

  

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