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Teeing off with Twitter

By Christina Macfarlane for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ian Poulter stages giveaway for his Twitter followers
  • Professional golfers are using the social networking site more than ever
  • World ranked number five, Paul Casey announces injury on Twitter
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London England (CNN) -- Last month Ian Poulter announced on the social networking site Twitter that if he reached one million followers, he would stage a "massive giveaway of free stuff -- irons, woods, putters, gloves and much more."

With just over 800,000 followers he looks set to hit the target...by why the sudden push for fans?

It could be that since his win at this year's British Open, America's Stewart Cink has become Twitter's top-ranked golfer with just over a million followers. It seems competition between the big names of golf is not just restricted to the fairways.

LPGA golfer Natalie Gulbis told CNN that for her, Twitter is not a popularity contest but about communication: "It's about connecting with the fans so that they can see my personality through the different things I do and places I go."

Her Twitter account is regularly updated with pictures from life on Tour - downtime in the clubhouse, with fellow players, at charity events and trailing the latest technical gear.

It is great publicity Gulbis added: "At the time I started using Twitter, there were only two national writers covering women's golf. It's great for raising the profile of our game."

Gulbis said she takes most of these images herself: "It's really easy to take pictures and update Twitter all through my phone when I'm out and about."

Twitter is about connecting with the fans so they can see my personality
--Natalie Gulbis, LPGA

With 44.5 million followers, Twitter's accessibility may be the reason the social-networking site has now proved popular among the golfing elite.

From the European Tour to the LPGA, pro-golfers are all getting in on the act. Prolific Twitterer John Daly posts: "mmmm LOVE cold chicken!"

Meanwhile, Suzann Petterson writes about her pre-tournament practice rounds and Rory McIlroy arranges to meet fellow golfer Graham McDowell in the hotel lobby... it seems no information is out-of-bounds.

But the ongoing appeal of Twitter is that it cuts out the middleman, be it management or media and speaks directly to the fans, according to one of Europe's highest-ranked players.

No-one other than Paul Casey could know the frustration and bitter disappointment of having to pull out of the Hong Kong Open this week due to a recurring muscle injury.

He shared this on Twitter, writing: "Felt the same pain in the ribs on the second hole today that I felt in Akron when I tore my muscles. Scared I've torn them again."

He told CNN why he chooses to communicate through Twitter: "Social networks are fast and easy and as it's sometimes difficult to talk to people with massive time zone differences. I do rely slightly on social networking sites."

For him, Twitter is about sharing the experience: "Its made me keep my eyes open for anything interesting that I think people might enjoy."

With such instant access, it's likely his 16,196 followers will be the first to know if he is out of the running for one of the biggest tournaments of the year, The Race to Dubai.