I sit here looking out the window at the snow falling thinking winter hasn’t officially begun and already I’m tired of it. Twelve inches have fallen since 11PM last evening. HO HO HO. This is the way March ended, then came April and the flooding rains came. I played one round of golf in April and one in May due to the rains. The last round I played was September 24th, after which the cold arrived on a huge gust of wind. Global warming indeed. I didn’t get even 20 rounds in this year. But enough of my whining, the year itself was quite entertaining.
From Rocco Mediate and Paul Goydos to Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas players both old and new popped onto the radar creating lasting memories and the promise of bright futures. The worlds best player puts himself on the shelf and an Irishman wins two majors, never blinking on the back nine. I should have known it would be a whacky kind of year when the first tournament goes to sudden death and two of the tours best putters, Daniel Chopra and Steve Stricker miss putt after putt.
If you had told me in December of 2007 that Rocco Mediate would take Tiger Woods 91 holes at the US Open my initial reaction would have been: "Right, and I’ll be the next schmoe selected to play the US Open challenge for the TV cameras." Well, one out of two isn’t bad. As amazing as that was Padraig Harrington, he of the splay footed walk and glacial pace of play, winning two majors. Were it up to me I’d award all three gentlemen Player of the Year award.
Paul Goydos and Sergio Garcia at the Players Championship convinced me that Mr. Garcia learned how to putt (or rather relearned how to putt). Mr. Goydos reminded all of us how to be graceful in defeat, and that class plays well not just in Peoria, but everywhere. He would be my choice for Sportsman of the Year.
The Ryder Cup was as entertaining as it was compelling. I won’t soon forget Anthony Kim headed off the 14th green in his match with Mr. Garcia not knowing that he’d won the match 5 and 4. Hunter Mahan described it best, "He wanted to win 6 and 3". Paul Azinger would be crowned King of the World, well at least the American golf world, in what will eventually be remembered as the most over rated captaincy ever. Nick Faldo took another shot to his reputation, but at least Brenna Cepalek didn’t pound his car with a 9 iron again. Boo Weekly wins the award for Entertainer of the Year mostly for riding his driver off the tee like a horse. I can’t remember laughing that much watching a golf match.
How sad watching the Masters. No back nine charges, no roars, everything seemed a touch "off" somehow. Hootie Johnson may be remembered as the guy who brought the US Open to Augusta and took all the fun out of the carnival. Mr. Johnson rigged all the games so that no one will ever go home with the huge stuffed animal when he made all those changes to the golf course. Intent, I believe that was the word which precipitated the changes to the course. What was the architects intent? Since the architect is a dead guy, that opens the door to interpretation and eventually all the clarity of muddy water. It’s pronounced tomaTOE; no it’s toMAto. I felt like I was in mourning all week.
Anthony Kim grew up, and won twice. Very cool. I like Mr. Kim for his style and his talent. And that voice! I hear his voice and I think I’m listening to a guy who is 6’4", 325lbs. Somewhere he got hooked up with the wrong voice. I think he got into the golf talent line about three times and got stuck with a leftover for a voice. Not a bad thing, just amusing.
The Playoffs. Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas put on a show, but to call this a playoff? Sorry. It’s golf. Playoffs don’t have 144 participants, even Hockey eliminates some teams during the regular season. And to have the winner determined after two of the four events is beyond bizarre. To win the Super Bowl a team has to win the Super Bowl. The World Series is decided during the World Series not the League Championship Series. Go ahead and call it the FedEx Cup but don’t call this a playoff. It’s contrived. Call it something else or nothing at all, anything but playoff. What Tim Finchem has done is remove the luster from Mr. Singh’s and Mr. Villegas’ victories by shining a very bright light on "playoffs" instead of golf tournaments. Dear Mr. Finchem, back away from that word. Thank you.
And finally, my Christmas wish for Seve Ballesteros is continued recovery from illness, may he find the fairway again soon.
May the Holidays bring joy to you all. Thanks for helping make this year entertaining and memorable. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
European Tour announces 4-point plan in a bid to tackle slow play
On Monday, the European Tour announced a four-point plan aimed at tackling the issue of slow play in the game.
The plan, which will come into effect this November, will focus on four areas—regulation, education, innovation and field sizes.
Of those four areas, notable updates include that players will now only have to breach the time allowances twice in a round to incur a one-stroke penalty, and players who are put on the clock at least 15 times next season will now be fined £26,000 compared to the £9,000 fine they currently face.
In their statement, the European Tour said
“When players are out of position and either being monitored or timed, a one-shot penalty will be incurred after two bad times – currently a player would be ‘monitored’ and if he breaches the time allowance (50 seconds for first to play, 40 seconds for second or third to play) he will then be ‘officially timed’ and would then have to breach twice more before being given a one-shot penalty. Players will, however, have the option to request one time extension per round, giving an additional 40 seconds to hit a shot on this request.”
The Tour will also look to reduce the number of players in the field at events where possible, while rules officials are set to be proactive regarding targeting slow players on the course.
Speaking on the four-point plan, Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, stated
“We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our Tournament Committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps.
I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”
To retain their European Tour card, each member will have to pass an interactive online rules test, while a trial pace of play timing system will be implemented at the Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth next month where there will also be larger gaps between start times over the weekend’s rounds.
Tour Rundown: How the pros (and amateur) got it done this weekend
The Presidents Cup automatic-qualifying chase came to an end on Sunday. While students returned to schools across the country, and football teams played their 2nd preseason games. 10 USA golfers and 10 World professionals were named to their respective teams. Each captain has two at-large selections to make. For team USA, the unfortunately-underperforming Rickie Fowler may have two weeks for more Farmer’s Insurance commercials, as he finds himself in the #11 slot. Only Tiger Woods’ beneficence will save him from an early vacation. Xander Schauffele left nothing to chance this time around. After being ignored for a Ryder Cup captain’s pick last year, he made the PCup team on merit this year. The World team still has a load of Aussies (4 at last count) but has the presence of golfers from Taipei, Mexico, Thailand, China, South Africa and Japan. This year’s competition at Royal Melbourne has the potential to be quite memorable, assuming that the qualifiers don’t lose their edge over the next four months.
As for individual competition this week, we had lots of it. Playoff events on two tours, a male US Amateur champion to go with last week’s female winner, and a terrific story of rags to riches on the Champions tour. Seize the day and enjoy this week’s Tour Rundown.
You had to chuckle a bit this week as another of the game’s vaunted hollows caved to the expansive skill of the modern golf professional. Medinah #3 has long been held as a bastion of defense, but this week, well, they ate it up. Hideki Matsuyama shot 63 on Friday for a course record, then did it again on Sunday. Not only did he not win (he had 73 on Saturday) but his course record lasted all of 24 hours. Matsuyama did finish 3rd at -20, 2 shots behind Patrick Cantlay. The fellow who broke Matsuyama’s fresh course record was someone for whom 2018-19 has been relatively quite: Justin Thomas. So quiet, that is had been 53 weeks since his last victory. Thomas blistered Medinah Tres with 8 birdies and 2 eagles on Saturday, moving oh-so-close to the hallowed, sacred 59. In the spirit of generosity, he made bogey at the 6th (after opening with 5 birdies) to not completely eviscerate Matsuyama’s record (and Medinah’s spirit.) Of course, JT would open Sunday with a bogey, to give just a bit of hope to the chasers. He had 2 birdies on the outward nine, steadying the ship but certainly not assuring himself of anything. After making 6 at the par-5 10th (twice as many strokes as he needed 24 hours earlier) Thomas was once again forced to dig deep. In the past, he has been unable to follow up super-low rounds with the needed performance, but he was up to it on this day. The Kentucky lad made 4 birdies over the closing 8 holes to hold off Cantlay by 3.
Scottie Scheffler knew that he was headed to the PGA Tour after this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs. The Korn Ferry Tour playoffs would offer him an opportunity to better his standing, and he accomplished that task during week one of the finals. Scheffler, 3rd place during the regular season, vaulted into 1st on the strength of his 2-shot win over the Killer Bs (Brendan Todd, Beau Hossler and Ben Taylor.) Scheffler played like a seasoned vet, despite his 23 years of age. Scheffler made just 4 bogies during his final three rounds of 68-67-67 at the Ohio State University’s Scarlet course. That miser’s touch separated him from his chasers and gave him his 2nd win of the season. 25 PGA Tour cards were awarded during the regular season, and 25 more will be delivered at the Korn Ferry tour championship on September 2nd. If nerve-wracking putts are your flavor, stay tuned over the next fortnight.
Real Czech Masters
Thomas Pieters reminds you of every great range superstar. His swing exudes control and power, and you can’t help wondering how he doesn’t contend every week. That’s the mystery of golf, but Pieters reminded us why he has played Ryder Cup golf for Europe with a win this week in the Czech Republic. The tall Belgian sat 2 back of Edoardo Molinari after 36 holes, then took charge with a 66 on Saturday. On his heels was the young Spaniard, Adrian Arnaus, who posted middle 65s to stand one back on Saturday evening. The final round was half-shootout, half-stumble. Defending champion Andrea Pavan came out of the woods with 8 birdies over the first 15 holes. On a day when he needed perfection and 10 birdies, Pavan closed with 1 bogey and 0 birdies to tie Sam Horsfield for 3rd spot. Arnaus had three bogies on the day, and 2 of them came on the heels of birdie and eagle. The opposite of bounce-back, Arnaus gave Pieters breathing room with those mistakes. Closing with birdies at 16 and 18, Arnaus reached 18 below par, to put pressure on the leader. Pieters was 4-under on the day through 12 holes, and needed only to avoid disaster over the closing stretch. He stumbled with a bogey of his own at the 16th, but finished with pars to claim his 4th Euro title, 2nd at the Czech Masters, and 1st since 2016.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Open
Sometimes, the right person wins. Doug Barron epitomizes journeyman; he had to Monday-qualify to get in this week, and even has an are-you-kidding suspension on his record … for testosterone supplements. He’s not a big guy, and has low testosterone. He’s not Fred Couples, nor Langer, nor McCarron. Today, however, he is the Dick’s Sporting Goods champion. Barron and Miguel Angel Jimenez began the week with 65s, and Barron never let up. He followed with 68 on Saturday, and came home in 66 on Sunday, for a 2-shot victory. Understand that he had one of the game’s great personalities, and top golfers, on his heels on Sunday. Fred Couples turned in a tremendous 63 to finish at 15-under par, 2 clear of 3rd-place Woody Austin. Couples had the luck of the sleepy on his side: he dunked his tee shot on the par-3 14th hole, took his penalty drop, then chipped in for 3. Staying at the birdie-par timeshare in round 3, Couples had 9 of each to put serious pressure on Barron. How did the unlikely winner respond? Nearly identical to Freddie. Barron had 0 bogies on the day, and only 1 the entire week. The title elevated him 50 spots on the Schwab Cup money list, giving him an opportunity to move into the season-ending, playoff chase over the next 8 events.
U.S. Amateur rests in Ogletree’s arms
Andy Ogletree and John Augenstein were a perfect match in the U.S. Amateur final at Pinehurst. Ogletree was the 18th-ranked golfer in on-site qualifying, while Augenstein was #20. Both have had distinguished careers in college (Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt, respectively) and both were named yesterday to the USA side for the upcoming Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool, in England. In a most unique final, the morning 18 was played on the #4 course, while the afternoon round took place on the #2 layout. During the AM, 10 holes were won by the golfers, while 8 were halved. Augenstein stood 2-up after 18, but Ogletree delivered a warning bell with a birdie at the last. Ogletree returned to the course in identical form, making birdie on the 2nd hole to close within one hole. Augenstein remained in command, as most holes were halved until the 29th. At that juncture, Ogletree seized command with 3 wins in the next 4 holes, moving from 2 down to 1 up. A par at the par-3 17th hole, the 35th of the day, gave the Georgia Tech golfer a 2 up lead with 1 to play, making him this year’s national amateur champion.
In other news, the USGA added 7 golfers to its Walker Cup side. The one surprising move was the naming of Ricky Castillo, #9 in WAGR rankings and winner of 2 matches at Pinehurst, as 2nd alternate. The USGA decided that Steven Fisk and Alex Smalley, both ranked lower than Castillo, were better bets for success. Fortunately for the California kid, he is 18 and should have an opportunity to make both the 2021 and 2023 squads.
Morning 9: JT! (and other winners) | Why were scores so low at Medinah? | Why Phil nearly missed his tee time
August 19, 2019
Good Monday morning, golf fans. If there was ever a golfer built for point-and-shoot golf in wet conditions, Justin Thomas is that man. Power. High apex. Steep swing to handle wet rough. JT always looks like a soft-course specialist on paper.
1 JT triumphant
The AP’s Doug Ferguson…“Justin Thomas had more stress than he needed Sunday before regaining control with four birdies on the back nine at Medinah to win the BMW Championship and claim the No. 1 spot in the FedExCup standings entering next week’s TOUR Championship at East Lake.”
2. Season over for TW
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”Woods provided a glimmer of hope with Saturday’s 5-under 67, but he fell well outside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings after a final-round 72 Sunday at the BMW Championship.”
3. Meanwhile, among the guys who don’t play for money…
Win one for the bespectacled!
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard..“Georgia Tech’s Andy Ogletree defeated Vanderbilt’s John Augenstein 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final match to win the 119th U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst on Sunday evening.”
4. A repeat Czech master
AP report…”Thomas Pieters shot a 3-under 69 Sunday to become the first golfer to win the Czech Masters for the second time, beating Adri Arnaus by one stroke.”
5. …and at the World Invitational…
BBC report…”Stephanie Meadow earned an emotional home win at the World Invitational in Northern Ireland after holding off England’s Charley Hull by one shot.”
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”Scottie Scheffler already earned his PGA Tour card by finishing in the top 25 of the Korn Ferry Tour regular season points list.”
7. Why so low?
Plenty have been wondering why so many red numbers (and four course records) were posted at Medinah…
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister reports on the matter…
8. Phil and the phire
Wild stuff made wilder by Mickelson breaking the news on Twitter…
9. Have modern drivers made the game too easy?
Golf Channel’s Will Gray on some noteworthy remarks from one Adam Scott
Tommy Fleetwood’s bag is as awesome as he is (Tommy Fleetwood WITB)
Shane Lowry’s winning WITB: 2019 Open Championship
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Matthew Wolff’s winning WITB: 2019 3M Open
Collin Morikawa’s winning WITB: 2019 Barracuda Championship
Brooks Koekpa’s winning WITB: 2019 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense
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