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The Match Play Awards

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The opening weeks of the 2012 golf season have been the best in recent memory, and this week did not disappoint as Hunter Mahan won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, closing out world No. 2 Rory McIlroy 2 and 1 in the final.  And, since the grand finale was held on the same day as the Oscar Awards (which seemingly lasts the same five days as the Match Play), let’s have some fun and give out the first annual Match Play awards, or “Matchies.”

Performance in a Leading Role: Hunter Mahan. After stumbling in a number of earlier opportunities to be a leading man, most recently at the Ryder Cup, it was a possibility that Mahan might not get another shot at a leading role. But Mahan stepped up to fulfill the potential as a professional on a major stage he has shown since winning the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship as a child actor.  He was consistently excellent throughout the week, producing a barrage of birdies that overwhelmed even the precocious McIlroy on the opening nine holes of their championship duel. Runner-up mention goes to McIlroy, who almost took home the trophy with only his B-Game.

Best Original Story: The drama between Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. As clients of agent Chubby Chandler, and Ryder Cup teammates, Rory and Lee had been connected at the hip for years as mentor and mentee. Westwood and McIlroy had formed a strong, seemingly permanent bond. That bond was damaged, if not severed, when McIlroy left Team Chandler, and what was once a warm relationship developed a thick layer of frost. McIlroy’s emotional victory in the semifinal over Westwood likely took a bit of steam out of him over the first nine holes of the final, where the combination of his loosest iron play of the week and the Mahan buzz saw dropped him into a four-hole deficit. He eventually found his second wind and made a game of it, but he simply ran out of holes to get it done.

Best Supporting Actress: The fan who caught Westwood’s wayward drive on ended up with a ball down the back of her sweater on the 13th hole of the semi-final against McIlroy. After somehow snagging the drive in her pullover without chipping a vertebrae, she displayed perfect comic timing as she stood patiently and waited for Westwood’s caddy to deliver the memorable line, “Would you mind walking 250 yards down the fairway?”

Best Supporting Actor:  Rory McIlroy’s 3-wood. Forget the PGA Tour; Homeland Security should be investigating the grenade launcher/golf club that McIlroy has only had in his bag for just over a week. Striping it up to forty yards past his opponents’ best efforts with a driver, we are sure to see this weapon star again in Augusta.

Best Special Effect: The dust devil that held a pavilion umbrella aloft over the golf course early in the Mahan – McIlroy match. It looked like Mary Poppins was making her way to the hospitality tents.

Best Set Design: Mother Nature and Jack Nicklaus share this one. Nicklaus gets the nod for the stunning Dove Mountain layout that was such a perfect combination of natural beauty and unforgiving vindictiveness they could rename it “First Wife.” Mother Nature, after sneezing out a snow squall for last year’s final, this year graced the mountain layout with six days of sun-drenched weather in the gorgeous Arizona high sierra.

Best Animated Feature: Ricky Fowler’s opening day match. Ok, I know he’s real, but he sure dressed like a cartoon character and after his surprising upset loss to David Toms, all that was missing was Nick Faldo saying “Th-Th-That’s all, Folks!”.

Best Director: To shared by all of the directors who ran the coverage of the event on the first two days of competition. With 16 meaningful matches to cover, The Golf Channel/NBC team did an exceptional job of getting great pictures, great angles and great slo-mo replays.  And they kept the stars of the TGC team (Faldo, Rosaforte, Chamblee) in front of the cameras for the lion’s share of the time, minimizing the painful dronings of some of the other talking heads in their stable.

Makeup: Jason Day takes this Matchie for making up a three-hole deficit in three holes in his first round against Spain’s Raphael Cabrera-Bello. Look for Day to be near or at the top of all of the leaderboard and all of the majors this year.

And just like the Oscars, the Matchies saves the top award for last. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Matchie for Best Picture goes to … any picture of Hunter Mahan’s wife, Kandi. Check your google machine for conformation.

Like I said, it’s been a great season.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

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Bridgestone Golf appoints Dan Murphy President as CEO

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Following the departure of Angel Ilagan late last month, Bridgestone Golf has appointed Dan Murphy as President and CEO.

Dan Murphy was previously with the company from 2004 to 2015. He most recently served as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. As President and CEO, Murphy will be responsible for directing the company’s core business functions, including product planning and production, marketing, sales and customer relations.

“I’ve been with Bridgestone Golf since the beginning and the passion runs deep,” says Murphy. “We make the most technologically-advanced golf balls in the world and my role is to help ensure Bridgestone is recognized as the industry’s leading example of how science and data is used to make products that improve the performance of all golfers.”

Since 2015, Murphy was President of textile manufacturer Kentwool and Vice President of American Achievement Corporation.

Before joining Bridgestone Golf almost 15 years ago, he held key marketing and business development positions at TaylorMade, Dunlop Slazenger, Maxfli, and General Mills.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: How Brooks Koepka channeled Jack Nicklaus | It happened again | Mickelson theories abound

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Good morning, GolfWRX members. As most of you are signed up for our newsletters, you likely already know that I’ve been sending this little Morning 9 roundup of nine items of note to start your day.

In case you’ve missed it, or you prefer to read on site rather than in your email, we’re including it here. Check out today’s Morning 9 below. Feedback is always welcome–send everything from news tips to complaints (hopefully more tips than complaints)!

If you’re not signed up for our newsletters, you can subscribe here.

By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

 

June 18, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans. However poorly your start to the week is going, you can rest assured it’s better than Mike Davis’. The USGA head will continue to parry criticism about course conditions at Shinnecock and the decision not to disqualify Phil Mickelson. Needless to say, it’s not the look the folks in Far Hills wanted.
1. BK to BK
Tougher course, same winner: Brooks Koepka won his second U.S. Open in a row AND Joe Buck got Koepka’s girlfriend’s name right. Incredible performances.
  • While there’s plenty of good writing about the golf jock’s win, Tim Dahlberg’s AP columns stands out. “Titled Koepka wins an Open where the whiners go home early,” Dahlberg looks at BK’s win through the old Jack Nicklaus quote that he knew he didn’t have to worry about anyone complaining about the U.S. Open setup.
  • Now, the validity of player gripes in Nicklaus’ era versus today is up for debate. However, it is worth noting that Koepka didn’t complain once in the course of his W.
  • Said Koepka after his win: “I enjoy the test. I enjoy being pushed to the limit,” he said. “Sometimes you feel like you are about to break mentally, but that’s what I enjoy. I enjoy hard golf courses. I enjoy playing about the toughest in golf you are ever going to play.”
2. The faltering of Dustin Johnson
Not to kick a man when he’s down, but it’s worth remembering that Dustin Johnson was 4 under par after two rounds at the U.S. Open. Brooks Koepka’s winning score was 1 over, and DJ himself ultimately finished at 3 over par.
  • What went wrong for the World No 1
  • Golf Channe’s Will Gray spelled it out: “The culprit for Johnson’s regression was clear. After leading the field in strokes gained: putting through the first two rounds, he couldn’t get comfortable on the greens on the weekend. Johnson needed 38 putts to complete his third round, T-64 among the 67 players who made the cut, and his 35 final-round putts were T-63 in the same category.”

3. Tommy 63

Here’s a take: Tommy Fleetwood’s final-round tournament record-tying 63 won’t get the love it deserves both because Fleetwood didn’t ultimately win and because of the USGA’s rain god routine prior to the final round
  • This is a shame. Fleetwood’s 7-under final round was one bad putt read at the 18th hole away from a 62. The score would not only have been a historic achievement–the lowest round in U.S.Open history–but it would have tied him with Brooks Koepka.
  • Here’s another take: We focus too much on the Englishman’s hair and beard (both of which are epic at the moment). He has top-10 finishes in the last two U.S. Opens and has added his name to a shortlist of players on the verge of a major breakthrough.
4. USG-let it get aw-A-y
Helped by a few dicey pins and more wind than expected, Shinnecock Hills got away from the USGA late Saturday. And while the tournament is over and the damage done, plenty continue to discuss the topic.
  • Geoff Shackelford broke it down nicely for Golfweek.
  • “Shinnecock Hills 2018 will be remembered for Wednesday night’s round-saving watering, not hydrating enough Saturday and an emergency drenching Sunday to keep the place from spilling into absurdity.”
  • “For two of its final three days, the U.S. Open faced bright, dry and potentially fast conditions. The U.S. Golf Association fed Shinnecock Hills enough water. History, however, will remember Saturday’s gaffe when players putted off browned-out greens as balls would not stop rolling and, most disappointing of all, the morning wave faced wildly better course conditions compared to the beleaguered afternoon leaders.”
  • “The lessons of 2004 were not learned….The mistake that could never happen again, happened again.”
5. Mickelson’s field hockey remains baffling
What to say about Phil Mickelson? The left-hander’s child-playing-putt-putt routine Saturday continues to confound, especially after Mickelson declined to talk to reporters Sunday and engaged in a mock celebration at the 13th hole (scene of the Saturday crime) Sunday.
  • Some scribes question whether Mickelson’s move (essentially taking the penalty to save time and avoid pain) was as calculated as Lefty later made it seem. Reports indicate Mickelson told playing partner Beef Johnston he wasn’t sure what the rules dictated in such a situation…before later telling reporters he knew the rules and was using them for his advantage.
  • Plenty continue to discuss the incident from an etiquette standpoint. Just as many debate whether Mickelson ought to have been disqualified or withdrawn from the tournament. And of course, some celebrate the gesture as a perceived middle finger to the USGA, its course management, and hole locations.
  • In short, Mickelson’s polo playing will remain a topic of discussion.
6. Parziale and father
No. 6 was going to be Ian Poulter complaining about the USGA and U.S. fans, but really, whose life is going to be enhanced by that? So, instead, how about Matt Parziale?
  • The reigning U.S. Mid-Am champ, already much discussed owing to his Massachusetts firefighter backstory, not only made the cut at the U.S. Open (as you probably know), but he had his father on the bag all week.
  • Heckuva Father’s Day! Parziale finished 5 over par Sunday to tie for low amateur at 16 over for the tournament.
7. Other golf!
In case you missed them, there were professional golf tournaments not named the U.S. Open played last week. Here’s one.
  • So Yeon Ryu won the Meijer LPGA Classic. Lydia Ko finished three shots back. The win is the sixth of the South Korean’s career and represents a return to form.
  • “If I look back on my season, I wasn’t really satisfied with it and I’ve been really, really struggling, I had a lot of crazy moments,” said Ryu. “I had some good rounds, I had some really bad rounds, so I couldn’t even really finish top-10 much compared to any other season. So all those reasons just drove me crazy.”
8. Gear Dive
Johnny Wunder goes deep with Mizuno Golf Engineer Chris Voshall. Voshall speaks on how Brooks Koepka was the one that almost got away, and why Mizuno irons are still secretly the most popular on Tour.
9. USG-pay d-A-y
The cleverness in this section’s title is over the line, just like Shinnecock Hils, Saturday.
Here are the payouts for top finishers at the (big money) U.S. Open.
  • 1: Brooks Koepka, $2,160,000
  • 2: Tommy Fleetwood, $1,296,000
  • 3: Dustin Johnson, $812,927
  • 4: Patrick Reed, $569,884
  • 5: Tony Finau, $474,659
  • T-6: Xander Schauffele, $361,923
  • T-6: Tyrrell Hatton, $361,923
  • T-6: Henrik Stenson, $361,923
  • T-6: Daniel Berger, $361,923
Rough stuff for Tony Finau, whose double bogey at the 72nd hole cost him more than 200 grand. But at least he didn’t dislocate an ankle in this major championship
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5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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