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One round from No. 1

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By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer

Three years ago at the 2009 Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy met his idol Jack Nicklaus.  It was at the time only McIlroy’s second ever appearance on the PGA Tour.  But Jack knew immediately this young Northern Irishman was special.  McIlroy had, in Jack’s words, “moxie”.

One year later, again in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Jack and McIlroy would rendezvous before the 2010 Honda Classic at PGA National.  But this time Jack did a bit more than just say hello.  This time Jack took McIlroy aside and gave him an intensive, face to face, crash-course lesson in “how to be a major champion.”  And the dividend that followed was a 2011 U.S. Open Championship for McIlroy.

Fast forward to day three of the 2012 Honda Classic.  McIlroy shot a low round, 4-under 66 on Saturday, good enough for a two-stroke lead heading into Sunday.  And although the PGA Tour has yet to crown a 54-hole leader as tournament champion this season, McIlroy looks to be the odds on favorite to end that dubious streak.

A win on Sunday, however, will be much more significant than merely being McIlroy’s third career PGA Tour victory.  It will mean the 22-year old from Holywood would seize the throne of golf’s World No. 1 ranking away from Luke Donald.

And in the process, on the same course where McIlroy first became friends with Nicklaus, golf’s most prestigious major championship winner of all time, a win may usher in a new era of greatness for professional golf.  Usher in the much anticipated Rory McIlroy-Era.

“This is why I play golf,” McIlroy said.  “To put myself in contention to win tournaments and try to become the best player in the world.”

McIlroy will be grouped on Sunday with Tom Gillis and Harris English, both of whom are two strokes behind McIlroy.  To his credit, English matched McIlroy with a low round, 4-under 66 on Saturday.  And Gillis also managed to stay close thanks to some crafty work with the flatstick.  Gillis made more putts of 20-feet or longer on Saturday than he’s made all season long, which led one NBC commentator to dub him, “Mr. Par Saver.”

But does anyone really think the No. 212 ranked player in the world (English), or the No. 269 ranked player in the world (Gillis) have what it takes to leap past McIlroy?  Or that they’ll be the fortuitous benefactors of another McIlroy final round meltdown like at the 2011 Masters?

English is playing in only his sixth career PGA Tour event, and he’ll likely suffer the agony of rookie inexperience far sooner than the certain torture he’ll also become acquainted with as he negotiates his way through “The Bear Trap” (holes No. 15, No. 16, and No. 17) to finish the day.

Gillis on the other hand has plenty of experience.  In fact, he’s been playing golf almost as long as McIlroy’s been alive.  And to his credit, he has an impressive career best third-place finish at the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am.

But like English, Gillis finds himself in unknown territory, under the oppressive, baking spotlight of a final pairing with someone who is fiercely determined to become the No. 1 ranked player in the world.

Greater men have wilted under less stressful scenarios.  And McIlroy speaks with the maturity of someone who’s been there, done that.

“I’ve just got to approach this like any other tournament and try and go out there and win tomorrow, McIlroy said.  “That’s all I can focus on.”

Players with better chances of overtaking McIlroy might be major championship winners Keegan Bradley (2012 PGA Championship winner), who shot a two-under 68 on Saturday, and at 7-under overall, is four shots back, tied for fourth place.  Or Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters Champion), who shot a 3-under 67 on Saturday, and at six-under overall, is five shots back, tied for sixth place.

Also four off the lead and tied for fourth-place are Justin Rose, who shot one-over, 71, and Brian Harmon, who shot a one-under 69.

You Talkin’ To Me?

Johnny Miller had the best line of the day.  After McIlroy hit a nearly perfect 9 iron into the green at No. 15 (which he went on to birdie), Miller said, “That shows why he’ll be the next great player on tour.  But tomorrow may be a different story.” OUCH!  Miller obviously was referring to McIlroy’s 2011 Augusta meltdown, but come on Johnny!  You barely had time to breath between lavishing him with praise and then tarring him in feathers.

Leave The Gun, Take The Canoli

Everyone has days like you had today Justin Rose.  Take it to heart; you did well to escape at just a one-over 71.  Rose shared the midway lead with Gillis before play began on Saturday, but was all over the place with his iron play, and missed a birdie putt on No. 18 that most viewing thought he’d sink.  Still, Rose is only four strokes back.  And if it’s true what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, then Sunday might be an open invitation for Rose to come strong and steal away a victory.

Say Hello To My Little Friend

McIlroy crushed his drive 320 yards on No. 18, as if to say upon leaving the Bear Trap, “trap this!”

The Luck Of The Irish

Fellow Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington didn’t fare quite as well as their countryman McIlroy.  McDowell shot a one-under 69, and is seven strokes off the lead, while Harrington shot a two-over 72, to slide back 11 strokes off the lead.

NOTES:

The likelihood of severe thunderstorms tomorrow has caused tournament organizers to move all tee-times forward.  Winds are expected to gust as high as 25 mph.

Jack Nicklaus redesigned Holes No, 15, No. 16, and No. 17, in 1990, when it was given the infamous nickname “The Bear Trap” (No. 17 has caused more three-putts for golfers than any other hole at PGA National).

Tiger Woods was a non-factor on Saturday, finishing with a one-under 69, nine strokes behind the leader and tied for 18th place.  Also tied with Tiger are Ernie Els, Ricky Fowler, Mark Wilson, and Fredrik Jacobson.  Woods playing partner Lee Westwood carded three bogeys Saturday to finish even-par 70 on the day, and is 10 shots behind McIlroy overall.

Coverage resumes Sunday at 1 p.m. EST on GolfChannel, and switches over to NBC from 3-6 p.m.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

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GolfWRX Morning 9: More venom for USGA, Mickelson | The specter of 5-hour rounds

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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 19 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1.”No obvious leadership”

 

Ganging up on the USGA–both when warranted and when not–is a sport in the world of golf. Thus, it’s not surprising to see the takesmiths continuing to reload and empty their clips.

 

That said, Brandel Chamblee’s remarks were particularly scathing and far reaching.
  • “Something’s amiss in a big, big way,” Chamblee said. “I think the USGA has lost a lot of the trust of the golf world.”
  • “They missed the rebound effect and the combination of the rebound effect [with] the ball. They missed it, on their watch. And now, the feeling is that they’re crying foul, even though it was on their watch. And so, essentially, the equipment companies got it done, by [the USGA’s] standards, legally.
  • “There’s penalties that they levy that make absolutely no sense, penalties that they don’t levy,” Chamblee said. “Disqualifying Phil Mickelson made perfect sense.”
  • “There seems to be no obvious leadership, you know, to me,” he said. “No obvious leadership heading in the right direction.”
(h/t to Joel Beall for the transcription)

 

2. Mickelson dragging continues

 

Plenty of ink continues to be spilled condemning Phil Mickelson and/or the USGA. Here’s a bit from Nick Rodger at Scotland’s The Herald.
  • “Mickelson’s well-documented antics during the third round of the US Open, where he deliberately hit a moving ball on the 13th green to prevent it trundling goodness knows where, brought widespread condemnation but no disqualification.”
  • “He should’ve been but the USGA officials effectively buried their heads in the technical mumbo jumbo of the rule book even though Mickelson brazenly admitted to the breach.”
  • “Rather like failing to punish marquee names for slow play, this was another example of lily-livered officialdom. Mickelson’s crass celebration at holing a putt on the same green on Sunday was another Harvey Smith salute to the spirit of the game.”
Lily-livered!…More

 

3. Say what you will, this U.S. Open was entertaining

 

Good for golf? Bad for golf? Bad for the USGA? Bad for Phil Mickelson? Bad for Dustin Johnson? Who cares, writes the AP’s Charles Curtis, the U.S. Open was entertaining.
  • He catalogues everything from Bryson DeChambeau’s “clown golf” comments, to Mickelson’s meltdown, to Dustin Johnson’s slow burn  in this piece.
4. Back to work for Spieth and McIlroy

 

A friendly reminder that following disappointing weeks at Shinnecock, both Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are back to work this week at TPC River Highlands for the Travelers Championship.
  • Spieth, if you’ll recall, won the tournament in a playoff last year (remember Michael Greller throwing the rake in celebration?). He’ll look to get his putting back on track.
  • Rory McIlroy, for his part, is coming off a week where he simply did not look sharp in many facets of his game.
  • It’s not all that common for big names to be back in action the week after a major, so many will relish the opportunity to see if something is indeed rotten for the duo.
5. Bridgestone Golf’s new leader

 

Following the departure of Angel Ilagan late last month, Bridgestone Golf has appointed Dan Murphy as President and CEO.
  • Murphy was previously with the company from 2004 to 2015. He most recently served as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
  • Since 2015, Murphy was President of textile manufacturer Kentwool and Vice President of American Achievement Corporation.
  • 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.”
6. How a recreational round of golf takes 5 hours

 

“1.56pm: The standard of play gets increasingly ragged as we edge towards four hours on the course. The sandwich seems a distant memory, everyone has run out of water and snacks and the round starts to drift.”
  • That’s a dispatch from the trenches in a funny-if-it-weren’t-so-true piece by Mark Towsend for National Club Golfer. Townsend examines the phenomenon of the agonizingly slow round in a gruesome breakdown of a recent Saturday morning round.

 

7. (In)famous disqualifications.

 

Following Phil Mickelson’s avoidance of disqualification at the U.S. Open, Kevin Markham at the Irish Examiner put together a rundown of some of the great DQs in the game’s history.
  • “It’s not often that two golfers get disqualified at once but that’s what happened at the 2003 Open Championship, at Royal St George’s. Mark Roe and Jesper Parnevik played together in the third round and recorded every score correctly. They signed their cards at the end of the round and Roe’s 67 meant he was in third place entering the final day, set to play alongside Tiger Woods.”
  • “Only it wasn’t to be: the two men had not exchanged cards at the beginning of the round and therefore ended up signing the wrong cards. The Rules officials wouldn’t budge despite the outcry over such an error and the game’s archaic scoring traditions remained intact.”

 

8. Well played, Suzy Whaley!

 

The incoming PGA of America president–and first woman to serve in that capacity–Suzy Whaley fired a 73 in qualifying at The Olympic Club to earn a spot in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
  • Said Whaley (per Golf Digest): “I’d like to see more women’s golf on network TV and the golf purses increase
  • “I want to see these women showcased for their talent and skills and the role models that they are around the world. … Young girls can see themselves as elite athletes or as women in positions of authority. Golf has the opportunity to provide that empowerment and that opportunity”.
9. Place your bets

 

With the second major of the year newly mothballed, odds for the third major of the year are being refined. Here are the latest Open Championship odds, via Bovada.

 

Dustin Johnson: 11/1
Rory McIlroy: 12/1
Jordan Spieth:12/1
Rickie Fowler:16/1
Justin Rose:16/1
Tommy Fleetwood:18/1
Brooks Koepka:18/1
Justin Thomas:20/1
Tiger Woods:20/1
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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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