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Morning 9: Bravo, Lanto! | Wisberger wins again | Rickie Fowler is a married man

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By Ben Alberstadt

October 13, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Bravo, Lanto! 
AP report on Lanto Griffin bursting out of the gate in his PGA Tour career at the Houston Open…
  • “Lanto Griffin took the lead with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and won the Houston Open on Sunday with a 6-foot par that gave him a 3-under 69 and a one-shot victory that sends him to the Masters next year.”
  • “Griffin was locked into a battle on the back nine at the Golf Club of Houston with Mark Hubbard and Scott Harrington…Hubbard lost the lead with a bogey on the par-5 16th, while Harrington’s big rally ended with a three-putt bogey on the 17th.”
  • “Griffin’s birdie on the 16th was his first since the eighth hole. On the 18th hole, he ran his 60-foot birdie attempt about 6 feet by the hole and made that to avoid a playoff.”

Full piece.

2. Capstone on Wiesberger’s comeback 
“Austrian Bernd Wiesberger held off a spirited challenge from England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick to claim his third European Tour title of the season at the Italian Open in Rome on Sunday.”
“Wiesberger carded six-under-par 65 in the final round at the Olgiata Club for a 16-under total to overturn a three-shot deficit and beat overnight leader Fitzpatrick by one stroke.”

Full piece.

3. Beemer!
Great stuff from Eamon Lynch, who spoke with the golfer-turned-analyst-turned-golfer-for-the-week Beem.
  • Here’s Beem discussing his son caddying for him…”I want to teach him how good rounds happen, how to save marginal rounds and how to make the most out of a bad situation,” Beem said. “He’s at that age where he gives up mentally. It’s easy to teach them when things are going well. But when things are going sideways, as they did today, how do you save this thing?”
  • “Rounds of 69-71 had put Beem inside the top 20 at the halfway point, but a lousy finish earlier to his third round was chapping him. “I shot 76 today and inside I’m fuming. But there’s nothing I can do,” he said between bites of the Mexican fast food the pair were sharing. “I gave it my best. That’s what I had today.”

Full piece.

Beem tied for 55th after a final-round 71
4. Kang’s advice
Mike McAllister at PGATour.com…“LPGA pro Danielle Kang had some choice words for her boyfriend, PGA TOUR rookie Maverick McNealy, after he shot a third-round 73 on Saturday at the Houston Open.”
“…So what exactly did Kang tell McNealy, who started the week nicely with a 68 before sliding down the leaderboard with middle rounds of 74 and 73?”
“She wanted me to do three things today,” said McNealy, who then provided the specifics.
  • “1. Don’t look at the leaderboards. “So I intentionally did not look at a single leaderboard today,” McNealy said, a difficult task on the back nine given his big move that at one point had him inside the top 10.”
  • “2. Be stronger and stricter with the mental scorecards. “I did that with my 95% of my shots today,” McNealy said. “I only had two shots that I wasn’t fully focused or in the zone or committed on, so I was really happy with that. If I can keep it to two or less, it’s going to be a good day.”
  • “3. Say two good things to himself after every shot. “So it was a very positive day out there for me,” McNealy said.”
5. Kelly rallies
AP report…”Madison’s Jerry Kelly knew he needed to make as many birdies as he could Sunday in a sprint to the finish in the SAS Championship. He was so locked into the process that he didn’t realize how many he made until he marked them down on his card.”
“Locked in a tight race, Kelly ran off five straight birdies to close out the front nine and then made an insurance birdie late that carried him to a 7-under 65 and a one-shot victory in the final regular-season event on the PGA Tour Champions.”
6. Hammer’s takeaway
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”The 20-year-old University of Texas sophomore was extended a sponsor invite into the Houston Open, his hometown PGA Tour event, and walked away Sunday with a 1-over performance and four rounds under his belt.”
  • “It was a great week,” said Hammer, whose only other pro start came at the 2015 U.S. Open when he was 15 years old. “Obviously, I would’ve liked to have played a little better the last three rounds, but I made the cut and played for four days.”
  • “He also got a taste of just how tough the Tour can be. The reigning McCormack medalist as the world’s top-ranked amateur earlier this year, Hammer got a difficult draw. He had to play 12 holes in 30 mph gusts Friday and then wake up early to finish his second round on what was a 24-hole day on Saturday.”
7. Knight’s whirlwind
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…:”Cheyenne Knight drove through Whataburger on her way home from winning her first LPGA event.”
  • “After a satisfying meal of chicken tenders, sweet tea and fries, there was dancing in the kitchen with her family to “We are the Champions” by Queen.”
  • “It didn’t really sink in, however, until later on Monday when the family watched the replay from the final round of the Volunteers of America LPGA Classic. Congratulatory texts from the likes of Morgan Pressel, Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis, Angela Stanford and the Korda sisters helped too.”
  • “The whirlwind continued throughout the week, with Knight boarding a plane bound for China after getting in the field for the Buick LPGA Shanghai.”

Full piece.

8. Q-School storylines 
Zach Sepanik for LPGA.com with this on Lucy Li…”She may be gearing up for her first taste of Q-School and one of the youngest individuals competing at 17 years old, but Lucy Li (Redwood Shores, California) has big plans in her future both on and off the golf course.”
  • “As the professional ranks beckon, Li has no timetable for her announcement on making the leap. While she is still determining the right moment for a decision, one thing is for sure and that is how Li will make an impact outside the ropes.”
  • “I’m going to start a foundation giving back to junior golf part of my earnings from events I play,” said Li, who first got started in golf at the age of 7. “It is such a great sport and I really want more kids to play, especially with how many opportunities come through it. I’m going to take the time from now until next season starts to really figure things out with help from my family.”

Full piece.

9. ICYMI: Rickie’s off the market
As reported by Golf Channel’s Grill Room team…”Congratulations go out to Rickie Fowler and Allison Stokke, who just revealed that they got married last Saturday.”
“Fowler and Stokke on Friday both posted pictures of their Oct. 5 beach wedding to Instagram”
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Tour Rundown: Heroic and human in Houston

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It was a funny thing, to read on various social and traditional media sites, that this week’s PGA Tour event was not quite up to snuff. I hope that those pundits took the time out to watch the final 9 holes on Sunday. They saw a mix of heroic and human shots, of smart and silly decisions, and nerves galore. For those who decry the dominance of Brooks Koepka, this week was for them.

It was a lean week for professional golf, with the European Tour and PGA Tour Champions as the only other games in town. As with the Houston Open, each of those offerings provided an 11th-hour finish, providing attention-grabbing golf until the final putt was holed. Lest we forget, golf from October on used to be called the Silly Season, and it featured free money for dour professionals. Count how lucky we are on both hands, that the wraparound season, and the Schwab Cup, Race To Dubai, and Race to CME Globe came about. Let’s have a quick Tour Sprintdown, starting now.

PGA Tour: Houston Open readies for Memorial Park with Lanto’s win

The PGA Tour might have unknowingly stumbled onto a vial of elixir at this week’s H.O. With nary a star golfer to be found, the event came down to a battle of the also-rans (Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell, Harris English) guys who once were at the top, but now, are not; versus the wanna-get-theres (Lanto Griffin, Scott Harrington, Mark Hubbard) golfers freshly promoted from Triple A, itching for the security and confidence that a big-tour victory brings. I’m not sure how to package it, but there is something there! Paging Chris Harrison. Bring roses.

Back to the tournament. The Houston Open used to hold the door for the Masters, entertaining the best of the world; now, it doesn’t. That’s a negative. The tournament used to be played at a yawner of a tour course, in a town called Humble; in 2020, it returns to the city center, to a public course reborn from Tom Doak and Mike Nuzzo. That’s a huge positive. In 2019, viewers watched as a trio of non-winners soared and stumbled down the stretch, risking all to gather in an initial tour triumph.

It was a tale of three golfers: Lanto Griffin, the 3rd-round leader; Scott Harrington, the survivor; and Mark Hubbard, the best Twitter handle on any tour. Hubbard got nothing going on the back nine. Just one birdie would have brought him a tie for 1st. Instead, a lone bogey at the 15th cemented a tie for 2nd with Scott Harrington. Harrington narrowly missed a tour card during last season’s Korn Ferry schedule, but redeemed himself in the playoffs. He had four birdies and two bogeys over a 6-hole stretch late Sunday. Like Harrington, just one more birdie might have done the trick. Instead, it was Lanto Griffin, also a KF Tour graduate, who made a 6-feet putt for par at the frightening 18th, to win an inaugural tour title in style.

European Tour: Wiesberger holds off surging Fitzpatrick

Good old internal out of bounds. It snagged Rory McIlroy in Northern Ireland this summer, and it tackled Matthew Fitzpatrick at this week’s Italian Open. Something that should not exist, yet does, once again changed the course of a tournament. Fitzpatrick had the lead at the 9th, then he did not. He fought back gamely, but missed a golden chance for eagle at the 17th. The resulting birdie forced him to birdie the 18th, and he could not muster a 2nd-consecutive chirp.

Finishing a few groups ahead of Fitzy was Bernd Wiesberger, the talented Austrian who summoned all his skills over the closing 55 holes. From the 9th hole on Saturday through the finish, Wiesberger had 12 birdies and 0 others. He was flawless when he needed to be, and there was just enough flaw in Fitzpatrick to let Bernd through the door. The young Englishman had four birdies on the day, 3 on the inward half, when he needed to press. Would he have made them, had the 9th hole yielded par or birdie, rather than double bogey? Impossible to say. For the champion, Olgiata provided a venue for his 2nd Rolex Series title of the season, pairing well with Wiesberger’s Scottish Open triumph over the summer.

PGA Tour Champions: Kelly collects 3rd title of 2019

Jerry Kelly has never been one to hide his emotions. One imagines the glee on his Wisconsin-bred face as he birdied holes 5 through 9 on Sunday, racing to an outward 29 and the lead at the SAS Championship. One also imagines the consternation as New Zealand’s David McKenzie turned the tables, coming home with 5 birdies and 1 eagle for an inward 31. Fortunately for Kelly, he added birdies at 15 and 17, granting freedom to bogey the last and win by a stroke.

Kelly hasn’t been a Champions-Tour golfer for long. He won twice in 2017, a year after he reached the senior circuit, then dipped to 1 victory last season. 2019 has been a veritable motherlode for the tour grinder. SAS represented his 3rd title of this campaign, following wins in June at the AFI and September, at the ALLY. It also means that Kelly closed the gap on Scott McCarron, in the race for the Charles Schwab Cup. Three events remain, spread out over the next 5 weeks. As with everything else autumn, this race will not decide itself until the final putt falls.

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Morning 9: Redemption week? | Pettersen’s letter to her son | Tiger’s new design venture

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and golfwrxEIC on Twitter.

October 11, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Austin Cook’s redemption week
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister on the round one leader…”Cook, making his first Houston Open appearance since 2015, shot a bogey-free 8-under 64 on Thursday morning to gain a share of the Houston Open lead midway through the first round (Talor Gooch also shot a 64).”
  • “The ball-striking that Cook displayed four years ago was on display again Thursday, as he hit all 18 greens in regulation (and missed just two fairways). His biggest shot came at the par-5 eighth, when his second shot from 218 yards finished inside 12 feet, which he converted for an eagle.”
  • “And just like four years ago, Cook credited a lesson – this time via video – from his coach for getting his swing straightened out.”

Full piece.

2. Texas winds to blow
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine plays weather man…”It’s getting ready to really blow at the Houston Open.”
  • “A cold front is expected to move through Houston on Friday, bringing with it late-morning thunderstorms and blustery afternoon conditions. The forecast calls for 15-25 mph sustained winds on Friday afternoon, with gusts reaching 30 mph.”

Full piece.

3. Cole Hammer
Golfweek’s Adam Schupak…”Hammer made a double bogey on his second hole, No. 11, and hit only six of 14 fairways, but his putter served him well and he rolled in eight birdies en route to a 5-under 67. That left him three strokes off the pace of co-leaders Austin Cook and Talor Gooch after the morning wave. Cook played bogey-free and hit all 18 greens in regulation while Gooch carded 10 birdies, including holing a 63-foot putt at No. 9.”
  • “An amateur hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open, and Hammer wasn’t about to allow himself to start thinking ahead about such lofty goals.”

Full piece.

4. Italian Open
BBC Report…”World number five Justin Rose is two shots off the lead at the Italian Open after a five-under 66 in Rome.”
  • “The 39-year-old, 31st in the European Tour’s Race To Dubai standings, carded seven birdies at the Olgiata Golf Club.”
  • “Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, third in the standings, is level with Rose in a share of third place, with Finland’s Tapio Pulkannen ahead by one shot.”
  • “Standings leader Jon Rahm, who won last weekend’s Spanish Open, is not playing, with six events left after this week.”
5. Letter to Herman…
Suzann Pettersen penned a beautiful missive to her sone Herman on LPGA.com…
  • She concludes her heartfelt letter this way… “hope this story helps you understand our family. I hope it helps you appreciate the discipline and determination it takes to reach goals. Work over time will always pay off. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions. I hope you find the passion in whatever you do that I found in golf – a love that dwelled deep in my heart. And I hope you see in this story, in my one incredible week at the Solheim Cup, that there is a time for everything in life.”
  • “That Sunday was the time for me to step away from golf and be a wife and mother. I hope you can find the peace in your decisions that I have found in mine.”

Full piece.

6. Tiger Woods: putting green designer
Our Gianni Magliocco…”On Thursday, Tiger Woods announced a new partnership between his business entity TGR Ventures and PopStroke Entertainment Group, that will see the 15-time major champion design the putting greens at future PopStroke events.”
  • “In a statement released on his website, Woods said”
  • “This is a natural extension of my golf course design philosophy and my TGR Design business. Our goal has always been to design courses that bring people together and are fun for golfers of all abilities and ages.”

Full piece.

7. Lee6 ROY 
GolfChannel’s Randall Mell…”Jeongeun Lee6 has officially clinched the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award.”
  • “It marks the fifth consecutive season a player from South Korea has won the honor, the eighth time in the last 11 years and the 13th time overall.”
  • “With her tie for eighth at the Volunteers of America Classic last weekend, Lee6 can’t be caught in the Rolex Rookie of the Year points race.”

Full piece.

8. Montana state golf championship: ice bowl edition 
Carson Williams at the Golf Channel…”With a state title on the line, the heat was turned up during the Montana Class AA State Golf Championships on Tuesday.”
  • “In a figurative sense, certainly not literally. Quite the opposite, actually.”
  • “According to 406 MT Sports, on the back nine of the tournament, as players were fighting to take home a coveted state championship, things were made a little more difficult as snow began to fall. But that didn’t phase those vying to ink their names into the record books.”

You have to see the photos.

9. Granada battling back
John Strege at Golf Digest…”The year was 2006. Granada, a Paraguayan, only had been exposed to the upside of professional golf at that point, unaware there could even be a downside.”
  • “…Golf might not be a contact sport, but it packs a punch nonetheless, and Granada eventually found herself on the receiving end. From 2016 through 2018, while attempting to play through back pain, she missed the cut in 31 of 45 LPGA starts, and saw her playing opportunities dwindling to a scant few.”
  • “So it was that Granada, 32, cast aside pride and played the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit, in 2019. It was there that she regained her full LPGA membership for 2020 by finishing seventh on its money list.”

 

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