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Tour Rundown: Bubba crushes Kisner in championship match

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As the golf world enters the fortnight of the first two majors of the season, the competitors shift and shuffle at the top of the rankings. Favorites struggle while unknowns and used-to-be-knowns discover and rediscover top form. The ANA Inspiration is this week on the LPGA tour, while the Masters follows a week later, for the men. For this week, however, we had match play in Texas hill country, windy medal play in the Caribbean, along with some bayou and Cali golf to round things out. Sprinters, get in your blocks for this week’s Tour Rundown.

Watson wins the year’s second WGC event going away

An interesting statistic made the rounds on social media, as Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner prepared to contest the final match of the Dell WGC Match Play championship at Austin Country Club. The bit suggested that Kisner stood a good chance against the tall lefty, having bested him head-to-head on multiple occasions. On this day, that statistic lied. Kisner match his worst start with Watson’s solid play, and was down five holes after five. It didn’t get much better, and both Watson and Kisner were able to have an early dinner, playing just 12 holes of their final match.

Watson’s ways were winderful

Kisner was a blend of bad and unfortunate on Sunday afternoon. When he bogeyed, Watson parred. When he parred, Watson birdied. When he conceded, well, Watson accepted. His only birdie in the final match came at the 11th, when Watson held a 7-hole advantage. This week was one of those occasional Bubba Watson bubbles of genius, where his clubs are like magic wands, and his interaction with caddie Ted Scott is flawless. With the exception of his 3rd match in the qualifying round (a half with Julian Suri) and his first knockout-rounds victory (2 & 1 over Brian Harman) Watson never reached the 17th tee. Most anticipated that his semifinal win over Justin Thomas was the de-facto championship match, and it’s hard to argue that assertion.

Related: Watson’s Winning WITB

Kisner, Thomas and Noren had their run

If Justin Thomas cares to become the top-ranked player in the world, his loss to Bubba Watson in Sunday’s semifinal match was frustrating. Both golfers putted well, hit the ball well, but Watson held firmer. He was 5-under par for the 16 holes of their match, and made zero bogeys. As mentioned above, Kisner seemed spent after his 19-hole overtime against Noren in the morning, leaving Noren as the only question mark. The Swede was down 1 hole to Kisner when he went birdie-par at the 7th and 8th, to take the lead for the only time that morning. Kisner eagled the 12th to square the match, then made par at the 19th to edge Noren.

Garnett collects first PGA Tour title in Dominican Republic

Brice Garnett entered round 4 with a narrow lead over recent Valspar challenger Corey Conners. Would the experience help the young Canadian, or would Garnett maintain his advantage and secure a first PGA Tour victory at the Corales Puntacana championship? The answer came early, much as it did three weeks back at Innisbrook.

How Garnett remained in the lead

No one could ever say that Garnett plays boring golf. After opening with par in round 4, he converted 4 birdies and 2 bogeys over the next 6 holes. Standing minus-two on the day after 7 holes gave the Missourian space enough on his pursuers to coast home at that number, for a 4-stroke win. On the week, Garnett had 23 birdies and 1 eagle, an unbeatable amalgamation.

Where Conners and company lost ground

For the second time this month, Corey Conners had an opportunity to claim victory on the PGA Tour. For the 2nd time, he fired and fell back. On Sunday at Corales, Conners made 1 birdie against 2 bogeys on the front nine, then 2 more bogeys and a closing double on the inward half. Conners will figure out the key to the 4th round eventually, but his Sunday . 2nd place ultimately belonged to Keith Mitchell, who birdied the 18th hole for a 1-stroke margin over 3rd-place Kelly Kraft.

Eun-Hi drives away with LPGA’s Kia Classic

Eun-Hi won two cars on Sunday at Carlsbad. The first came with her tournament trophy; the second? We’ll keep you guessing for just a little while. Jee last won on tour at the Swinging Skirts in 2017. Although the margin of victory was 2 strokes over Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas, it was in doubt until midway through the final nine holes.

How Eun-Hi won the day

Eun-Hi Jee closed out her 4th LPGA victory on Sunday with flair and drama. After making five bogeys in her first 13 holes, Ji closed the door on her pursuers with an ace at the watery 14th hole. After opening with 70, to trail Kerr and I.K. Kim by 3, Jee improved over the next two days, with 68-67, to enter the fray. Her Sunday 67 was the 2nd-lowest round of the day (Aditi Ashok had 65) and the initial burst of birdies allowed her to make bogey at two of the closing five holes and still win going away.

Where Kerr and company went off-course

Kerr was on fire after 36 holes. 67-64 left her 13-under par and in command. Saturday was a different story. Kerr managed only 2 birdies on the day, and stumbled with 2 bogeys and a double. For the other 3 rounds, she totaled 19 birdies, so the Saturday slide was crucial in giving Jee the slightest opportunity to win. Kerr made bogey at the par-five 17th hole on Sunday, where birdie would have earned a spot in a playoff. It’s safe to say that Kerr left Carlsbad grinding her teeth.

Stricker strides to Rapiscan win on Champions

You can sense it, can’t you? We bet the fellows on the Champions Tour can, too. Stricker remembered how to win, so watch out. Steve Stricker, the ultimate late-bloomer on the regular tour, was a bit slow to warm up to winning on the Champions Tour. He has now done it twice in three weeks, and the rest of the tour is waking up with night shivers.

How Stricker crossed the finish line

Steve Stricker was the only golfer to post 3 rounds in the 60s. Enough said. The Wisconsinite had 2 bogeys in each round, but made a bushel of birdies and 1 eagle to make up for the miscues. On Sunday, Stricker had birdies on 4 of the first 6 holes of the closing nine, eliminating the remainder of the field from contention.

How the competition reacted

Billy Andrade was close, but couldn’t make birdies over his final five holes to close the 3-stroke gap. He finished solo 2nd at 8-under par. Gene Sauers had a forgettable Saturday (73) and a memorable Sunday, but all it got him was a tie for 3rd with Scott Parel at minus-7.

Etulain victorious on the bayou on Web.Com tour

An Argentine with a French name was right at home in Cajun country. Julian Etulain, a graduate of PGA Tour Latinoamerica, grabbed the top spot on Thursday and never let go. His win at the Chitimacha Louisiana Classic came by two strokes over the USA’s Taylor Moore.

How Etulain found Zydeco

It seemed he had, with his 9-birdie 62 in round one. Etulain held the lead by one after 18 holes, and never left the top spot through tournament’s end. His struggle came on day two, when he went birdieless for 12 holes and added his first of three bogeys on the week, for 70. Etulain found the putting stroke on day 3 and 4, returning to the 60s both days, to close with 66 and 67 for 19-under par 265. The triomphe moved the Argentine 35 spots to the good, into 5th in the season-long chase for a PGA Tour card.

How Moore and others came up shy

Taylor Moore scratched his way to a tie with Etulain at the tournament’s midway point. His 65 and 67 stood him in terrific shape, headingo to the weekend. On day three, Moore was all over the score sheet, posting 1 eagle, 1 birdie, 2 bogeys and 1 double for 72. As quickly as he made strokes up on day 2, he gave many back on day 3. He fought his way into 2nd spot on Sunday, thanks to a 63 of his own. 2 back of Etulain and 2 clear of 3rd-place Justin Lower.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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19th Hole

I wasn’t ready for the 2019 Rules of Golf

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We weren’t ready. We thought we were, but we weren’t.

For the last year, the USGA reminded us that in 2019 Rules of Golf were coming, but we didn’t listen. We heard the flag stick could remain in and we heard that you could take a penalty drop from knee-height.

But we didn’t listen.

I bet none of you have even practiced using your putter to flatten the entire green between your ball and the cup. You can do that now.

I’m also sure that you and I will continue to hover our club in all hazards, er, penalty areas. Yeah, we’re calling it a penalty area now.

The USGA went to the extreme depths of changing words all to simplify the game for you.

I don’t think the USGA listened either.

The rule changes were intended to speed up play and simplify golf for amateurs. Seems like a good idea. In turn, they may have bamboozled the PGA Tour while confusing the only amateurs who kind-of, sort-of knew the rules.

The pros didn’t need a new rule book, the amateurs just needed a simple one.

Us “locals” as the USGA refers to amateurs, do have one extremely fluid perk. When hitting a ball OB, or following a lost ball, you can drop with a two-stroke penalty instead of walking back to the tee. This of course, is dependent on your course, head professional, tournament conditions, and other factors including and not limited to what phase the moon is in.

If that’s somewhat confusing, read up, ask about your local rules, and buy a few extra sleeves. Reason being, in 2019, the limit on searching for a golf ball has been cut from five to three minutes.

2019-rules-of-golf

But wait, there’s good news.

Thanks to the USGA, if you accidentally move your ball as you frantically high-step through fescue, it’s no longer a penalty! What an exciting 180 seconds that will be!

If you somehow don’t find your golf ball in the hazard penalty area, the USGA tried to help us out, which they did, yet regrettably took away a more iconic portrait on the golf course.

The rigid, stoic stance and forceful drop of a ball at shoulder-height.

And we let it happen.

Now, we’ll watch a defeated man deliberately bend to his knees and gingerly drop his ball…Which, by the way, appears to be a convenient way for cheaters to “take a drop” that ideally doubles as “identifying my first ball”.

Don’t even get me started on the back issues this could flare up.

We heard in late 2018 that Bryson DeChambeau would use the flagstick when the odds were in his favor. He even laid it out simply for us.

“It depends on the COR, the coefficient of restitution of the flagstick.”

Simple.

We didn’t listen Bryson, we didn’t believe. We also have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about.

But hey, as Bryson would say, don’t hate the player, hate the game. Yeah, he’d clearly never say that, but here’s to hoping!

We heard he would do it, but we didn’t believe it. We had to see to believe. What we saw was DeChambeau first in strokes gained putting in the very first round he was allowed to do it.

Obviously, this trend will continue for DeChambeau, and others may join in, because what is golf if not a constant chase for a marginally better opportunity at success.

Watch your back, because those others that may join in could be closer than you think. You may turn around to find a fellow member asking for the flag on their next 12-footer.

It should be a fun year of commentary and confusion at your local club and on the PGA tour. Professionals will have constant questions for rules officials, and commentators will consistently question Bryson’s methods.

There is one real question I hope is answered this April.

What will we do when Bryson banks in a downhill putt at No. 2 of Augusta?

Will we be ready? Will Augusta?

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News

Stewart Cink pens multi-year deal with Ping

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Ping Golf has announced that six-time winner on the PGA Tour, Stewart Cink, has signed a multi-year deal with the company.

The deal will see the American play a minimum of 11 Ping clubs, as he looks to end an almost decade long winless streak on the PGA Tour. Cink had previously been an equipment-free agent (having been a Nike man prior to that) although he had been using Ping clubs for the majority of the last season.

Speaking on the addition of Stewart Cink to Team Ping, company president John K. Solheim stated

“Stewart has a long track record of success and overall consistency, evidenced by his wins, top 10s in majors, and the fact that he has competed on five U.S. Ryder Cup teams and in four Presidents Cups.

“He has instant credibility, and we know him well because he has played Ping irons for many years. Our tour staff has been impressed by his professionalism and his knowledge of equipment. We’re delighted to be associated with Stewart.”

Cink will make his first start as a Ping staff player at this week’s Sony Open. According to the company, the 2009 Open Championship winner is expected to have Ping’s G400 LST driver, G400 fairways woods, i25 irons and Sigma 2 Arna putter in the bag this week at Waialae Country Club.

No details of the financial terms of the arrangement have been disclosed.

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Equipment

Charles Howell III’s winning WITB: 2018 RSM Classic

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Driver: Titleist TS3 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue 65

Fairway woods: Titleist TS2 (15, 21 degrees)
Shafts: Fujikura ATMOS Tour Spec Black 8X, Fujikura ATMOS Tour Spec Black 9X

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB 4-iron, Titleist 718 AP2 (5-7), Titleist 718 CB (8-PW)
Shafts: Project X LZ 6.5 (hard stepped)

Wedges: Vokey SM7 (52, 56, 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Align

Ball: Titleist Pro V1 (proto)

SEA ISLAND, GA – NOVEMBER 17: Charles Howell lll tees off on the eighth hole tee box during the third round of The RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort Seaside Course on November 17, 2018 in Sea Island, Georgia. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

RELATED: See what members are saying about CH III’s equipment in the forums.

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19th Hole

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