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5 things we learned on Friday at The 2018 Masters

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Friday is placement day in Georgia, as impending squalls loom large for the weekend. On a second consecutive, blue-sky day in Augusta, it was the conspiratorial winds of Berckmans Nursery that caused competitors to advance, retreat, advance again, and retreat once more. With dusk settling over the Augusta National course, the leader stood 9-under par, the cut fell at 5-over, and challengers could be lumped into three distinct groups: those who can win, those we are waiting to win, and those whose presence is a complete shock. We’ll have a look at all the events of day 2 of the 2018 Masters in today’s installment of 5 Things We Learned.

1) Golfers who haven’t won a Major, but won’t surprise us if they do

Marc Leishman would be any pro golfer’s pick for an impending major champion. You won’t believe how good Leish is, they say. Well, we believe you, after that rope hook into the 15th green, and the subsequent putt for eagle. Leishman lost a playoff for an Open Championship a few years back, so he knows his way around major championship pressure. The Aussie survived a scare at 18, and scrambled his way to par and 7-under at day’s end. He’ll play in the final pairing on Saturday. Patrick Reed has worn the Captain America moniker proudly when representing the USA in Ryder and Presidents Cup matches. The knock on the lad has been his inability to summon the same inspiration when contending in an individual major championship. If you missed his punch-out from the pines on 13, the wedge that followed, and the putt that dropped for birdie, 2018 might be Reed’s year to add a new bit of apparel to his wardrobe.

2) Golfers who haven’t won a Masters, and won’t surprise us when they do

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson lead this squad. McIlroy has held the lead late on Sunday in Augusta, but the Masters remains elusive, the only major he has yet to claim. McIlroy survived professional and personal slumps, and has found his form at precisely the most appropriate moment. He seemed on the want through the Amen Corner on Friday, but found his form over the closing six holes, playing them in 2-under to reach 4-under through 36 holes. Dustin Johnson’s Sockgate of 2017 has been replaced in the public imagination by Tony Finau’s Anklegate, and the 2016 U.S. Open champion is poised to add another major title to his folder. No one was more of a favorite than Johnson at last year’s Masters, so perhaps the tournament feels like it owes him one. Remember that Johnson came back from his 2015 U.S. Open adversity to claim the title the following year. Lightning might strike twice.

3) Golfers who have won a Masters, and might add another 

Jordan Spieth was everyone’s darling after round one, then started round two with a double bogey. He’s at 4-under par, inside the top five heading into the second half of the tournament. Spieth had every opportunity to mail it in, but the wunderkind showed a gumption he’ll need to contend through Sunday. Sure, he’s finished in the top 2 three times at Augusta, but they don’t give you prizes for yesteryear. Bubba Watson was everyone’s darling before round one, but his opening 73 relegated him to afterthought status. The artistic lefty had some magic in his bag on Friday, never more in evidence than his up-and-down for par, from the left greenside bunker on 18. Spieth should be paired with DJ, while Bubba will match wits with Charley Hoffman or Adam Hadwin in round 3.

4) Golfers who have us completely confuzzled

Henrik Stenson, paging Henrik Stenson. On the day after countrymen Henrik and Daniel Sedin combined to score the winning goal in overtime in their final home game in Vancouver, Stenson stuck around. He has an Open Championship to his credit, besting Phil Mickelson in the greatest game ever played, but he has yet to play well through four rounds in Augusta. A good week to be Swedish? We’ll see. Rickie Fowler had made the longest putt of the day, 66 feet for par at the 6th, until Russel Henley bested him with 82 feet for eagle at No. 15. Fowler coulda shoulda woulda but has yet to do so. His Garcia-esque career, highlighted for so long by a Players Championship, desperately needs a major title. Fowler sits at 2-under par, inside the top 10.

5) And that leaves…the Justins

Justin Thomas, of course. The 2018 PGA champion made a back-nine move to reach the top ten, heading into the weekend. Oh, and Justin Rose, last year’s runner-up and the 2013 U.S. Open and 2016 Olympic champion. With their inclusion, six of the world’s top-9 professional golfers are in the top 10 at Augusta, heading into moving day. I don’t know that a major championship could offer more promise than that. Sure, we’d love to have those two darling oldies in the mix, but Tiger and Phil will have to wait until Shinnecock in June for a chance at major redemption.

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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.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. golf123

    Apr 7, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I’m sorry – Rickie Fowler has 4 PGA tour wins…. how is that a resume in ‘need of a major title’? The guy is dining out on the 2014 season when he finished top 10 in all 4 majors… take that away and his career looks a lot more like Bill Haas’ than someone who for some reason finds himself mentioned in the conversation of best player to not win a major…

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 8, 2018 at 12:01 pm

      He has 8 professional wins, including the next closest thing to a major (Players Championship), and 2 European Tour wins against strong fields. He is a former Walker Cup, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup player. He contends regularly in common, WGC and major events. That’s what I use for my justification.

  2. yabba

    Apr 6, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    Tiger in the woods
    Tiger in the sand
    Tiger in the water
    Tiger in the pine cones
    Tiger everywhere !!!!!

  3. ogo

    Apr 6, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    Tiger made the cut but is 13 strokes off the lead… and… he will make a fantabulous charge on Saturday and Sunday to win it all …. NOT … 😛

  4. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 6, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    A cheat like Reed doesn’t deserve to win such a prestigious tournament. Reed has been accused of been a cheat for many years. Personally, I would have banned him from the tour years ago.

  5. Simms

    Apr 6, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Phil looked like a 12 handicap out there today, did not have his head in the game at all..was moving around and never set up to swing all day…Tiger, oh well ten to one that stuff about his girl friend that came out this week is on his mind for sure…but at least Tiger played more like an 11 handicap to Phil’s 12 today….

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Average driving distance on Tour in ’18 | Mel Reid | Valentino Dixon doc premiers tonight

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

December 11, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Double the distance gain?
Mike Stachura at Golf Digest ran the numbers and found a four-yard increase in average driving distance on the PGA Tour in 2018.
  • He writes…”What the USGA once described as a “slow creep” in distance exploded in 2018-at least on the PGA Tour. Driving distance leapt from 292.1 yards to 296.1-a four-yard, one-year increase. That came after a 2.1-yard jump the year before, a number that caused the USGA and R&A to launch the Distance Insights Project, an 18-month, comprehensive study that will blend data with input from virtually all of the game’s stakeholders, including everyday golfers, via online and telephone surveys.”
  • Stachura also found, “Fourteen players averaged 310 yards or more this past PGA Tour season and 60 topped 300 yards compared to 7 and 40, respectively, the year before.”
2. In a similar vein…sort of…
Perhaps it was this news, or the Christmas season in general, but Golf Channel’s Randall Mell was inspired to channel his inner Dr. Suess, and well, there’s really no right way to introduce this piece…
  • Mell writes…”The old guard from a bygone era of players has wailed for years against the advances in technology. This group got excited this year when the USGA and R&A finally went on record to say they were concerned about driving distances. It’s unclear where a new study the governing bodies launched in 2018 will take the game, but if Dr. Seuss were filing a Christmas report, it might go like this …”
  • “Every Pro down in Proville liked Christmas a lot.
  • “But the grumps who aged north of Proville did NOT.
  • “The grumps hated what Christmas brought. They hated the wicked science so easily bought.
  • “They hated big-headed drivers wrapped in the prettiest bows. They hated nuclear-powered golf balls that practically glow.
  • “Oh, how they hated that part of the season!”
This is, of course, only the tip of the Suessian iceberg. Full piece here.
3. Mel Reid’s announcement
Bill Speros at Golfweek…”Reid said the move to come out was part of a greater mission. “It’s important for me to always fight for equality,” she said.”
  • “She said the pro golf community has been very “welcoming” to her and she said it was “rare” when anyone had an issue with her sexuality or her positions on issues of gay rights and equality.”
  • “The only problem we run into is that being gay is still illegal or frowned upon in certain countries we play in,” she said. “There are also a lot of male-dominated sponsors that are looking for certain types of players, so that’s why I have felt I can’t be quite as open as I would like to be when it comes to my personal life,” she told Athlete Ally.”
  • “At the LPGA, we have a great relationship with so many companies, but would love to have more women come to events and publicly support women in sport. I think this would make a big difference and create more exposure opportunities for us players. I’d also love to see more equipment companies in general support women and show our faces in stores and in ads,” she said.”
4. Champion Golfer/European Tour Player of the Year
AP Report…”Francesco Molinari has been voted the European Tour golfer of the year for 2018, capping a year in which he won his first major title and produced a historic performance at the Ryder Cup.”
  • “Molinari became the first Italian to win the British Open after his triumph at Carnoustie, and finished the season as the Race to Dubai champion for the first time.”
  • “At the Ryder Cup outside Paris, he became the first European to win all five points from his five matches against the United States.”
5. The LPGA Tour’s next dominant star?
Digest staffers are rounding up their newsmakers of 2018 in the world of golf. Keely Levins suggests Ariya Jutanugarn could be the LPGA Tour’s next dominant figure.
  • “Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn recorded top-10 finishes 17 times in 2018-including three wins. At the end of the season, Jutanugarn had won every award available to her: Player of the Year, money leader, the new Leaders Top 10 competition, Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, and she walked away from the tour championship with the $1 million CME season-ending bonus. It’s a resume that’s impressive without explanation, but even more impressive with it. One of those three wins was the U.S. Women’s Open. Jutanugarn blew a seven-shot lead on the back nine to land in a playoff with Hyo-Joo Kim. It was a painful reminder of events early in Jutanugarn’s LPGA career when she struggled to close out tournaments.”
  • “But diligent work on her mental game paid off at Shoal Creek, as she resurrected her championship to win after four playoff holes. The 23-year-old’s talent has never been in question. After that win, any concerns with her ability to finish off a tournament were silenced, too. The only thing that may be lacking is that feeling that she’s going win every tournament that she shows up at. It’s something that’s a bit out of her control: She’s playing on a tour where pretty much anyone could win every event. With 26 different winners in 2018, the LPGA has never been deeper, making it harder than ever for an individual to become a dominant force. But Ariya’s 2018 performance is certainly a move in that direction.”
6. How much do fans benefit from golfers’ social media?
An interesting question, here, amidst – after initial trepidation – the Tour and its players plunging headlong into all things Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
  • Martin Kaufmann writes…”This gets to the heart of the disconnect in the Tour’s media efforts. It talks a good game about what McClellan calls a “fan-first strategy,” and Lawrence talks about making the players “more accessible” via social media.”
  • “But do you really feel more connected to the players now? I don’t. My sense is that the larger objective has less to do with the fans than business objectives. As Lawrence said, as the players’ social-media audiences grow, “there’s undoubtedly interest from sponsors and partners to tap into that audience.””
  • And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with the players maximizing their value. But let’s not confuse that with fans developing a deeper connection with the athletes just because players are posting their highlights. If we’ve learned anything about social media, it’s that the carefully crafted public persona doesn’t necessarily mesh with the celebrity’s private reality.”
  • What we’re left with on social media is a safe, sterile presentation of Tour players, who are, by and large, already safe and sterile personalities. In this virtue-signaling era, where every social-media posting is scrutinized, there’s little incentive for athletes to stray beyond distribution of the most mundane content.”
7. Talking shop with JJ Van Wezenbeeck
Andrew Tursky caught up with Titleist Tour Rep JJ Van Wezenbeeck to talk about QBE Shootout winners Patton Kizzire and Brian Harman’s weaponry.
A morsel….”Is that tough for you as a fitter, dealing with the different personalities and different plans of attack for each player?”
  • “It’s one of the benefits of having relationships with these players. Brian and I first met when he was transitioning onto the Titleist staff. Sometimes there’s that little get-to-know-you period. But someone like Patton, we’ve been working together since his days on the Web.com Tour, so when you have that history with a player, you can remember a shaft that they played five, six, seven years ago, and you always have that in your internal database, as well as us keeping track of those types of things that allows us to reference those and know where that players likes to live.”
  • This is kind of an interesting scenario with them both being such opposite players, it’s kind of like the yin and yang, a problem that a lot of consumers deal with. Can you talk about how the specs differ, the lie angles and swing weights between a player who’s short and a player who’s tall?”
  • It’s kind of interesting when you look at their setups. We take Patton, he has three drivers actually, a half-inch short. It’s 44.5 inches. It has a mid-70’s weight shaft in it. When you look at Brian Harman, he plays a shaft in his driver that’s closer to 55 grams and plays it slightly long. He’s one who’s looking for a little lighter weight there, and is trying to create speed, whereas Patton, being a big tall guy, we’re trying to hone in the direction for him and the centeredness of the hit. Then as we get into irons, Harman’s are slightly short and Patton’s three quarters of an inch long. It doesn’t always correlate as ‘well I play my irons long so my driver should be long,’ or ‘I play my irons short so my driver should be short.'”
Many more Qs and As in the full piece.
8. New Wilson super game improvement irons
Our Gianni Magliocco...”Wilson Golf has announced that 2019 will see the release of their new super game improvement Wilson Staff D7 distance irons.”
  • “The new Wilson Staff D7 distance irons will keep the aesthetics from the FG Tour V6 and C300 irons while integrating Wilson’s RE-AKT technology, which is designed to provide golfers with extra power.”
  • “Speaking with regards to the new irons, manager of Wilson Golf Innovation Jon Pergande, described precisely what the new clubs are set to offer golfers.”
  • “The D7 line is our latest installment of game improvement irons that will give golfers increased distances on longer irons and precision with the shorter clubs. Our RE-AKT technology and ultra-thin responsive club-face increases ball speeds to help produce maximum distances, while the shorter clubs give golfers a greater feel and more distance control.””
  • “Just how has Wilson Golf gone about constructing these new irons to achieve these goals?…Well, the Wilson Staff D7 long irons (4-7 iron) feature three rows of power holes, and will also contain Wilson’s thinnest club face ever, designed to provide golfers with both maximum distance and greater responsiveness off the club face.”
  • “The D7 short irons, on the other hand,  feature fewer power holes and optimized weighting with the aim of providing maximum feel and greater distance control.”
9. Dixon doc to premier tonight
Should be a good one. Golf Channel will premier a Valentino Dixon documentary tonight at 8 ET.
  • Golf Digest’s Joel Beall with some context...”Narrated by actor Wendell Pierce (“The Wire,” “Jack Ryan”) “27 Years” spotlights how a diversion-in Dixon’s case, drawings of golf courses-served as a conduit to freedom. However, while the sport plays a vital role in Dixon’s tale, one that ultimately delivers a happy ending, the production doesn’t gloss over the disconcerting truths. It examines the frightening and deplorable circumstances that led to an innocent man’s guilt, which includes an interview with the lead prosecutor in Dixon’s case.”
  • “The show spotlights how negligence, along with racial and socioeconomic discrimination, have become feature players in America’s justice system. Through talks with Dixon’s family, the viewer sees how a man’s incarceration ruins more than just one life. Coupled with additional obstacles encountered by governmental red tape, “27 Years” can be a maddening watch.”
  • “Yet at the heart of Dixon’s story is hope. The show reveals how a team, which included Golf Digest’s Max Adler, the Golf Channel and a group of undergraduate students from Georgetown University, came together to right this wrong.”
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Greg Norman: “If I had to do it all over again, I would go to one-length clubs”

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Greg Norman has never been a man to shy away from speaking his mind, and during Saturday’s Golf Channel broadcast of the QBE Shootout, the Australian declared that if he had the opportunity to begin his career again, he would do so with single-length irons.

Norman stressed how his experience while experimenting with Cobra King One Length irons led him to conclude that single-length irons are more beneficial than standard irons because “your spine angle stays the same” no matter what club you are using.

“Believe it or not, if I had to do it all over again as a 13 or 14-year-old, I would go to one-length clubs,” Norman said. “I actually had a set made for me when [Bryson DeChambeau] first came and joined, and I got it straight off the bat. When you think about it, my 4-iron and my 8-iron are the same length, but my ball flight was so good on all of them because your spine angle stays the same.”

The Australian went on to say that anyone looking to introduce their kid to the game of golf, should give them single-length irons to optimize their chances of success.

“I think parents now, for longevity, golf is a sport you can play your entire life, so if you look at that motion that [DeChambeau is] going through there, it’s such an effortless motion. He’s stacked up beautifully. At the end of the day, the motion is so simple through there. So the one-length golf club, in my humble opinion, give a kid at six, seven, eight…get him used to it and he’ll do well.”

Norman won 88 times in his career, including 20 wins on the PGA Tour and two major championship victories. Could the Shark have achieved even more if he had have used single-length irons during his career instead of standard irons?

Let us know what you think, GolfWRXers!

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Web.com Tour hopeful suffers heartbreaking finish to miss out on Tour status by one stroke

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With the careers of many players hanging in the balance at Web.com Tour Q-School, the agony of those who miss out matches the ecstasy of the few that make their way through the brutal process.

On Sunday, there was one particular man who suffered the agony of missing out more than others.

Patrick Sullivan was inside the top-40 and heading for his status on the Web.com Tour for 2019 before it all went wrong. Playing the back nine of Sunday’s final round, the 35-year old faced a birdie attempt on the 14th green but struck his ball off the green and into the water. Sullivan ended up making a costly double bogey on the hole and followed the error with another bogey on the 15th hole.

To his eternal credit, Sullivan showed incredible resolve. Needing to play his final three holes in four-under par, Sullivan managed to make a birdie and an eagle before heading to the final hole.

A three on 18 was a must, and Sullivan faced a nerve-jangling four-footer to claim his Web.com Tour status for next season. The putt, however, slid by, leaving him one shot outside of the magic number.

Golf can be a cruel sport at times.

Sullivan does, however, have conditional status for next year, meaning he will have the opportunity of playing events through Monday qualifiers.

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