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Tour Rundown: Welcome back, Lydia Ko!

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Last week’s installment of Tour Rundown, very quietly, was the 300th piece I published for this tasty website. Some of those 3 centuries of articles were inspired, original material; while others have followed a pre-determined format for ease of consumption and digestion. Over that period of nearly 6.5 years, two essential credos compel me forward: no one films the photographer, and the writer never outweighs the word. Deposit number 301 might be the last you read from me, or it could represent the beginning of another perfect game. Now, back to the business at hand: Tour Rundown!

Horschel and Piercy claim PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic

If the Zurich Classic were simply a better-ball event, red ink would be in short supply and one-dimensional couples would do battle for the title. The inclusion of alternate shot on 2 of the 4 days is a bit of brilliance, on the part of the organizers. Why? Ask Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer. They finished double-double (not the Tim Horton’s kind) on Friday to fall from in-the-mix status to missed-the-cut doldrums. On Sunday, we saw more of the same.

How Horschel and Piercy stuck a fork in it

Their best score of the week was a Saturday 61, 11-under in better ball. Their best performance, however, was their Sunday 67. Only one other team was able to shoot 67 in alternate shot all week, and they had to slap each other’s faces to do so. While third-round leaders Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown and Michael Kim/Andrew Putnam were each giving four shots back to Old Man Par, the 2013 Zurich Classic individual champion and his partner were flawless on Sunday. Five birdies and nary a bogey eased them to 22-under, one ahead of the 40s, Pat Perez and Jason Dufner.

See the clubs Horschel and Piercy used

How Duff and Perez nearly made their comeback

The old guys were flawless on Sunday, too. If Horschel and Pierce were FL on the diamond clarity scale, Dufner and Perez were just behind at IF. Four birdies and zero bogeys totaled the day’s second best, and brought them from fifth to second alone. As mentioned above, the overnight leaders (Kisner and Brown at 20-under) and the overnight chasers (Kim and Putnam) could not repeat their earlier successes. The chasers had three consecutive bogeys to open their back nine, punctuated by a double-bogey at the 16th. The leaders also had a miserable inward half, with a similar score of 41.

Alexander Björk returns on investment at European Tour’s China Open

In 2012, Björk listed himself on an investment site, offering 10 percent of winning to those who bankrolled him. Six years later, the Swede cinched his first Euro Tour title, overtaking the third-round leaders with an impeccable 65. Bjork’s win came by one shot over Adrián Otaegui. The Basque bogeyed 17 to fall to 16-under, and a final-hole birdie offered only the solace of solo second spot.

How Björk bjecame a tour winner

Björk’s week was solid from start to finish, with only a topsy-turvy 72 in round 2 standing out. He was mid-60s in the other rounds, revealing an affection for Beijing’s Topwin course. After three bogeys on day two led to an even-par round, Björk made just one more blue square the rest of the week. 13 birdies over the closing 36 holes allowed him to ease past a coalition of challengers. The Swede concluded an unmatched fortnight with his win, coming on the heels of a third-place finish last Sunday in Morocco.

How things came apart for Wallace and company

As happens so often these days on the tours, nothing less than final-round perfection will do. England’s Matt Wallace had won twice when holding the 54-hole lead. On Sunday, he notched seven birdies of his own, but fumbled twice for triple and single bogey. He tumbled to a third-place tie with countryman Jordan Smith and Spain’s Jorge Campillo. Otaegui was oh-so-close on Sunday. Six birdies brought him to the brink of triumph, but the one stumble, at the penultimate hole, was his undoing. Olazabal’s twin had secured top-2o finishes in his previous four tour events, so runs at a second career title should continue to come.

Welcome back, Lydia Ko! Playoff win at LPGA’s Mediheal

It had been a challenging few years for New Zealand’s national golfing treasure. Lydia Ko had not won since July of 2016, and she had no desire to celebrate a two-year anniversary. Ko entered the final round of the Mediheal with a slim lead over Jessica Korda, who had experienced a 2018 comeback of her own. While Korda faltered, Ko weathered a difficult front nine and was able to gather herself enough to reach a playoff with Minjee Lee.

How Ko conquered her doubts

When you begin a final round with three bogeys in six holes, your path is usually clear, unless you have greatness in you. Ko found a way to make five birdies against one more bogey over the final 12 holes. When she birdied the 18th, she found herself in a playoff with Lee, who has flirted with greatness of her own during her years on tour. Unfortunately for her, Ko is most at home in a playoff, when she can go head to head with her competition. Suffice it to say that she won this overtime affair, her fifth in six extra-hole battles. How she did it? Well…

How Lee nearly conquered all

Minjee Lee has three LPGA tour wins of her own but, like Ko, none since 2016. The Aussie had seven birdies in her final round, including 3 of the final 4 holes. She even had one more in the playoff, on the par-5 closing hole. Unfortunately for Lee, Ko went one better, with an eagle 3. The runner-up finish, couple with Lee’s Australian-tour victory at the Victorian Open in February, bodes well for the soon-to-be 22 year old.

WATCH Lydia Ko describe why her 58-degree wedge is so different

Expected win for Mexico’s Rodríguez at Web.Com’s ULC Championship

They say that Victoria National was built to host a U.S. Open championship. I’m here to tell you two things: with all the water, it’s completely not a USGA course. It may, however, be the most demanding course on any tour. If tournament organizers set the course up at its penal worst, golfers might not break 75. Maverick McNealy can attest to this: after opening with 64, he didn’t smell par the rest of the week. Still in the lead after 54 holes, the young Cardinal struggle again on Sunday to tumble from the race. As for the winner? Read on.

How José de Jesús Rodríguez locked up win No. 1

Rodríguez shouldn’t be a surprise to many, despite the thinking that some young American (McNealy, Ethan Tracy, Wyndham Clark) would break through for an inaugural Web win. The Mexican champion has risen steadily this season, with a 3rd-place tie in the Bahamas as his previous-best finish. On Sunday, Rodríguez stood 4-under par through 14 holes, the equivalent of chasing 59 at Victoria National. Although he closed with 2 bogeys over his final quartet of holes, he did so smartly and strategically. Rodríguez went from bunker to bunker at the last, but avoided those heavy numbers that derailed many challenges this week.

What Wyndham and the others have to learn

In Clark’s case, not much. He scorched the back nine in 30 strokes, to jump from 10th to nearly-first, one back of Rodríguez at 5-under for the week. Only three outward bogeys kept the former Oregon Duck from reaching a playoff or better. McNealy had a three-day case of the nerves, after opening with 64. Needing to play his final three holes in 1-under, he instead went 2-over to finish tied for third with Kyoung-Hoon Lee, two back of Clark and three off the lead. Unlike that other National, the annual site of the Masters, this one demands absolute precision off the tee, and JJR was the king of accuracy this week.

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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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  1. Tommy

    Apr 30, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Hey Ron, since when is a 3-wood to a foot in a playoff not worthy of a mention? Wow…

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Breaking down FedEx Cup changes | Details in amateur golfer’s death | USGA survey

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Yes, I know in the subject line of the email version of the M9 I said “FexEx.” I am an idiot. With the cat out of the FedEx box, however, there’s nothing I can do…
1. FedEx Cup changes officially official…
As had been previously established, the Tour will move from four playoff events to three. Most dramatically, the rumored staggered Tour Championship scoring, with the No. 1 player on the points list starting at 10 under, is now a reality. The next four players in the standings will being a 8 under through 5 under. No 6-10 will start at 4 under. Every five players after that will start a stroke further back, with No. 26 through 30 beginning at even par.
  • There will also now be a $10 million regular season bonus pool sponsored by Wyndham Rewards, aptly named the “Wyndham Rewards Top 10.”
  • The FedEx Cup Playoffs will wrap prior to Labor Day, thus finishing before the NFL season kicks off. The field for The Northern Trust will be 125 players, 70 for the BMW Championship, and 30 for the Tour Championship, with the points remaining the same for the first two events.
  • Regarding the $10 million Wyndham Rewards Top 10, the Tour says it, “will also put an even greater premium on excelling over the course of the FedExCup Regular Season.”
  • The leader of the top 10 will earn $2 million, with the runner-up pocketing $1.5 million. The existing FedEx Cup bonus pool will now total $60 million-$25 million more than the existing pool. Accordingly, the FedEx Cup champion will earn $15 million, rather than the $10 million in the current system.
2. …still not playoffs
And yet…still the Playoffs are not playoffs, as Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner points out.
  • He also offers this take: “In a move that surely will alienate many of its hardcore fans, the Tour on Tuesday unveiled its new format for the Tour Championship. Beginning next year, players will begin the week at East Lake with a predetermined total based on their position on the points list, the leader starting at 10 under par.”
  • “In an age of points and projections, the Tour’s desire for simplicity is understandable – RIP, Steve Sands’ whiteboard – but its new-look finale violates the spirit of competitive sports…There are no head starts in sports. That’s the beauty of them.”
3. Details in amateur golfer’s death
Look, this story is just awful. May Celia Barquin Arozamena rest in peace. That said, details were scarce in the initial report of her on-course murder, yesterday, so I made the decision to wait until there was more of substance to report. Now there is. It’s horrible. Here it is.
  • Per an ABC News report…”A homeless man has attacked and killed a top amateur golfer from Spain who was playing a round near her university campus in central Iowa, leaving her body in a pond on the course, according to police.”
  • “Collin Daniel Richards, 22, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Celia Barquin Arozamena, a student at Iowa State University (ISU)…Barquin was found Monday morning (local time) in a pond at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, about 50 kilometres north of Des Moines.”
  • “Police were called to the golf course around 10:20am to investigate a possible missing female after golfers found a golf bag with no one around it.”
  • “Officers found Barquin’s body some distance from the bag, with several stab wounds to her upper torso, head and neck, according to the criminal complaint filed on Tuesday against Mr Richards.”
  • “A police dog tracked Barquin’s scent to a temporary camp along a creek near the golf course, where Richards had been living in a tent, the complaint said…Officers found Mr Richards with several fresh scratches on his face consistent with fighting, and a deep laceration in his left hand that he tried to conceal, it said.”
4. Tiger Woods off probation
Golf Channel Digital report…”Tiger Woods’ year-long probation stemming from last year’s DUI arrest has been terminated a month early.”
  • “According to Sam Smink of WPTV, Woods, 42, was let off probation early for successfully completing all regular and special conditions of his probation after pleading guilty to reckless driving and entering a diversion program last October.”
  • “Under the conditions of the program, Woods was required to pay a $250 fine and court costs, attend a DUI school and undergo a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program. He was also subject to random drug and alcohol testing under the program.”
5. The Full Dechambeau
Bryson DeChambeau, scientific method in tow, is testing the effects of morning dew on his golf ball.
  • Before we get into specifics: I don’t think there’s anything crazy about this. Golf is a game of variables and minimizing misses. Any effort to further understand a variable or minimize a potential miss is wise. Full stop.
  • Anyway, here’s what BAD was doing per Christopher Powers, “DeChambeau, who does things a little differently to say the least, took his preparation to a different level on Tuesday at East Lake ahead of this week’s Tour Championship. According to the PGA Tour’s Sean Martin, who was watching DeChambeau closely on the range, the Mad Scientist was spraying his golf balls with water to simulate morning dew, because of course he was.”
Photo via PGATour.com’s Sean Martin.
6. Spieth’s violation settled
…but we know not how.
  • ESPN’s Bob Harig…”With next week’s Ryder Cup, Spieth will have played in just 24 events this season after competing in 24 last year. All along, he had planned on being at East Lake, where he won the 2015 FedEx Cup.”
  • “PGA Tour regulations stipulate that a player in violation of the policy is subject to a “Major Penalty,” which can include a minimum fine of $20,000 and a suspension of at least three tournaments.”
  • Don’t expect Spieth to be sitting out any tournaments. In fact, according to the PGA Tour’s Andy Pazder, it appears that Spieth will be adding events in the coming season.
  • “We have come to a resolution,” said Pazder, the tour’s chief tournament and competitions officer, on Tuesday at East Lake, site of this week’s tournament. “You will see it next season. I think it will be good for the tour, for fans and for golf in general.”
I guess we’ll look forward to that next season…
7. Jay Seawell reflects
PGATour.com’s Helen Ross filed an excellent look at the work of Alabama men’s golf coach, Jay Seawell.
  • A bit…”Under Seawell’s guidance, the Crimson Tide won national championships in 2013 and ’14, and finished runner-up in 2012. Five of his former players are on the PGA TOUR right now – Justin Thomas, Trey Mullinax, Tom Lovelady, Bud Cauley and Michael Thompson.”
  • “Seawell says Thomas was probably 15 years old when he started recruiting the future world No. 1. He remembers getting a call from someone who said the teenager might be interested in attending Alabama and Seawell followed up immediately. After all, he says, Thomas could have gone anywhere in the country. He had the “buffet in front of him,” the coach explains.”
  • “The recruitment on him started from him, believe it or not, and that’s the way it happens a lot,” Seawell says. “There are a lot of players out there and so he just kind of sent word through a third party who called my phone.”…”They said, ‘Hey, I think Justin Thomas would be somebody who’d be interested. They wanted me to know that if you’re interested they would like for me to watch him play.’
  • “So it kind of was initiated by Justin and his father and of course, when we first saw him we were like, ‘Wow, this is great.'”
8. USGA survey time!
The USGA wants your feedback on the distance debate.
  • As for the essence of the questionnaire, Geoff Shackelford had this to say.
  • “The USGA/R&A distance survey is a bit like a Robert Trent Jones design: needlessly long, seemingly takes longer to get through than you think, isn’t the most rewarding experience and you’d never do it again….But unlike some tired old RTJ effort, this one really won’t cost you a dime and will entertain at times if you are intrigued by reading between the lines or general survey construction.”

And for our international readers, the R&A’s

9. Out of bounds
I want to call your attention to the fine work Ms. Amanda Rose is doing for GolfWRX. She’s only made a handful of videos at this point, but this former college golfer has something of the spirit and substance of Katie Nolan; and it’s a voice we certainly could use in the golf media space.

Check out her latest Out of Bounds video

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The FedEx Cup overhaul is official. Here are the details

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The PGA Tour substantiated the rumored changes to the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Tuesday, unveiling a new playoff format in general, an overhaul of the Tour Championship in particular, and a new regular season points race.

As had been previously established, the Tour will move from four playoff events to three. Most dramatically, the rumored staggered Tour Championship scoring, with the No. 1 player on the points list starting at 10 under, is now a reality. The next four players in the standings will being a 8 under through 5 under. No 6-10 will start at 4 under. Every five players after that will start a stroke further back, with No. 26 through 30 beginning at even par.

There will also now be a $10 million regular season bonus pool sponsored by Wyndham Rewards, aptly named the “Wyndham Rewards Top 10.”

The FedEx Cup Playoffs will wrap prior to Labor Day, thus finishing before the NFL season kicks off. The field for The Northern Trust will be 125 players, 70 for the BMW Championship, and 30 for the Tour Championship, with the points remaining the same for the first two events.

“This is a significant and exciting change for the PGA Tour, our players, our partners and – most importantly – our fans,” said PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan. “As soon as the Tour Championship begins, any fan – no matter if they’ve followed the PGA Tour all season or are just tuning in for the final event – can immediately understand what’s going on and what’s at stake for every single player in the field. And, of course, players will know exactly where they stand at all times while in play, which will ratchet up the drama, consequence and volatility of the competition down the stretch.”

Regarding the $10 million Wyndham Rewards Top 10, the Tour says it, “will also put an even greater premium on excelling over the course of the FedExCup Regular Season.”

The leader of the top 10 will earn $2 million, with the runner-up pocketing $1.5 million. The existing FedEx Cup bonus pool will now total $60 million—$25 million more than the existing pool. Accordingly, the FedEx Cup champion will earn $15 million, rather than the $10 million in the current system.

Alternatively, there’s Geoff Shackelford’s summary of the changes: “This will be easier to follow than the current system where algorithms proved consistently boring to follow. This has to be better…the FedExCup as we knew it, did not work.”

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GolfWRX Morning 9: The real problem with the FedEx Cup | Golfer at gunpoint | What elite junior golfers all do

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

September 18, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Feinstein: the FedEx Cup Playoffs still aren’t right
Most agree the PGA Tour is yet to deliver the FedEx Cup (pardon the pun) of our collective dreams. John Feinstein offered some constructive criticism.
“Chances are good though, based on reports of the planned changes, that the tour still won’t get it right. It has been trying-sort of-for 12 years now to get it right. The problem is it doesn’t REALLY want to get it exactly right. Which is sad, because it shouldn’t be that difficult.”
  • “Because it wants so badly to convince the public that the events it controls are REALLY important, the tour barely gives more credit to those who win a major than to those who win the John Deere Classic or The CareerBuilder Challenge.”
  • “The winner of a regular tour event receives 500 FedExCup points. Those who win a WGC event-also part of the tour-receive 550 points.”
  • “Which is why a major should count for at least three times as much as a regular tour win in the points system. Winning a major is SO much harder than a regular tour event: the quality of the field; the pressure on Sunday; the understanding that you are playing for history, not just money.”
  • “It is ludicrous that Brooks Koepka won two majors this year and goes into the Tour Championship in seventh place on the points list. Tony Finau, who has not won anywhere, is third. Koepka could add the Tour Championship to his resume this week and NOT win the FedEx Cup. Seriously?”
Additionally, Feinstein levels the suggestion most of us agree on: the Playoffs should be actual playoffs.
2. …and speaking of still not right
Joel Beall follows up on the story of Montana parents being barred from watching their children play high school golf.
  • “It appears Kelly’s group has garnered a partial victory, as the MHSA has introduced a rule on a trial basis this fall that will allow non-participants on the course during events. Twelve guideline have been implemented, which state that spectators have to stay 40 yards from golfers and that cell phones must be turned off upon entering the property.”
  • “We will try it at all levels and see how it goes,” Luke Kloker of the MHSA executive board said to Montana’s Sidney Herald. “Every other state seems to be able to figure out how to make it work.”
  • “However, this pilot program will come with a price. The MHSA also announced that it will charge $10 for admission to the course for golf events. While it’s common for high-school sports like football, basketball, and baseball to charge entrance fees, it’s highly unusual for golf.”
What’s the rationale? Funding a beer cart?
3. Rosaforte on how Keegan made it all the way back
Tim Rosaforte does his usual picking of the low-hanging fruit and juicing it for all its worth with his latest: a look at Keegan Bradley’s resurgence. (Not a criticism of Tim. He does what he does and he does it well)
  • A morsel…”The decline in Bradley’s young career started with an exchange of high-profile swing coaches starting 2013, when he left Jim McLean for Chuck Cook and went back to McLean before settling on Darren May, an English teaching pro at The Bear’s Club.”
  • “We worked hard on making him accept the fact that he needs to be somewhat of an average putter, because his ball-striking and driving stats are so good,” May explained. “They’re all shooting scores in different ways.”
  • “Ranked second in strokes gained: approach and sixth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, Bradley ultimately fed off the success his close friend Webb Simpson achieved in 2018, when he overcame the anchor ban with a win at The Players and a spot on Furyk’s team.”
  • “Our career arc has been the same,” Bradley said, referring to Simpson. “Watching what he did really changed my mentality.”
  • “The final piece of Bradley’s resurrection were the words of encouragement passed along by Michael Jordan through a relationship cultivated at The Bear’s Club. Not long after he signed for the 78 at Ridgewood, Bradley started reading MJ’s inspirational words on his phone. His basic message: Take from the experience and build on it.”
4.  Evian finally has that major feel
Randall Mell writes (rightly) that major championships cannot be manufactured. Thus, the Evian was always going to have to grow into to fine garments the LPGA bought for it in awarding that status.
  • “There’s more to creating major-championship tradition than jacking up the purse, renovating a course and draping the winner in her country’s flag after it came flapping from the heavens under a skydiver’s parachute.”
  • “It takes Sundays like the one Angela Stanford delivered at Evian this past week….It was a big day for more than Stanford, who was such a feel-good story, breaking through at 40 to win her first major with her mother at home fighting a second bout with breast cancer.”
  • “It was a big day for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and Evian Championship founder Franck Riboud…The Evian Championship finally measured up.”
5. Patty’s new Scotty?
While Reed is a free agent, he’s had nothing but success with an Odyssey White Hot Pro 3. Scotty Cameron is turning on the charm however, making the putter above to woo Captain America, according to David Dusek.
“A yellow box arrived at Titleist’s PGA Tour van Monday at East Lake Golf Club, containing a new, customized Scotty Cameron Tour Rat I putter that has a slightly darker, non-glare finish. While Reed is not a Titleist staff player, the putter, trimmed in red, white and blue, has Captain America stamped into the bumpers of the head, a nod to Reed’s nickname after the 2016 Ryder Cup.”
6. Want to be an elite junior golfer?
Our Brendan Ryan found some interesting results in exploring where PGA Tour pros played their junior golf.
  • “Based on the data of these 24 PGA Tour players, their average home course has a yardage of 6,772 and slope of 132. Wowzers! Can’t believe it? It makes perfect sense: To be competitive in golf, you must shoot under par. Shooting under par, like riding a bike, or walking, or writing, is a skill. It is developed through a combination of repetition and feedback.”
  • “Easier golf courses allow players the opportunity to shoot lower scores and build confidence. Over time, these skills become habit. When players enter tournaments, it is more likely they shoot under par. Breaking par at your home golf course is only the first step towards becoming an elite junior golfer. The data suggests that players (both boys and girls) need to average approximately 69 per round to win on the AJGA – on 6,800-yard courses for boys and just under 6,000 yards for girls.”
  • “No major championship venue has ever had a junior member go on to win, or even play, the PGA Tour. That’s right: the PGA Tour is not filled with junior members from Augusta National. Why? Because while playing Shinnecock Hills is an absolute treat, the course is extremely difficult, and 74 is a great score. Junior members at such courses create habits of shooting 74, and when they enter tournaments, like the AJGA, in general, they get beat.”
7. Coastal resorts weather the hurricane
Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann reports…”Hurricane Florence inflicted untold millions of dollars of damage on the Carolinas, but most of the popular resort destinations along the coastline were not hit as hard as initially feared.”
“The hurricane looked like it was going to deliver a direct Category 4 blast to the coastline where North Carolina and South Carolina meet. The storm weakened as it made landfall but still wreaked havoc as it moved slowly across the Carolinas. But the damage was not as bad as initially feared.”
“North Myrtle Beach, S.C., Mayor Marilyn Hatley told the Myrtle Beach Sun News that she felt “blessed and thankful” that the area, while hit hard, didn’t suffer the devastation that had been anticipated.”
8. Odds to win the FedEx Cup
Per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook…
2/1: Bryson DeChambeau
11/5: Justin Rose
6/1: Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson
8/1: Justin Thomas
16/1: Brooks Koepka
40/1: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy
50/1: Keegan Bradley, Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari
60/1: Bubba Watson, Cameron Smith
100/1: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay
150/1: Tommy Fleetwood
250/1: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler
500/1: Aaron Wise, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na, Kyle Stanley
1000/1: Marc Leishman, Gary Woodland
5000/1: Patton Kizzire
9. Golfer threatened at gunpoint…for trying to retrieve his golf ball from somebody’s yard
Just the facts, ma’am…
KDKA CBS Pittsburgh report…”Police say a Butler County man pulled out a pistol and threatened a golfer who was trying to get a ball out of the man’s yard.”
  • “According to state police, a 42-year-old Butler man was playing golf at the Bonnie Brook Golf Course on Serene Lane around 2 p.m. Sunday when he hit a golf ball in the direction of a nearby home.”
  • “When the man went to retrieve the golf ball from the yard, a 55-year-old man came out and the two got into an argument…During the argument, the man pulled out a pistol and threatened the golfer.”
  • “The 55-year-old man will be cited with terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment. He has also been told not to contact the victim.”

 

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