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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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5 things we learned Friday at the British Open

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We had a leader by two shots, until Carnoustie did its thing. Here’s the question: is it CarnNASTY or is it the Siren song of the Barry Burn? The serpentine end to a lengthy waterway beckons and teases and devours. It did the same to Kevin Kisner today, but we’ll get to that before too long. 79 golfers made the cut, thanks to Kisner’s gaffe…don’t worry, we’ll get to it. Some pre-tournament favorites went home early, and some unexpected names surged to the top of the leaderboard. Time now to run down the 5 things we learned on Friday at the 2018 British Open.

1. Kisner had it, until he lost it.

It might be from the tee, or from the approach, but the Barry Burn inevitably asks more than you have to give. Kisner stood in the fescue, owner of a two-shot lead, when he took an ill-advised (if any advice actually came) swing at clearing the water. He failed and poof, there went the lead. Kisner closed with six and fell back to a tie with Zach Johnson, winner of the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews.

Kisner stood in the left rough, knowing that the burn and the nearby out-of-bounds lurked, and still he went for the green. He came up woefully short, one-hopping into the briny depths. The good news for Kisner? Until the brain fart on 18, he had parlayed five birdies against two bogeys on the day, so he still finished atop the list, albeit in a tie with a former winner of the world’s oldest open championship.

2. Some will stay and some will go

From the bottom to the agonizing top, these golfers won’t be around for the weekend: Poulter, Bubba, DJ, Rahm, Sergio, Hideki and JT. The foursome missed the cut by one misplayed shot.  No, they’re not here to make the cut, but you don’t win without first making it past the halfway farewell.

We know that Sam Locke will win the medal for low amateur. The young Scotsman from Aberdeen was the only one who doesn’t play for pay to shoot below 146. Locke must be saluted; after making consecutive bogeys at 13 through 15, the lad clenched his teeth and played that treacherous closing triumvirate in two-under par. Now that’s mighty. He’ll be joined by a number of golfers expected to challenge, like McIlroy, Finau, Spieth, Fowler and even Woods.

3. Some will join José Jurado and others

…as runners-up at Carnoustie. Jurado lost to Tommy Armour in 1931, and was followed by Reg Whitcome, Frank Stranahan, Jack Newton, Dai Rees, Sergio Garcia and, of course, Jean Van de Velde. Those men never captured an Open, but fellow runners-up Bob Charles, Jack Nicklaus, Justin Leonard and Peter Thomson, did. And so it might be for Kisner, Pat Perez, Xander Schauffele, Erik Van Rooyen, et al.

They find themselves in the running for the championship at Friday’s end, which is a triumph in itself. They want more, and they will spill everything out onto the course over the weekend, all for glory and eternal fame. To those who come up short, we salute you for entering the cauldron and baring your skills and emotions on the world’s stage. If it’s your year, you might even catch the breaks.

4. There are golfers who challenge year in and out

Their names are Matt Kuchar, Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Charley Hoffman, and there are others. These are the golfers who’ve won on tour, many more times than once. To date, they have been unable to claim one of the game’s four major championships. They might wonder how golfers like Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton, and Paul Lawrie were able to do so, in this event alone, in just the past two decades.

They have been preceded by Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie, Doug Sanders and others, golfers of the highest quality who could never break through, while others were touched by fate, perhaps undeservedly so. The Open Championship is history itself, and demands that we consider not just the importance of today’s event, but of all the others, throughout time. To the aforementioned foursome, along with Noren, Olesen, Moore and Perez, have a go.

5. The one golf course rules them all

It comes down to this, doesn’t it? The dry-baked course on Thursday, the one that allowed 400-yard drives and 280-yard 6 irons, gave way to a softer version, yet the scoring went up. What is Carnoustie’s true face? Who will figure out the mystery come Sunday?

We would bet on Zach Johnson, but it will be difficult for him to play well on Saturday. Why? Well, Kisner is unlikely to maintain his level of play, and it’s supremely difficult to play well as your partner’s chances ebb away. We might go with the resurgent Jordan Spieth, or the indecipherable Brooks Koepka. Neither should be in a position to win, yet both are, and both are proven major winners. Or McIlroy, who appears to have rediscovered his 15-year-old self.

What we’re saying is, who knows! More importantly, who cares? As they almost always do, Carnoustie and the Open will present us with a champion worthy of our affection, and deserving of the Claret Jug. Perhaps a putt like this one will complete the job.

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USGA, R&A to target green-reading books

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Green-reading books are about to get a tough edit. Per a report by Geoff Shackelford, the USGA and R&A are going to “severely restrict” the information players can have at their disposal in the books, beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

According to Shackelford, “the move will effectively render the books impractical to players who have increasingly leaned on them for reading putts.”

Several sources have confirmed the decision is coming.

“We announced last year that we were reviewing green-reading materials and expect to be able to give a further update in the coming weeks,” an R&A spokesman said. “We believe that the ability to read greens is an integral part of the skill of putting and remain concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round.”

For its part, the USGA had this to say.

“We haven’t made any public announcements on Green Reading Materials since our joint announcement with The R&A last year, but we do plan an update on our review process in the coming weeks. It’s simply too premature to discuss, but we promise to keep everyone informed as we move forward.”

The books, particularly the green-mapping portion, have come under scrutiny in recent years, particularly as they have become popular at the college level. Opponents of the books believe they slow down play and/or remove an element of skill in the playing of the game.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Kiz catches a big one | USGA to restrict green-reading books? | 78 for Lincicome

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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.

If you’re not signed up for our newsletters, you can subscribe here.

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

 

July 20, 2018

Good Friday morning, golf fans. Metaphor alert: The first below represents the first-round Open lead…
1. Kiz cruises
You wouldn’t think a South Carolina boy would be comfortable at Carnoustie… but Kevin Kisner is liking it.
  • “The golf course is great for me,” Kisner said. “The conditions have been fine. Going forward, you never know what you’re going to have in Scotland. I know the rain is coming in tomorrow. I don’t think the rain is going to affect how the golf course is playing in one day, but I have to just keep doing what I’m doing. If I have 22 putts the next three days, I bet I’ll have a pretty good shot.”
  • Interestingly, Kisner is sharing house this week with Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker.
  • “It’s not intimidating at all. They’re all great people. That’s the best part about it,” Kisner said. “I mean, we’re out there playing soccer at night and hanging out. Everybody is just really chill, and it’s a lot of fun to be around those guys. There’s a lot of great players. It’s really cool just to hear what they have to say. Everybody’s sitting around at night scratching their head on what club to hit off of every tee.”
2. Cheat sheets begone?
Golfweek broke the news that green-reading books are set for a neuter.
  • Geoff Shackelford writes…”Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the move will effectively render the books impractical to players who have increasingly leaned on them for reading putts.”
  • “Three golf industry rules experts confirmed the plan to Golfweek. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the move.”
  • “We announced last year that we were reviewing green-reading materials and expect to be able to give a further update in the coming weeks,” an R&A spokesman said. “We believe that the ability to read greens is an integral part of the skill of putting and remain concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round.”
  • “The USGA provided the following statement: “We haven’t made any public announcements on Green Reading Materials since our joint  announcement with The R&A last year, but we do plan an update on our review process in the coming weeks. It’s simply too premature to discuss, but we promise to keep everyone informed as we move forward.”
3. Tiger, Tiger
It was an up and down day on the golf course Thursday for Tiger Woods, and he ultimately finished at even par, as you likely know.
  • Instead of recapping his round, I’ll call attention to this quote from Woods…”I’ve always loved playing this championship. I’ve been able to win it a few times. I’ve just always enjoyed — this is how the game should be played. It should be creative. It should be played on the ground.”
  • “You can utilize the ground as an ally. When we play home in the States, that’s not the case. Everything is going straight up in the air, but this is very different. It’s amazing the shot — the creativity. I mean, you can roll the ball 100 yards if you wanted to, or you can throw it straight up in the air. I like having those shot options.”
4. “Brain fart”
Forget about everything else in Jordan Spieth’s opening round. How does this happen?
  • Rex Hoggard writes..”Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.”
  • “The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it’s an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
5. Brandon Stone’s epic day

How about Stone’s couple of days, actually? He came to Carnoustie on the heels of a final-round 60 to win the Scottish Open. All he did in his opening round was fire a 3-under 68. Not bad!

  • But his Thursday to remember was only getting started as Stone made the 25-mile trip south to the Old Course to peg it…with a set of hickory clubs! Well played, sir, well played.
6. Who does Pat Perez speak for?
Pat Perez is going to Pat Perez. The interesting question is: How many pros agree with his sentiments? The answer: probably more than you think.
  • “They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They’ve got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you’ve got the greens receptive. They’re not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn’t. The course is just set up perfect.”
  • “The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”
7. Lincicome’s most enjoyable 78
Randall Mell writes…”Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward…It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.”
  • “A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.”
  • “I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well…I love playing with the guys. It’s so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”
8. Vegas’ visa saga
Great stuff from Ryan Lavner detailing what it took to get Jhonny Vegas to Carnoustie.
  • “The problem was an expired visa….Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.
  • “No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.,,Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.”
  • “His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time…Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”
9. KT Tape: Thanks, Tiger (probably)
Josh Sens with the details on the stuff...”The KT Tape that Woods wore Thursday is manufactured and sold by a Utah-based company of the same name….Russ Schleiden, KT Tape’s chief marketing officer, said that Woods was wearing KT Pro Black Tape, which is made of synthetic fiber and is designed to last four to seven days, longer than the three-day duration of the original cotton KT Tape.”
  • “Soon enough, KT Tape had posted an offer on its website: “25% off golfer’s flash sale.”
  • “By mid-afternoon, Utah-time, Schleiden said, traffic on the site was up 300 percent.”
  • “How that translated into actual sales was too early to tell, Schleiden said, “because our sales normally peak after work and in the evening.” But based on past experiences with other high-profile athletes wearing KT Tape in big events…Schleiden guesstimated that the Woods-driven publicity would prompt a 100 percent spike in sales.”
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