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GolfWRX Morning 9: A firm U.S. Open favorite emerges | Is wanting an “old school” U.S. Open problematic?

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Good morning, GolfWRX members. As most of you are signed up for our newsletters, you likely already know that I’ve been sending this little Morning 9 roundup of nine items of note to start your day.

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. Feedback is always welcome–send everything from news tips to complaints (hopefully more tips than complaints)!

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

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

June 11, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans, and a good U.S. Open week as well. I’ll be chatting with Sergio Garcia for a few minutes this afternoon at the Adidas flagship store. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to ask El Nino.
1. A finish in style a U.S. Open favorite makes
Dustin Johnson was dominant, excellent, etc. at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, holing out for eagle and the win, as you’ve surely seen.
  • Explaining DJ’s weird reaction: He didn’t know if it went in
  • Not his first brush with walk-off wins: At a junior golf tournament in South Carolina, DJ was on the receiving end of a walk-off W. None other than Kevin Kisner holed out to beat him by a stroke: “[Kevin] actually skulled it, too…It hit the flag and went in and beat me by a shot.”
  • PGATour.com’s Jonathan Wall rightly points out, “Johnson likely won’t lose sleep over the fact that no player has ever won the U.S. Open after winning on Tour the week prior, simply because Johnson doesn’t seem to lose sleep over much of anything when it comes to his day job. Ever the unflappable athlete, he has overcome more than his fair share of on-course turmoil without so much as a scar.”
2. A Shot clock Master
Journeyman Mikko Korhonen dominated at Diamond Country Club en route to  his first European Tour title at the Shot Clock Masters.
  • Entering the final round ahead by 5, Korhonen ultimately topped Scotland’s Connor Syme by six.
  • Most significantly, however: Only four players were hit with penalties during the week. Rounds were rapid. Players (publicly at least) praised the format.
3. A Curtis Cup crushing
Look, amateur golf isn’t a massive cauldron of fan interest, and that’s even more true for women’s amateur play (not that it should be; but these are the numbers, folks). That said, you don’t have to be a champion of the nobility of the institution of non-professional play to appreciate the quality of the U.S. side’s performance at Quaker Ridge.
  • Kristen Gillman was at the fore for a U.S. singles sweep Sunday; the most lopsided result in Curtis Cup history. The 20-year-old University of Alabama talent, topped 16-year-old Annabell Fuller 5 and 4 to wrap up her perfect week.
  • The Americans won 17-3. The team broke the record for margin of victory of 11 set at Denver Country Club in 1982.
4. Woods the contender remains an enigma
An AP investigation…
  • “His irons are sublime, his driver for the most part long and straight….If we’ve learned anything from his latest comeback, Tiger Woods can still putt a bit, too….A decade ago that would have made him the overwhelming pick to win the U.S. Open.”
  • “Heck, a decade ago he won the U.S. Open basically on one leg for what, incredibly enough, was his last major championship win….But as Woods docks his yacht near Shinnecock Hills this week, he’s still a golfing enigma of sorts. His scores are decent, if not spectacular, but he’s yet to win and has only been in serious contention once in nine tournaments this year….Is the real Tiger finally back?”
This year’s tournament, as the unbylined bit is right to suggest, isn’t expected to be a Woodsian romp. Why? A few possibilities are put forth.
  •  Woods’ age–is the slow decline in putting here
  • The aforementioned putting
  • Opponents no longer roll over and die when he’s near the top of the leaderboard
5. The problem with wanting the U.S. Open to get back to its old self
Firm, fast, narrow, tall grasses aplenty! “The USGA needs to get back to its roots,” the chorus sings. While this is a seductive stance, it’s not without potential pitfalls.
Geoff Shackelford identified a few.
  • Venue Selection Division: The identity was lost with Erin Hills and Chambers Bay for many. Even though Shinnecock Hills is links-like in appearance, the designs of the aforementioned and their setup opened the USGA up to criticism.
  • Anti-progressive Setup Set. It’s hard to believe folks are clamoring for the days or chip out rough 3 yards off the fairway while the drive 30 yards wayward finds matted down rough. Nor can I fathom how anyone wants to go to some of the game’s greatest places only to smother out the best design features to match the U.S. Open setup “identity.” As long as the players can carry a ball 300 yards or more and use wedges to hack out of rough, the old ideal isn’t coming back.
  • Mike Davis Disdain Marching And Chowder Society: If you do not fall into one of the first categories, chances are your desire to see the U.S. Open return to its old ways stems from simply not liking the role Davis has played in trying to move the U.S. Open into the new century while retaining some of the old identity.
6. How good do you really have to be to play high-level college golf?
Writing for GolfWRX, Brendan Ryan explores the question, looking at the scoring averages from top programs.
  • “Although the sample size is small, teams who compete at the national level (including playing regionals) need difference makers who in college can average 73 or better. Historically, the data suggests that difference makers usually have scoring differential that is negative, and they are ranked in the top 100-150 in their class.”
  • “How good is the 20th ranked player in the class? According to Junior Golf Scoreboard, the 20th player in the 2018 class has a scoring differential of -3.92, and the 20th player for the 2019 has a scoring differential of -2.51.”
The rest of Ryan’s conclusions are well worth digging into.
7. Mickelson’s rock
Maybe you remember Phil Mickelson’s bunker shot at the par-3 17th at Shinnecock in 2004. Lefty’s final-round effort at the penultimate hole was uncharacteristically poor and sounded the death knell for his bid to win the tournament. Turns out, it wasn’t “just” a bad shot that befell Phil.
  • Dave Shedloski...:”Only Fred Funk, his playing partner in the final round of the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, has known Mickelson’s secret. He distinctly heard the clunky, discordant sound emanating from the front left bunker as Mickelson played his second shot at the par-3 17th hole.
  • Instantly, he knew what had happened and solemnly watched the predictable result as Mickelson’s ball raced past the cup-above it, in fact-to a place on the oil-slick green where the left-hander easily could three-putt.”
8. Unlike any other: Sweetens Cove
Peter Schmitt played the emerging Tennessee gem whose positive reputation seems to swell daily–he returned with takes galore.
  • “What do you say about a 3,300-yard, nine-hole course in rural Tennessee with a prefabricated shed for a clubhouse, a port-a-john for a locker room, and a practice green the size of a coffee table? For starters, it’s the most enjoyable golf experience I’ve had in years.”
  • “Picture a world-class, challenging, and ridiculously fun golf course. Now strip off the 15,000-square-foot clubhouse, the pro shop, the driving range, the short game area, and even the superfluous nine holes you can’t remember anyway. Now, go ahead and shave another 300 yards off the tips. That may sound sacrilegious, but once you’ve distilled the experience into only what is necessary, you’re left with something that takes you back to when you first fell in love with golf. Maybe even something that takes you back to the birth of golf itself.”
Bold words. More from Schmitt.
9 ICYM: Rickie Fowler is engaged
If you’re looking for an angle in to bet (or not to bet) Rickie Fowler at Shinnecock this week. Fowler proposed to girlfriend Allison Stokke, a former collegiate All-American pole vaulter, over the weekend (she said yes). Evidence below.

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19th Hole

Greg Norman is appearing in ESPN’s Body Issue, like he told us he would

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As he said he’d consider doing when asked by Michael Williams on our 19th Hole podcast, Greg Norman is set to appear in the ESPN “Body Issue.”

The 63-year-old will follows in the footsteps of Gary Player, as well as number of other golfers, including Camilo Villegas, Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Sandra Gal, Suzann Pettersen, and Christina Kim.

Here’s what Norman told our Michael Williams when asked about appearing in the annual corporeal showcase

“Would I do it? Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir..And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Well, folks, he’s doing it. Never change, Shark, never change.

Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear in this year’s issue.

 

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WATCH: Phil Mickelson gets the Happy Gilmore meme treatment

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Maybe it’s too soon to find humor in the Phil Mickelson’s behavior on the 13th green during Saturday’s third round of the U.S. Open.

That said, the initial image of one of the game’s greats running after his golf ball and playing hockey in the manner of a child at mini golf was both shocking and humorous to most observers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the meme producers at SPUN have put together this riff on Mickelson’s putting and post-round remarks, leveraging footage from the great golf masterpiece “Happy Gilmore.”

Check it out.

 

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Hot takes on Phil Mickelson’s Saturday antics continue to fly

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Yesterday, Phil Mickelson played a bit of field hockey on Shinnecock’s 13th green that continues to be the talk of the golf world… Mickelson didn’t do much to quiet the murmurs with his refusal to talk to the media following his final round and his celebratory antics after a made putt at that hole, Sunday.

Regarding the left-hander’s violation of Rule 14-5, we have a thread that’s 18 pages long and 516 replies deep at the time of this writing. It spans the full spectrum of opinions, from staunch support for Phil to outright condemnation.

A poll among golf WRXers saw 41 percent of responders say Mickelson should have been disqualified. 49 percent said he shouldn’t have. 9 percent said Mickelson should withdraw.

MtlJeff had this take

“Imagine if a young player did it. We’d be ready to euthanize all millennials for their horrible tantrums.”

Ssfranny said

“I have to kinda think Phil just gave a big middle finger to the USGA and pin placements.”

Teetogreen

“Frustrated as he may have been, he’s no better than the field. Everyone has to play the same course. I know Phil’s a fan-favorite, but that was wrong and disgraceful.”

Nessism said

“Pure frustration. I feel sorry for him. A momentary lapse of awareness will now cost him endless scritany for years to come.”

Golfgirlrobin quickly perceived what would be Mickelson’s eventual explanation

“Or maybe brilliant. Ball goes all the way down the green into the fairway and taking the penalty might actually have ended up being the better play.”

HolyMoses said

“Phil said he hit the moving ball intentionally so it wouldn’t get behind the bunker again. If he’s that defiant, he should be DQ’d. That’s cheating, plain and simple.”

Moving from WRXers’ takes to a few from other realms.

On Twitter, Lee Westwood played the devil’s advocate with this slippery slope (appropriately) argument.

“Here’s a scenario…Thoughts everyone??? here you go….. over the back on 15 at Augusta. Chip it too hard, run over before it gets to the water and knock it on the green so you don’t have to hit it again or go the drop zone!”

Writer Alan Bastable introduced the specter of Rule 1-2.

“Meanwhile, just two years after the DJ rules fiasco at Oakmont, the USGA blue coats were left to explain to the world why Mickelson hadn’t been disqualified for such an egregious breach of the rules. Indeed, under Rule 1-2, the Committee could have deemed that Mickelson’s actions gave him “a significant advantage,” and therefore warranted a DQ. “I would have lobbied for disqualification,” former USGA executive director David Fay said on the Fox telecast.”

The portion of Rule 1-2 Bastable referenced states.

“A player is deemed to have committed a serious breach of Rule 1-2 if the Committee considers that the action taken in breach of this Rule has allowed him or another player to gain a significant advantage or has placed another player, other than his partner, at a significant disadvantage.”

Golf Channel’s Randall Mell discussed Mickelson’s communication with Mike Davis late Saturday after some scribes floated the idea that the golfer ought to be disqualified.

“Phil really did want to understand how the rule operates,” Davis said. “Frankly, as he said to me, `Mike, I don’t want to play in this championship if I should have been disqualified.’” Davis said he assured Mickelson that Rule 14-5 was correctly applied, and that a two-stroke penalty is all that was required.”

With respect to the claims that Mickelson ought to withdraw, ESPN’s Ian O’Connor wrote this.

“There was a problem with Lefty’s story — a fairly big one. His playing partner, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, said he told Mickelson, “Sorry, but I can’t help but laugh at that. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.” Johnston also had this to say of his exchange with Mickelson: “He said, ‘I don’t know what that is. I don’t know what score that is or what happens now.’ And he started speaking to the rules official. It was one strange moment.”

“The standard-bearer with the group, Connor Buff, a 19-year-old from Smithtown and a student at the University at Albany, said he heard Mickelson tell the rules official, “Whatever I get, I get. Just let me know what it is.”

In other words, according to O’Connor Mickelson was both attempting to gain advantage and, for what it’s worth, lying about his thoughts during the field hockey moment.

And of course, Global Golf Post’s John Hopkins.

Amy Mickelson told Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols

“He has been pretty under fire,” she said. “A lot of people have been pretty rough. … . It’s not like we’re in his shoes and understand what he has gone through. You and me, we are looking at it from the outside, sitting in the press room or family dining. … They’re playing sports for a living, but still in the moment it’s a very heavy week, an intense week. A lot happens over the course of 24 hours every day.

Golf Digest’s Joel Beall wrote this about Mickelson’s mock celebration at the 13th, Sunday. He could just as well have written it Mickelson’s explanation and the whole ordeal

“His critics would call it the act of a charlatan. His fans would say he was being an entertainer. Part of the Phil Mickelson Experience is not knowing which is right.”

What do you think, GolfWRX members? Is there more to be said about the matter? Or, with the U.S. Open wrapped up, should be draw the curtain on all this as well? Do any other takes merit mention?

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