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GolfWRX Morning 9: How Brooks Koepka channeled Jack Nicklaus | It happened again | Mickelson theories abound

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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 18, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans. However poorly your start to the week is going, you can rest assured it’s better than Mike Davis’. The USGA head will continue to parry criticism about course conditions at Shinnecock and the decision not to disqualify Phil Mickelson. Needless to say, it’s not the look the folks in Far Hills wanted.
1. BK to BK
Tougher course, same winner: Brooks Koepka won his second U.S. Open in a row AND Joe Buck got Koepka’s girlfriend’s name right. Incredible performances.
  • While there’s plenty of good writing about the golf jock’s win, Tim Dahlberg’s AP columns stands out. “Titled Koepka wins an Open where the whiners go home early,” Dahlberg looks at BK’s win through the old Jack Nicklaus quote that he knew he didn’t have to worry about anyone complaining about the U.S. Open setup.
  • Now, the validity of player gripes in Nicklaus’ era versus today is up for debate. However, it is worth noting that Koepka didn’t complain once in the course of his W.
  • Said Koepka after his win: “I enjoy the test. I enjoy being pushed to the limit,” he said. “Sometimes you feel like you are about to break mentally, but that’s what I enjoy. I enjoy hard golf courses. I enjoy playing about the toughest in golf you are ever going to play.”
2. The faltering of Dustin Johnson
Not to kick a man when he’s down, but it’s worth remembering that Dustin Johnson was 4 under par after two rounds at the U.S. Open. Brooks Koepka’s winning score was 1 over, and DJ himself ultimately finished at 3 over par.
  • What went wrong for the World No 1
  • Golf Channe’s Will Gray spelled it out: “The culprit for Johnson’s regression was clear. After leading the field in strokes gained: putting through the first two rounds, he couldn’t get comfortable on the greens on the weekend. Johnson needed 38 putts to complete his third round, T-64 among the 67 players who made the cut, and his 35 final-round putts were T-63 in the same category.”

3. Tommy 63

Here’s a take: Tommy Fleetwood’s final-round tournament record-tying 63 won’t get the love it deserves both because Fleetwood didn’t ultimately win and because of the USGA’s rain god routine prior to the final round
  • This is a shame. Fleetwood’s 7-under final round was one bad putt read at the 18th hole away from a 62. The score would not only have been a historic achievement–the lowest round in U.S.Open history–but it would have tied him with Brooks Koepka.
  • Here’s another take: We focus too much on the Englishman’s hair and beard (both of which are epic at the moment). He has top-10 finishes in the last two U.S. Opens and has added his name to a shortlist of players on the verge of a major breakthrough.
4. USG-let it get aw-A-y
Helped by a few dicey pins and more wind than expected, Shinnecock Hills got away from the USGA late Saturday. And while the tournament is over and the damage done, plenty continue to discuss the topic.
  • Geoff Shackelford broke it down nicely for Golfweek.
  • “Shinnecock Hills 2018 will be remembered for Wednesday night’s round-saving watering, not hydrating enough Saturday and an emergency drenching Sunday to keep the place from spilling into absurdity.”
  • “For two of its final three days, the U.S. Open faced bright, dry and potentially fast conditions. The U.S. Golf Association fed Shinnecock Hills enough water. History, however, will remember Saturday’s gaffe when players putted off browned-out greens as balls would not stop rolling and, most disappointing of all, the morning wave faced wildly better course conditions compared to the beleaguered afternoon leaders.”
  • “The lessons of 2004 were not learned….The mistake that could never happen again, happened again.”
5. Mickelson’s field hockey remains baffling
What to say about Phil Mickelson? The left-hander’s child-playing-putt-putt routine Saturday continues to confound, especially after Mickelson declined to talk to reporters Sunday and engaged in a mock celebration at the 13th hole (scene of the Saturday crime) Sunday.
  • Some scribes question whether Mickelson’s move (essentially taking the penalty to save time and avoid pain) was as calculated as Lefty later made it seem. Reports indicate Mickelson told playing partner Beef Johnston he wasn’t sure what the rules dictated in such a situation…before later telling reporters he knew the rules and was using them for his advantage.
  • Plenty continue to discuss the incident from an etiquette standpoint. Just as many debate whether Mickelson ought to have been disqualified or withdrawn from the tournament. And of course, some celebrate the gesture as a perceived middle finger to the USGA, its course management, and hole locations.
  • In short, Mickelson’s polo playing will remain a topic of discussion.
6. Parziale and father
No. 6 was going to be Ian Poulter complaining about the USGA and U.S. fans, but really, whose life is going to be enhanced by that? So, instead, how about Matt Parziale?
  • The reigning U.S. Mid-Am champ, already much discussed owing to his Massachusetts firefighter backstory, not only made the cut at the U.S. Open (as you probably know), but he had his father on the bag all week.
  • Heckuva Father’s Day! Parziale finished 5 over par Sunday to tie for low amateur at 16 over for the tournament.
7. Other golf!
In case you missed them, there were professional golf tournaments not named the U.S. Open played last week. Here’s one.
  • So Yeon Ryu won the Meijer LPGA Classic. Lydia Ko finished three shots back. The win is the sixth of the South Korean’s career and represents a return to form.
  • “If I look back on my season, I wasn’t really satisfied with it and I’ve been really, really struggling, I had a lot of crazy moments,” said Ryu. “I had some good rounds, I had some really bad rounds, so I couldn’t even really finish top-10 much compared to any other season. So all those reasons just drove me crazy.”
8. Gear Dive
Johnny Wunder goes deep with Mizuno Golf Engineer Chris Voshall. Voshall speaks on how Brooks Koepka was the one that almost got away, and why Mizuno irons are still secretly the most popular on Tour.
9. USG-pay d-A-y
The cleverness in this section’s title is over the line, just like Shinnecock Hils, Saturday.
Here are the payouts for top finishers at the (big money) U.S. Open.
  • 1: Brooks Koepka, $2,160,000
  • 2: Tommy Fleetwood, $1,296,000
  • 3: Dustin Johnson, $812,927
  • 4: Patrick Reed, $569,884
  • 5: Tony Finau, $474,659
  • T-6: Xander Schauffele, $361,923
  • T-6: Tyrrell Hatton, $361,923
  • T-6: Henrik Stenson, $361,923
  • T-6: Daniel Berger, $361,923
Rough stuff for Tony Finau, whose double bogey at the 72nd hole cost him more than 200 grand. But at least he didn’t dislocate an ankle in this major championship
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Tiger Woods fires third-round 65, takes a three-shot lead into final round

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Tiger Woods walked to the first tee at East Lake today like a gladiator entering an amphitheatre. Beginning the third round of the Tour Championship with a share of the lead, a sea of supporters were there to hoot and holler as he strode purposefully towards the opening tee. Expectancy was in the air, as after all Tiger Woods has converted a 36 hole share or solo lead into a win a remarkable 77 percent of the time throughout his career.

Both at Valspar and the Open Championship, Woods was unable to find that extra gear when he found himself atop the leaderboard. Today, however, was a different story, and Woods delivered the performance that came so natural to him when he was in his pomp.

Woods began his round with a piped drive down the first fairway, and after his approach shot landed just outside 20 feet on the first green, it appeared that the 14-time major champion was on his way to a steady start. However, when he rolled that birdie putt into the center of the cup, the galleries of East Lake responded with a cacophony of noise. Tiger Woods was on the march.

After a two-putt par at the second hole, Woods began a charge that turned into the performance he had been searching for all year when he’s found himself in contention. Woods birdied the third hole after stuffing a wedge to eight feet and burying the putt, and when he then birdied the par-4 fourth hole measuring 479 yards after nailing another putt from outside 20 feet, the crowd and Woods began to believe that today could be special.

To say Woods fed off that sublime birdie and the energy of the crowd would be an understatement. The 79-time PGA Tour champion put on a clinic over his next couple of holes, draining consecutive birdie putts from inside 10 feet, The great man then produced a scintillating approach shot from the fairway bunker on seven which just crept over the greenside trap and settled five feet away from the hole for an opportunity for Woods’ fifth straight birdie. Woods slammed the putt right in the middle to take him to six-under par for the day and 13-under par for the event.

Woods’ one blemish on the opening nine came on the tricky par-3 ninth hole, double-crossing his tee shot and failing to get up and down from off the green. Despite the error, Woods’ opening nine scorecard made for an imposing sight. 30 strokes that included six birdies and gave him a four-shot lead.

A clutch seven-foot par save on 11 kept the momentum rolling and it didn’t take long for the American to capitalise on that impetus, cutting his iron approach into the par-4 12th to seven feet. He then walked that birdie putt in to take him back to 13-under par.

Woods then parred his way to the 16th hole, a hole which he took a six on in round two, and it looked set to be another big number on the cards for Woods after he missed the green with his approach and then saw his ambitious flop shot run back to his feet. But Woods executed a nerveless bump into the hill with his next shot that took all the sting out of the ball and trickled out to tap in range for a superb bogey save.

On Woods’ penultimate hole, he barely missed his birdie putt, and after popping in his par putt, he approached the 18th tee with a three-shot lead. Woods striped his driver down the middle of the fairway, but a pulled approach into the back greenside bunker and a disappointing splash out meant Woods had to settle for a par to finish a thrilling round of 65, giving him a three-shot lead entering tomorrows final round.

Ask any Woods supporter, and they’ll tell you the one element missing from the great man returning to the winner’s circle in 2018 has been his inconsistent driving. Well, the decision to change recently from the Mitsubishi Tensei Orange shaft that he had been using for most of the year, to the Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Whiteboard shaft may well be the final piece of the complicated Tiger Woods puzzle. Woods looked as good as ever off the tee with the chief in hand on Saturday afternoon, finding 10 of 14 fairways on day three.

A victory tomorrow would be Woods’ first since 2013. His first win since four back surgeries that threatened to end his career. His first win since the majority of golf’s talking heads declared he had the chipping yips. His first victory since he suffered public derision after he received a DUI which turned out to be the cause of a toxic mix of prescription drugs. There is no way to downplay it, a win for Woods tomorrow would be one of the most memorable of his career. He has pulled himself off the canvas to within touching distance of his third Tour Championship victory. Should he claim that victory tomorrow, it may well be Woods’ finest hour outside of his 14-major championship wins.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Driver now a weapon, Tiger leads | What makes Bryson so good | Paulinagram

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

September 21, 2018

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Tiger in front again
Another FedEx Cup playoff event, another Tiger Woods first-round lead.
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Woods finished his day at the finale with a closing nine of 31 after a slow start and was tied with Fowler atop the season-ending leaderboard at 5 under par. He’s been in this position before from Tampa to St. Louis and was equally impressive two weeks ago at the BMW Championship when he opened with a first-round 62 for a share of the lead….But Thursday at East Lake felt different. It felt better.”
  • “This was by far better than the 62 at [the BMW Championship],” said Woods, who is playing at East Lake for the first time since 2013. “Conditions were soft there. It’s hard to get the ball close here. There’s so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can’t get the ball close.”
  • “On Thursday he had the look of a complete golfer, a five-tool player whose only limitation was running out of holes. Statistically he finished inside the top 10 in strokes gained: off the tee (eighth), tee to green (third), fairways hit (fourth), driving distance (eighth), greens in regulation (fifth), proximity to the hole (sixth), scrambling (first) and strokes gained: putting (eighth).
  • “I felt in control today,” Woods said without even trying to hide the knowing smile that inched across his face. “I had a lot of control over my shots.”
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall noted Woods’ warmup didn’t suggest a low number was forthcoming…”It was not an auspicious start. The warm-up wasn’t smooth, a fair share of drivers sailing over the left-field fence that separates the East Lake range from the 16th hole. The irons were a little thin, and he wasn’t dropping many putts on the practice green. There were a few grabs towards his back, the infamous part of his frame that kept him sidelined for so long. That someone forgot to tell the golf gods to turn on the A/C-a couple degrees from an Atlanta record high, apparently-wasn’t helping matters, the print of his shirt already unrecognizable from sweat when he arrived to the tee.”
“So when Tiger Woods three-jacked from 30 feet on the first hole, it felt like the opening salvo to a song-and-dance we’ve seen too many times before.But not on the only face that mattered.”
2. Also, Rickie
A PGA Tour.com report notes that Fowler (who co-leads the Tour Championship with El Tigre) is feeling good”Now he’s tied for the lead in the season-ending TOUR Championship at East Lake, his 5-under 65 holding up for the best score of day one with Tiger Woods.”
  • “I haven’t been on any type of painkillers,” Fowler said of his strained right oblique, which kept him out of the first two Playoffs events, THE NORTHERN TRUST and Dell Technologies Championship. “Like just standard Advil. And the big thing and reason why, I didn’t want to mask anything, just because if something did come up, I wanted to get the real response from my body.”
  • “Fowler’s body responded most especially on the greens, where he made nearly 92 feet of putts and ranked second in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.”
3. The big stick delivereth
Golf Channel’s Mercer Baggs…”Ever since making adjustments to his driver – which included adding loft and changing the shaft – at The Northern Trust, Woods’ long game has become one of his greatest assets.”
  • “Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways in the first round at East Lake Golf Club, which led to hitting 14 of 18 greens in regulation.”
  • “It’s not as though Woods has completely traded distance for accuracy. He hit his drive on the par-5 18th 320 yards and hat helped produce an eagle.”
  • “It’s more like he now has the ability to control his driver. Those wayward tee shots we had become accustomed to seeing aren’t so offline. That means sometimes he’ll send one 296 yards – like he did on the first hole – and sometimes he’ll gear up and knock one 328 yards – like he did at the fifth.”
  • Woods had this to say…“[I]f I hit it normal, I hit it just as far. And so that’s to me like 300 yards in the air,” he said. “But … the neat thing about this one is that if I miss it and spin it a little bit, those spinners stay in play instead of chasing off on me, and I can turn this ball.
  • “And so, yeah, if I hit controlled shots, they’re in play and they’re shorter. But if I go ahead and step up and launch one, I’m just as far. The neat thing is I don’t have to swing it as hard to hit the ball as far. And so it puts a little less toll on my body. I don’t have to have my speed up there at 120, 121, 122 miles an hour to carry it 305, 310 like I did before.”
4. Paisley
Meanwhile, on the Web.com Tour…AP Report…”Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.”
  • “The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.”
  • “I think just all around was really good,” Paisley said. “I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.”
5. What makes Bryson so good?
Our Peter Sanders takes a headfirst dive into the data.
A few morsels…
  • “He averaged over 300 yards, 15 yards longer than the field, and hit more fairways than the 2017 winners.  Further, Bryson (Blue arrows below) had 35% fewer driving errors than those made by the 2017 winners.”
  • “Bryson did hit more greens-in-regulation (blue arrows below). BUT remember he hit more fairways and made fewer errors. Finally, Bryson’s proximity when he hits the greens* is closer to the 2017 Tour average than it is to the 2017 winners”.
6. Rory PACIlroy?
A Golf Channel report indicates Mr. McIlroy may have a seat at the Player Advisory Council table…”I’m not on the PAC. I’m probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what’s going on and give your input and whatever.”
  • Input and whatever! McIlroy also said he likes the new Tour Championship format, sort of.
  • “I like it for the FedExCup. I don’t necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don’t know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There’s a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it’s good.”
7. New Web.com schedule
Golfweek’s Brentley Romine with the details...”The 2019 Web.com Tour season will now end on Labor Day, the PGA Tour announced on Thursday.”
  • “The new schedule features 27 events, including three new events and a three-event Finals (down from four). The three new events are the Suncoast Classic Feb. 14-17 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., Evans Scholars Invitational May 23-26 in Chicago and TPC Colorado Championship July 11-14 in Berthoud, Colo. The Finals will consist of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (Aug. 15-18), Albertsons Boise Open Aug. 22-25) and Web.com Tour Championship (Aug. 30-Sept. 2).”
  • “The Web.com Tour has enjoyed tremendous momentum in recent years and has created a platform from which graduates are enjoying immediate success on the PGA Tour,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. “The revamped schedule will allow for a more natural cadence to the season for our fans, while providing an earlier finish that enhances the visibility of the Web.com Tour Finals.”
8. JT pain free
Golf Channel report...”After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.”
  • “Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.”
  • “If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn’t have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I’m going to get as many points for the team as possible.”
9. Interpreting Paulinagram
Charles Curtis of For The Win on an Instagram story Paulina Gretzky posted that features the Great One’s daughter listening to a song.
  • “As some people have noted, these are the lyrics to the Dustin Lynch song attached to that photo:..I’d be jealous too, if she was with you…I’d be out of my mind, watching her move…If I was just a guy with across the room view….I’d be jealous too, if she was with you, with you.”
What does it mean? Who knows? Who cares? Some combination of the two?

 

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Tiger Woods catches fire after a slow start, shoots 5-under 65 at Tour Championship to tie lead

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Tiger Woods, who came to the Tour Championship 20th on the FedExCup points list, is making early moves at the Tour Championship at East Lake. After an opening-hole 3-putt from 25 feet for a bogey, and then three straight pars, Tiger played the rest of his round 6-under par (birdies at 5, 6, 12 and 14), capping it with a 27-foot eagle putt at the 18th hole. In the end, it was a 5-under 65 for Tiger, who currently sits tied for the lead with Rickie Fowler.

Here’s his approach to the par-5 18th hole, which measures 590 yards in total:

And here’s the eagle putt, to which he reacted with a few casual fist pumps and a putter raise.

As we’ve reported, Tiger recently switched back to his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter with which he’s one 13-of-14 majors throughout his career. He may have found the spark of old on the greens.

The only problem is, even if Tiger wins this week’s Tour Championship, he’s going to need some help winning the FedExCup and $10 million payout. Here are the scenarios he needs to happen:

But hey…

Here’s where the top-5 players on the FedExCup points list sit currently on Day 1:

  1. Bryson DeCheambeau (+3 thru 15, T27)
  2. Justin Rose (-2 thru 15, T6)
  3. Tony Finau (-2 thru 16, T6)
  4. Dustin Johnson (+2 thru 16, T23)
  5. Justin Thomas (-3 thru 16, T4)

Who do you think is going to win the Tour Championship and the FedExCup?

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