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Ted Bishop on the U.S. Open setup, Phil Mickelson’s antics, his infamous Tweet and more (full interview, transcribed)

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Ted Bishop has seen highs and he has seen lows. As the 38th President of the PGA of America, he was the one of the leaders of the game and the industry of golf. He was at the pinnacle of the game, but one ill-advised tweet brought that crashing down. After calling Ian Poulter a “lil’ girl” on social media, Bishop was impeached from his office and stripped of all of his titles and honors. But he retained his dignity and his love for the game of golf. In this exclusive interview, Bishop opens up about his feelings on the PGA of America, the USGA, this year’s U.S. Open and the double standard that seems to exist in the upper echelons of the game

Read the full transcription below, or click here to listen on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

Michael Williams: So, you’re out in Indiana. What are you doing these days?

Ted Bishop: You know, I’m the General Manager of the Legends Golf Club, which is a 45-hole facility about 25 minutes out from downtown Indianapolis. And it’s a golf course that I’ve built. And that’s pretty much what I do seven days a week and loving every minute of it. It was great when the PGA thing was over with to really dive back into my operation. And the day to day aspect of public golf… I’ve never gotten tired of it in my 47 years of working on a golf course.

Michael Williams: So let’s get to it with the U.S. Open. You saw it just like I did. Great winner, Brooks Koepka. I think you had a lot of great players fighting for the championship as we came down to the wire, which is exactly what you want to see. And you have a repeat champion for the first time since Curtis Strange. Talk to me about how you felt about the players and the level of play and then we’ll switch to how you felt about the golf course and it’s set up.

Ted Bishop: Well I thought Koepka played great and he putted the ball so well on that back nine Michael. And I thought Paul Azinger had one of the classic quotes late in the round yesterday, where he said, “You can’t ride ball striking to the winner’s circle.” And that was certainly the case with Koepka. When you look at the biggest hole that he played, it was probably the bogey he had on number 11.

Michael Williams: Absolutely.

Ted Bishop: And a couple of par saves after that. So for him to have been injured and to have been out as long as he has been here in 2018, this is a great, great victory for him. We knew that DJ was going to be there. I mean, I think he’s clearly earned his right to be the number one player in the world. And he’s playing better, week in, week out than anybody else does. Obviously with the setup, there was a lot of controversy as to how good golf was and how entertaining the open was. But at least when I’m here at a public golf course, they kind of enjoy watching the greatest players in the world be challenged. And that was the case at certain times last week.

Michael Williams: They say that Shinnecock is a second shot golf course but it’s not really a second shot golf course, it’s a third shot golf course because you’re going to hit some shots that hit that green and you’re going to hit a lot that don’t. So, it’s all about your ability to persevere and be creative on the greens and around them, making sure that that three goes from four to five and not to six, seven or eight.

But the controversy really started on Saturday. In your opinion, did they lose the course?

Ted Bishop: You know Michael, I thought the most telling interview that I saw the entire weekend on the course set up was the one that FOX did yesterday with Patrick Reed when his round was finished. And they asked him about the Saturday setup and he said, “You know, I really didn’t have a problem with it.” He said, “There were two pins on 13 and 15 that were maybe two yards out of place and it made a completely different situation on the putting greens.” But he said, “Other than that, I didn’t have any issues with it.” And that’s his personality. He’s the guy that rolls with the flow and doesn’t make any excuses. Now obviously, there were a lot of players that were very critical. I was just reading an article before this phone call. Some quotes from Steve Stricker, for example. And Strick’s usually a guy that doesn’t say anything bad about anything and he was very critical of about the set up. But I think the biggest controversy would be the fact that the players in the morning on Saturday were probably a different golf course than the players in the afternoon were. And that’s just sometimes in golf, the way that it goes.

But I for one, like I said before, I like to see these guys challenged and the US Open always kind of borders somewhat on the unfair side. I remember very vividly the 1974 US Open at Winged Foot and watching Hale Irwin slugging out there. I think he was … Correct me if I’m wrong or if you know, maybe he was seven over par at Winged Foot. So it’s just … That’s just what the US Open is. And it’s different than the other majors. And I personally found it entertaining.

Michael Williams: I did too. If you had been in charge of that championship, would you have done anything different throughout the four days? In terms of course set up.

Ted Bishop: Well, you know that’s a difficult question. My youngest daughter is a PGA member and she’s at St Andrews Golf Club, which is not far from Shinnecock. It’s the oldest club in the United States. And I was talking to her Saturday night, just about the weather that they had to experience in that part of the country and she was saying to me that their greens at St Andrews were as hard and fast as she can ever remember them in the 15 years that she’s been there. So hard that you could actually … You could hear the ball land on the green from the fairway. And so obviously, Shinnecock was harder and faster than some place like that would’ve been in that area.

Michael Williams: Right.

Ted Bishop: And you know, I guess maybe you would have watered … In retrospect, you might have watered more on Friday night if you would have known that conditions were going to get that out of hand. You know, that part of this is so complicated and sophisticated. I say complicated, really in a lot of ways it’s easier Michael, because you got these moisture meters. And you can go out and you can actually test your soils at any point during the morning hours. You can anticipate what your evaporation rate’s going to be based on the wind. And you can do some things differently.

I think Mike Davis said he kind of got off guard on Saturday and I’m sure that if he had some things to do over again, he would’ve done it. But then he made the corrections, I felt like on Sunday. And pins were far more reasonable, the golf course was softer and there were no issues.

Michael Williams: Yeah and you got Tommy Fleetwood shooting a 63. Does that mean there’s an overcorrection?

Ted Bishop: Oh I don’t know about that. I just think the weather got out of hand. And that’s the one element that you can’t ever control. And I know Mike has taken a lot of criticism and he continues to take it. I did an interview with a radio station in Charlotte on Saturday, and they were asking me the difference between Kerry Haigh, who sets up the PGA Championships and Mike Davis who obviously does the USGA. And Kerry is not a risk taker; you can almost go to the bank every year no matter where the PGA’s played, that the winner score is going to be 8 to 12 under par. His philosophy is he wants to see good shots rewarded and there’s a little bit of risk and reward, but he never gets over the top. Mike on the other hand, I would call a risk taker. And that starts really with some of the sites that he selects. And you can point to Chambers Bay and Erin Hills as two that would be that case. Certainly, he made it that way with Shinnecock. But you know, they are different personalities and their philosophies are different. And I’m going to stand up for Mike Davis and I’m going to say that one’s not necessarily right and one’s not necessarily wrong.

I always felt part of golf was being able to adapt to the conditions, no matter what they are. And Tom Watson had a great quote that he said that golf was not meant to be a fair game. And that’s just kind of the way it is… I think that’s always interesting Michael, about the U.S. Open, the tour players are so conditioned to play with the same type of playing conditions week in and week out.

Michael Williams: Yep.

Ted Bishop: I mean, the PGA Championship is not much different than a tour event. Obviously, the Open Championship is going to be different. The U.S. Open is going to be different. The rest of them … Even the Masters, is a, what I would call a PGA Tour set up. So these guys are so conditioned to play the same way week in and week out, when they get a curve ball thrown their way sometimes they don’t react well.

Michael Williams: You’ve already addressed the fact that what happens at the U.S. Open never happens at the PGA Championship. Who is the constituency of Mike Davis? Who is he trying to please? If so many people are displeased, why isn’t he held accountable? Why doesn’t somebody else get a crack at doing that?

Ted Bishop: Well, I think his constituency would be the USGA Executive Committee, possibly.

Michael Williams: So as long as they’re pleased, he’s good to go?

Ted Bishop: Yeah.

Michael Williams: Okay.

Ted Bishop: Exactly. And, they own that championship. I know it’s the United States Open, but you and I don’t own it. The USGA does. So, it’s really their prerogative, and Mike’s the guy that they’ve entrusted that core setup year in and year out to, so it’s their baby to do with what they want to.

Michael Williams: Again, I’m with you. I love what Mike Davis does. I love the fact that you get one tournament a year that’s half Masters and half NASCAR. You’ve got speed and performance, and you’ve also got crashes in Turn 2.

Besides the winner and the course, the story was, Phil Mickelson. I’m going to ask you this as a three-parter. What do you think of what he did, what do you think of his explanation for why he did it, and if it was your sole decision to make, would he have been disqualified?

Ted Bishop: Well, I think that had Phil kept his mouth shut after the round and really not exposed what had happened he would have been OK. Under rule 14-5, I mean, he clearly struck a ball in motion, so that’s a two shot penalty.

Michael Williams: Right. That’s physics, so you can’t argue with physics. He hit a ball that’s moving. Done.

Ted Bishop: Yeah. Can’t argue with that. Honestly, the great thing about the rules of golf, you always have the opportunity to use the rules to your advantage. That’s not cheating. That’s just knowing the rules book and using them to your advantage.

Michael Williams: Right.

Ted Bishop: At that point, when he did that, I would say that he succeeded in using the rules to his advantage. When he went to the media scrum afterwards, and basically admitted what his intent was, now all of the sudden, that really kind of falls under a different rule, Rule 1-2, which is another situation that could have very easily have resulted in a disqualification.

Michael Williams: Now, what is it he said specifically that takes it from a 14-5 consideration to 1-2?

Ted Bishop: Well, he indicated what his intentions were, to stop the ball before it went off the putting green and rolled down into a place that he very conceivably might not have had a shot. It was his intent, if he wouldn’t have divulged what his intent was, if he would have just said, “Hey, I clearly struck a ball in motion. I did what I did, and that was it”, and not taken it any further than that, then it would have been pretty clear-cut that it was a two shot penalty. But when he expressed his intent to breach the rules, then that’s where the disqualification would have come into play.

I talked with a guy that’s on the PGA of America Rules Committee, and watched a couple of people talk about it this morning in preparation for this story, and I think that’s about as clear and concise as you can make it. The question then goes to the USGA, well, then why did you not go ahead and disqualify him because he clearly indicated what his intentions were? That stuff happens. I remember being at the Masters when Roy McIlroy took that practice swing (2009). I was on the Rules Committee in the bunker that year, and there was a lot of talk that he should be disqualified. I know Kerry Haigh privately said, hey, if this would have been the PGA Championship we would have DQ’d him, but they elected not to at Augusta, and the USGA elected not to DQ Phil. Again, that’s what the committee does. They make those types of decisions, and the rest of us debate them.

Michael Williams: Okay. A lot of this discussion going forward is going to be about one of my favorite subjects, which is hypocrisy. I think hypocrisy ruins the world, among other things. Let’s go there a little bit. So, it’s not Phil Mickelson that does this, it’s Pat Perez. Is he DQ’d?

Ted Bishop: That’s a great subjective question. I would say that he might have been DQ’d. I would also say this, I know Phil well, as well as I guess I could have in the position that I was in. I like him, but I also think that sometimes there’s nothing that he doesn’t do without an agenda. I think that clearly what he did on Saturday was basically his way of really trying to show up the USGA for what he felt like was not a good course setup.

Michael Williams: You know the other thing that he did, it hasn’t been talked about at all, but I thought really served as a frame of reference for what he did on 13, was the putt he made on 14. Because he hits the green on 14, and instead of going right at the hole, he went, what, six feet to the right of it and up the bank, and tried to bring it in from above the hole back down to it and into the backdoor. He hits that putt, and then like turns to Beef Johnson, and is sort of like laughing and giving that Phil Mickelson smirk. To me, that’s like, okay, this is how you feel. You are saying and giving a clear statement that this course is unplayable, and I’m going to show you just how unplayable it is by hitting into the windmill on number 14 and trying to get it into the hole. Did you see that too?

Ted Bishop: Yeah. I can’t argue with any of that. Then, of course, you had the Twitter tirade that my friend Ian Poulter went through on Saturday night where he said some very derogatory things about Mike Davis and the USGA. I guess the difference between those two styles is that maybe Phil’s was a little bit more discrete than what Poulter’s was. But, I think there were a lot of negative reactions by players to what went on on Saturday, and how they displayed that certainly was different.

Michael Williams: So, it’s been my contention that what Phil Mickelson did will probably not dent his reputation among his fans. But within the people who are the guardians of the game golf, those people who wear green jackets, and pins, and crests, and things like that, I think it has taken an irreversible hit. What do you think?

Ted Bishop: Well, you know Michael, here’s what I would say. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are, in a lot of ways, are bullet proof for any of their actions. I mean, their fan base is loyal, and supportive, and that’s really kind of the interesting thing about this sport, is the fact that people just have a tendency to turn their head or overlook some things that happen that maybe aren’t really in the best interest of the game, and really doesn’t seem to tarnish them much going forward. I mean, Phil’s had other things that have come up in his career. I mean, the insider trading situation is one. If that was Pat Perez, would that have been handled differently? So, you know, I’ve always laughed about golf; for a sport that hangs its hat on ethics, and etiquette, and ideals, I do think that there is a lot of hypocrisy from time to time in the sport.

Michael Williams: Let’s go a little deeper into your tenure as President. I think most people know the situation where there was a series of tweets between you and Ian Poulter. In one of them, you made a comment that ultimately was determined to be sexist and damaging to the reputation of the PGA, and the golf industry in general. In a very short period of time between one tweet and a consideration of this action, it led to your removal as the President of the PGA. What’s your recollection of the timeline of that event? How do you look at it now?

Ted Bishop: Well, I mean, just the factual part of it was this. It took place on October 23, 2014. It was less than a month after the Ryder Cup, and I was working the Faldo Junior Series at the Greenbrier with Nick Faldo.

Michael Williams: And we were there at the Greenbrier at the same time.

Ted Bishop: Oh, no kidding?

Michael Williams: Yeah, we were there. I was doing a fundraiser for St. Jude’s and Faldo was the guest of honor. I was there that night.

Ted Bishop: Wow. You should have saved me. But at any rate, it was the last night that I was there. We were going to go out to Nick’s for a quick reception. He has a house there at the Greenbrier, and then we were going to go back and have dinner with the kids that night. I was looking at Geoff Shackelford’s blog, actually, and I had seen where Ian Poulter had released his new book called No Limits, and he had been very critical of Nick Faldo and Tom Watson both, actually. Watson is a Ryder Cup Captain, and it struck a nerve. It’s no excuse on my part, but it was really kind of the last straw in the aftermath of that 2014 Ryder Cup, so as you said, I called Poulter out on Twitter and Facebook, and referred to him as a little girl. The PGA and other people took offense to that remark. And actually, within 18 hours after my stupid remarks on social media, I was removed from office with 29 days left to go in my tenure.

Michael Williams: Stunning. With 29 days left to go, amazing. Amazing.

Ted Bishop: Yeah. I mean, I will say this, and I’ve said this 100 times, it was a very poor choice of words on my part, very stupid for the media training that I had had. I’m not going to apologize for standing up for two guys that I felt like were being unduly criticized, particularly in Tom’s case, as a Ryder Cup Captain being criticized by an opposing player. I really, I don’t make apologies for that, I just wish I would have chosen my words better. What I did was, it was stupid. I mean, I make no excuses. There’s a lot of ways I could have said it, but to use the term little girl, I just never even began to think of it from a sexist viewpoint, but it is what it is, and I was done.

Michael Williams: It was funny because you had been on my show not long before and we talked about the fact that your tenure was almost over, and I asked you about the practice of the U.S. presidents leaving a note in the office of the incoming President, for their eyes only.

Ted Bishop: I remember that. That was a great question.

Michael Williams: As you look back on it now, although it wasn’t a timely exit, what would you have put on your note in your desk for the incoming president?

Ted Bishop: I mean well, my mindset has totally changed since then. Another thing that was kind of interesting, obviously, in preparation for my outgoing speech at the annual meeting in Indianapolis, we were at the Grand … I’ll back up. A week before this all happened I was at the Grand Slam in Bermuda and we were having what really would be our final executive committee meeting with Kerry Haigh, Darrell Crall, Pete Bevacqua, Derek Sprague and Paul Levy and myself. I asked the PGA to kind of summarize my two years; I said, “Could you give me a timeline of just the things that happened in my two years which what kind of really put into play my remarks at the annual meeting?”

And, they came back about a week later and they gave me a five-page, single spaced document of all the things that happened in ’13 and ’14. And, there were a lot of really positive things that we did as an association, that we did for the game. I think we elevated the stature of the PGA of America and the golf community. And unfortunately, even to this day I feel like my stupidity on social media wiped out a lot of that work. They always say to any kind of a leader, “How will your legacy be defined?” And, I think had it not been for that minute and a half of really dumb, irresponsible action on social media, my legacy in golf probably would be a hell of a lot different than what it is today.

Michael Williams: I applaud you for being a man and stand up and taking responsibility for your actions. But again, the rails that we’re riding this train on for this part of the conversation is hypocrisy. You didn’t use any of The Forbidden Seven. You didn’t say anything that you could have been fined for by the FCC. You called the guy a little girl. But, when you looked around the room at the people who were judging you, do you think that there was any one person around there who hadn’t at some time said to a playing partner when they hit a putt short, “You gotta hit it Nancy.” Or, “Hit it again, Shirley.”

Ted Bishop: No, there’s no question about it, and we had situations in my two years as the president where we actually had past presidents and we had board members that we kind of had to sanction. And when I say sanction, I mean, I felt like we did it in a very responsible and gentle way. We brought the people in, we said, “Look, you can’t be saying this. You can’t be doing this. You represent the largest working sports organization in the world.” And, I think that was a bitter pill for me, the way that my whole thing went down. Some of that didn’t happen. That being said, again, I’ll make no excuses. I’m the guy at the top of the ladder and I’ve got to set an example for everyone within the association. And, I should have done that, but I would say that certainly there were other disciplinary cases and there have been since that weren’t quite handled the same as mine.

Michael Williams: When you look now and you see the things that are said by athletes, by entertainers, and I’m going to go there, even by the President of the United States about women, seemingly without consequence, it’s hard not to be bitter, Isn’t it?

Ted Bishop: Yeah, but I just never wanted to be that guy. That’s why I just try to come back and really throw myself into my family and my business and just try to move on and not get caught up with that. That was one of the reasons that I wrote the book. I wanted to try to educate people on your responsibilities with social media and I’ve spoken on this topic. And, I guess that was really to this day, that’s my biggest disappointment, Michael, with the PGA of America.

I could have been a poster child for all those things. I think I could have helped with a golf professionals, but I could have helped people in general doing a lot of the things that I’m doing now. So, when it was all said and done I thought, “You know what? That is what I’m going to do. I’ll just take matters into my own hands and try to do that.” And, that’s kind of been my message and what I kind of stand for now. “Hey! Learn from my mistakes.”

Michael Williams: There’s a recent incident, again, most of our readers and listeners know about it and I know you know about it too, where Paul Levy, the current president of the PGA, was arrested last week on a DUI, driving under the influence. A statement of apology and contrition was made, but I have heard no word on any disciplinary action. And I say this noting that Paul Levy is a friend of mine. I really, really like that guy. But, isn’t it a double standard?

Ted Bishop: I think that’s for other people to judge and I’m not going to comment on Levy’s arrest. I think the PGA of America’s been pretty clear at this point that they stand behind him and they’re going to continue to do that. The way they’ve not messaged Paul’s situation to the membership compared again to the way my whole thing was handled, is kind of curious. But, I don’t know. Maybe they feel that my remarks were so insensitive and so violating to the diversity and inclusion principles that they have really made their platform over since 2014. Maybe that’s a bigger issue to them than the DUI. I don’t know, you’d have to ask somebody from the PGA of America.

Michael Williams: Yeah, I fully intend to. Thanks, and I’ll keep you posted on that. What’s your relationship with the PGA, professionally and personally right now?

Ted Bishop: I’ve tried to get as involved as I possibly can in my own section, the Indiana PGA. I’ve actually hosted and MC’ed our last few section awards ceremonies in the Spring, which I’ve enjoyed. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at some section meetings. I’ve led something that I think is critical to the future of the game right now and that was a junior pace of play pilot program that we had called Project 215 where we’re trying to get juniors to play nine holes in two hours and 15 minutes because I think the slow pace of play at the junior golf level is one of the things that’s killing the sport right now. That’s where I’ve really chosen to get involved with. One of the things that happened to me when I was impeached was that they took away my right to vote, they took away basically my right to be involved in any governance at the PGA of America level. So, I’m a guy that kind of has to rely on the local aspect of the PGA in my life right now. And again, that’s okay because selfishly, Michael, that’s kind of what influences my own little world each and every day and I’m done with the rest of it. However, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to work for MorningRead.com, which is a daily digital golf newsletter that Alex Miceli started and that’s kept me in touch with the game and I love to write and I felt that it kind of kept me relevant to a degree.

Michael Williams: As always Ted, thanks so much for your time and most of all for your honesty. In today’s world that’s pretty tough to come by.

Ted Bishop: I always love talking to you and I remember very well that first meeting we had down at the PGA show and I’m glad to call you a friend.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Mark

    Jun 21, 2018 at 3:54 am

    I believe this is what known as a ‘softball interview’ i.e. no difficult questions asked. I would like Mr. Williams to have asked Mr. Bishop why he thought it was necessary for him to come to the defence of Tom Watson. To me Ian Poulter’s comment/s had nothing to do with Mr. Bishop. The Ryder Cup is not the PGA of America nor is the PGA of America the Ryder Cup. I still think Mr. Bishop’s actions were emotionally led viz. he considers Tom Watson to be his friend: which, in both my experience and opinion, is inappropriate behaviour for any one in a leadership position.

  2. Man

    Jun 20, 2018 at 1:59 am

    Typical old White moron, and anachronism

  3. JM

    Jun 19, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    As a Certified PGA Member I think Ted Bishop is the man. His work is not overshadowed by a twitter comment that isn’t even news. I was disappointed in the PGA of America for letting him go early.

  4. timothy jay rush

    Jun 19, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    The PGA has become a joke with the people coming into the program from the likes of the Golf Academy of the South and such schools. The majority of these future PGA apprentices are going to be desk clerks.

  5. Brandon

    Jun 19, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    Cant believe he is as gracious as he is. Still hard to believe he was fired for calling poulter a girl and yet the current pga president isnt fired after a dui. sometimes people can get worked up over the littlest things and lose sight of the bigger picture.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: The 2018 Open Championship

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The 147th Open Championship gets underway this week as 156 players launch their quest to capture the Claret Jug. The oldest and for many, most prestigious event returns to Scotland, where Carnoustie will host the tournament for the eighth time in its history.

The last time Carnoustie hosted The Open was 10 years ago when Padraig Harrington finished tied with Sergio Garcia at 7-under par after 72 holes. Harrington went on to outlast Garcia in a dramatic playoff to capture his first of two-straight Open Championships.

The weather is expected to be kind this year and the rough will less penal than it was in 2007, which should offer more birdies than it did in 2007. Carnoustie will measure just over 7,400 yards. With the course playing fast and firm, however, distance is not going to be an issue.

Strategy will be vitally important, and we’ve heard that players will be able to lay up on some of the holes by taking short irons off the tee. The likes of Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, and Rory McIlroy have all stated that they will be taking driver off the tee to eliminate many of the pot bunkers on the course. The reason for this comes down to the fact that the rough is playable this year, which allows for attacking golf. As with any Open Championship, players will need to have every single part of their game in shape for the difficult challenge that links golf always provides.

Last year, Jordan Spieth won the Claret Jug by playing his final five holes in 5-under to post 12-under and beat runner-up Matt Kuchar by three strokes.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Dustin Johnson 12/1
  • Justin Rose 16/1
  • Rickie Fowler 18/1
  • Rory McIlroy 18/1
  • Jon Rahm 20/1
  • Jordan Spieth 20/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 22/1

Considerably cheaper in salary than both Spieth and Mcilroy, and only marginally more expensive than Fowler, Jon Rahm (20/1, DK Price $9,800) looks to offer excellent value this week at the top of the board. The Spaniard has shown he can play links golf very well, as he once again performed excellently in Ireland, posting a top-5 finish two weeks ago. Rahm now turns his attention to Carnoustie where he’ll be gunning for his first major championship victory.

Rahm comes into this event with a clear strategy. He’s going to play as aggressive as always and hit driver off the tee at every opportunity. Rahm believes the course layout and conditions will suit his explosive game. When you listen to his assessment of Carnoustie this year, it’s difficult to disagree with him. Speaking to the media this week, Rahm said:

“If you hit a good one with a driver, you’re going to have nothing to the green. If you hit the rough this year, it’s not as thick as other years. You actually get a lot of good lies, so you can still hit the green with confidence.”

With playable rough, Rahm should feel every bit as confident as he sounds about his chances this week, as the only thing that prevented him from winning in Ireland was the odd blow-up hole. But with his power allowing him to take the pot bunkers almost entirely out of play, combined with light rough, Carnoustie should be an excellent fit for him. Rahm’s experience in contention at Augusta earlier in the year should put him in good shape mentally as he attempts to win his first major championship, and if he can keep his volatile temperament in check, then Rahm has every chance of claiming the Claret Jug.

From the middle of the range prices this week, Francesco Molinari (33/1, DK Price $8,600) may be the safest man to add to your lineups. The Italian has been in imperious form lately, winning twice and finishing runner-up twice in his last five events. Molinari leads the field in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his previous 24 rounds and sits third in ball striking over the same period.

Molinari’s Open Championship record has been solid, making the cut in five of his last six appearances at this event. His best finish at this event is a T9 back in 2013 at Muirfield, where the conditions were also dry. Molinari enters this event in the form of his life, and the way he is hitting the ball right now, he looks primed for his best Open Championship performance yet.

A links specialist, Marc Leishman (50/1, DK Price $8,000) has performed excellently at this event in recent years. Leishman has recorded three top-10 finishes at the Open Championship in his last four appearances, and he looks reasonably priced to go well once again this week. An excellent wind player, Leishman will relish any wind that may descend on Carnoustie. With him being so adept at playing links golf, taking an expert at $8,000 seems a prudent play.

Leishman’s immediate form hasn’t been spectacular, but he has made five cuts from his last six events, including a runner-up finish at the Byron Nelson where he shot a brilliant 61 in the opening round. The Australian finished T13 at his previous outing at the Quicken Loans National, which shows his game is in solid shape. With his expertise on links courses, Leishman may well be able to conquer Carnoustie and finally get his hands on the Claret Jug.

Emiliano Grillo (200/1, DK Price $6,800) is undervalued this week. On DraftKings, with the books, everywhere. Grillo has been playing terrific golf lately, and Carnoustie should suit the Argentine’s clinical ball striking. Over his previous 24 rounds, Grillo sits 15th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, fifth in Strokes Gained-Putting, 17th in ball striking and 10th in Strokes Gained-Total. Grillo has three top-25 finishes in his last four events, and he has shown he can produce his best golf at this event in the past, finishing T12 at Royal Troon back in 2016. At 200/1 and $6,800 on DraftKings, Emiliano Grillo looks the value play of the week.

Recommended Plays

  • Jon Rahm 20/1, DK Price $9,800
  • Francesco Molinari 33/1, DK Price $8,600
  • Marc Leishman 50/1, DK Price $8,000
  • Emiliano Grillo 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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Opinion & Analysis

The Golf Engine predicts the top 25 finishers at The Open Championship

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The field for the 147th British Open is set at the historic Carnoustie Golf Links. The Golf Engine modeled over 1,500 statistics tracked by the PGA Tour for every tournament dating back to 2004. We looked at how each stat contributes to what we can expect from players on this stage, at this tournament. It’s a complex web of information that can only be properly analyzed by a machine, yet yields some objectively surprising results.

This year’s British Open is no exception as the model is calling for Webb Simpson (125/1 odds) to make a run into the top 10 at least.

Some surprises:

Back-to-back U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka (22/1) inside the top 5.

Webb Simpson (125/1) and Phil Mickelson (66/1) inside the top 10.

Emiliano Grillo (100/1) inside the top 15.

Kevin Na (175/1), Luke List (125/1), and Ryan Moore (150/1) inside top the 25.

Perhaps just as surprising are the golfers that may under-perform this week. Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood don’t make the top 10 cutoff. Alex Noren, Francesco Molinari who finished T2 at TPC Deere Run last week, and Sergio Garcia are all projected outside of our top 25.

Notable left-outs:

Rory McIlroy (16/1) and Tommy Fleetwood (20/1) finishing outside the top 10.

Alex Noren (30/1), Francesco Molinari (33//1), and Sergio Garcia (28/1) all finishing outside the top 25.

A few more points of note:

Top 5

It’s fascinating that Dustin Johnson gets the call for top dawg from both the oddsmakers and the model. No question he is the best player in the world right now, but it’s been a few years since DJ really contended (2011) in this tournament — and at a different course — Royal St George’s. He does have a pair of Top 10’s in 2012 and 2016 and has made the cut every year since 2009 (his first Open).

Justin Rose, not that his name doesn’t come up every year for this tournament, just that his style of play is generally considered to be different than the players on either side of him (Johnson and Koepka).

Speaking of Koepka, few are calling for him to win at Carnoustie though he does shows up inside the top 5 here…

Jordan Spieth, although winning this tournament last year – has not put up the best numbers of his already memorable career the past few months. Frankly I’m a little surprised the numbers bear this out…

Perhaps the third least surprising name to see on this list (aside from Johnson and Rose) is Rickie Fowler, aka: Mr. Consistency, aka: the Perennial Contender, aka: always the Bridesmaid. Rickie almost always brings his A-game, and the data suggests it suits this course well. Curious to see if this is the year his major championship drought comes to an end.

Top 10

Webb Simpson might be the most surprising pick on this list. Clearly the model likes something about his game this year and the way he is set up for this tournament. A career-low 61 to open at The Greenbrier (his last start), T10 at the U.S. Open a month ago and earning his 5th career victory at The PLAYERS were each separated by missed cuts.

Top 25

For a guy with short odds, Rory McIlroy to be projected outside of the top 10, which really speaks to the consistency (or lack thereof) of his game this season.

Other notables:

No love from the model for Matt Kuchar, Scotsman Russel Knox, Adam Scott, Ian Poulter, or Louis Oosthuizen.

Projected Rank Player Odds
1 Dustin Johnson 12/1
2 Justin Rose 16/1
3 Brooks Koepka 22/1
4 Jordan Spieth 20/1
5 Rickie Fowler 16/1
6 Webb Simpson 125/1
7 Justin Thomas 22/1
8 Jason Day 33/1
9 Phil Mickelson 66/1
10 Jon Rahm 20/1
11 Henrik Stenson 28/1
12 Emiliano Grillo 100/1
13 Paul Casey 40/1
14 Patrick Reed 35/1
15 Rory McIlroy 16/1
16 Tommy Fleetwood 20/1
17 Bubba Watson 80/1
18 Tiger Woods 22/1
19 Kevin Na 175/1
20 Hideki Matsuyama 50/1
21 Bryson DeChambeau 125/1
22 Luke List 125/1
23 Ryan Moore 150/1
24 Tony Finau 100/1
25 Charles Howell III 500/1
Odds Courtesy of Bovada

View the projected finish of the entire 2018 British Open Field.

How the Golf Engine makes its picks

In golf, a pro matches up as much with the golf-course as another competitor. Which is why any attempt to predict the outcome of a golf tournament, must take into account the nuances of the course. Beyond conjecture made by the golf pundits, analyzing past and present data through the use of math can more accurately project future performance.

In this model, we use machine learning to evaluate 1,500 different statistics for every golfer on the PGA Tour over each tournament since 2004. The analysis of this massive dataset allows gives us an opportunity to predict players that are sitting on low round scores.

The machine learns how these statistics can become a unique strength or glaring weakness for each golfer by comparing tens of thousands of different combinations and separating the patterns from the noise. The resulting ‘model’ is able to ‘deep dive’ and determine when to expect low rounds from a pro, given their unique style of play. These calculations are next to impossible to do quickly and certainly without personal and subjective biases, until now.

Learn more about the author, Pat Ross.

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Opinion & Analysis

I’m practicing. Why am I not getting better at golf?

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We all want to improve our golf games; we want to shoot lower scores, make more birdies and win bragging rights from our friends. As a result, we practice and invest many hours in trying to improve. However, do we improve as quickly as we want to? Is there something we’ve been missing?

“The secret is in the dirt,” Ben Hogan said. And he was right. To date, not one golfer has become an elite player without investing thousands of hours in improving their golf game. And yet, there are thousands of amateur golfers who practice every week and don’t get better. What is the difference? To me, this is a very interesting question. What underpins how or why we learn? Furthermore, how can we super-charge our rate of learning? 

To super-charge our learning, we must first realize that practice itself does not make us better at golf. This is an empty promise. It is close to the truth but incorrect. Instead, practice, when done correctly, will cause changes in our body to make us more skillful over time. This is a subtle, but important difference. There is no magic type of practice that universally builds skill, however, there are a handful of factors that can speed up, slow down or even stop your progress.

Remember: “You are not aiming to hit 50 balls; you are trying to become more skillful.”

There are the two major factors that stop golfers improving. Try not to view them as switches that are on or off. Instead, view both factors as sliding scales. The more you can fine-tune each factor, the faster you will improve your golf.

1) Give your body clear and precise feedback

What is 2 + 2? Imagine if you were never given the answer to this question at school. If you weren’t, you would never know the answer. Similarly, imagine you made a golf swing and the instant you hit the golf ball it disappeared. How would you know what to do on your next attempt to hit a straighter shot?

In both cases, feedback is the missing ingredient. Feedback comes from the shot outcome, watching the ball flight and many other sensations we get during our golf swing. As soon as our body does not have clear and precise feedback our learning will stop.

When we first learn to play golf, the feedback required to improve is simple – did the ball move at all, and did it get airborne? As we progress, we then need more precise feedback to keep developing our skill.

As a 20 handicapper, we need to know if the ball finished 10 or 15 yards right of our target. When we become an elite player, the requirement for feedback becomes even more stringent. The difference between a wedge shot landing 103 or 107 yards becomes important. This type of feedback, known as knowledge of results, is focused on the result of your golf shot.

“If your body can’t tell the difference between two outcomes, you will not make any changes – learning will not occur.”

To learn, we also require another form of feedback, known as knowledge of performance. In essence, your body needs to know what it did to cause “x.” Relevant practice drills, training aids and videoing your swing are all useful ways to increase feedback on performance. The best form of feedback, however, is an internal understanding of your swing and how it causes different ball flights. This is an implicit skill all great golfers master, and a by-product of many hours of diligent practice, refinement and understanding.

Many golfers hit a brick wall in their golfing journey when their practice stops providing the precise feedback they need to keep improving. They may not have enough information about their shot outcome, or they may not understand how the golf swing causes various shots. Both will completely halt your golfing progress.

Next time you practice, think of ways you can obtain clearer feedback. You don’t need Trackman by your side (although this can be helpful), but pay attention to where your shots finish during putting and chipping practice and note these trends. Find landmarks behind your golf range to gauge the lateral error of your long shots.

If you’re working on your swing path through the point of impact, one way of obtaining feedback on your performance is to place a bottle or a second ball on the ground. To put it simply, if the bottle/ball flies, you’ll know you’ve made a bad swing. Another way, if you are trying to improve your iron striking, is to place a towel one inch behind the ball to indicate whether or not you have hit the ground before the ball. These ideas are not mind-blowing, but trust me; they will speed up your rate of learning.

2) Make your practice suitably difficult

When you first go to the gym, lifting the lightest weight you can find is fine. But how much would your fitness improve if you were still lifting that same weight 12 months later? Now think of how your golf practice has changed over the past 12 months. If you were asked, could you explain the level of difficulty of your practice?

The reason many golfers can’t answer this question is they don’t have a good measure of success when they practice. Most golfers don’t have a quantifiable way to say “that shot I just hit was or wasn’t good enough.” Even fewer golfers have a way to say “this week my practice performance was 20 percent better than last week.” If you fall into this category, try the following game the next time you practice your long game.

Structure your practice so that you have set target zones (10 yards and 20 yards wide) with points for hitting each zone (3 and 1 points respectively). Take a set amount of balls (20 balls) and see how many points you can score with a 6-iron and a driver (10 balls with each). Each week, play this game and track your progress. We’ll call this game the “WRX Range Challenge.”

Set a goal for how many points you want to achieve. This goal should be challenging, but not impossible. When you reach this goal, make your target zones smaller and repeat the process. This way you can track your progress over time. As you make the target zones smaller and smaller, your body has to continually refine your swing to make it more effective.

Summary

We all want to improve our golf. We all want to get better at a quicker rate. The two factors discussed here are obvious and yet are not addressed by many golfers when they practice. Next time you head to the range or practice ground, ensure you have clear feedback on your shot outcome and golfing technique. Make your practice measurable, suitably difficult and enjoy watching your scores progress.

If you do try out the WRX Range Challenge, let us know. Post your score and a photo: #WRXrangechallenge @GolfWRX and me @golfinsideruk on Twitter and Instagram.

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