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GolfWRX Morning 9: Na, Na, Na, Na | Phil afoul of the Rules again | Toughest majors

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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.

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 9, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans.  
1. Na, Na, Na, Na, hey, hey, Greenbrier

 

Kevin Na has been known as a slow and steady player (emphasis slow) who painfully cobbles together quality showings but rarely wins (and the guy who made a 16 at the Valero Texas Open).
  • He modified one of the elements of his legacy yesterday, winning his first PGA Tour event in seven years thanks to a six-under 64 to wrap up A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier.
  • “I failed so many times,” Na said after the win. “I see the records on TV, most starts since winning. I’m always up there.
  • Behind K-Na: -14 K Kraft; -13 B Snedeker, J Kokrak; -12 J Neimann, A Cook, J Dahmen, S Saunders, H Varner III
2. Phil Mickelson and the Rules of Golf, Reprised

 

Lefty used his right foot to flatten fescue in front of the teebox at the seventh hole during the final round of A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, yesterday.
  • After conferring with rules official, Mickelson was told he had run afoul of the Rules of Golf for the second time in as many tournaments, having run afoul of Rule 13-2. He was hit with a two-stroke penalty.
  • I wrote yesterday (do I have to quote myself?): Mickelson didn’t have to take the penalty. I mean, right? He hadn’t hit the tee shot when he began wondering if he’d broken the rules (per the video). All he would have had to do is re-tee his ball in another position, thus taking a different line, right?
  • Of course, after he hits the ball, the damage is done (Mickelson consulted a rules official after the tee shot, so the official wasn’t able to intercede). But if he was concerned he may have broken a rule, why wouldn’t he have pressed pause on hitting the tee shot and called for an official then?
3. Knox over Fox

 

Per EuropeanTour.com: “Russell Knox holed two incredible putts on the 18th green as he beat Ryan Fox in a play-off to win his second European Tour title at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.”
  • “The duo were locked together on 14 under after 72 holes, with the fourth Rolex Series event of the season producing unforgettable drama at Ballyliffin Golf Club…Scotsman Knox holed from 40 feet for a birdie on the final green in regulation to sign for a 66 and set the target but coming up behind him Fox put his approach into the 18th to ten feet.”
  • “The New Zealander had that putt for the title but missed on the high side and the pair were left to go back up the last…Knox put his second shot to a position almost identical to the one he found on the 72nd hole and rolled it home again, with Fox missing his own birdie attempt from 12 feet.”
  • Knox was six back to start the day. The W is the biggest comeback in Irish Open history. Host Rory McIlroy tied for 28th.
4. A scoring record on the LPGA Tour

 

Kim Sei-young broke the LPGA Tour’s 72-hole record, winning the Thornberry Creek Classic with a score of -31.
  • The previous record of 27 under, set by Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam in 2011.
  • Spain’s Carlota Ciganda (22 under) finished second. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, American Emma Talley and Korean Amy Yang tied for third at 20 under.
5. Scheduling difficulties

 

We will finally be presented with the the 2018-19 PGA Tour schedule this week, Golfweek’s Forecaddie writes.
  • “Normally, schedule releases are met with little fanfare given how little juggling traditionally occurs. But this is no ordinary schedule release, with the PGA Championship move to May creating new possibilities and issues. Throw in having had to deal with events struggling to land sponsors (Houston, Washington D.C.) with ambitious new events (Detroit, Minneapolis) and the Tour has had to work through numerous variables.”
Rather than paraphrase paragraphs aplenty, I’ll encourage you to check out TMOF’s take.

 

6. Farewell, JPete (?)

 

It seems like John Peterson is making good on his pledge to retire
  • Golf Digest’s Joel Beall writes: “Peterson, a former NCAA champion and three-time All-American, has been playing this year on a medical exemption, and announced at the Wells Fargo Championship that if he failed to earn conditional status in his remaining starts, he was going to retire from professional golf.”
  • “I’m kind of freewheeling it at this point,” Peterson said in Charlotte. “I know a little bit has been said about me retiring if I don’t make the necessary money for my medical starts, and all that’s true. If I don’t make it, I’m not playing golf anymore.”
  • “The Greenbrier marked Peterson’s last outing on the exemption, and after making the cut on the number, the 29-year-old turned in a fourth-round 66 to jump up the leaderboard. It was good enough for a T-13 finish, bestowing a $121,362 check and 52.12 FedEx Cup points. However, because his exemption goes back to 2015, he’s playing off that point allotment (long story), and in that standing, Peterson earned 54.75 points…Which is 0.58 points short of earning conditional status.”
7. The 25 toughest major courses of the last 25 years

 

Golfweek put together a list of the 25 most difficult major championships of…well, you read the header. Anyway, here are the five toughest by average shots over par.

 

Carnoustie 1999 British Open 5.82
Oakmont 2007 U.S. Open 5.70
Winged Foot 2006 U.S. Open 4.99
Bethpage Black 2002 U.S. Open 4.91
Royal Birkdale 2008 British Open  4.87

 

 

8. Carnasty, by reputation

 

On that note... Alistair Tait files a remembrance and rounds up some quotes.
  • “Of course, Carnoustie’s fearsome reputation was enhanced in 1999 when the R&A let the course get out of hand. Knee-high rough just off narrow fairways and rough in spots where players could normally putt from led to the layout being dubbed “Carnasty.”‘
  • ‘”I feel like I just fought a war,” Hal Sutton said after an opening 73″‘
  • ‘”Hitting the fairways is like driving the ball through the door of my hotel bedroom,” two-time Open winner Greg Norman said.”
  • ‘”It’s just a bloody difficult golf course, especially if there’s any rough,” said Howell, a five-time European Tour winner and chairman of the European Tour’s tournament committee. “It got the term ‘Carnasty’ for a reason. My first one was when Lawrie won. I remember seeing Sergio crying, that’s how hard it was. That finish is the toughest in the world. If 15, 16 and 18 are into the wind, then it’s brutal, and by the time you get to that last four holes you’re already drained.”‘

 

9. How big would Tiger vs. Phil be?

 

…the Tour Confidential panel debates
  • Alan Shipnuck, senior writer: The intensity of the news coverage and on social media that followed our story tells me how much interest there is for this. It doesn’t make sense to rank it in the context of meaningful tournaments – this a lark, just a bit of fun. But it would certainly be anticipated.
  • Dylan Dethier, associate editor: Shipnuck’s right; you can’t really compare this to a Tour event and it ultimately means nothing in terms of legacy for either of the two. But it’s such a simple, digestible concept with exciting characters that I think it would grab the attention of plenty of casual golf fans in a way that only the majors and Ryder Cup currently do.
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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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Tour News

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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