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5 things we learned on Thursday at the 2018 PGA Championship

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No doubt the media makes more of it than the player’s, but Glory’s Last Shot is pretty appropriate for how the hard-core golf fan views the PGA Championship. Returning to Bellerive in St. Louis for the first time in 26 years, the weather certainly gave organizers fits in the days leading up to round one. By Thursday, all was well and no one shot in the 50s, so the course held up well. We learned a few things today at this prototypical Robert Trent Jones golf course, so let’s reduce them to five and see what you think.

5) Tiger Woods still knows how to salvage a round

With the talk from Rory McIlroy about Tiger Woods needing to learn how to win again, we do know that the great one can save a rotten start from turning into a rotten ending. As incredibly unbelievable as a bogey-double bogey start can be, equal parts laudable was his focus. Woods made four birdies and one bogey the rest of the way to remain within 6 shots of the lead, inside the top 50. It’s not the start he wanted, but nor was the 40 on the front nine Thursday at the 1997 Masters. Here’s to Tiger Woods putting 54 holes together over the next three days, and giving us more of what we had in England, in July.

4) They used to talk about Gary Woodland that way

It wasn’t so long ago that he was the greatest athlete on the PGA Tour, until folks started tipping their caps to Dustin Johnson. They talked about how long and strong he was, at least until Brooks Koepka came along. That was Gary Woodland, a guy who has done everything correctly, but hasn’t reaped the rewards he might have been due. Woodland has won 3 times on tour, including this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. He hasn’t won a major title, and doesn’t show well in the big four events. So, of course, he’s leading at Bellerive, by one stroke over Rickie Fowler. Woodland had a 30 on the inward half, counting 7 birdies and 1 bogey in his 64. Yes, he can win. No, he probably won’t be around by Saturday afternoon. Yes, I would like to see him around on Sunday morning.

3) Speaking of Rickie Fowler…

If Harry Potter has Nearly-Headless Nick, then round one of the PGA Championship of 2018 can claim Nearly-Flawless Fowler. The orange one donned a yellow shirt, in honor of the late Jarrod Lyle, then went onto the course and posted 6 birds against 1 boge. He makes great commercials, he gives back to the game in every possible manner, so if there is one golfer in the field that folks want to see with a major title to his credit, it’s Oh-Rickie-You’re-So-Fowler. We know that he can get it around at the Masters and the Open, but can he improve on last year’s T5 at Quail Hollow? You don’t know, we don’t know, and Rickie doesn’t know. Stay tuned.

2) Dustin Johnson is in the mix, don’cha know?

He ain’t world number one for nothing. If you give him a straightforward golf course, along with moderate conditions, he’ll be there. He might not have handled Royal Lytham and the Open that well, but the tall, long drink of water from Myrtle Beach seems tailor-fit for the PGA at Bellerive. Johnson had it to 5-under today, before two unexpected bogeys brought him back to 3-under and a tie for 5th. He doesn’t have to be impeccable, but he does have to minimize the mistakes that derail the D-train. He got sloppy at Shinnecock and it cost him, and he went awry at Augusta, with the same results. With as much work as he put into his wedges and putting, that shouldn’t happen. DJ, you’ve got 19 tour wins and 1 major. That seems a bit lopsided, so let’s start to balance the books.

1) This leaderboard is mahvelous

No one remembers Billy Crystal’s SNL send-up of Fernando Lamas, because they aren’t old like me. With Day, Poulter, Z. Johnson, Kisner, Rose, Pieters, and Perez in the top ten, along with guys like Brandon Stone, Austin Cook, and Ollie Schniederjans, waiting to break through, Bellerive did not disappoint with a collection of who-dey and where-from. Even if the course bends to the left way too often, even if it takes driver out of the hands of much of the field too frequently, Bellerive will identify a worthy major champion on Sunday, and we’re betting on … Kisner, to finally break through.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 10, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Outstanding editorial prowess. Guess I got my women’s and men’s Open venues mixed up. Any thoughts on the rest of the piece?

  2. Ryan Noades

    Aug 10, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Royal Lytham?!!
    England?!!!
    Read a book and stop wasting our time.

  3. SC

    Aug 10, 2018 at 7:59 am

    England…..who are you – Donald Trump.

    Carnoustie is in Scotland which is part of the UK.

  4. Dan

    Aug 10, 2018 at 6:01 am

    The 6th thing I learned is to not read anymore articles written by you. Go Woodland!

  5. Al

    Aug 10, 2018 at 2:09 am

    England in July…you mean Scotland

    • DaveMac

      Aug 10, 2018 at 5:08 am

      The Women’s British Open was at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club and Dustin Johnson wasn’t eligible to play!

      He did of course play the Open at Carnoustie which as pointed out above is in Scotland not england.

  6. DANA POINT

    Aug 9, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    It’s better to look good than to feel good Ronaldo…

  7. dat

    Aug 9, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Cringey videos the PGA is putting out on twitter. Can’t we just see the golf without all of this overlayed stuff? Guess it helps “grow the game”.

  8. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 9, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    I suspect that my editor clicks “SHANK” after he posts my pieces, to keep me humble. How else to explain that review of this glorious piece of journalism?

    • Membrane

      Aug 10, 2018 at 2:36 am

      Because you suck at hype writing like everybody on WRX?

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Tour Rundown: Pepperell wins the British masters, Leishman wins in Malaysia, Langer wins again

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October, and the trees are stripped bare, of all they wear. U2

Perhaps it’s due to its status as my birth month, or something larger and deeper. October is a raw month, as April was cruel for Eliot. It is raw in its golf, too. Of the four events played this week, only one took place in the USA. Touring professionals left the summer of majors behind, to journey globally, in search of answers and questions. They went to Malaysia, England and Korea (and let’s not forget, North Carolina.) Names both familiar and emerging claimed trophies, and the game marched on. Here’s a Sunday rundown of all things tour, mid-October.

CIMB in Malaysia in Leishman’s hands

Marc Leishman’s brilliance with golf cudgels is know well to his touring brethren. To the golfing public, which measures fame in little more than major victories, he is an enigma. And here was Leishman, on Sunday at Kuala Lumpur, schooling playing partner Gary Woodland and the rest of the field with a brilliant 65. There were lower scores, but just barely (a pair of 64s.) Leishman had 62 earlier in the week, but was a wee bit overlooked, as Woodland had 61 the same day. On Sunday, there was no mistaking the two. Leishman rushed from the gate with birdies on hole 2 through 5, scarcely glancing rearward at the trailers. He summited 26 strokes beneath par, equalling the tournament record and placing him five clear of the runners-up. Woodland tried to keep pace, but fell off the rails midway through the inward half. 3 bogeys in 5 holes did him in, dropping him back to a tie for 5th at -20. 2nd spot on the podium belonged to the american trio of Emiliano Grillo (Argentina), Chesson Hadley and Bronson Burgoon (both USA). The victory compelled Leishman to 2nd spot on the young FedEx Cup list for 2018-19.

Hana Bank belongs to Dumbo

If In Gee Chun had her way, the golfer nicknamed Dumbo would scamper off by gobs of strokes with each tournament. Owner of an unfortunate 0-3 record in LPGA Tour playoffs, the Korean golfer wants no part of extra holes. While 3rd-round leader Charley Hull of England struggled with birdie-bogey runs, Chun birdied 4 of her first 6 holes and separated herself by 3 strokes from the field. Out in 31, she resisted the lure of a 10th-hole bogey and added 2 more birdies to reach 16-under par. Hull and company could not close the gap, and the Englishwoman settled for 2nd at -13. Chun began the week with matching 70s, to place herself inside the top 20, but not yet a threat. Her weekend was nearly flawless, as she matched 66s on Saturday and Sunday, to emerge from the multitude. The win was her first, non-major victory on the LPGA Tour, coming after triumphs at the 2015 US Open and the 2016 Evian Championship.

Ace, Ace, Baby propels Pepperell to British Masters title

It was a rugged, mucky affair on Sunday at Walton Heath, born of the talented hand of architect Herbert Fowler. Eddie Pepperell, who spends a fair amount of time mucking around on Twitter, was the man for the job. He began the day at -9, and ended the day at that figure. Most times, even par gets you nowhere on tour; on this particular Sunday, it got you to the top of the podium. Pepperell had four eagles on the week, including an ace on Thursday and the hole-out below for a deuce on Sunday. The winner made a massive putt for par on 14, which probably saved his round. He bogeyed 15 and 16 to let Alexander Bjork into the tournament. The Swede was unable to capitalize, bogeying 18 to offer Pepperell a 2-stroke advantage at the home hole. The Englishman finished in proper form, getting up and down for par from a greenside bunker to win by a pair.

By the way, if you want a crack at Fowler in North America, visit Eastward Ho! on Cape Cod (which he built) or Pebble Beach, whose 18th hole he extended to its current glory.

SAS Championship almost never in doubt for Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer made a single bogey in 54 holes this week. The inconceivable occurrence happened precisely at the midway point of the tournament, on the 27th hole of SAS Championship. Astronomers at the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico acknowledged a slight orbital shift at that very moment, while CERN scientists reported … oh, never mind. Langer had made 8 birdies in 9, back-nine holes on Friday for 29 on the par-37 side. It was ultimately his week, although Gene Sauers kept pace for a while. The duo matched 62-67 through 36 holes, but Sunday was all Germany. Langer had 7 birdies on the day for 65, leaving him 6 strokes clear of 2nd-place Scott Parel. Sauers struggled in round three, tumbling all the way to a tie for 5th spot, after a +3 75.

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How a broken 6-iron changed Eddie Pepperell’s 2018

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When Eddie Pepperell was scrambling around local golf shop Auchterlonies in Scotland on the week of The Open Championship looking for an emergency replacement shaft for his 6-iron, he probably didn’t believe that moment would change the trajectory of his 2018. That incident, however, played a considerable role in Pepperell’s wire-to-wire victory at last week’s British Masters.

In Scotland, Pepperell had his 6-iron fitted with the KBS C-Taper shaft, and according to Mizuno’s Matt McIsaac, at The Open that week, he hit his 6-iron better than any other club over the four days on his way to a T6 finish.

Fast-forward to last week’s British Masters, and on the Monday of the event, the Englishman was to have a filming session with Mizuno where the company would demonstrate to him its shaft optimizer.  Pepperell was then taken through Mizuno’s 3-swing diagnostic process, where lo and behold they recommended the KBS C-Taper shaft to him.

Described as “very much a feel player” by McIsaac, Pepperell equipped himself that day with a new set of JPX 919 Tour irons, with KBS C Taper shafts, and then went on to win the British Masters just a few days later.

What should we glean from this story? Well according to Matt McIsaac, it’s that there is a best fit shaft out there for everyone.

“There’s a ‘best fit’ shaft for everyone – for Eddie; it was the KBS C Taper – for someone else it will be the S Taper.  Wait for the moment when you’re open to improvement, throw away your preconceptions and try the Optimizer.  It doesn’t know if you’re male, female a tour winner or a 24 hcp – just measures your move and finds the best shaft for it.”

With last week’s victory, Pepperell, who sat 133rd in the Official World Golf Rankings at the beginning of the year, is now ranked 33rd in the world and looks assured of a place at Augusta National next year for the Masters.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: UnLeished: Malaysia edition | New theories on BK vs. DJ | King-Collins’ time?

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1. UnLeished in Malaysia
Somehow, Marc Leishman remains unheralded. Thrice a winner in the past two seasons, the big Australian, No. 16 in the world, is eminently deserving of his due
  • AP Report…”Leishman shot a 7-under 65 in the final round to win the CIMB Classic Sunday by five strokes and equal the tournament course record.”
  • “The Australian was in fine form as he strolled to his fourth PGA Tour title and matched Justin Thomas’ tournament record of 26-under 262 in 2015 on the PGA Kuala Lumpur West course.
  • “Leishman started strongly with four birdies in the first five holes, before turning in another long birdie putt on the ninth for 31.”
  • ‘Two more birdies on the 10th and 16th followed and sandwiched his lone bogey at the 13th, before he birdied the final hole and celebrated with a fist pump.”
2. Pepperell resurgent
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait with the context…”Hard to believe Eddie Pepperell had to return to the European Tour Qualifying School at the end of 2016, and was outside the top 500 in the world in May last year. Now he’s a two-time European Tour winner and a world top 40 player.”
  • “The 27-year-old is looking forward to his Masters debut after victory in the $4 million Sky Sport British Masters at Walton Heath, his second European Tour victory, and second of the season following the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in February. Pepperell led wire to wire, returning a level-par 72 in the final round for a 9-under 279 to grind out a one-shot victory over Sweden’s Alexander Bjork.”
  • “The first-place check of $658,000 takes Pepperell to seventh on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, and into the top 40 of the Official World Golf Ranking.”
3. Chun’s 14th
In the midst of its Asian Swing like the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour saw In Gee Chun hoist the trophy at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at SKY72 Golf & Resort, Ocean Course for her first victory of the year and her first W since the 2016 Evian Championship.
  • LPGA.com report...”The 24-year-old South Korean native carded seven birdies, along with a lone bogey, to finish three strokes clear of 54-hole leaders Charley Hull, who placed second, and Danielle Kang, who was four shots adrift.”
  • “Before this week, I won 13 times as a professional,” said Chun, who clinched the third LPGA win of her career. “I am glad that I am done with the No. 13. I really hate that number.
4. Reminder: Bernhard Langer is still the king of senior golf
In case you’d forgotten…
John Strege writes…”It was only an illusion, the appearance that Bernhard Langer, at 61, had begun his initial descent to age-induced mediocrity. His six-shot victory in the SAS Championship on Sunday put that notion to rest.”
  •  “It was his second victory of the season (he has finished second five times), second in the SAS Championship (he won in 2012) and his 38th on the PGA Tour Champions, second only to Hale Irwin’s 45.”
  • “Langer shot a seven-under par 65 at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., equaling the lowest round of the day. He played 54 holes in a tournament record 22-under par 194. Scott Parel finished second by also shooting a 65, while Langer’s 36-hole co-leader Gene Sauers shot a three-over 75 and tied for fifth.”
5. Golf’s most improved
David Dusek calculated the calculations, analyzed the algorithms, and dissected the digits to determine the Tour’s most improved players.
  • Harris English, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Nicholas Lindhelm, and Patton Kizzire top the list in imroved SG:T2G play.
6. More about DJ vs. BK
The Forecaddie digs into one of the lingering mysteries from Le Golf National…
  • “The Forecaddie has asked around and thanks to two eyewitnesses, can confirm Koepka’s assertion that there are no issues between his gym buddy and good friend Johnson. Turns out, Koepka may be up for Nobel Peace Prize consideration down the road since TMOF hears he was preventing his pal getting into a more serious brouhaha with someone at the party.”
  • “While Koepka might have been the subject of DJ ire for a few seconds after intervening, the light tussling between them understandably led to multiple eyewitnesses confirming the Telegraph report of a fight between them to Golf Digest. But The Forecaddie’s ears, and even Furyk in a Golf Channel interview last week, confirmed Koepka was acting as a friend in getting Johnson to cool off. Koepka, the U.S. Open and PGA Champion and probably the only person capable of corralling Johnson, ushered him off to a cab for a late-night fresh air spin around Versailles and away from the Ryder Cup team hotel bedlam.”
A new mystery is born! Who was DJ so mad at? TMOF has heard whispers but isn’t saying…
7. A breakthrough for King-Collins?
I interviewed Rob Collins in 2015 and have been a fan of the man and his work ever since
At the time of the interview, Sweetens Cove’s architect thought business was about to pick up for the firm.
Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann suggests there could soon be fire where there has been much smoke…”Even in the current environment, in which few new courses are being built and architects are more focused on renovations and restorations, one would have thought King and Collins already would have parlayed Sweetens Cove into additional assignments. Collins insists he and King are close to a breakthrough.”
“We have got a bunch of irons in the fire,” Collins said recently while driving to Mississippi to watch his nephew’s high school football game. “We’ve got more inquiries right now than we’ve ever had.”
“The design team – Collins is the architect, while King oversees construction – is working with PGA Tour player Zac Blair on plans for The Buck Club, Blair’s dream club in Utah, though a timeframe for that project has not been announced. Collins is hopeful that he and King will start a nine-hole renovation project in New York soon, and he said the pair has had nibbles on proposed jobs in South Carolina and Michigan. Collins also mentioned tentative talks regarding a 100-acre site near Knoxville, where he dreams of building something like El Boquerón, the mythical Alister MacKenzie design with two greens per hole.”
8. Tree tattle tale
Scanning the latest arboreal happenings in Maryland, and, oh boy…
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall writes…”According to the Washington Post, Congressional, past home to U.S. Opens and future site of the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup, has been cited by inspectors in Maryland’s Montgomery County for failing to obtain a permit for tree removal. The Post reports that officials discovered “over 20,000 sq. ft. of tree canopy” had been trimmed from the property.”
  • “Inspectors technically received notice from Helen Wood, a board member of the environmental nonprofit organization Conservation Montgomery. “We all have a stake, really, in their trees,” Wood told the Post.
  • “However, Wood was tipped off on the club’s dealings by someone on the inside. Specifically, a Congressional member who was fed up with the new look…”I am [upset] because they’re ruining my club,” the member told the Post, speaking on anonymity because, let’s be honest, this person is losing his/her membership once their identity’s revealed. “I think they don’t want members to fuss. I think it [was] also quietly done so it didn’t draw attention from the county.”
9. All credit to mum
Sounds like Eddie Pepperell’s mother played a vital role in his British Masters win. Cheers, Mrs. Pepperell. .
  • Phil Casey of the Belfast Telegraph writes…”Pepperell’s three-shot overnight lead was down to a single stroke when he three-putted the ninth – where he enjoyed a hole-in-one on Thursday – and Bjork covered the front nine in 34.”
  • “However, Pepperell then promptly holed his second shot to the 10th from 122 yards for an eagle to move three clear and, although bogeys on the 15th and 16th set up a nervous finish, the 27-year-old from Oxfordshire saved par from a bunker on the last to seal a deserved win.”
  • “The credit for the eagle goes to my mum Marian because she gave me some mittens as I was walking off the 10th tee,” Pepperell joked. “I didn’t swing it well and it was a grind.”

 

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