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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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USGA, R&A finalize limits on green-reading materials

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The review period is over the USGA and R&A’s new interpretation of Rule 4.3 as it pertains to green-reading materials is finalized.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the governing bodies have agreed to limit the size and scale of putting green maps. However, one of the most contentious elements of the original proposal, which would have allowed only depictions of slope greater than four percent, isn’t included in the final decision.

“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance. “We’re thankful for everyone’s willingness to provide feedback as we worked through the process of identifying a clear interpretation that protects the essential skill of reading a green, while still allowing for information that helps golfers enjoy the game.”

Per the official USGA release, yardage books may not include

  • Any image of a putting green must be limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller (the “scale limit”).
  • Any book or other paper containing a map or image of a putting green must not be larger than 4 ¼ inches x 7 inches (the “size limit”), although a “hole location sheet” that displays nine or more holes on a single sheet of paper may be larger, provided that any image of a single putting green meets the scale limit.
  • No magnification of putting-green information is allowed other than a player’s normal wearing of prescription glasses or lenses.
  • Hand-drawn or written information about a putting green is only allowed if contained in a book or paper meeting the size limit and written by the player and/or his or her caddie.
  • The final interpretation also clearly defines that any use of electronic or digital putting-green maps must comply with the same limits.

The release also indicates the USGA and R&A will continue evaluating the use of green-reading materials.

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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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