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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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Valentino Dixon on his time in prison, his golf art, gratitude, and hope

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Valentino Dixon, who served 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit — and took up golf course-related artwork as a hobby during that time — joined Michael Williams on the 19th Hole podcast.

While the full interview doubtless represents one of the most important and impactful GolfWRX podcasts to data, we wanted to present a few excerpts for the more textually inclined.

On the events that led to him spending 27 years in prison

Valentino Dixon: “This was Buffalo, New York…I grew up in a bad area, a drug infested area, a lot of violence and stuff like that and these guys pull up, they start shooting, they shoot a friend of mines and another friend of mines return fire, ended up killing the guy. Anyway, long story short, when the shots rang out I was inside the deli across the street and I actually ran out afterwards and ran to my car, I pulled off.

“Shortly thereafter I was pulled over and taken into custody and questioned and ultimately charged with shooting three people.”

“I knew that I was going to be cleared or at least I felt I was going to be cleared because there was 80 witnesses. So I said, there’s no way that they’re not going to straighten this out and I’ll be out the next day, but that didn’t happen. Two days after I was arrested, this friend of mines turned himself into police, told them what happened. Actually the physical evidence matched his story, they found the dead guy’s gun on the scene and they disregarded him, told him that they didn’t believe him. Seven witnesses came forward, they disregarded those witnesses.”

“I found myself going to trial ten months later, my lawyer promised the jury that he was going to call these witnesses and introduce this confession and did not do it, and this is all on public record. I had a public defender and the jury found me guilty. I didn’t know that later on the jury foreman went to the judge and asked the judge, “Hey, why his lawyer didn’t call the witnesses he promised us?” The judge told him not to worry about it, to go home and sleep well and the judge never revealed that this happened.”

“It was our local paper that went to the foreman and said, “Hey, what happened during the deliberations?” He said, “Hey, I went to the judge and told him I didn’t feel right about this, that something was wrong here.” Anyway, the judge denies that that even took place. I was given 39 years.”

On getting started doing golf course art

VD: “Right. Well, I was known as the artist in Attica. I spent, out of the 27 years, I spent 25 of those years in Attica. So over the years I had publicity on my case because the local newspaper had came to believe in my innocence, but there wasn’t a judge in Buffalo that would do anything about it. So the warden and the officers in Attica knew that I was innocent of the crime and would always check in on me and look in and see if I was all right and everything like that, but they knew that I drew also. So the warden came to me one day and asked me could I draw his favorite hole, which was Augusta, the 12th hole at Augusta.”

“I’d never golfed before. I mean, I’m from the inner city. So it was like all right, I guess I can do it. I knew nothing about golf. I drew the Augusta 12th hole. He loved it. Other inmates loved it and one of the inmates encouraged me to draw more golf holes. I said, “What are you talking about? What for? That doesn’t even makes sense.” He says, “I love the golf course, I think you should draw more.” He planted the seed.”

“A week later I went around and I got some old golf magazines, Golf Digest magazines, and I start pulling out the pictures that I loved. The guy gave me some really old ones that he had in his cell. So I start pulling out the ones that I liked, the ones that I thought was pretty and then from there I started drawing them. Whenever I put my mind into something, I just go in and really hard. So for months and months, all I did was draw golf courses. Okay. “

“Eventually I started reading the columns out of the Golf Digest magazine and I came across Max Adler’s, called Golf Saved My Life. I kind of put the two together because it was like golf was saving my life because being there was really, really stressful and hard and every day was a challenge. I have friends that committed suicide. I didn’t know if I was going to be the next person that my mind was going to snap.”

On the positive reception his art got in Attica

VD: “Well let me tell you this. Right. Like I said, there’s so many guys … I mean guys that done killed three, four people were stopping at the cell saying, “Wow, I love that golf course.” These are guys that had never golfed before. So I’m saying if these guys love the golf courses that I’m drawing, I can only imagine how golfers would feel, because I mean these guys never golf. Maybe one out of 10 have golfed. You know what I’m saying?”

“So it really gave me the boost, the determination it gave me and inspired me to keep pushing it. I felt like, wow, this is something that you really like doing now because I got satisfaction out of other people looking at my drawings and loving them. This is what motivates me.”

On how he spent his time in prison

VD: “Well the thing is, is this. God was always with me. I prayed a lot. I prayed every day. Okay. And I just stayed positive. I read hundreds and hundreds of self help books, motivational books, anything to fill my mind with positive things and energy so that I wouldn’t become negative or fall into that whole negative thing that you see. I’ve seen a lot of prisoners fall into where they lose hope, they become bitter, angry, upset with the world and all that other stuff. I was determined not to allow that to happen to me. So I had to push my willpower to the max.”

“At the same time, I was drawing up to 10 hours a day. So I was really like, listen, if I got to become the best artist in the world in order to get my freedom, then that’s what I’ll do. And this is why I mean I pushed myself to the limit. I’ve done some golf drawings that were … these are all drawings now, not paintings. I’ve done some drawings that people have never even seen. I got a 60 by 90 drawing.”

On his artistic style

VD: “…I had to develop my own style over a course of I would say 20 years. Just every day I had to learn from error. I didn’t have no teacher, so I had to learn through trial and error of what to do, what not to do, how to blend colors, what worked, what didn’t work, how to layer everything on top of each other. My goal has always been to make the drawings look like a painting.”

“Take the whole paper out of it. So when you look at it, you’d say, “That ain’t done on no paper.” That’s the whole goal there. So I had to put so many colors on top of each other to get that painting effect and then drawings are so much more strenuous than paintings because I know how to paint also. But drawing is so much more strenuous because there’s no shortcuts. You got to sit there for … I might sit there for two hours and just do one little corner because you got to get all the detail in there. You know what I’m saying? So it’s way more work that goes into what I do in regards if I was painting. I mean if I’d had done this stuff in painting, I would have thousands of golf painting.”

On gratitude and his perspective

VD: “I’m a very grateful person. I don’t want to sound too religious or anything like that, but we should always be grateful to the creator for what the things that he’s given us. So I mean, I was in a bad situation. I’m sitting in the cell and I’m looking at the people around me and the people around me is doing 10 times worse than me and I had to be grateful. So that’s how I look at it. We had these little eight inch TVs that we could buy on commissary for like $149. Okay. So, right. Yeah, they would beat us on every level that they could. So I’m watching this TV when I can and I’m looking at the world. I’m looking at what’s going on with people out in society.”

“I hate to say it. I was in the worst prison and I’m in a six by eight cell and I felt like I was more blessed than a lot of people on the outside, but people are really struggling out there and doing really bad. Here it is, God preserved me, he kept me in shape, he kept my mind sane, he gave me this talent, he gave me a loving family.”

“So I had to count all those blessings and say, “You know what? I could really be twisted up in here and messed up. So you know what, don’t be bitter, don’t be angry, don’t complain, don’t cry, count your blessings, push your willpower to the highest level. Just push, push, push, push and be the best artist that you can be in the world.” That was my goal.”

You can find the full podcast here, or click here to listen on iTunes, or here to listen on Spotify.

All images via Valentino Dixon’s website. His golf art is available for purchase here.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Tiger talks 2019 | Phil’s legacy | Koepka snubbed again

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

December 12, 2018

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Brooks snubbed again
“I get no respect!” Who said it, Rodney Dangerfield or Brooks Koepka?
  • Golf Channel report…”That narrative received a little more fuel to the fire Tuesday when ESPN released its list of the top 20 most dominant athletes of 2018. On a list that included Olympic gymnast Simone Biles (No. 1), NBA superstar LeBron James (No. 13) and LPGA golfer Ariya Jutanugarn (No. 4), Koepka was notably absent.”
  • “Koepka won two majors this year, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, and also captured the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges this fall.”
  • “For a guy who already believes he’s been overlooked during his career, this certainly won’t help change his mind.”
2. Tiger talks 2019
Woods sat down for an exclusive with Golf.com. Here are a few morsels from an interesting conversation.
  • “Let’s shift gears for a moment. If you could steal one part of any player’s game – any player ever – what would you make your own?…Well, I figure if I could hit every fairway for the rest of my life I’d be all right. [Laughs] From there, I can figure out how to get it on the green, I can make my fair share of putts and I can get it up and down. But if I could hit it in the fairway [every time] about 320, maybe 340 yards, I’d be all right.”
  • “So, Greg Norman?…Well, it depends. In that era, 280 was a long drive. Now it’s, “Hey, can you carry it 320 in the air?” The game has evolved and, I was telling some [people in Melbourne], when I came down here to play the Presidents Cup in 1998, some of the guys were transitioning out of persimmon. The game has changed dramatically since then.”
  • “So what does a successful 2019 look like for you?…I had one win this year. It was amazing to have [2018] culminate with the Tour Championship. I’m not going to win every tournament – I never have. But if I can just get myself in contention, I think I’ll win my share.”
3. Mickelson’s legacy
Did 2018 change the way we think about Lefty?
  • Golfworld’s Dave Shedloski...”When Phil Mickelson raced across the 13th green at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in the third round of the 118th U.S. Open and whacked his ball while it was careening down a slope away from the hole, he crossed through the fourth circle of golf hell. Not only did he change the direction of the shot as it was moving, but, it was believed, he had altered the direction of his career narrative. Whatever the artful player did going forward, that unhinged moment when he broke the rules and arrogantly explained that he did so intentionally, all occurring on his 48th birthday, was sure to affix itself permanently to Lefty’s legacy. Or so went the predominant opinion.”
  • “Five months later in Las Vegas, as part of a mega-hyped match against Tiger Woods, Mickelson won $9 million. Never in the lead up to the winner-take-all match or during coverage of it or in the postscript was the U.S. Open or the incident mentioned-except by Woods, who taunted his rival when he ruthlessly pointed out that he had never won the national championship. Neither was the L’Affair Shinny a topic of discussion in September at the Ryder Cup in Paris, not even among the tabloids. Nor in August at the PGA Championship in St. Louis.”
4. Shots o’ the year
Doug Ferguson goes through the bag, highlighting some of the most memorable shots hit with various clubs in ’18.
  • A few…“3-IRON…Just about every tournament brought a moment that indicated Woods was back to being Woods. One of those moments was the opening round of the BMW Championship at rain-softened Aronimink. From 242 yards on the par-5 16th, Woods hit a 3-iron high and straight. It landed 8 feet in front of the hole and stopped 5 feet next to the pin for an eagle on his way to a 62. It was the first time he had at least a share of the lead after any round in five years.”
  • “PUTTER…The most memorable shot with the putter didn’t go in the hole. Phil Mickelson only wanted to make sure it didn’t go off the front of the 13th green on Saturday at the U.S. Open. So he trotted over and slapped at the ball as it was still moving , an egregious rules violation. Mickelson says he knew the penalty (two shots) and liked that better than having to play from off the green. He also knew his U.S. Open was over. He made a 10 and shot 81, matching his worst score in the only major he hasn’t won.”
5. Louisville Golf
Our Peter Schmitt paid a visit to arguably the finest purveyors of persimmon, Louisville Golf.
  • “Jeremy Wright gets it. Taking over at Louisville Golf is not for everybody. This isn’t a multi-billion-dollar revenue generating machine with private research facilities and elaborate corporate complexes. It’s not about money…or fame…or 385-yard drives. Gerard Just, the youngest of the Just brothers who started Louisville Golf might have summed it up best:”
  • “You know, I guess you could say we’re simple people. We don’t really go on vacations. But we work hard and we enjoy what we do. We don’t make a lot of money. I don’t think my kids could afford to work here to be honest, but they hate their jobs. We never really had that problem.”
  • “Louisville Golf was established in 1974 by Elmore Just and Steve Taylor when they left Hillerich & Bradsby (crafters of Louisville Slugger baseball bats and Power-Bilt golf clubs). Elmore ran the business side of the company and Steve oversaw the manufacturing aspect. Back then, in the heyday of persimmon, the club manufacturers were on an allotment. Since persimmon (remarkably well-suited for golf clubs due to its strength and density) is a relatively slow-growing wood, there was only so much material to go around and upstart Louisville Golf had to fight for every block they got. Eventually, they built the business into a major player, making 800 clubs a day for the likes of Hogan, MacGregor, Wilson, Spalding, and others.”
6. Patrick Sullivan
He who putted a ball into the water and missed a four-footer at Q-School, Patrick Sullivan, isn’t letting it get him down.
  • A bit of Brentley Romine’s profile…”Life on the mini-tours was tough. He lost as much as $8,000 when the U.S. Pro Golf Tour, which had promised million-dollar purses, folded. He competed in Q-School, which was then offering PGA Tour cards, every year, but only made it to second stage once. Several times, he was eliminated at first stage by a shot.”
  • “By 2010, he decided to settle down. “I was tapped out,” he said. He married his girlfriend, Talia, and took a job as an assistant pro at the Alotian Club in Roland, Ark., and later moved to Pleasant Valley Country Club in Little Rock.”
  • “Working 60-hour weeks, though, eventually grew on Sullivan. One day, Talia asked her husband, “You really want to play golf again, don’t you?”
  • “Sullivan re-committed himself to pro golf in 2015, and that year won the Arkansas Open, for a third time. But he still couldn’t get over the Q-School hump. He finished just shy of advancing at first stage in two straight years, by one shot.”
7. What we learned
Kyle Porter looks in the rearview mirror at what we learned in 2018.
  • “1. Tiger is not human: It still doesn’t seem real. To come from the place he came from to the place he got to — winning the Tour Chamionship over 29 of the best golfers on the planet — was remarkable. If I was floored at the PGA Championship when he shot 64 on Sunday to nearly steal the show, I was flabbergasted that Woods was able to win a month later. I know nothing he does should surprise, but if you’ve been following closely, you know he was completely cooked — and then he wasn’t.”
  • “2. Jordan Spieth is human: After averaging over three wins and 12 top 10s a season in the previous three seasons, Spieth came back down to earth in 2018. I’m still purchasing all of the stock (and will do so if you want to sell some to me), but prolonged success at the two-or three-win level per year might be an impossibility in this era.”
  • “3. Justin Rose is the most consistent top player: He might not have all the wins to back it up, but Rose finished in the top 10 in 15 of 22 events worldwide in 2018, which means he’s finished in the top 10 in 20 of 47 events over the past two years. Thirty of 47 events!”
8. Reed against the world
That’s Scott Michaux’s headline in piece for Golf Digest.
  • A portion…”So now what? In what should have been a triumphant season in the continued development of one of America’s top young talents, Patrick Reed instead faces a different reality. What kind of environment has he created for himself moving forward, not just with fans trying to figure him out but also with his peers?”
  • “Reed’s tarnished relationship with his Ryder Cup teammates follows the same pattern as his collegiate experience. He was persona non grata when he was kicked off the team at Georgia in 2009 after one season, and others on the Augusta State roster tolerated him as a necessary evil in helping deliver the school consecutive NCAA championships in 2010 and 2011.”
  • “They all hate him-any guys that were on the team with him [at Georgia] hate him and that’s the same way at Augusta,” said Kevin Kisner, a Georgia alum who predated Reed’s arrival in Athens and lives 20 minutes from Augusta in Aiken, S.C. “I don’t know that they’d piss on him if he was on fire, to tell you the truth.”
9. Valentino Dixon
Our Michael Williams talked with Valentino Dixon about the Golf Channel documentary detailing his at once inspiring and heartbreaking saga in the latest episode of the 19th Hole.

 

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Brooks Koepka does not appear happy with being left off ESPN’s list of most dominant athletes for 2018

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On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine released their list of the 20 most dominant athletes of 2018. Amongst that list included household names such as Lebron James, Novak Djokovic and Drew Brees, while the American gymnast, Simone Biles, took the top spot on ESPN’s list.

One man who did not appear amongst the roll of honor of sporting royalty, however, was golf’s Brooks Koepka. The 28-year-old captured two major championships in 2018, but that wasn’t enough for him to feature on ESPN’s list, which included the triple crown winning horse, Justify, in 16th place.

Learning of his exclusion, Koepka took to social media and made this post, which suggested that he was not too pleased with his omission.

The list evaluated athletes against their fellow competitors, and then analysed their performance against the accomplishments of other great athletes within their sport from 1998 to present.

Explaining Simone Biles score of 3.25, the compiler of the list Peter Keating stated “So what does Simone Biles’ dominance score of 3.25 mean? In 2018, she was 3.25 standard deviations better than the typical top-four performer in all-around women’s gymnastics since 1998—rendering her the year’s most dominant pro athlete.”

The LPGA’s Ariya Jutanurgarn was the only golfer to feature on the list, who Keating judged to have been the fourth most dominant athlete of 2018. The Thai player won three times on Tour in 2018, which is the same number of times as Koepka; however, just one of those wins was a major championship title, compared to Koepka’s two major victories this year. Jutanugarn did, though, have a total of 13 top-five finishes in 2018, compared to Koepka’s five, and also won every year-end LPGA award that was possible for her to win.

In the past, Koepka has spoken concerning the lack of respect that he feels that he is given, in particular by the media. The American has previously suggested that certain players get their names written about more than him because they “kiss up”, and this year the current world number one let the press know that he doesn’t forget an insult, stating “Come Sunday, I won’t forget it when everyone wants to talk to me because I just won. I don’t forget things.”

Judging by Koepka’s reaction on social media to ESPN’s list, this will be yet another incident that the 28-year-old is unlikely to forget. The chip that Koepka carries around on his shoulder has fueled him to win three of the last six major championships that he has appeared in, and this latest snub from the media has given him plenty of incentive to once again prove people wrong in 2019.

GolfWRXers, was Koepka’s omission from the list justified, or another show of disrespect towards golf’s current best player?

 

 

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