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GolfWRX Morning 9: Rickie’s week? | Brandel’s latest bold take | Tommy Fleetwood’s trouble

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

August 10, 2018

Good Friday morning, golf fans.

1. Could it be Rickie’s week?

While Gary Woodland (-6) pipped him late, Rickie Fowler’s 5-under opening round was the talk of Thursday at the PGA.
CBS’s Kyle Porter...”The 65 included just one bogey, and Fowler closed with two birdies in his final three holes (the front nine on the course as he started on the back). He hit 11-of-14 fairways and 16-of-18 greens in regulation over the course of the afternoon.”
  • “Fowler, in his words, “wore out” the fairways and greens, playing about the lowest-stress golf you can possibly play at a major championship. After going out in 1-under 34 on the back side of the course, Fowler shot a 31 on the front that included just one made putt over 10 feet. “
  • “Fowler led the field in strokes gained from tee to green and putted close to the field average. That’s great news if you’re looking for him to break through for major win No. 1 this week.”
  • “One of the things I did a good job of … is not trying to overpower it or not try and get that extra, just get the ball in the fairway and I’ve always been a good mid iron and long iron player,” Fowler said. “So you get me in the fairway and with the soft greens, I feel like we can pick apart the golf course as long as we continue to play smart and within ourselves. So now it’s all can you do is get off to a good start Thursday and we did that.”
  • On the subject of whether this will finally be his week to win a major, Fowler said…”I always have hope. I know Phil [Mickelson] didn’t win [a major] until his 30s. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it’s not something I necessarily worry about. Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention, we have had plenty of runner-ups. Jack [Nicklaus] had a lot of runner-ups, we’ll just keep beating down that door.”
2. Tiger’s even-par grind
3 over par early in his round, Tiger Woods (after changing his sweaty shirt, interestingly), went 3 under over his final 16 holes.
PGATour.com’s Cameron Morfit
  • Tiger Woods was 3 over par through two holes at the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club on Thursday, but battled back to shoot an even-par 70. “It kept me in the golf tournament,” said Woods, who started on the back nine. “I could have easily gone the other way, being 3 over through two. A lot of things could happen. Not a lot of them were positive, but I hung in there and turned it around.”
  • “After being sidelined for years by various ailments, including four back surgeries, Woods is in the midst of a comeback season that has seen plenty of highs. At the Valspar Championship in just his fourth start this season, he shot four under-par rounds for the first time since THE NORTHERN TRUST in 2013. At The Open Championship at Carnoustie last month, he briefly seized the lead before struggling on the back nine and ultimately finishing T6.”
  • “Woods was not at his best again at Bellerive on Thursday. Of his 118-yard approach over water at the 11th hole, he said, “I stuck it in the ground,” coming up some 12 yards short on the way to a double-bogey 6. Still, he minimized the damage by making three birdies and no bogeys over his last 10 holes. He hit 9 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens, and took 27 putts.”
3. PGA Hacked
“Your network has been penetrated. All files on each host in the network have been encrypted with a strong algorythm [sic].” Such was the message that greeted PGA of America staffers as they attempted to access files on their computers Tuesday morning.
  • According to a Golfweek report, the PGA’s servers been hacked. Reportedly, the files in question include logos and promotional materials for the PGA Championship and the upcoming Ryder Cup.
  • The hackers’ message also included a Bitcoin wallet number (apparently for ransom, although a ransom demand was not made) and a warning that attempts to break the encryption would result in the files being deleted.
  • The PGA of America has thus far declined comment, as an investigation is ongoing. Golfweek reports an anonymous source within the PGA says the organization will not meet any ransom demands.
4. Fleetwood’s predicament
If you’ve seen any recent Tommy Fleetwood WITBs, you’ve seen Nike VR Pro Blades in the Englishman’s golf bag.
  • Fleetwood, a former Nike staffer, has been working through the sets VR Pros the company made him before it left the hard goods business in 2016.
  • Now, according to a Golf Channel report, Fleetwood is on his last set of Nike-made clubs. So, while it’s unclear how long the irons will last, it is clear Fleetwood is close to needing replacement weapons.
  • Interestingly, Fleetwood damaged the hosels of his 7 and 8-irons at the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier this year, which compelled him to put his last set of irons into the bag at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
  • While it’s unclear exactly what kind of hosel damage would be irreparable, the point remains: Fleetwood needs to figure out his next move.
5. Brandel’s latest bold claim
Oh boy. Speaking with Dan Patrick, DP said, “Finish this thought, Brandel. ‘If Tiger doesn’t lift weights…”
  • Chamblee: “He would have won 20-plus major championships and 100-plus events. He would be hitting the ball, right now, probably as long or longer than anybody on the PGA Tour….. When he started working out – and he still managed to win the Masters, obviously in 2000, 2001, 2005 – but he was averaging along the lines of 290, 280 [yards off the tee]. Never sniffed what he was averaging when he was a kid. That sinewy, that quick-snapping speed was what he had and it was a gift. … He traded all of that speed for strength, and I think it was purely for vanity reasons.
  • “He has an obsession with perfection. Perfect golf swing, he’s changed his swing three or four times, cost him two years he did it. Changed his body because he was looking for the perfect body – who knows what that’s cost him in time and injuries and majors and tournaments.”
6. It should be illegal to be this good at two sport
Gianni Magliocco looks at Steph Curry’s impressive opening-round 71.
“Stephen Curry took the majority of fans with him around TPC Stonebrae on Thursday morning as he began the Ellie Mae Classic. It is the second consecutive year in which Curry has competed in the event, having struggled in last year’s championship. In 2017, Curry shot back to back rounds of 74 missing the cut by a distance. Playing alongside Martin Trainer and Cameron Champ, two of the top performers on the Web.com Tour this year, the NBA star set out determined to improve on his showing last year.”
“However, beginning his round on the back nine, it looked as if Curry was on his way to another disappointing round at TPC Stonebrae. The Golden State Warriors point guard only managed to hit two of his opening seven fairways on his front nine and found himself three-over par at the turn. A three-putt bogey on his eleventh hole of the day would hardly have improved his mood, but it was after this moment that the American was able to showcase his ability and mental resilience.”  
 
7. Blade vs. mallet?
Here’s a interesting question that may or may not have import for your golf game: what are the best golfers in the world putting with? Beyond specific models, do they prefer blade or mallet-style flatsticks?
  • Andrew Tursky found 44 percent of the top 50 used mallets. 56 percent of the top 50 players in strokes gained: putting use mallets. In other words, it’s basically a 50/50 split between mallet and blades among the game’s best.
8. Golf Digest still on the block
For what it’s worth, here’s the latest on the sale of Golf Digest, per Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal
  • “Condé Nast has put the titles Brides, W and Golf Digest on the market.(Chief Executive) Sauerberg said he hopes to have signed agreements for the three titles by year’s end. It’s possible that Condé could retain an interest in the golf business, depending on its future owner.”

9. Place your bets
With round one in the books, here are your updated odds to win the the final major of the year per Westgate Las Vegas.
  • Dustin Johnson 9-2.…Rickie Fowler 6-1…Jason Day 10-1…Justin Rose 14-1…Gary Woodland 14-1…Jon Rahm 20-1…Rory McIlroy 25-1…Justin Thomas 25-1…Brooks Koepka 25-1…Francesco Molinari 25-1…Zach Johnson 25-1
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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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