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5 Things We Learned on Saturday of the 2018 PGA Championship

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Round 3 has concluded at Bellerive, and golf could not ask for a finer leader board as Saturday evening falls. In fact, a populace could not be better served than the teaching professionals of America. The organization that introduces a majority of golfers to the game, polishes swings, refines etiquette, has a star-studded cast on stage for Sunday’s final round. The weather problems have left the region, and St. Louis and Bellerive are prepared for an unforgettable 4th round. We learned a few things on day 3, so let’s move along with 5 things we learned on Saturday at the PGA Championship.

5) Does the viewing public care about quality architecture more than a quality field?

Complete transparency: I’m an architecture junky and know the difference between Trent Jones and Travis, Dye and Doak, and Coore and MacDonald. Sometimes there isn’t much, other times, there is. The runway tees, constant same-direction doglegs, and fairway-pinching bunkering of the Trent Jones influence were certainly a reaction to the quality architecture that came before World War 2 in the USA, and a lightning rod for the renaissance that began in the early 1990s. Here’s the rub: Koepka, Scott, Rahm, Fowler, Woods Day, Thomas, Molinari, Kisner, Cink are in the top 15 after 54 holes. You have U.S. Open, British Open, Masters and PGA champions in that roll call, recent challengers and the best of a young generation. What’s not to like about that, whether the architecture is our finest or not? One thing’s for certain: the PGA of America set up the Bellerive course to challenge (but not burden) the field, and the superintendent and crew executed the plan to perfection.

4) What does it mean to be Under The Radar?

Andy North won 2 U.S. Opens and not much else. One other PGA Tour event, in fact. He wasn’t due any more attention than that, as he didn’t demonstrate any staying power or diversity in his wins. Eerily similar is the case of Brooks Koepka: a standard tour win (Phoenix) followed by … 2 U.S. Opens. You can’t say that Brooks Koepka is any better than Andy North, at this stage of his career. Therefore, he doesn’t merit any more attention or respect than other major winners in the field. How about Adam Scott, Stewart Cink, Webb Simpson or Jason Day? One major for each of them, and like Koepka, ready to break free of whatever distinction they currently have. All great players, but not yet part of a legendary pantheon.

3) Who are these young guys, yet to win a major?

Jon Rahm is the most heralded of the younger generation. 23 years old, already a winner, already tabbed to perform in a legendary manner. Unfair burden, perhaps, but those who desire the mantel of greatness, must accept such an onus. Kevin Kisner has challenged so often in majors, these last 15 months. On Saturday, he played an un-Kisner like round of +2, dropping 5 shots off the pace set by Koepka at -12. Will the chance to come from behind suit him more than being a front-runner, as he was in July at Carnoustie? How about Gary Woodland? He’s 34, not a young guy by any stretch, but he needs a feature victory of his own. He fits the image of a PGA champion: hard-grinding journeyman who stays out of the spotlight, but has the game to produce at any moment.

2) How about the defending champion and the Jarrod Lyle factor?

Justin Thomas had 68 on Saturday for a total of 8-under. He’s a quartet of shots off the lead and not keen on giving up the Wannamaker trophy he won in 2017. He knows how to win from behind, and how to hold a lead. He’s awfully tough to beat when the stakes are high. On a completely-different plane, Adam Scott and Jason Day have the entire nation of Australia on their shoulders, as they try to win one for their fallen comrade, Jarrod Lyle. So many forms of motivation, only one winner.

1) Woods

The elephant in the room is a tiger. Tiger Woods had a chance in July at the British Open. He has consecutive 66s after opening with 70. Another 66 will get him to 12-under, but it won’t be enough to win. He’ll need 64, and he’ll need to do it in the company of Gary Woodland, in the 3rd-last pairing. Before he arrives at the first tee, Woods will have the information he needs on who is making a move, which holes offer an opportunity to save strokes, and what he might need to do. The rest will be up to Tiger 4.0, a mash-up of 2000, 2005 and 2008 Tiger Woods. If he shoots another 31 on the front nine, as he did on Saturday, watch out. I can’t wait. I CANNOT WAIT!!

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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.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. joro

    Aug 13, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    What a bunch of really stupid comments. There is no comparison to Brooks and Andy, the guy is for real and will win a lot before he becomes another announcer who can’t compete anymore,,, Hear that Trevor ? You went to David runtime Leadbetter and now you are out. As for Tiger, he is coming along but the public still adores him, so be it. Maybe he will win something, maybe not.

  2. RocketBall

    Aug 12, 2018 at 2:21 am

    I’m going to go out on a limb and call you on one point. The Brooks Koepka / Andy North compare. I think even Andy North would agree that Koepka is better than he was at this stage.

  3. sid

    Aug 12, 2018 at 12:58 am

    Tiger will be prowling in the rough and plummet down down down… wanna bet?!!

    • Ronald Montesano

      Aug 12, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      I’m not a betting man. I certainly don’t want anyone in the rough, plummeting. It will be a learning experience for 4.0, so here’s hoping we have an unforgettable finish to this event.

    • Jerrod

      Aug 12, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      Typical hater comment. Your rally is in DC while the PGA Championship is going on. Wanna bet I’m right?!?!

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Winner of the 2019 Charles Schwab Challenge to receive a 1973 Dodge Challenger Restomod

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Under new sponsorship, the 2019 Charles Schwab Challenge which takes place at Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth, will have a special prize on offer for its champion – a fully restored and customized 1973 Dodge Challenger.

The vehicle pays homage to the year which Schwab Corporation was founded and is equipped with tartan fabric seats and custom glacier blue paint. The car will serve as a complement to the Leonard Trophy and tartan jacket awarded each year at the tournament.

Charles Schwab worked in collaboration with Steve Strope of Pure Vision on the restoration process, and the car will be on display at Colonial throughout the tournament until it is presented to the winner on May 26.

The tournament runs from May 23-26. In 2018, Justin Rose won the event by three strokes.

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Honma EVP John Kawaja on marketing, tour strategy, working with Justin Rose, and putting a rumor to bed

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John Kawaja, executive vice president at Honma golf, spoke with our Johnny Wunder in the latest edition of the Gear Dive.

The industry veteran touched on a number of topics under the marketing and tour strategy umbrellas, including plenty about staffer Justin Rose. And while the entire podcast is well worth your time, we understand that some WRXers are more textually inclined.

So, as we often do, here are a few highlights from the ‘cast.

On working with Justin Rose

Kawaja: Mark [King] and I have worked with Justin for many, many years…he’s a consummate professional. He is by far and away the best brand ambassador one could have when it comes to playing great golf, being a great spokesman for your brand and really knowing equipment, which is helpful for a company [that is]…trying to get better every day…”

What was a bit surprising, to be honest, is how quickly we were able to switch out the No. 1 player in the world to Honma equipment…we’ve got 11 clubs in his bag, including a driver that has a Honma shaft…that’s probably the biggest surprise…People were saying, “he’ll probably never play their driver.” And I’m not sure there are many people on the planet that would have bet he was going to play a Honma driver with a Honma shaft.

With Justin, everything is always in the pursuit of getting better. We’ve got a 47-degree wedge and a 52-degree wedge. We a 56-degree wedge in his bag for most of the year, but the 60-degree wedge, we’re working on. He has a certain feel and a sensation…all these guys have fantastic feel, but I think Justin is the most extraordinary I’ve worked with…so, we’re working on the wedges We’re working on CGs and bounce and grind and grooves and groove spacing…but until we can make something that’s better than what he’s got in his bag, we don’t expect him to change what he’s playing.

He’s really happy with the irons. He’s delighted with his long iron…that is a prototype of a set that we’re introducing in June called the Tour World X iron…fairway woods, we actually haven’t even started…we’ve just been focused on other parts of his bag. We don’t want to force him to feel like he needs to have 13 clubs in his bag…and we’re never going to touch a putter. But we’ve just started to work on fairway woods. Next time I see him, we’ve got some product for him to hit.

On the company’s approach to professional tours and what’s next

Kawaja: We wanted to start with Justin and…establish ourselves with the No. 1 player in the world…he’ll be the face on tour of our brand for the foreseeable future. Anybody that Justin has played with this year, we’ve heard from, because they’ve noticed what Justin has seen. We’ve worked with tour players–some of the non-contracted guys, some of the guys that are curious…We’re not in any rush.

We’re never going to have the tour presence that a Callaway, or a Titleist, or a TaylorMade have…but we do intend to grow our presence…we do want to have a few more players…we’re going to look for players that have global reach, and we’re going to look for younger players. Younger players are always riskier, but we’re looking at kids that are making the transition from collegiate golf to professional golf…we think that we’ll grow our tour presence next year…but one or two.

On the importance of a tour presence

Kawaja: I think it’s extremely important. It always has been. You could always correlate No. 1 on tour with No. 1 in the marketplace in literally every single category. That, I think, says enough. Golfers are, we may all be different, but I think there’s one thing in the psychology of a guy that calls himself a golfer…there’s a gene we all share, and that’s the aspiration to hit one like a tour player.

They’re the best influencers. It doesn’t matter social media followings or whatever…if you’re watching golf and following golf, they have an influence on the bags, on the apparel, on the look of most golfers.

On dealing with rumors in general and the suggestion Honma’s TW 747 driver is too hot in particular

Kawaja: Well, [the rumor] is simply not true. …Our core message is about the beauty of our products and not performance, so it’s kind of ironic people are worried our drivers are illegal. We’ve been making the highest-quality golf equipment for 60 years. We know what we’re doing. We’re not a startup.

I think I understand where it comes from. We’ve been working with several PGA Tour players. Universally, they’re seeing faster ball speeds with Honma. Not incremental gains, but two, three, four miles per hour…One of the big four equipment companies…they’ve seen these results…and unfortunately, that rumor started. And I don’t know how it started, but it’s hard to believe. It’s not true. And frankly, it’s bush league.

On the competitiveness of the tour environment

Kawaja: It is a competitive environment. I remember when we were over at the other place, we talked every day about what our competitors were doing, and we tried to beat the crap out of them every day…We’re kind of new out there. I think the people that are out there every week, there’s a kinship among the tour reps who are working with players and working the range every week…we show up, we’ve got the No. 1 player, we start to work with guys, guys are curious…it’s competitive…

I’m a competitive guy by nature from a business perspective and from a previous life [Kawaja is a two-time curling world-champion for Canada]…and we welcome the opportunity to work with more tour players and show them what we’ve got.

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Morning 9: Tour in better position for Tigermania 2.0? | Economics of hiring club caddies | Wie injury update

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

April 24, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.  
1. Tour better positioned for Tigermania 2.0?
The eminent Doug Ferguson at the AP talked to tournament organizers about the potential return of Tigermania…
  • “Still to be determined is whether that presents the problem of a generation ago when the PGA Tour schedule was largely divided between the tournaments Woods played and those he didn’t.”
  • “…Even if the new Minnesota event doesn’t get Woods, it already has an All-Star lineup.”
  • “The Travelers Championship never had much of a chance of getting him because the tournament Woods hosted in Washington was the following week. It created its own identity through building strong relationships with young stars and since has attracted some of the best – Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas – with Koepka, Day and Francesco Molinari expected this year.”
  • “The stock question for every tournament – “Is Tiger playing?” – does not seem as make-or-break as it once did.”
2. Wie to take time away
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…
“Wie has withdrawn from this week’s Hugel-Air Premia LA Open at Wilshire Country Club. She has been replaced in the field by former USC player Muni He.”
“Had an encouraging visit with my doctor,” Wie wrote in her social media statement, “however we both think it’s in my best interest to take some time away to allow my body to heal properly and get stronger. Health is my top priority right now and hopefully I can get back to being pain-free real soon.”
3. Woods’ Hero to wrap Saturday
AP report…”Woods announced Tuesday that his Hero World Challenge will return to the Bahamas in December and end on Saturday (Dec. 7) instead of Sunday to give him and some of the players a little extra time to get to Australia for the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.”
  • “The matches start Thursday, Dec. 12. Even leaving the Bahamas on Saturday, a charter would not arrive until Monday morning. This will be the latest the Presidents Cup has ever been played. The first time it was held in Melbourne — 1998, the only International victory — the event ended on Dec. 12.”
4. Most intriguing Zurich Classic teams
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine offers his perspective on the most compelling duos joining forces for the team event.
  • “Jason Day and Adam Scott…The All-Aussie pairing has plenty of star power and name recognition. But this one will be interesting to watch considering Day’s health in recent months. He withdrew from Bay Hill with a back injury and then was seen getting worked on by a trainer just one hole into his Masters. However, Day did tie for fifth in Augusta, and if he can avoid any setbacks, his putting will pair nicely with Zurich debutant Scott in foursomes. This duo won the 2013 World Cup, so they know how to get the job done together.”
  • “Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia…Team Zurich was all smiles in the press tent on Tuesday. Asked when the first time they met was, Fleetwood asked for clarification: “When we first kissed?” Jokes aside, this pairing should produce as both players are stellar ballstrikers. Fleetwood hasn’t missed a cut since last summer’s French Open and he’s got two top 5s in the past two months. Garcia has four top 10s this year, though he’s also dealt with quite a bit of controversy. Maybe Fleetwood’s soothing personality will bring out the best in Garcia.”

 

5. An unusual partnership
Mike McAllister at PGATour.com…
  • “Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer. The young, intense Spanish star and the laid-back veteran from Texas”
  • “Why are they playing together this week at TPC Avondale?
  • “The simple answer is that they each needed a partner. For the first two years after the Zurich became the PGA TOUR’s only FedExCup team event, Palmer played with fellow Texan Jordan Spieth. Last year, in Rahm’s first start here, he played with close friend Wesley Bryan.”
  • “Spieth is sitting out this year, while Bryan is recovering from surgery on a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Had Bryan been healthy, he and Rahm would’ve been together this week. But since he isn’t …”
6. ‘The Voice of Golf’ is not going quietly: The life and complicated times of Peter Kessler
Masterful, singular work from Alan Shipnuck turning the one-man show that is Peter Kessler 2.0 into, well, a play…
He begins…
  • “PROLOGUE….The living room of a tidy light green house on Lake Winnah, in Orlando. Sitting on a couch is PETER KESSLER, 67. He is watching a golf tournament on a large TV. From his mannerisms and the look in his icy blue eyes it is clear that Kessler is frustrated by the coverage. He leaps off the couch and hurls the remote control against the wall.”
  • “KESSLER, yelling at the TV: These people don’t know anything about storytelling. They don’t know anything about developing characters, about moving them around on the stage. They think this is journalism. It’s not. It’s supposed to be theater!”
7. Average age of PGA Tour winners
Geoff Shackelford runs the numbers for 2019 on the heels of C.T. Pan’s RBC Heritage win…
  • “Careers are derailed or extreme pressures are inflicted simply to push players who might attract a more favorable advertising demographic. Yet the names are piling up of talented players given bad advice, while the average age for PGA Tour winners this year reminds us that golf-at least the winning variety for males-is often best produced in your thirties, not your twenties.”
  • “Following Pan’s win, the 2018-19 PGA Tour average age of winners is 33.08…If you take the schedule since Kapalua, when the field quality and course difficulty ratcheted up several notches, the average age of winners is 34.1.”
8. Undercover tour pro
This time, the unknown player for pay discusses the economics of hiring club caddies (are you listening, Matt Kuchar?)
  • “It’s an eight-second conversation to say, “$1,500 for the week, 5 percent of a made cut, 7 percent of a top 10, 10 percent for a win, you’ll get a check at the end of the week”-which, by the way, is the most common deal out here. And I’ve never heard of a caddie walking away because an offer was too low. The pro holds all the power to do the right thing. Or not.”
  • “I was floored when I heard about Matt Kuchar paying the local caddie five grand after he won $1.29 million in Mexico. I’ve been out to dinner with Matt and know him as a witty, stand-up guy. I’m not going to skewer him further, because the media already has (rightly, prompting Kuchar to up the pay to $50,000), but I will add how little sense it made from a tax perspective. Kooch could’ve given the caddie $129,000 and written it off as a business expense. Instead of changing the lives of that man’s family, a much bigger chunk will go to the government.”
9. Zurich Classic walk-up songs
Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…
  • Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine, in introducing the full list of tunes, writes…”Teams will walk out to music of their choice before they tee off in Saturday’s third round at TPC Louisiana. For the most part, the genres are diverse – though fans will hear a few songs multiple times, most notably Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” which was picked by at least four teams.”
  • “Ah, and “Baby Shark” will get a few plays, well.”

 

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