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GolfWRX Morning 9: Rules ridiculousness comes to the U.S. Am | Round of 64 update | Lexi needs “to have a life”

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

August 16, 2018

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Round of 64 notes
There were upsets aplenty in the U.S. Amateur’s Round of 64.
  • Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner notes…”The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach…Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.”
  • “Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.”
Brentley Romine on John Augenstein taking down the world No. 3: “John Augenstein lives for the big moments.”
  • “Two seasons ago, when Augenstein was a freshman, he sank the winning putt to send Vanderbilt to the final of the SEC Championship. A few weeks after that, he drained a birdie putt on the 19th hole of his NCAA Championship semifinal match. Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh always says there’s no player he’d rather have when the light are brightest.”
  • “He’s just fiery, man,” said Vanderbilt assistant coach Gator Todd. “He just does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to be able to do. He just has a knack for that.”…The legend of Johnny Clutch continued Wednesday at Pebble Beach, as the 20-year-old from Owensboro, Ky., took down the world’s third-ranked amateur, Collin Morikawa, in 19 holes during the Round of 64 at the U.S. Amateur.”
Also: Geoff Shackelford notes Stewart Hagestad ended an inglorious streak…:”Eight different times, Stewart Hagestad has played a U.S. Amateur and eight times he’s failed to make match play. So don’t blame the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from taking extra pleasure in his Round of 64 win over England’s Harry Hall.”
  • “The 1-up victory ended two dubious U.S. Amateur streaks for the former Walker Cup player from Newport Beach, California, and sets him up for a Round of 32 showdown with David Chatfield, a 6 and 4 winner over Ryan Smith…”It was a big personal accomplishment that had kind of been lifted,” Hagestad said of finally making match play. “I feel like I slept pretty well last night.”
2. Rules ridiculousness comes to the U.S. Am
Oh dear. The rules are the Rules, yes, but with all due respect, can’t we push an override button and inject some common sense?
Ryan Lavner (again) reports on the penalty that befell Akshay Bhatia at Pebble.
  • “Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.”
  • “The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”
  • ‘Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.”
  • “It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.”
3. Lexi Thompson returns with candor aplenty
Lexi Thompson has been a high-level, highly visible professional golfer since she was 15, and her life has been centered around the game since she was five. After a grueling stretch, Thompson was understandably worn down, and took a month-long break from the game and, really, the demands of her celebrity.
  • The 23-year-old skipped last month’s Ricoh Women’s British Open. and she’ll return to competition at this week’s Indy Women in Tech Championship.
  • “I’m not just a robot out here,” she told reporters ahead of the tournament. “I need to have a life.”
  • In the past 18 months, the Coral Springs, Florida, native has dealt with her mother’s cancer, the death of her grandmother, and of course, the ANA Inspiration debacle.
  • “You can only stay strong for so long and hide it,” Thompson said.
4. Taming the driver
From his position on the Mount Rushmore of current golf scribes, Jaime Diaz penned an excellent write up concerning a fact we all know: Tiger Woods needs to sort out his driving.
  • Diaz points out, rightly, that entering the PGA Championship, “Many began to wonder whether what Nick Faldo calls the 15th club – nerve – had left Woods forever. But on Sunday at Bellerive, he proved that his mastery under pressure is still accessible.”
  • He writes that an uncooperative driver was all that stood between Woods and the Wanamaker:: “Revived, but reprised. For all of the brilliance Woods exhibited down the stretch, he made two crucial errors. On the par-4 14th, a pushed iron off the tee and an indifferent chip led to a bogey. And, most fatally, the pushed drive into the hazard on the reachable par-5 17th, when he had to have birdie to answer a resurgent Koepka.”
5. Distance researchers set to research
Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura reports… “The USGA and R&A’s investigation into the distance topic, the so-named “Distance Insights” project, will now employ an outside market research firm to ask golfers and non-golfers alike around the world what they think about distance.”
  • “That outside research firm, Sports Marketing Surveys, is an international group with experience working with golf organizations and even a string of golf equipment companies to provide consumer and market research. What is their mission with golf’s ruling bodies? On one hand, it’s doing the heavy lifting of understanding the global picture of distance in golf, or, according to Monday’s announcement, “how distance in golf has impacted them over their full golf experience, if at all, and its projected impact into the future.'”

  • “Of course on the other, using an outside research firm also will at the very least ensure that whatever decision might be made by the ruling bodies is not going to have the appearance of being a foregone conclusion concocted in the halls of Golf House in New Jersey and the R&A clubhouse in St. Andrews.”
6. What if…
Ryder Cup points, as we know, are accumulated over a two-year period. But what if we were just looking at the past year?
  • The undead Twitter ratings guru, Nosferatu, posted a list of what the U.S. roster would look like if only 2018 points counted.
  • As Alex Myers of Golf Digest notes, “a couple things jump out. First, current outside-the-bubble boys Bryson Dechambeau and Tiger Woods, who finished 9th and 11th, respectively, would be on the roster already.”
  • Further, neither Jordan Spieth nor Rickie Fowler would be on the roster, finishing 13th and 10th in points respectively.
7. Odds on Tiger winning a major in 2019?
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall...”SportsBettingDime.com has Woods listed at 5/1 to win either the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open or Open Championship in 2019.”
  • “In non-Tiger centric news, Dustin Johnson has the best odds to win a major at 11/4, with Jordan Spieth trailing at 3/1. Brooks Koepka, winner of three of the past seven majors, comes in at 4/1, as does Rory McIlroy, who hasn’t won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship. Reigning. Player of the Year Justin Thomas isn’t far behind at 9/2.”
  • Also on the Woodsian front: Tiger has reportedly committed to the BMW Championship (third Playoff event) September 6-9
8. Fowler injury update
We learned Rickie Fowler was dealing with an oblique injury at the PGA Championship. Now, he’s shutting it down for the first playoff event, next week’s Northern Trust Open.
  • In an Instagram post, Fowler announced the news Wednesday, saying that an MRI revealed a partial tear in his right oblique.
  • He says he’ll be back to competition soon and “more than healthy” for the Ryder Cup.
9. 1 day, 36-hole competition, 3 holes-in-one
Ali Gibb, 51-year-old amateur golfer, for winning her club championship at Croham Hurst Golf Club in England, Monday. Oh, and she made three holes-in-one on the day.
  • That’s right, during the 36-hole final, Gibb aced the fifth hole twice and only needed one shot at the 11th hole during her second 18.
  • “Today was just a weird day. It was just very, very strange,” she said,per a BBC report. “On my card I had a nine, two eights, sixes, fives, fours, threes, twos and three ones.
  • “I have had a hole-in-one before – three actually. One was here on the seventh, one at Surrey National Golf Club, and one at the Atlantic Beach Golf Estate in South Africa,” Gibb added.
  • “It’s just absolutely extraordinary. I think I will wake up tomorrow asking if I’ve just been dreaming about it and if it is club championship day today instead!”
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  1. SV

    Aug 26, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    Speaking of Ryder Cup teams, why aren’t each team chosen on the basis of the world ranking? It seems simple, 12 best for each side go at it. No captain’s picks, no controversy over who did or didn’t make the team.

  2. Bert Gwaltney

    Aug 16, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    The Conditions of Competition included a clear understanding of the Rule, BUT, a volunteer made a decision it was OK by allowing and providing transportation to the tee, to speed up play. Look’s as if the USGA is remiss again for not instructing volunteers to not provide transportation. Correct penalty but, should a player or caddie be mislead by a volunteer. Id it their responsibility to identify who is and who is not an authorized USGA representative? I think we’re not seeing the entire picture, maybe missing some information here.I know as a Committee Member I have made a decision many times to take players back or forward to improve the pace-of-play, especially when a ball is lost causing excessive delay.

    I’d also question players anchoring their stroke when putting; looks to me that it’s bing overlooked again!

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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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