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GolfWRX Morning 9: Mickelson: I overdid it | Masters of Monday qualifying | JT on TW-Phil PPV

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

October 9, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. Happiest of happy birthdays to my eminently better half.
1. Kings of qualifying
John Feinstein filed an excellent look at some eminent Monday qualifiers and the mindset necessary to succeed at the birdie bonanzas.
  • A few morsels…””You have to approach it almost like match play,” says Reed, who played in 12 events as a rookie in 2012-half of them out of Monday qualifiers. “Every hole is important. You have to try to birdie every hole, be very aggressive. Because there’s almost no score that’s guaranteed to be low enough. If you think being five under after six holes is good enough, you probably aren’t going to make it. You have to come out firing.”
  • “Jason Gore, who has gone from Mondays to being a PGA Tour winner, then back to Mondays, remembers a Monday in New Orleans a few years back in which he shot 64 and went to a nearby barbecue place to celebrate.”
  • “By the time we sat down, I was tied for the last playoff spot,” he says. “I decided to finish my barbecue and go back to the golf course for the playoff, and I made it.”
2. I may have overdone it
Phil Mickelson says his 24 starts this season were too many. And judging by how gassed Lefty was down the stretch, you’d have to agree with him.
  • Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Mickelson had a resurgent 2018 season at age 48, breaking a five-year victory drought at the WGC-Mexico Championship in March. That win highlighted a hectic season that saw Lefty make 24 official starts, including a return to the Tour Championship, the most since he played 26 events in 2002.”
  • “Mickelson struggled to find his form at the Ryder Cup, but he quickly flew back west to play in the season-opening Safeway Open where he moved into early contention with an opening 65 before fading to a T-17 finish. Mickelson’s start in Napa was his eighth event in the last 10 weeks, dating back to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and afterwards he told reporters that he might need to make some edits for 2019.”
  • “I’ve made a bit of a mistake this year that I’m going to learn from as far as playing too many events in a row, and not being able to recover and be as sharp as I want to be when I do play,” Mickelson said. “That’s something I’ll have to work on in the coming months and years.”
3. “0% chance”
Does this matter? Should it? Can we draw wider conclusions? Do you think JT’s remarks are representative of sentiment on Tour?
  • Our Gianni Magliocco writes…”Next month’s pay-per-view event between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson has split opinions, and until now, fellow PGA Tour professionals have not had their say publicly on the match. While participating in a Q&A with fans on social media, Justin Thomas was asked whether or not he’ll be ordering the match between the two golfing legends.
  • JT’s tweet: “Love TW and Phil to death…. but there’s a 0% chance I order that. I’ll be watching football!”
4. ICYMI: The Barn Rat is a PGA Tour member
One of professional golf’s most dynamic and intriguing individuals, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, makes his first start as a PGA Tour member this week at the CIMB Classic.
  • PGATour.com staff report...”The big-hitting Kiradech, who became the first Thai to earn a PGA TOUR card following top-five finishes at two World Golf Championships events earlier this year, will be amongst the Asian contingent eager to register a victory at the US$7 million CIMB Classic, which begins at TPC Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.”
  • “It’s like a dream come true. When I was a kid, my goal has been to be a part of the PGA TOUR. Twenty years later, I hold a Tour card, I can’t explain how it feels but it is such a good moment for me.  To play my first PGA TOUR event, my first full card in Asia, especially in Malaysia, it feels like everything has happened in my golf career,” said Kiradech in a press conference today.
5. The Nike driver that never was
WRX Staff spotted an Instagram post by user @oli_willson, an “ex-Nike Golf employee” according to his Insta bio, shows a Nike “VPR Srike” driver that apparently would have come out in 2017 had Nike not decided to exit the hard goods section of the golf industry.
Picture above (obviously…more here.
6. Champ smashes it
Alex Myers with a quick-hitter on how Cameron Champ, the Web.com Tour’s biggest hitter last year, translated to the big show in his first start.
  • “But while Champ “only” averaged 328.6 yards on those selected shots, he led the way with his average distance of all drives at 317.1. But even those numbers don’t tell the full story of the 23-year-old’s staggering raw power.”
  • “When it comes to average clubhead speed and ball speed, Champ was easily No. 1 at 129.66 mph and 192.67 mph. Fellow bomber Brandon Hagy, who sat out most of last season with a wrist injury, was second at 125.14 and 186.32. And winner Kevin Tway showed he can really move it off the tee as well, finishing seventh and eighth in the two metrics.”
  • “To put these numbers in better perspective, Keith Mitchell led the PGA Tour in average clubhead speed last season at 124.67 and no one else was above 123. Trey Mullinax led the tour in ball speed last season at 182.22, followed by Tony Finau (181.81) and Rory McIlroy (181.57). Simple math tells us that Champ’s Safeway Open average numbers were five and TEN mph faster in those two categories. Remarkable.”
7. The JP Experience is over
A five-year partnership between Titleist and wedge maker JP Harrington – the man some believed would succeed Bob Vokey – has come to an end.
  • Last May, Titleist launched the JP Wedge Experience – a high-end wedge fitting and custom building conducted by Harrington himself. You can see many of the fruits of that labor on the James Patrick Golf Instagram.
  • Little beyond the “Experience,” however, emerged publicly from the five-year partnership. Whether Harrington will join forces with another OEM or return to solo work – likely no longer in his mother’s garage in Minnesota – remains to be seen.
8. Never too early…  
…to place a few Masters futures bets. Golfweek’s Brentley Romine with a look at the latest odds via Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
  • “Tiger Woods was already the betting favorite to win the 2019 Masters. Now, his odds to win have gotten better.”
  • “Woods went from a 10-to-1 favorite to slip on the green jacket next April at Augusta National to most recently a 9-to-1 favorite, according to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.”
  • “The 14-time major winner has won four Masters, most recently in 2005. He won the Tour Championship last month for his first PGA Tour victory since 2013.”
  • “Jordan Spieth is next at 10-1 while Dustin Johnson is 12-1. Rory McIlroy is listed at 14-1 along with Justin Thomas. Defending champion Patrick Reed is 30-1…Bryson DeChambeau’s odds have improve the most since betting opened on Aug. 12, going from 60-1 to 30-1.”
9. And if you really want to look ahead…
2020 Olympics teams(s) projections, courtesy of the mysterious undead purveyor of all things OWGR on Twitter, Nosferatu.
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Wednesday’s photos from the 2019 Terra Cotta Invitational

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GolfWRX is live from the 2019 Terra Cotta Invitational at Naples National Golf Club, which will be contested April 26-28. Past winners of the amateur event include Justin Thomas and Emiliano Grillo.

Denny Glass, chairman of the Terra Cotta Invitational, was kind enough to give us a little more information about the tournament.

For GolfWRX members who aren’t familiar, tell me a little bit about the tournament and its history

Glass: The Terra Cotta Invitational began in 1996 and was originally a combination stroke play/match play event. 20 players were invited and they played 36 holes of stroke play then the top four finishers went on to match play with the others playing an 18 hole consolation match.

I changed it to a 54-hole stroke play event with 50 players in 2006 when I took over as Tournament Chair. This was done to be eligible for Titleist/Golfweek Amateur Ranking Points. The field increased over the years and now has 75-81 players. The tournament is now ranked as a “B” level event in the WAGR (World Amateur Golf Rankings) run by the USGA and R&A. This ranking is one level below the top-ranked events in the world. The WAGR rankings are based on the strength of the field so we are proud to be ranked so highly.

As it’s an invitational tournament, can you tell me a bit about who gets invited in general and who’s in the field this year, specifically? Tournament format?

Glass: It is an invitational so we invite as many of the top-ranked amateur players as are available. The field consists of many juniors (up to age 18), mid-amateurs (19-25) and some seniors (50+), along with collegiate players. While it is an invitational, we still receive more than 150 applications to play.

Can you talk about the host course and the relationship with Naples National?

The tournament is played at Naples National Golf Club. The tournament was started by the membership back in 1996. The club opened in 1993. The club hosted the World Championship of Golf, which was an LPGA event in its second year.

I know the charitable impact is important. Can you tell us about that?

The net proceeds are donated to Naples based children’s focused charities. The tournament has donated over $517,000 since it began.

Wednesday’s photos

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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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