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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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Brooks Koepka can’t stop defending major titles

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All right, it’s only two, but its two-consecutive PGA Championships…on the heels of two-straight U.S. Open titles. Thanks to the PGA moving up three months, he kinda-sorta has both doubles at the same time.

Brooks Koepka fought the golf course, his swing, the competition, and the self-inflicted pressure that he strives to minimize, and came out a winner. His margin of victory over workout pal Dustin Johnson was two strokes. Johnson had his chances but failed to capitalize. Can you fault him? If you had told him on Wednesday that he would be the only man to shoot all four rounds in the 60s, he might have anticipated a trophy at week’s end. Not to be. Despite a sequence of stumbles, Koepka parred the odd 18th hole and earned his sixth PGA Tour title and fourth major championship.

Here are five reasons he did it.

5. Dustin Johnson might be a one-off major winner, after all.

What they said couldn’t be done, was in Johnson’s grasp. Koepka’s apparently-insurmountable, 7-shot advantage had withered to 2 mere blows, and the man responsible for the winnowing was Dustin Johnson. The man from Myrtle was 3-under on the day, and stood a mere 12 feet from a 4th birdie at the 10th. Behind him, Koepka was even for the day, and about to birdie the 10th hole from 2 feet. Johnson missed, then bogeyed the 11th. What if DJ had made his birdie, and the roars had erupted. Would Koepka have stuffed his ridiculous, 160-yard lob wedge for a kick-in birdie? Probably not. DJ had to be perfect on Sunday, and when he most needed the endurance and the mental fortitude, both were lacking.

4. Koepka survived

I’ve played BPB and I’ve watched my high school golfers compete on it during New York state federation play. It is as difficult as you saw today. One bad swing leads to a bad hole, and it might lead to a run of four bogeys, as Koepka had on holes 11-14. He bogeyed a par five! He bogeyed a flip-shot par three!! He then turned around and parred the two most difficult holes of the closing stretch. Despite another bogey on his nemesis, the 17th, Koepka had enough wiggle room to limp home with par for a 2-shot victory.

3. Koepka elevated his game when needed

There was a point when the lead was down to one stroke, but if not for this shot, Koepka and Johnson would have been tied. The champion knew the adrenaline he was feeling, which explains the ludicrous thought that a gap wedge would fly 158 yards in the air. It did, and the ball settled two feet below the hole at the 10th. No matter what was happening in front of him, Koepka was about to shave a stroke from par. Golfers who choke a tournament away never make shots like this one.

2. Despite this…

I don’t have any words to describe this exchange. Your guy is trying to win a major, and somehow, it seems to be about you?

1. Karma

Doing a kind thing when you least need to do a kind thing, leads to Shivas, the god of Irons, smiling down on you.

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PGA Championship: 5 things we learned on Saturday

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Day three at Bethpage promised to differ from the first 48 hours of the 2019 PGA Championship. With a halved field and no 10th-hole tee times, odds of missing your tee time were reduced, even for David Lipsky. Brooks Koepka began the day with a 7-stroke lead, but the chance to chase him down depended on one of two scenarios playing out.

The first demanded similar course conditions to days one and two. In that situation, someone would shoot 63 or 64, hoping Koepka remained at par or higher. Conditions were different, as the wind picked up and then swirled, sending a higher number of tee shots into the rough and beyond. As for the second, well, it required Koepka to balloon to a mid- to high-70s score, allowing a score anywhere below par to make up ground. Neither one happened, and Koepka left the state park with the same lead as he had 24 hours prior. We still learned quite a bit on Saturday, so have a look at the 5 most important things we learned on Saturday at the 2019 PGA Championship.

5. New names made their presence known

Ardent followers of professional golf have read about Jazz Janewattananond, Harold Varner III and Luke List, but until today, none had made a dent in the first page of a major professional event. Each sits at -5, tied with Dustin Johnson, seven blows behind Koepka. Varner will accompany Koepka on the Sunday march, but all four of the minus-fives will play either for 2nd spot, or the coveted “If Koepka should falter” trophy.

4. How do you come from THAT far behind?

Simply put, you need to make six birdies at least, get to 9 or 10 under par, and pray for rain. Koepka’s swing looks like it’s here to stay. He doesn’t get tired physically, and he isn’t under the weather. Yesterday, I predicted that Matt Wallace would hit more shots like this one. I stand by that prediction, and expect Wallace (at -4) to be the only one of the chasers to give Koepka a run. Wallace is playing for the same sort of legitimacy as the leader. Koepka wants to be a part of the conversation for best golfer in the world; Wallace wants to be much more than an afterthought when Ryder Cup 2021 comes around. Sunday will put the Englishman in another class.

3. Spieth and Scott went quietly away

No one likes to foretell doom and gloom, unless they go by the name of Bran Stark. It is someone’s job to predict such things in golf, and the team of S and S shared the cloak of most likely to play above par on Saturday. The Jordan Spieth who gutted out the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay was not present today. The Adam Scott who played through the rain to defeat Angel Cabrera in the 2013 Masters playoff was also unavailable. Bethpage is a big, brawny golf course. With the exception of Lucas Glover in 2009, it rewards big, brawny golfers.

2. Is Bethpage a boring place to play a major championship?

I don’t think so, but I’m not convinced that this was the best set-up for it. If the PGA likes birdies, tell me how they went from 10 billion birdies in the event’s first half, to quite a few less on day three? Something changed, or perhaps the course caught up with the conditions. There is a lot of thick rough out there…why? Increase fairway width by 10%, so that balls that barely miss, have a chance at redemption. Move the tee markers up on number six and make it a drivable par four for at least one round. Do the same on number eighteen, just for one day on the weekend. If Koepka is on his game for day four, anticipate a nice time for a long nap.

1. Will Brooks Koepka seal the deal on Sunday?

All signs point to Yes, and major championship number four, and possibly the blessing of Pope Brandel of Chamblee. However, we did see a few flinches on Saturday, and we would like to mention them here. To begin, his putting distance control was erratic. Did you see that first putt on 17, from 20 feet? The one that went 75% of the way to the hole? Brooks made his share of 5-feet putts today, but if the distance control gets weird tomorrow, and the short putts start spinning out, well then… Another area of concern was driving. He can’t be perfect, but with the big stick in his hands at all times, the big miss might be coming. If BK goes wide right or left and makes a big number, the confidence might be shaken.

All right, I’m searching for a needle in a haystack of straws at which I’m grasping. Got that? It’s a double metaphor, because a double metaphor is what is needed to keep Koepka from holding PGA and US Open trophies for the 2nd consecutive cycle.

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PGA Championship: 5 things we learned Friday

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Don’t worry, we’ll get to him. You have to be patient. Some interesting stuff happened at Bethpage Black on Friday, but doesn’t something always go down in metro?  Some late stumbles ensured that the plus-fours would see the weekend in a competitive fashion. Not talking knickers, mind you, but the guys who shot 72-72. All right then, enough with the musings, on with the 5 things we learned on day five of this week.

5. El Gato Con Rayas won’t be winning the Slam this season

Tiger Woods had history with BPB, doncha know?! Some things have a due date, an “it’s not you, it’s me” moment. 2k19 was that for TDubs and the Black. He fought, mind you. He birdied his 27th hole, but that was followed by 4 boges in 5 holes. He didn’t have his A nor his B game this week, so he didn’t walk away a beaten man. Just as well, as that guy who just wants respect went low again, opening up a 7-stroke lead at the halfway point. So that you know, I’ll take bets on Eldrick bagging either the U.S. or British Open championships. He’s coming out of 2019 with 16 majors, bank on it.

4. Three of your teachers made the cut

There are 3 shields on the leader board, and they will be there until Sunday. Marty Jertson, Rob Labritz and Ryan Vermeer stood tall as Friday dusked. They looked at their loved ones and said, simply, “I can’t believe it; I did it. I made the cut.” No matter what happens over the next two days, this triumvirate might as well be named Vardon, Taylor and Braid. They showed the golfing world that fellows who work a day job in golf, can prepare and perform at the level of the world’s finest touring professionals. Cheers to you, gentlemen.

3. Spieth and Scott are done; Wallace is your man

Despite this prank, or perhaps because of it, Matt Wallace is my pick to overtake Burger King and win the 2019 PGA Championship. If you can hashtag a chip on someone’s shoulder, Wallace has had a massive one since he was snubbed by Thomas Bjorn last fall for the Euro Ryder Cup team. The Englishman made 6 birdies on day two, and shows no signs of stopping. He’ll make 8 birdies on Saturday, mark my words. That should send a signal flare that even BK notices. Oh, Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott? They had their day of glory. They’re done.

2. They might be workout bruhs, but…

…enough is enough. DJ was poised to be the schizz until BK said “?Habla usted back-to-back US Open?” He’s now on the cusp of B2BPGA, and that’s something that the golfer currently known as Paulina’s will not stomach. Not with brother Austin in his bag. Not with all of South Carolina pulling for him. Johnson won’t be paired with the leader on Saturday, so he’ll have to make some noise on the first 4 holes to get muscles’ attention. He can do it, but can he sustain it? This weekend, he will.

1. How did this guy get an invite, again?

Just messing with you, B to the K. This guy epitomizes values: goes overseas to meet new people and learn the game the hard way; works his arse off in the gym to get large and fit; shows no fear when faced with adversity and greatness. I can’t promise I never dissed Brooks Koepka in previous pieces, but man, he sends a message. 7 birdies each day. 0 bogies day 1, 2 bogies day 2. If he keeps making buckets of birdies, t’ain’t no one gonna catch him. Here’s to you, Brooks, and whatever choice of swimwear is yours, today. Records? They nice.

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