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GolfWRX Morning 9: POY Koepka | …talks DJ fight | Best golfing athletes

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

October 10, 2018

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. POY Koepka
The official word from the Tour (and you can tell it’s the official word because they capitalize “PGA Tour”)
“The PGA TOUR announced today that Brooks Koepka has been named the 2018 PGA TOUR Player of the Year as voted by the TOUR’s membership for the 2017-18 season.”
  • “Koepka, a 28-year-old native of West Palm Beach, Florida, finished a career-best ninth in the FedExCup following a season that included victories at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. He earned four additional top-10 finishes, including runners-up at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions and Charles Schwab Challenge.”
  • “On behalf of the PGA TOUR, our congratulations to Brooks Koepka on being voted PGA TOUR Player of the Year by his peers,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Brooks has brought a new brand of athleticism to the PGA TOUR, and we saw the results this year with his historic season at the major championships and a top-10 finish in the FedExCup. These feats were accomplished despite missing significant time due to injury, a testament to his work ethic and perseverance throughout the season.”
2. Koepka talks DJ
On Tuesday, Brooks Koepka – after being named the 2018 PGA Tour Player of the Year – came on the Dan Patrick Show to speak his side of the story.
Here’s that conversation…
Dan Patrick: I wanna set the record straight, we can put it to bed. Why do you think it was reported that you and Dustin Johnson had that altercation at a party?
Brooks Koepka: (laughs) I have no idea. We went in there to go congratulate the Europeans and tell them congrats on the job well done, and say hey; I don’t know how this started, I have no idea. I mean, I’ve been texting with him. I was texting with him before I even knew the story existed and we chatted a few times during the week as we normally would. And I saw him this morning and the 20 people that were here can vouch for me that there’s nothing there. We don’t get it, we’ve laughed about it, we’ve talked about it and nobody knows.
DP: Do you think someone misconstrued something like they may have seen you guys… like I just don’t know why someone would report it, create it.
BK: Yea I, I have no idea. We talked about everything. We could have been talking about college football and how bad Florida State was, you know what I mean? It’s one of those things like ‘we’re not that bad,’ and you never know what somebody heard. Sometimes you jump in the middle of a conversation and you have no idea what’s going on, you just hear a certain part of it. But that’s not always the case. I don’t know what they think they saw, or what they think they heard, but it was far from the truth.
3. Top 100 golfing athletes
The folks at GD have compiled their annual (semi-annual?) ranking of the best golfing athletes.
  • The top 2…
  • TYLER CLIPPARD...+1.9 | Toronto reliever travels to the golf course in his pickup truck with 15 to 20 pairs of golf shoes. One of our editors can attest to this: Clippard can hit a 3-iron 260 yards.
  • JOHN SMOLTZ…+1.5 | Hall of Fame pitcher qualified for the U.S. Senior Open this summer at The Broadmoor and missed the cut after rounds of 85-77. Has eight holes-in-one, including one on a 334-yard par 4. Plays out of Hawks Ridge in Atlanta.
4. Captain Harrington?
Who will captain the 2020 European Ryder Cup team? Paddy, it seems.
  • Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”After receiving the support of such players as Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose over the past week, Padraig Harrington has emerged as the clear favorite to be the captain for the away game at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.”
  • “Harrington’s appointment seems all but assured now that Lee Westwood has told The Telegragh that he’ll “wait until Rome” – and the 2022 Ryder Cup – before he makes his pitch.”
  • “The selection panel of European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, the past three Ryder Cup captains (Thomas Bjorn, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke) and a yet-to-be-named member of the players committee will meet in December to finalize the selection.”
5. JT on Reed’s remarks
Thomas told reporters at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia: “That (the pairing) was something obviously that had been talked about in advance, but all I was worried about was that I knew I was going to play with Jordan and we wanted to take care of our match.
  • “So, you do your job, and Jordan’s and mine was to go out and get a point and that’s what we were fortunate enough to get at least three out of four.
  • “But no, everybody has their own thoughts and feelings, but at the end of the day we just didn’t play well enough.”
6. More travel trouble for Vegas
Rough stuff. Via Golfweek’s Kevin Casey…”The Venezuelan took to Twitter on Tuesday to reveal that he won’t be playing in the CIMB Classic this week in Malaysia due to a passport issue.”
  • “In July, it was realizing his visa to the United Kingdom had expired that put Vegas in jeopardy of missing the Open. It was hectic, but he did indeed make it.”
  • “He explained Tuesday, though, that no such scenario will play out with the CIMB Classic….” Súper disappointed not going to@CIMBClassic this week in Malaysia due to my passport expiring in a 2 months. Unfortunately my country is having some horrible issues and renewing your passport is one of them. Thanks everyone@CIMBClassic for trying to make this happen.”
7. It’s not just JT…
…Brooks has goals too!
AP Report...”One was his annual list of goals that he writes every Jan. 1 during quiet time on the beach, some of them golf specific, some of them about life. He tacks the list in the middle of his closet so he can’t miss it when he’s getting dressed, packing for a trip or getting his watch and wallet.”
  • “I’m definitely ahead of schedule on certain things,” Koepka said Tuesday….No doubt he was referring to winning two majors, which made him the obvious choice as PGA Tour player of the year. His second straight U.S. Open title made him the first back-to-back winner since Curtis Strange in 1988-89. His two-shot victory in the PGA Championship made him only the fifth player in 100 years to win in the same season the two U.S. majors held on different courses.”
  • “And he missed on a few goals…One was to not miss a cut, which ended in Canada with a 77 in the opening round that led to a weekend off. Another was to finish in the top 10 in half of his events.”
  • “And then there was one that made him laugh just to say it….”Stay healthy,” Koepka said.”
8. Players on the rise in 2019
Our resident stats guru, Rich Hunt, worked his magic to forecast the players who ought to be seeing better results in 2019 (and those who won’t).
Here’s how he does it…”At the end of each season, I compile data on every PGA Tour player and then analyze which players are on the rise and the decline for the upcoming season. There are a number of variables that are historically quality indicators of a golfer’s future performance such as age, club speed, adjusted scoring average, etc.
“I tend to focus on what I call The Cornerstones of the Game, however, and these Cornerstones include
* Driving Effectiveness
* Red Zone Play (approach shots from 175-225 yards)
* Short Game shots (from 10-20 yards)
* Putting (5-15 feet)
* Ball Speed
“All that is needed to execute the Cornerstones of the Game is for the player to be in the top-half on the PGA Tour in each metric. That’s the beauty of the concept; a player does not need to be dominant in each metric. He can simply be average at each metric and it increases his likelihood of not only having a great season, but recording a PGA Tour victory. I can then use the Cornerstones concept to more accurately project players on the rise for the following season.”
To see who he forecasts rising and falling, check out the piece.
9. For your listening pleasure…
ICYMI: Our Andrew Tursky has expanded the GolfWRX podcast repertoire with “Monday’s Off.” Now a few episodes in, the pod features Tursky and club pro Steve Westphal.
  • This week, the pair discuss whether PGA Tour swing coaches are underrated or overrated. Also, they discuss Koepka vs. DJ, Tiger’s best swing ever, and Westphal explains why coaching high-handicaps is more difficult than coaching good players.

 

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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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