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Tour Rundown: Pepperell wins the British masters, Leishman wins in Malaysia, Langer wins again

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October, and the trees are stripped bare, of all they wear. U2

Perhaps it’s due to its status as my birth month, or something larger and deeper. October is a raw month, as April was cruel for Eliot. It is raw in its golf, too. Of the four events played this week, only one took place in the USA. Touring professionals left the summer of majors behind, to journey globally, in search of answers and questions. They went to Malaysia, England and Korea (and let’s not forget, North Carolina.) Names both familiar and emerging claimed trophies, and the game marched on. Here’s a Sunday rundown of all things tour, mid-October.

CIMB in Malaysia in Leishman’s hands

Marc Leishman’s brilliance with golf cudgels is know well to his touring brethren. To the golfing public, which measures fame in little more than major victories, he is an enigma. And here was Leishman, on Sunday at Kuala Lumpur, schooling playing partner Gary Woodland and the rest of the field with a brilliant 65. There were lower scores, but just barely (a pair of 64s.) Leishman had 62 earlier in the week, but was a wee bit overlooked, as Woodland had 61 the same day. On Sunday, there was no mistaking the two. Leishman rushed from the gate with birdies on hole 2 through 5, scarcely glancing rearward at the trailers. He summited 26 strokes beneath par, equalling the tournament record and placing him five clear of the runners-up. Woodland tried to keep pace, but fell off the rails midway through the inward half. 3 bogeys in 5 holes did him in, dropping him back to a tie for 5th at -20. 2nd spot on the podium belonged to the american trio of Emiliano Grillo (Argentina), Chesson Hadley and Bronson Burgoon (both USA). The victory compelled Leishman to 2nd spot on the young FedEx Cup list for 2018-19.

Hana Bank belongs to Dumbo

If In Gee Chun had her way, the golfer nicknamed Dumbo would scamper off by gobs of strokes with each tournament. Owner of an unfortunate 0-3 record in LPGA Tour playoffs, the Korean golfer wants no part of extra holes. While 3rd-round leader Charley Hull of England struggled with birdie-bogey runs, Chun birdied 4 of her first 6 holes and separated herself by 3 strokes from the field. Out in 31, she resisted the lure of a 10th-hole bogey and added 2 more birdies to reach 16-under par. Hull and company could not close the gap, and the Englishwoman settled for 2nd at -13. Chun began the week with matching 70s, to place herself inside the top 20, but not yet a threat. Her weekend was nearly flawless, as she matched 66s on Saturday and Sunday, to emerge from the multitude. The win was her first, non-major victory on the LPGA Tour, coming after triumphs at the 2015 US Open and the 2016 Evian Championship.

Ace, Ace, Baby propels Pepperell to British Masters title

It was a rugged, mucky affair on Sunday at Walton Heath, born of the talented hand of architect Herbert Fowler. Eddie Pepperell, who spends a fair amount of time mucking around on Twitter, was the man for the job. He began the day at -9, and ended the day at that figure. Most times, even par gets you nowhere on tour; on this particular Sunday, it got you to the top of the podium. Pepperell had four eagles on the week, including an ace on Thursday and the hole-out below for a deuce on Sunday. The winner made a massive putt for par on 14, which probably saved his round. He bogeyed 15 and 16 to let Alexander Bjork into the tournament. The Swede was unable to capitalize, bogeying 18 to offer Pepperell a 2-stroke advantage at the home hole. The Englishman finished in proper form, getting up and down for par from a greenside bunker to win by a pair.

By the way, if you want a crack at Fowler in North America, visit Eastward Ho! on Cape Cod (which he built) or Pebble Beach, whose 18th hole he extended to its current glory.

SAS Championship almost never in doubt for Bernhard Langer

Bernhard Langer made a single bogey in 54 holes this week. The inconceivable occurrence happened precisely at the midway point of the tournament, on the 27th hole of SAS Championship. Astronomers at the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico acknowledged a slight orbital shift at that very moment, while CERN scientists reported … oh, never mind. Langer had made 8 birdies in 9, back-nine holes on Friday for 29 on the par-37 side. It was ultimately his week, although Gene Sauers kept pace for a while. The duo matched 62-67 through 36 holes, but Sunday was all Germany. Langer had 7 birdies on the day for 65, leaving him 6 strokes clear of 2nd-place Scott Parel. Sauers struggled in round three, tumbling all the way to a tie for 5th spot, after a +3 75.

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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.

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Morning 9: Why Rose signed with Honma | The incredible story of Jose de Jesus Rodriguez

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

January 16, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Why Rose signed with Honma
John Strege talked with Justin Rose about the rationale for his shock decision to jump ship and sign with relatively unknown in the U.S., Tour presence-lacking Honma.
  • “Yet it wasn’t woods or irons that precipitated Rose’s decision to look beyond the most popular brands and opt for a brand well known in Asia but virtually a nonentity in the U.S. and European markets. It was the opportunity to choose any putter and what that represents to an elite golfer-freedom from club contracts that require a player’s entire set come from their equipment benefactor.”
  • “That was a big factor in having that flexibility,” Rose said at Honma’s official North American launch Monday at Riviera Country Club. “The putter was a huge reason why this conversation [with Honma] started. I’ve continued, fortunately, to be surprised at every step of the way with the products Honma has been able to produce.”
  • “The putter that Rose is eyeing right now is the Axis1, even less well known than Honma but a true expression of the freedom of choice he’s now focused on. Honma, too, offered Rose the ability to have input into the design of the irons, including the TW 747 Rose Prototype muscle back irons, at least some of which he will have in play on Thursday. Collaboration has become one of Rose’s motivating principles.”
2. Dou in front
After a 2018 season to forget, Zecheng “Marty” Dou is in position to start the new year on a much more positive note.
  • Dou shot a 5-under 67 in the third round of the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, turning a two-shot deficit into a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the season opener on the Web.com Tour.
  • Dou earned a PGA Tour card via the Web.com circuit in 2017, but his debut on the big stage last year didn’t go as planned. The 21-year-old missed the cut or withdrew in 19 of 23 starts, failing to register a single top-50 result.
  • Faced with a demotion for 2019, Dou has gotten off to a nearly ideal start in the Bahamas and sits at 16 under, three shots clear of John Oda, after recording seven birdies in the third round. Oda started with a two-shot lead but dropped after an even-par 72.

Full piece. 

3. LPGA gets it taste of the new rules…
Will Gray of Golf Channel...”With the LPGA Tour back in action this week, pros will play under the revised 2019 Rules for the first time.”
  • “Randall Mell writes…”The practice has always been more prevalent in LPGA than PGA Tour events, but you won’t see it in this week’s LPGA season opener, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, or any other events.”
  • “No lining up is the greatest change in all the rules,” Lewis said.
  • “Brittany Lincicome and her long-time caddie, Missy Pederson, are among tandems who will be getting used to new routines. Lincicome was among pros who used her caddie for alignment….”The lining up thing is going to be fine,” Lincicome said. “I know how to do it. I play every day of my life at home without my caddie lining me up.”

Full piece.

4. Jose de Jesus Rodriguez
Cameron Morfit on the incredible story of Jose de Jesus Rodriguez.
  • A morsel….”The first time I saw him on the driving range, I thought this guy is unbelievable,” says Mike Dwyer, a club caddie who began working for Rodríguez a week before he won his first Web.com Tour title last April. “It’s just a pure swing, it’s not technical; it’s not going to go away. It’s just so rhythmic; the timing of it is always money, it’s free-flowing. Just straight back and let it rip, all feel. And then when I saw his short game, I thought, this guy has got it all.”
  • “In one sense, Rodríguez is unremarkable. He went from the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada to PGA TOUR Latinoamerica to the Web.com Tour to the PGA TOUR. He got married, had a few kids. It’s just that his journey included dropping out of school at age 12 to help his family put food on the table. And setting out for America three years later for the same reason.”
  • “And always, to this day, feeling like an outsider….””It’s a game of rich people,” he says, describing the occasional voice of doubt in his head. “When you have nothing, you think they’re going to look at you and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ But my wife said, ‘No, you go play. It’s the golf clubs that talk. You have money, you don’t have money, the clubs don’t care.'”
5. Sanderson Farms no longer an alternate event
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…”On Tuesday Sanderson Farms officials, along with the PGA Tour, announced the Jackson-based event has graduated from its alternate status-it’s been opposite the WGC-HSBC in recent years, along with the Open Championship and Ryder and Presidents Cups-to become a stand-alone competition for the 2019-’20 season.
  • “We would like to thank Joe Sanderson and Sanderson Farms for their continued commitment to Mississippi’s PGA Tour event,” said Andy Pazder, PGA Tour chief competitions and tournaments officer. “The partnership between the PGA Tour and the Sanderson Farms Championship is unique in that Joe Sanderson has been selfless with his intentions for the tournament and the State of Mississippi. Because of Joe’s vision for growing the state’s largest professional sporting event, this stand-alone date will further elevate the tournament’s stature and provide an even better experience for fans attending the Sanderson Farms Championship.”
6. Waugh on cynicism
Geoff Shackelford… “New PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh sat down with Morning Read’s Adam Schupak to discuss his vision for the PGA as a the United Nations of golf and several other topics. He may have said too much, oh, throughout most of the chat.”
  • “There’s a natural cynicism of the members about HQ. There’s this feeling that we get to drive our courtesy cars and we’re sitting down there in Florida and all this money is rolling in and, What’s in it for me? I’ve got three kids going off to school, and my lesson book is going down, and I don’t have any health care and whatever. They’re right.”
  • “Well that’s why that cynicism has been natural all these years….We have to figure that out if we want this to work. We have an army of 29,000 people who are the best army in the game to make it better. We need to figure out how to make their lives better and incent them to do the things to make that all happen. The selfish thing is, if we figure it out, we’ll have a more passionate group to get it done for us. That’s what I’m hoping, and that’s why I’m here.”
7. More from Whan on pay disparity
How important is it to you that the PGA and LPGA tour have the same prize money for this new award?
“Before being commissioner, I was a sponsor. I’ve written checks to every sport, and I get it, you pay for what that entity can deliver. And we deliver about a fourth of the eyeballs the PGA Tour does week in and week out, and that translates about to what we play for. That’s not something have to have a sponsor solve, that’s something we have to solve. But it’s really encouraging that in the last few years sponsors have come to me with some real foundational moves in the direction of payment equality. When CME came to me and said they wanted a winner’s check of $1.5 million, I wasn’t there pleading for a higher purse, they came to us. When AON said we want to pay the men and the women the same for this competition, it wasn’t a mandate from me in our agreement. So, you asked how important it is, I think the importance is that it wasn’t my idea. Companies are bringing it to me, not the other way around. We have a lot to do to solve payment inequality, and it has nothing to do with sponsors. But when sponsors say it’s what I want to do because it’s the right thing to do, then I think we’re seeing a really good shift happening.”
8. Kerr carrying on
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”Cristie Kerr appeared on Golf Channel as a guest analyst last weekend, offering insight during the Golf Central pregame show leading into the Sony Open. Kerr isn’t thinking of retiring anytime soon, but the idea of doing a little television work when she’s not playing seemed appealing.
  • Kerr, a 41-year-old mother of two, has always been one of the best quotes in the women’s game. She’s not afraid to offer an opinion and rarely delivers one of those bland, programmed responses that have become the norm.”
  • “Want a straight answer? Ask C.K….”I’m not going to put a limit on it,” said Kerr, when asked if her timeline for playing had changed now that she’s a mother of two boys.”
9. Rose’s Honma sticks
Our Johnny Wunder got a look a Justin Rose’s new Honma setup at a launch event California the other day.
Driver: Honma TW 747 460 9.5
Shaft: Honma Vizard FD-7X 45.25 @D3
3-wood: TaylorMade M4 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Orange 80TX
5-wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Orange 80TX
Irons: TW747V (4,5), TW747 Rose Proto (5-10)
Shafts: KBS Tour C-Taper 125 S+
Wedges: Honma Custom Grind RAW (52, 56 degrees), Titleist Vokey Wedge Works (60, K-Grind)
Shafts: KBS Hi-Rev 2.0 135XS
Putter: Axis 1 Proto
Ball: TaylorMade TP5
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Paul Casey IS testing Honma irons (but he IS NOT a Honma staffer)

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paul-casey-honma-iron-pc

It turns out, Paul Casey is not the second PGA Tour staffer (after Justin Rose) to sign with Honma.

Two weeks ago, the Englishman sent the golf equipment world was sent into a frenzy when a photo of him with an apparent Honma iron in play at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Casey took to Instagram to confirm that he did in fact have a Honma 3-iron in play. However, well, here it is from the horse’s mouth…

“Still testing these beauties. Contrary to reports I started the season with almost the exact same setup that I used during the latter half of last year. Including the Ryder Cup. The only change being a new @honmagolf 3 iron that was photographed in play at Kapalua”

“These beauties” would seem to include a full set of Rose Proto-esque irons (with “PC” stamping instead of “Rose Proto”). It seems the 3-iron was Honma’s TW-U Forged utility iron.

With respect to his setup from last season, Casey played a combo set of Mizuno MP-25 irons (3) and MP-5 irons (4-PW). TaylorMade woods, Vokey Wedges, and a Scotty Cameron putter rounded out his set, which you can see here.

Casey has been without a full bag deal since his 2016 Nike deal (although he was under contract to play TaylorMade woods in 2017).

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Morning 9: Kuchar’s “Not a story” still a story | LPGA commish pushing for pay parity | Grassy shoe

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

January 15, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Further thoughts on Kuchar, caddie payola
Whether Kuchar stiffed El Toucan or not, the story is far from dead…especially in light of at least one additional pro suggesting Kuch has a reputation for…thriftiness.
  • Here’s a bit from Geoff Shackelford, who quotes a Joel Beall piece and offers his own perspective.
  • “Does this constitute a story? That’s the question GolfDigest.com’s Joel Beall asks and does a nice job answering after a fellow golf pro called out what he saw as Matt Kuchar’s substandard pay to a caddie last fall.
  • “(Beall writes…) Kuchar’s case, however, felt different, for it wasn’t a tip as it was wages owed. The optics alone-a veteran with $46 million in career earnings low-balling a man who makes less than $46,000 a year-were damning. That Gillis’ previous blast of Ben Crane over an unpaid bet to Daniel Berger proved accurate wasn’t helping, nor was Australian pro Cameron Percy’s reply of, “It’s not out of character if true.”
  • “The irony in this escapade like other recent episodes cited by Beall: this was started and fueled by one of Kuchar’s peers, not a media outlet. …As players have increasingly shunned media for social media to break news or tell their story, it’s fascinating how many examples we’ve already seen of players calling out fellow players on social media in ways more harsh and reputation-damaging than a traditional media outlet would dare.”

Full piece (including a link to Beall’s article)

2. Oda overcomes
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine writes…”John Oda overcame a double bogey Monday to maintain his lead at the Web.com Tour’s season opener.”
  • “The UNLV product offset his double on the par-4 fifth hole with six birdies as part of a second-round, 4-under 68. At 13 under, Oda leads the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay by two shots over Marty Dou, who carded a second-round 66.”
  • “For the second straight day, play was suspended because of darkness. Three groups will have to finish their second rounds Tuesday morning…”
3. Glass half full/half empty
A Reuters report identifies two things: the LPGA Tour will feature its largest collective purse ever this year, and that pursue is nowhere near what PGA Tour players will play for.
“The LPGA season kicks off on Thursday for a season that will comprise 34 events and distribute some $70 million in prize money, a record amount for the circuit although it is still barely one-fifth on offer on the PGA Tour.”
  • “The discrepancy roughly parallels the difference in television ratings in the United States between the tours, according to LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, with the women mainly shown on the smaller audience Golf Channel while the men’s circuit is broadcast on free-to-air network television.”
  • “The difference in purses is the difference in total viewership,” Whan told Reuters in a television interview ahead of the Tournament of Champions season opener that will be held in Florida.
  • “There is a real business reason. It’s based on real data. I understand it. I was a sponsor before a commissioner.
  • “It doesn’t mean I like it, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. Seven or eight years ago it wouldn’t have been one fifth. We’re up 80 percent in purses since 2010.”
4. Hosung Choi to make PGA Tour debut?
Our Gianni Magliocco writes…”Hosung Choi, a two-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour and internet sensation, is set to make his first PGA Tour appearance of his career after being handed an invitation to compete at next month’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, according to multiple Korean media outlets.”
5. Spieth the victim?
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell argues that the real-time stats, day trader mentality, and abundance of scrutiny have combined for a hyperfocus on the putting stroke of one Jordan Spieth. And it’s hard to believe this is doing him any favors.
  • “Is former Tiger coach Hank Haney’s opinion that there’s a yip in Spieth’s putting stroke a short-term liability, or a long-term one? Are Spieth’s back-to-back MCs a trend or an anomaly?”
  • “Coach Sean Foley said Woods was subject to daily referendums when he worked with him.”
  • “Tiger isn’t alone anymore as the subject of intense inspection on web sites, in reader commentaries, Twitter and podcasts. The growing volume of opinion may well be good for the game, nurturing — or inflaming — interest like never before, but it comes at a price for players struggling to reverse a trend. There’s more pressure to produce results than ever before, and to produce them more quickly, before negative opinion becomes tsunamic.”
  • “Fans are more invested in players, with so many more opportunities to follow them online. The PGA Tour’s live streaming allows fans to isolate their viewing of their favorites through an entire round. That’s only going to grow.”
6. What we learned at the Sony
Looking back at the tournament that was, our Ronald Montesano has some observations.
  • “Shorter and Strategic will always have a place on tour…Courses like Waialae (restored by Doak and team) and Harbor Town offer less-than-long hitters an opportunity to showcase their talents. Remember last fall’s Ryder Cup? Team Europe neutralized the length advantage of the USA at Le Golf National, and rolled to victory. Great courses from a bygone era will charm  competitors and fans alike, and the essence of proper golf course architecture will never fade from fashion.”
  • “Ryder Cup snubs lead to resurgence…Last week, we discussed the Xander Schauffele snub by USA Ryder Cup team captains. This week, the veteran most expected to make the team (Kuchar) won a second time since that international competition. Nothing sparks the competitive fires like being told that you aren’t good enough. Kuchar’s multiple international caps weren’t enough to secure a spot in France, but he is playing like he wants Tiger Woods (2019 President’s Cup captain) to know that he plans to return to Team USA pronto. We think that the fans support his cause.”
7. Valentino Dixon to exhibit in NYC
Rightly, Golf Digest’s Max Adler with the story...”…you might say Dixon’s true arrival into the professional art scene occurs this week. January 17-20, doors open to the 27th Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York. Alongside 67 exhibitors representing 37 cities from 7 countries, will hang the golf landscapes whose creation subsisted the soul of an innocent artist locked inside a cell.
  • “To have my drawings showcased in New York City, the art capital of the world, it’s a dream come true,” Dixon says. “I feel like this is redemption for my teachers at the Buffalo Performing Arts High School. For so long I had let them down.”
8. Two holes-in-one in four holes?
Tony Korologos at Hooked on Golf...”So what are the odds of getting two aces in one round? How about two aces on the front nine? This past weekend at the Coral Canyon Amateur tournament in St. George, Utah, Kirk Siddens did just that…”
  • “The odds of two golfers in a group making an ace on the same hole is 26 million to 1. The odds of making back to back aces are around 50 million to 1. So somewhere in there lies the odds of one golfer getting a hole in one in four holes, or two consecutive par 3’s. I say let’s call it 37.75 million to 1.”
9. Air Max 1 golf shoe: grass edition
Golf Digest’s Brittany Romano…”Sneaker News leaked Nike’s newest golf shoe drop that has everyone talking. The star design features a green grass shoe with what appears to be a turf-like covering. The “grass” is complemented by a thick white midsole and throwback rubber outsole. The shoe is a remix of the iconic Air Max 1 sneaker that became popular in 1987 as the first shoe to feature visible air pockets in the midsole.”
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