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GolfWRX Morning 9: LPGA players pressured to withdraw? | Pete Dye’s final chapter | BK + DJ + badminton

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

October 24, 2018

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans. If I may say so: Go Sox! I was lucky enough to attend Game 6 of the ALCS in 2013, and I’m not ashamed to say, Victorino’s 7th-inning grand slam remains the ecstatic pinnacle of my life.
1. No choking for Zinger
AP Report…”Paul Azinger used to say for years that the only thing that made a player choke was cash or prestige. So he’s not afraid to use the word “choke.”
  • “Just don’t expect to hear it when he takes over for Johnny Miller on NBC Sports next year. Azinger has pledged to call the shots the way he sees them — that’s the advice Miller has given him — but he has a different perspective when it comes to his vocabulary.”
  • “I’m not afraid to use that word, but I’m not going to stick it on somebody because I don’t think that’s fair,” Azinger said during a conference call to announce his hiring by NBC. “It’s irresponsible as a broadcaster to do that. I want to help build their brand, not tear them down, and I want to do it in the way that I do it.”
Build their brand!
2. Pressured to withdraw?
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”China’s Shanshan Feng and Yu Liu withdrew from this week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship after being told by someone “high up” in China to skip the event, according to Reuters.”
  • “The withdrawals come amid growing political tension with China ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan…The LPGA confirmed that Feng and Liu withdrew, with Celine Boutier and Gaby Lopez replacing them as alternates. Feng and Liu were on the published field list as late as Monday.”
  • “Ruby Chen, the Shanghai-based agent for Feng and Liu, told Reuters there wasn’t any pressure put on the players to withdraw but the news service said Chen declined to comment on why they were withdrawing, except to say it was a scheduling decision.”
3. Pete Dye’s final chapter
Sam Weinman visits with Alice and Pete Dye, files a touching, sad report for Digest.
  • A morsel…”How can this not end on a sad note? This entire situation is sad, even tragic. Iconic golf-course designer Pete Dye, author of TPC Sawgrass, Crooked Stick, the Ocean Course at Kiawah, Whistling Straits and many others, a genuine genius at his craft, member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Alice’s husband of 68 years, the love of her life, sits in a rocker some 10 feet from us, seemingly oblivious to our presence.”
  • “He looks healthy, maybe a bit puffy in the face, remarkably good for nearly 93 years old. But time has robbed him of his verve. He’s now almost childlike, his attention not on us, but on a rerun of “Gunsmoke” on television. In the good old days, 30 years ago or three, I couldn’t have had a conversation with Alice without Pete jumping in. Likewise, if I’d ask Pete a question, Alice would invariably cut him off with the answer.”
4. Badminton diplomacy
Martin Dempster at the Scotsman…”The only feathers flying were those in a shuttlecock as Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson put their reported differences during the Ryder Cup behind them to join forces on the same side of the net in a badminton match in China. Organised as part of the build up to this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, the pair put on a united front as they joined Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari in trying their hand at one of China’s biggest sports.
“This is the first event that Koepka and Johnson – known as the “Bash Brothers” due to their similar big-hitting styles – have both played in since claims that they were involved in two separate bust-ups around the time of the Ryder Cup…”
5. 10 yards a world of difference makes
Perhaps overlooked/not mentioned enough in assessing Champion Golfer of the Year, Francesco Molinari’s strong 2018 season: he gained 10 yards off the tee this past year.
  • Sean Martin at PGATour.com...”Molinari and his longtime swing coach, Denis Pugh, started the search for extra yards several years ago. There were some obvious ways for Molinari to hit it farther, but such a change doesn’t come without risk. Several players have lost their way in the quest for extra yardage.
  • “Molinari changed his swing, his equipment and strategy….”My swing was very compact and very simple so it was probably easier for me than some other guys to find ways to get more swing speed and ball speed,” Molinari said. “It’s a very delicate work.”
  • “He also hit the gym…”I was more of a couch guy a few years ago,” he said.”
A couch guy! Full story.
6. How good do you need to be at golf to earn a college scholarship?
Our resident college golf guru, Brendan Ryan, looks at the scoring average and scoring differential at the various tiers.
  • For DI…”Division I Men’s Golf, the No. 1 team in Golfstat Cup finished with a scoring average of 69.99. The last team to make regionals (Michigan State) had an average score for their top four of 72.86. The 125th team at the end of the year last year was UC Riverside. The best player on the team averaged 73.93 for the year, while the fourth player averaged 77.51. Dartmouth was the 200th team had three players average better than 75 with the fourth player averaging 76.74.”
  •  “In Division I Women’s, the No. 1 team in Golfstat Cup was Alabama which boasted an average of 70.93 among their top four. The last team to make regionals on the women’s side was Missouri. For the season, Missouri had a stroke average of 295.4. The 100th best team was Georgetown, with a scoring average of 303.64 (75.91 per player). The 200th best team in women’s golf was Appalachian State women’s golf. They had a team average of 312 (78 per player).”
7. Bye, bye, Sky?

The folks at Bunkered connect the dots...”The current broadcast deal between the PGA Tour and Sky Sports ends in 2022 and the chances of a new deal being struck for beyond then appears to be getting slimmer.”

“That’s because golf’s most lucrative circuit announced yesterday that it was launching an international on-demand streaming service next year, with it scheduled to be available in the UK from, you guessed it, 2022.”
8. Mark Wilson: announcer
Injuries have plagued the 43-year-old over the past couple of years, forcing him to rely on sponsor’s exemptions and play off his past champion exempt status on the PGA Tour over the past couple of seasons and making some Web.com Tour starts, where he’s enjoyed limited success. Wilson announced on Tuesday that he will make his broadcasting debut on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive during the week of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, the site of one of Wilson’s five tour wins.

“We came to the realization that I’m not going to play professional golf full time anymore,” Wilsontold Wisconsin.Golf’s Gary D’Amato earlier this month. “I’m thinking there’s going to be less nights where I wake up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘What if I change my grip just a little bit that way?'” Wilson said. “I can go to the golf course and have a little more fun at it instead of always be thinking about preparation for my next golf tournament.” (Golf Digest)

9. Yodi the chihuahua
Helen Ross talked with Jonathan Randolph about, among other things, his well-traveled canine.
“There are days when an excited Yodi entertains her humans by running circles around the hotel room. And she’s happy to help Randolph when he practices putting on the carpet, picking up golf balls and bringing them back to him.”
“Yodi is still getting used to the new addition to the family, though. When Lacy picks Boyd up, for example, Yodi clamors to be in her arms as well.”
“She’s definitely gotten jealous, but also shows off like crazy when she knows he’s watching and she’s playing,” Randolph says. “She’ll start high stepping around and doing stuff to make him happy, which is pretty awesome.”
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  1. Tom

    Oct 24, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Really? Couldn’t find somebody better than Azinger? Thank goodness for the mute button.

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Not even gaoth and basiteach could stop Lowry’s march to the Open Championship

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In Gaelic, gaoth is wind, and basiteach is rain. Don’t ask for a pronunciation lesson, however. Neither of those elemental forces offered much opposition to Shane Lowry, in his essentially, wire-to-wire victory in the 148th playing of the Open Championship.

10 years after he won the Irish Open, as an amateur no less, on the same golf course, Lowry returned to Royal Portrush and held off Tommy Fleetwood to win his first major championship. We’ve identified 5 keys to victory, and are pleased to relate them below. It was a glorious week in Portrush, and our return should not be too far off in the future.

1. The atmosphere

In Scotland, it’s the craic; in Ireland, it’s the shebeen. That wondrous, celebratory mood that transcends age, weather, and any conceivable obstacle. Lowry withstood a short, missed putt in 2009, and here he was again, a decade later, in similar circumstances. Eager to lay away the burden of his 2016 US Open loss to Dustin Johnson, Lowry breathed in the environment with enthusiasm. Eschewing a Saturday evening of monastic contemplation, he and his caddie went out for a pint or two. It was the craic and the shebeen that carried him on its shoulders, to victory.

2. The quick starts

There was no doubt that Brooks Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, had much experience going round the Portrush. Trouble was, Brooks didn’t. His putting abandoned him for four straight days. In complete contrast, Lowry appeared to make every roll in site, until Sunday. By then, no one was making putts. Have a glance at these starts for the burly Lowry:

  • Thursday: -2 through 7
  • Friday: -5 through 8
  • Saturday: -2 through 7
  • Sunday: -2 through 7

Never once did he get off with a struggle. 11-under par each day, heading to the back nine, was a whale of an advantage. Many will point to the glorious birdies he made over a closing hole or two, but it was that knowledge that the outward half was his, that doubtless buoyed his spirits.

3. Grace while scrambling

It would be fitting that, in some dialectal variation of a communication system, the word Lowry or a derivative, meant Big man with soft hands. His driving was exquisite all week, but in order to secure birdies, he needed to chase it on here, bump it on there, flop it on here, and roll it up there. The launch pad made no difference: short grass, thick stuff, or sand. Lowry was on point from start to finish. If it were a Ryder Cup year, the European captain would doubtless search for a partner for the Irish Hagrid. As it is, they have plenty of time to figure out how to use this latest weapon.

4. Consistently great play

Not once all week did Lowry make a fortunate bogey. Even as he gave a shot or two away  (8 bogies in total, 5 in the final round) he was never on the brink of disaster. Near as the cliffs and the causeway were for some, Lowry never dance along gravity’s edge. The entirety of the week was an artisan’s master class. Fortunate us, we have the video to review, to review what Lowry taught us in real time.

5. The fan support

There’s a difference between atmosphere and fan support. Atmosphere is for the fans, and can distract the player if he allows it. Support needs nor writing nor speech; it is felt by the intended recipient and utilized to will shots toward their target. After Clarke, McDowell and McIlroy gave evidence that they would not challenge for the title of Champion Golfer of the Year, Lowry became a de facto Ulsterman. And why not? County Westmeath borders County Cavan, and the later is one of the 3 non-Northern Ireland counties of Ulster. There was great affection and appreciation for each competitor this week, but a special warmth was reserved for the eventual champion.

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5 things we learned on Saturday at The Open Championship

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On Saturday, the Royal and Ancient announced that tee times would be moved up on Sunday, in anticipation of, well, British Open golf weather. Cue head scratch and chin stroke. At least the organizers didn’t opt for split tees or some other, silly-American addition to the game. On Saturday, we again watched the ebb and flow of Royal Portrush. The “strike early and hold on late” mantra that has characterized this tournament.

On Saturday, we marveled at one man’s near-mastery of this wondrous, Harry Colt design, whose absence from the Open Championship rota must never be repeated. To limit ourselves to five things learned is lamentable, but it is both burden and duty. Accordingly, here are the 5 things that we learned from Saturday’s 3rd round of the Open Championship.

1. European golf fans are marvelous, while American ones have much to learn

“Ole, ole ole ole” is the most supportive thing you can hear on a golf course. Not bah-bah-black sheep, err, booey, not mashed potatoes. Today, the “ole” was replaced with “Lowry,” in tribute to the Irish champion. There is community in European events, and much as they want their golfer to win, they support everyone who plays proper golf. There will be no appeal here to the wags who insist on cementing their unfortunate place in history as burdensome; instead, we tip our cap to the great golfing fans of Northern Ireland, who carry all who compete on the wings of appreciation.

2. Shane Lowry is happy to dream a dream

Don’t wake him just yet, thank you very much. Another 24 hours of this hypnagogic state will suit him well. The Irishman had 8 birdies on Saturday, for 63 and 197. He has 19 birdies and a mere 3 bogeys on the week. He sits at 16 shots below par, 4 clear of his nearest pursuer. No, it’s not over. It has barely begun. Royal Portush has shown that it will cede a low score to great golf, so a 62 is not out of the realm of the possible.

In truth, perhaps a dozen golfers have a chance, but you would be challenged to find a better selection of challengers. Justin Rose, Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood are four Englishmen who would love to lift the Claret jug in triumph on Sunday. Brooks Koepka, J.B. Holmes and Rickie Fowler represent the American contingent who hope to spirit the trophy away to a distant shore. And lest we forget, the young Spaniard, Jon Rahm, continues to take steps toward the highest echelon of championship golf. Above them all sits Lowry, current occupant of the Iron Throne. He has lost a final-round lead in a major event before. Sunday will give him a chance to demonstrate all that he has learned in the interim.

3. Brooks Koepka blueprints major championship golf

Speaking of Koepka, he’s still here. He birdied 17 and 18, just as viewers and fans were convinced that this tournament had left his domain. Only the envious and the haters (cousins to the envious) find fault with his golf game. They attempt to marginalize his skill set, focusing in desperation on his power, calling him one dimensional. In truth, we haven’t yet seen his best. He has reached -9 with a B+/A- effort at best. If the cylinders that fired for Lowry on Saturday, find their way to Koepka’s engine on Sunday, he will claim the title. It’s not possible to say that confidently nor currently about any other golfer than him.

 

4. Tommy Fleetwood will have his major opportunity on Sunday

The Englishman did what he needed to do on Saturday, to secure the coveted pairing with Lowry in round 4. Fleetwood made 5 birdies on the day, and didn’t threaten to make worse than par. The only difference between his round and that of the leader, was his concluding run of 6 pars. Reverse hole 15-17, and Fleetwood sits at -15, while Lowry resides at -13. Fleetwood has been accurate as a laser this week, and he will need to repeat that performance from both tee and fairway, to give himself a chance at victory.

5. What will the weather bring?

Wind, for one thing. For three days, competitors have dictated the shape of their shots. On Sunday, that right will not be theirs. Winds from the left, from the right, from every possible angle, will demand that golfers play shots low, under and through the gusts, to reach their targets. Rain, for another thing. The moisture will thicken the rough, allowing balls to drop deep into the native grasses. It will cause shots to squirt sideways, perhaps down a ravine, perhaps worse. If what is predicted, comes to pass, we’re in for an entirely-new tournament over the final 18 holes.

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5 things we learned Friday at The Open Championship

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36 holes have come and gone, unexpected early departures happened for Jason Day, Tiger Woods, and all the amateurs, while unexpected extensions were granted to Paul Waring, Matt Wallace, and Innchoon Hwang. Royal Portrush was kinder in the morning than the afternoon, for the second consecutive day. What does that mean? It means that whoever has the lead today will be pressed to hold on through Saturday, then rinse and repeat for Sunday. In other words, more drama than a Snap.

Have a quick glance at what we deemed to be the five most important things we learned on Friday at #TheOpenChampionship.

1. What a difference a day makes! Wipeout Guy tosses 65 on Friday

Justin Harding is a good stick, for a tumbler. He won in Qatar this year on the European Tour, so let’s not define him by one swing of the golf club (even though we are going to show it below.) Harding uncovered 6 birdies and 1 eagle around Royal Portrush Friday morning, jumping from Even Par to, well, minus-six, with the first 65 of the week. He might win a skin for that 7th-hole eagle, if the fellows are playing for skins today. If not, He’s certainly positioned for an afternoon tee time on Saturday. Harding tied for 12th at the Masters in April, and made the cut at Bethpage in the PGA; his major-championship experience grows even more this weekend.

2. Meet The Woods

No, not the one with stripes. He’s down the road, after missing the cut. It’s early on Friday, but Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood may very well peg it together on Saturday afternoon. The English pair posted identical rounds of 68-67 over 2 days, to reach 7-below par. They find themselves tied for 3rd, behind JB Holmes and Shane Lowry. Prepare yourselves for announcers to dance around Lee having won no majors over his career, and Tommy looking to match his Ryder Cup bro, Francesco Molinari, with an Open Championship of his own. So predictable! What’s not predictable, is how the two will play on day three of the Portrush Summer Invitational.

3. Rory is the story of the 2019 Open Championship

Yes, there will be a winner on Sunday. Indeed, there will also be runners-up and various degrees of elation and disappointment. No one will come close to doing what Rory McIlroy did over the first 36 holes … and he didn’t even make the cut! David Duval spoke as much for Rory as for himself on Thursday, when he unequivocally mandated that a professional golfer signs the scorecard. Rory’s opening 8 was just a bit less gory than his closing 7. He missed a 12-inch putt on Thursday. On Friday, facing the worse of the weather draws, he tied the low round of the tournament with 65, 14 strokes better than his day-one offering. When the final flag stick was replaced in the 18th hole, he had missed the cut by those 12 inches. Odds are long that he would have challenged for the title over the weekend. McIlroy would have needed another low round to get to -5 or so, and would have needed everyone to back up substantially. In the end, he wore his home colors proudly, he never gave up, and he gave us something to cheer for, and to learn from.

4. J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry might be cousins, in a parallel universe

Our co-leaders each sport a beard, a barrel chest, and an ability to hit the long ball when it matters. Both appear unflappable thus far, and both have exhibited an ability to go on a tear. The only thing we have yet to see from either is, the guts to come back from a rotten break or a really bad hole. If neither one faces that ultimatum, they might be in a playoff come Sunday afternoon. Lowry had a chance to separate from the pack by 3-4 strokes. He reached -10 with his 6th birdie of the day, on number 10, but that would be the final, sub-par hole of the day for him. The Irishman bogeyed 2 holes coming in, dropping back to -8 with Holmes. As neither has a major title on the resume, neither has demonstrated the capacity for success on the oldest stage. Should be an interesting pairing on Saturday afternoon.

5. So many lurkers!

Justin Rose…2 strokes back. Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Brooks Koepka…3 shots behind. Four in arrears are Finau, Rahm, Kuchar and Reed. Many majors, much potential, and a lot of power in those 8 names. Yes, we’ll miss the guys who aren’t in contention (Bubba Watson, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell) and the aforementioned ones whose watch ended early. As anticipated a venue as Royal Portrush has been, so too, will the outcome be this weekend. Get your rest, get up early, put on coffee, get some doughnuts, and enjoy breakfast the next two days!

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