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GolfWRX Morning 9: Finau vs. sprinkler head | 20 bucks for Tiger-Phil? | The Buck Club routing revealed

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1. Finau in front…despite a sprinkler head’s best efforts
AP Report…”Tony Finau has enjoyed such a good year that he wasn’t about to let one bad break get him down Friday in the HSBC Champions.”
“Finau had just built a three-shot lead as Patrick Reed began to stumble when Finau hit an approach from the rough on the 11th hole toward the green at Sheshan International. The ball landed on a sprinkler , shot high in the air and rolled over the back and into the hazard. It led to a double bogey and cut his lead to one shot.”
“He had a pair of birdies on the par 5s, laid up on the reachable par-4 16th and made birdie, and wound up with a 5-under 67. That put him at 11-under 133, three shots clear of Reed (72), Tommy Fleetwood (68) and defending champion Justin Rose (67).”
2. More than just a big hitter…
AP Report…”Cameron Champ’s booming drives have made him quite the curiosity during his short time on the PGA TOUR.”
“The rest of his improved game has turned him into a contender this week at the Country Club of Jackson….Champ shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday to take the first-round lead Thursday in the Sanderson Farms Championship.”
“Champ’s drives sliced through the wet, windy and unseasonably cool conditions without much of a problem. On the par-4 18th, he blasted a 347-yard drive and hit his approach to 4 feet to set up his fifth back-nine birdie.”
3. Remembering the day Payne Stewart died
19 years ago yesterday, Payne Stewart and those in his private jet took off from Florida and didn’t return to the earth alive. Golfworld’s Jim Moriarty looks back at the day.
“A morsel of his excellent piece… Van Ardan, one of Payne’s agents, picked him up just after 8 o’clock to go to the airport. The Learjet arrived about 8:10. Robert Fraley, another of Payne’s agents, was dropped off at the airport by his wife, Dixie. Bruce Borland was a last-minute addition to the group. An architect in Jack Nicklaus’ golf course design firm, Borland was anxious to work with Stewart on the new project and traveled up from North Palm Beach to join him on the trip.”
“The Learjet, with its two pilots and four passengers, took off from Orlando International at 9:19 a.m. After a series of altitude clearances, at 9:26 a.m. the pilot was instructed to change radio frequency and contact a Jacksonville controller who cleared the aircraft to climb to, and maintain, flight level 390 to Dallas. The response, “three nine zero bravo alpha,” are the last known words to have been spoken on the airplane.”
4. $19.99!
Press release…”WarnerMedia’s Turner will present Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil, a highly-anticipated, head-to-head match play competition between golf icons Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on Friday, Nov. 23, beginning at high noon PT (3 p.m. ET).  The pay-per-view event, hosted by MGM Resorts International at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, will be widely distributed on PPV with a suggested retail price of $19.99.”
Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil will be available on PPV through Turner’s B/R Live, AT&T’s DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse.  The PPV will be distributed to other cable, satellite and telco operators including Comcast, Charter, Cox, Verizon and Altice in the U.S. and Rogers, Shaw and Bell in Canada through In Demand and Vubiquity (an Amdocs Company). Turner International will facilitate the distribution of live PPV access outside the U.S. and Canada.”
5. Euro Tour schedule
From the folks at Golf Monthly…”The European Tour’s 2019 schedule is set to be released very soon and we know of a few changes ahead of its announcement.”
“There are two huge changes to the schedule, which sees the USPGA Championship move to May and the BMW PGA Championship move to September.”
“While theBritish Masters isn’t currently on the schedule according to reports, there are rumours that it will be returning….Another change is the new event in Saudia Arabia which will take place from January 31st to February 3rd at the Royal Greens Country Club in King Abullah Economic City (KAEC).”
6. Blair reveals Buck Club plans
Our Peter Schmitt on Zac Blair’s reveal of the routing for his dream Utah golf course.
Blair has identified and is in the process of securing a 347-acre site in Morgan, Utah, (about an hour north of Salt Lake City) for the course. He has also selected King Collins Golf (crafters of the aforementioned Sweetens Cove) to co-design the golf course with him and oversee its construction. The team of Blair and King Collins Golf have recently completed a design layout that adds up to a 7,400-yard par 71 from the championship tees. In the words of Blair and Collins
“The architecture will be rooted in the fundamental lessons of The Old Course at St Andrews and the great courses of the classic era of architecture in the United States. Strategic decision making, variety, alternate playing routes, and a bold, quirky flair will be the hallmarks of the playing experience. The legacy of Zac’s favorite course, National Golf Links of America, the brainchild of C.B. MacDonald, weighs heavily on the concept of The Buck Club.
“Using the teachings of history’s greatest architects and C.B. MacDonald as inspiration, every hole at The Buck Club will provoke thought and force players to make decisions on each shot. Alternate routes of attack will be available for golfers of all skill levels, thereby providing ‘pleasurable excitement’ and ‘the greatest pleasure to the greatest number’ in the words of Alister Mackenzie.”
7. Trackman comes to the NFL
A significant coup for the Danish company. Press release…”NBC Sports this weekend will debut television’s first-ever field goal “tracer” on Sunday Night Football, as the New Orleans Saints (5-1) visit the Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1) in a meeting of first-place NFL teams, and a rematch of their memorable 2017 NFC Divisional Playoff.”
“The new SNF Kicks Tracer – an element of SNF Kicks – can map the flight of the football on all field goal attempts. The SNF Kickstechnology will provide additional data including trajectory, speed of the football, and a “good from” statistic which indicates the furthest distance from which a made field goal attempt would have been successful. The SNF Kicks “good from” metric will be utilized for madefield goal attempts of 45-or-more yards, as this is the distance at which kickers typically put more power behind their kicks, making the maximum length measurement more applicable.”
“Using TrackMan technology – utilized and popularized in a longtime partnership with NBC Sports/Golf Channel golf coverage – SNF Kicks determines “good from” on field goal attempts by tracking the football from when it is kicked until the ball hits the net. The full flight measurement along with advanced modeling techniques determines the maximum distance the kick would have been good from, based on both distance and direction (any hook or slice).”
Gotta love the “good from”!
8. A model muni rehab
Golfworld’s Stephen Hennessey with an excellent look at the revitalized “Gus”
He begins…”Houston’s Gus Wortham Municipal Course has roots dating back to 1908, when the original Houston Country Club was routed on the site. It’s the rare piece of property in the sprawling Texas metropolis with elevation changes that make for a scenic, rolling layout. Yet when Steve Timms, president and CEO of the Houston Golf Association, walked the city-owned course in the early 2010s, scenic was hardly the word he’d use to describe what he saw. The amount of trash dumped by city residents, not to mention the homesteads set up by displaced citizens, many tucked beneath ravines along the fairways and overgrown wooded areas, wasn’t the type of place parents would be keen to drop their kids off to spend the day.”
“That image remains in Timms’ mind, but it’s fading, replaced by what he saw last week when the historic course re-opened after four years of planning, restoration and upkeep. Timms worked as the starter on the first tee on the opening Saturday and Sunday, and loved interacting with excited golfers seeing the revitalized facility.”
9. Bacon for your listening pleasure
Michael Williams is joined by Shane Bacon and Byron Scott on the latest episode of the 19th Hole podcast. Bacon talks Johnny Miller, who recently stepped down after 29 years as an announcer and will be replaced by Paul Azinger. Also, NBA great Byron Scott talks about LeBron in L.A., the Warriors going for a three-peat, and Tiger’s comeback.

Listen here.

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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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