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GolfWRX Morning 9: Xander! Nelly! Champ the champ! | A pair of passings | Caddyshack festival

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

October 29, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans. Happy birthday to my dad, the guy who introduced me to the game.
1. X!
Birdie-birdie to get into a playoff, takedown of Tony Finau. Well played.
  • AP Report…”Xander Schauffele gave the Americans a sweep of the World Golf Championships and quickly put a winless sophomore season behind him.”
  • “Schauffele made birdie on his final three holes Sunday, the last one a 2-putt birdie from about 30 feet on the par-5 18th hole to beat Tony Finau in a sudden-death playoff and win the HSBC Champions.”
  • “When I was signing my card, I was like, ‘Oh, wow. I actually went birdie-birdie to get in the playoff,'” Schauffele said. “I was just in my own world out there.”
  • “He began the tournament by celebrating his 25th birthday. He ended it with one clutch shot after another in the closing stretch at Sheshan International for a 4-under 68, the lowest score of the final round, and his first victory in 13 months.”
2. Champ the champ
From frontrunning, to faltering, to closing the door.
  • AP Report…”Cameron Champ birdied five of the last six holes to win the Sanderson Farms Championship, recovering for his first PGA Tour victory after giving up a four-shot lead Sunday.”
  • “The 23-year-old Champ won in his ninth career tour start, closing with a 4-under 68 for a four-stroke victory. He finished at 21-under 267 in the wire-to-wire victory at the Country Club of Jackson.”
  • “Champ began the day four shots ahead, but played the front nine in 1 over to fall into a tie. Corey Conners pulled even on No. 9 with a 13-foot birdie putt, but Champ pulled away on the back nine with four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16. Conners had a 68 to finish second.”
  • ‘”The front side, there were some nerves, but on the back side I brought it all together and finished strong. It was awesome,” Champ said.”
3. Couldn’t handle the heat!
Cameron Champ cracked the head of his Ping G400 Max on the range ahead of the final round of the Sanderson Farms Championship. Fortunately, he had a backup, which even more fortunately, he was comfortable with.
  • I guess that’s a risk you run when you lead the PGA Tour in swing speed (129.99 mph) and the ball exits your driver at an average of more than 193 mph.
4. Whoa, Nelly!
AP Report…”Nelly Korda shot a 4-under 68 to win the Taiwan Championship on Sunday for her first LPGA tour title.”
  • “Korda – the younger sister of Jessica Korda, who has won five titles on the LPGA tour – had an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole and added two more birdies at the Ta Shee Golf and Country Club to finish at 13-under 275. She was two strokes ahead of Minjee Lee, who shot a bogey-free 66.”
  • “Truthfully, I cannot put it into words,” Korda said. “It still hasn’t hit. It’s definitely one of the best days of my entire life. I can finally check that off of my list, winning an LPGA event, something that I dreamed of ever since I started playing.”
5. RIP
A pair of passings in the world of golf…
  • Legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae is dead at 85. A morsel from Bill Speros’ Golfweek obit…”Legendary Pinehurst looper Willie McRae, who caddied for presidents, athletic superstars and anyone else who asked for nearly 75 years, had died.”
  • “He was 85. McRae had retired from caddying at Pinehurst last year. McRae caddied for five presidents, athletes from Mickey Mantle to Michael Jordan and golf greats such as Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones and Sam Snead. McRae caddied in several of the game’s most notable championships, starting with the 1951 Ryder Cup at Pinehurst No. 2, and extending to multiple U.S. Opens and U.S Women’s Opens.”
The oldest member of the PGA of America, Gus Andreone, is dead at 107.
  • Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington writes… “You can do a lot when you live to be 107, as Gus Andreone proved. The son of a coal miner who grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Andreone earned three Bronze Stars for his military service, which included fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. He won the Pennsylvania lottery in 1983. And for more than 90 years he worked in the golf industry, become a PGA of America professional in 1939…The oldest member of the association, Andreone died on Saturday in Sarasota, Fla., after recently suffering a stroke.”
6. Caddyshack festival!
So what? So let’s dance!
  • Golf Digest’s Joel Beall writes…”On Saturday organizers announced that “Caddyshack Fest” will launch next summer in Kentucky, a celebration of all-things Bushwood.”
  • “We drove out to this golf course in Louisville, and this place is perfect,” planner Will Russell told Entertainment Weekly. “We’re going to have golf cart races and costume contests and a dance party. It’s going to be just a blast. We published the Facebook page today about 3 p.m., and last I looked it had about 200 followers already, so I think it’s going to be a huge hit.”
  • “If this sounds like a half-baked idea-which would be in line with the movie’s ethos-Russell has been the mastermind for the successful “Lebowski Fest,” which has been running since 2002 and attracted almost all of the movie’s main cast.”
7. Thanks, Tommy!
Via Derek Lawrenson at the Daily Mail...”The British Masters has been saved following an 11th hour deal that will see Tommy Fleetwood take on the role of host at the historic event which will be played in May next year.”
  • “The news will be officially disclosed on Monday when the 2019 European Tour schedule is announced. Three weeks ago the British Masters was missing when the proposed schedule was revealed at a players’ meeting – but there has now been a last-minute change of heart.”
  • The venue will be Hillside, which neighbors Royal Birkdale, in Southport.
8. Hensby trying to make it back
A refresher, via Eamon Lynch…”What transpired is this: after the first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship in October 2017, Hensby was summoned for a random drug test. Having just urinated on his 17th hole – and facing a long wait during which he could ruminate on his round of 78 and flagging career – he left the golf course and ignored a request from officials to return.”
  • “He was DQ’d and in December the PGA Tour announced the ban under a new policy of making public the names of those suspended for violations of drug test protocols….The Australian still believes his penalty was excessive. He points to Brad Fritsch, who got a three-month ban in January for admitting to inadvertently taking a banned substance.”
  • “A guy gets three months for saying he was taking something and I get a year for not doing the test at the time they wanted me to do it,” he said. “Nine extra months for that is a little bit harsh.”
Full piece, for more on his road back.
9. Winning WITB
Big-hitting Cameron Champ’s winning gear from the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Driver: Ping G400 Max (9 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Pro White TS 63X
Length: 44.5 inches, tipped 1.5 inches
Swing weight: D3
Fairway Wood: Ping G400 (14.5 degrees, at 14.2 degrees +0.6 setting)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Black 85 grams 6.5-flex
Length: 42.75 inches, tipped 1 inch
Swing weight: D3
Irons: Ping i500 (4 iron), Ping iBlade (4-PW)
Shafts: KBS C-Taper 130X
Wedges: Ping Glide Forged (50, 54 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400
Putter: Ping PLD Mid Tyne Prototype
Length, loft, lie: 34.5 inches, 2 degrees, 0.5 degrees flat
Golf Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV

 

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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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