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GolfWRX Morning 9: The Tiger Woods of rock climbing | Jason Dufner’s math lesson | Brutal incorrect scorecard DQ

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

November 14, 2018

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. The Tiger Woods of rock climbing
Alex Honnold may be the greatest climber in the world, his free solo ascent of El Capitan (that is, without equipment) is the basis for the documentary “Free Solo,” and his list of big peaks is legendary. However, it’s not Honnold’s accomplishments, but rather his demeanor, that prompted Michael Bamberger to compare the 33-year-old to one Tiger Woods.
  • In his “Best things in golf right now” column for Golf.com, Bamberger writes, Christine and I saw another art-house movie recently, “Free Solo,” a documentary about the extreme rock climber Alex Honnold. It’s outstanding and I mention it here because Honnold, articulate and reflective, must share fundamental qualities with Tiger Woods.
  • “In times of intense fear, Honnold’s sense of himself and what he can do doesn’t contract, it expands. I believe that’s what happens for Woods, too. The climber has no interest in the pursuit of a “happy and cozy” life. That’s pure Woods. Honnold doesn’t actively seek to put his athletic needs ahead of his personal relationships. His body and mental chemistry leaves him no choice. It’s what he is built to do. You could see that DNA in Tiger, too, in his lengthy prime.”

Full piece.

2. Duf does the math
Interesting catch-up with Jason Dufner on the range ahead of the RSM Classic for this unbylined AP piece.
  • “Dufner, who has such a degree, came up with his own version of success on the PGA Tour that at first glance seems outrageous….”You win 2 percent of your tournaments, you probably have a Hall of Fame career,” Dufner said. “You throw in a major and win 2 percent of your tournaments, and you’re certainly in the Hall of Fame.”…Maybe he had Fred Couples or Mark O’Meara in mind.”
  • “Winning every year is extremely tough to do,” Dufner said. “It’s just a fine line out here. You have to have a 95 percent-plus success rate to win,” he said.
  • “He defines success on a hole-by-hole basis in a negative sense. It’s more about what a player doesn’t do wrong as opposed to what he did right. Last week in Mayakoba, he said he had five penalty drops and three-putted three times. That’s not success. Dufner shot 13-under 271 and finished nine shots behind Kuchar.”
  • “I probably had 15 or 20 shots that were not successful,” he said, estimating his success rate at 90 percent.”

Full piece.

3. The always brutal scorecard DQ
Really rough stuff for Tom Murray at Euro Tour Q-School
  • “Through two rounds at Lumine, the Englishman was handily placed on seven-under-par after rounds of 66 and 70. But, unfortunately, his quest to earn his card ended there after signing an incorrect scorecard.”
  • “His score of 70 was correct, but scores on two holes were incorrect, with one higher one lower, and he took to Twitter to explain further.”
  • “So we’re leaving Q School having been DQd. Signed for 70 which was correct but two holes were incorrect, one higher one lower. My fault completely but still just as horrible. Rough end to the season but we will be back stronger.”
  • That’s right, folks. He had the total score right, i.e., the number that matters, but two hole scores were wrong. The Rules are The Rules, I guess, but good grief.

Full piece.

4. 5 clubs that made headlines last year
Interesting stuff from Golfweek’s David Dusek here, looking at some of the events of 2018 on the PGA Tour through the prism of the tools of the game.
  • “An example (technically a set of clubs): Brooks Koepka won his first major championship, the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, using a set of Mizuno’s JPX 900 Tour irons even though he did not have an endorsement deal with the Japanese company.”
  • “This season the former Florida State standout won the U.S. Open again, as well as the PGA Championship, using the same irons, and still was not getting paid to use them. Forged from a single piece of 1025E mild carbon steel for soft feel, the JPX 900 Tour irons have a compact head and a beveled sole that helps them get in and out of the turf more easily. The extra weight pushed to the perimeter of the heads makes them more forgiving, but these clubs still demand precision.”
5. Manassero misses out
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait…
“Matteo Manassero faces an uncertain future after missing the 72-hole cut at the final stage of European Tour Qualifying School.”
  • “Manassero returned scores of 70-68-76-73 at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, Spain to sit at 1 over, seven shots away from the top 70 and ties who advanced to the final two rounds. The four-time winner finished 122nd on this year’s money list after the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, six spots short of keeping his card.”
  • “His Category 18 status means he goes to the bottom of the pecking order next year. He’ll struggle to get into big-money events, instead playing in low budget tournaments like the Mauritius Open, Joburg Open and Belgian Knockout. He’ll have to play exceptionally in those tournaments to have any chance of regaining his card for the 2020 season. Alternatively, he could try to find his way back to the main tour by finishing inside the Challenge Tour top 15 next season.”
6. USGA announces global ranking for disabled golfers
Ryan Herrington for Golf Digest...”In the latest in a series of steps to provide opportunities for disabled golfers, officials with the USGA and R&A announced on Tuesday they will begin to administer a global ranking of players starting in 2019.”
  • “The World Ranking for Golfers with Disability will be run in tandem with the World Amateur Golf Ranking. It will include separate rankings for men and women, building off of the Ranking for Golfers with Disability established by the European Disable Golf Association in 2014.”
  • “John Bodenhamer, USGA Senior Managing Director of Championships, hopes that the involvement of the two governing bodies in the ranking will help spur participation and encourage more competition worldwide for disabled players. Combined with their joint commitment to the disabled golf community through a separate Rules of Golf initiative and a pledge by the USGA to host a national championship for disability golfers, Bodenhamer said “we are working to create meaningful and lasting change to make golf more welcoming.””
7. CME Overhaul
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”CME Group CEO Terry Duffy is seriously upping the ante in the women’s game…He’s teaming with LPGA commissioner Mike Whan to overhaul the Race to the CME Globe with the aim of making the season-ending Tour Championship richer, more dramatic and easier to follow.”
  • “Duffy said it’s really about a larger aim to elevate women to a more equitable standing in sport.
  • “Terry just moved the stick,” Whan said in a news conference Tuesday at the Ritz Carlton’s beach resort in Naples. “It’s a game-changing moment for the LPGA.”
  • “The overhaul begins next year with the CME Group Tour Championship’s purse doubled to $5 million. That’s more than the prize money offered in five PGA Tour events and nearly as much as the purse at the PGA Tour’s venerable Desert Classic ($5.9 million).”
  • Additionally… “The points will be scrapped at The Tour Championship. The season finale will be played like a regular stroke-play event, with every player in the field eligible to win the $1.5 million first-place check.”
8. Cold weather questions
E. Michael Johnson examines some persistent myths related to golf in frigid environments.
For example: Do colder golf balls fly shorter?
  • He writes, “To begin with, cold air can affect the performance of a golf ball. Cold air is denser than warm air and creates additional drag on a ball. According to Trackman, the difference is approximately one yard of carry for every 10-degree change in temperature. So theoretically, you’re looking at a loss of four yards if you’re playing in 40 degrees as opposed to 80 degrees. Other factors-such as how the body reacts to the cold, and how wearing extra layers likely limits your backswing-can further impact distance. The takeaway: When playing fall golf plan for at least an extra half club, and if your swing is restricted by being fully bundled up, it might even be a full club.”
9. Why hello, FootJoy Heritage Collection
Golfweek’s Brentley Romine takes a look at FootJoy’s new Heritage Collection, which features some seriously cool items, such as the Heritage Half-Zip Pullover you see below.
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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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