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GolfWRX Morning 9: McIlroy: Looking out for No. 1 | Ogilvy: Aus. Open is “second class” | Hole-in-one: yardage unknown

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

November 16, 2018

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Kuch Down Under + player doesn’t know hole distance, makes hole-in-one anyway, wins $17K watch
Matt Kuchar went, “from Hola to Aloha,” at the Mayakoba Classic, to continuing his strong form some 9,000 miles away at the Australian Open.
  • Aus. Associated Press…”South Korea’s Byeong Hun An has sensationally reclaimed the Australian Open lead with a hole-in-one late in his second round.”
  • “Starting Friday with the lead at The Lakes, An watched as American Matt Kuchar and Australian amateur David Micheluzzi entered the clubhouse at seven under par after playing in the morning wave.”
  • “But An shot back to the top of the leaderboard with an ace at the 197m par-3 15th that rocketed the former US Amateur champion to eight under.”
  • “Hit it good, nice fading back to the hole and went in. This is my third one but first with a prize,” the smiling Korean said after earning himself a $17,000 Swiss watch. “It was a soft seven iron. I didn’t even know the distance. My caddie just said to hit seven iron and take five (metres) off.”
2. …of course, also on the subject of the Australian Open…
Geoff Ogilvy, one of the most eloquent and outspoken major winners from Australia had some strong words about the state of his national open.
  • Golfweek’s Kevin Casey on Ogilvy’s remarks’…”Unfortunately, the Australian Open appears to be stuck in a bit of a rut. Tiger Woods has participated in the event and past winners include Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.”
  • “But in this week’s edition, Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman are famous countrymen who have decided not to be a part of the field.”
  • “It signals the continuing issues the event has with getting the strong fields it used to. And Aussies can’t help but take notice.”
  • “I hate to say this, but the Australian Open feels like a second-rate tournament now,” Geoff Ogilvy said, per Golfmagic.com. “I’m sure it is run in the same way it was 30 years ago, but tournaments elsewhere have progressed so much, and the differences show.” [NOTE: Golfmagic.com pulled from Ogilvy’s exclusive column for Golf Australia]
3. Meanwhile, in Dubai…
The official game story from EuropeanTour.com…”Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui shared the lead after day one of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai as Francesco Molinari tightened his grip on the European Tour’s season-long crown.”
  • “Smith and Otaegui carded rounds of 66 at Jumeirah Golf Estates to sit at six under, one shot clear of defending champion Jon Rahm and Major Championship winner Danny Willett….Italian Molinari knows a tie for fifth with one other or better will secure him the Race to Dubai title and he was just a shot further back after a 68 on the Earth Course.”
  • Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood needs a victory at the eighth and final Rolex Series event of the season to have any chance of denying Molinari, and the Englishman was three shots off the lead after a 69.

Full piece.

4. And at Sea Island…
Unofficially, a Titleist man now, Chucky Three Sticks got off to a stellar start at Sea Island.
PGATour.com’s Sean Martin…”Charles Howell III knew he needed to take advantage of Thursday’s tee time on Sea Island’s Plantation Course.”
  • “It was cold and windy during the first round of The RSM Classic. The inland Plantation Course, with its tree-lined fairways, protected players from the worst of the weather, though. Plantation played nearly a stroke under par Thursday, while players averaged more than one stroke over par on the Sea Island Resort’s Seaside Course.”
  • “Howell lowered Plantation’s scoring average even more with an 8-under 64 that gave him a two-shot lead after The RSM Classic’s first-round lead…He hit every fairway and every green for the first time in his career. It was the seventh time he hit all 18 greens in a single round.”
  • “I think sometimes playing these difficult conditions it forces you to stay a bit more present, it forces you to stay kind of in the moment a bit,” he said. “It’s hard to get too far ahead of yourself because of the difficulty of every shot coming.”
5. Closing stretch of the Race
Ron Sirak…”Nothing like the prospect of winning $1 million to mess up your mind a wee bit. In the final Race to the CME Globe before the CME Group Tour Championship changes its format, the five players who can win the bonus by winning here find themselves looking up at Amy Olson with Nasa Hataoka having the best view.”
  • “Olson blistered Tiburón Golf Club for a nine-under-par 63 in Thursday’s first round of the LPGA’s season-ending event while Hataoka, one of the five with one hand on the bonus, was a stroke back along with Brittany Lincicome after a birdie barrage on a Tiburón course softened by early morning rain.”
  • “The 63 by Olson, who teed off in a drizzle in the second group, was one off the tournament course record by Lydia Ko in 2016. Hataoka nearly matched her, making eight birdies, including the final two holes, while Lincicome would have shared the lead if not for a bogey on the final hole. Lexi Thompson is at 65 with Carlota Ciganda at 66 and Lindy Duncan and Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras at 67.”
6. McIlroy: “I’m doing Me-Ilroy”
Well, that’s not exactly what the Ulsterman said, but essentially…
  • And while he’ll attract criticism, rightly or wrongly, it’s worth noting the extreme degree of selfishness required to be the best (perhaps something McIlroy has been questioned for not having in the past). If one wants to be the best golfer in the world, prep for and peak at majors, playing the vast majority of one’s golf on the PGA Tour is the only route. With all due respect to Justin Thomas, it is the route nearly ever recent No. 1 has taken. And Rory should act differently because he is…from Northern Ireland? What sense does that make?
  • Via Alistair Tait at Golfweek...”Everyone has to look out for themselves and next year I’m looking out for me,” McIlroy said. “At the same time, I don’t have to make a decision on it.”
  • “I didn’t say that it was a definite. It’s up in the air. I don’t have to make a decision till May. We’ll see how it goes. McGinley is on the European Tour board, he’s involved and he has to protect what he has and I get it.
  • “Everyone has to do what’s best for them and, for me next year, I’m trying to do what’s best for me to help get back to the best player in the world and try to win majors again.”
7. Rounding out the lineup
The steady drip of details/stuff they’ve just figured out continues with the announcement of the, well, announcers.
  • Golfworld’s Stephen Hennessey...”Tiger’s buddy Charles Barkley, along with Samuel L. Jackson, will work as special guests of the pre-match coverage, and they’ll also contribute during select moments of the actual competition, according to event organizers. Long-time TNT Sports anchor Ernie Johnson will provide the play-by-play, and Peter Jacobson and Darren Clarke will offer their analysis as color commentators.”
  • “Current PGA Tour pro Pat Perez, who like Mickelson and Woods grew up in California and competed against Tiger as a junior golfer, will also join the pre-match coverage with Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe. LPGA star Natalie Gulbis and FOX Sports reporter Shane Bacon will provide reports from inside the ropes.”

Full piece.

8. Inside Kuch’s switcharoo
I talked with a few of Bridgestone’s ball wonks about staffer Matt Kuchar’s ball switch ahead of his Mayakoba win.
  • One of those changes: his golf ball. Now, given Kuch’s club head speed last year – 107.97 mph (183rd on Tour) – your wouldn’t have thought the happy warrior would  switch to a lower-spinning golf ball. However, that’s just what he did, making the move from Bridgestone’s Tour B XS to its Tour B X. And according to the company, he did so after a recent fitting session in which he was driving the X seven yards farther than the XS.
  • I had a chance to ask , and Adam Rehberg, the company’s Golf Ball Fitting Manager, about the switch.
  • So, what was the thinking/data that had Matt Kuchar playing the XS originally?…Elliot Mellow, Bridgestone’s Golf Ball Marketing Manager: “Matt had historically been in our higher spin spec – he appreciated the spin control into and around the green. For years, the B330-S and then the Tour B XS, allowed Matt to hit his windows and optimize trajectory. As he started to reevaluate his fit, there were really two things in play here that allowed the door to be opened for Matt to explore a more distance spec ball: Over the years, we have continued to soften the covers of all Tour balls. So in our distance spec, the Tour B X, you really don’t sacrifice spin for distance, it still is a great spin control ball with irons and wedges. The other thing to consider is some of the club set-ups for Matt have changed, which allowed us to reevaluate his fit.”
9. Debating the left-foot flare
For something a little different, here’s a piece from our Rod Lidenberg that we published late yesterday. Lidenberg debates the merits of the flared left foot at address (ala Ben Hogan’s suggestions). Needless to say, it’s awakening a strong response from the GolfWRX readership.
  • A taste of Ron’s argument...”The subject of this piece is not to debate Hogan’s hip action but the piece that accompanied it, the 15-degree flare of the left foot. I’m of the opinion that it is not only wrong. Because of its toxic nature, it is DEAD WRONG.  The reason has to do with the tailbone, which determines the motion of the hips in the swing. The more the left foot opens up at address, the more the tailbone angles backward. That encourages the hips to “spin out” in the downswing, which means they have turned before the player’s weight has been allowed to move forward to their left foot and left knee.”
  • “As a consequence of the hips spinning out, players move their weight backward (toward the right foot), encouraging a swing that works out-to-in across the body. You can see this swing played out on the first tee of any public golf course on a Saturday morning.”
  • “The problem with the 15-degree foot flare is that it promotes, if not guarantees, the following swing issues:…In the backswing, the flared left foot: 1: Discourages a full left- hip turn. 2: Encourages the improper motion of the left-knee outward rather than back. 3: Reduces the degree that the torso can turn because of the restrictions placed on the left hip.”
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Morning 9: Tour updates | One-week offseason | Forgotten father of Skins Game?

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and golfwrxEIC on Twitter.

October 18, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans. Get out there and enjoy some fall golf this weekend!
1. CJ Cup
AP report on the action on Jeju Island, where tournament favorite Justin Thomas has surged to the top…”Justin Thomas shot a 9-under 63 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, putting himself in position to win his second PGA Tour event in South Korea in three years.”
  • “Thomas, who won the inaugural CJ Cup in 2017, has a two-round total of 13-under 131.”
  • “South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee (66) is in a tie for second place with first-round leader and former U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An, who shot 69 before his home fans.”

Full piece.

2. French Open
With round 2 underway, here’s the post-round one report from Reuters…”George Coetzee and Ryan Fox carded six-under-par 65s to share the lead in the French Open first round on Thursday as the European Tour returned to Le Golf National in Paris a year after the course hosted the Ryder Cup.”
3. Hole-in-one and a second-round lead 
AP report…”Brooke Henderson made a hole-in-one and shot an 8-under 64 to take the lead in the second round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai on Friday.”
  • “The Canadian aced the 175-yard second hole. She followed that with a bogey, but then birdied four more holes on the front nine, finishing her round at 11-under 133 total.”
  • “Jessica Korda (67) was two strokes behind in second, followed by defending champion Danielle Kang (67) in third.”
4. One-week offseason
The Forecaddie with an interesting scheduling observation…”The Man Out Front could not get past the dates for the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs.”
  • “The season-ending stretch will compete head-to-head with the PGA Tour playoffs, right down to the final Sunday of Aug. 30.”
  • Which means while the FedEx Cup comes to a conclusion at East Lake, the Korn Ferry Tour’s always valiant battles to gain Tour cards will be playing out at Victoria National and once again presented by United Leasing but without the spotlight those finals enjoyed this year when finishing on Labor Day, a week clear of the 2019 Tour Championship.”
5. Molinari splits with caddie
Our Gianni Magliocco writes…”Francesco Molinari has parted ways with his caddie Pello Iguaran, who has been on the Italian’s bag for the last four years.”
  • “The 2018 Open Champion will now employ Jason Hempleman until the beginning of 2020 where Mark Fulcher will then take the reigns. Fulcher caddied for Justin Rose for 11 years, in which period Rose won the U.S. Open and Olympic Gold.”
  • “The 36-year-old announced the decision via his social media accounts, where he stated…”It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.”

Full piece.

6. Tiger’s back, but is he ready?
ESPN’s Bob Harig, always a voice of reason, breaks down Tiger Woods’ activities since last playing professional golf, along with what he has on the docket, before concluding..”All of this assumes a level of health and fitness that went missing for the latter part of 2019. Woods turns 44 on Dec. 30 and performing at a high level — competing and winning tournaments — depends so much on his ability to properly prepare, let alone be fit enough to compete with the best in the world.”
  • “But first things first: a long trip to Japan, a skins competition followed by a PGA Tour event, and some answers to where Woods is headed with his game.”
7. How the Skins Game started
Speaking of skins, great stuff from Adam Schupak for Golfweek on the forgotten man from the genesis of the beloved event…”When Steve Sesnick read about the upcoming reboot of the Skins Game in Japan headlined by Tiger Woods, he couldn’t help but feel a moment of pride like that of a proud parent. And why not? It was further confirmation that his concept – even if he believes it has outlasted its expiration date – still works.”
“More than 35 years ago, Sesnick claims that he conceived the concept that became one of the most successful made-for-TV franchises in all of sports: four of golf’s biggest names, competing in a go-for-broke format over two days during Thanksgiving weekend when golf traditionally was dark, college football was limited, and even the NFL had two fewer games to compete against.”
8. Record rounds in the 60s
Viktor Hovland’s incredible play continues…Golf Channel’s Carson Williams…”A day after setting a PGA Tour record with his 18th consecutive round in the 60s, Hovland was at it again Friday during the second round of the CJ Cup in South Korea where he carded his 19th straight round in the 60s. The newly-minted Tour member drained a testy par putt at the par-4 ninth to keep his streak alive.”
  • “No, it’s cool,” Hovland said Friday following a second straight 3-under 69. “Obviously I would have liked to have maybe higher finishes in the tournaments that I’ve played, but it really goes to show the consistency that I’ve had over the summer.”

Full piece.

9. Tiger’s Olympic goal 
Reuters report…”Tiger Woods says next year’s Tokyo Olympics are a “big goal” as he looks to add to his decorated career.”
  • “Woods, 43, won his 15th major at the Masters earlier this year but injury ruled him out of golf’s return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence in 2016.”
  • “I don’t see myself having too many opportunities other than next year,” the American said.
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Francesco Molinari splits with caddie Pello Iguaran

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Francesco Molinari has parted ways with his caddie Pello Iguaran, who has been on the Italian’s bag for the last four years.

The 2018 Open Champion will now employ Jason Hempleman until the beginning of 2020 where Mark Fulcher will then take the reigns. Fulcher caddied for Justin Rose for 11 years, in which period Rose won the U.S. Open and Olympic Gold.

The 36-year-old announced the decision via his social media accounts, where he stated

“It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.

We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together. Best of luck for the future and thanks for an amazing run together Jason Hempleman will be on the bag until the end of the season. Mark Fulcher will be on the bag at the start of 2020.”

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It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for. Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career. We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together. Best of luck for the future and thanks for an amazing run together Jason Hempleman will be on the bag until the end of the season. Mark Fulcher will be on the bag at the start of 2020. Sono state quasi 4 stagioni di emozioni incredibili e lavoro davvero produttivo, ma sfortunatamente le relazioni a volte non finiscono come tutti vorremmo. Pello sarà sempre un membro del mio team e, soprattutto, della mia famiglia. È una delle persone più laboriose, leali, positive e riflessive che ho incontrato durante la mia carriera. Abbiamo avuto momenti belli e momenti difficili sul campo, ma soprattutto siamo cresciuti insieme e come individui durante il tempo insieme. Buona fortuna per il futuro e grazie per una fantastica esperienza insieme Jason Hempleman sarà il mio caddie fino alla fine dell’anno. Mark Fulcher sarà il caddie dall'inizio del 2020 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

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In the period Molinari and Iguaran were together, some of the highlights include Molinari’s win at The Open Championship in 2018, the BMW PGA Championship, and the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, since April, Molinari has failed to record a top-10 finish.

 

 

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Morning 9: LPGA, LET partnership? | Ryder Cup ticket fiasco | Alfredsson: Senior women’s golf dynamo

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and golfwrxEIC on Twitter.

October 17, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. “True partnership”
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell on an exciting development for women’s golf…
  • “The LPGA and Ladies European Tour have renewed talks that could lead to “a true partnership” between the two organizations.”
  • “LET Board Chair Marta Figueras-Dotti sent a letter to LET players this week informing them of the discussions. She told players that a dialogue was “in full swing” to create a “50-50 joint venture” between the tours.”
  • “LPGA and LET officials said in a joint statement Wednesday that while it’s too early to publicly discuss specifics, they are working to complete terms of a new agreement in time to present it to LET players at their annual meeting on Nov. 26 in Spain.”

Full piece.

2. Alfredsson!
AP report on the emerging dynamo in women’s senior golf with the 2019 double…
  • “Helen Alfredsson added the Senior LPGA Championship to her U.S. Senior Women’s Open title, rallying Wednesday at cold and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two major championships of the season.”
  • “Three strokes behind Juli Inkster entering the day, Alfredsson closed with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory. The 54-year-old Swede was the only player to break par on the final day at the Pete Dye Course and, at 2-under 214, the only one under par for the week.”

Full piece.

3. And on Jeju Island…
AP report…An was on!
  • “In the first event of a three-tournament PGA TOUR swing through Asia, Byeong Hun An was the first-round leader in his home country at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES with an 8-under 64. Joaquin Niemann sits a stroke behind in second.”
  • “Jason Day’s attempt to impress International team captain Ernie Els for a spot at the Presidents Cup took a positive turn when the Australian shot a 6-under 66 to sit two strokes off the lead and in solo third after the opening round.”

Full piece.

4. Ticket fiasco
Oh boy. JR Radcliffe at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, syndicated in Golfweek…”Tickets for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, next year sold out in less than 50 minutes on Wednesday, and fans on social media were furious with the process.”
  • “Tickets for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler next year sold out in less than 50 minutes on Wednesday, and fans on social media were furious with the process.”
  • “The Ryder Cup website did indicate: “Due to high demand, having an access code does not guarantee you a chance to buy tickets. Available inventory may vary depending on when you’re able to access the sale.”
5. “Better options”
ESPN’s Bob Harig suggests Lefty doesn’t think he’s getting picked for captain Woods’ squads…”Mickelson said Wednesday that he doesn’t expect an at-large pick from U.S. Presidents Cup team captain Tiger Woods and that he does not believe he is deserving.”
  • “There are much better options of players that have played consistently at a high level that deserve to be on the team,” Mickelson, 49, said in South Korea at the CJ Cup, a PGA Tour event he is playing for the first time. “Even if I were to win, I have not done enough to warrant a pick.
  • “I’m not asking for one. I don’t expect one. I think there are a lot of better options for the U.S. side.”
6. 58 penalty strokes!
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers on a wildly penal occurrence…”Lee Ann Walker was assessed 58 penalty strokes after it was discovered she had violated Rule 10.2b several times over the course of the first two rounds at the senior major being played at the Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind. Implemented earlier this year, the rule prohibits caddies from lining up golfers on putting greens, among other spots on the course. And as Walker found out, there is no limit to the amount of penalty strokes a player can incur for breaking it.”
  • “In a statement released by the Senior LPGA Championship Rules Committee, the harsh decision came after Walker notified a rules official during the second round on Tuesday that she had been violating the rule. Obviously, Walker didn’t realize this until it was pointed out to her by a fellow caddie on her fifth hole. Walker then went through her round so far as well as the first round on Monday to determine just how many times she broke the rule. Considering the total, she was obviously being lined up by her caddie on most putts.”

Full piece.

7. BK vs. Rory
Our Gianni Magliocco…”The 29-year-old, who was speaking to the AFP ahead of this week’s CJ Cup, has been on the PGA Tour since 2015 and has won four major’s in that period, while McIlroy’s last success at a major championship came back in 2014.”
  • “I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry.”
  • “The world number one then further reiterated his lack of belief that there is currently a serious rivalry in golf and laid out his intentions to remain at the top of the sport for the foreseeable future.”
  • “I’m not looking at anybody behind me. I’m number one in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry. You know if the fans do (call it a rivalry), then that’s on them and it could be fun. Look I love Rory he’s a great player and he’s fun to watch, but it’s just hard to believe there’s a rivalry in golf. I just don’t see it.”

Full piece.

8. Meanwhile, at Q-School…
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell with the report on the action in Florida…”Germany’s going for a wire-to-wire victory at the LPGA’s second stage of Q-School.”
  • “Esther Henseleit grabbed a share of the second-round lead with a 5-under 67 Tuesday at Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Fla., a day after fellow countrywoman Olivia Cowan took the first-round lead.”
  • “At 9-under overall, Henseleit is tied at the top with China’s Yan Liu (67), one shot ahead of Cowan (72), Thailand’s Prima Thammaraks (68) and American amateur Sierra Brooks, whose 66 equaled the low round of the day.”

Full piece.

9. LPGA Shanghai update
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”Nasa Hataoka should be getting more worldwide attention.
With two Japan LPGA Tour major championship victories in her homeland over the last month, she arrived for the start of this week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai on fire.”
  • “And she didn’t cool off in Thursday’s first round.”
  • “A 5-under-par 67 at Qizhong Garden Golf Club gave Hataoka a share of the lead with South Korea’s Amy Yang.”

Full piece.

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