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GolfWRX Morning 9: The relatable Mr. Howell | How the Tiger-Phil ice thawed | Anthony Kim sighting

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

November 20, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Fowler-Thomas-produced Alabama-Auburn docuseries cometh
If you recall, Driven, last year’s Golf Channel docuseries offered a behind-the-scenes look at the Oklahoma State golf program.
  • The series is back again this year. Joel Beall with the details…”The show, helmed by OSU alum Rickie Fowler, is returning for a second year, and while Stillwater will still be a prominent storyline, the new campaign will also highlight the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn.”
  • “Joining Fowler as co-producer is Justin Thomas, a former Haskins Award winner who guided the Crimson Tide to a national title in 2013.”
  • “I watched every episode of the first season of Driven and I told Rickie that Alabama would be great for a future season,” Thomas said in a statement. “I’m excited about the opportunity to team up with Rickie and showcase Alabama’s golf program like never before. And it’s weeks like this with the Iron Bowl that remind me why college sports are so great and how much fun I had playing golf for Alabama. Roll Tide!”
2. The relatable Mr. Howell

Nice stuff from Cameron Morfit…”It had been so long since he last won, a span of 333 starts since the 2007 Genesis Open at Riviera, Charles Howell III felt the same self-doubt anyone would.”

  • “The difference was he expressed it.…”Sometimes you wonder, well, maybe you just don’t have it in you,” Howell said. “Quite honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever win one again. I had come up short so many times. I thought I had it in me, but I had never seen me do it.”
3. How the ice thawed
Brian Wacker points to this moment in time as central to the present springtime of the Woods-Mickelson relationship.
  • “Four years ago, with Woods at home recovering from a second micro-discectomy surgery to remove a disc fragment that was pinching a nerve (and soon to undergo another procedure to relieve discomfort in his back), the U.S. Ryder Cup team got drubbed at Gleneagles for its sixth loss in the last seven biennial matches. At the press conference that Sunday night in Scotland, Mickelson blasted his own captain Tom Watson (and in essence the PGA of America) for the mismanagement of the team.”
  • “It was a seminal moment that led to sweeping changes and the formation of the Ryder Cup task force, of which Woods, ever the competitor who had also grown tired of all the losing, readily signed on. Golf’s two biggest stars were aligned, and more importantly the lines of communication, be it the Ryder Cup or other topics, were open.”
4. In favor of The Match
ESPN’s Bob Harig explores the merits of tuning in for the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson duel and offers these (reality) checks in the “yay” column.
  • “While not suggesting how to spend other peoples’ money, we are talking about a discretionary income choice that many would squander on other dubious endeavors. And it is Black Friday after all, a day associated with money-spending opulence.”
  • And…”So yes, the event has its flaws, to be sure. Playing this in, say, 2006 — at a point when Woods and Mickelson combined to win four of the five majors played in a 12-month period — might have brought more intrigue, but the result would not be any more meaningful, or historically significant, than what will transpire Friday. This will not alter the legacy of either player.”
  • “This is simply an entertainment play (and perhaps a test to see more of these type of matches in the future, maybe with Tiger and Phil as partners), with a gambling component that we are likely to see more prominent in sports, including golf. Tiger and Phil are two of the game’s biggest stars, even at this late stage in their careers.”
5. Farewell, grass guru
Cal Roth is retiring. And while this may not mean much to you, you’ll want to read Jim McCabe’s profile of the PGA Tour’s departing Senior VP of Agronomy.
  • “And one could argue that that rarely happens, because for all the hoopla about young players swinging fast, hitting far, and wielding state-of-the-art equipment, perhaps no aspect of the golf business has improved as dramatically as turf control and course maintenance.”
  • “I’m not even sure I have enough time to do it justice,” said Roth, when asked how much his profession has improved playing conditions. “I could talk all day about it. The best way to describe it is, it’s like the business has come out of the dark ages, it’s gotten that good.”
  • “Roth remembers being approached by Bob Goalby, who was participating in the Denver Post Champions of Golf at TPC Plum Creek in Castle Rock, Colorado, in 1986. Now, an approaching player can put a superintendent on guard, but Roth quickly felt relief as Goalby heaped praise. “He came up to me on the 16th hole and said, ‘Cal, these Bent fairways are amazing. They are better than the greens I grew up on.'”
6. The wisdom of “make more birdies”
PGA of Canada pro, Erin Thorne, examines the received wisdom that one ought to strive, primarily, to make more birdies to shoot lower scores.
  • A sample of her findings after looking at her roster of college golfers and running some numbers….”Diving a little deeper, the players on the team with the top three scoring averages (74, 77.29 and 78) occupy the top three spots in both of these rankings. And taking a look at all the players’ differentials, their rank stays the same compared to their scoring average rank.”
  • “The fact that many golfers overlook when making the statement “I need to make more birdies to score better” is that each hole accounts for about 5.5 percent of your round. So, if we take our player who averages one birdie (minus 1) and 2.5 doubles/worse per round (plus 5, conservatively), 5.5 percent of her round is birdies and 13.75 percent of her round is doubles/worse.”
  • “If she were to simply focus on making more birdies per round to “balance out” the current 2.5 doubles/worse per round, she would need to increase to five birdies per round. That would be a jump up to 27.5 percent of her round. Compare that to shift a focus to minimizing the doubles/worse category. If this same player could even shave her doubles/worse to 1.5 per round (plus 3,  conservatively), it accounts for 8.25 percent of her round.”
While important not to draw far-reaching conclusions, the piece is an insightful one.
7. A lesson for American pros?
Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann suggests Sky Sports’ coverage, namely in-tournament player interviews, could be a model to follow for PGA Tour telecasts.
  • “Time and again during the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, we saw players doing walk-and-talk interviews with Tim Barter of Sky Sports. These were players at or near the top of the leaderboard, including eventual champion Danny Willett, who acknowledged as he prepared to play the back nine Sunday that there’s “a few nerves still in there.”
  • “Jon Rahm, who finished T-4, visited with Barter each of the final two rounds, and the gregarious Andy Sullivan illustrated why he’s one of the most appealing characters on the European Tour with his animated conversation with Barter. Dean Burmester, who also finished T-4, looked as if he were out for a pro-am round stroll rather than competing for one of his tour’s biggest championships.”
8. PGA Tour heading to Japan
AP Report…”The PGA Tour will hold its first official tournament in Japan. And the main sponsor of next year’s event, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, is describing it as a kind of “moonshot” for golf in his country.
  • “Maezawa should know….The founder of the Japanese fashion website Zozotown, Maezawa was announced earlier this year as the first commercial passenger to attempt a flight around the moon.”
  • “The tournament, set for Oct. 24-27, will be part of the PGA’s swing through Asia along with stops in South Korea and China. The Japanese tournament replaces one in Malaysia.”
9. AK sighting
Geoff Shackelford...”The reclusive Anthony Kim has surfaced in a video Tweeted by No Laying Up.”
Sitting with at least five of (presumably) his dogs, sounding eerily like Luke Walton and declaring his intention to place his first-ever bet on Phil Mickelson in The Match, Kim was golf’s break-out star in 2008.”
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Morning 9: (People’s) Champion Golfer of the Year | BK on J.B.’s pace of play | Xander vs. R&A? | Portrush triumphant

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

July 22, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Champion Golfer of the Year
Look, you watched Shane Lowry win The Open by six strokes, holding his never to improve by upon the margin he started Sunday at Portrush with by two. No need to recap that. Instead, let’s check out some of the fantastic writing inspired by Lowry’s hoisting of the Claret Jug.
For example, this passage from Tom English at BBC Scotland…
  • “…The 16th is infamous around here. It’s called Calamity Corner for a reason. Lowry, though, was in a place where nothing could hurt him. He was kicking for home and preparing for victory. Still a steely focus, still in his bubble. It’s impossible to know if Lowry heard it, but on his way to the 16th tee a Northern Irishman shouted out at him: “You’re doing us proud, Shane.” Us.”
  • “Through the sunshine of Saturday and the brutality of Sunday, Lowry was serenaded. He wasn’t south or north, he wasn’t Catholic or Protestant, he was Irish. He was their guy. He was the one they transferred all their passion and all their love to when Rory McIlroy exited on Friday.”
  • “Through Lowry, they united. And it was powerful. Back in the worst days of The Troubles, the people trying to build bridges were always horribly undermined by those trying to blow them up. The badness always got more projection than the goodness.”
2. Lowry’s day in the sun was windy, rainy for pretty much everyone else
Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”The final round of the 148th Open Championship will be remembered for Shane Lowry’s fairytale victory and the sordid horror stories that many of his pursuers will recall with strains of bemusement and bewilderment.”
  • “Royal Portrush was as mendacious as advertised on Sunday after three days of general hospitable appeasement. All it took was a strafing wind out of the southwest – the wind most oppressive on the Dunluce Links – to provide the kind of necessary accouterment.”
  • “…It’s not that the weather that moved in over the Causeway Coast and Glens was more severe than anything most competitors had seen before. But as Russell Knox explained after shooting a 77: “We’ve played in worse rain. We’ve played in more wind. But it was on the biggest stage on a demanding course. So everything is kind of highlighted.”

Full piece.

3. BK won’t blame J.B. 
Per Golfweek’s Steve Dimeglio Koepka (who finished tied for fourth after a final-round 74) had this to say about his exceedingly deliberate playing partner…”J.B. had a rough day. J.B. is a slow player. I know it’s difficult with the wind, but I didn’t think he was that bad today,” Koepka said. “I thought he was all right. There were times where I thought it was slow. There’s a lot of slow guys out here.”
  • “What I don’t understand is when it’s your turn to hit, your glove is not on, then you start thinking about it, that’s where the problem lies. It’s not that he takes that long. He doesn’t do anything until his turn. That’s the frustrating part. But he’s not the only one that does it out here.
  • “But like I said, it wasn’t that bad today, it really wasn’t. It was slow, but it wasn’t that bad for his usual pace. It was relatively quick for what he usually does.”
4. Leaning on Bo
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”Lowry needed someone to talk to Sunday afternoon.”
  • He knew he was lucky to escape the first hole without significant damage, dropping just one shot to Tommy Fleetwood by making a bogey putt of significant length. All afternoon he held his lead, and all afternoon thoughts persisted about how bad it would hurt to see it slip away in front of his countrymen. Some of them were faces he recognized from back home in Clara, County Offaly.”
  • “Enter caddie Brian ‘Bo’ Martin.”
  • “He was unbelievable today,” Lowry said. “He kept on my back all day, kept talking to me, he kept in my ear. I kept on telling him now nervous I was, how scared I was, how much I didn’t want to mess it up. All I could think about was walking down 18 with a four- or five-shot lead. And lucky I got to do that.”
5. John Bradley’s bad Sunday
Golf Channel’s Jay Coffin…”Holmes began the final round in third place and in the penultimate group with Brooks Koepka. He shot a final-round 87, seven shots worse than any other player, and tied for 67th place, beating only three players who made the cut.”
  • “The first shot of the day flew left off the first tee and into the internal out of bounds. He reloaded and opened with a double-bogey 6.”
  • “By the time Holmes made the turn, he shot 41 and was well out of contention. But the next nine holes were much, much worse than the previous nine.”
  • “Holmes, 37, made triple bogey on the par-4 11th hole, then followed it with a double bogey on the par-5 12th. After two more bogeys over the next four holes, he closed with consecutive double bogeys on the final two holes to shoot a second-nine 46 and a 16-over 87.”
6. A relatable champion
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”Only his exquisite command of a golf ball distinguishes Shane Lowry from any Irishman you’d get from central casting. He is a dry wit, is fond of a pint, is colorful with his language, is devoted to his family and is a stranger to the gym. He looks like a man more likely to be guarding the Claret Jug than having his name engraved on it, but he’s undeniably a man you’d want to be drinking from it with.”
“Lowry grew up just 130 miles from Royal Portrush, a journey of four hours across Ireland’s backroads and, crucially, the U.K.’s border. That’s why Lowry can escape the yoke that has often been draped on the shoulders of Northern Irish natives who make a name in the world beyond. Unlike Rory McIlroy, he need not navigate the binary bigotry of Northern Ireland, and isn’t asked to declare an allegiance, Irish or British. In a place consumed with identity, he is someone fans can simply identify with.”
7. Take us back to Portrush!
So pleads Golfweek’s Forecaddie...
“After all, players have given their thumb’s up, as The Man Out Front’s colleague Alistair Tait reported. And R&A officials on site all seemed giddy about the venue, openly gushing about ticket sales and mostly pulling off a successful operation. The club members, other than having their phones ring off the hook with golfers wanting to experience one of golf’s best courses, struck TMOF as quite pleased they hosted and sounded ready for another.”
  • “Golf architect Martin Ebert, the club’s consulting architect who was doing his best to take in the proceedings in between congratulations for deftly touching up H.S. Colt’s design, told The Forecaddie that meetings this week will determine what went well and what needs work. Topics may include adjustments to Ebert’s new 7th hole, the internal out of bounds that killed Rory McIlroy’s week and a few other intriguing restorative elements held back from the pre-2019 preparations.”
8. Xander vs. the R&A?  
ICYMI: Xander remained unhappy over the weekend about his (driver’s) failed test (he did delete a couple of tweets on the subject though)…
Geoff Shackelford…”At issue: Who went public or even leaked news of Schauffele’s Callaway Epic driver failing a COR test for “spring like effect”?
  • “Schauffele says it was the R&A, host this week and one of two governing bodies in golf. But assembled media and fans were unaware of the issue until the world No. 11 spoke following Friday’s second round. While there were rumblings of failed tests on the grounds, according to Schauffele, within the “traveling circus” of pro golf the failed test was known. One player jokingly heckled Schauffele, and he blames the R&A.”
  • “It is an unsettling topic,” Schauffele said. “I’ve been called a cheater by my fellow opponents. It’s all joking, but when someone yells ‘cheater’ in front of 200 people, to me it’s not going to go down very well.”
9. Other golf stuff!
On the LPGA Tour…(AP report)Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura ran away with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on Saturday, shooting an 11-under 59 in best-ball play for a six-stroke victory.
  • At the PGA Tour’s alternate event, the Barbasol Championship, Jim Herman fired a final-round 2-under 70 for a one-stroke win over Kelly Kraft.
  • Kristoffer Ventura won on the Korn Ferry Tour.

 

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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, at Baltray, Lowry came 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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