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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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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,125 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen and more.

Last year, Keith Mitchell canned a 15-footer on the 72nd hole, outlasting Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka.

Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from PGA National.

General galleries

Special galleries

Vijay Singh using custom Mizuno MP-20 irons with lofts modified enough they had to stamp new numbers. Link to his full WITB

Camilo Villegas with old-school Air Jordans

Close up of Tommy Fleetwood’s putting grip

Luke Donald with a new putting training aid

LA Golf has a couple of new shafts

Brooks Kopeka with his pink and white Nike Air Zoom Infinity Tour shoes

Odyssey Stroke Lab Ten with new sightlines.  Link to galleries and discussion

Kevin Streelman is a huge Chicago Cubs fan, so he went to a spring training game and had the players sign his staff bag (to be fair, he probably took just the panel and not the whole bag)

Jim Furyk has gone back to his standard length putter and cross-handed after trying the arm-lock style for a while.

Kyle Stanley’s coach is taking a worm’s-eye view of Kyle’s alignment and stroke.

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Morning 9: Koepka talks golf | Tiger’s Champions Dinner menu | Tour caddies and hot seats

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1. Koepka talks golf
Adam Woodard at Golfweek…The former World No. 1 – who now sits third behind Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – opened up in great detail in a profile in GQ about what he would change about the game of golf, a sport that he truly loves despite some outside perception.
  • “One thing I’d change is maybe the stuffiness,” said Koepka, who’s never viewed himself as just a golfer. “Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn’t always have to be that way. That’s part of the problem.”
  • ...”Everybody always says, ‘You need to grow the game.’ Well, why do you need to be so buttoned-up? ‘You have to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ‘You’re not allowed in here unless you’re a member – or unless the member’s here.’…
  • …”I just think people confuse all this for me not loving the game. I love the game. I absolutely love the game,” said Koepka. “I don’t love the stuffy atmosphere that comes along with it. That, to me, isn’t enjoyable.”

Full piece.

2. Fajitas and sushi
“Being born and raised in SoCal, having fajitas and sushi was a part of my entire childhood, and I’m going back to what I had in 2006,” Woods said. “So, we’ll have steak and chicken fajitas, and we’ll have sushi and sashimi out on the deck, and I hope the guys will enjoy it.”
  • “Woods also said he’s considering serving milkshakes for desert like he did during the 1998 dinner.”
  • “That was one of the most great memories to see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead having milkshakes that night in ’98,” he said.”

Full piece.

3. Why a tour caddie is always on the hot seat 
The Undercover Tour Caddie writeth again…“I’ve been lucky to partner with 18 players on the PGA and developmental tours, four of which were longtime appointments. I’ve also been fired 17 times-and among my friends, that’s on the low end of the spectrum…”
  • “The majority of the time, the breakups are amicable and done in person. I consider myself friends with almost all the players I’ve worked for, and though there were some strong emotions from both sides when it came time to disband, I get it. This is a business, and they’re making a business decision. Plus, you don’t want to burn any bridges. I’ve had two guys toss me aside after a month’s work, only for them to circle back within the year, one of which ended up sticking for five seasons.”
  • “There have been callous splits. In the early 2000s, I was trying to get my guy to hit an 8-iron on an approach at the 71st hole. He was adamant that 9 was the play. I strongly, but respectfully, said he needed to club up. He went with the 9; his ball came up short of the green, and he couldn’t get up and down. That bogey dropped us out of the top 10. He fired me after signing his card, claiming he needed someone “who has faith in me.” Hey, I had faith-faith that his 9 was the wrong club.”

Full piece.

4. The best part of Tiger’s Masters win…
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”Last April at Augusta National Golf Club, behind the 18th green, after tapping in for a one-stroke victory and fifth Masters triumph, there were hugs all around, none sweeter than those from his daughter and son.”
  • “I think what made it so special is that they saw me fail the year before at the British Open. I had gotten the lead there and made bogey, double, and ended up losing to Francesco,” Woods said. “To have them experience what it feels like to be part of a major championship and watch their dad fail and not get it done, and now to be a part of it when I did get it done, I think it’s two memories that they will never forget. And the embraces and the hugs and the excitement, because they know how I felt and what it felt like when I lost at Carnoustie … to have the complete flip with them in less than a year, it was very fresh in their minds.”
  • “It’s a long and rambling thought, and totally justified in the context of all the emotion woven into the two experiences. Some things are just difficult to express cogently, and the struggle with doing so only underscores their impact.”
5. Dream of Coul is dead
Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”Coul Links was supposed to be Scotland’s next great links golf course. Envisioned to be built by Coore-Crenshaw on a protected wildlife site in Embo on dunes near Dornoch, those hopes took a serious blow on Feb. 21, when the Scottish government denied planning permission for a project spearheaded by golf course developer Mike Keiser.”
  • “I’m moving on. I have so many other projects,” Keiser tells The Forecaddie. “God bless Dornoch.”
  • “In its decision notice, Scottish Ministers determined that the proposed development would adversely affect the local environment, stating in their findings that the “likely detriment to natural heritage is not outweighed by the socio-economic benefits of the proposal.”
6. Koepka: Great round of golf with Trump
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…“In a profile in GQ, Koepka…talked about a recent round with President Trump…Koepka, his father, younger brother Chase and President Trump “had a blast” at Trump’s course in West Palm Beach.”
  • “It was nice to have my family there, my dad, my brother. Anytime it’s with a president, it’s pretty cool,” said Koepka. “I don’t care what your political beliefs are, it’s the President of the United States. It’s an honor that he even wanted to play with me.”
  • “I respect the office, I don’t care who it is,” added Koepka. “Still probably the most powerful man in the entire world. It’s a respect thing.”

Full piece.

7. Tiger on lengthening Augusta National 
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport…”Augusta National has been at the forefront of trying to keep it competitive, keep it fair, keep it fun, and they’ve been at the forefront of lengthening the golf course,” Woods said. “Granted, they have the property and they can do virtually whatever they want. They have complete autonomy. It’s kind of nice.
  • “But also they’ve been at the forefront of trying to keep it exciting as the game has evolved. We have gotten longer, equipment changed, but they’ve been trying to keep it so the winning score is right around the 12- to 18-under-par mark, and they have.”
8. Inside the Bear Trap
Golf Channel Digital team…“Here’s a look at some of the notable Bear Trap stats according to the PGA Tour (all figures since 2007, when the tournament moved to PGA National):”
  • “Among non-majors, the Bear Trap ranks as the third-toughest three-hole stretch on Tour at 0.644 over par on average. It’s behind only Nos. 16-18 at Quail Hollow (+0.873) and Nos. 8-10 at Pebble Beach (+0.673).”
  • “The Honda Classic field is a combined 3,629 over par across the Bear Trap and 4,934 over par across the other 15 holes at PGA National.”
  • “543 different players have played at least one competitive round at the Honda since 2007, with 76 percent (415) of them hitting at least one ball in the water on the Bear Trap.”

Full piece.

9. San Diego muni renovations (including Torrey)
Jason Lusk of Golfweek…“San Diego’s city council has allotted $15 million for upgrades and renovations to the city’s three municipally operated golf facilities including Torrey Pines’ South Course, site of the 2021 U.S. Open, according to a report Tuesday by the San Diego Union-Tribune.”
  • “…The $15 million approved Monday by the city council also will include contract work at San Diego’s other municipally operated golf facilities at Balboa Park and Mission Bay, the Union-Tribune reported. The courses will remain open during the jobs that include installing new irrigation systems and drainage, replacing and repairing cart paths, renovating bunkers and tree work.”

 

*featured image via Augusta National/the Masters

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Tour Rundown

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@asiapacgolfgrp

Only two of the world’s featured tours were in action this week, but the golf that they provided was memorable and historic. Not the type of historic that you find in school books, but certainly the type that golf aficionados point to, down the road. On the one hand, a prodigious yet poliarizing talent demonstrated complete control down the stretch, during his march to a 2nd World Golf Championship victory. On the other, a precocious competitor joined into a talented triumvirate with a marvelous birdie at the last, to secure an inaugural PGA Tour championship.Tuesday Tour Rundown is back, for this week only!

WGC-Mexico flies away in the hands of Patrick Reed 

Golf Twitter, depending on your perspective, is either entertaining or inflamatory. As happens in the world today, people take sides. In the case of Patrick Reed, that’s not difficult. One either forgives (or denies) Reed’s free interpretation (on multiple occasions) of the rules and their enforcement, or one preserves a disregard for a leading player who simply doesn’t act like one. What isn’t up for debate, is Reed’s seizure of this week’s World Golf Championship in Mexico. What looked for so long like a Bryson-DeChambaeau win, ultimately stowed away in Patrick Reed’s check-on pouch.

The tournament came down to the aforementioned duo. Both Jon Rahm and Erik Van Rooyen swam along the margin, but neither made enough of a Sunday move to figure in the outcome. Both, in fact, tied for 3rd place, 2 back of DeChambeau and 3 behind the champion. Bryson and his on-display muscles barged out of the 10th-hole gate like a man (and muscles) on a mission. Birdies at 4 of the first 5 holes on the inward half, staked him to a 2-shot advantage. Over the closing four, however, the magic went away, and a bogey at the penultimate hole brought him back to 17-under par.

Reed looked like a man playing for second. His long game was nothing exceptional, but his putter kept him afloat, time and again. And then, whatever DeChambeau had in his water bottle, came over to Reed. Birdies at 15, 16 and 17 suddenly brought the 2-shot advantage to the 2018 Masters champion. Even the cough of an expectorant fan, mid-backswing on the 18th, was not enough to convulse the champion. A closing bogey made the margin closer than it was, and Reed jumped from 33rd to 5th in the FedEx Cup standings.

PGA Tour Puerto Rico is Viktor Hovland’s debut decision

It wasn’t as mauling as Tyson Fury’s technical decision over Deontay Wilder, but Viktor Hovland and Josh Teater came down the stretch in Puerto Rico, like a pair of pugilists. The young Norwegian, Hovland, was pitted against the career grinder, Teater. First it was the veteran, with 3 birdies on the opening nine, to reach minus-19. Hovland chipped away, with a birdie at 5, and a 2nd at 10. And then, Teater hit Hovland with a right-cross (or Hovland hit himself with a sucker punch; you make the call.) Triple bogey! A startling six at the 11th, dropped Hovland into a tie with Teater (bogeys of his own on 10 and 11) who now had new life … and new pressure.

To his credit, Teater didn’t back down. He made birdies at 15 and 17, to recoup the lost shots at the turn. Unfortunately for him, tour victory the first would have to wait. Hovland, the Oklahoma State alumnus, made a sensational eagle at the 15th, to counter Teater’s birdie, and reclaim the advantage. The pair reached the 18th tee, a par five, all square, and it was there that Hovland dealt the final thrust. He took every bit of break out of a 25-feet birdie putt, and banged it into the hole. With the win, Hovland joined Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa as anticipated winners who actually won. Now comes the hard part: winning again and reaching a new echelon of champion.

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