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GolfWRX Morning 9: The real gamble of The Match | Nicklaus-Palmer: golf’s gold standard of rivalries | Golf’s biggest turkeys

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

November 23, 2018

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Will the gamble pay off?
Not only do we not know how successful/profitable this event will be, but that success/failure will dictate the future of the imagined Woods-Mickelson (and friends) series.
  • Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”It is true that neither player risked their own money for the $9 million cash prize, but that’s almost beside the point. If this thing is a success it could generate more than 10 times that much off future installments. If it doesn’t, Woods and Mickelson have risked hyping up an event that’s never been done before and might not have mass appeal.”
  • “Beyond that, the bragging rights will be real. That might sound trivial considering all the prestigious titles and majors Woods and Mickelson have already bagged. They’ve resembled a pair a carnival barkers in the months leading up to The Match, but we’ll finally see the competitors come out when they go head to head at 3 p.m. ET Friday.”
  • “That’s what has to happen for viewers to become invested, and it almost certainly will because these guys aren’t laying it on thick when they talk about the pride factor involved in a one-on-one showdown such as this.”
2. The future…or nah?
The BBC’s Jonathan Jurejko…”An entertaining showdown between two of the game’s all-time greats to settle a score which has rumbled on for more than two decades?…Or simply a crass cash generator for two ageing millionaires which leaves the sport looking desperate for attention?”
  • “Opinion has been divided over ‘The Match’ between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in Las Vegas on Friday, a $9m (£7m) winner-takes-all showdown which is being streamed on pay-per-view across the United States on Thanksgiving weekend. One thing everybody can agree on is, for better or worse, golf will never have been seen anything like this before.”
  • Jureko looks at the questions surrounding the cash, timeliness, and the merits of exhibition golf in his piece.
3. …and how much will be wagered?
By people not named Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, that is…
  • Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge (again)…”That was the challenge,” Rood said. “During a fight we’ve got a lot of history on the fighters like (Floyd) Mayweather and (Manny) Pacquiao. I can anticipate what my handle is going to be and that’s going to dictate how I price the match as well. … Whereas in this case, I don’t know what my handle is going to be. Don’t know if it’s going to be embraced or more of a spectator spectacle rather than a wagering event. It falls somewhere in between right now.”
  • “So far, the interest level and amount wagered is higher than some might think. It will be by far the most ever bet on a single match for golf, already about 8-10 times the amount wagered on non-major tournaments like the Wells Fargo Championship.
  • “Rood said the final tally come Friday could even match the amount bet year-round on the Masters. The number of actual tickets won’t come close, but the bets are much larger. The largest so far came Monday, when MGM accepted a $75,000 bet on Mickelson. They’ve also had multiple people inquire about placing six-figure bets over the next 48 hours.”
  • “It’s probably approaching a really good college football game right now,” Rood said of the interest level from a betting standpoint
4. The gold standard in golf rivalries

Excellent stuff from Doug Ferguson on Palmer-Nicklaus.

  • “But unlike Woods-Mickelson, who never really squared off in a major until Woods’ fifth year on the tour, Nicklaus famously beat Palmer in a playoff to win the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont in Palmer’s backyard.”
  • ”Arnold and my rivalry became more from the two us,” Nicklaus said. ”We would play together a lot. We were paired a lot. And usually we beat each other up and we ended up giving the tournament away. That’s why they talk about the rivalry. Everyone was interested in who won that day, not who won the tournament.”
  • And this…”He said the rivalry started in 1958 when Nicklaus, an 18-year-old amateur, was invited to take part in a day honoring Dow Finsterwald.
  • ”On the first tee we had a driving contest,’‘ Nicklaus said. ”Arnold drove it on the green. I drove it 30 yards over the green. I never let Arnold forget that. I’d say, ‘Hey AP, we had one driving contest, I hit it 30 yards by you.’ He’d say, ‘Yeah, but I shot 63 that day and you shot 67.’ To me, that was the start of our rivalry. Ever since we played, we always had fun with that.
5. World Cup of Golf: Hatton-Poulter rally
Meanwhile, in actual tournament golf…after one round at the World Cup of Golf
  • Bill Speros, Golfweek.…”England, Australia and South Korea enjoy a three-way tie after the first round of the 2018 ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf in Melbourne, Australia.”
  • “The U.S. team of Kyle Stanley and Matt Kuchar were tied for 13th among 28 teams after a 66….Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton birdied six holes on the back nine of the opening fourballs for England to earn a piece of the lead at 10-under 62.”
  • “Cameron Smith sank a 10-foot putt for a birdie on 18 to ensure he and Australia teammate Marc Leishman held a share of the lead with South Korea’s Byeong Hun An and Si Woo Kim and the Englishmen.”
6. Rai!
EuropeanTour.com...”Aaron Rai produced a course-record 61 at Hong Kong Golf Club to open up a commanding four-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Honma Hong Kong Open presented by Amundi.”
  • “The scoring conditions were perfect for the early starters on Friday morning and Rai took full advantage, notching six birdies in his first nine holes – including four in a row from the 12th – before finding three more on the back nine to break the course record by two strokes and move to 14 under par.”
  • “That impressive total left the Englishman four shots clear of closest challenger Hyowon Park following the South Korean’s bogey-free 62.”
7. Golf’s biggest turkeys
Alex Myers steps in it a bit with this roundup of golf’s biggest turkeys of 2018. The turkeyness of any of the inglorious included aside, Myers may find himself eating alone at future holidays. Still, credit to him for taking out his needle.
A few of the fowl…
  • “Patrick Reed…We said there was no particular order, but. . . Seriously, where do we begin this guy? Although, Reed broke through for his first major championship at the Masters, he also managed to eject a European Tour camera crew, throw most of his entire Ryder Cup team – including his idol, Tiger Woods – under the bus, and publicly complain about his complimentary tickets at a Red Sox game.”
  • “Phil Mickelson...Other than Tiger Woods, no golfer generated more headlines, but they weren’t all good. In particular, Mickelson sent the golf world into a tizzy with his hitting-a-moving-golf-ball stunt at the U.S. Open. Making matters worse was his (mis)calculated explanation that the move was done to give him some sort of advantage. A few days later, he apologized and admitted -as everyone suspected – he was just frustrated with how things were going for him that day.”
8. Pro won’t wash his hand
Mr. Meyers, again…
Tiger Woods will take on Phil Mickelson in The Match on Friday, but he had a profound effect on another Thanksgiving week round of golf on Wednesday. Woods crossed paths with fellow tour pro Maverick McNealy on the range at The Madison Club, and McNealy wound up breaking the course record.
9. Unofficial The Match drinking game
Christopher Powers at Golf Digest has some thoughts on how to liven up The Match for those of you not enthused by predictive analytics: drink…namely when any of the below occurs.
  • “If (when) Tiger shows up in red, take your first delicious sip. Same for if (when) Phil shows up in black. If Phil is rocking the long sleeve button-down, drink for five seconds
  • “Any time Tiger adds an “-ey” to the end of a word, take one sip
  • “Any time Peter Jacobsen says something blatantly obvious, like “match play is just so much different than stroke play,” drink for three seconds (we call this #JakeGold)
  • “Any time a commentator overlaughs at one of Tiger or Phil’s forced jokes, take a sip
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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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