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GolfWRX Morning 9: The Match takes and takeaways | Winning with the most unique swing in golf

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

November 26, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans. Hope your weekend was somewhere between Phil Mickelson’s and Bleacher Report’s.
1. Winners, winners, chicken dinners
With the so-called Silly Season in full swing, we have plenty of winners to congratulate this week (I’ll see your “silly” and raise you $9 million, says Phil Mickelson).
First up, a duo…At the World Cup of Golf — which is not exactly on par with the World Cup of soccer — Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry of Belgium took the trophy.
  • AP Report…”The Belgians had a few anxious moments on the back nine Sunday but held on to shoot a 4-under 68 and claim a three-stroke win, despite a determined late run by Australia and Mexico.”
  • “The sunny skies and lack of wind on Sunday was a far cry from Friday, when driving rain and gusty winds meant there were more scores in the 80s than in the 60s.”
  • “Belgium shot 71 on Friday, tied for the low score of the day and one of only four scores under par, and shared the lead going into the third round. Many golfers said the Friday conditions were the worst they had ever played in.”
  • “Pieters and Detry shot 63 in much-improved weather on Saturday in the four-balls (best ball) and took a five-stroke lead into the final round of foursomes at Metropolitan.”
And on the European Tour, it was the week of Aaron Rai.
  • EuropeanTour.com report.…”Aaron Rai claimed his maiden European Tour title after holding off fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick to secure a one-shot victory at the Honma Hong Kong Open presented by Amundi.”
  • “The 23 year old never actually surrendered the lead on Sunday but saw his six-shot overnight advantage cut to a single stroke by Fitzpatrick during a thrilling final-round battle in the pouring rain at Hong Kong Golf Club.”
  • “Five-time European Tour winner Fitzpatrick had fired seven birdies in his first 16 holes to pile the pressure on Rai but his challenge faltered when he carded his first bogey of the day at the 17th to give his compatriot a two-shot cushion with one hole remaining.”

Full piece.

2. …but more importantly
The peerless Ho-sung Choi won on the Japan Golf Tour.
  • “The unique swing of Ho-sung Choi made him an internet sensation over the summer. Now it’s made him a champion on the Japan Golf Tour.”
  • “Choi’s exaggerated follow through created a social media frenzy earlier this year, when he contended at the Korean Open and fell barely short of a qualifying spot in The Open. Here’s a refresher”
  • “This weekend, he was still employing those same mannerisms, but this time they delivered a one-shot win at the Casio World Open after Choi closed out a final-round 67 with a two-putt birdie on the 72nd hole.”
  • “Choi finished the week at 15 under, one shot ahead of Aussie Brendan Jones. At age 45, Choi now has his first worldwide win in more than five years and is expected to climb inside the top 200 in the world as a result.”
3. Shackelford on Tiger-Phil

In a fitting post-mortem of The Match, Geoff Shackelford looked at the great, the good, and the bad from Shadow Creek.

A few morsels….

  • The Great…Charles Barkley: He should have been on the full broadcast, in hindsight. He got right to the point as Tiger and Phil struggled horribly to read Shadow Creek’s greens. He jousted as only he can with Justin Verlander’s Tweets, too. But sadly, Barkley also was not around for the last couple of hours to put a bow.
  • The Audio: Turns out, a feed of just open microphones would have been enough for most people. Phil was in hard sell mode early but once he settled into a normal round of golf, basically narrated the proceedings. Tiger chimed in with enough to make a player-only feed functional had that been an option.
  • The Bad…Announcers Talking Over Players: Everyone was guilty at some point and I’m sympathetic to the cause as this was not a normal broadcast crew, not a normal match and an unprecedented amount of sound for a sporting event to take in.
  • “Still, to miss out on Mickelson asking Russell about a rule of golf change he just does not comprehend and several other side chats about shots, was tough for the core golf fan. The more novice viewer may prefer announcer storytelling, which is why lead announcer Ernie Johnson trampled over so much talk.”
  • “The Champion’s Belt: Sensational buckle design, simple brown leather look but uh, it didn’t fit Phil Mickelson, who looked visibly annoyed he couldn’t put it on. Next time, let’s make two belts, one for those with subcutaneous fat and one for those without.”

Full piece.

4. The future of The Match concept
A few thoughts from the “golf on TV” guru, Martin Kaufmann.
  • Kaufmann makes a number of points as to what ought to change going forward. Here are a couple.
  • “This should go without saying, but get the basic stuff right. Nothing irritates consumers more than the sense that they’ve been ripped off, and that’s how a lot of people felt Friday afternoon after paying $19.99, then learning that Bleacher Report was streaming it free. Fortunately, most cable and satellite providers – in addition to Bleacher Report – offered refunds or credits.”
  • “Speaking of the basics, how could the organizers spend two months planning the event but forget when the sun sets? Finishing under the lights on a rinky-dink par-3 hole was more unsatisfying than ending the World Cup on penalty kicks.”

Full piece.

5. Another take…
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in May striking down a federal ban on sport betting, Tour officials took a keen interest in how The Match integrated the “in-play” gambling aspect into golf. Throughout the day the winning odds fluctuated wildly, with both players coming down the stretch at even money, and the various prop bets also gained momentum with neither player ever taking more than a 1-up lead.”
  • “There was also an underlying sense that this was only the beginning. Many involved with The Match envision the event becoming an annual staple with a limitless collection of would-be challengers – from Tiger playing Hideki Matsuyama in Japan to Lefty matching up against the likes of Justin Thomas.”
  • “Those involved plan to take some time to read the room before committing to another Match, which is probably prudent given the push back from some fans who balked at the $19.99 tab to watch the event on pay-per-view and reports of technical difficulties for some who purchased the event that prompted officials to air it live and for free online.”

Full piece.

6. …and another suggestion for what should come next
GolfWorld’s Dave Shedloski…”The question going forward is this: Should there be a sequel? And the answer is obvious because, again, the encouraging numbers Levy referred to say there probably will be one. But it says a lot, and not good, when the HBO 24/7 program and the promotional trailers were vastly more intriguing than the 22-hole golf exhibition. The problem is, this still needs Tiger, who sells with reputation and popularity, and Phil, who is the showman.”
  • “But it will take more. Turner should take one more stab at getting The Match right, only have a team format. The rumors of an Asian duo taking on the Americans will not cut it. Bring us Justin Thomas, who is brash and jocular, and pair him with his loquacious buddy Jordan Spieth. There will be no dead air. There will be jawing. You have a generational hook. See how that sells.”
  • “Give us Perez, who will not be afraid to mix it up verbally. An example: When he was asked how he was selected for the broadcast team, Perez replied flatly, “I have naked pictures of Tiger.” Yes, put him in there with the brashest and mouthiest player you can find. Ian Poulter maybe? Or pair the petulant Tyrell Hatton with emotional Bryson DeChambeau and let those two potential powder kegs loose with live mics. Northern Ireland has two well-spoken unfiltered talkers in major winners Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. Heck, have a lottery and let two unknown Web.com Tour guys go at the pair.”

Full piece.

7. International Team turnaround ahead?
Ben Everill at PGATour.com reports…”Speaking at the announcement of Geoff Ogilvy as his first captain’s assistant for the biennial match up against the U.S. team Els believes things are on track for a turnaround after a huge run of American dominance.”
  • “A year ago the U.S. team were comprehensive winners in New Jersey to the tune of 19-11, taking their record to 9-1-1 over the Internationals in the competition.”
  • “But with their recent defeat in the Ryder Cup to Europe Els feels the door might be opening to finally wrestle back the ascendency come December 11-14, 2019…Changes he has already overseen in meetings with U.S. captain Tiger Woods and PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan include a new one-year points selection policy, rather than the old two-year system, ensuring his top eight automatic places are taken by players in form.”
  • “Of course this means he now has four captains picks instead of the previous two, once again allowing flexibility into his lineup. Els has also been given more say in the golf course setup as the home team, and also gets to choose the order of play.”

Full piece.

8. Praising Mike Whan
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”Early in Mike Whan’s tenure at the LPGA, three of the tour’s four majors were on shaky ground. Before he could rebuild a respectable schedule, Whan first had to make sure the pillars were in place. There were no guarantees.”
  • “Fast forward to 2018, when Whan played alongside Women’s British Open champ Georgia Hall in a pro-am one day after CME announced its plans to double the season-ending purse to $5 million. Though only a rookie, Hall was well aware she had come onto the scene at an opportune time.”
  • “I’m really lucky to be playing right now,” she told him. Against these players, on these venues, for this kind of money.
  • “The LPGA has not arrived by any means, not by a long shot, but Whan’s reflections at a recent State of the Tour address served as a reminder of the distance traveled.”
9. Yip-free Barkley
The delayed results of the Haney Project? Single-minded determination? The intercession of the golf gods? Whatever the cause, it looks like Charles Barkley’s full-body convulsion of a golf swing now resembles, well, a golf swing.
 Check out Chuck’s action here (c/o Alison Lee) .

 

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2 Comments

  1. Tim Schoch

    Nov 26, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Erm, Twitter, opinions. Please don’t flame the grammar 🙂

  2. Tim Schoch

    Nov 26, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Rounding up golf’s loudest mouths is all and good, but it is the audience (the paying customer all-important to the entire golf industry) who will determine success or failure of on-air and in-ink events and round-ups.

    So I suggest you tap in to Tweeter and other SM and give us a fair sampling of opinion before, during, and after the Match and other events. (Did public opinion change pre- to post- event? Indeed it did–Breed is hitting that topic right now.) Columnists want readers and often their opinion’s are diluted with promotion tactics. Let’s hear the people, and that, Ben, would help your presence and persona on GolfWRX, along with your traditional reportage.

    I say all that because I “feel” a trend in golf toward even more elitism and commerce. Increasing sales doesn’t grow the game.

    Someone once said (me) “Don’t look back to see who is catching up, look forward to make sure you end up where you want to go.”

    Carry on!

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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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