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GolfWRX Morning 9: Mickelson’s incredible streak | The Match viewership data is in | The perils of streaming sports

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

November 27, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. A reader suggested that this morning greeting was inappropriate as I hadn’t “earned the relationship” and readers “don’t know me from Adam.” If you would prefer no greeting, please let me know; I’m always happy to reconsider. With respect to the relationship, this has never been a one-way street. My email is listed above, and y’all have always been encouraged to use it (I answer all emails).
1. An incredible streak
Phil Mickelson has now been inside of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for 25 years.
25 years!
Phil first landed inside the top 50 on November 28, 1993, after finishing second at the Casio World Open in Japan.
He was in danger of sliding outside the top 50 in 2018, falling to No. 49 after the Farmers Insurance Open. However, Lefty got it in gear, tallying four top-10 finishes in a row and winning the WGC-Mexico Championship.
2. Match ratings are in
Our Gianni Magliocco…”It may not have been the best of Thanksgiving Friday’s for Bleacher Report Live, whose system suffered a glitch, allowing the pay-per-view match featuring Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to be viewed online for free.”
“But despite the multi-million dollar costing system error, Turner President David Levy has said how he is delighted with how the contest between two of golfs biggest superstars performed. Turner received 750,000 unique video views and 55 million minutes consumed on B/R Live for The Match, which led Levy to state “We don’t have all the facts and figures, but based on early indications, the total audience for the match surpassed expectations across all of our platforms.”
“The glitch is said to have cost Turner in the region of $10 million in revenue, and it’s an error that Levy has put down to the insufficient memory in the system, caused by Black Friday shoppers.”
“This all boils down to really insufficient memory, server capacity that was required, and the high volume of consumer access requests in a condensed amount of time. Try to do this during Black Friday with Amazon’s cloud with everybody online ordering stuff.”
“As for whether or not we could see another PPV golf event in the future, Levy claimed that there is an excellent possibility, believing the demand to be there. However, golf isn’t the only sport which the Turner president believes can thrive in this capacity, who is fully committed to the format created.”
3. Silliest complaints
While there has been plenty of criticism of The Match, some judgments just don’t hold water. Alex Myers at Golf Digest rounds up some of the silliest criticisms.
“They didn’t play well!”…It’s true, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson didn’t have their A (or even B) games, but they’re not machines. You can’t just flip a switch – especially during the off-season – and expect them to play their best. There’s a reason “That’s why they play the game” is a saying. You never know how things are going to turn out in a sporting event, let alone a round of golf. Remember that NCAA men’s basketball final between UConn and Butler a few years ago? That was absolutely brutal to watch, but hey, it happens. Move on.
“It took away from the World Cup of Golf!”…If you are a golf purist and enjoyed watching the World Cup more because of the Metropolitan Club’s fantastic bunkering, that’s totally understandable (seriously, that bunkering looks glorious). However, complaining that The Match took away from that event is absurd. The World Cup was played in a different hemisphere so even with The Match going long, it didn’t overlap with Golf Channel’s coverage. And Tiger or Phil haven’t played in it in nearly two decades, meaning they wouldn’t have been in Australia even if they weren’t in Vegas. So pipe down from Down Under.
“The money is obscene!”…Playing a round of golf for $9 million seems ridiculous. And regardless of who won, both guys were probably guaranteed to make more for four hours of work than the average person will make in his/her lifetime. But it’s not like Tiger and Phil forced Turner Sports, Capital One or any other of The Match’s sponsors to put up the money. And we’d like to see someone else turn down a payday that big. Also, appearance fees in golf aren’t exactly a new phenomenon. Golfers get fat checks to show up at certain tournaments and plenty of other outings all the time. You think people played in Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf for free?
4. Streaming stresses
Gerry Smith at Bloomberg looked beyond the streaming issues of B/R Live and The Match in particular at the general difficulty of streaming live events.
A morsel…”Perhaps the biggest example came in 2017, when Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor met for a highly publicized boxing fight that cost $100 for a high-definition stream. NeuLion, which was UFC’s streaming partner, experienced technical difficulties that led to many buyers being unable to see the bout.”
“Live streaming sports is harder than streaming TV shows and movies — like Netflix Inc. does. That’s mainly because live sports is only available for a few hours, making it vulnerable to crashes when many people watch at the same time. It’s also more complicated. It involves taking a feed, ensuring it works on devices such as Xbox or Roku, encrypting it, inserting ads, then handing it off to a third party for delivery to an internet provider — all in real time. A crash means viewers can miss a thrilling touchdown, buzzer-beater or a missed putt.”
“That hasn’t stopped tech companies from pushing deeper into sports. Amazon now hosts Thursday Night Football and is reportedly bidding on regional sports networks.”
5. Race to Dubai adjustments
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait writes that the “minnows” of the European Tour could have a better lot going forward.
  • “Players at the bottom of the European Tour food chain have had a tough time retaining full cards because of prize fund differentials. Qualifying School graduates have been especially hard hit. Just seven of last year’s 33 Q-School grads kept cards during the 2018 season. Only three manged to do so in 2017.’
  • “The European Tour has taken steps to make it more fair for players down the pecking order to hang onto full playing rights by dividing tournaments into categories based on prize funds.”
  • “Previously, points on the tour’s order of merit, the Race to Dubai, were determined on the basis of one dollar being equal to one point. It created a disparity of approximately 12-1 between bigger and smaller tournaments. For example, the U.S. Open’s $12 million prize fund meant winner Brooks Koepka, had he been a Euro Tour member, would have picked up 2,160,000 points compared to Chris Paisley’s 165,425 point for winning the $1 million BMW SA Open.”
6. Mickelson the pitchman
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge looks at Phil Mickelson and the pitchman part he played ahead of The Match.
  • “Mickelson always knows how and when to hedge his bets off the course. Once talks for “The Match” were already in the works, Mickelson played a practice round with Woods at Augusta National ahead of the Masters. Knowing how many eyeballs that attracts, he donned a new long-sleeve dress shirt from Mizzen+Main, a company in which he has a stake and for which he later danced in a commercial designed to go viral.”
  • “That’s Mickelson in a nutshell. Everything is so over the top it’s hard not to laugh along with him while he dances all the way to the bank.”
  • “It’s also, at times, hard to know how much he actually believes the things he’s saying, like during the HBO “24/7” documentary show leading up to “The Match” when he was in true showman mode and said he wasn’t done winning majors.”

Full piece.

7. Clairvoyant Collins
Little known fact: ESPN’s Michael Collins can see the future. Here’s a bit of what he sees in his crystal ball for the a year ahead.
  • “Tiger Woods wins four times…Tiger being “back” means Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open), Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational), Muirfield Village (Memorial) and East Lake (Tour Championship) are again titles that belong to him.”
  • “Tiger Woods wins zero majors…I know, I know. Tiger’s major-less streak is as confusing as Rickie Fowler’s major-less career. Brooks Koepka is heading for another big year.”
  • “Brooks Koepka wins two majors…We may have finally found “that” dominant force we’ve been looking for.”
  • Brooks Koepka finishes 2019 as world No. 1
8. A small Masters again?
Golf World’s Ryan Herrington…”With just 87 players competing this past April, the Masters had its smallest field since 1997. As officials at Augusta National Golf Club prepare to send out their initial invitations for 2019 in the next few weeks-cue the social-media posts from tour pros overjoyed with what just came in their mailboxes-the upcoming tournament could wind up being a similarly small affair.”
“Through the end of the PGA Tour’s fall schedule, 66 players have earned their way into the field under the Masters’ various qualifying categories (subtracting 13 past champions who no longer compete in the tournament). Spots remain for anyone in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of 2018 who has not already qualified. Using the most recent ranking, 13 players would be added to the invite list. That number could increase depending on movement over the next five weeks-Six players from No. 51 to 60 in the World Ranking, including Brian Harman and Daniel Berger, are on the outside looking in-but using 13 for our purposes here, that gets the field to 79.”
9. When was the last time…
…you saw a professional golfer (a tournament winner, no less) with iron covers? The only thing missing from Hong Kong Open winner Aaron Rai’s bag is a ball retriever. But seriously, all credit to Mr. Rai, not only for the win, but for being true to his iron cover-loving self.
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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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