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GolfWRX Morning 9: Tiger’s altered expectations | Cam Champ vs. a pro long driver | Woodland’s WIlsons

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

November 28, 2018

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Tiger the #content creator
Great for GOLFTV, and an interesting development in the golf mediaverse.
  • “Tiger Woods has signed a deal with Discovery, Inc., that will offer behind-the-scenes access on GOLFTV, the PGA Tour’s new global streaming partner.
  • “GOLFTV is the brand name for Discovery’s on-demand video streaming service that starts next year. It plans to collaborate with Woods on a wide range of programming designed to give viewers a closer look into Woods’ practice routines, life on the tour and some instruction.”
  • “I want to talk to golf fans and golfers everywhere, directly, and straight from me,” Woods said. “That’s important to me, talking about what we care about. What’s happening on the course, how to play better, how can I shoot lower scores tomorrow, how can I beat my friends?”
  • “The content will be owned exclusively by GOLFTV globally, including in the United States, where Discovery can still develop a distribution strategy.”

Full report here.

2. …and makes a hole-in-one…for the first time in 20 years
While it wasn’t in competition, Tiger Woods made his first ace in two decades. Here’s the story via Dan Kilbridge at Golfweek.
  • “Woods was playing with his 9-year-old son Charlie, TGR executive and good friend Rob McNamara and Fred Couples, who had aced the exact same hole just days earlier and told the group about it before they hit.”
  • “Woods took a little off a 5-iron to a back right pin on a shot that never left the flag, according to McNamara. A bunker was blocking their view of the hole from the tee box, but once they got to the green they saw a pitch mark about 15 feet in front of the hole.”
  • “We didn’t see it go in,” Woods said. “Somehow when we got to the green it was gone. I thought it might be over the back but I said no, I hit it a lot softer than that. And we get up there and then it’s in the hole.”

Full piece

3. Changing the conversation
The AP’s Doug Ferguson on Tiger Woods’ mindset entering the 2019 season.
  • “He turns 43 at the end of the year, and with age comes a dose of practical thinking…His expectations are high by his standards. Given the level of attention he draws, the expectations of everyone around him are sure to be much higher. He was asked if he was close to having the same expectations he did 15 years ago.”
  • “It’s not the same. It never will be. I’ll never feel that again,” he said. “To be what, 28 years old? Physically, I’ll never be like that. So expectations are different than they used to be, for sure. Now, can I still win? Can I still compete? Yes. Can I do it for the next 20 years? No. Because that’s not realistic.”
  • “Indeed, his expectations at the peak of his career were far different….”Just win. Win everything,” he said. “Because I felt like I could.”
4. Woodland’s Wilsons
Gary Woodland created a minor stir among Tour equipment junkies when he arrived at the Hero World Challenge with a set of unreleased Wilson blades.
He talked with PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister about the clubs after his Tuesday practice round.
  • “ON USING THE WILSON STAFF IRONS: “Obviously it’s a good time in the season to start testing some stuff. I had a bunch of stuff sent to my home. I hit these and loved them. They’ve been really good.”
  • “ON WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT THE IRONS: “It’s a new blade I believe they’re going to come out with next year. Through the turf has been phenomenal. Ball flight, trajectory all have been very consistent and what I’ve been looking for. … The big thing is consistent trajectory. When I look up, the ball is coming out of the window I want it to.”
  • “ON WHEN HE RECEIVED THE WILSON IRONS: “A couple of weeks ago. I’ve been off for the last two weeks so it’s been good. I think they look phenomenal. So traditional. Very clean. I haven’t signed a deal with anybody but they definitely stick out.”
5. Cam Champ vs. Tony Finau’s cousin in a long-drive contest
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker on a battle of booming drives between Champ and Tony Finau’s cousin earlier this year.
  • “He had a long drive contest against my cousin, who finished second in the World Long Drive twice,” Finau, speaking at this week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, said of an impromptu showdown between Champ and Ben Tua’one, who was runner-up in the World Long Drive Championship in 2011 and 2012.
  • “They both went after it and both their [ball] speeds were right around 200 [m.p.h.], just over 200, maybe 202, 203,” Finau said. “Cameron was obviously a little more efficient, hitting in the center of the face. So his ball in Utah was going just over 400 yards, so it was quite impressive to watch.”
  • “Maybe once I had that type of speed and that type of length, but not anymore,” Finau said. “That’s pretty incredible. He has the flexibility and the length I’ve never seen before.”
6. A European Tour divide 
Colin Callander at National Club Golfer used the recent news of Rory McIlroy’s minimal 2019 European Tour schedule and the Q-School calamities of a few golfers to highlight the opposite ends of the spectrum for European Tour players (and hopefuls).
“Rory McIlroy caused something of a stir when he told the media at the DP World Tour Championship that he might play as few as two regular events on next year’s European Tour.”
  • “Professional golf is becoming an increasingly polarised game and at around the same time that McIlroy was planning his route to his next major title, three younger players were contemplating a much less lucrative life on the mini tours after rules infractions had, at least in part, cost them the chance of earning a tour card at the annual European Tour Qualifying School.”
  • “There is a very small margin between success and failure in professional golf and nowhere is that better illustrated than at Q School where dreams are made but where one loose shot or a single mishap can end a career. Sometimes before it starts.”
7. A final Woodsian note 
Tiger Woods spoke with SiriusXM’s Brian Katrek this afternoon at Albany in the Bahamas ahead of this week’s Hero World Challenge. We’ve heard everyone’s take on The Match, so we might as well hear what TW himself has to say. Here’s what he told Katrek.
  • “It was an experience that I think that was different for the game of golf and one that everyone had an opinion, whether it’s good or bad, I don’t care what it is, but everyone had an opinion, and that’s what we tried to stir up. Hopefully it was a positive experience for most. We tried to make it, it was a show, it was entertainment, but as I was explaining after, the press conference there, I got lost in the competitiveness of it. I started getting focused on trying to fight through it and trying to beat Phil.”
  • “And Phil and I were talking about it while we’re playing, he says I’m having a hard time talking. And I said, yeah, yeah, me too. I’m the same way because I’m trying to beat your brains in, and that’s how we’ve been our entire career. And so yeah, it was a little on the giddy side early, as we turned and he was up, then I flipped it to I was up, he got really quiet and then he started talking when he got up and then after I hole a shot on 17, he got really quiet.”

Full one-on-one interview via SiriusXM On Demand here

8. Following Phil’s lead
Our Michael Williams has recently taken up shooting clays and has traveled the world to hone his skills.
Discussing the new-found hobby, Williams writes.
  • “Phil Mickelson got a lot of attention for a tweet that showed him spending time on a firing range to prepare for the Ryder Cup. Mickelson wrote, “How is today’s long-range sniper shooting preparing me for the Ryder Cup? Meditation, controlling my thoughts, breathing, heart rate and connecting with the target are critical for both!”
  • “While it ultimately didn’t do him a lot of good in France, the theory was a sound one. The roles of equipment, technique, and mindset are almost identical in shooting and golf. These crossovers exist between golf and most shooting sports, but Phil should have been practicing at a sporting clays course instead of a sniper range.”
9. They were more tired
Geoff Shackelford spotted an interesting take here from Francesco Molinari in an interview with Golf Digest Italy’s Massimo De Luca.
  • “It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific reason. Undoubtedly the tricky setup of the course was a huge factor. But don’t forget, we lost all three of the first matches on Friday morning. If it hadn’t been for Tommy Fleetwood and me beating Woods and Patrick Reed, we would have been at 0-4, and it would have been really hard. We reacted by winning, 4-0, in the afternoon. But we didn’t kid ourselves. The more-experienced players worried about an American backlash, but with time we felt better on that course, which many of us know [as an annual European Tour stop for the French Open].”
  • “The key moment was Saturday morning, when only Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth had earned a point. We saw that they were probably more tired than we were, also because the majority of them had been busy with the FedEx right up until the end. But you know how the Ryder Cup is. In fact, after the 2-2 Saturday afternoon, they attempted a comeback in the singles on Sunday. But we reacted well.”

 

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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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