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GolfWRX Morning 9: No Ryder Cup worries for Captain America | $50K to caddie for Tiger | WGHOF shakeup

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1. No worries for Captain America
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard...”The fallout from Reed’s comments has continued and on Wednesday at the Hero World Challenge he was asked if he felt his status as “Captain America” had been damaged.”
  • “No, still 3-0 in [Ryder Cup] singles,” Reed said.
  • He added…”It’s something that I love and cherish and hopefully will continue playing really good golf when I represent the country and keep on bringing it in those events,” he said. “Being 3-0 in singles is something cool because you always want to feel like you can be counted on toward the end, especially during a Ryder Cup.”

Full piece.

2. Tough stuff for Senden
Our Gianni Magliocco…”As challenging and unpredictable as golf is, professional golfers can usually count on one thing, making contact with the ball. However, when John Senden attempted to rip his tee shot at the par-5 ninth hole in his opening round at the Australian PGA Championship, the Aussie’s club snapped mid-swing producing an air shot.”
  • “Despite not causing himself a severe injury, Senden did wound his hand during the bizarre incident, and after deliberating with a rules official, things got even worse for the Aussie. After failing to make contact with the ball, rules officials told Senden that not only would that swing count as a stroke but that he would also be forced to play his next shot from the original high standing tee. A decision that left his fellow countryman Geoff Ogilvy seething.”

See the swing here.

3. Rickie remains ready
Matthew Rudy at Golf Digest on Rickie Fowler remaining patient as he enters his third decade…even while being lapped by younger talents.
  • “Fowler is starting his 10th season on Tour, and measuring by cash he’s been wildly successful, with more than $34 million in career earnings on the course and at least that much off. Still, his 2018 season was a fair representation of his career. Fowler won the last Hero World Challenge with a spectacular final-round 61, but didn’t record a “real” victory the rest of the season. He even made his traditional appearances on major championship leaderboards at Augusta and the PGA and was counted on to be one of the leaders of the American Ryder Cup team.”
  • “I had a fairly consistent season — put myself in contention a lot, put myself in great positions at the majors — I just never got the job done,” Fowler said. “It’s not like it was a bad year by any means. I just didn’t win.”
  • “He’s right, but his career record — four wins, including the 2015 Players Championship — is also starting to suffer in comparison to a pack of similar-age and similar-profile players at the top of the world ranking. Bryson DeChambeau just won his fifth tour event at the end of the 2018 season, while fellow 25-year-old Jordan Spieth has 11 wins and three majors to go with his 2015 FedEx Cup title. Patrick Reed is the same age as Fowler and has won six times including the 2018 Masters. They’re all chasing Rory McIlroy, who turns 30 in May and has 14 PGA Tour wins and three majors along with seven other wins in Europe”

Full piece.

4. A $50K loop
ESPN’s Bob Harig on the winning bidder from a Tiger Jam auction to caddie for Tiger Woods during the Hero pro-am…”The joke among Jim Williams and his friends back home near Chicago was that the extent of his golf-bag-carrying experience barely covered hauling his own clubs from the truck of his car to the clubhouse.”
  • “And so there he was on Wednesday morning, lugging that big tour bag with Tiger Woods’ name on the side while working for the 14-time major champion over four-plus hours at Albany Golf Club during the pro-am for the Hero World Challenge.”
  • “From 12 inches of snow in Chicago on Sunday to 75 degrees and humid in the Bahamas on Wednesday, the physical challenge was far outweighed by the experience. And the high price paid at a charity auction was worth it.”
  • “Once in a lifetime,” said Williams, 53, who lives in St. Charles, Ill. “Tiger’s been great. A lot of fun. He’s been great to talk to, about golf, his kids, his family, everything. Easy to talk to, and better than I expected, really. A lot of fun.”

Full piece.

5. Rai 
Alistair Magowan profiled the singular Aaron Rai.
  • English of Indian descent, Rai offered a unique perspective on the poverty of Indian golfers on Tour…”Rai says traditional values could be a reason why there are relatively few Indian golfers on Tour, but he also admits there have been some rare cases of him being subjected to racism, which may also be a factor.”
  • “But he says the rise of golfers of Indian descent across the globe is another sign that “the perception of golf is changing” and becoming “a lot more acceptable and more inclusive”.”
  • “He cites 22-year-old Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma, who won twice on the European Tour last season, as “an amazing player, a great symbol for India and already a superstar”.
  • “Then you’ve got Julian Suri from America who also has Indian origins from his father’s side and Jack Singh Brar, who is British Asian and has just had a incredible year on the Challenge Tour. He will have a great career ahead of him.”
6. Scheduling difficulties
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”The PGA Tour’s dramatic makeover of its schedule beginning in 2019 prompted a number of changes to the European Tour’s lineup, with the latter circuit shifting five of eight Rolex Series events after the Tour Championship.”
  • “In theory, the moves should have made it easier for players who play both tours to fulfill their membership requirements, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Henrik Stenson.”
  • “I think for me it actually made it harder on the PGA Tour because in a way changing the PGA [Championship] from early August and putting that into the spring, that would actually occupy a tournament that I potentially could have played before,” he said on Wednesday at the Hero World Challenge.
  • “In the summertime, I don’t play anything in America, so that’s why I’m losing out on one there. So yeah, it’s going to be pretty packed for me.”
7. 3 new jobs for Greg McLaughlin
Press release…make of it what you will, but clearly some folks thought a major change at the organizations in question was in order, and they’re particularly enamored of Mr. McLaughlin!
  • “Greg McLaughlin named World Golf Foundation CEO & President of The First Tee Newly consolidated role to bring together direction and leadership of World Golf Foundation,  The First Tee, World Golf Hall of Fame”
  • “The World Golf Foundation Board of Directors announced today that Greg McLaughlin will assume the combined roles and responsibilities of World Golf Foundation Chief Executive Officer & President of The First Tee.  McLaughlin most recently served as President of PGA TOUR Champions, since January 2015; prior to his role at the TOUR, he was CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation for 14 years.”
  • “McLaughlin will strategically direct the World Golf Foundation, The First Tee and World Golf Hall of Fame, expanding the reach, impact and global prominence of each and ensuring financial performance and sustainability. McLaughlin will serve as a leader among the world’s top golf organizations, and a key ambassador and spokesperson for the game of golf.”
8. The pursuit of average
PGA Tour.com’s Mike McAllister on Keegan Bradley setting a low (but wise) bar for his flatstick work.
  • “This is going to sound weird, but my goal is just to putt average,” he said Wednesday on the eve of the Hero World Challenge.
  • “Actually, it’s not weird if you look at the rest of Bradley’s game. Last season, he ranked second in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. The year before, he ranked 10th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. The year before, he ranked 25th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green.”
  • “He knows he can put all those elements together, and indeed he ranked 14th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green last season. In the last six years, he’s never ranked outside the top 30 in that category.”
  • “Putting has been his nemesis, thanks in part to the anchored putting ban that forced Bradley, among others, to make major adjustments in their game a few years ago. The way Bradley figures it, his game from tee-to-green is good enough to give him a chance in every start … as long as his putting doesn’t derail him.”
9. The official GolfWRX Gift Guide arriveth
Just a friendly PSA that the GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide went live yesterday.
If you’re looking for items to add to your list for Santa or for the golfers in your life, check it out here.
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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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