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GolfWRX Morning 9: Captain Woods Down Under | Bush’s advice to Norman | Newsmaker: Growth of women’s golf worldwide

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

December 6, 2018

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.

1. Tiger Down Under

Captain Woods is in Australia for promotional, logistic duties for the 2019 Presidents Cup. A concern: the proximity of the Hero World Challenge to the competition in Melbourne.
  • AP Report…”U.S. captain Tiger Woods will have discussions with golf officials in Melbourne on how to best prepare his team for the 2019 Presidents Cup next December at Royal Melbourne.”
  • “Woods, in Melbourne for a promotional visit, said the talks later Thursday would focus on the options of the Americans playing his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, coming to Melbourne the week prior for practice with sand-belt techniques, or playing the Australian Open as the lead-up event at The Australian in Sydney.”
  • “We have to figure out some logistical things between now and then and that’s the reason I’m here,” Woods said.
  • “We’ve got a few meetings here today to try to get a plan going forward so we can get the best that we can at the Hero as well as get everyone here from the Bahamas rested and prepared and ready to play.”

Full piece.

2. Playing captain?
AAP report…”Tiger Woods has given the strongest indication yet that he will tee it up as a rare playing captain in the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.”
  • “But 14-time Major winner Woods has declared he will accept the role of playing skipper — which has happened just once — if he is to earn automatic qualification for what will be a star-studded American team.”
  • “If I am part of the top eight, yes, I will play,” Woods told AAP in Melbourne.
Additionally, Woods indicated that if he and his vice captains agree the best way for him to help the team would be to accept a captain’s pick, should he be in that position, he would do so.
3. Worth keeping an eye on…
EuropeanTour.com report…”Ernie Els produced a stunning birdie blitz around the turn to share the early lead on day one of the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg.”
“The four-time Major Championship winner is seeking a sixth title in his home Open and he delighted the fans at Randpark Golf Club as he moved to five under after 13 holes of his opening round.”
4. Return of the Roar
ESPN press release…”The historic comeback season of Tiger Woods will be documented in a prime time film debuting on ESPN on Sunday, Dec. 30 – Woods’ 43rd birthday.”
  • “Tiger Woods: Return of the Roar, airing at 9 p.m. ET, chronicles the 2017-18 season that saw Woods overcome career-threatening back surgery to win on the PGA TOUR for the first time in five years. Beginning with his return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge in Albany, The Bahamas, in late 2017 and culminating with his stirring victory at the 2018 TOUR Championship in Atlanta – the 80th of his PGA TOUR career – the film captures the season that reenergized the career of arguably the game’s greatest player.”
  • “With new, never-before-seen content, including multiple interviews with Woods, viewers will get behind-the-scenes access to PGA TOUR events central to Woods’ return, including the Valspar Championship and the TOUR Championship, featuring stylized off-speed cameras and inside-the-ropes viewpoints.”
  • “The film also will touch upon Woods’ growing role as a leader and mentor on the PGA TOUR, highlighting his role as Captain’s Assistant at the 2017 Presidents Cup and the announcement made in March that he will captain the U.S. Team at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia. Due to his remarkable comeback, Woods is in position to be the first playing captain since World Golf Hall of Fame member Hale Irwin at the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994.”
  • “Featured are more than 60 interviews with PGA TOUR players as well as various professional athletes, all offering unique context to Woods’ comeback. The film also includes a new interview with Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, on his front-row seat to this historic season.”
5. Return of the Luke
Cameron Morfit at PGATour.com…”Luke Donald hasn’t played a shot on the PGA TOUR since he missed the cut at the RBC Heritage in April, but he will tee it up with partner Andrew Landry at the QBE Shootout starting Friday.”
  • “Donald, who will turn 41 later this week, missed six months with a lower back injury in 2018. In nine starts he made just three cuts and earned 42 FedExCup points, and he will start the 2019 season on a major-medical extension.”
  • “The state of the game is unknown,” he said after his pro-am round Wednesday. “We’ll see. I’ve been able to work hard the last couple months with no pain. I’ve certainly been putting in the time, but to bring it from your home course out here into a competitive situation, we’ll see how it goes.”
6. Newsmaker: The women’s game globally
Continuing to count down the top-10 newsmakers of the year Golf Channel in general, and Randall Mell in particular, write the global growth of women’s golf is the No. 9 entry.
  • Among other developments, Mell notes...”Back in the spring, Augusta National Golf Club stepped up, announcing it would launch the Augusta Women’s National Amateur in 2019. It’s a 54-hole event that will conclude with the top amateur women in the world playing the final round at Augusta National’s iconic venue.”
  • “In November, Suzy Whaley was elected president of the PGA of America, becoming the first female to hold that position in the 102-year history of the organization.”
  • “In December, the LPGA announced that CME Group CEO Terry Duffy would double the purse for the season-ending Tour Championship in 2019 and raise the winner’s check to $1.5 million, the largest in the history of the women’s game. It is notable that it will be greater than the first-place check was in 33 of 47 PGA Tour events last season.”
7. Bush’s advice to Norman
Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News, via Golfweek…”Norman even sought out Bush’s advice when the office of President Clinton, a Democrat, contacted Norman about playing golf with him because he was coming to Australia. Norman, who is a Republican, wasn’t sure about playing with Clinton.”
  • “I don’t want to play with him because I don’t really like a lot of things he’s trying to recommend,” Norman told Bush.
  • “Bush gave a very direct answer.…”Greg, you shall respect the Office of the President of the United States,” Bush said.”
  • “I said ‘Yes, sir’ and I played with President Clinton,” Norman said.  “It was all about the office, and respect for the office, regardless of the person who’s in it.”

Full piece.

8. Pepperell’s path to Bettinardi
Eddie Pepperell is a singular quantity in to world of golf, so it’s not surprising that the Englishman has taken a unique route to becoming a Bettinardi staffer.
  • 20 months ago, the two-time European Tour winner walked into Core Golf in Thame, Oxfordshire, and bought four putters, including a Bettinardi Studio Stock No. 8.
  • Pepperell, who jumped from No. 513 to No. 38 in the OWGR since putting the Bettinardi in play in April 2017, won’t have to pay for his putters any more. He joins the likes Francesco Molinari, Haotong Li, and Matt Kuchar as a Bettinardi staffer, the company announced the today.
  • “I’ve tried a number of putters and time and again, it’s the one model I keep coming back to.” said Eddie. “Positively I won’t have to buy a Bettinardi putter again, but having bought four putters from Core Golf I’m just hoping I haven’t put them of business as a result!” he added.

Full piece.

9. Epic Flash sighting
We spotted both Steve Stricker and Kevin Na hitting Callaway Epic Flash woods on the range of the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort ahead of the QBE Shootout in Naples, Florida, today.
  • The Epic Flash and Epic Flash Sub Zero showed up on the USGA’s conforming list just this Monday.  As with all photos from that registry, however, the images were both in black and white and only of the sole of the club. Fortunately, with apparent Tour seeding and testing under way, we can catch a glimpse of the color scheme, face, and crown designs.
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  1. Johnny Penso

    Dec 6, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Just my opinion, but the greatest thing to happen to Women’s Golf now and forever, would be the creation of the Women’s Masters, played at Augusta, within 1-2 weeks of the men. It’ll suck for the members but IMO it’ll play on network tv extremely well, the predominantly male audience will love it and it’ll be a ratings success bonanza for women’s golf. Use the same CBS crew that does the Masters, same camera setups etc. An instant golf classic.

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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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