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GolfWRX Morning 9: Feel-good stories of the year | Quotes of 2018 | Jack: TW’s swing is his best ever

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

December 17, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Feel-good stories of the year
The whole of 2018 may have been a Tiger Woods feel-good story (on the heels of the 2017 Woods feel-bad story as a foil). However, TW was but a dish in a multi-course meal of homestyle favorites.
  • Golf Digest’s Joel Beall rounded up his top-15 feel-good stories of 2018. Included in his list…JoAnne Carner at the Senior Women’s Open
  • “JoAnne Carner’s legacy was well intact when she arrived at Chicago Golf Club for the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, but the player known as “Big Mama” left the Windy City by augmenting her legend status. Carner, who won the U.S. Open in 1971 and 1976, birdied the 18th hole to shoot 79, her age, in her opening round. Not bad for someone who hadn’t walked a golf course in 15 years.”
  • ...and Cody Blick
  • “Cody Blick needed to jump 34 spots in the final round of Q-School to earn Web.com Tour status. A challenge daunting in itself, especially so after Blick’s equipment was stolen following the third round. All Blick did is turn in a Sunday 63, highlighted by a back-nine 31, a score that vaulted him into the 25 to grab guaranteed starts next season. Not bad, given the borrowed set in tow. “Hitting bad shots was OK, almost, like, ‘Dude, I have a mismatched set. It’s not expected of me to hit good shots,'” Blick said. “In a weird way, that was comforting.” Sorry Johnny Miller, but there’s a new best all-time 63 in town.”
Matt Parziale, Sang Moon Bae, Lexi Thompson, and more in the full list.
2. Lipsky victorious 
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait…”David Lipsky will enter 2019 as European No. 1 after winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, the last event of 2018. He joins Kurt Kitayama as the two American winners, after Kitayama’s victory in the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open.”
  • “Lipsky earned his second victory following the 2014 Omega European Masters with a two-shot win over Scotland’s David Drysdale. The 30-year-old Northwestern graduate entered the final round one shot behind ex-Augusta State player Scott Jamieson. A closing 4-under 68 gave him a 14-under 274 total and a check for just under $270,000.”
3. A victory for Love(s)
AP Report…”Davis Love III and his son Dru played so well Sunday that they set two scoring records, rallied from a three-shot deficit to win the PNC Father-Son Challenge and then wondered if they would get to play again.”
  • “Team Love shot 27 on the front nine at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club to get in the mix, took the lead with a birdie at No. 11 and finished off their record round with four more birdies an eagle for a 16-under 56, breaking by one the 18-hole record in a scramble format.”
  • “They won by three shots at 26-under 118, another record in the scramble format….”Who knows? This might be our last time playing, so it was fun to finish it off,” Davis Love III said.”
  • “The 36-hole event is for players who have won a major or The Players Championship, and their partner cannot hold a PGA Tour-sanctioned card. Dru Love has played 17 times in the last two years on the PGA Tour, European Tour and Web.com Tour, but he has yet to earn a card and missed out in the qualifying tournament this year.”
4. LPGA Tour: Top 10 moments in 2018
Beth Ann Nichols rounded up the 10 most significant moments on the LPGA Tour in 2018.
  • Here are two…”Michelle Wie drained a birdie bomb from off the green on the 72nd hole in steamy Singapore to win for the first time since 2014. Wie took the HSBC Women’s World Championship, also known as “Asia’s Major,” in stirring fashion with a 35-foot putt that broke her out of a four-way tie for the lead. The LPGA’s resident needle-mover credited her family’s relentless belief for propelling her through a four-year drought.”
  • “Lexi Thompson’s sparkling performance at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship – her first of 2018 – was among the most significant of her young career. Burdened from 18-months of hardship and disappointment, Thompson took a break mid-season to work on herself. It became obvious in Naples that her puppy, Leo, played a key role in helping Thompson feel like her old self. Her golf game looked vintage too, with the stock draw and old putter helping her back to the winner’s circle.”
5. Quotes of the year
The Golf Channel crew did some textual mining and assembled the best quotes of 2018.
  • “I never counted him out. When somebody said, ‘How is your [major] record, Jack?’ I said, ‘If Tiger comes back and plays I still think he’s got a shot at breaking my record.” – Jack Nicklaus on whether or not he believes Tiger Woods can still reach 19 major wins
  • “I would argue [Tiger Woods] got the least out of his talent of any player, maybe in history.” – Brandel Chamblee
  • ”I think I’m going to do exactly the same thing I did (Friday) night. I’m going to have a margarita as an aperitif, and then I’m going to have a nice bottle of Rioja (wine) and smoke a big fat cigar.” – Miguel Angel Jimenez on refusing to change his routine the night before the final round even with a three-shot lead (p.s. It worked.)
  • “Nope … He has my number.” – Patrick Reed, on whether or not he’s spoken to Jordan Spieth after the Ryder Cup.
6. Farewell, Charlie
Charlie Rymer is leaving Morning Drive for the greener pastures of retirement, golf, and charitable involvement.
  • Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”the Tennessee-born, South Carolina-raised Rymer confirmed he is departing the morning talk show for a scaled-back Golf Channel role in 2019.”
  • “Rymer said he’ll next be seen on April’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. He plans to relocate to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with wife Carol to play some golf, fish and focus on charity work for his favorite causes: junior golf and military veterans.”
  • “It’s been a wonderful run here, you guys are going to make me cry,” Rymer said at the conclusion of Sunday’s “Morning Drive” as he thanked the “hard-working men and women on the crew” along with his colleagues.”
7. Sports Personality of the Year!
BBC Report…”Italian golfer Francesco Molinari has been named World Sport Star of the Year at the BBC’s Sports Personality show.”
  • “The 36-year-old enjoyed a memorable 2018, most notably winning the Open Championship at Carnoustie in July to secure his first major and become the first Italian to win the title.”
  • “In September, he helped Europe to Ryder Cup victory over the United States. In doing so, Molinari became the first European player to win all five of his matches.”
8. Back on the bag
Brentley Romine writes…”Damon Green wasted no time finding a new boss…The 58-year-old Green and Zach Johnson parted ways last week after nearly 15 years, two majors and 11 total PGA Tour victories. Five days later, Green has agreed to caddie for Schniederjans beginning next year.”
  • “The news was first reported by The Caddie Network and confirmed to Golf Channel by Schniederjans’ agent.”
  • According to a report by Golfweek, Johnson’s agent helped facilitate a meeting between Green and Schniederjans, who played golf together last week at the Golf Club of Georgia before Green headed back home to caddie for Jim Furyk’s dad, Mike, in the PNC Father/Son Challenge in Orlando, Fla. On Thursday night, Green and Schniederjans reached an agreement over the phone.”
9. Tiger’s best swing ever? 
Quothe the Golden Bear…
  • “I think his swing is much better now than it ever was. The reason for that is Tiger was very much up and down with his head and I think that put a lot of pressure on his back.
  • “The fusion that he had, obviously was something he didn’t want but it was something he needed. … I didn’t think he would ever play golf as well as he’s playing.
  • “I never dreamed that he would play quite as well as he has and that the operation actually leveled out his head and leveled out his swing.”
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News

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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5 things we learned Friday at The Open Championship

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36 holes have come and gone, unexpected early departures happened for Jason Day, Tiger Woods, and all the amateurs, while unexpected extensions were granted to Paul Waring, Matt Wallace, and Innchoon Hwang. Royal Portrush was kinder in the morning than the afternoon, for the second consecutive day. What does that mean? It means that whoever has the lead today will be pressed to hold on through Saturday, then rinse and repeat for Sunday. In other words, more drama than a Snap.

Have a quick glance at what we deemed to be the five most important things we learned on Friday at #TheOpenChampionship.

1. What a difference a day makes! Wipeout Guy tosses 65 on Friday

Justin Harding is a good stick, for a tumbler. He won in Qatar this year on the European Tour, so let’s not define him by one swing of the golf club (even though we are going to show it below.) Harding uncovered 6 birdies and 1 eagle around Royal Portrush Friday morning, jumping from Even Par to, well, minus-six, with the first 65 of the week. He might win a skin for that 7th-hole eagle, if the fellows are playing for skins today. If not, He’s certainly positioned for an afternoon tee time on Saturday. Harding tied for 12th at the Masters in April, and made the cut at Bethpage in the PGA; his major-championship experience grows even more this weekend.

2. Meet The Woods

No, not the one with stripes. He’s down the road, after missing the cut. It’s early on Friday, but Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood may very well peg it together on Saturday afternoon. The English pair posted identical rounds of 68-67 over 2 days, to reach 7-below par. They find themselves tied for 3rd, behind JB Holmes and Shane Lowry. Prepare yourselves for announcers to dance around Lee having won no majors over his career, and Tommy looking to match his Ryder Cup bro, Francesco Molinari, with an Open Championship of his own. So predictable! What’s not predictable, is how the two will play on day three of the Portrush Summer Invitational.

3. Rory is the story of the 2019 Open Championship

Yes, there will be a winner on Sunday. Indeed, there will also be runners-up and various degrees of elation and disappointment. No one will come close to doing what Rory McIlroy did over the first 36 holes … and he didn’t even make the cut! David Duval spoke as much for Rory as for himself on Thursday, when he unequivocally mandated that a professional golfer signs the scorecard. Rory’s opening 8 was just a bit less gory than his closing 7. He missed a 12-inch putt on Thursday. On Friday, facing the worse of the weather draws, he tied the low round of the tournament with 65, 14 strokes better than his day-one offering. When the final flag stick was replaced in the 18th hole, he had missed the cut by those 12 inches. Odds are long that he would have challenged for the title over the weekend. McIlroy would have needed another low round to get to -5 or so, and would have needed everyone to back up substantially. In the end, he wore his home colors proudly, he never gave up, and he gave us something to cheer for, and to learn from.

4. J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry might be cousins, in a parallel universe

Our co-leaders each sport a beard, a barrel chest, and an ability to hit the long ball when it matters. Both appear unflappable thus far, and both have exhibited an ability to go on a tear. The only thing we have yet to see from either is, the guts to come back from a rotten break or a really bad hole. If neither one faces that ultimatum, they might be in a playoff come Sunday afternoon. Lowry had a chance to separate from the pack by 3-4 strokes. He reached -10 with his 6th birdie of the day, on number 10, but that would be the final, sub-par hole of the day for him. The Irishman bogeyed 2 holes coming in, dropping back to -8 with Holmes. As neither has a major title on the resume, neither has demonstrated the capacity for success on the oldest stage. Should be an interesting pairing on Saturday afternoon.

5. So many lurkers!

Justin Rose…2 strokes back. Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Brooks Koepka…3 shots behind. Four in arrears are Finau, Rahm, Kuchar and Reed. Many majors, much potential, and a lot of power in those 8 names. Yes, we’ll miss the guys who aren’t in contention (Bubba Watson, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell) and the aforementioned ones whose watch ended early. As anticipated a venue as Royal Portrush has been, so too, will the outcome be this weekend. Get your rest, get up early, put on coffee, get some doughnuts, and enjoy breakfast the next two days!

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Equipment

Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense

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After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.

The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.

We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.

The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.

Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.

For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.

Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.

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