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GolfWRX Morning 9: Equipment stories of the year | Tour tidbits | Sabbatini to compete for Slovakia?

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

December 26, 2018

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans. Hope Mack Daddy Santa was good to all of you.
1. WRX’s newsmakers of 2018
Gianni Magliocco took a backward glance at the year that was in the world of golf and assembled his top 10 newsmakers of 2018. Here are a few of his selections.
“Brooks Koepka…Brooks Koepka made it three major championship wins in his last six attempts, as the big-hitting American took the spoils at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in 2018. As if his year couldn’t get any better, Koepka also claimed the CJ Cup and is officially the year-end World Number One.”
  • “Despite his unparalleled success in 2018, Koepka has also made the headlines for claiming that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves from the golfing world. The 28-year-olds emotionless performances make it difficult for golf fans to fall in love with the current best player in the game, but three major championships from his last six appearances speaks for itself, and the chip on Koepka’s shoulder continues to drive him towards golf’s biggest prizes.”
  • “The USGA’s Shenanigans at Shinnecock…The consensus after the third round of this year’s U.S. Open was that the USGA lost the run of themselves. Conditions which were tough but fair on the opening two days were transformed into a brutal, almost unplayable set-up by the USGA on Saturday, which saw carnage take place for the entire day. Zach Johnson and Ian Poulter were two players that were very outspoken about the conditions, with the former stating that the USGA had “lost the course.”
  • “One man that didn’t speak out about the conditions on Saturday was the 36-hole leader who perhaps was the one player who would have been justified in venting his grievance. Dustin Johnson was four-under par after 36 holes at Shinnecock Hills, holding a four-shot lead over the chasing pack and looking in total control of both his game and the event. Had the USGA not tricked up the course to the extreme on Saturday it’s highly likely that the 34-year-old would have picked up his second U.S. Open title. Instead, Johnson got caught up in the bloodbath and saw another opportunity to become a multiple major champion slip away.”
  • “Tiger Woods…There was only one man who was ever going to take the top spot. Barely able to walk just over 12 months ago, the best and brightest minds of golf’s talking heads all with hardly any exception declared Woods as finished, with some urging the 42-year-old to call it a day. Woods didn’t listen, and instead, produced a comeback year for the ages.”
  • “Woods knocked on the door of win number 80 on the PGA Tour early, when finishing runner-up at the Valspar. He then held the lead at the Open Championship for a period on Sunday, before being pipped, and at the PGA Championship, the 14-time major champ produced his best Sunday round at a major, firing a sensational 64 to finish runner-up.”
  • “But it was at the Tour Championship that Woods finally got back into the winner’s circle, after a five-year exile. Woods put on a clinic in Atlanta, and his walk through the hoards of adoring fans on 18 on Sunday will be remembered by anyone who was watching for a very long time.”
  • “From spinal fusion surgery, to win number 80 on the PGA Tour, and a rise from 656th in the Official World Golf Rankings at the end of 2017 to his current ranking of 13th. Tiger Woods’ 2018 was as close to a sporting miracle as you are going to find.”
2. Bjorn’s promise kept
Avoiding the obligatory use of “cheeky” in the headline here, but look for it everywhere else!
  • AP Report…”Europe captain Thomas Bjorn has lived up to his promise to tattoo the team’s winning Ryder Cup score on his bottom.”
  • “Bjorn made the promise at a news conference before the event in September in France, where Europe was the underdog against the United States.”
  • “Video first posted on the Twitter page of Ryder Cup Europe on Monday showed him going into a tattoo parlor in London and grimacing while Europe’s winning score — 17 1/2 to 10 1/2 separated by the outline of the Ryder Cup — is inked into his upper left buttock.”
Full piece (and see the ink if you dare)
3. Rose, Garcia, Stenson, Poulter commit to Saudi International
Jason Lusk at Golfweek…”Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter have committed to play in the European Tour’s Saudi International on Jan. 31-Feb. 3, the Saudi Gazette reported.”
  • “They join Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Thomas Bjorn, who already had signed up to play at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City. That gives the event two of the world’s top three players (Rose at No. 2, Johnson at No. 3) and six players from the 2018 Ryder Cup squads.”
4. Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch reflects
“Two golfers I met this year remain lodged in my memory as 2018 sees itself out, but you won’t find their names in an accounting of FedEx Cup points or on Ryder Cup team rosters.”
  • “I met Mark Hensby for dinner in Scottsdale last February. He was four months into a well-documented suspension from the PGA Tour that left him feeling frustrated, angry and anxious to resume his career. In July, I sat beneath the R&A Clubhouse in St. Andrews with Vicente Fernandez, who had traveled from his home in Buenos Aires and successfully qualified for the British Senior Open at the age of 72. He was charming in his old-school manners, thankful for one last shot at golf’s most iconic venue.”
  • “They could not be more opposite in disposition, Hensby and Fernandez, but golf has a way of acting like connective tissue to link otherwise wildly disparate people and places. Hensby and Fernandez were two guys who just wanted to play golf.”
5. Takes on the new rules
Golfweek Staff assembled an assortment of perspectives.
On the rules-making process…”What gets me excited about the new rules is that they don’t change the game itself. The game still requires us to have some skill to move the ball from the teeing ground to the hole in the fewest number of strokes possible. However, it’s maintained the integrity of playing the game at the highest level, yet still maintained some flexibility for people who don’t play at the highest level, but they’ll still be able to play by the Rules of Golf. They haven’t gone to real bifurcation, which I’m not for anyway, but I think they’ve done an exceptional job of rewriting the rules to accommodate more players.”- Doug Hoffmann, Minnesota Golf Association
  • “I think a lot of things that they changed (reflect) the way golf already is being played on a day-to-day basis at most facilities.”- Jeff Ninnemann, Southern California Golf Association
  • “In general, most of the changes are good for the everyday player. There’s less potential for players to breach rules.”- Bill Linneman, Wisconsin Golf Association
6. Equipment stories o’ the year
Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson collected his top equipment stories of 2018. While he doesn’t rank em, it’s fitting Tiger Woods’ putter swaps receive top billing.
Tiger’s Putter Switch(es)...”When Tiger Woods does pretty much anything, it’s a story. But when the GOAT changes equipment, it’s a seismic event among those who care about equipment changes. Although Woods change to TaylorMade’s TW Phase 1 irons this year was noteworthy, it was his move to the company’s TP Ardmore 3 mallet putter during the summer that sent people into a tizzy. The combination of Woods benching his Scotty Cameron by Titleist blade that he used to win 13 majors, combined with the sight of Tiger using a mallet with “fangs” at the Quicken Loans National, was almost too much for some. Woods didn’t stop there, changing to TaylorMade’s TP Black Cooper Juno blade for a one-event trial at the Dell Technologies Championship before going back to the Cameron, which he used during his victory at the Tour Championship. A return to a familiar spot in the winner’s circle with a familiar putter made all seem right in Tiger-land.”
Free Agents Winning Majors…”Winning a major championship often brings a substantial bonus from the player’s equipment sponsor. That wasn’t the case in 2018 because, implausibly, none of three men who won the four majors had an equipment contract. Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari-all former Nike staffers-took home the hardware but not an extra check. Their wins highlight golf’s changing endorsement landscape, one in which there are fewer companies and dollars available to players, but also one in which golfers are realizing that the purses on the PGA Tour (along with other endorsement opportunities outside equipment) are large enough that playing equipment they feel most comfortable can result in earnings that more than offsets the profits from a specific deal. The times, they are a changin’.”
7. Tidbits from the Tour
Doug Ferguson filed his traditional end-of-year tapas spread…
  • “Math has never been a strength for Austin Johnson, the brother and caddie for Dustin Johnson. Sometimes, it really doesn’t matter.”
  • “Johnson’s most memorable shot this year was on the 12th hole at Kapalua, where his drive on the 433-yard hole stopped 6 inches short of the cup in the final round. The day before was a shot even more exquisite. From light rough to the left, he hit a pitch that trundled down the slope, back up toward the green and into the cup for an eagle.”
  • “How long was the pitch?…Austin Johnson looked at the book. He first mentioned 65 yards. He looked at the book again and said it was 79 yards. And then he gave up….”Hey, we’re feel players,” he said with a wink. “We’re not all rocket scientists out here.”
8. Rory Slovak-tini
AP Report…”Don’t be surprised to hear these words at the Sony Open: “Now on the tee, from Slovakia, Rory Sabbatini.”
  • “The South African-born Sabbatini last week became an official citizen of Slovakia, according to Slovak newspapers SME and Novy Cas. Sabbatini’s wife, Martina Stofanikova, is from Slovakia.”
  • “Rory Sabbatini might be seeing a trip to the 2020 Olympics in his future after becoming a citizen of Slovakia, the home country of the South African-born golfer’s wife.”
  • “The Slovak Golf Association says it is sending proof of citizenship to the International Golf Federation, which would allow the 42-year-old Sabbatini to play under the Slovak flag. It also would make him eligible to play for the Eastern European country in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.”

9. It’s the thought that counts…

No Laying Up put out their annual call for the worst golf-related gifts (given by well-meaning relatives, etc) this Christmas.

The set of emoji golf balls showcased by Twitter user @zak_ashley17 are certainly something.

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  1. Thomas A

    Dec 27, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Patrick Reed was not a former Nike staffer. He switched to Nike clothes AFTER Nike dropped equipment. He was previously with Callaway for equipment.

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Phil phires a 60 | Lowry leads in Abu Dhabi | Bernhard the bricklayer’s son

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

January 18, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1.  Desert Classic
A “rusty” Mickelson leads with nothing less than a 12-under 60…
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”If this is his idea of rusty, it could be another special year for Phil Mickelson…Before heading out to begin his 28th year on the PGA Tour, Lefty alerted his 250,000-plus Twitter followers that he was “excited” and “fresh” and “ready to get started,” but also, um, “rusty,” which is a golfer’s subtle way of suggesting that expectations should be lowered. Mickelson even told his playing partner, Aaron Wise, the reigning Rookie of the Year, as much before the round: “I’m rusty, so don’t expect much.”
  • “But Mickelson has been doing the improbable for nearly three decades now, and so maybe it shouldn’t have been such a complete surprise that in his first round of 2019, at 48 years of age, with no expectations, he carded his lowest score in relation to par in his long and decorated Tour career – a 12-under 60, to take the lead Thursday at the Desert Classic.”
  • “It was kind of a lucky day in the sense that I did not feel sharp heading in,” Mickelson said afterward. “Sometimes it’s just one of those days when it clicks.”
2. Meanwhile, on the LPGA Tour…
AP Report…”Nearly three months after Lewis became a mother, and six months after she last played on tour, she opened with seven birdies on Thursday for a 5-under 66 that left her one shot behind Brooke Henderson and Eun-Hee Ji at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.”
  • ”Pleasantly surprised,” Lewis said. ”Had pretty low expectations going into the day. Just really made a lot of putts. I had some weird shots, which I knew was going to happen having not played in a while. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m going to take it.”
  • “Henderson overcame a slow start with a bogey on the second hole and a par save on No. 3 at the Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons. She birdied five of her last eight holes for a 65 to tie Ji, who had a bogey-free round.”
  • “The tournament – the first season-opener in Florida for the LPGA since 2015 – is only for LPGA winners each of the last two years.”
3. European Tour
A report from The National...”Shane Lowry has a three-shot advantage to take into Saturday’s final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.”
  • “A birdie at the 18th gave him a round of 67 to leave him on -17, three ahead of South African Richard Sterne.”
  • “An eagle on the final hole from Ian Poulter lifted the Englishman to -12 and gives him hope he can prevail on Saturday.”
  • “Pablo Larrazabal will start the final round on -11 ahead of a quartet of Maximilian Kiefer, Thomas Pieters, Soren Kjeldsen and Scott Jamieson.”
4. The bricklayer’s son
Bernhard Langer’s “My Shot” runs in Golf Digest this month.
A few morsels…
  • “My father built our house. When I was a boy, he would call on me to help him lay bricks. I would shovel the material for the mortar into a small mixing machine, then join him in laying the bricks, setting them carefully, one by one, using string to make sure everything was straight. I consider it a miracle to have come this far.”
  • “WE CADDIES were given four hand-me-down clubs to share. There was a 2-wood, 3-iron and 7-iron, all with bamboo shafts, and a putter with a shaft bent like an archer’s bow. By the time I was 12, I saved enough money to buy a new set of Kroydon irons. They weren’t top of the line, but they were shiny, new and all mine. I added a Blue Goose model putter that had a small indentation in the head. It was a magical putter, and I quickly became the best putter at the course, Golfclub Augsburg, and possibly all of Germany. One day the putter went missing. I frantically went through the members’ bags, and sure enough, found my Blue Goose with the indentation. But I was in a terrible situation. I couldn’t confront the member-he surely would deny everything, and I would be fired. So I kept it to myself. I never did get the Blue Goose back. I’ve spent the past 50 years looking for a putter that suits me as well.”
5. Latin American Am
AP Report…“Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico had an ideal start Thursday in hopes of turning his fortunes in the Latin American Amateur Championship, opening with a 6-under 66 to build a three-shot lead after the opening round.”
  • “Ortiz has been runner-up in the Latin American Amateur the last two years. He finished five shots behind Joaquin Niemann of Chile last year, and he lost in a three-man playoff to Toto Gana the previous year.”
  • “The winner earns a spot in the Masters in April, and is exempt into the final stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open and British Open.”
6. Pins in at Augusta National? Maybe…
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…”Will players really be allowed to putt with the pins in during at the Masters?”
  • “Asked that question Thursday at the Latin America Amateur Championship, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley didn’t say no.”
  • “Under the new Rules of Golf, which went into effect on Jan. 1, players are now allowed to leave the flagstick in while on the greens, as Bryson DeChambeau so eagerly demonstrated.”
  • “Addressing the possibility of Augusta National going against the Rules of Golf during Masters week, Ridley first thanked the USGA’s Mike Davis and R&A’s Martin Slumbers for their work, then preached a message of “consistency” at the game’s highest levels.”
  • “We will, as we always do, collaborate with the governing bodies. We will talk about those local rules and conditions that will be implemented,” Ridley said.”
  • “We think it’s important that there be some consistency in top championship golf, and so you should expect that the Masters Tournament, from a rules perspective, will look very much, if not the same, as what you’re seeing in the major championships and the professional tours.”
7. The weirdest lies in golf history
Great stuff here from Coleman Bentley rounding up some of the most absurd lies (and resultant shots) in golf history (although it’s hard to believe there’s any way his list could be comprehensive, but hey, headlines, and you have to admire the effort)
  • “Golf is a game of minutely controlled chaos. Atoms crashing into atoms. Weight swooping into inertia. A ballet of bounces, spins, kicks, and ricochets that goes wrong just as often as it goes right. The beauty of a such an unpredictable game-one of inches, not yards-however, is that when it goes right it’s spectacular and when it goes wrong, well, it’s equally spectacular. Beg to differ? Well, keep on begging, because as the weirdest, wildest lies in golf’s weird, wild history prove, chaos is a beautiful thing indeed.”
  • “Shane Lowry – 2018 Abu Dhabi Championship…Before Shane Lowry could tie the course record at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Championship, he first had to conquer Trash Heap Corner. P.S. If no one’s taking that couch, we might know a guy who’s interested.”
  • “Phil Mickelson – 2014 Barclays Championship…The Leave: Just to the left of Big Jeff’s Hotdog Haus. One day Phil Mickelson will save par from the surface of the moon. We’re sure of it. Until then, his walkabout at the 2014 Barclays Championship will have to suffice.”
8. Kang & McNealy
A couple of Las Vegas-based golf pros are a couple!
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”Danielle Kang watched Maverick McNealy with special interest when he was mic’d up on Golf Channel’s telecast of the Web.com Tour event in the Bahamas earlier this week.”
  • “They are dating.”
  • “Kang wasn’t sure whether to reveal McNealy is her boyfriend, but she couldn’t help herself.”
  • “He’s a dork,” she cracked when asked to review his running dialogue on Golf Channel. “But he’s my dork.”
  • “She was applying the Kang needle. Both she and McNealy live in Las Vegas. She said they met at a golf course there, The Summit Club.”
  • “He’s a sweetheart,” Kang said. “I have so much respect for him and vice versa.”
  • Aww!
9. Back in black!
Titleist 718 AP2 Black and AP3 Black released in limited quantities. Previously only available in a traditional chrome finish, the new Titleist 718 AP2 Black and Titleist 718 AP3 Black irons are finished with a sleek, high polish black PVD coating. The irons feature True Temper AMT Onyx shafts stock.
  • Titleist has unveiled new 718 AP2 Black and 718 AP3 Black irons in limited black finish that will be available to purchase from March 1.
  • Previously only available in a traditional chrome finish, the new Titleist 718 AP2 Black and Titleist 718 AP3 Black irons are finished with a sleek, high polish black PVD coating. The irons feature True Temper AMT Onyx shafts stock. The shafts’ powder coat matte black finish aims to minimize glare (in addition to looking cool). An all-black Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 grip is standard as well.
  • Speaking on the move to release the irons in black, Josh Talge, Vice President, Golf Club Marketing said
  • “One request we heard from both tour players and amateurs, particularly those who have gravitated toward our Jet Black Vokey SM7 wedges, was if they could have these same irons in a darker finish. Our team spent a lot of time making sure the aesthetics were done just right. It’s a look that you just have to see.”
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Brooks Koepka with Mizuno JPX 919 irons, TaylorMade M5 driver in the bag at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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Brooks-Koepka-Mizuno-JPX919

Brooks Koepka is in action this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship equipped with a new driver and set of irons.

Golf.com’s Jonathan Wall broke the news, via Twitter, that Kopeka has TaylorMade’s new M5 Driver in his bag this week, as well as Mizuno’s JPX 919 Tour Irons.

The three-time major champ used TaylorMade’s M3 460 Driver and Mizuno’s JPX 900 Tour irons throughout 2018, and it appears as if Koepka is happy to make the transition to both manufacturers latest additions of those series of clubs right from the get-go in 2019.

Brooks-Koepka-Mizuno-JPX-919

Koepka is currently T13 after two rounds of play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and sits five shots off the lead.

 

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European Tour members have heated exchange over cheating incident…from 2013

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Social media appears to have become the new playground for golfers to air their issues with each other, and this week it was the turn of two European Tour members.

The two men involved were Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and England’s Simon Dyson, and the subject of the feud revolves around a new change in the rulebook of golf. As of 2019, players are allowed to repair spike marks on the greens, an act which Dyson was found guilty of doing when it was prohibited back in 2013, and subsequently found himself slapped with a fine and a suspension.

Fernandez Castano kicked off the fun and games following his opening round at this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. The Spaniard said how the new rule “will take some time to get used to” before adding the punchline  “Unless you are Simon Dyson and you have been doing it for years.”

The bad blood between Fernandez-Castano and Dyson appears to be fully down to Dyson’s misdemeanour in 2013, as one year later on Twitter when the Spaniard was asked for his opinion on Dyson; he bluntly replied: “Used to like him, not anymore”.

Asked why he hadn’t tagged Dyson in his tweet yesterday, the Spaniard claimed that the Englishman had blocked him, before Dyson took to the stage, with a different rationale. In a since-deleted tweet, Dyson stated that Fernandez-Castano didn’t have the cojones (or something similar) and stated that the Spaniard is a “sad little man”.

After getting that off his chest, Dyson approached the incident differently, saying that he, unlike Fernandez-Caetano supposedly, had moved on from the affair which occurred six years ago.

Nothing quite like a good old confrontation on social media with a peer to begin your professional year, eh?

 

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