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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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Schedule postponements and cancellations on the PGA Tour, European Tour plus the four majors: What we know so far

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With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the PGA Tour and European Tour have taken steps to cancel or postpone several events. Action has also been taken on some of golf’s major championships, and here we’ll summarize what decisions have been made so far altering the 2020 calendar.

The Majors

Both The Masters (April 9-12) and PGA Championship (May 14-17) have been officially postponed with hopes of rescheduling both events for later in the year. According to the NY Post, the US Open is also set to be postponed and rescheduled for “later in the summer”, though as of Tuesday, March 31 the USGA has made no formal announcement confirming this news.

The R&A has of yet made no announcement on this year’s Open Championship which is due to take place from 16-19 of July.

  • April 9-12: The Masters – Postponed
  • May 14-17: PGA Championship – Postponed
  • June 18-21: US Open – NY Post reporting postponed; not yet confirmed by USGA
  • July 16-19: Open Championship – On Schedule

PGA Tour

Since cancelling the Players Championship mid-event, the PGA Tour decided to cancel several subsequent tournaments. As of now, the earliest return date for the PGA Tour is May 21 at the Charles Schwab Challenge.

The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship which is played the same week as the WGC-Match Play was postponed with plans to reschedule the event.

  • March 12-15: The Players Championship – Cancelled
  • March 19-22: Valspar Championship – Cancelled
  • April 16-19: RBC Heritage – Cancelled
  • April 23-26: Zurich Classic of New Orleans – Cancelled
  • April 30-May 3: Wells Fargo Championship – Cancelled
  • May 7-10: AT&T Byron Nelson – Cancelled

European Tour

Along with the cancelled WGC-Match Play and confirmed postponed major championships, the European Tour has postponed a further seven events. Unlike the PGA Tour, the European Tour has chosen to postpone almost every upcoming event for the time being instead of cancelling. The GolfSixes Cascais is the only confirmed cancellation as of now.

On Monday, the Dubai Duty-Free Irish Open became the latest tournament to be postponed meaning the earliest possible return date for action on the European Tour is now June 4 at the Trophee Hassan II.

  • March 12-15: Magical Kenya Open – Postponed
  • March 19-22: Hero Indian Open – Postponed
  • April 16-19: Maybank Championship – Postponed
  • April 23-26: Volvo China Open – Postponed
  • April 30-May 3: Andalucia Masters – Postponed
  • May 9-10: GolfSixes Cascais – Cancelled
  • May 21-24: Made in Denmark – Postponed
  • May 28-31: Irish Open – Postponed
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PGA Tour to provide financial assistance to players and caddies during Coronavirus pandemic

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The PGA Tour has announced plans to compensate both players and caddies after several Tour events were cancelled due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

In a memo sent to players on Friday, it was explained that due to IRS regulations, the Tour is not allowed distribute un-earned financial benefits to members, but that the organization has developed some programs to help its players during the ongoing pandemic. Players and caddies will receive financial assistance from the PGA Tour with one of the primary programs to help players based on their current FedEx Cup standing.

Players can receive up to $100,000 in bonus earnings during this period which will subsequently be removed from their season-ending bonus after play has been restarted.

Tour pros will also be entitled to request advance payments (up to $30k) for future Monday pro-am spots and advances on future earnings, while the Tour also plans on allowing players to withdraw funds from their retirement plans based on financial need.

“Playing opportunities equate to financial opportunities, and we are concerned about the toll that canceled tournaments are having on some of our members” – Tyler Dennis, a senior vice president and the Tour’s chief of operations.

Included in the memo were caddies, who are entitled to a partial mid-season distribution of an endorsement program and who can also request financial support from the Caddie Benevolent Fund.

Play is not set to resume on the PGA Tour until May 21 at the earliest.

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GolfWRX AUA (Ask Us Anything): TaylorMade fitters are answering YOUR questions!

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With the downtime, #teamtaylormade are ready to talk golf!

Go to the link below to ask any TM specific questions you may have. TaylorMade fitters from across the US will be diving in the forums to answer questions, talk golf and get you dialed. Take this opportunity to go TM crazy.

Team TaylorMade fitters that will be participating:

  • Chris Clegg, Georgia
  • John Junkin, Pennsylvania
  • Lewis Schnauble, Maryland
  • John Tabor, Michigan
  • Freddy Villarta, California
  • Matt Zerishnek, Pennsylvania
  • James Albright, Arizona

Join the discussion here.

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