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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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Morning 9: Women’s PGA | Fox: best golf coverage in the biz? | Michelle Wieturns

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

June 19, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Henderson, Thompson sizzling heading into Women’s PGA
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson couldn’t get hotter at a better time.”
  • “With three major championships over the next seven weeks, they’ll be looking to make the most of their winning form. They each have a chance this week to reach No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings for the first time.”
  • “Henderson won the Meijer Classic last week, Thompson the ShopRite Classic two weeks ago.”
  • “Ladbrokes makes Henderson the co-favorite to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship with Jeongeun Lee6 at 11/1 odds, with Thompson at 12/1 odds.”
2. Wieturning again
Ron Sirak for LPGA.com…
“But perhaps the most difficult digits to digest are those detailing the impact of the injuries that have disrupted Wie’s career. Without the constant interruptions, her five career wins with one major championship would almost certainly be more. Now, she tries once again to get back into action.”
  • “I’m feeling hopeful,” Wie said Tuesday at Hazeltine National where, on Thursday, she will tee it up for just her ninth tournament round of the year. “It’s still a process. It’s been hard sitting out during the middle of the season. There’s really nothing worse. But I had to take the time to get myself back to where I want to be.”
  • “There is almost no a part of Wie that has not been damaged, beginning with an injury to her left wrist when she fell while jogging in 2007. Since then, she’s had issues with a finger, knee, hip and the other wrist. At times, it almost appears as if her body is held together by multi-colored physiotape.”

Full piece.

3. Arrival of the Wolff
Sean Martin at PGATour.com…”This week’s Travelers Championship is Matthew Wolff’s first tournament as a professional. It may be the most anticipated pro debut in a decade. The consensus collegiate player of the year combines charisma with a swing that is identifiable from a few fairways over.
  • “He wins. He’s unique. His swing is different, so it catches everybody’s eye,” said Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. “And then there’s the incredible speed.
  • “When you see somebody with speed … it gets your attention.”
4. Fox the best?
An interesting take from Sean Zak at Golf.com…
  • “In its five years as the USGA rights-holder, Fox has added something new every year, which, for a sport whose visuals seem to never change, is refreshing and important. One year it was the mic’d up holes, even shadows on the greens to display slopes. Some of it sticks from year to year, some of it doesn’t, but Fox is trying new things and adding new context.”
  • “This year the novelty was epic, highlighted by delicious drone shots along the coast. Blimp shots are great and were more relevant this week than most, but the drones that floated up over Carmel Bay, gliding along with the players, providing the perfect scale of the property – those were new and beautiful. A good broadcast shows viewers everything they must see to better understand a course, but also makes them a bit jealous of everyone there on the grounds.”
5. JT pain free
A few quotes from Thomas…”I have zero pain. I can do everything normally.”
“I could have played Colonial – easily – but it would have been stupid and [my wrist] could have been lingering the entire year,” he said. “This injury should never be an issue again in my life, as long as I do the proper things and don’t do anything stupid. That’s why I waited as long as I did.”
6. Not a fan
The Herald’s (Scotland) Nick Rodger…
  • “As everyday life hurtles along at a furious rate of knots, the golf season too is hammering on. Three men’s majors have already been played and in just four weeks’ time the curtain will come down on the quartet of grand slam events at the Open Championship. It’s rather like uploading a Youtube video onto your laptop and quickly spooling through to the best bits.”
  • “It’s all happening a bit too quickly for my liking,” gasped Colin Montgomerie as the dust settled on last weekend’s US Open even though there’s still probably dust lingering from the previous majors of the US PGA Championship and the Masters.”
7. Jin Young Ko dreaming of Brooks?
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“On a day when LPGA stars filed in and out of the press room at the KPMG Women’s PGA, Ko delivered the line of the day. When asked what it is that she likes about Koepka and how he inspires her play, Ko said: “I met him in my dream, and then we had really great time.”
  • “…He always (has) like a poker face and then like stone.”
  • Ko, 23, put her arms out wide and said, “I like big guy.”
8. What Gary was aiming for
Our Gianni Magliocco…“U.S. Open Champion Gary Woodland made an appearance at SiriusXM’s Manhattan studios on Tuesday, where he sat down to discuss a multitude of topics with Adam Schein on his Mad Dog Sports Radio program – Schein on Sports.”
  • “Woodland also discussed beating Tiger Woods’ total of 12-under-par from the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. The 35-year-old first mentioned how he recognized that Woods won that tournament by 15 strokes, before adding how he was aware of beating his 72-hole total, saying…”
  • “I knew it, but I was trying to two-putt. I wasn’t trying to make that putt. Once it got halfway there and it went in I obviously let the emotion out. My caddie came over to tell me congrats and I said, ‘You know that clipped Tiger by one?’ And he said, ‘No I didn’t.’ He was focused on the wrong stuff, he was focused on winning, I was focused on beating that record.”
9. A Phireside chat
How to introduce Phil Mickelson’s first Phireside with Phil video…? Mickelson tells a story of an early morning restart at the Memorial some years back and a, um, crappy situation.
My question: This is a clear violation of the rules of tournament play. Is there a provision for situations that make the hole/toilet unusable after restart and necessitate cutting a new cup?

 

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Equipment

TaylorMade signs Matthew Wolff to a multi-year deal; Wolff WITB

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TaylorMade Golf has officially announced the signing of Matthew Wolff on a multi-year agreement that will see the 20-year-old play the company’s metal woods, irons, wedges, putter and ultimately, TaylorMade’s flagship golf ball, the TP5x.

Wolff had previously unveiled that he would be making his professional debut at this week’s Travelers Championship, and just as top prospect Collin Morikawa did earlier at this month’s Canadian Open, Wolff will do so as a TaylorMade staffer.

The NCAA All-American and 2019 NCAA Division I individual champion made his debut on the PGA Tour at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year where he finished T50 after opening his week with a round of five-under par.

Matthew Wolff WITB

Driver: TaylorMade M6 (8 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design TP 7TX

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M6 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke 6.5 TX

Utility Iron: TaylorMade P760 (2)
Shaft: Nippon Modus 130x

Irons: TaylorMade P750 Tour Proto (3-PW)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 130x

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind Raw (52, 56, 62 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Copper

 

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5 questions with Justin Kinney of Virtual Golf Caddy

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We chatted with Justin Kinney, founder and CEO of startup Virtual Golf Caddy about his product, which serves both courses and players, by offering drone arial photography of golf courses (with graphics overlayed).

While drone photography and videography of golf courses is an established phenomenon, using the photos and video for better course management and preparation is a relatively new approach.

We wanted to learn more about what VGC is doing, and Kinney was kind enough to answer a handful of questions and include an example of the company’s work.

1. Tell us a bit about your background

I am 38 years old, born and raised in Connecticut. Lifelong golfer. Just finishing up my career as a middle school math teacher to focus on VGC full-time. I also have five years of business experience managing people’s retirement accounts. I played as many sports as I could growing up, and love the thrill of competition.

2. What’s the opportunity you saw?

I agreed to caddie for one of my students two summers ago. When researching the courses he was going to play, there was NO info on the courses. I thought there was a huge opportunity to provide course management strategies for players and give players a view of the entire courses with drones. No one was really doing anything like that, so I spent the past two years working on and building my business plan. Two months ago I secured funding to work on this full-time.

3. What is Virtual Golf Caddy, exactly?

VGC is a golf preparation and mental conditioning program designed to help give golfers a game plan to attack courses with. We provide drone views of each hole as well as course management strategies on how to best play each hole. Shot suggestions are given based on how far and confident players hit their clubs. We include mental conditioning tips and exercises to help players “zone in” more often and consistently. We are considering getting into golf fitness and nutrition as well to help build the whole golfer. Players purchase access to each course’s videos and info for either $15 or $25 per course, depending on how much info they want. They get unlimited access to the videos and can watch them wherever (home, airport, hotel, course).

4. What stage is the business in, and can you show us an example of VCG in action? 

We are still in the start-up phase. We are making agreements with and filming at courses. The website is being redesigned and will be up in June. It appears like things may take off quickly so stay tuned!

For an example, check out the video below.

6. What else should GolfWRX members know?

We are looking for courses to partner with. We will give courses free publicity on our site, a promotional video from the footage to use on their site, and share 15 percent of their courses profits with them. A win-win for everyone involved! If readers know of any courses, please email us.

One other thing to add: the mental prep/conditioning program is being built by renowned sports psychologist Bill Cole, MS, MA. It is legit and comes from over 40 years of research and experience! We’re also pursuing options in fitness and nutrition.

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