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5 things we learned: Sentry Tournament of Champions

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Professional golf returned to television this weekend, in the guise of a 33-player event in Hawaii. The field was reduced from 34 when Kevin Na withdrew immediately prior to the tournament’s start. By week’s end, the contenders were reduced to two, and they gave us a conclusion to remember. In fact, if the 2019 is anything like the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, it will be memorable, exciting and worthwhile. We learned five important things this week at the rolling, tumbling, par-73 layout crafted by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and we feel obligated to share them with you.

1. You have to wonder the Team USA captains overlooked X.

Furyk and company selected Tony Finau over Xander Schauffele for the US Ryder Cup side last fall. Would one switch have made any difference? Doubtful. However, up to that point, Schauffele had more wins than the Utahn Finau (2 to 1), yet was passed over. Since then, Schauffele has won two important events, and Finau has zero. It’s safe to say that the top brass was seduced by the words of peers and the length of Finau. Europe does what it always does at home; it reduced the length of the golf course, forcing Team USA to fit drives, rather than bomb them. Schauffele, at 5 feet 10 inches in height, is as much a fitter as a bomber, and is money when in contention. That’s very valuable when it comes to international team play (unless your name is Tiger Woods, who neither fits drives nor plays particularly well in against Europe or the Rest of the World.) Oh, and if Woods (the 2019 US Presidents Cup captain) makes the same mistake as his Ryder Cup captain did, shame on him.

2. Schauffele low-key shot 11-under par to gut Gary

Ignore what Brandel Chamblee says on television; he speaks out of both sides of his mouth. On one hand, he says that Woodland didn’t play aggressively enough, and that’s why he lost. He then invokes Jack Nicklaus as a guy who knew how to win, with or without a lead. Well, Nicklaus was never aggressive, at least more than he needed to be. Neither of these approaches would have helped the rest of the field. Schauffele chipped in for one eagle, holed a wedge for another, and made putt after putt, set up by stellar iron play The winner navigated the final 17 holes, after an ugly, opening bogey, in 12 below par. Shazaam!

3. Woodland sure looks like a different competitor for 2o19, despite the outcome

In post-round interviews, Gary Woodland intimated that Sunday night would be difficult, but Monday would dawn with a clarity, an awareness of how well he played. The Kansan took a 3-shot lead into round 4 and shot 5-below par. He was steady all week (67-67-68-68) on the par-73 Plantation course at Kapalua, Woodland was the only golfer to play four rounds in the 60s to open 2019, and was the best player of the week. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t the best player on Sunday, and he was overtaken by lightning in a bottle.

4. Bryson DeChambeau’s intellect will ride shotgun with his competitive talent all year

When asked how the 2019 rules changes will impact tournament outcomes, the litany of tour professionals answer with opinion at best. Not DeChambeau. He ended 2018 explaining the difference of COR (coefficient of restitution) as related not to club faces, but to flagsticks. Tour sticks, made of fiberglass, would absorb more shock and let balls that hit them drop. USGA shafts, on the other end, are metal, and don’t offer quite the forgiveness. Conclusion: Tour sticks=flag in; USGA sticks=flag tended. DeChambeau then went out and proved his point, making a wave of putts with the stick in, from all sorts of distances. Truth be told, it adds a different element to the game. Instead of the power lip-out, we might have the catastrophic carom. Stay tuned for more of DeChambeau’s fact-based research on golf in general, and his impending 6th tour title.

5. Does Kapalua spotlight the vast gulf between them and us, better than any other course?

I don’t have friends with the good fortune of having played the Plantation course, but I remember playing Chambers Bay, the year of its US Open. I played well, but I felt soooo small. Kapalua is a thrill ride for the touring pro, as each competes for speed slots, offering the jackpot of turning 400+ yard holes into driveable ones. Remember Dustin Johnson’s near-ace at No. 12 last year? If not, have a look below. How many tee decks would the average-distance golfer have to advance, to take advantage of those same, course secrets? My guess is two or three. Golf will always be the one game that allows all participants to hit the shots that the best practitioners execute. What continues to change is the scope of the field on which those shots are hit. Here’s to long drives and laser approach shots, followed by flagstick-rattling putts in 2019!

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. DaveJ

    Jan 8, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    Why would you mention Finau in the Schauffele snub section? Finau played quite well in the Ryder Cup and was a great Captain’s Pick. Mickelson and Tiger were garbage and should be the only targets mentioned.

  2. Ty Webb

    Jan 8, 2019 at 10:17 am

    A+ for Monday morning quarterbacking on the RC captain’s pick. Could not be done any better.

  3. Kris

    Jan 7, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Ron, I am lucky enough to have played there once. It and Glen Abbey are the 2 pga courses I’ve played. I bet I could play a dozen times (and would happily if free lol) and not figure out all the landing areas they find and where to play from. I lost many balls on drives I thought looked great but was just the wrong line. Hit the middle of 18th bloody fw and lost a ball.

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News

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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