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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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Morning 9: Inside a life-changing PGA Tour finish | The LPGA’s struggle

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

June 25, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Inside a life-changing finish
PGATour.com’s Jim McCabe with more on Zack Sucher…
  • “By now, the particulars to the story have been well documented: How Sucher in Round 3 went from six in the lead to six behind playing competitor Chez Reavie, thanks in large part to a horrific meltdown of a three-hole stretch and a back-nine 41, and how he played those same nine holes in 5-under 30 Sunday to sprint into a tie for second behind Reavie, rake in 245 FedExCup points and put himself in position to secure a PGA TOUR card for the rest of this year and in 2019-20.”
  • “Yes, you can cue up any of the underdog music you prefer, but amid the wild scene in the scoring area Sunday, Courtney Sucher and Mullinax stood to the side and sang the praises of their husband and friend, not words to a song. And they focused not on the blur of that back-nine 30, but on the darker moments that Zack had to navigate to get here.”
  • “At Wells Fargo, when he made that double-bogey (on the 13th hole in Round 2 to fall one outside the cut), he didn’t give up,” said Courtney. “He told me the eagle he made two holes later changed his whole perspective to this comeback.”
  • “That eagle got Sucher into weekend play, but more importantly, it ignited a confidence within. “He’s never doubted his ability to stay in it,” she said.”

Full piece.

2. Return of the Phrankenwood
Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson…
“Phil Mickelson always delivers-at least as it relates to interesting equipment stories. After recently employing a two-driver strategy, Lefty hauled out his old Callaway X Hot 3Deep fairway wood that he used to win the 2013 Open Championship with. Earlier that year Mickelson asked Callaway for a 3-wood he could hit both off the tee and off the turf. The result was a 43.25-inch 3-wood (with a finished loft slightly stronger than its listed 13 degrees). The club also had a face height 10 percent larger than the company’s X Hot Pro, thus raising the center of gravity more in line with Mickelson’s impact spot. After working with the club at Doral that year, Mickelson’s caddie at the time, Jim Mackay, called it, “The most meaningful club Phil has ever put in the bag in my 20 years caddieing for him.”
3. Woods name dropped from wrongful death suit
ESPN’s Bob Harig...”A wrongful death lawsuit no longer names Tiger Woods in a claim against a South Florida restaurant that carries the golfer’s name.”
  • “Woods’ attorneys announced Monday that the estate of a bartender who crashed his car and died after leaving the restaurant in December had voluntarily dismissed Woods as a defendant. But the lawsuit filed last month by the parents of Nicholas Immesberger is ongoing against both The Woods Jupiter — the name of the restaurant near Woods’ South Florida home — and Woods’ girlfriend, who serves as general manager.”
  • According to Woods’ attorney, Barry Postman, Woods invests in but does not own the restaurant.

Full piece. 

4. A strike at Detroit Golf Club? 
Greg Levinsky of the Detroit Free Press (syndicated in Golfweek)…”The employees who are making Detroit Golf Club a playable PGA Tour-caliber golf course this week are calling for the end of negotiations and a new contract. If it doesn’t happen by the time the Rocket Mortgage Classic tees off on Thursday, then the union says it’s willing to strike.”
  • “Come (Thursday) when this tournament starts,” said Kevin Moore, president of local union, Teamsters Local 299, and executive board member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, “we’re going to do what we have to do. Demonstrations, strikes, whatever is at our disposal.”
  • “A seven-member group of mechanics and groundskeepers represented by Teamsters Local 299 saw their contract expire in 2018. The club had been asking for a contract that included a “3% pay raise, health care relief and job security language,” according to a news release on Monday.”
5. Golf course dispute leads to fatal shooting, fire
AP report on an insane golf-related multiple homicide…
  • “A third body has been found in the rubble of a burned-out mobile home in California, bringing to five the number of dead in a shooting and fire that began during an argument at a golf course, authorities said.”
  • “Santa Maria police identified Kurt Bracke, 70, and Richard Hanen, 78, as the victims who were fatally shot.”
  • “Residents told The Santa Maria Times there had been a long-standing feud between the two men and the shooter that boiled over Friday at the golf course of the Casa Grande Mobile Estates in Santa Maria, a coastal city about 140 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The shooter has not been identified.”
6. LPGA’s struggle
The New York Times’ Karen Crouse on the plight of the LPGA Tour…
  • “…They are helping to deliver a product that perhaps has never been more appealing: The past 11 majors have produced 11 different winners, the last four all younger than 24.”
  • “And yet the L.P.G.A. continues to struggle for exposure. The tour’s primary television platform for the past decade has been Golf Channel, whose coverage the first two days of the Women’s P.G.A. consisted of three hours from 6 to 9 p.m., Eastern Time. On Friday that window precluded a single live shot of Green, who had finished her round well before the day’s telecast.”

Full piece. 

7. Team Baby Mommas
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…
  • “Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller cleverly confirmed their pairing as “Team Baby Mommas” at next month’s inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event in Michigan.”
  • “Lewis and Piller simultaneously tweeted a video on Monday that shows their toddlers setting up a “play date” for their mothers.”
  • “Lewis’ daughter, Chesnee, is 8 months old. Piller’s son, AJ, is a year old. The children are frequently together at the Smuckers LPGA Child Development Center, a daycare for tour moms.”
8. Getting off the ground…
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski on the effort to establish new PGA Tour events…
  • “This week, Detroit gets its first taste of a regular tour event with the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club. The $7.3 million event is sponsored by Quicken Loans, which for the last few years was title sponsor of the tournament Tiger Woods hosted outside Washington, D.C. Immediately behind it is another newbie, the $6.4 million 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in suburban Minneapolis, not to be confused with the 3M Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event held at the same site the last 18 years.”
  • “Though Minneapolis hosted the Ryder Cup in 2016 at Hazeltine National, site of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship that ended Sunday, it last saw a PGA Tour event in 2009 when Y.E. Yang upset Woods in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. Detroit’s last taste of tour golf was the 2008 PGA Championship and the 2004 Ryder Cup, both at Oakland Hills. The area also held the Buick Classic up the road in Grand Blanc until 2009. Meanwhile, the Senior Players Championship was held in nearby Dearborn from 1990-2006.”
9. WOTW
We’ve been highlighting the timepieces worn by PGA Tour winners as they hoist their trophies…
Here’s a bit on Chez Reavie’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust II Fluted Black Roman
“Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf as a London timepiece distributor but always dreamed of making a precise wristwatch. In 1910, a Rolex watch was the first to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chonometric Precision. In 1919 Rolex moved to Geneva and continued making precision timepieces. The Rolex Datejust II is a larger version of the Datejust (41mm vs 36mm) and was introduced in 2009. The movement in the Datejust II is a self-winding Calibre 3136 that is certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).”
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Tiger Woods’ name dropped from wrongful death lawsuit

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One month after being named in a wrongful death lawsuit involving a former employee from The Woods Jupiter restaurant, Tiger Woods is now no longer a defendant.

On Monday, Woods’ attorneys announced that the 43-year-old’s name had been dropped from the amended case, but the lawsuit filed last month by the parents of Nicholas Immesberger, who died in a drink-driving accident in 2018, is ongoing against both The Woods Jupiter and Woods’ girlfriend – Erica Herman, who is the general manager of the restaurant.

Per a report from ESPN’S Bob Harig – speaking on the decision to drop his clients’ name from the case, Woods’ attorney, Barry Postman, stated

“The decision was clearly appropriate and reflected the fact that Mr. Woods should not have been included in the lawsuit in the first place because he had nothing to do with Mr. Immesberger’s death.

“While the situation was tragic, the facts will ultimately show that the cause of Mr. Immesberger’s car accident were the many decisions made by Mr. Immesberger on the night of his passing.”

The lawsuit filed in May alleges that Immesberger was served excessive amounts of alcohol before his fatal crash on Dec. 10 and that employees, managers and owners let Immesberger, who was not wearing a seat belt before the accident, drive home despite their knowledge that he was over the limit.

Speaking on the incident at the PGA Championship in May, Woods said

“We’re all very sad that Nick passed away. It was a terrible night, a terrible ending, and just—we feel bad for him and his entire family. It’s very sad.”

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Detroit Golf City

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Woodward Avenue is a major thoroughfare in downtown Detroit. From it, you can see two very unique golf courses, close in proximity but miles apart in every other way.

The first course, the Detroit Golf Club,  is a lush 36-hole Donald Ross design. Privately owned and operated, DGC is set to host the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic this week. This will be the PGA Tour’s first regular event in Michigan since the Buick Open ended in 2009 and the first regular tour event ever for the city of Detroit.

The second course, Palmer Park, is city owned and currently closed. The grass is overgrown, but you can see the bones of a once proud 18-hole municipal track, winding through the 296 acres of the larger public park space of the same name. Originally opened in 1927, the Palmer Park golf course has always been a piece of inner-city Detroit’s fabric. But now it sits empty.

Niall Hay, the Chairman of the First Tee of Greater Detroit, is working hard for these two courses to help each other, and at the same time, help thousands of underprivileged kids in Detroit learn the great game of golf and all the positive things it can bring to their lives.

The First Tee of Greater Detroit was one of the program’s very first chapters. It began in 1997 as a partnership with the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, PGA Tour and the USGA with a simple goal to get more kids playing golf. It started as a way to bring affordable golf to communities that needed it. Detroit was an obvious choice, but eventually, like so many other things in Detroit, the economic recession caught up to it.

“During the economic meltdown, the chapter just went away for a variety of reasons. Mostly funding,” said Hay.

But in 2012, Hay, a former member of the Ohio State golf team, decided to look into exactly what went wrong with the First Tee program in Detroit. First, he met with past chairmen and former board members. They all gave the same story. The program just died a slow death as the funding dried up. Members of the board moved on to different things. But they all said it was a great organization and one of them suggested that Hay start it back up. “I was looking to potentially join a board, not found one,” Hay said with a chuckle. But it was him or no one. So he did it.

A small group in the city of Ann Arbor was already working with the First Tee on getting a chapter started for Washtenaw County, but funding was proving, yet again, to be an issue. So Hay and others had to wait for that to be resolved before they could obtain a letter of intent for a chapter in Detroit from The First Tee. But he was certain that his community needed the program in place.

“If we were going to do this,” Hay said,  “we need to do it in the city of Detroit, in the inner city and impacting underprivileged kids in the city and not in suburbs or other areas. We wanted to stay in downtown Detroit where there is the most need.”

The first steps were to form a foundation, gain 401(c)(3) non-profit tax status from the IRS and then form a diverse and talented board. This took some time. Then, they needed to find the money to fund it. This took more time. But Detroit is a strong community and several local businesses were willing to partner to get things back up and running. And in June of 2015, the First Tee of Greater Detroit began with its first green grass program.

Today, the program is as strong as ever, with over 500 students in the spring, summer and fall programs, which all act like a sort of camp for youth development and some golf. Additionally, the First Tee of Greater Detroit partners with local public schools to train its PE teachers to teach First Tee curriculum, the nine core values and related golf activities. Over 13,000 additional kids are reached in the National School Program.

For the first three years of The First Tee Detroit’s rebirth, the green grass program took place at Palmer Park.

“Back then, Palmer Park was a really rundown course. We focused our programming on the front nine, and some of the drier areas on the back,” Hay said. The course had issues with flooding and wasn’t in the best condition, but it was home. A place to play and practice regularly. But after a few years, the city put out a request for proposal, seeking additional management help for its public golf courses. “The First Tee was hoping to pull Palmer Park from the RFP and have the First Tee chapter raise money to make it a high quality 9 hole golf course,” Hay said. “It got pulled from the RFP, they signed with Signet, who put their money into the other three city courses and the Palmer Park course never reopened.”

“So now, the children of First Tee Greater Detroit are spread around a bit. They practice and play some at Rackham, one of the other public courses in Detroit. Some at Maple Lane. There are classes and clinics all around the city. “We do not have a home course or facility now but we have more traction with people. The more the First Tee gets bigger and bigger, the more we would love a home base.”

And with the PGA Tour’s new four-year deal with sponsor Quicken Loans and the Detroit Golf Club, golf interest in Detroit is getting a shot in the arm. More and more kids are signing up with the First Tee Program. And this is just the beginning. PGA Tour events across the tournament schedule are associated with their local First Tee Chapter. Most sites have youth experience areas where the First Tee Experience is promoted and encourages. The core values of the program are on display at tour events and children and their parents alike are exposed to a way to get involved with youth golf. The First Tee of Greater Detroit will have a tent at the Rocket Mortgage Classic adjacent to the Kids Zone.

And just as important, the PGA Tour events donate a percentage of their revenue with the First Tee Chapters. Detroit will be no different in that regard. And some chapters make hundreds of thousands of dollars from these tournaments. “We are one of the primary beneficiaries of the tournament,” Hay said. “The tournament itself will share some of the revenue with local charities. The First Tee of Detroit is one of the charities that will thankfully receive funding from the Rocket Mortgage Giving Fund.”

“It’s a game changer for us,” Hay said about the PGA Tour’s newest stop in Detroit. “It could take us to the next level. Our Board has never been more engaged. We have already seen a huge spike in interest. We have seen 40 to 50 percent more inquiries and kids signing up. Kids want to play and more volunteers are signing up to teach.” In fact, Summer and Fall registration is going on right now and the excitement continues to build.

The First Tee of Greater Detroit has experienced a rebirth. The City of Detroit has experienced a rebirth. And now, as thousands of golf fans drive down Woodward Avenue to watch the best players on the planet compete in the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, they might also look towards Palmer Park and see the spirit of golf sitting idly by, waiting for someone to give it a chance.

Funding, of course, is yet again the issue. But with the right investor(s), Palmer Park could experience a rebirth of its own. And that would not only help reinvigorate the heart of the city, but also the hundreds and soon to be thousands of kids who are discovering the game of golf with the First Tee Greater Detroit. The Rocket Mortgage event is a great start. Hopefully, this is just the beginning for Detroit golf.

“We’ve got hundreds of acres in the middle of the city where you could put in a really cool nine-hole course and short game area. It would be a great story for Detroit. And it would be great for our community and for these kids.”

If you are interested in helping by giving a donation, you can participate by doing so here.

 

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