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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: Stricker unofficially officially RC Captain | Rory no longer Euro Tour member? | Holmes: I’ve sped up!

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

February 19, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Unofficially official: Captain Stricker
Gary D’Amato of WisconsinGolf.com reporting ahead of the expected Wednesday announcement that his fellow Wisconsinite, Steve Stricker, will be named 2020 Ryder Cup captain.
  • “Steve Stricker has been named captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the 2020 matches and will be formally introduced by the PGA of America at a press conference at 8 a.m. Wednesday at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.”
  • “It’s been speculated for months that Stricker, a Madison resident and a three-time Ryder Cup assistant captain, would be chosen to lead the 12-man U.S. team against Europe’s best at Whistling Straits. It will be the first time the biennial matches are contested in Wisconsin.”
  • “Stricker will become the first U.S. captain without a major championship victory on his resume. Once a prerequisite to serve as captain, winning a major was deemphasized by the 11-person task force assembled in the wake of America’s disastrous loss in 2014 under Tom Watson, after which Phil Mickelson was critical of Watson’s leadership.”

Full piece.

2. Slow play discussion not slowing
A Sky Sports report rounded up a few takes on slow play, prompted by J.B. Holmes’ less-than-speedy final round.
  • “I’ll tell you my thing on slow play is it’s never going to change,” Scott said after his round. “I think it’s just get over it. Until television and sponsors say no more money, slow play ain’t going to change.”
  • “Holmes was scrutinised on social media by Sky Sports viewers and pundits during the TV coverage, with former PGA champion Rich Beem one of many to call on golf’s authorities to clamp down on slow play.”
  • “Rich Beem says golf’s governing bodies need to crack down on slow play….Those views were echoed by Bjorn, who tweeted: “Slow play kills the game of golf. Another Monday where people are discussing the nature of how the game is played and not the people winning the tournaments. Unfortunately the tours won’t deal with the biggest problem facing golf.”
3. I’ve sped up!
Golf Channel’s WIll Gray quoting J.B. Holmes and commenting…
  • “Well, you play in 25 mph gusty winds and see how fast you play when you’re playing for the kind of money and points and everything that we’re playing for,” Holmes said. “You can’t just get up there and whack it when it’s blowing that hard.”
  • ….He defended his pace by noting both his relative improvement and the fact that Tour rules officials never put him on the clock this week during a weather-delayed slog that saw players playing until darkness each of the first three days.
  • “Yeah, when I first got out here I was really slow. But I’ve sped up quite a bit,” he said. “I’ve gotten better. There’s times when I’m probably too slow, but it is what it is. I was never on the clock. Never even got a warning. TV wants everything to be real fast all the time.”
4. McIlroy no longer a European Tour member?
Golf365 report…“…this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, where prize-money earned counts on both the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, marks the first occasion since his pro debut at The Belfry in late 2007 that McIlroy will tee-up under the umbrella of the European Tour but not as a member.”
  • “Whatever I earn next week in Mexico will not count on the Race to Dubai as I’ve not re-joined the European Tour,” he told Bernie McGuire of Golfbytourmiss.com prior to finishing tied-fourth at Riviera on Sunday. “I was, for one reason or another, going to re-join at the end of last year but I didn’t.
5. Short game work paid off
PGATour.com’s Cameron Morfit…”You’d never have thought so in watching him play at the Genesis, but on the season Holmes had just one top-10 finish, a 9th at the season-opening Safeway Open.”
  • “The reason: Shoddy work on the greens.”
  • “Buckling down with his coach, Matt Killen, Holmes went to work at Riviera.”
  • “We spent a lot of time this week with the coach and getting on the green and trying to find the right ball position and how it set up and putting through some gates, making sure I was starting the ball online,” Holmes said. “I putted for several hours throughout the week. In the morning, we changed our routine and we had a string and a mirror and just made sure that everything was dialed in, and then I could trust it and go out there and make confident strokes.”
6. Erik Compton isn’t finished
John Feinstein talked with a man whose story we all know well, but who hasn’t been a story, in a professional golfing sense, for a while.
  • “Compton’s last PGA Tour start was in October 2016, when he missed the cut at the Sanderson Farms Classic. He had just lost his full status on the PGA Tour after finishing 173rd on the money list that year in 24 starts. Even though he finished tied for second in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, he has no status on the tour currently and can only get into a field by Monday qualifying or by receiving sponsor’s exemptions.”
  • “There are times when I feel forgotten,” Compton admitted. “Then, other times I see people wondering why I withdrew from an event or questioning whether I’m really still committed to playing. I guess the good news is that they’re noticing that I am playing. Believe me, I’m committed, I’m grinding.”
7. LPGA-KLPGA event?
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”The LPGA is hashing out details to partner with the KLPGA in staging the BMW Ladies Championship, the new event scheduled for Oct. 24-27 at LPGA International Busan in South Korea.”
“Busan is scheduled to open this summer as the LPGA’s first accredited facility outside the United States.”
8. 4 ways TW can make his “Invitational” special
Following the announcement that the Genesis Open will become an invitational, Geoff Shackelford offered four suggestions to ensure Woods’ tourney remains special
  • Here’s one…”Hooray For Hollywood…Tiger has the ability to attract star power like no one else in golf. Since the LA Open’s early days, stars have either been part of the week as spectators or the pro-am. This connection is an essential to distinguishing the Genesis Open going forward for marketing and atmospheric purposes.”
  • “The new Celebrity Cup brought out A-listers from screen and sport, while the Wednesday pro-am played in lousy weather brought out fascinating names from sports, business and Hollywood. From a word-of-mouth point of view, the sight of big names early in the week helps attract local television and national media attention. From a fan point of view, seeing major names whapping it around Riviera gives the stop something no other tournament will enjoy.”
9. Holy calves!
On the same day that we learned PGA Tour professionals will be permitted to wear shorts during practice rounds, the reminder the that Phil Mickelson has the calves of a Tour de France participant (in the form of the photo below) took social media by storm.
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Tour Rundown: Kentucky kollision, Fox triumphs, Korda Slam

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Just as the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is a once-a-year phenomenon, so too, is the World Super 6 Perth, a hybrid medal/match/pool play event on the European and Australasian tours. Unlike the stadium hole, we ought to see more Super 6 events across the globe. Here’s hoping that someone will import the format to the USA, Canada and continental Europe. Oh, the places we’d go! Lots of action to run down, from Australia to Los Angeles, and points in between. Buckle up, gear down, and enjoy the ride!

Kentucky Kollision at Genesis Open brings honors to Holmes

Sometimes golf fans anticipate that the tour can be all buttercups and cupcakes for the chosen greats. Justin Thomas would like the court to hear his testimony: it ain’t. After going over par on just four of his first 54 holes, Thomas made five bogeys and one double over the final 18 holes on Sunday. Paired with a long day (completion of round three in the morning) and feisty winds through Riviera’s canyon, the younger scion of the Bluegrass state finished runner-up to his elder, now five-time PGA tour champion JB Holmes.

The winner did nothing spectacular on day four, but he did make up five strokes on the 54-hole leader with a 1-under final round. Spectacular was Si Woo Kim’s 5 under, the low final 18. That brought him to solo third. For Holmes, the Genesis trophy was his first in four years, a much-needed affirmation of his ability. For Thomas, a reminder that a winning career on tour will bring as much heartache as happiness.

Sometimes all it takes is a combination of luck and skill, as Holmes showed earlier in the week.

Perth Super 6 is Fox’s first European Tour triumph

It’s hard to imagine which is more enchanting, the format or the golf. After three rounds of stroke play, 8 golfers are seeded into the 2nd round. 16 others move into the first round, for the right to battle those elite 8. From there, it goes 16>8>4>2>Champion. Why does every other, match-play event avoid something this thrilling? Fans get to see all the golfers for three days, then witness some mighty, head-to-head tilts the rest of the way. What seals the deal is the brevity of it all: each match is slated for 6 holes (hence, the name of the event) unless tied. In other words, you need to get after it early and hard, or you might go home, 4 holes in.

Ryan Fox is a long hitter from New Zealand. That almost counts as a home-island hero, but not quite. Fox danced with victory on numerous occasions prior to this week in Perth, but never came away with a hand on the trophy. His closest dalliance with the 2018 Irish Open, where he lost in a playoff to Russell Knox. After qualifying 8th this week on 8-under, the Kiwi dispatched Jazz Janewattananond, Kristoffer Reitan, Paul Dunne and (in the final) Adrian Otaegui. For those of you counting, that’s Thailand, Norway, Ireland and Spain. For Otaegui, Perth was a chance to make history, as his first 3 Euro Tour victories would all have been at match play. The Basque will have to wait until later this season for that opportunity, when the tour returns to Belgium for the Knockout event he won in 2018.

In the championship tilt, it was over before it began. The first 3 hole saw 2 bogeys from Otaegui and 2 birdies from Fox. This new math added to a 3-up lead with 3 to play. Par at the 4th closed the door on Otaegui and delivered the victory to Fox.

Korda adds Australian Open to family album

Caution: if all that you watch from the Australian Open are the Nelly Korda highlights below, you’ll come away with these notions-long putts made are frequent; approach shots are easy to hit; and only the rough can grab your club head.

The 20-year old American golfer did all of these things on Sunday in Grange, and they merged to afford her a 2-shot win over Jin Young Ko. Jin did her best to chase Korda down, firing 8-under 64 on day four 4. For Korda, it may have been in the kards. Her sister, brother, and father had all won major golfing and tennis tournaments down under, so it was only a matter of time before little sis joined them.

Ironically, it almost wasn’t! Korda’s first three holes of the week were all bogeys, and she was staring a missed cut and a long flight home, squarely in the eyes. She made six birdies against two bogeys the rest of the way to finish under par on the day. The birdies returned each day (8, 7 and 7) but the bogeys reduced to two each day. If you followed Korda beyond the highlights, you saw very few pars. After gaining her first tour win last October, Korda wasted little time in getting the second on the shelf. Predictions on the third, anyone?

LECOM Suncoast to Hubbard by a pair of shots

One of the exciting elements of the early part of the Web.Com Tour season, is the instant rise in The 25 that a victory brings. The 25 is the season-long chase for a PGA Tour card. Getting there is challenging; remaining amid the elite quarter-century is excruciating. Mark Hubbard jumped from 78th to 4th this week, thanks to a two-shot win over Maverick McNealy in west Florida. The LECOM Suncoast was a true western shoot-out. If you posted 4 under, you went home. 139 made the cut, and the leaders fired mid- and low-60s, all week long. Average 67 on the week? You got fifth place by yourself (five for you, J.T. Griffin!) It took 262, an unthinkable 65.5 each day, to claim victory.

Hubbard made 28 birdies and one eagle on the week. That 30-under sequence offset the handful of bogeys he was forced to etch into scorecards. His bogey at the penultimate hole made things interesting. McNealy, a heralded golfer in his amateur days, opened the week with 29 over his first 9 holes. He had 128 after two rounds for the lead, but the weekend wrote a different story. On that 71st hole, where Hubbard bogeyed, McNealy had a chance to tie with a birdie. Alas, he also made bogey at the par three. One shot clear of the third-place tie, McNealy bounded up the list to seventh in pursuit of his big-tour card. For the guy with the best Twitter handle (@homelesshubbs) on tour, victory was as sweet as a big hug from mom.

Chubb Classic in hands of the most interesting man, errr, the Spafro, errr, Jimenez

You tell us the bigger story: that the tour bon vivant jumped up 14 places on Sunday to victory, or that Bernhard Langer failed to win the tournament! Miguel Angel Jimenez and the Langer had met before, down the stretch and in playoffs, and the result was sadly predictable. On this day, the pair were joined by Olin Browne at 13-under par, but the playoff was brief. Didn’t even take fireworks! Jimenez made a routine par on the 18th, while both Browne and Langer scored bogey. Just like that, the Spaniard had his seventh tour victory.

It might be the start of something bigger. Last July, the Iberian held Langer off at the Senior British Open by one shot. Has he discovered the secret to keeping Langer from matching Hale Irwin’s total of 45 senior titles? Perhaps, but Langer won’t rest until he hits 50. For today, Miguel Angel, the wine and cigar are yours. For Browne, the taste was sour. He made double-bogey at the last, including a chili-dip chunk of a pitch, to give away certain victory.

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Morning 9: Kuchar’s caddie speaks | Putter troubles topple TW | The worth of a caddie’s work

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)
  • February 18, 2019
Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Not the man from Kentucky you expected to be holding the trophy
Louisville, Kentucky native Justin Thomas began the final round of the Genesis Open with a four-stroke lead. He finished one stroke behind his fellow Bluegrass State denizen, J.B. Holmes.
  • AP Report…”Holmes closed with a 1-under 70, and that was enough to overcome Justin Thomas, who took 19 putts on the back nine at Riviera — three of them from 8 feet when he lost the lead for good — and shot 75.”
  • “They played 34 holes because of a seven-hour rain delay at the start of the tournament Thursday, and that wasn’t even the worst of it. The final day featured a wild shift in weather, from sunshine in the morning to complete 16 holes of the third round, brief rain when they teed off in the final round and wicked wind that made it tough to hole putts.”
2. Korda Slam!
Golf Digest’s John Huggan on Nelly Korda’s victory Down Under and her unique celebratory gesture.
  • “The scissor-kick was familiar. Joining her father, Petr, her brother, Sebastian, and her older sister, Jessica, Nelly Korda can call herself an Australian Open champion. Dad and little brother won their titles at tennis (1998 and 2018); the sisters on the golf course (Jessica winning in 2012).”
  • “More specifically, 20-year-old Nelly completed the family Grand Slam with a final-round 67 on the West Course at The Grange Golf Club to clinch a two-shot victory over defending champion Jin-Young Ko of South Korea…”
3. Meanwhile, in Perth…
Game story via EuropeanTour.com on the second non-traditional event in a row on the European circuit.
  • “Ryan Fox claimed a convincing 3&2 victory over Adrian Otaegui to win his first European Tour title at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth.”
  • “The New Zealander finished eight under after 54 holes of stroke play to earn a bye into the last 16 of the six hole knockout stages but he still had to come through 25 holes on Sunday to lift the trophy at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.”
  • “He needed three trips to the Shootout hole to beat Thai Jazz Janewattananond before claiming 1up triumphs over Norwegian Kristoffer Reitan and Ireland’s Paul Dunne”

Full piece.

4. Putter troubles topple Tiger
The thrills of Saturday gave way to the blahs of Sunday as the combination of fatigue and not being in contention added to a forgettable final-round performance for one Tiger Woods at chilly, blustery Riviera–a course that has been anything but “Tiger’s Alley.”
  • ESPN’s Bob Harig…”The effects of a long week, with cold, blustery conditions and delays due to bad weather and darkness finally caught up to him, Woods said, leading to a lackluster finish and a tie for 15th at Riviera Country Club — where he has now not won in 12 tries.”
  • “After getting to 3 under for his round through seven holes and to 10 under for the tournament, Woods could not manage another birdie the rest of the way, playing his last 11 holes in 4 over par and settling for a 1-over-par 72.”
  • “I got tired; there’s no doubt,” Woods said. “It was just a long week, and eventually I made a few bad swings. But to be honest with you, it was one of the worst weeks I’ve ever had on the greens. Six 3-putts is — I don’t think I’ve ever done that. And to have that many 3-putts and still shoot 6 under par — take away those 3-putts, I’m 12 under par. And if I make a few more putts, I’m right in the mix.”
5. You don’t know Matt!
That was, probably not surprisingly, the basic contention from Kuchar’s looper, John Wood.
The NY Post’s Mark W. Sanchez spotted Wood’s tweets Friday night.
  • “I don’t understand the need to tear down a guy who has spent his career trying to uphold the game and himself to some pretty high standards,” Wood wrote…”Nobody’s perfect. All we can do when a mistake is made is reconsider, apologize and make amends.”
  • …”Matt,his entire family and team have never been anything but generous,inclusive,respectful, and complimentary of me and the job I do for him…I wouldn’t work for someone I didn’t respect, or who didn’t value my opinion. To crucify for one mistake feels wrong.”
6. Baffled by altitude
Steve DiMeglio of USA Today and Golfweek, filing a report for the latter on the eternal mysteries of golfing at altitude as the Tour prepares to visit Club de Golf Chapultepec, some 7,800 feet above sea level, for the WGC Mexico.
  • “…”It took me until Sunday to get used to it,” reigning Players champion Webb Simpson said of his showing in last year’s event. After rounds of 72-70-73,  Simpson came home in 68 to tie for 37th. “I feel like I have a good understanding now of what I need to do this year.”
  • “Other players agree, as experience is the 15th club in the bag. The tight, tree-lined Club de Golf Chapultepec is an 18-hole riddle that demands constant evaluation as players figure out how far the golf ball will carry at altitude.”
I’d be remiss not to call your attention to our Ryan Barath’s meditation on the same subject in conjunction with a discussion of a Tiger Woods 3-wood switch.
7. Not to be overlooked, a W for MAJ!
AP Report…”Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Chubb Classic on Sunday for his seventh PGA TOUR Champions title, beating Bernhard Langer and Olin Browne with a 5-foot par putt on the first hole of a playoff.”
  • The Spaniard delivered this gem…”I’m working hard and I practice and go to the gym, apart from smoking and drinking,” Jimenez said. “This is what I love to do. I love to play golf. To me, competing is my life. I go to any competition, I want to win. I working for that.”
8. The worth of a caddie’s work
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch considers the subject–with help from Fluff!– in the wake of the Kuchar-El Tucan fiasco.
  • “The debacle surrounding Matt Kuchar’s pay dispute with David “El Tucan” Ortiz has ignited plenty of commentary on the values of Kuchar, but not so much on the value of caddies. Part-Sherpa, part-psychologist, their contributions are often intangible. Caddies occupy a decidedly gray area not easily measured in dollars.”
  • “For starters, you’re carrying the bag. They ain’t gotta carry their clubs,” said Mike “Fluff” Cowan, one of the few celebrity members of the caddie corps on the PGA Tour. “It’s a second set of eyes, it’s a second opinion. You’re not always right. If we were right every single time, we’d want a lot of money. I don’t think it can be dismissed. As long as you’re not costing your man any shots, you’re doing your job.”
9. J.B. Holmes does not play golf quickly
Golf.com’s Josh Berhow rounded up some lowlights and remarks concerning the…exceedingly deliberate…work of one J.B. Holmes, Sunday.
  • “At the par-3 4th, Holmes stalked a birdie putt for more than 80 seconds.”
  • “Here is J.B. Holmes, going through all the maps and scales and typography data that he can find,” said Jim Nantz, setting the stage.
  • “The issue I have with that is not that he’s doing that, it’s that he had plenty of time to do that while Justin was getting ready for his shot or Adam was getting ready for his shot,” said on-course reporter Peter Kostis. “And he waited until it was his turn to play to go through his whole routine.”
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