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Morning 9: Did the USGA botch the new drop rule? | Feinstein on Mike Davis | Wie back to practicing

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

January 8, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. We didn’t really think about that…
That seems to be essentially the link of thinking from the USGA in response to players, such as Bryson DeChambeau, viewing putting with the flag in as an advantage…despite the data supporting that belief.
  • Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Of particular interest to Pagel was DeChambeau’s choice to putt with the flagstick in the vast majority of time.”
  • “I’m using it to my advantage,” DeChambeau said following his second-round 68 in Maui.
  • “Pagel explained that the intent of the flag rule was to speed up play, not to give players a competitive advantage.”
  • “We said, ‘If you make a long putt and you happen to hit the flagstick, is there really a need for a penalty?’ The ball might go in. It might not,” Pagel said. “We didn’t look at the data. It was not a data-driven decision. At the end of the day, we thought it might help players, but it also might hurt players.”
2. Putting new drivers in play
Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson...”TaylorMade’s new M5 and M6 line of woods was formally introduced to the public this week, and also saw a great deal of early adoption at the Sentry TOC. Three of the company’s heavyweights-Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm-all put the new M5 driver in play (with Rahm also adding the M6 3-wood). The club, which uses a technology in which the faces are made to be beyond the USGA limit for springlike effect then brought back just into conformance, also boasts a weight track that runs both front to back and along the outer perimeter.”
  • “Johnson, who frequently puts weight out on the toe of his driver, actually had his in the neutral position (one front and one back), as did Rahm. McIlroy, however, had one weight back and one toward the heel to promote a slight draw bias, his preferred ball flight. McIlroy also used the company’s new prototype bronze-colored Spider Tour putter.”
  • “Callaway also recently unveiled its latest in metalwoods and irons, and saw some of its tour staff have some early success, not the least of which was tournament winner Xander Schauffele, who had Callaway’s new Epic Flash Sub Zero driver (9 degrees) and Apex Pro 19 irons in play. Two other prominent names also put the Epic Flash Sub Zero into competition in Marc Leishman and, somewhat surprisingly, 2018 British Open champion Francesco Molinari who had a bag full of Callaway clubs including the Epic Flash 3-wood. Leishman also put the company’s new Apex Pro 19 irons in play. The Epic Flash driver utilized artificial intelligence in its design of a face structure that is rippled on the inside-a high-tech version of variable face thickness technology that provides faster ball speeds across more of the face.”
3. Poulter’s gesture   
In violation for not competing in an event he was compelled to under the Tour’s participation policy, Ian Poulter went above and beyond…showing off his Ferraris to fans!
The AP’s Doug Ferguson…”Along with adding two tournaments he had not played in the last four years – one of them, happily, was the winners-only field at Kapalua – Poulter hosted eight tournament guests for a round of golf at his home club in Florida, lunch and a tour of the house where he keeps his Ferraris and Ryder Cup memorabilia.”
  • “The violation was failing to play a tournament where he had not been in the last four years.”
  • “The PGA Tour has a policy that players who don’t compete in 25 events must play a tournament where they haven’t been in the last four years. Life members (20 or more tour victories) and veterans (45 years or older) are exempt. Poulter is neither.”
4. Feinstein on Davis quitting course setup
The eminent sportswriter believes Davis has planned to step away for years, and that it’s painful for him to do so.
  • “Cynics will cry that this is all a likely story, but I believe Davis. I’ve known him for 25 years, having worked closely with him during my research for the book Open, which chronicled the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage. I have no doubt he thought long and hard about the time that goes into set-up-not so much the week of the event as in the years leading up to it-and whether he could still be CEO and the man in charge of Open set-ups.”
  • “What I also believe is that the decision was a painful one for Davis, regardless of what led to it and not for the reasons you might think. The former Pennsylvania Junior champion is very good with people. He’s very smart, and he was the perfect choice to lead the USGA when David Fay retired at the end of 2010. But the 55-year-old’s real passion is golf course architecture. He loves nothing more than figuring out how to create a golf course that can produce a memorable championship-for the right reasons.”
  • “I’ve seen Davis’ eyes light up when he talks about ongoing changes to a future Open venue. He will happily go on for hours about hole locations, the width of fairways, the height of the rough and moving tee boxes forward and backwards.”
5. Michelle Wie back to practicing
Golfweek’s Bill Speros…”LPGA pro Michelle Wie has returned to practicing longer shots as her rehab from wrist surgery continues.”
  • From Wie’s Instagram….”Let’s just say….the competitive juices are realllllly starting to brew inside. Getting antsy to come back but I also realize that I need to be patient with my body.” she posted on Instagram over weekend. “Yesterday was the first time hitting putts longer than 4 ft and I have to say it felt REALLY good to make some clutch putts against @erikanderslang @brodiesmith21 in our little putting contest. “
  • Wie later posted a clip of herself working on chip shots with the caption: “First day chipping!! Woohooo! I still remember how to hit a chip shot! ????.”.
6. Bubba & Ted
Dave Shedloski on the apparently great relationship between Bubba Watson and his caddie, Ted Scott.
  • “They survive everything. Watson and Scott are entering their 13th year together, one of the most prominent duos still intact. Among major winners, Lucas Glover and Don Cooper are believed to be the most enduring team, approaching 17 years, but their recognition level doesn’t approach Watson and Scott. Meanwhile, consider some of the high-profile pairings that have dissolved in recent years: Phil Mickelson and Jim (Bones) Mackay, Jason Day and Col Swatton and, most recently, Zach Johnson and Damon Green.”
  • “You think of perfect teams, and Bubba and Teddy are like that. They are fabulous together,” said Paul Tesori, who has caddied for former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson for eight years.
  • “Stan Badz/PGA TourWatson at first was just looking for Scott to carry his bag, but over the years the two-time major winner has learned to trust his looper with so much more. Watson and Scott connected via Ben Crane. Watson was looking for a like-minded Christian, and Crane, one of Watson’s Bible-study companions, recommended Scott, who tried professional golf as a player briefly without success but who was a world champion in professional foosball.”
7. Big money
The Tour lauded its own considerable charitable facilitation in a piece…
  • “Impacting the lives of Tasaka and hundreds of thousands of others, the PGA TOUR and its tournaments generated a record $190 million for more than 3,000 charitable causes in 2018, announced today from this week’s event, the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The charitable total, which brings the all-time total to $2.84 billion, includes donations made by tournaments on the PGA TOUR, PGA TOUR Champions, Web.com Tour, Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and PGA TOUR Series-China.”
  • “Through the world of golf, the PGA TOUR and its tournaments, backed by its network of volunteers, drive positive impact at unprecedented levels to support and improve local communities,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “By supporting a PGA TOUR event, you make an impact on countless philanthropic organizations in your community. As remarkable as our nearly $3 billion in donations is, what really matters are the remarkable stories like Sets’ that every tournament has. It’s a credit to our partners – host organizations, title sponsors, volunteers, the fans in the communities in which we play, as well as our players, who are relentlessly supportive of the impact the TOUR makes on so many lives.”
8. Is Rory McIlroy bad under pressure?
That’s the case Shane Ryan makes in a piece for Golf Digest following the Ulsterman’s latest failure to seize victory with an opportunity to do so.
  • “Blur the specifics a little, and you could be talking about any number of recent events. The one that stands out, of course, is the 2018 Masters, when he shot a painful Sunday 74 in the final group to cede the tournament to Patrick Reed. But the list goes on: the Tour Championship, in which he stumbled in Tiger Woods’ shadow, again in the final group, to post a dismal 74; the BMW PGA Championship, where he shot an unimpressive 70 in the final group to finish second despite starting the day as co-leader; the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, playing (repeat after me) in the final group, and once more blundering his way around the course to fall to sixth and hand Justin Thomas a relatively stress-free victory.”
  • “Those are the most egregious examples, but they aren’t the only ones-there are plenty of other tournaments, from the Open Championship to the Dubai Desert Classic to the Dell Technologies Championship, where a good-to-great performance would have put him near victory, and where he could only muster the pedestrian. One of his best Sundays of the year came at the BMW Championship in September … unfortunately, that was because rain canceled play for the day. When the final round resumed on Monday, he stumbled in the last group, failing to erase a slim one-shot deficit as victory eluded him again. By my count, Rory has played in seven final pairings (or threesomes) in the past year, and he hasn’t captured even one of those titles.”
9. Absurd!
Geoff Shackelford is holding a poll over at his site about the new drop rule.
He took a screenshot of the current tally. 
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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,125 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen and more.

Last year, Keith Mitchell canned a 15-footer on the 72nd hole, outlasting Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka.

Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from PGA National.

General galleries

Special galleries

Vijay Singh using custom Mizuno MP-20 irons with lofts modified enough they had to stamp new numbers. Link to his full WITB

Camilo Villegas with old-school Air Jordans

Close up of Tommy Fleetwood’s putting grip

Luke Donald with a new putting training aid

LA Golf has a couple of new shafts

Brooks Kopeka with his pink and white Nike Air Zoom Infinity Tour shoes

Odyssey Stroke Lab Ten with new sightlines.  Link to galleries and discussion

Kevin Streelman is a huge Chicago Cubs fan, so he went to a spring training game and had the players sign his staff bag (to be fair, he probably took just the panel and not the whole bag)

Jim Furyk has gone back to his standard length putter and cross-handed after trying the arm-lock style for a while.

Kyle Stanley’s coach is taking a worm’s-eye view of Kyle’s alignment and stroke.

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Morning 9: Koepka talks golf | Tiger’s Champions Dinner menu | Tour caddies and hot seats

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1. Koepka talks golf
Adam Woodard at Golfweek…The former World No. 1 – who now sits third behind Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – opened up in great detail in a profile in GQ about what he would change about the game of golf, a sport that he truly loves despite some outside perception.
  • “One thing I’d change is maybe the stuffiness,” said Koepka, who’s never viewed himself as just a golfer. “Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn’t always have to be that way. That’s part of the problem.”
  • ...”Everybody always says, ‘You need to grow the game.’ Well, why do you need to be so buttoned-up? ‘You have to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ‘You’re not allowed in here unless you’re a member – or unless the member’s here.’…
  • …”I just think people confuse all this for me not loving the game. I love the game. I absolutely love the game,” said Koepka. “I don’t love the stuffy atmosphere that comes along with it. That, to me, isn’t enjoyable.”

Full piece.

2. Fajitas and sushi
“Being born and raised in SoCal, having fajitas and sushi was a part of my entire childhood, and I’m going back to what I had in 2006,” Woods said. “So, we’ll have steak and chicken fajitas, and we’ll have sushi and sashimi out on the deck, and I hope the guys will enjoy it.”
  • “Woods also said he’s considering serving milkshakes for desert like he did during the 1998 dinner.”
  • “That was one of the most great memories to see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead having milkshakes that night in ’98,” he said.”

Full piece.

3. Why a tour caddie is always on the hot seat 
The Undercover Tour Caddie writeth again…“I’ve been lucky to partner with 18 players on the PGA and developmental tours, four of which were longtime appointments. I’ve also been fired 17 times-and among my friends, that’s on the low end of the spectrum…”
  • “The majority of the time, the breakups are amicable and done in person. I consider myself friends with almost all the players I’ve worked for, and though there were some strong emotions from both sides when it came time to disband, I get it. This is a business, and they’re making a business decision. Plus, you don’t want to burn any bridges. I’ve had two guys toss me aside after a month’s work, only for them to circle back within the year, one of which ended up sticking for five seasons.”
  • “There have been callous splits. In the early 2000s, I was trying to get my guy to hit an 8-iron on an approach at the 71st hole. He was adamant that 9 was the play. I strongly, but respectfully, said he needed to club up. He went with the 9; his ball came up short of the green, and he couldn’t get up and down. That bogey dropped us out of the top 10. He fired me after signing his card, claiming he needed someone “who has faith in me.” Hey, I had faith-faith that his 9 was the wrong club.”

Full piece.

4. The best part of Tiger’s Masters win…
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”Last April at Augusta National Golf Club, behind the 18th green, after tapping in for a one-stroke victory and fifth Masters triumph, there were hugs all around, none sweeter than those from his daughter and son.”
  • “I think what made it so special is that they saw me fail the year before at the British Open. I had gotten the lead there and made bogey, double, and ended up losing to Francesco,” Woods said. “To have them experience what it feels like to be part of a major championship and watch their dad fail and not get it done, and now to be a part of it when I did get it done, I think it’s two memories that they will never forget. And the embraces and the hugs and the excitement, because they know how I felt and what it felt like when I lost at Carnoustie … to have the complete flip with them in less than a year, it was very fresh in their minds.”
  • “It’s a long and rambling thought, and totally justified in the context of all the emotion woven into the two experiences. Some things are just difficult to express cogently, and the struggle with doing so only underscores their impact.”
5. Dream of Coul is dead
Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”Coul Links was supposed to be Scotland’s next great links golf course. Envisioned to be built by Coore-Crenshaw on a protected wildlife site in Embo on dunes near Dornoch, those hopes took a serious blow on Feb. 21, when the Scottish government denied planning permission for a project spearheaded by golf course developer Mike Keiser.”
  • “I’m moving on. I have so many other projects,” Keiser tells The Forecaddie. “God bless Dornoch.”
  • “In its decision notice, Scottish Ministers determined that the proposed development would adversely affect the local environment, stating in their findings that the “likely detriment to natural heritage is not outweighed by the socio-economic benefits of the proposal.”
6. Koepka: Great round of golf with Trump
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…“In a profile in GQ, Koepka…talked about a recent round with President Trump…Koepka, his father, younger brother Chase and President Trump “had a blast” at Trump’s course in West Palm Beach.”
  • “It was nice to have my family there, my dad, my brother. Anytime it’s with a president, it’s pretty cool,” said Koepka. “I don’t care what your political beliefs are, it’s the President of the United States. It’s an honor that he even wanted to play with me.”
  • “I respect the office, I don’t care who it is,” added Koepka. “Still probably the most powerful man in the entire world. It’s a respect thing.”

Full piece.

7. Tiger on lengthening Augusta National 
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport…”Augusta National has been at the forefront of trying to keep it competitive, keep it fair, keep it fun, and they’ve been at the forefront of lengthening the golf course,” Woods said. “Granted, they have the property and they can do virtually whatever they want. They have complete autonomy. It’s kind of nice.
  • “But also they’ve been at the forefront of trying to keep it exciting as the game has evolved. We have gotten longer, equipment changed, but they’ve been trying to keep it so the winning score is right around the 12- to 18-under-par mark, and they have.”
8. Inside the Bear Trap
Golf Channel Digital team…“Here’s a look at some of the notable Bear Trap stats according to the PGA Tour (all figures since 2007, when the tournament moved to PGA National):”
  • “Among non-majors, the Bear Trap ranks as the third-toughest three-hole stretch on Tour at 0.644 over par on average. It’s behind only Nos. 16-18 at Quail Hollow (+0.873) and Nos. 8-10 at Pebble Beach (+0.673).”
  • “The Honda Classic field is a combined 3,629 over par across the Bear Trap and 4,934 over par across the other 15 holes at PGA National.”
  • “543 different players have played at least one competitive round at the Honda since 2007, with 76 percent (415) of them hitting at least one ball in the water on the Bear Trap.”

Full piece.

9. San Diego muni renovations (including Torrey)
Jason Lusk of Golfweek…“San Diego’s city council has allotted $15 million for upgrades and renovations to the city’s three municipally operated golf facilities including Torrey Pines’ South Course, site of the 2021 U.S. Open, according to a report Tuesday by the San Diego Union-Tribune.”
  • “…The $15 million approved Monday by the city council also will include contract work at San Diego’s other municipally operated golf facilities at Balboa Park and Mission Bay, the Union-Tribune reported. The courses will remain open during the jobs that include installing new irrigation systems and drainage, replacing and repairing cart paths, renovating bunkers and tree work.”

 

*featured image via Augusta National/the Masters

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Tour Rundown

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@asiapacgolfgrp

Only two of the world’s featured tours were in action this week, but the golf that they provided was memorable and historic. Not the type of historic that you find in school books, but certainly the type that golf aficionados point to, down the road. On the one hand, a prodigious yet poliarizing talent demonstrated complete control down the stretch, during his march to a 2nd World Golf Championship victory. On the other, a precocious competitor joined into a talented triumvirate with a marvelous birdie at the last, to secure an inaugural PGA Tour championship.Tuesday Tour Rundown is back, for this week only!

WGC-Mexico flies away in the hands of Patrick Reed 

Golf Twitter, depending on your perspective, is either entertaining or inflamatory. As happens in the world today, people take sides. In the case of Patrick Reed, that’s not difficult. One either forgives (or denies) Reed’s free interpretation (on multiple occasions) of the rules and their enforcement, or one preserves a disregard for a leading player who simply doesn’t act like one. What isn’t up for debate, is Reed’s seizure of this week’s World Golf Championship in Mexico. What looked for so long like a Bryson-DeChambaeau win, ultimately stowed away in Patrick Reed’s check-on pouch.

The tournament came down to the aforementioned duo. Both Jon Rahm and Erik Van Rooyen swam along the margin, but neither made enough of a Sunday move to figure in the outcome. Both, in fact, tied for 3rd place, 2 back of DeChambeau and 3 behind the champion. Bryson and his on-display muscles barged out of the 10th-hole gate like a man (and muscles) on a mission. Birdies at 4 of the first 5 holes on the inward half, staked him to a 2-shot advantage. Over the closing four, however, the magic went away, and a bogey at the penultimate hole brought him back to 17-under par.

Reed looked like a man playing for second. His long game was nothing exceptional, but his putter kept him afloat, time and again. And then, whatever DeChambeau had in his water bottle, came over to Reed. Birdies at 15, 16 and 17 suddenly brought the 2-shot advantage to the 2018 Masters champion. Even the cough of an expectorant fan, mid-backswing on the 18th, was not enough to convulse the champion. A closing bogey made the margin closer than it was, and Reed jumped from 33rd to 5th in the FedEx Cup standings.

PGA Tour Puerto Rico is Viktor Hovland’s debut decision

It wasn’t as mauling as Tyson Fury’s technical decision over Deontay Wilder, but Viktor Hovland and Josh Teater came down the stretch in Puerto Rico, like a pair of pugilists. The young Norwegian, Hovland, was pitted against the career grinder, Teater. First it was the veteran, with 3 birdies on the opening nine, to reach minus-19. Hovland chipped away, with a birdie at 5, and a 2nd at 10. And then, Teater hit Hovland with a right-cross (or Hovland hit himself with a sucker punch; you make the call.) Triple bogey! A startling six at the 11th, dropped Hovland into a tie with Teater (bogeys of his own on 10 and 11) who now had new life … and new pressure.

To his credit, Teater didn’t back down. He made birdies at 15 and 17, to recoup the lost shots at the turn. Unfortunately for him, tour victory the first would have to wait. Hovland, the Oklahoma State alumnus, made a sensational eagle at the 15th, to counter Teater’s birdie, and reclaim the advantage. The pair reached the 18th tee, a par five, all square, and it was there that Hovland dealt the final thrust. He took every bit of break out of a 25-feet birdie putt, and banged it into the hole. With the win, Hovland joined Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa as anticipated winners who actually won. Now comes the hard part: winning again and reaching a new echelon of champion.

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