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Morning 9: Tales from a 42-year-old Tour rookie | Rules-related takeaways from Tour rollout

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

January 9, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. No Steph Curry event in 2019
ESPN’s Bob Harig with the news, building off a San Francisco Chronicle report.
  • “A PGA Tour event that was to be hosted by Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry has been put on hold for 2019 due to an inability to bring together all of the factors needed to stage a tournament in a short time frame.”
  • “The tour confirmed in a statement Tuesday night that the event scheduled to be played at Lake Merced Golf Club outside of San Francisco in September will not take place this year.”
  • “The San Francisco Chronicle first reported that discussions with potential title sponsor Workday had broken off and, along with other factors, the event would not be played in 2019.”
  • “While Stephen Curry still hopes to bring a PGA Tour event to the San Francisco area, the tour released a statement Tuesday saying the event won’t be held in 2019 as initially hoped. “
  • “Due to a combination of factors, we are unable to bring a proposed event to San Francisco at this time,” the PGA Tour said in a statement. “While it has been reported that sponsorship was the primary factor, this is untrue. The bottom line is the short timeframe for creating an event in early fall of 2019 was the biggest obstacle.
To paraphrase Geoff Shackelford regarding the issue: Why didn’t the Tour just agree to finance the event year one once the sponsor pulled out? Getting Steph on board as a tournament host ought to be that important, right?
2. Biggest Rules-related takeaways one week in
Digest’s Dave Shedloski caught up with Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s Senior Managing Director of Governance, following the first week of the new rules roll out. Pagel was on site at last week’s TOC.
“What is the most common issue so far that players have asked about in your interactions with them?”
  • “The most common question is guys trying to get a handle on the dropping procedure. The drop is the one area where there needs to be a lot of thought. Frankly, and I told this to them: If they do that incorrectly, that’s one area where they can be penalized if they act as they did in 2018. In a lot of areas we’re removed penalties if they acted as they would before. As opposed to the drop where they need to remember it’s knee height. And once it’s in the relief area, then it’s good. If they play outside the relief area, it’s now a two-shot penalty.
  • “You can make a drop from shoulder height without penalty. You simply have to re-drop from knee-height before you play the shot. The rules allow you do undue any procedural breach before you make a stroke. So, if you drop from shoulder height, which we have been doing for 30 years, then you can re-drop properly. There’s a misconception that it’s a penalty. Only if you play the shot. In six weeks, we’ll all forget about shoulder height.”
3. The players love Paddy
Rex Hoggard rounds up some European player remarks about the Captain-elect.
“You would assume his attention to detail would be flawless because that’s just the way Padraig is with his own golf game,” said Paul Casey, a member of last year’s winning European team in Paris. “I’ve never met anybody that seems to be on this quest to find this secret to golf.”
  • “When asked to describe what kind of captain Harrington might be, Ian Poulter, the heart and soul of the European team since 2004, rattled off a verbal resume that could double as a blueprint for a modern captain.”
  • “He’s been vice captain, he has an abundance of experience, very thoughtful guy who would do a great job,” Poulter said. “He’s vocal and has plenty to say. He’s opinionated. From the time I’ve spent with him in a team room he’s always listened and that’s a great thing.
4. That first check
Good stuff from Helen Ross at PGATour.com talking to pros about their first pro golf paydays.
J.J. Spaun remembers winning $10,000 at a Gateway Tour event in Arizona. He held a share of the lead entering the final round and played the last 18 holes riding in the same cart with Jimmy Gunn, the man who was tied with him.
“That’s mini-tour golf for you,” Spaun chuckles.
Spaun, who hadn’t planned to play in the tournament and didn’t arrive in time for a practice round, took a one-stroke lead into the last hole and sealed the deal. He got the winner’s check in the mail several days later.
“I didn’t get one of those big ones like Happy Gilmore, but I did get a trophy,” Spaun recalls.
  • The money was enough to essentially bankroll Spaun in Canada that summer. He drove home to Los Angeles after the tournament ended and took his parents out to dinner to celebrate the win.
  • “Ultimately the goal is to be on the PGA TOUR and to succeed and to win, but you’ve kind of got to win at every level, every step of the way to kind of prove that you have what it takes,” Spaun says. “So I’m glad that I was able to win at that mini-tour level to kind of prove to myself that I could make a living at this.”
  • “Ryan Armour, who picked up his first TOUR win at the 2017 Sanderson Farms Championship, knows about those stepping stones.”
  • “He played the mini-tours for the better part of five years after graduating from Ohio State in 1999 with a degree in communications. In between tournaments, Armour worked in a wine shop.”
  • “His first pro start produced a top-10 finish and a whopping $32 paycheck – remember, this was 20 years ago. Armour cashed the check at the same store where he was selling all those bottles of chardonnay and cabernet.”
  • “And lo and behold, (the owner) saves that check and sends it to me like 10 years later, framed,” he recalls. “It was pretty cool.”
5. Breakthrough major winners of 2019?
Our Gianni Magliocco compiled his list of majorless players he thinks are most likely to be majorful by the end of 2019.
Two of his selections.
  • Rickie Fowler…”Fowler and his fans must be sick of the sight of his name appearing on these lists. Fowler came within touching distance at last year’s Masters tournament, and his clutch back nine finally proved that he has it in him to raise his game at the crucial moments. The confidence provided by that final round at Augusta in 2018 may make all the difference for the 30-year-old.”
  • “Most likely major to win?…The Masters. With four top-12 finishes at the year’s opening major in the last five years, Fowler has shown that he has the perfect game to capture a green jacket. Solo second last year, and with the way he’s capable of putting, he has every chance of going one better this April.”
  • “Bryson DeChambeau...The astronomical rise of Bryson DeChambeau in the past six months has been spectacular to watch. Four wins on the PGA Tour since June speaks for itself, as the American has developed into a ruthless closer. Lack of form in the majors isn’t overly concerning due to the level of play he has shown since August. DeChambeau is a far better player now than he was when he last teed it up in a major championship.”
  • “Most likely major to win?…You can make a case that DeChambeau could compete at all four this year. The 25-year-old would love to taste victory at Augusta more than anywhere, and he may well do it. But as with Schauffele, the PGA Championship’s more conventional set-up now offers the best opportunity for those in their 20’s looking to get their first major. Therefore, DeChambeau’s best chance is likely to come at Bethpage Black.”
6. Special invitation: accepted
Golf Channel’s Will Gray...”Japan’s Shugo Imahira has accepted a special invitation to participate in the 2019 Masters”
  • “Imahira, 26, won the 2018 Order of Merit on the Japan Golf Tour and ended last year ranked No. 53 in the world rankings when a spot inside the top 50 would have earned a Masters exemption.”
  • “Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts established the Masters as a global sporting event, so throughout our history special invitations for deserving international players have always been carefully considered,” said Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley in a release. “We are pleased to continue this tradition by welcoming Shugo Imahira to our field this year based on his impressive record during the past 12 months.”
7. More 9&9
No surprise here.
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Last season the PGA Tour introduced a new pro-am format that allowed professionals the option to share their pro-am commitment with another player. It is called the “9 & 9″ option.”
  • “Under the “9 & 9” format, which was used at seven events in 2017-18, players could choose to play nine holes of the pro-am before being replaced by a second pro to finish the round. The program proved to be so successful that the Tour has expanded the option to 13 events in 2019, starting with this week’s Sony Open.”
  • “It gets the (pros) more engaged earlier in the round to make sure the guys are taking an interest in the guys they are playing with. Over 18 holes you have over five-and-a-half hours together so there’s no real urgency to get to know the guys,” Brandt Snedeker said Tuesday at the Sony Open. “In nine holes you feel more of an urgency to get to know guys in your group. And the amateurs have a better time getting to know a couple of pros instead of being with one guy the entire day.”
8. 42-year-old rookie
Dave Shedloski talked with journeyman and long-time mini-tour toiler, Chris Thompson, a rookie on the PGA Tour this season.
Thompson told this tale of U.S. Open Sectionals in Tampa.
  • “He and a friend, Ryan Vermeer, who last year won the PGA National Professional Championship, drove together to a U.S. Open Sectional Qualifier from Kansas to Tampa, Fla. It took 20 hours plus an overnight stop to reach Old Memorial Club on the day before the qualifier.”
  • “”We get to the course, and I mean, we’re just peeling ourselves out of the car. Can’t move. Get the clubs and we’re going to the range,” Thompson said Tuesday at Waialae Country Club. “But we’re getting ready to walk across this lawn out in front of the clubhouse, and this security guy comes up and says, ‘Guys, can you hold up for a minute or two?’ We’re like, ‘I guess, yeah.’ We have been driving in the car for 20 hours, what’s another couple minutes?”
  • “They actually waited about 10 minutes. And then they heard the sound of whirring propellers. “It’s Greg Norman,” Thompson said. “He’s coming in to land his chopper on this lawn, and he’s going to go out and play.”
  • “We spent 20 hours in a car and Greg Norman is flying in on his chopper to play the same practice round. So that was kind of a glimpse of life on the mini tours.”
9. Sartorial snippets from the TOC
If you like tropical-themed golfwear, last week at the Tournament of Champions was a veritable island paradise for you.
Golf Digest’s Brittany Romano rounded up some of the best stuff, including Bubba Watson’s floral G/Fore shoes, below.
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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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