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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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Mizuno MP-20 SEL: Leftys rejoice!

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Hey you southpaws, I promise I didn’t just flip an image of an MP-20 to wind you up… This is a real deal!

Say hello to the Mizuno MP-20 SEL (Special Edition Lefty) made just for you.

So what makes these SEL’s special? You may remember from the MP-20 piece I referenced the “MP-20 family” and how Mizuno spent a lot of time analyzing set makeup data to fine-tune each club in each model to maximize performance from both an individual set perspective, and to combo. They took all of that data and flipped it on its head, or at least hand, to create a set combining the most requested clubs just for left-handed players.

The MP20 SEL is a combination of 5-PW MP20 (blades) with HMB 3, and 4-irons. All the flow, copper and tech from the right-handed models combined into one. Without getting too far into the logistic of this, it has to be said that unless you’re a maple-syrup drinking, hockey-playing Canuck (don’t worry its not an offensive term) where around 25 percent of golfers play left-handed the global golf population that plays left-handed is still below 10 percent.  Mizuno wants to do everything they can to offer an MP design for lefties, and as the data demonstrated, this was the best option to fit the most players.

For more information on the entire MP20 line up check out the full piece here: ( INSERT MP20 LINK ) 

 

 

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Morning 9: Nothing runs like a Frittelli | Royal Portrush takes center stage

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

July 15, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1 Scottish Open: Wiesberger nabs second W of 2019
(Image above via Wiesberger on Instagram) EuropeanTour.com report…”Bernd Wiesberger…beat Benjamin Hebert in a twilight play-off at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.”
  • “The Austrian entered the final day at The Renaissance Club with a two shot lead but found himself trailing after Hebert carded a stunning closing 62 to set the target at 22 under.”
  • “Wiesberger had edged back ahead with two to play but bogeyed the 17th in a 69 before a par on the third play-off hole handed him a sixth European Tour title.”
2. Nothing runs like a Frittelli 
AP report…”While the rest of the leaders faltered, Dylan Frittelli surged to his first PGA Tour title.”
  • “Frittelli won the John Deere Classic on Sunday, closing with a 7-under 64 for a two-stroke victory over Russell Henley. The South African earned a spot next week in the British Open, finishing at 21-under 263 after the bogey-free final round at TPC Deere Run.”
  • “One of eight players within two strokes of the lead entering the lead, Frittelli was looking forward to the tournament’s charter flight to Royal Portrush.”
  • “I’m sure it’s going to be a fun flight,” Frittelli said.

Indeed. Full piece.

3. Goose is loose at Senior Players 
AP report on Goosen’s win at one of the low-key best venues for watching professional golf…”Retief Goosen birdied the final two holes to win the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on Sunday at Firestone Country Club for his first PGA Tour Champions title.”
  • “The 50-year-old Hall of Famer from South Africa broke a tie for the lead with a 15-foot putt on the par-4 17th and made a 10-footer on the par-4 18th for a 2-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over 65-year-old Jay Haas and Tim Petrovic.”
4. Kim outduels Thompson 
AP report…”I’m very happy to win, especially this tournament, because Marathon has a lot of history,” Kim said.
  • “With five birdies in the middle of her round, Kim pulled away from Lexi Thompson in their head-to-head duel at Highland Meadows Golf Club outside Toledo, Ohio.”
  • “She played some amazing golf,” Thompson said. “There was a stretch there, mid-round, where she stuck every shot.
  • “Had under 5 feet [for birdie] about four times in a row. So, it was a very well-deserved win by her.”
5. If only Tony Romo played playoff football as well as he does the American Century Championship…
(Kidding, Cowboys fans)
Golf Channel’s Adam Woodard…”Tony Romo is the man to beat in Lake Tahoe.”
  • “The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst has staked his claim as best celebrity golfer by defending his title at the 2019 American Century Championship, winning with a score of 71 points. Former MLB All-Star Mark Mulder (61) finished second, followed by tennis Olympic medalist Mardy Fish and another former MLB All-Star Derek Lowe (57). Actor Jack Wagner rounds out the top five with 55 points.”
6. *Points to Collin Morikawa* You get a tour card!
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”A week after Matthew Wolff earned his PGA Tour card by winning the 3M Open, Collin Morikawa locked up membership for next season.”
“The 22-year-old Cal product, in just his fifth pro start, tied for fourth Sunday at the John Deere Classic to collect 122.5 non-member FedExCup points and run his season total to 456.5. With just three weeks left in the regular season, that number, which currently would slot Morikawa at 88th, will assuredly be more than No. 125 in the final standings, meaning Morikawa can count on earning his card for the 2019-20 season.”
7. Portrush to center stage
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Much has changed since The Open last visited the coastal links of Royal Portrush. It’s been 68 years, in fact, since Max Faulkner scooped 300 pounds for winning the tournament despite never breaking 70. But that remains the only time the oldest major in golf was held somewhere other than England or Scotland.”
  • “That is, until this week. Long viewed as one of the best courses in the world, Royal Portrush now has a chance to shine in front of a global audience like never before.”
  • “And chances are, she’s going to put on quite a show.”
8. In a similar vein… 
James Corrigan at The Telegraph files his look ahead…
  • “Yet things change, as do politics, finance, perception and even dusty old men in blazers, and here we are in Open week. Everywhere you walked in Portrush on Saturday, with a big wheel spinning and looking down on families eating ice creams, and the brave dipping their toes in the grey ocean, it was clear that this was not a normal weekend. For, as the doors swing open, Tiger Woods is turning up on the Sunday morning and, no, that is not an everyday occurrence.”
  • “Perhaps Graeme McDowell summed it up best in a spectacular blog post on the European Tour website. “It’s been amazing to see the Open Championship evolve in the sleepy little town where I was born,” he said. “For anyone who has never been there, Portrush is on the very northern tip of the island of Ireland and is a very raw, beautiful, rugged landscape which feels very remote. To see an Open being staged there is mind-blowing for many of the local people.”
9. Fun yields win for Frittelli  
Good bit from Cameron Morfit going a level beyond the game story for PGATour.com…”It was mentality clarity,” Frittelli said, when asked to explain the difference at the Deere.
  • “With his attention divided and his career flagging, the 29-year-old with the prescription glasses found himself feeling stressed as this season wore on. His European Tour membership was running out, and he found himself in danger of losing his PGA TOUR card, too. That would mean going back to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where nothing is guaranteed except for the fact that it would preclude his playing in some big overseas events.”
  • “The clock was ticking, and Frittelli had to find a way to tune it out. Enter sports psychologist Jay Brunza, who helped Frittelli finally accept that he couldn’t affect outcomes, at least not positively, by obsessing over them. When he three-putted the 14th hole after driving the green Sunday, he not only forced himself to slow down and not overreact, he smiled.”
  • “I think I was the only one on the course who smiled after a three-putt,” he said.
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Tour Rundown runs toward Open with Frittelli, Kim, Goosen victories

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Something quite brilliant was in the air this week on the world’s golf tours. A new course debuted in Scotland, South Africa stood tall with two champions, and the world anticipated a return to a legendary, northern course that has not seen an Open Championship since 1951. The American tours are drawing to a close, and plans for 2019-2020 are firming up. Five events caught our attention this week, from Gullane to Toledo, from Iowa to Colorado. Plug in your charger and settle in for a nice read of this week’s Tour Rundown.

Scottish Open chalice rests in Wiesberger’s hands

Interesting stories envelope the Austrian golfer, Bernd Wiesberger. After a many-month layoff to rehab a wrist injury this season, 2 victories have come his way, including last week’s Scottish Open. The first 3 playoffs of his European Tour career all ended in defeat. In 2011, 2014 and 2015, he lost in extra holes at the Johnnie Walker, the Lyoness, and the Irish Open. Since then, he’s 2-0 in extra time. During the days leading into the 2016 and 2018 Ryder Cups, the 6-time Euro champ always seemed on the edge of breaking through to the European squad, but tailed off in the stretch run. On Sunday, under great pressure, he broke through for his finest triumph to date.

Soft ground and zero wind made The Renaissance Club an easy target during its championship debut. Wiesberger took advantage in round two, posting a course-record 61 to seize the lead. He held the top spot after 54 holes, placing all pressure squarely on his shoulders as round 4 began. It didn’t help that England’s Andrew Johnston had signed for a 62 before the Austrian pegged his opening tee shot. It also didn’t help that Benjamin Hebert of France was in the midst of his own 62, climbing the leaderboard. Ultimately, the duo of Wiesberger and Hebert would trade counters through the closing holes. After the Austrian holed a gutty, 7-feet effort at the last for a spot in the playoff, Hebert’s sound game betrayed him. He bogeyed the 2nd playoff hole, when par would have won, then 3-putted the 3rd go-round to finish 2nd.

As consolation, Hebert, Johnston and Italy’s Nino Bertasio earned the final 3 spots in this week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

@ScottishOpen     @EuropeanTour     @Renaissancegc     @BWiesberger

John Deere Classic is Frittelli’s 1st PGA Tour victory

The 3rd weekend of July redefined the careers of its tournament winners. Dylan Frtitelli has long been a quality golfer, since before his days at the University of Texas. Frittelli found himself uncertain of his status for the 2019-2020 campaign. His major-tour memberships were at risk, and a return to the triple-A tours was not his number-one comfort blanket. Everything changed on Sunday, in the middle of the American continent, when Frittelli surged past 3rd-round leader Andrew Landry with 64. As Landry fell to 3rd spot, Frittelli reached 21-under par. His work wasn’t finished, however. After a 4-under opening nine in round 4, the kind that gets you into the top 10, Russell Henley continued to make birdies. He made 6 more coming home, including a marvelous one at the final hole. Henley reached 19-under, claiming 2nd spot for himself. Frittelli didn’t falter. He made 4 at the par-5 17th, one of the few holes Henley failed to birdie in his march to the green. Ultimately, the win was vindication, security, and an unexpected trip to Royal Portrush for this week’s Open Championship. Breathe easy, Dylan.

@JDCLASSIC     @PGATOUR     @TPCDeereRun     @Dylan_Frittelli

Sei Young Kim takes 2nd win of LPGA season at Marathon Classic

Sei Young Kim offered an LPGA marketing tutorial on how to pronounce her name (So Young!) a season or two ago. On Sunday, the 26-year old Korean golfer earned her 9th LPGA title by 2 strokes, over Lexi Thompson of the USA. Kim made 7 birdies over her first 15 holes, establishing a healthy lead as the tournament headed for home. Bogey at the 16th reduced her margin of victory to 2, but also served to secure trivia on the week: Kim’s scorecard’s were 64, 65, 66 and 67. A hand that would do some damage at the card table, also worked well at the Toledo LPGA stop. Thompson nor anyone else ever threatened the front-runner on day four. Thompson had too many bogies (2) and not enough birdies (also 2) on the outward nine, to mount an early challenge. 3 more birdies plus 1 additional bogey through the 16th, brought her even with Stacy Lewis for 2nd spot. Thompson closed fiercely, with birdie at 17 and eagle at the last. Her torrid finish made the final score appear closer than actuality. In truth, it was the Sei Young show all day long, a fitting tribute to a stellar performance.

@MarathonLPGA     @LPGA     @HMGCgrounds     @SY_KIM_lpga

Colorado Championship earns Ledesma a ticket to the show in 2019-2020

Argentina’s Nelson Ledesma had won on this level before. He triumphed at the LECOM in 2019, but that victory was not enough to propel him to the PGA Tour. In a campaign highlighted by higher, more consistent finishes, Ledesma’s victory on Sunday was enough to earn him a card on the golf world’s grandest dance stage. The walk home wasn’t easy on Sunday. Ledesma dueled with fellow southern-hemisphere golfer Brett Coletta the entire round. Ledesma went -1 on each of his 9s, but they could have differed more. On the outward half, the Platense was all over the place: 4 birdies, 1 bogey, 1 double. On the inward half, all pars until the last. Coletta might look back on Sunday and wonder, what went wrong on the par 5 holes. He doubled the first, bogeyed the 5th, and failed to birdie the 13th and 15th. A late birdie at 17 tied him with Ledesma, setting the stage for the 20-feet birdie putt that would settle the matter and send the champion to new heights.

@TPCColorado     @KornFerryTour     @TPCColoradoChampionship     @nelsonledesmaok

Senior Players Championship is Goosen’s 1st on senior circuit

There was a time, in the early 2000s, when a lead in Goosen’s hands was nearly as secure as a Tiger one. Then came the US Open of 2005, when his final-round lead simply went far, far away. Since those days, family, injuries and new challengers brought him back to the pack. Goosen won 4 more events on the European tour, never again on the US side of the water, until Sunday. Having followed Friday’s 62 with a Saturday 75, the South African found himself in 2nd spot, behind the 2019 story of the year, Scott Parel. This time, it was Goosen who hung on and the leader, that faltered.

Parel came out of the gate limping. He was plus-two through 14 holes in round four. Needing to make something happen to put pressure on his playing partner, Parel birdied the 14th and 17th holes. Unfortunately for him, sandwiched in between were another bogey and a double. He fell to a tie for 4th spot, 4 behind Goosen. In other groupings, Tim Petrovic and Jay Haas were making noise. Each closed to within 2 of Goosen, but neither had the firepower to gain any more ground. The pair tied for 2nd at 4-under par. As for Goosen, it was anything but steady or consistent. He had an eagle and 4 birdies on the day, including chirps at the final two holes, to seal the deal. He also had 2 bogies, along with a double at the 11th. It seems that excitement and thrills are part of the new normal for the formerly-unwavering champion. As long as the recipe results in victories, he’ll certainly cook something up.

@ChampionsTour     @SeniorPlayers     @BridgestoneGolf    

 

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