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Morning 9: Svensson’s Sony surge | Spieth | JT | Edoardo Molinari: Flagstick scientist

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

January 11, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Svensson surges at Sony
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill rightly headlined his game story “Svensson sends scribes searching,” because, well, who is this guy?
  • He writes…”The assembled writers were sent scrambling to the PGA TOUR media guide after Canadian Adam Svensson found his way to the top of the leaderboard at the Sony Open in Hawaii.”
  • “It happens sometimes at the beginning of seasons as the new rookie class finds its feet – some of them haven’t found a way into the mainstream consciousness yet.”
  • “Keen followers of the Web.com Tour know the 25-year-old greenhorn won The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic about a year ago and leveraged that into a PGA TOUR card.”
  • But even they might not know the story that caught the eye of the scribes who awaited him after his career low 9-under 61 at Waialae Country Club gave him a one-shot lead…”
  • It was this….”I was three or four years old and my dad was teeing off and I guess I decided to drive the cart right into the lake,” Svensson said of his toddler days.
2. Up-and-down day for JT
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard...”Justin Thomas began his first round at the Sony Open shooting 4 under on the front nine to climb the leaderboard. It seemed so familiar.”
  • “Although it’s always best to keep thoughts of a 59 out of your mind until the very end, early in Thursday’s round there were a few déjà vu moments for Thomas, when he opened his day with birdies at Nos. 1 and 4 and an eagle at the ninth hole. His 12-footer for eagle at No. 9 was certainly similar to the 15-footer he made two years ago for a walk-off eagle.”
  • “Thomas’ second nine on Thursday, however, took a different turn, with bogeys at Nos. 11, 15, 16 and 17. He closed his day with a second eagle when he holed out from the greenside bunker at the par-5 18th hole for a 3-under 67 that left him tied for 17th place.”
3. Nearly a bad drop for Spieth
Dropping from shoulder height is so 2018, Jordan!
Golf Channel’s Will Gray... “Making his first start of the year at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Spieth had to take relief after his tee shot on the 15th hole landed near a sprinkler head. After years of dropping from shoulder height, Spieth made a move to drop as he had for years. But the new rules require players to drop from knee height, as Bryson DeChambeau (awkwardly) highlighted last week in Maui.”
  • “Thankfully for Spieth, as Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press pointed out, PGA Tour rules official Slugger White intervened to keep Spieth from potentially incurring a penalty:”
  • Doug Ferguson tweeted…”Fantastic. Spieth goes for his first drop of the year, from a sprinkler head, holds the ball out shoulder height and Slugger White jumps in with a “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Eventually got it right.”
  • “Unfortunately for Spieth, the save from White didn’t save his round. He went on to make par on No. 15 but struggled to a 3-over 73 in his first competitive round of 2019, leaving him 11 shots behind leader Andrew Putnam and in danger of missing the cut.”
4. Molinari’s flagstick experiment
Move over Bryson DeChambeau, the other Molinari is doing some sciencing of his own!
  • Alex Myers at Golf Digest...”Molinari, the older brother of recent Ryder Cup star Francesco, enlisted three pros at his golf academy in Italy to conduct the tests. The three used a Perfect Putter, a training aid that ensures you get the same speed and line, in the experiment, which consisted of three different speeds (slow, medium, and fast) and three different lines (center, touching the flagstick, and grazing the flagstick). Molinari, a three-time European Tour winner and 2005 U.S. Amateur champ, says the three pros did 100 “putts” for each combination.
  • “OK, so what did we learn from all of this? As the video sums up, the experiment yielded no difference no matter what you do with the flagstick on slow putts, but distinct advantages for both options on faster putts. On the mid-speed putts, Molinari’s test found taking the flagstick out was the better choice, while on the faster putts, the clear edge went to leaving it in.”
  • “Previously, the most-cited study regarding this issue came from short-game guru Dave Pelz in 1990. Pelz’s tests concluded you should always leave the flagstick in-provided it’s not slanting in any direction-essentially saying it’s acting as a backstop that slows down a golf ball and allows gravity to pull it into the hole better.”
(Molinari’s charts below)
5. Cink to Ping
Ping Golf has announced that six-time winner on the PGA Tour, Stewart Cink, has signed a multi-year deal with the company.
  • The deal will see the American play a minimum of 11 Ping clubs, as he looks to end an almost decade long winless streak on the PGA Tour. Cink had previously been an equipment-free agent (having been a Nike man prior to that) although he had been using Ping clubs for the majority of the last season.
  • Cink will make his first start as a Ping staff player at this week’s Sony Open. According to the company, the 2009 Open Championship winner is expected to have Ping’s G400 LST driver, G400 fairways woods, i25 irons and Sigma 2 Arna putter in the bag this week at Waialae Country Club.
6. Tales from the vault
PGATour.com’s Andrew Tursky...”In the 1970s, Ping began making two gold-plated replica putters for golfers who won major TOUR events using a Ping putter. One of the gold putters went to the player, the other was kept at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix.”
  • “Eventually, the stockpile of gold putters, which mimic the exact specifications of the game-used putters, grew into a collection of nearly 3,000 that are now housed in Ping’s “Gold Putter Vault.” And the collection continues to grow.”
  • In turn, the Gold vault also houses a stockpile of fascinating stories.”
  • The First of Many…””The first documented putter win (for Ping) was 1962, the Cajun Classic, which was won by John Barnum. I believe it was the (model) 69 series. This tradition of doing gold-plated putters started in the mid-70s, so some of these putters have been added after the fact. The first major was the ’69 Masters with an Anser by George Archer.”
  • “It’s been interesting over the years, people have been becoming more and more aware of it… pros who did win, who never got a gold-plated putter, just because the records weren’t as well kept back then. So if a player reaches out to us and says ‘Hey, I won such and such tournament, but never got my gold putter.’ If it’s documented, we can prove it, we’re happy to give it them. We want as many putters in here as we can get, right?””
7. Allenby the officiant
Golf Digest’s Christopher Powers…:”You may be wondering how this is possible. A simple Google search will yield, among other things, horror stories of Allenby’s reputation with caddies. Now, he’s officiating his new caddie’s wedding. Troyanovich is fully aware of the absurdity.”
  • “People say, ‘Wait, what? [Danny] caddies for Robert Allenby? Isn’t he awful? Isn’t he such a jerk?'” she says. “And we’re like, ‘No, he’s amazing. We love him.'”
  • “Four years ago this week, Allenby went through what remains one of the most bizarre incidents in golf. The four-time PGA Tour winner was allegedly kidnapped, robbed and beaten outside a wine bar in Hawaii shortly after he missed the cut at the Sony Open. The following day, he posted a picture of wounds he suffered on his face that quickly went viral, causing everyone to ask questions about what exactly happened.”
  • To this day, what occurred in that two-hour period remains unclear. Multiple witnesses disputed his original story in the coming weeks, leading many to believe Allenby had made it up. It should be pointed out that a man was eventually arrested and pleaded guilty to using Allenby’s credit cards, but that didn’t exactly clear anything up.”
8. Hanse’s revisions to No. 4
Jason Lusk at Golfweek…”Much is rightfully made of the raised and crowned greens at Pinehurst No. 2, built by Donald Ross, restored by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and ranked No. 14 on Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list. When Gil Hanse and his design partner, Jim Wagner, were commissioned to rebuild the resort’s adjacent No. 4 course that reopened in September, they took several styling cues from No. 2 – but not the greens.”
  • “We didn’t want to build a tribute course to No. 2,” said Hanse, whose notable course projects include the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Streamsong’s Black and Doral’s Blue Monster in Florida, Boston Golf Club and Los Angeles Country Club. “We liked the aesthetic and we liked a course that fit the landforms more closely, but we didn’t want to build greens like No. 2. We thought that would be stupid, because the best examples of that kind of greens are literally next door.”
  • “Compared to No. 2, Hanse and Wagner’s Ultradwarf Bermuda greens are much friendlier, unlikely to make a player attempt the same chip shot multiple times after a ball rolls off a domed putting surface. Instead of propelling slightly mis-hit shots into bunkers or scrub, as frequently happens on its famous neighbor, the greens at No. 4 are more accepting of ground-game approaches. Shots are frequently funneled to one section of green or another, even as more daunting target areas accept only perfectly played approaches on well-chosen angles of attack.”
9. The athlete/sponsor pairing we’ve been waiting for
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”The 2013 PGA Championship winner took to Twitter with the big news that he has partnered with Dude Wipes, the company’s logo appearing on his shirt sleeve and hat.”
  • “Proud to announce my partnership with @DUDEproducts and unleash #DufDUDE on TOUR. Stay clean and join #DUDEnation!”
  • “Dude Wipes are basically a portable alternative to toilet paper, which, come to think of it, might not be the worst thing to bring along to the golf course. Dufner has never been one to take himself too seriously out there, and if there’s anyone who can pull off this endorsement deal with a straight face it’s him.”
(And Dude Wipes, y’all are welcome for the free ad)
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News

Phil phires a 60 | Lowry leads in Abu Dhabi | Bernhard the bricklayer’s son

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

January 18, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1.  Desert Classic
A “rusty” Mickelson leads with nothing less than a 12-under 60…
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”If this is his idea of rusty, it could be another special year for Phil Mickelson…Before heading out to begin his 28th year on the PGA Tour, Lefty alerted his 250,000-plus Twitter followers that he was “excited” and “fresh” and “ready to get started,” but also, um, “rusty,” which is a golfer’s subtle way of suggesting that expectations should be lowered. Mickelson even told his playing partner, Aaron Wise, the reigning Rookie of the Year, as much before the round: “I’m rusty, so don’t expect much.”
  • “But Mickelson has been doing the improbable for nearly three decades now, and so maybe it shouldn’t have been such a complete surprise that in his first round of 2019, at 48 years of age, with no expectations, he carded his lowest score in relation to par in his long and decorated Tour career – a 12-under 60, to take the lead Thursday at the Desert Classic.”
  • “It was kind of a lucky day in the sense that I did not feel sharp heading in,” Mickelson said afterward. “Sometimes it’s just one of those days when it clicks.”
2. Meanwhile, on the LPGA Tour…
AP Report…”Nearly three months after Lewis became a mother, and six months after she last played on tour, she opened with seven birdies on Thursday for a 5-under 66 that left her one shot behind Brooke Henderson and Eun-Hee Ji at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.”
  • ”Pleasantly surprised,” Lewis said. ”Had pretty low expectations going into the day. Just really made a lot of putts. I had some weird shots, which I knew was going to happen having not played in a while. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m going to take it.”
  • “Henderson overcame a slow start with a bogey on the second hole and a par save on No. 3 at the Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons. She birdied five of her last eight holes for a 65 to tie Ji, who had a bogey-free round.”
  • “The tournament – the first season-opener in Florida for the LPGA since 2015 – is only for LPGA winners each of the last two years.”
3. European Tour
A report from The National...”Shane Lowry has a three-shot advantage to take into Saturday’s final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.”
  • “A birdie at the 18th gave him a round of 67 to leave him on -17, three ahead of South African Richard Sterne.”
  • “An eagle on the final hole from Ian Poulter lifted the Englishman to -12 and gives him hope he can prevail on Saturday.”
  • “Pablo Larrazabal will start the final round on -11 ahead of a quartet of Maximilian Kiefer, Thomas Pieters, Soren Kjeldsen and Scott Jamieson.”
4. The bricklayer’s son
Bernhard Langer’s “My Shot” runs in Golf Digest this month.
A few morsels…
  • “My father built our house. When I was a boy, he would call on me to help him lay bricks. I would shovel the material for the mortar into a small mixing machine, then join him in laying the bricks, setting them carefully, one by one, using string to make sure everything was straight. I consider it a miracle to have come this far.”
  • “WE CADDIES were given four hand-me-down clubs to share. There was a 2-wood, 3-iron and 7-iron, all with bamboo shafts, and a putter with a shaft bent like an archer’s bow. By the time I was 12, I saved enough money to buy a new set of Kroydon irons. They weren’t top of the line, but they were shiny, new and all mine. I added a Blue Goose model putter that had a small indentation in the head. It was a magical putter, and I quickly became the best putter at the course, Golfclub Augsburg, and possibly all of Germany. One day the putter went missing. I frantically went through the members’ bags, and sure enough, found my Blue Goose with the indentation. But I was in a terrible situation. I couldn’t confront the member-he surely would deny everything, and I would be fired. So I kept it to myself. I never did get the Blue Goose back. I’ve spent the past 50 years looking for a putter that suits me as well.”
5. Latin American Am
AP Report…“Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico had an ideal start Thursday in hopes of turning his fortunes in the Latin American Amateur Championship, opening with a 6-under 66 to build a three-shot lead after the opening round.”
  • “Ortiz has been runner-up in the Latin American Amateur the last two years. He finished five shots behind Joaquin Niemann of Chile last year, and he lost in a three-man playoff to Toto Gana the previous year.”
  • “The winner earns a spot in the Masters in April, and is exempt into the final stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open and British Open.”
6. Pins in at Augusta National? Maybe…
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…”Will players really be allowed to putt with the pins in during at the Masters?”
  • “Asked that question Thursday at the Latin America Amateur Championship, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley didn’t say no.”
  • “Under the new Rules of Golf, which went into effect on Jan. 1, players are now allowed to leave the flagstick in while on the greens, as Bryson DeChambeau so eagerly demonstrated.”
  • “Addressing the possibility of Augusta National going against the Rules of Golf during Masters week, Ridley first thanked the USGA’s Mike Davis and R&A’s Martin Slumbers for their work, then preached a message of “consistency” at the game’s highest levels.”
  • “We will, as we always do, collaborate with the governing bodies. We will talk about those local rules and conditions that will be implemented,” Ridley said.”
  • “We think it’s important that there be some consistency in top championship golf, and so you should expect that the Masters Tournament, from a rules perspective, will look very much, if not the same, as what you’re seeing in the major championships and the professional tours.”
7. The weirdest lies in golf history
Great stuff here from Coleman Bentley rounding up some of the most absurd lies (and resultant shots) in golf history (although it’s hard to believe there’s any way his list could be comprehensive, but hey, headlines, and you have to admire the effort)
  • “Golf is a game of minutely controlled chaos. Atoms crashing into atoms. Weight swooping into inertia. A ballet of bounces, spins, kicks, and ricochets that goes wrong just as often as it goes right. The beauty of a such an unpredictable game-one of inches, not yards-however, is that when it goes right it’s spectacular and when it goes wrong, well, it’s equally spectacular. Beg to differ? Well, keep on begging, because as the weirdest, wildest lies in golf’s weird, wild history prove, chaos is a beautiful thing indeed.”
  • “Shane Lowry – 2018 Abu Dhabi Championship…Before Shane Lowry could tie the course record at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Championship, he first had to conquer Trash Heap Corner. P.S. If no one’s taking that couch, we might know a guy who’s interested.”
  • “Phil Mickelson – 2014 Barclays Championship…The Leave: Just to the left of Big Jeff’s Hotdog Haus. One day Phil Mickelson will save par from the surface of the moon. We’re sure of it. Until then, his walkabout at the 2014 Barclays Championship will have to suffice.”
8. Kang & McNealy
A couple of Las Vegas-based golf pros are a couple!
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”Danielle Kang watched Maverick McNealy with special interest when he was mic’d up on Golf Channel’s telecast of the Web.com Tour event in the Bahamas earlier this week.”
  • “They are dating.”
  • “Kang wasn’t sure whether to reveal McNealy is her boyfriend, but she couldn’t help herself.”
  • “He’s a dork,” she cracked when asked to review his running dialogue on Golf Channel. “But he’s my dork.”
  • “She was applying the Kang needle. Both she and McNealy live in Las Vegas. She said they met at a golf course there, The Summit Club.”
  • “He’s a sweetheart,” Kang said. “I have so much respect for him and vice versa.”
  • Aww!
9. Back in black!
Titleist 718 AP2 Black and AP3 Black released in limited quantities. Previously only available in a traditional chrome finish, the new Titleist 718 AP2 Black and Titleist 718 AP3 Black irons are finished with a sleek, high polish black PVD coating. The irons feature True Temper AMT Onyx shafts stock.
  • Titleist has unveiled new 718 AP2 Black and 718 AP3 Black irons in limited black finish that will be available to purchase from March 1.
  • Previously only available in a traditional chrome finish, the new Titleist 718 AP2 Black and Titleist 718 AP3 Black irons are finished with a sleek, high polish black PVD coating. The irons feature True Temper AMT Onyx shafts stock. The shafts’ powder coat matte black finish aims to minimize glare (in addition to looking cool). An all-black Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 grip is standard as well.
  • Speaking on the move to release the irons in black, Josh Talge, Vice President, Golf Club Marketing said
  • “One request we heard from both tour players and amateurs, particularly those who have gravitated toward our Jet Black Vokey SM7 wedges, was if they could have these same irons in a darker finish. Our team spent a lot of time making sure the aesthetics were done just right. It’s a look that you just have to see.”
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Equipment

Brooks Koepka with Mizuno JPX 919 irons, TaylorMade M5 driver in the bag at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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Brooks-Koepka-Mizuno-JPX919

Brooks Koepka is in action this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship equipped with a new driver and set of irons.

Golf.com’s Jonathan Wall broke the news, via Twitter, that Kopeka has TaylorMade’s new M5 Driver in his bag this week, as well as Mizuno’s JPX 919 Tour Irons.

The three-time major champ used TaylorMade’s M3 460 Driver and Mizuno’s JPX 900 Tour irons throughout 2018, and it appears as if Koepka is happy to make the transition to both manufacturers latest additions of those series of clubs right from the get-go in 2019.

Brooks-Koepka-Mizuno-JPX-919

Koepka is currently T13 after two rounds of play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and sits five shots off the lead.

 

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European Tour members have heated exchange over cheating incident…from 2013

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Social media appears to have become the new playground for golfers to air their issues with each other, and this week it was the turn of two European Tour members.

The two men involved were Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and England’s Simon Dyson, and the subject of the feud revolves around a new change in the rulebook of golf. As of 2019, players are allowed to repair spike marks on the greens, an act which Dyson was found guilty of doing when it was prohibited back in 2013, and subsequently found himself slapped with a fine and a suspension.

Fernandez Castano kicked off the fun and games following his opening round at this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. The Spaniard said how the new rule “will take some time to get used to” before adding the punchline  “Unless you are Simon Dyson and you have been doing it for years.”

The bad blood between Fernandez-Castano and Dyson appears to be fully down to Dyson’s misdemeanour in 2013, as one year later on Twitter when the Spaniard was asked for his opinion on Dyson; he bluntly replied: “Used to like him, not anymore”.

Asked why he hadn’t tagged Dyson in his tweet yesterday, the Spaniard claimed that the Englishman had blocked him, before Dyson took to the stage, with a different rationale. In a since-deleted tweet, Dyson stated that Fernandez-Castano didn’t have the cojones (or something similar) and stated that the Spaniard is a “sad little man”.

After getting that off his chest, Dyson approached the incident differently, saying that he, unlike Fernandez-Caetano supposedly, had moved on from the affair which occurred six years ago.

Nothing quite like a good old confrontation on social media with a peer to begin your professional year, eh?

 

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