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Morning 9: HV3, JT, Rickie | DJ surges in Saudi Arabia | A theft at the WMPO

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

February 1, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. HV3 (and JT and Rickie)
Harold Varner III overcame an early bogey with three straight birdies, moving himself in position to tie for the lead.
  • He got it with a long putt and a dab on the loudest hole in golf.
  • Varner snaked in a long birdie putt on the par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale on Thursday, capping off a 7-under 64 to tie Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas for the first-round lead at the Phoenix Open.
  • Varner set off the rowdiest roars of the afternoon with his 31-foot putt at the hole turned into a stadium, celebrating with the dab toward the sky.
  • “I love entertaining people and what better hole to do it,” Varner said.
  • Varner, who missed the cut at Torrey Pines last week, blew his first putt past the hole on the par-4 second hole for a three-putt bogey, but bounced back with three straight birdies on the front nine. He had a two-putt birdie on the par-15 13th and got up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the other back-nine par 5, the 15th.
2. Wolff!
Oklahoma State sophomore Matthew Wolff, another iconoclast who in his TOUR debut settled his nerves and shot a 4-under 67 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
  • “It was awesome,” Wolff said after going 1 over for his first five holes before making five birdies the rest of the way. “It’s probably more than I hoped for, especially at this tournament, which is unlike any other tournament. … I was really nervous at first but settled in and played nice.”
  • Wolff has made a lot of noise in amateur circles of late. He won the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top freshman while leading OSU to the NCAA title last season. This season, in the fall, he reeled off wins in three straight tournaments, joining Scott Verplank as the only OSU golfers to accomplish that feat.
  • All of this with a funky move in which Wolff does a little shimmy to trigger his swing, picks the club straight up off the ground, points his left toe, and then hits every angle seemingly just right as he comes through the hitting area with eye-popping speed.
If you haven’t seen Wolff’s unique action, check it out here.
3. DJ surges in Saudi Arabia  
EuropeanTour.com report… “Dustin Johnson laid down a daunting marker for the rest of the field as he soared into a three-stroke lead at the Saudi International powered by SBIA.”
  • “The World Number Three produced a flawless second round of nine under par after taking advantage of calmer conditions on Friday morning to move ahead at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.”
  • “Johnson rolled in seven birdies and a terrific eagle to get to 11 under for the tournament, with Zander Lombard three shots adrift alongside China’s Li Haotong”

Full piece. 

4. Theft at the WMPO pro-am
Golfweek Staff report…”On Wednesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Bradley’s day started off like any other. In fact, probably better than most.”
  • “Bradley finished fourth in the pro-am, while being caddied by his dad who sported a matching beard and a similarly vibrant Hawaiian shirt. His group beat out Patrick Peterson and Michael Phelps among others stars. He beat his own manager, Torey Lovullo, who spoke highly of Bradley while meeting with the media that morning. He got to hold the Phoenix Open gopher.”
  • “By all accounts, he seemed to have a blast….But the day took a devastating turn, when Bradley realized he couldn’t find his golf bag. The momentary panic of misplacing it quickly gave way to a darker possibility: Bradley believed his bag to be stolen.”
5. Criteria change: 2020 USWO exemptions
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”The main takeaway: Beginning next year, exemptions will be given off the Rolex Rankings rather than money lists from various tours. In 2012, a similar change was made for the men’s U.S. Open.”
“Exemption modifications for the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open:
* Removes top 75 off the money list from the previous year
* Removes top 5 from the LET, Korea LPGA and Japan LPGA money lists from previous year
* Removes top 3 from China LPGA money list
* Increases Rolex Rankings qualifiers from top 50 to 75 at close of entries
* Increases Rolex Rankings qualifiers from top 50 to 75 prior to current year’s championship
* Adds a new exemption category for top 30 from the CME Globe points list as of the Monday prior to the previous year’s CME Group Tour Championship”
6. Electromagnetic pulses!
Golf Digest’s Coleman Bentley…”If you even know how to spell “golf,” chances are you’ve seen the now-viral video of Bryson DeChambeau’s Bill Nye-approved shot process at the Dubai Desert Classic last weekend. The 30 For 30 short, which finds Bryson and his caddie analyzing air density and adjusted distance for an agonizing 74 seconds before hitting a 126-yard approach, has generated Flamin’ Hot Cheeto takes from around the golf world, including Brooks “Don’t Think Too Much” Koepka and now Matt Kuchar, who unleashed this expert troll job of the Artist Formerly Known as the Mad Scientist at the Phoenix Open on Thursday morning. Watch your necks out there, kids.”
  • “Of course, Kuchar has recently been the subject of his own controversy, but in this case, we’ll leave his glass house intact because, well, it’s just that funny. Going full deadpan, Kuchar cites “electromagnetic pulses” for his ball’s spin, nailing Bryson square between the eyes without even having to check the barometric pressure first.”

Full piece.

7. TM/PXG settle patent infringement suit
If you recall, PXG accused TaylorMade of infringing on several patents when the company launched its P790 irons…
  • Here’s the announcement…”Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG) and TaylorMade Golf Company jointly announced today that they have reached a settlement of the pending patent litigation and related patent disputes between the parties. Under the terms of the agreement, each company will have specified rights to make club products under patent cross-licenses.”
  • “David Abeles, TaylorMade Golf’s CEO, said, “I’m pleased that we were able to reach an acceptable and amicable resolution to put this this case behind us so we can continue focusing on bringing industry leading equipment innovations to the golfer.”
  • “Bob Parsons, PXG’s CEO, said, “As a golf equipment innovator, PXG will continue to pursue research and development and obtain patents for our novel club designs in the iron technology space. We will not hesitate to assert those patents in the future.”
Details of the settlement are confidential.
8. Hot List
While I’m loathe to include it from a direct competition standpoint, I’m obligated, given the mission of this newsletter (calling attention to stories of note in the golf mediaspace) to mention that the Golf Digest Hot List is now live.

Check it out, here (and you’re welcome, GD)

9. Knudson & Barath’s deep dive
Just wanted to call y’all’s attention to Ryan Barath and Brian Knudson’s work breaking down new equipment releases. These gentlemen know their stuff, and if you want to get really granular, you’ll want to hear what they have to say.
Check out their breakdown of the new Ping G410 series of woods, hybrids, and irons. 
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Kuchar defends caddie payment: “For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week” (Update: Kuchar to pay $50K)

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UPDATE: 2/15, 5:10 p.m. 

Following his opening round at the Riviera Country Club for the Genesis Classic, Matt Kuchar announced he has reversed course and will pay fill-in caddie David Ortiz $50,000 for his services during last year’s Mayakoba Classic.

Kuchar issued that statement below, via PGATour.com.

“This week, I made comments that were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse. They made it seem like I was marginalizing David Ortiz and his financial situation, which was not my intention. I read them again and cringed. That is not who I am and not what I want to represent. My entire Tour career, I have tried to show respect and positivity. In this situation, I have not lived up to those values or to the expectations I’ve set for myself. I let myself, my family, my partners and those close to me down, but I also let David down. I plan to call David tonight, something that is long overdue, to apologize for the situation he has been put in, and I have made sure he has received the full total that he has requested.

“I never wanted to bring any negativity to the Mayakoba Golf Classic. I feel it is my duty to represent the tournament well, so I am making a donation back to the event, to be distributed to the many philanthropic causes working to positively impact the communities of Playa del Carmen and Cancún.

“For my fans, as well as fans of the game, I want to apologize to you for not representing the values instilled in this incredible sport. Golf is a game where we call penalties on ourselves. I should have done that long ago and not let this situation escalate.”

End update. 

Earlier this week, Matt Kuchar’s stand-in caddie for last year’s Mayakoba Classic spoke about how he felt he was “taken advantage of” after receiving a payment of $5,000 following Kuchar’s win in Mexico, which carried with it a $1,296,000 winners prize. On Wednesday, Kuchar vehemently defended what he sees as a fair and just payment to David Ortiz.

In an interview with Golf.com, Kuchar claimed that he was up front and honest about the arrangement prior to the event, and Ortiz had accepted the terms, which reportedly were $1,000 if Kuchar missed the cut, $2,000 if he made the cut, $3,000 if he had a top-20 and $4,000 if he had a top-10. The reason for Ortiz’ dissatisfaction with the payment post-event? That’s something Kuchar put down to outside influences.

“I kind of think someone got in his ear. I was very clear and very upfront on Tuesday (of the event). And he said, ‘OK.’ He had the ability, with bonuses, to make up to $4,000.

The extra $1,000 was, ‘Thank you — it was a great week.’ Those were the terms. He was in agreement with those terms. That’s where I struggle. I don’t know what happened. Someone must have said, ‘You need much more.’”

Ortiz previously stated in an interview with Golf.com how he had been offered an additional $15,000 but had refused the offer believing it to be substantially short of his $50,000 evaluation.

On Wednesday evening, Kuchar confirmed Ortiz’ story, saying “that was the agency”, and when questioned who would have paid the additional sum had Ortiz accepted, he stated, “It’s not coming out of Steinberg’s pocket.” Referring to his agent Mark Steinberg.

Kuchar will return to Mexico next week for the WGC-Mexico Championship for the first time since his victory in Mayakoba, and for the 40-year-old, the pay dispute is now over. Further explaining why he feels his payment to Ortiz for that week in Mayakoba had been fair, Kuchar stated

“For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week.”

 

 

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Pro cards a 17 at the LECOM Suncoast Classic, but delivers a valuable message after doing so

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Kevin Na’s infamous 16 at the Valero Texas Open back in 2011 will most likely follow him around for the rest of his career, but over on the Web.com Tour Ben DeArmond eclipsed that number, taking a 17 on his second hole of the day at the LECOM Suncoast Classic.

DeArmond, a club pro at TPC at Treviso Bay, opened the day with a bogey, before stepping on the tee at number two where it all went monumentally wrong. The tee shot on the par-4 second hole is a tester at Lakewood Ranch, with water down the right and OOB down the left. DeArmond hit his first tee shot out of play and then proceeded to do the same with his next five attempts too.

@GolfTalkCanada

DeArmond finally got the ball in-play on his seventh attempt and ended up carding a brutal 17 on the hole.

Speaking after the round, DeArmond who is playing this week on a sponsors exemption said

“I couldn’t get (the ball) up in the air even with a 5-iron, so I’m not used to that, just went a little numb. I’ve never made a 17 in my life, not even when I started playing golf,” he said. “After that it was fine, just had to feel my arms a little bit. … It was just nerves. I had a great range session, felt good going in, and it was just an out-of-body experience on that hole.”

The Floridian carded an opening nine of 54 which would have broken many players spirit, but to DeArmond’s credit, he not only finished the round but steadied the ship on his back nine with a homeward 37 to finish 19-over par.

While nobody could have blamed him if he packed it in after that torturous hole, walking away was never an option for DeArmond, who gave this great piece of advice to all golfers after his round.

“If you learn anything from me today, it’s don’t withdraw, don’t give up, have fun with it. It’s a game, everybody has a bad day.”

DeArmond starts his second round today at 2.06pm ET. Looking on the bright side; he’s just one place back of multiple major champ Angel Cabrera.

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Morning 9: Rainy Riv (Spieth co-leads) | USGA makes a mockery of amateur status? | 17 on a par 4

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)
  • February 15, 2019
Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Spieth co-leads suspended round 1 at rainy Riviera
Evin Priest of the AAP…”Jordan Spieth chipping in for birdie to take a share of the Genesis Open lead was the highlight of a rain-soaked and incomplete first round in Los Angeles.”
  • “After significant delays due to heavy rain on Thursday, no golfer in the 144-player field was able to complete the first round before US PGA Tour officials called play for the day just after 5.30pm due to darkness.”
  • “…he was joined moments later by South Korea’s Sung Kang.”

Full piece.

 

2. Mav leads Suncoast (MIKE WEIR 2 strokes back)
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”He chunk-pulled a 3-wood into the water and then flew the green with a wedge to bogey the par-5 16th hole Thursday at Lakewood National in Bradenton, Fla.”
  • “The mistake dropped McNealy back to even par through seven holes. But he remained positive.”
  • “A hole later, he told his caddie, Travis McAllister: “This golf course feels so gettable right now. I feel like I could birdie every hole.”
  • “McNealy just about did. He birdied eight of his last 10 holes and posted a second-nine 29 to shoot 8-under 64 and grab the clubhouse lead at the Web.com Tour’s Lecom Suncoast Classic before play was suspended because of darkness.”
3. 17
A club pro, teeing it up in the Suncoast Classic took no fewer than 17 strokes to get the ball in the hole at a par 4.
  • FTW’s Andrew Joseph…”The hole in itself seemed incredibly difficult: A 491-yard par 4 with water and woods on opposite sides.”
  • “It was a struggle as DeArmond hit six shots out of play. “
  • “At least he only needed one putt from the green. You have to look at the bright side.”
  • “I’ve learned nerves are a real thing,” DeArmond said. “I had a great range session, felt good going in, and it was just an out-of-body experience on that hole.”
4. A blow to amateur golf?
Geoff Shackelford penned a quality look at/scathing take on the USGA’s handling of the Lucy Li situation.
A few highlights…
  • “The message from Lucy Li’s case is clear. Take free stuff. Use your skill as a golfer to be a billboard. Just be famous and likable enough and the governing bodies of golf won’t revoke your status.”
  • “In a sad statement about the weakened state of amateur golf, Lucy Li gets to retain her status despite starring in an Apple Watch ad while wearing scripted Nike apparel. Following a six-week investigation, the USGA determined that Li unknowingly violated amateur status rules after an elaborately produced piece was filmed following a call from “a casting agent for an acting assignment to promote Apple Watch.”
  • And this…”The USGA said in a statement that Romo is in the clear because “everyone knows him first as a professional football player and his fame and fortune is not derived from golf.” But he is adding to his fortune on the back of his likeness as a golfer who competes in U.S. Open qualifying as an excellent amateur.”
Shackelford went on to say the the meaning of “amateur status” has been undermined.
5. Boo’s back
Boo Weekley is teeing it up at this week’s Lecom Suncoast Classic on the Web.com Tour.
  • Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”The 45-year-old golfer hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since missing the cut at the 2017 RBC Canadian Open. He had surgery on his right elbow later that summer, after a bout with severe tendinitis, and the recovery kept him from hitting a golf ball for almost a year. When he finally was cleared to return to golf, his right shoulder started giving him trouble. The diagnosis?”
  • “I had cancer,” said Weekley, who went under the knife last July to remove the carcinoma and a cyst that had filled with fluid.
  • “The second operation kept him sidelined until late November…”

Full piece.

6. Actions speak louder?
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch says Sergio’s entire body of bad behavior trumps any apology tour.
  • “Twenty years ago at Wentworth in England, Garcia reacted to a lousy shot by ripping off his shoe and flinging it into the gallery. After missing a putt at Doral in 2007, he retrieved his ball then spit into the cup, a snotty gesture of contempt toward the competitors unfortunate enough to be playing behind him.”
  • “Those are but two snowflakes in a blizzard of boorish behavior.”
  • “There’s a club tossed into a lake, fans flipped off, microphones obliterated, his whirling dervish slashing in the bunker the day before his DQ in Saudi -all set to a whiny soundtrack that blames poor results on everyone from Tiger Woods to Carnoustie’s bunker rakers.”

Full piece.

 

7. Meanwhile, in Perth…
European Tour report…“Panuphol Pittayarat fired an impressive round of 66 to set the clubhouse target early on day two of the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth.”
  • “The innovative event is making its third appearance in the Race to Dubai, with three rounds of stroke play cutting the field before the top 24 players go head-to-head in six hole knockout match play on Sunday to decide a winner.”
At this writing, Thomas Pieters, Ryan Fox, and Matthew Griffing are tied at the top as well.

Full piece.

 

8. On Spec
Wanted to alert y’all to our Ryan Barath’s club building and fitting podcast, On Spec. Whether you’re an experienced enthusiast or a mere dabbler, you’ll enjoy the pod.
9. Tiger 17 Gloves
Indicating what we might expect going forward from the partnership, in exclusive video content for GolfTV Tiger Woods talked with Henni Zuel about his approach to playing in the rain.
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