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Morning 9: Sergio offers another apology | Bubba Watson: actor? | Mickelson could skip Players

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

February 14, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, and Happy Valentine’s Day!
1. Kuchar responds
Our Gianni Magliocco writes…“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.'”
2. Sergio offers further explanation
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard’s…
  • “I received some very emotional, personal news earlier that week that didn’t help. It was in the back of my mind. As I became frustrated on the course everything erupted,” Garcia told Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis on Wednesday ahead of the Genesis Open.
  • “Garcia didn’t go into detail about the personal news but said he spent last week reflecting on his behavior at the European Tour event, where he damaged several greens and was disqualified for what officials deemed “serious misconduct.”
3. Woods’ focus is scoring, not stats
Geoff Shackelford with some interesting quotes from TW…
  • “As players increasingly turn to stat gurus to tell them about past performance at courses, Tiger Woods said he’s less about deep stat dives and more about scoreboard watching. Particularly when he has an afternoon time as he does in round one of the Genesis Open.”
  • “By the time I start off in the afternoon, most guys are done between 7 to 13, 14 holes and I like to get kind of a feel how it’s playing,” Woods said when asked if he’d looked to past stats to figure out why he has been winless at Riviera Country Club.
  • “Taking a look at that and understanding that, when I go out on the course in my afternoon session, I have an understanding of what some of the tricks or some of the things that I might be able to take advantage of and also where I need to play defense. I think that’s very important.”
4. Mickelson could skip Players
Golf Channel’s Will Gray quoting Lefty…”It’s not one I feel like I have to play,” Mickelson said. “It’s not a must-play for me because I’m 48 and I’ve played it 25 times and I’ve already won it. If I were young and early in my career, I would say yes because I think it’s as close to a major as it can get. But it’s not the best course for me.”
  • “Mickelson’s 2007 win came in the first year of the tournament’s switch to May, but he has largely struggled since and has on multiple occasions marveled that he ever won the event. He has missed the cut five out of the last six years, posting scores of 79-73 last year playing alongside.”
5. Best things
Michael Bamberger on Steinberg the Super Agent, one of his “best things in golf right now”
  • “According to Mark King, the former TaylorMade boss now with Honma, it’s Mark Steinberg, who represents Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar, among others. “So straight,” King says of the agent. “Gives you a number and doesn’t play games.” Steinberg is a master of terse. Consider his recent response to David “El Tucan” Ortiz, the 40-year-old fill-in Mexican caddie who worked for Kuchar when the Tour veteran won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in mid-November, with its $1.3 million payday. “
  • “According to Ortiz, Kuchar paid him a total of $5,000 and 10 weeks later, through a tournament official, offered to pay him an additional $15,000 bonus. Responding to an email from the caddie, Steinberg wrote, “What Matt has offered is fair.” Another agent might have rendered that sentence, “We believe what Matt has offered is fair.” But Mark Steinberg has – what’s a good way to put this? – his own sui generis style.”

Full piece.

6. Propelling one another forward
A bit from PGATour.com’s Ben Everill on Tiger/Phil spurring one another on.
  • “…Woods feels up to that challenge. And Mickelson’s win last week lights the fire again.”
  • “It has always pushed me,” Woods admitted of Phil’s success.
  • “Each win by the other person always motivated the other.
  • “My entire career, Phil will probably attest to this, we’ve always looked at the board to figure out where one another’s at. So we’ve always had that type of enjoyment of competing against one another.
  • “And to see what he did last year in Mexico at 47 years old gave me confidence that I could somehow do it last year, and I was able to finally end my season with a win.”
7. Bubba the actor?
Oh boy…
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…
  • “I would quit the game today if somebody lets me get in some movies,” he joked on Wednesday at Riviera Country Club.”
  • “Although Watson made it clear he has plenty to accomplish in the game, including earning a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame and a potential Ryder Cup captaincy, his interest in the entertainment business is genuine, as evidenced by his trip this week to the set of CBS’s “Big Bang Theory.”
8. Arnie & Jack status
Tiger’s tourney is getting an upgrade…
  • Geoff Shackelford for Golfweek…”With that statement and a new distinction for the LA stop, the PGA Tour had bequeathed a new status on the Genesis Open. A smaller field, bigger purse and the involvement of Tiger Woods in perpetuity elevates an event that already consistently draws the best field in the West Coast Swing. “
  • “I think most importantly it’s going to give us a week and an opportunity every single year to reflect upon this man’s staggering accomplishments on the golf course and his staggering philanthropic contributions, something that we’re excited to tell the world for a long time to come.”
  • “The tour’s two other “invitational” events are Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Woods joins select company that Monahan is now essentially reserved for those who win 60 or more events and give back to the sport.”
9. Woods heading to Mexico
Golf Channel’s WIll Gray...”Woods confirmed that he will play next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, having added his name to the tournament’s field on Tuesday. This will mark his debut appearance at Club de Golf Chapultepec, and his first-ever competitive start in Mexico. Woods last played the event in 2014 when it was held at Trump National Doral in Miami.”
“I’m playing next week,” Woods said. “I’m looking forward to the challenges of this weekend and next week.”
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European Tour announces 4-point plan in a bid to tackle slow play

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On Monday, the European Tour announced a four-point plan aimed at tackling the issue of slow play in the game.

The plan, which will come into effect this November, will focus on four areas—regulation, education, innovation and field sizes.

Of those four areas, notable updates include that players will now only have to breach the time allowances twice in a round to incur a one-stroke penalty, and players who are put on the clock at least 15 times next season will now be fined £26,000 compared to the £9,000 fine they currently face.

In their statement, the European Tour said

“When players are out of position and either being monitored or timed, a one-shot penalty will be incurred after two bad times – currently a player would be ‘monitored’ and if he breaches the time allowance (50 seconds for first to play, 40 seconds for second or third to play) he will then be ‘officially timed’ and would then have to breach twice more before being given a one-shot penalty. Players will, however, have the option to request one time extension per round, giving an additional 40 seconds to hit a shot on this request.”

The Tour will also look to reduce the number of players in the field at events where possible, while rules officials are set to be proactive regarding targeting slow players on the course.

Speaking on the four-point plan, Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, stated

“We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our Tournament Committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps.

I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”

To retain their European Tour card, each member will have to pass an interactive online rules test, while a trial pace of play timing system will be implemented at the Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth next month where there will also be larger gaps between start times over the weekend’s rounds.

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Tour Rundown: How the pros (and amateur) got it done this weekend

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The Presidents Cup automatic-qualifying chase came to an end on Sunday. While students returned to schools across the country, and football teams played their 2nd preseason games. 10 USA golfers and 10 World professionals were named to their respective teams. Each captain has two at-large selections to make. For team USA, the unfortunately-underperforming Rickie Fowler may have two weeks for more Farmer’s Insurance commercials, as he finds himself in the #11 slot. Only Tiger Woods’ beneficence will save him from an early vacation. Xander Schauffele left nothing to chance this time around. After being ignored for a Ryder Cup captain’s pick last year, he made the PCup team on merit this year. The World team still has a load of Aussies (4 at last count) but has the presence of golfers from Taipei, Mexico, Thailand, China, South Africa and Japan. This year’s competition at Royal Melbourne has the potential to be quite memorable, assuming that the qualifiers don’t lose their edge over the next four months.

As for individual competition this week, we had lots of it. Playoff events on two tours, a male US Amateur champion to go with last week’s female winner, and a terrific story of rags to riches on the Champions tour. Seize the day and enjoy this week’s Tour Rundown.

BMW Classic

You had to chuckle a bit this week as another of the game’s vaunted hollows caved to the expansive skill of the modern golf professional. Medinah #3 has long been held as a bastion of defense, but this week, well, they ate it up. Hideki Matsuyama shot 63 on Friday for a course record, then did it again on Sunday. Not only did he not win (he had 73 on Saturday) but his course record lasted all of 24 hours. Matsuyama did finish 3rd at -20, 2 shots behind Patrick Cantlay. The fellow who broke Matsuyama’s fresh course record was someone for whom 2018-19 has been relatively quite: Justin Thomas. So quiet, that is had been 53 weeks since his last victory. Thomas blistered Medinah Tres with 8 birdies and 2 eagles on Saturday, moving oh-so-close to the hallowed, sacred 59. In the spirit of generosity, he made bogey at the 6th (after opening with 5 birdies) to not completely eviscerate Matsuyama’s record (and Medinah’s spirit.) Of course, JT would open Sunday with a bogey, to give just a bit of hope to the chasers. He had 2 birdies on the outward nine, steadying the ship but certainly not assuring himself of anything. After making 6 at the par-5 10th (twice as many strokes as he needed 24 hours earlier) Thomas was once again forced to dig deep. In the past, he has been unable to follow up super-low rounds with the needed performance, but he was up to it on this day. The Kentucky lad made 4 birdies over the closing 8 holes to hold off Cantlay by 3.

Nationwide Championship

Scottie Scheffler knew that he was headed to the PGA Tour after this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs. The Korn Ferry Tour playoffs would offer him an opportunity to better his standing, and he accomplished that task during week one of the finals. Scheffler, 3rd place during the regular season, vaulted into 1st on the strength of his 2-shot win over the Killer Bs (Brendan Todd, Beau Hossler and Ben Taylor.) Scheffler played like a seasoned vet, despite his 23 years of age. Scheffler made just 4 bogies during his final three rounds of 68-67-67 at the Ohio State University’s Scarlet course. That miser’s touch separated him from his chasers and gave him his 2nd win of the season. 25 PGA Tour cards were awarded during the regular season, and 25 more will be delivered at the Korn Ferry tour championship on September 2nd. If nerve-wracking putts are your flavor, stay tuned over the next fortnight.

Real Czech Masters

Thomas Pieters reminds you of every great range superstar. His swing exudes control and power, and you can’t help wondering how he doesn’t contend every week. That’s the mystery of golf, but Pieters reminded us why he has played Ryder Cup golf for Europe with a win this week in the Czech Republic. The tall Belgian sat 2 back of Edoardo Molinari after 36 holes, then took charge with a 66 on Saturday. On his heels was the young Spaniard, Adrian Arnaus, who posted middle 65s to stand one back on Saturday evening. The final round was half-shootout, half-stumble. Defending champion Andrea Pavan came out of the woods with 8 birdies over the first 15 holes. On a day when he needed perfection and 10 birdies, Pavan closed with 1 bogey and 0 birdies to tie Sam Horsfield for 3rd spot. Arnaus had three bogies on the day, and 2 of them came on the heels of birdie and eagle. The opposite of bounce-back, Arnaus gave Pieters breathing room with those mistakes. Closing with birdies at 16 and 18, Arnaus reached 18 below par, to put pressure on the leader. Pieters was 4-under on the day through 12 holes, and needed only to avoid disaster over the closing stretch. He stumbled with a bogey of his own at the 16th, but finished with pars to claim his 4th Euro title, 2nd at the Czech Masters, and 1st since 2016.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Open

Sometimes, the right person wins. Doug Barron epitomizes journeyman; he had to Monday-qualify to get in this week, and even has an are-you-kidding suspension on his record … for testosterone supplements. He’s not a big guy, and has low testosterone. He’s not Fred Couples, nor Langer, nor McCarron. Today, however, he is the Dick’s Sporting Goods champion. Barron and Miguel Angel Jimenez began the week with 65s, and Barron never let up. He followed with 68 on Saturday, and came home in 66 on Sunday, for a 2-shot victory. Understand that he had one of the game’s great personalities, and top golfers, on his heels on Sunday. Fred Couples turned in a tremendous 63 to finish at 15-under par, 2 clear of 3rd-place Woody Austin. Couples had the luck of the sleepy on his side: he dunked his tee shot on the par-3 14th hole, took his penalty drop, then chipped in for 3. Staying at the birdie-par timeshare in round 3, Couples had 9 of each to put serious pressure on Barron. How did the unlikely winner respond? Nearly identical to Freddie. Barron had 0 bogies on the day, and only 1 the entire week. The title elevated him 50 spots on the Schwab Cup money list, giving him an opportunity to move into the season-ending, playoff chase over the next 8 events.

U.S. Amateur rests in Ogletree’s arms

Andy Ogletree and John Augenstein were a perfect match in the U.S. Amateur final at Pinehurst. Ogletree was the 18th-ranked golfer in on-site qualifying, while Augenstein was #20. Both have had distinguished careers in college (Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt, respectively) and both were named yesterday to the USA side for the upcoming Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool, in England. In a most unique final, the morning 18 was played on the #4 course, while the afternoon round took place on the #2 layout. During the AM, 10 holes were won by the golfers, while 8 were halved. Augenstein stood 2-up after 18, but Ogletree delivered a warning bell with a birdie at the last. Ogletree returned to the course in identical form, making birdie on the 2nd hole to close within one hole. Augenstein remained in command, as most holes were halved until the 29th. At that juncture, Ogletree seized command with 3 wins in the next 4 holes, moving from 2 down to 1 up. A par at the par-3 17th hole, the 35th of the day, gave the Georgia Tech golfer a 2 up lead with 1 to play, making him this year’s national amateur champion.

In other news, the USGA added 7 golfers to its Walker Cup side. The one surprising move was the naming of Ricky Castillo, #9 in WAGR rankings and winner of 2 matches at Pinehurst, as 2nd alternate. The USGA decided that Steven Fisk and Alex Smalley, both ranked lower than Castillo, were better bets for success. Fortunately for the California kid, he is 18 and should have an opportunity to make both the 2021 and 2023 squads.

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Morning 9: JT! (and other winners) | Why were scores so low at Medinah? | Why Phil nearly missed his tee time

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

August 19, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans. If there was ever a golfer built for point-and-shoot golf in wet conditions, Justin Thomas is that man. Power. High apex. Steep swing to handle wet rough. JT always looks like a soft-course specialist on paper.
1 JT triumphant
The AP’s Doug Ferguson…“Justin Thomas had more stress than he needed Sunday before regaining control with four birdies on the back nine at Medinah to win the BMW Championship and claim the No. 1 spot in the FedExCup standings entering next week’s TOUR Championship at East Lake.”
  • “Thomas closed with a 4-under 68 for a three-shot victory over Patrick Cantlay, who shot 65 and moved into the No. 2 spot in the FedExCup standings.”
  • “Thomas started with a six-shot lead and still led by that margin through seven holes. Three holes later, Cantlay narrowed the lead to two shots with eight to play. Thomas, who earned his 10th PGA TOUR win, answered with three birdies on the next five holes, and Cantlay couldn’t keep up.”

Full piece.

2. Season over for TW
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”Woods provided a glimmer of hope with Saturday’s 5-under 67, but he fell well outside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings after a final-round 72 Sunday at the BMW Championship.”
  • “…Woods finished the week 7 under overall and recorded his first bogey-free round of the season Saturday. He made back-to-back birdies at four and five Sunday to get to 9 under and provide a glimmer of hope early in the day. But he stalled out from there and just wasn’t able to give himself many birdie looks.”
  • “Now we won’t see Woods again until October, when he’ll almost certainly begin his 2019-20 season at the inaugural ZOZO Championship in Japan. He’s also slated to play an exhibition skins event that week with Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama.”
3. Meanwhile, among the guys who don’t play for money…
Win one for the bespectacled! 
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard..“Georgia Tech’s Andy Ogletree defeated Vanderbilt’s John Augenstein 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final match to win the 119th U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst on Sunday evening.”
  • “Earlier this week Augenstein explained his strategy of winning the first six holes, and he did just that, taking an early 4 up lead through the first five holes. Ogletree, a Yellow Jacket senior, was able to weather the storm and eventually cut the deficit to 2 down after the opening 18 holes on Pinehurst No. 4 with a clutch birdie on No. 18. Through the first 18 holes, Augenstein was 4 under while Ogletree finished 3 under.”
  • “For the first time in history, the 36-hole final match took place over two courses: Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4. After a 2 hour break, the finalists teed off on Pinehurst No. 2 at 2:30 p.m. ET for the final 18 holes of the tournament.”

Full piece.

4. A repeat Czech master
AP report…”Thomas Pieters shot a 3-under 69 Sunday to become the first golfer to win the Czech Masters for the second time, beating Adri Arnaus by one stroke.”
  • “Pieters took a three-shot lead after a birdie on the seventh only to bogey the eighth. The overnight leader added a birdie and a bogey on the back nine in the final round to finish on 19-under 269 for his fourth European Tour victory, and his first since the 2016 Made In Denmark tournament.”
  • “I felt like I was in control today, almost the whole day and I kind of did my own thing,” Pieters said.

 

5. …and at the World Invitational…
BBC report…”Stephanie Meadow earned an emotional home win at the World Invitational in Northern Ireland after holding off England’s Charley Hull by one shot.”
  • “Solheim Cup star Hull had a four-foot eagle putt on the 18th to draw level but missed as Meadow, 27, holed out for par to take victory at Galgorm Castle.”
  • “Playing in her first pro event in Northern Ireland, Meadow’s level-par 73 gave her a 10-under-par total.”
  • “Jack Senior beat Matthew Baldwin in a play-off to win the men’s event.”

Full piece.

6. Scottie!
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”Scottie Scheffler already earned his PGA Tour card by finishing in the top 25 of the Korn Ferry Tour regular season points list.”
  • “He carried that momentum into the first of three Korn Ferry Tour finals events and won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.”
  • “There are 25 PGA Tour cards available in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals series, while 25 were handed out for the top points finishers at the conclusion of the regular season. The top 75 players in the regular season advanced to the Finals, along with PGA Tour players who finished 125th-200 on the FedEx Cup Points list.”
  • Scheffler shot 4-under 67 in the final round Sunday at Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course for a two-shot victory. He totaled a 12-under 272 for the week and finished two shots ahead of Brendon Todd, Beau Hossler and Ben Taylor.

Full piece.

7. Why so low? 
Plenty have been wondering why so many red numbers (and four course records) were posted at Medinah…
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister reports on the matter…
  • “It doesn’t matter what golf course it is. You give us soft good greens and soft fairways, we’re going to tear it apart,” Thomas said after his 11-under 61 that included two back-nine eagles. “It’s just how it is.”
  • Indeed, the conditions this week have essentially left Medinah defenseless. Rainy weather has softened up the course, turning greens into dartboards. The wind on Friday came from a different direction than the first round, throwing a few players off, but for the most part, it has been a non-factor.
  • When Finau first stepped on the course Tuesday for his first practice round at Medinah, he never expected the birdiefest that has developed.
  • “I was almost convinced single digit was going to win,” Finau said his 68 on Saturday – his highest score of the week. “It’s a long golf course. I felt like it was going to firm out. Obviously hasn’t firmed out.

Full piece.

8. Phil and the phire
Wild stuff made wilder by Mickelson breaking the news on Twitter… 
  • “Mickelson said on Twitter that lightning struck the hotel where he was staying, leading to an evacuation. One problem: He was staying on the top floor, his clubs were in his room and his tee time at Medinah was approaching.”
  • “Kind of a funny deal,” Mickelson said after ending his season with a 71 to fail to reach the Tour Championship. “The building got struck by lightning right above me and blew out a brick chimney and caught fire a little bit. There were 10 fire trucks. I got in my car and left and couldn’t get back. The roads were closed and the hotel was closed.”
9. Have modern drivers made the game too easy? 
Golf Channel’s Will Gray on some noteworthy remarks from one Adam Scott
  • “…But in the Aussie’s eyes, the scoring this week highlights a glaring issue with the current state of the game. Scott pointed to shorter layouts like Colonial and Harbour Town as examples that length is not synonymous with challenge, and believes that the task required of top players has become overly simplified.”
  • “If you require us to shape tee shots to get it in play, I think we’re going to struggle,” Scott said. “We just play straight. Everything straight. And if you had to draw a driver to get it in the fairway, down where you want to be and long, then I think we’re going to see different scores. But while there’s an option to go over trees and go over bunkers, it’s just relentless.”
  • “The driver is the most forgiving club in the bag now. You swing as hard as you can and get it down there far, it’s not skillful. It’s not a skillful part of the game anymore.”

 

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