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Morning 9: Kuchar’s caddie speaks | Putter troubles topple TW | The worth of a caddie’s work

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)
  • February 18, 2019
Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Not the man from Kentucky you expected to be holding the trophy
Louisville, Kentucky native Justin Thomas began the final round of the Genesis Open with a four-stroke lead. He finished one stroke behind his fellow Bluegrass State denizen, J.B. Holmes.
  • AP Report…”Holmes closed with a 1-under 70, and that was enough to overcome Justin Thomas, who took 19 putts on the back nine at Riviera — three of them from 8 feet when he lost the lead for good — and shot 75.”
  • “They played 34 holes because of a seven-hour rain delay at the start of the tournament Thursday, and that wasn’t even the worst of it. The final day featured a wild shift in weather, from sunshine in the morning to complete 16 holes of the third round, brief rain when they teed off in the final round and wicked wind that made it tough to hole putts.”
2. Korda Slam!
Golf Digest’s John Huggan on Nelly Korda’s victory Down Under and her unique celebratory gesture.
  • “The scissor-kick was familiar. Joining her father, Petr, her brother, Sebastian, and her older sister, Jessica, Nelly Korda can call herself an Australian Open champion. Dad and little brother won their titles at tennis (1998 and 2018); the sisters on the golf course (Jessica winning in 2012).”
  • “More specifically, 20-year-old Nelly completed the family Grand Slam with a final-round 67 on the West Course at The Grange Golf Club to clinch a two-shot victory over defending champion Jin-Young Ko of South Korea…”
3. Meanwhile, in Perth…
Game story via EuropeanTour.com on the second non-traditional event in a row on the European circuit.
  • “Ryan Fox claimed a convincing 3&2 victory over Adrian Otaegui to win his first European Tour title at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth.”
  • “The New Zealander finished eight under after 54 holes of stroke play to earn a bye into the last 16 of the six hole knockout stages but he still had to come through 25 holes on Sunday to lift the trophy at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.”
  • “He needed three trips to the Shootout hole to beat Thai Jazz Janewattananond before claiming 1up triumphs over Norwegian Kristoffer Reitan and Ireland’s Paul Dunne”

Full piece.

4. Putter troubles topple Tiger
The thrills of Saturday gave way to the blahs of Sunday as the combination of fatigue and not being in contention added to a forgettable final-round performance for one Tiger Woods at chilly, blustery Riviera–a course that has been anything but “Tiger’s Alley.”
  • ESPN’s Bob Harig…”The effects of a long week, with cold, blustery conditions and delays due to bad weather and darkness finally caught up to him, Woods said, leading to a lackluster finish and a tie for 15th at Riviera Country Club — where he has now not won in 12 tries.”
  • “After getting to 3 under for his round through seven holes and to 10 under for the tournament, Woods could not manage another birdie the rest of the way, playing his last 11 holes in 4 over par and settling for a 1-over-par 72.”
  • “I got tired; there’s no doubt,” Woods said. “It was just a long week, and eventually I made a few bad swings. But to be honest with you, it was one of the worst weeks I’ve ever had on the greens. Six 3-putts is — I don’t think I’ve ever done that. And to have that many 3-putts and still shoot 6 under par — take away those 3-putts, I’m 12 under par. And if I make a few more putts, I’m right in the mix.”
5. You don’t know Matt!
That was, probably not surprisingly, the basic contention from Kuchar’s looper, John Wood.
The NY Post’s Mark W. Sanchez spotted Wood’s tweets Friday night.
  • “I don’t understand the need to tear down a guy who has spent his career trying to uphold the game and himself to some pretty high standards,” Wood wrote…”Nobody’s perfect. All we can do when a mistake is made is reconsider, apologize and make amends.”
  • …”Matt,his entire family and team have never been anything but generous,inclusive,respectful, and complimentary of me and the job I do for him…I wouldn’t work for someone I didn’t respect, or who didn’t value my opinion. To crucify for one mistake feels wrong.”
6. Baffled by altitude
Steve DiMeglio of USA Today and Golfweek, filing a report for the latter on the eternal mysteries of golfing at altitude as the Tour prepares to visit Club de Golf Chapultepec, some 7,800 feet above sea level, for the WGC Mexico.
  • “…”It took me until Sunday to get used to it,” reigning Players champion Webb Simpson said of his showing in last year’s event. After rounds of 72-70-73,  Simpson came home in 68 to tie for 37th. “I feel like I have a good understanding now of what I need to do this year.”
  • “Other players agree, as experience is the 15th club in the bag. The tight, tree-lined Club de Golf Chapultepec is an 18-hole riddle that demands constant evaluation as players figure out how far the golf ball will carry at altitude.”
I’d be remiss not to call your attention to our Ryan Barath’s meditation on the same subject in conjunction with a discussion of a Tiger Woods 3-wood switch.
7. Not to be overlooked, a W for MAJ!
AP Report…”Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Chubb Classic on Sunday for his seventh PGA TOUR Champions title, beating Bernhard Langer and Olin Browne with a 5-foot par putt on the first hole of a playoff.”
  • The Spaniard delivered this gem…”I’m working hard and I practice and go to the gym, apart from smoking and drinking,” Jimenez said. “This is what I love to do. I love to play golf. To me, competing is my life. I go to any competition, I want to win. I working for that.”
8. The worth of a caddie’s work
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch considers the subject–with help from Fluff!– in the wake of the Kuchar-El Tucan fiasco.
  • “The debacle surrounding Matt Kuchar’s pay dispute with David “El Tucan” Ortiz has ignited plenty of commentary on the values of Kuchar, but not so much on the value of caddies. Part-Sherpa, part-psychologist, their contributions are often intangible. Caddies occupy a decidedly gray area not easily measured in dollars.”
  • “For starters, you’re carrying the bag. They ain’t gotta carry their clubs,” said Mike “Fluff” Cowan, one of the few celebrity members of the caddie corps on the PGA Tour. “It’s a second set of eyes, it’s a second opinion. You’re not always right. If we were right every single time, we’d want a lot of money. I don’t think it can be dismissed. As long as you’re not costing your man any shots, you’re doing your job.”
9. J.B. Holmes does not play golf quickly
Golf.com’s Josh Berhow rounded up some lowlights and remarks concerning the…exceedingly deliberate…work of one J.B. Holmes, Sunday.
  • “At the par-3 4th, Holmes stalked a birdie putt for more than 80 seconds.”
  • “Here is J.B. Holmes, going through all the maps and scales and typography data that he can find,” said Jim Nantz, setting the stage.
  • “The issue I have with that is not that he’s doing that, it’s that he had plenty of time to do that while Justin was getting ready for his shot or Adam was getting ready for his shot,” said on-course reporter Peter Kostis. “And he waited until it was his turn to play to go through his whole routine.”
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  1. dan

    Feb 18, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Reading some of the shameful comments regarding ’El Tucan” received good money compared to Mexican Wages is sad to say at the least. We do not have any say as to what country were born. No more than who are our birth parents. The issue is the golfer whom he carried his bag has won 47 million on the PGA tour. That does not take into account millions in endorsement deals. I should also note you receive additional monies from some sponsors when winning a tournament. Having been in the shipping business my whole career I have traveled to countless countries. Haiti makes Mexico look like a financial paradise. The problem with Kuchar is flat-out disgraceful from a moral compass standpoint. He had not won using a regular caddie in over four years. Had he won with his regular caddie Kuchar would have forked over $130,000 along with additional travel expense monies. He then wins with a local caddie. The win scenario changed all bets prior deals. IMO KUCHAR or management team should have immediately paid 25% ($32,500) of his winnings. El Tucan would have been pleased. Instead KUCHAR paid this human being, a man born in a poor country a salary he deemed justified! SHAMEFUL. Stating a deal is a deal is an embarrassment! Then not having the brains to realize his incentive comments were made at the Genesis Open in LA which has one of the highest populations of Mexicans in the country. Simple shows he lives in a bubble. Bottom line KUCHAR for 2 decades has seemed like a STANDUP GUY. I think we all have made our own opinion if KUCHAR made a sincere genuine gesture. Regardless he made a horrific mistake & deserves the benefit of the doubt moving forward without any backlash. KUCHAR apologized and agreed to give 50k to EL Tucan. Which is life changing money in his world. Not only that from a positive angle I am sure more Americans who play the resort were he caddies will ask for El Tucan by name. Being a proud American I am confident if we get El Tucan for a loop we will give him way beyond a customary tip.

    Posted by Dan Joseph on Feb 18, 2019 | 10:46 AM reply

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USGA hires Jason Gore as the organization’s first director of player relations staff

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In light of several rules controversies and a growing fractious relationship with certain Tour players, the USGA has hired PGA Tour veteran Jason Gore as the first director of the organization’s player relations staff.

The 44-year-old will oversee a team of four, whose main role will be dedicated to improving player relations, as well as to interact with professional and elite amateur players across the game.

Speaking on the appointment, John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s director of Championships, said in a statement released Friday

“Jason is a dynamic individual who has a great passion for the USGA and the game of golf and is widely recognized and respected by Tour players and staff, as well as industry influencers.

Filling this role has been a strategic priority for the organization for some time and in Jason, we have someone who will bring us player insights and share our position on matters of importance in the game.”

Gore, who is a former winner on the PGA Tour, will relocate with his family to New Jersey in the coming months to fulfill his new role.

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Morning 9: Leaping cougar! | Ryder Cup volunteer exploitation? | Pieters’ “for sale” bag

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

March 22, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. The cougar leapeth!
AP report on Joel Dahmen’s first-round play at the Valspar…”The PGA Tour event that doesn’t have Tiger Woods this year instead has the Leaping Cougar.”
  • “That’s a childhood nickname for Joel Dahmen, who took advantage of gentle conditions on a tough Copperhead course for a 5-under 66 to share the early lead Thursday with Sepp Straka in the Valspar Championship.”
  • “The tournament, trying to have a little fun during Spring Break in Florida, allowed players to put whatever name they wanted on the back of their caddie’s bib. Dahmen, a cancer survivor who keeps golf light, went with the name he was given as a boy in Washington state when he was part of a scouts group.
2. Luke rising
Back in action, Luke Donald turned in an impressive opening round.
  • Jeff Babinuea at PGATour.com…”making his first start since toughing out two rounds at the Sony Open in January, Donald appeared to be his vintage self for much of the day. He exhibited solid play, sound course management, and some deft touch around the greens, always a great strength of his. Even a closing bogey at the end of the Snake Pit, Copperhead’s par-4 18th, could do little to dent a day in which he’d played so solidly, opening the Valspar Championship at 4-under 67.”
  • “Hard to fathom that Donald, now 41 and a married father of three, has not held a trophy since that Sunday at Innisbrook in 2012 when he stood tallest in a four-man playoff – the Valspar Championship’s very first – to win his fifth PGA TOUR title.”
3. 74 for the 17-year-old
Golfweek’s Todd Kelly…”Akshay Bhatia, junior golf phenom, long-ball hitter and soon-to-be-tour-pro posted a 3-over 74 in his PGA Tour debut on Thursday at the Valspar Championship.”
  • “Bhatia got in the field at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla., after accepting a sponsor exemption.”
  • “Thursday’s round validated his ascent in the game, and all signs continue to point to Bhatia’s intent to skip college and turn pro in January when he turns 18.”
4. NYC!
AP Report…”Na Yeon Choi feared the worst Thursday in her return from a back injury. She ended up high on the Founders Cup leaderboard.”
  • “Choi shot a 7-under 65 at Desert Ridge in her first tournament round in 11 months, leaving her a stroke behind first-round leader Celine Boutier in the event that honors the 13 women who founded the LPGA Tour.”
  • “Golf is really funny game. I didn’t expect any good score today because this is first day,” said Choi, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open champion and nine-time tour winner. “I practice hard, of course, but it’s hard to tell how I’m going to shoot. Less expectation, I think, always give you better result.”
5. Exploiting volunteers?
Andy Philip of the Daily Record…”Ryder Cup bosses have been accused of taking advantage of volunteers to generate profits at the iconic golf tournament.”
  • “The claim was made to politicians investigating a revised charter to stop the helpers being “exploited”.
  • “George Thomson, chief executive of Volunteer Scotland, told MSPs: “The Ryder Cup was a great volunteering experience but there were some roles there which were about shop assistants being volunteers.”
More specifically…Thomson added…”That’s an example of how the charter is saying that’s not acceptable – you shouldn’t have a volunteer merchandise worker selling t-shirts for private profit in a context like that and that’s been accepted.
6. European Tour: Pietering to the top
EuropeanTour.com report…”Thomas Pieters found himself in possession of a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Maybank Championship after the golf course showed its teeth on Friday.”
“The big-hitting Belgian carded four birdies and a single bogey in his second round at Saujana Golf and Country Club to move to eight under par.”
7. Wie back to practicing
Golf Channel’s Samantha Marks reports...”After withdrawing from the opening round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship late February citing “nerve entrapment” in her right hand, Michelle Wie posted on Instagram on Thursday that she is back on the golf course with a photo and video of her swing.”
8. Rahm: Controlling fire is key
Golf Digest’s Christopher Powers with this quote from Rahmbo…”No, I’ll never lose that, that is deep in my core, that’s never going away, I can tell you that much,” Rahm said of his fiery nature. “I’m still as competitive and things still hurt me, they still piss me off, they still get me mad, and that’s what I hope people can see is how much I’ve come along on that final round to not act like Jon would have acted before. It’s been a long way from the U.S. Open at 2017. And that final round [at the Players] was a very disappointing final round, but it helps. I mean, I don’t know what they showed on the broadcast, but when I missed my putt on 12 for birdie and I left it short, I got mad. I got mad, walked to the next tee, stayed mad but still under control. Hit a great shot, made birdie, tied for the lead.”
“It’s still a work in progress where you’re saying I don’t want to lose that, I want to keep that fire, that fire’s never going to be away,” Rahm said. “But I need to be able to use it to my advantage and still try to control and manage my other emotions and reactions better. It’s that simple.”
9. For sale!
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall with some curious/potentially brilliant news…”Thomas Pieters has made over $10 million on the European and PGA Tours since turning pro in 2013. He also has lucrative endorsement deals with Nike and Callaway Golf.”
  • “But the moment you stop hustlin’ is the moment money stops guzzlin,’ as 20th century philosopher Snoop Dogg once said, which explains why Pieters’ golf bag has an embroidered “FOR SALE” in three languages on his golf bag, hoping to snag another sponsorship.”
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Morning 9: DJ: I’m as close as I have been pre-2017 Masters form | How much should a Tour pro pay his/her teacher?

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

March 21, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. DJ: I’m as close as I have been to pre-2017 Masters form
A scary thought for the competition: Dustin Johnson feels he’s as close to his pre-2017 Masters slip-and-fall form as he has been since the unfortunate tumble down the stairs that derailed the green jacket hopes of the then Masters favorite.
  • Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Johnson has won plenty of tournaments in the two years since, and he’s spent much of that time as the top-ranked player in the world. But with victories already this year in Saudi Arabia and Mexico and coming off a T-5 finish at The Players Championship, Johnson believes heading into this week’s Valspar Championship that his game is as strong as it’s been since his ill-fated week in Augusta.”
  • “Now is the closest I’ve been to that. I mean, back then that was probably the best form I’ve ever been in, and getting injured it’s taken a while to get back to that form,” Johnson said. “Obviously, I played very well in that stretch, but I wasn’t as comfortable as I was then, kind of throughout the whole bag. But it’s getting, it’s definitely the closest I’ve felt to that stage of my career.”
  • “Johnson’s result last week was his first career top-10 finish in 11 trips to TPC Sawgrass, and his dominating run to the title last month in Mexico was reminiscent of the one he offered up two years ago during his strong run of form. When asked if he believed the performance he authored in Mexico City would be good enough to win his first green jacket next month, Johnson didn’t back down.”
2. #DriveOn
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins on the LPGA Tour’s new initiatie…”The LPGA is enjoying a time of growth. Purses are bigger than ever, and more companies are partnering with the LPGA than at any other time in the tour’s history. It was in part looking at why this is that led the LPGA to its new campaign, Drive On.”
  • …The campaign itself is about more than the LPGA or golf, it’s about empowering people of all ages and genders to pursue what they are passionate about, regardless of what others may think of them. As the tour explains in its press release, “Drive On isn’t just about golf and it isn’t just about women. For girls and boys, women and men. It’s about the fire that burns inside you when you discover your passion. It’s about the motivating power of big dreams and the resolve to defy convention and stereotypes. It’s about finding the vision to see beyond what has already been done and to believe something greater is possible.”
3. More Akshay
PGATour.com Staff report on a few of the 17-year-old phenom’s pre-Valspar Championship remarks.
  • …”In 2014, he participated in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National, the weekend before the start of the Masters. He was among 88 juniors who advanced their way to the finals, and his family was there to enjoy the moment.”
  • “So humbling and such a great experience,” dad Sonny told the News and Observer.
  • “He’s had lunch with Jack Nicklaus at a Walker Cup event – and heard Nicklaus say, “You know, when I went to college, I didn’t learn much.” Said Akshay: “Which is funny, because you know, arguably the best player in the golf.”
  • “At the recent Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship, Akshay shot a tournament-record 10 under at TPC Myrtle Beach en route to winning the event. Afterward, Akshay said Johnson “is a mentor of mine. It was an amazing week.”

Full piece.

4. Meanwhile, in Malaysia…
European Tour report…”Matthias Schwab was pleasantly surprised after opening his Maybank Championship account with a 66 on Thursday.”
  • “The Austrian, making his first appearance at Saujana Golf and Country Club this week, carded seven birdies and a solitary bogey on day one to sit a single stroke behind co-leaders Marcus Fraser and Nacho Elvira.”
  • “On a morning of low scoring, Schwab recovered from a bogey at the tenth – his first – with birdies on the 13th, 14th and 17th to avoid falling too far behind the early pace-setters.”

Full piece. 

Thomas Pieters is two back at 5 under.
5. Fair price to pay a teacher?
The Undercover Tour Pro (with Max Adler) tackles the question of a fair price for a pro to pay a golf instructor.
  • A few morsels…”I pay my guy 40 grand a year. He’ll hop on a flight and cover his expenses whenever I need him, but neither of us wants that happening often. Usually, I can send him a swing video and we can talk on the phone for five minutes, and that’s plenty. Our deal used to be 20 grand annually, plus a bunch of percentages that kicked in for top-25s and top-10s, but then I had my best season. The number I was supposed to pay him was ridiculous. I said, “Whoa, buddy, I’ve barely seen you. How ’bout here’s a check for 40 grand and we call it square?” He didn’t say no.”
  • “I know one famous teacher whose deal is $150,000 per year. Even if you pay that, you’re on his schedule, because he might have four or five players to visit before you at any given tour event. He had one student who was a major champion, a veteran who’d made more than $20 million in his career. But this player had some real dry seasons in his 40s. His decision to stop working with said teacher was purely financial.”
6. Back back to OK, Day trying not to push it
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Showing no signs of issue during Wednesday’s pro-am at the Valspar Championship, Day explained that his back feels “good” and that he has required no further cortisone shots since the initial dose.”
“It seems like every time my back goes out I get the questions for about two or three weeks, and then they slowly go away,” he said. “It’s coming along. I’ve just got to not push myself too hard. But I feel good about it.”
7. Monday Q
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols on the rigors of Monday qualifying–on the Symetra Tour, no less–through the eyes of Cheyenne Knight. In short, just like on the mens’ circuit, you better be ready to circle some numbers on your scorecard.
  • ‘”That first one is always the hardest,” said Knight, who knocked in a 25-footer on her 15th hole. Birdie putts from 6 feet followed on the next two holes and on the closing par 5, she hit the green in two with a 3-hybrid and poured in a 30-footer for eagle.”
  • “Knight thought for sure that she’d be safe with an 8-under 63. Cheyenne Woods, playing two groups ahead, posted a 64. When Csicsi Rozsa turned in a 63 of her own, Knight headed to the range.”
  • “Could it really be possible that 63 wasn’t enough to get in?…Turns out it was – both Knight and Rozsa advanced out of the field of 72. But it took some red-hot golf….”You hear about Monday-qualifying and how hard it is on the PGA Tour and web.com,” said Knight, “but it’s hard out here too. It’s really difficult.”‘
8. Stairs fell another Johnson
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”This week at the Valspar Championship it’s his brother and caddie, Austin, who’s suffering. Austin Johnson was sporting a black cast on his left wrist Tuesday on the driving range, and he added a sling while carrying the bag during Wednesday’s pro-am.”
  • “Dustin Johnson explained that his brother broke a bone in his hand Sunday night, slipping while going up some stairs as the two were packing up their house near TPC Sawgrass following Johnson’s T-5 finish at The Players Championship.”
  • “He had a bit of a run-in with a pair of stairs, kind of like I did,” Johnson said. “Those stairs, man. They’ll get you.”

Full piece

Indeed, they will.
9. Russell Knox’s one-off Bettinardi
Great reporting by PGATour.com’s Andrew Tursky, getting the inside scoop on a very interesting flatstick…
  • “Every week on the practice green at a PGA TOUR event, you can find Arnie Cunningham, TOUR representative for SuperStroke grips, standing beside a SuperStroke staff bag. Propped up against the bag are a dozen or more putters from different manufacturers, each equipped with the newest versions of SuperStroke putter grips. The putters are there mostly so TOUR players interested in changing grips can see how the grips feel with a putter head and shaft on them. If the player likes a grip, Cunningham and team will build that player’s gamer head with the new grip on it.”
  • “One of the putter heads that Cunningham uses to show off the new grips is his old gamer putter that was custom-made for him by Bob Bettinardi prior to 2009, when Bettinardi still had a partnership with Mizuno.”
  • “I brought that [putter] out more as a novelty item because back in about 2007, Bob [Bettinardi] made me a SeeMore copy, let’s call it, with a red dot, that was on a Tomahawk head; there was an old putter company called Tomahawk back in the 60s and 70s,” Cunningham explains. “So I ask [Bob Bettinardi] to make me a Tomahawk head with a red dot and a straight-in putter… it is a one-off Bettinardi [from] back in the Mizuno-Bettinardi days, it has both names on the putter.”
Read the full piece for how Knox ended up with the wand.

 

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