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LPGA Tour pros embroiled in backstopping controversy

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Update: 2/22, 9:50 p.m. The LPGA released the statement below

End update

Backstopping has been a controversial subject in the game of golf as of late, and this week during the Honda LPGA Thailand, an example of backstopping occurred that has left many golf fans on social media irate, primarily for what happened directly after the incident.

The incident took place on the final green during the second round of the event and features Amy Olson and Ariya Jutanugarn at the heart of the controversy.

Playing her chip shot from the side of the green, Jutanugarn cosied her ball up by the hole, and while seemingly courteously seeking permission from Olson to tap in her putt before the latter played her greenside shot, she appeared to be waved off. Olson then backed off, played her shot, and her ball, which looked to be running well past the pin, collided with Jutanugarn’s and settled right beside the hole. The two then laughed and celebrated the development with a fist-bump.

Neither player received a penalty for the incident, which many golf fans feel violated rule 15.3a/1, which states

In stroke play, under Rule 15.3a, if two or more players agree to leave a ball in place on the putting green to help any player, and the stroke is made with the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets two penalty strokes. A breach of Rule 15.3a does not depend on whether the players know that such an agreement is not allowed.

For example, in stroke play, before playing from just off the putting green, a player asks another player to leave his or her ball that is near the hole, in order to use it as a backstop. Without knowing this is not allowed, the other player agrees to leave his or her ball by the hole to help the other player. Once the stroke is made with the ball in place, both players get the penalty under Rule 15.3a.

The same outcome would apply if the player whose ball was near the hole offered to leave the ball in play to help the other player, and the other player accepted the offer and then played.

If the players know that they are not allowed to make such an agreement, but still do it, they are both disqualified under Rule 1.3b(1) for deliberately ignoring Rule 15.3a.

Amy Olson currently sits two shots off the lead heading into the third round, while Ariya Jutanugarn is seven shots off the pace.

 

 

 

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

61 Comments

61 Comments

  1. Tom

    Mar 5, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Perhaps the LPGA would draw more viewers if the attractive players just wore G-strings and pasties with high heels? (Picture Carl (Bill Murray) at the ball washer in Caddyshack!

  2. CJ

    Mar 4, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    The fist bump was the thing that made me more mad than anything. I don’t like what she did but the tours need to figure out their rules and consequences asap

  3. JP

    Feb 28, 2019 at 12:45 am

    Let them use backstops all they want. But make both players play their ball where it lies after they come to rest.
    .
    I guarantee players close to the pin will ALWAYS mark their ball.

    • Caroline

      Feb 28, 2019 at 6:07 pm

      Just another reason to slow down play…plan BS just replace the ball at rest where it was and the new ball plays where it ended up…simple…backstop, players are so good they can hit balls on the green and not the hole..hole is 4 times larger…

      • Sandra

        Feb 28, 2019 at 7:58 pm

        You just don’t get it. It’s not that they’re so good they can hit another golf ball. It’s when they miss the hole, they have a chance of hitting the other ball rather than running by too far. Have you considered the rule was written for a reason?

  4. KJ

    Feb 26, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    They both should have been DQ’d per the rules of golf. Im not buying the Im just a pretty dumbgirl routine. She is at the elite level of golf, so she knows the rules or should know the rules. I knew it and Im a 10 handicap hacker. They agreed period!

    In stroke play, under Rule 15.3a, if two or more players agree to leave a ball in place on the putting green to help any player, and the stroke is made with the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets two penalty strokes. A breach of Rule 15.3a does not depend on whether the players know that such an agreement is not allowed.

    Once again they KNOW the rules at this level. If the players know that they are not allowed to make such an agreement, but still do it, they are both disqualified under Rule 1.3b(1) for deliberately ignoring Rule 15.3a Bang see you later!!

    All stated this does NOT make them cheaters……….it makes them people who should have been issued a penalty for a rules infraction.

    Anyway it looks like the Everyone gets a trophy crowd has made it to the LPGA.

  5. mario

    Feb 26, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Good thing those referees are not taking a decision on the Irish backstop… That would last another two years

  6. Rufus T. Firefly

    Feb 26, 2019 at 9:14 am

    This is why some people avoid this game. Too many judgmental assholes looking for an issue.

  7. GrandpaDino

    Feb 25, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    Another solution in search of a problem. Play on, girls!

  8. Charlie

    Feb 24, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Let’s acknowledge the grey area involved here! The rule states when chipping up from just off the green….being said, what is the difference between 30 yards off the green, or 160 yards from the green? If you acknowledge the terminology of just off the green, that would be closer to being on the fringe versus 20 to 30 yards away. Are players going to go mark a ball from 150 out? No! So let the players use the rules to their advantage for a change!

  9. Ace

    Feb 24, 2019 at 9:01 am

    They did it but the question is how are you going to prove it? Answer…Your not

    That being siad its a dumb rule that will never really be enforced so best thing to di is remove the dumb rule and accept the fact sometimes players will get these “breaks” rather intentional or not.

  10. Gunni

    Feb 23, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Don’t worry, Karma will prevail.

  11. Ozarkgolfer

    Feb 23, 2019 at 7:54 am

    Penalties to both – obvious backstopping. No one is asking for balls to be marked when players are over 100 yards out – it makes sense when there is chipping and pitching green side.

  12. Hppyglmr

    Feb 23, 2019 at 4:50 am

    Happy Gilmore says phhhuq your rules, snobby dooshwads.

  13. Ni

    Feb 23, 2019 at 3:01 am

    Why is this even an issue? Clearly she hit Ariya’s ball by luck. Especially from where she was.

    • doug miller

      Feb 23, 2019 at 6:55 am

      I agree 100%. If she is good enough to do it on purpose just hit the pin every time, pure luck!!!

  14. dat

    Feb 22, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    I originally though this was about players using the grandstands as backstops….then I read the article.

    Stupid. This rule isn’t being broken, it is pure chance. Get out.

    • geohogan

      Feb 22, 2019 at 11:14 pm

      The way the rule is written, it isnt necessary that the opponents ball ended up being a backstop or not.
      Simply playing the shot, while the opponents ball was in position to be a backstop is sufficient to incur the penalty for each player in stroke play.

      ignorance of the rule, is no excuse from being penalized or disqualification.

  15. youraway

    Feb 22, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    The Rules are written, agreed upon and published by the R&A and the USGA. This is an obvious and flagrant violation of the Rule. It’s not only clear, but it is recorded. BUT, this is an LPGA event and I have no doubt, they will not enforce the Rules, which calls for the DQ of both players.

  16. benseattle

    Feb 22, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Backstopping is an affront to the game and about as close to cheating as you can get because it involves not ONE but TWO players. The rule can be as simple as “balls near the cup must be marked before another player makes a stroke IF BOTH PLAYERS ARE NEAR THE GREEN.”

    In this case, Jutanugarn should have ignored Olson’s “wave off,” (even if done to speed up play) and marked her ball. Of course it’s absurd to infer that Olson TRIED to hit the resting ball but the fact remains that because the ball was left nearby INTENTIONALLY leaves open the (slim) chance that Ariya’s ball could serve as a backstop. This is a bad, bad look for ANY tournament golf so let’s just eliminate the controversy and instruct golfers to mark a ball near the cup “when in the vicinity of the green.” You’re in doubt about what that means? THEN GET UP THERE AND MARK IT.

    Why is backstopping wrong? Because it can give a player an advantage NOT AVAILABLE TO THE REST OF THE FIELD. And it’s preventable.

    • Piter

      Feb 24, 2019 at 2:57 pm

      It’s luck of the draw really. 5mm to the right and she would’ve been worse off. This time she was lucky so she smiled and so did Ariya coz id doesn’t affect her anyway. It’s not like me there are 6 balls you might “accidentally” bump into.

  17. Tom

    Feb 22, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    Notice the size of crowd in the video? NOBODY there…..nobody cares…..

  18. Pete

    Feb 22, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Lets be honest, neither player ‘agreed to leave the ball there with the intention of helping the other player’ even if they did so non verbally. So while its a scummy move and definitely cheating, they found a way to not be in contravention of the rule. The fist bump was all about sharing a fun moment of hitting anothers ball which is rare as opposed to the, ‘hell ya, cheating is awesome’ accusation

  19. Lance

    Feb 22, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    The fist bump was simply inferring that it was a good break. Neither one of these players should be labeled as cheating here. The rules are very intricate as we all know and my bet is that neither one of the players were aware of the optics here. I understand players are responsible to know the rules but let’s cut them some slack here. I can guarantee that Ariya is the consummate professional and would never not do her part to protect the field. #letsfocusonsomethingvalid #peoplearetoughbehindakeyboard #beeducatedbeforecastingpoorjudgement

  20. Tiger Noods

    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    This rule requires clarification. It implies that this is during a sequence when players are putting.

    How many times have we all said, “Don’t bother; it’s not like I’ll hit it.” 99.9% of the time you’re right. In a pro’s case, maybe that’s 98%. Either way, I can’t see how this was a conspiracy. This is not a penalty, and the norms of the game do not require you to mark when another player is not close enough to use a putter.

    Molehill, not mountain.

    • youraway

      Feb 22, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      That’s not what it implies at all. A player should not leave their ball in position to assist. I assure you leaving a ball on the green while another is putting would not assist but the player would incur a penalty if their ball struck another ball left on the putting surface.

      • Tiger Noods

        Mar 4, 2019 at 5:58 pm

        You can’t even spell your own nickname correctly. Go worry about knee-height drops, troll.

  21. Dennis Wimd

    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Not a penalty. What if they’d been 200 yards off? Where is the line?
    Remember if a ball strikes a ball on the green the striking ball remains where it lands and the struck ball is replaced.

    • Mike Cleland

      Feb 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      I agree with you. Where’s the line? Get the blue blazers involved & we’ll be marking balls before we hit our second shots on Par 5s. The way to speed up play is to “simplify” the rules. I suppose the USGA believes if they aren’t constantly getting involved in every little issue they couldn’t justify their $800,000/year salaries.

      • joey5picks`

        Feb 22, 2019 at 3:53 pm

        The line is common sense and not unduly delaying play. Bottom line, they broke rule 15.3a. Both should get a 2-stroke penalty.

  22. Bill

    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Ridiculous behaviour. Olsen’s ball would’ve been about 8ft past. Bet Ariya wouldn’t leave her ball there if both had to play from where their respective balls finished.

  23. Mike Cleland

    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    What’s up. Do we need a rules issue at every event? The USGA & their blue blazers haven’t learned the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’…is there a lawyer on every hole? The USGA isn’t happy unless they are on the front page every week.

    • joey5picks

      Feb 22, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      The USGA doesn’t govern Australia. The R&A does. USGA only governs US and Mexico.

      • Aztec

        Feb 22, 2019 at 9:49 pm

        Wrong, it’s Golf Australia. They may choose to adopt R&A policy, but they are the governing body. Why would you think the R&A has an official voice in Australian golf?

        • Christopher

          Feb 23, 2019 at 11:49 am

          Like joey5picks posted, the R&A are the governing body for over 110 countries, Golf Australia literally confirms it (and the USGA’s) on their site. They can implement their own local rules, but they’re governed by the R&A.

    • geohogan

      Feb 22, 2019 at 11:23 pm

      if professional then know the rules or get out of the game.
      We wouldnt have issues or delays if players knew the rules,
      rather than trying to circumvent the rules.

      if players delay for rulings which should be known to them,
      the pga should begin suspending those players.

      it will speed up play and maybe the players would take time
      to learn the rules of the game they play for a living.

  24. BD

    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    Individuals cheating is bad enough. But much worse, and more damaging to the Int Egypt the game, is the collusion of the LPGA (and, in other examples, the PGAtour) in such cheating by failing to penalise such behaviour.

  25. kirk brady

    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Back stop – maybe
    an object for lining up trying to make the chip – most likely – and no penalty there

    When is the press going to stop creating controversies to get readers – between this and organizing the extortion of Kuchar, I think the sporting press deserves an enema and 10 mile run with full pack.

  26. Dave

    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Oh, it’s just the LPGA? Who cares, almost as irrelevant as the WNBA. Wish they would cut TV coverage of it entirely.

    • Steve

      Feb 22, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      Wow…a trumpster….

    • DougE

      Feb 22, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      I care. I enjoy watching the LPGA and personally, I think those girls offer a great product. You wish you were 1/2 as good. But, I’m guessing you are not and probably never will be with such a poor attitude. Sorry, but misogyny is not attractive, nor does it make you better than women.

      What is your problem? LPGA golf is much closer to the kind of golf most of us can relate to. Evidently, you think it is beneath you. You will likely never have the game of a PGA Touring pro, so why not learn something from watching the girls. With some practice, you may even be able to make some of the shots they can make. I learn so much watching them. You might too if you gave them a chance. But hey, I’m just an old 5-6 handicapper, so what do I know?

      One thing I do know is that I’d bet on Ariya, or Lexi, every day of the week over betting on anyone who thinks the girls are irrelevant.

      • Dave

        Feb 23, 2019 at 2:59 am

        You are of the minority demographic that enjoys LPGA and Champions Tour coverage, Doug. That’s not subjective, that’s fact. I know your feelings are hurt, but very few even care about LPGA and Champions.

        Sorry I’m not attractive to you, buddy.

  27. Mohamed

    Feb 22, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    The bigger question is – how do you prove intent. Also, both were playing off the green, so if they were 100yards away and this happened – what then?

    • Jim

      Feb 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm

      You’re right. The key word here is “intent”. If Amy intentionally asked for this, intentionally planning to try to hit the ball, then the penalty applies. If she was just ready to play and not wanting to wait and was not even expecting to hit the other’s ball, there is no intent.

      Due to the way the pair reacted, it was a celebration of luck!

  28. Jim

    Feb 22, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    They need to be penalized. Both were complicit once Ariya stutter stepped to NOT mark her ball and then the fist bump confirms the agreement.

  29. Doug

    Feb 22, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Tom is a tool. This is definitely cheating. Olson waived Ariya off for the very reason of backstopping. Ariya should be protecting the field. A fail for both sides. Disappointing that both tours are failing to uphold the integrity of the same.

  30. Timothy Covey

    Feb 22, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    Stupid. What are the odds even if the plan was to hit the other ball that she would actually hit the other ball. If shes that good she should just chip it in the hole on every hole every time. Might as well cause you’d have to be that good. The fact that people are even upset let alone irate is just pure ignorance.

  31. Mon

    Feb 22, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    It really did not look like she was doing it do use the ball. I think she was ready to hit and waved off the other player who was still standing off the green.

    • joey5picks

      Feb 22, 2019 at 3:59 pm

      The “other player” has the right, and responsibility, to mark her ball to protect the field. This was a perfect example of Olson gaining an advantage on the field.

  32. kevin

    Feb 22, 2019 at 11:28 am

    apparently as the lpga and pga continue to alter the rulebook, they forget to actually enforce the rules.

    this is an embarrassment to the LPGA, and the other players should be calling this for what it is…cheating.

  33. Tom

    Feb 22, 2019 at 11:15 am

    Not a big deal, few watch LPGA…

    • snapjack

      Feb 22, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Only Tom could come up with that kind of answer. The normal retort is, why are you here then, but in this case I say to you Tom, GFY

      • Tom

        Feb 22, 2019 at 1:48 pm

        Ohhhhhhh….snappy typing all tuff n sheet…..lol!

    • Dave

      Feb 22, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Completely agree with you. I’m always annoyed when I turn to the Golf Channel at night to catch up on the PGA Tour highlights/coverage from earlier in the day, and we are forced to watch someone named Pornanong hit driver 235 in a tournament in Thailand.

      • Elmo

        Feb 23, 2019 at 10:22 am

        Racist too!

        Bring in religion and you’ve got the triple threat!

        Yeehaw KKK golf.

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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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