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Morning 9: DJ dominates | Pathgate | Amy Yang | Poor putting plagues Tiger again

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)
  • February 25, 2019
Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Dominant DJ
AP report…”Dustin Johnson struggled early, caught a good break from behind a tree and then breezed to his sixth World Golf Championships title Sunday by closing with a 5-under 66 for a five-shot victory over Rory McIlroy in the Mexico Championship.”
  • “Johnson won for the 20th time on the PGA TOUR, making him a lifetime member at age 34.”
  • “He felt just as good about the way his game is headed. Johnson had said on Thursday he was starting to swing it as well as he did two years ago, when he won three straight tournaments to become the dominant figure in golf until his spill down the stairs on the eve of the Masters led to a back injury.”
2. Yang triumphs in Thailand
Amy Yang beat Minjee Lee by a stroke to win the LPGA Thailand for the third time.
  • AP report…”Yang, from South Korea, carded a final-round 65 and a 22-under-par 266 at Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Old Course for her fourth overall LPGA Tour win.”
  • “Despite lightning stopping play for 50 minutes and a rain delay later in the round, Yang emerged from a three-way tie with Lee and Carlota Ciganda with a birdie from the fringe of the green on the par-3 16th to regain the lead at 21 under. “
  • “I was honestly very nervous, especially last three holes,” said Yang, who also won the event in 2015 and 2017. “It was (a) tough hole to finish. I was really telling myself just (to) be patient, do (my) best at the time.”
3. Trainer the victor
John Strege writes that the Puerto Rico Open has developed a habit of popping in from obscurity to win golf tournaments.
 
“On Sunday in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, he was handed the Puerto Rico Open trophy. A PGA Tour rookie, Martin, 27, won by three strokes in only his ninth start as a tour member.”
  • “It came a year after he entered a Monday qualifier for the Web.com Tour’s El Bosque Mexico Championship, made it into the field and won the tournament to earn his Web.com Tour card. He went through a stretch of missing eight cuts in 10 starts, then won again in the Price Cutter Charity Championship.”
  • “Seven years before that, only a sophomore at the University of Southern California, he won the Pacific 12 Championship, and in 2008, at 16, he became the youngest winner in the long and storied history of the San Francisco City Amateur.”
  • “So maybe his surprise victory was not necessarily a surprise, despite his best finish in eight previous tour starts was a tie for 28th.”
4. Poor putting again troubles Tiger
Tiger Tracker (who had front-row seat for the week)...”Tiger Woods finished up the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship with a 2-under 69 to finish tied for 10th at 8 under par. He made curious choices off the tee and putted horribly.”
  • “We’ll start with his strategy this week at Chapultepec. Through the first two days, Woods hit iron after iron after iron. He was routinely leaving himself 40 to 50 yards behind his playing partners. As the week wore on and Tiger found himself looking up at Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, the strategy never really changed. In a guaranteed-money, no-cut event, Tiger just never stepped on the gas.”
  • “He hit maybe a dozen drivers total over four days? There’s a point to be made that had he just putted a little better and not had to reload on the first tee Thursday that he would have scored better. He did end up leading the field in strokes gained: approach. But he finished 13 shots behind the winner. At some point, why not hit driver? What was there to lose?”
Interestingly, Woods declined to be interviewed for the second consecutive round, something he only did once in 2018. Clearly, the Big Cat is frustrated.
5. The secret is…not caring?
Justin Thomas took an interesting approach in his final-round 62.
  • Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard...”Although he came up short of that record – which he set during the third round last year – his record-matching 62 was good enough to vault him into the top 10 and give him some momentum going into next week’s Honda Classic, where he is the defending champion.”
  • “‘To be honest, this might sound bad, but I just didn’t really care. I was hitting driver everywhere,” said Thomas, who started the day 16 strokes behind front-runner Dustin Johnson. “I drove it well yesterday, so it’s not like I was driving it bad and hitting driver. I felt like I was driving it well enough to where I could create a significant advantage for myself.'”
6. Pathgate
Ewan Murray of the Guardian on what befell Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy at the fifth hole.
  • “I got a break there and ended up making a nice par,” Johnson said. “That’s why I called the rules official over, just because you almost felt a little bad about it. But it was the only way I could play the shot. I even tried to get really close to it and I was still standing on the path, so I was entitled to relief and sometimes the rules work to your advantage.”
  • “Two elements of this grated with many onlookers. Johnson’s demonstration of said stance actually looked unusually wide for what could only be a punch shot back on to the fairway. Secondly, he opted to play for and find the green from his relief area rather than perform the basic clearance job that would otherwise have been his only option.”
  • “Within the rules, Johnson did nothing wrong; whether he operated within the spirit of the game is another question entirely. Had he chipped out with shot number two, he would have earned widespread plaudits.”
7. What could have been, what could be for DJ
An excellent editorial on Dustin Johnson’s primacy in the professional game from ESPN’s Bob Harig.
  • On the significance of 20 wins…”While it seems as if Johnson could have more, the fact that he picked up win No. 20 on the PGA Tour is a remarkable achievement during a time of immense depth and parity. Johnson has traded spots atop the world rankings with three other players over the past year, but nobody has accomplished what he just did, going back 11 years.”
  • “Starting three years ago, he has won a minimum of three tournaments worldwide each year, with the WGC-Mexico title his second of this season after winning the Saudi International on the European Tour three weeks ago.”
  • And his well-roundedness…”His ability to drive it so far — and he typically is fearless using a driver off the tee — means numerous short-iron approaches into greens, which is why getting his wedge game figured out has paid huge dividends. He also is a deft short-game player. And when his putting is on, Johnson is hard to beat.”
8. New schedule weakens Honda field
Something’s gotta give…
  • Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”The Forecaddie counted three of the world top 10, six of the top 25 and just 13 of the top 50.”
  • “The 2017 Honda Classic drew 12 of the top 25, while the 2016 event lured four of the top 10 and 11 of the top 20. Just four years ago, the Honda touted the best field “in the modern day history of the tournament” when 16 of the top 25 players in the world teed up just a year after 13 of the top 25 were entered.”
  • “Given several factors, the sudden falloff in field quality should be a wake-up call given Honda’s role as the longest-running continuous tournament sponsor on the PGA Tour. Add in the number of players who live nearby and PGA National’s place as a course players regard as unlovable but a strong examination of skill, and The Forecaddie has no problem declaring this a new schedule victim.”
9. Johnny Wrong Socks
ICYMI: Paul Casey was three under through three holes to start his second round–no thanks to the pin positions he was getting from his caddie, however.
  • Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard writes…”Casey explained that on his first three holes of Round 2 at Club de Golf Chapultepec, he and his caddie Johnny “Long Socks” McLaren had played to “spots” on the green, not necessarily to hole locations.”
  • “It wasn’t until the duo stepped to the par-3 13th tee that they realized something was wrong. After studying his yardage book and pin sheet, McLaren told Casey he needed to land his tee shot 13 paces onto the green but Casey explained that would be “pin high” according to his pin sheet.”
  • “After a few moments of comparing pin sheets the duo realized McLaren had copied the day’s pin locations, which can be found for players and caddies on a special web site, for the Puerto Rico Open, this week’s opposite-field event.”

 

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  1. Johnny Penso

    Feb 27, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Is it so hard to figure out why Tiger is using irons off the tee? He’s lost confidence in his driver and his ability to keep it in play and put the ball where he wants. So he does the smart thing and chooses the next best option. The fact that he still had a legit shot at a top 2 or 3 had a few makeable putts went in tells you this is a good strategy for him at this point.

  2. DJ

    Feb 26, 2019 at 12:01 am

    play it as it lies. DJ could have taken a stance avoiding the cart path; or played the shot with his foot on the path. tired of these golfers getting free drops due to bad shots. Reed got a drop too. He was standing on a sprinkler head, took a drop from the rough to the fringe. bs. and rory trying to get a drop when he couldn’t even swing the club; then he plays it left handed where he wasn’t near the cart path. this is the biggest cause of slow play – getting rulings. Go back to Speith at the US open. 15 min to play a shot. He got to drop back on the driving range.

  3. Tom

    Feb 25, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    From James posting yesterday: “Good riddance. Rory is a little b itch and a cheater. Goes to see pet tigers in captivity with fellow b itch Poulter. Doesn’t care one onza about those animals. Then he tries to cheat by coercing a drop based on a fake stance on Sunday at the WGC Mexico on Hole 6.” Spot on. Dustin’s stance was legit based on the location of the tree. No way Rory would have been able to take the club back based on where he wanted to put his feet on the path. Good on the Rules Official for calling his bull too. Cheater attempting to cheat.

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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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Stairs strike the Johnson family again, this time getting brother/caddie Austin

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Two years after Dustin Johnson slipped down a staircase in his rented home in Augusta forcing him to withdraw from the event, another Johnson has now suffered a similar fate, with his brother and caddie Austin causing himself harm falling up a staircase.

Austin felt the wrath of the stairs late Sunday after the final round of the Players Championship, slipping while going up the stairs in their rented house. Austin suffered a broken bone in his hand, and his arm is now in a cast, but he will still be on Dustin’s bag this week as he tees it up at the Valspar.

Speaking before his opening round at Innisbrook, Dustin Johnson had this to say on the incident

“He had a bit of a run-in with a pair of stairs, kind of like I did. He was carrying the stuff in the house after TPC on Sunday night and slipped going up the stairs. Those stairs, man, they’ll get you.”

Back in 2017, Johnson was in imperious form heading to Augusta, winning three successive events before taking the drive down Magnolia Lane. Though we’ll never know what would have happened had he not injured himself on that staircase before the Masters that year, on Wednesday, Johnson sent this ominous warning to his competitors as the years first major looms large, saying he’s now the closest he’s been to that form since the accident.

“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.

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.”

Dustin Johnson is the betting favorite this week and tees it up alongside Gary Woodland and Paul Casey in the opening round at 18.03 ET.

 

 

 

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Ernie Els announces final 3 Presidents Cup vice-captains – which includes 2 previous Masters champions

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Ernie Els has revealed that Mike Weir, K.J. Choi, and Trevor Immelman will take on the role of vice-captaincy for the 2019 Presidents Cup.

The trio joins Geoff Ogilvy, who Els named as one of his vice-captains back in November, in what is a truly international team of captain’s assistants.

Both Choi and Weir have experience with the vice-captaincy role, with Choi being a part of Nick Price’s team in 2015, while Weir was an assistant captain under Price in 2017. Immelman will be making his debut as a vice-captain.

Speaking concerning his choices for assistant captains, Els cited the importance of his vice-captains coming from all corners of the globe and stressed how a “new formula” was needed to previous regimes to help the International side defeat the U.S. team for just the second time in the event’s history.

“We’ve got almost every continent covered with these four guys. So that’s basically why I chose these guys, and we really need to change things up from previous Cups. And I wanted them to buy into this new formula and make them take this formula forward.”

The South African also mentioned how he would be approaching the pairing process for the event at Royal Melbourne differently than his predecessors, and that he would be leaning heavily on statistics and science before the biennial team event kicks off in December.

“I’ve seen what other captains have done in the past. In this instance, I really wanted to try and start a new thinking process around the pairing system. I’m using a lot of data, a lot of science into what we’re going to be doing in December in Australia, and I wanted to get guys who have played a lot of Presidents Cups like myself.”

U.S. captain, Tiger Woods, has thus far appointed three vice-captains — Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker. Woods has the option to choose one more captain ahead of the event.

The 2019 Presidents Cup gets underway on Dec. 12 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, the site of the International team’s sole victory in the event back in 1998.

 

 

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