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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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5 things we learned Friday at The Open Championship

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36 holes have come and gone, unexpected early departures happened for Jason Day, Tiger Woods, and all the amateurs, while unexpected extensions were granted to Paul Waring, Matt Wallace, and Innchoon Hwang. Royal Portrush was kinder in the morning than the afternoon, for the second consecutive day. What does that mean? It means that whoever has the lead today will be pressed to hold on through Saturday, then rinse and repeat for Sunday. In other words, more drama than a Snap.

Have a quick glance at what we deemed to be the five most important things we learned on Friday at #TheOpenChampionship.

1. What a difference a day makes! Wipeout Guy tosses 65 on Friday

Justin Harding is a good stick, for a tumbler. He won in Qatar this year on the European Tour, so let’s not define him by one swing of the golf club (even though we are going to show it below.) Harding uncovered 6 birdies and 1 eagle around Royal Portrush Friday morning, jumping from Even Par to, well, minus-six, with the first 65 of the week. He might win a skin for that 7th-hole eagle, if the fellows are playing for skins today. If not, He’s certainly positioned for an afternoon tee time on Saturday. Harding tied for 12th at the Masters in April, and made the cut at Bethpage in the PGA; his major-championship experience grows even more this weekend.

2. Meet The Woods

No, not the one with stripes. He’s down the road, after missing the cut. It’s early on Friday, but Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood may very well peg it together on Saturday afternoon. The English pair posted identical rounds of 68-67 over 2 days, to reach 7-below par. They find themselves tied for 3rd, behind JB Holmes and Shane Lowry. Prepare yourselves for announcers to dance around Lee having won no majors over his career, and Tommy looking to match his Ryder Cup bro, Francesco Molinari, with an Open Championship of his own. So predictable! What’s not predictable, is how the two will play on day three of the Portrush Summer Invitational.

3. Rory is the story of the 2019 Open Championship

Yes, there will be a winner on Sunday. Indeed, there will also be runners-up and various degrees of elation and disappointment. No one will come close to doing what Rory McIlroy did over the first 36 holes … and he didn’t even make the cut! David Duval spoke as much for Rory as for himself on Thursday, when he unequivocally mandated that a professional golfer signs the scorecard. Rory’s opening 8 was just a bit less gory than his closing 7. He missed a 12-inch putt on Thursday. On Friday, facing the worse of the weather draws, he tied the low round of the tournament with 65, 14 strokes better than his day-one offering. When the final flag stick was replaced in the 18th hole, he had missed the cut by those 12 inches. Odds are long that he would have challenged for the title over the weekend. McIlroy would have needed another low round to get to -5 or so, and would have needed everyone to back up substantially. In the end, he wore his home colors proudly, he never gave up, and he gave us something to cheer for, and to learn from.

4. J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry might be cousins, in a parallel universe

Our co-leaders each sport a beard, a barrel chest, and an ability to hit the long ball when it matters. Both appear unflappable thus far, and both have exhibited an ability to go on a tear. The only thing we have yet to see from either is, the guts to come back from a rotten break or a really bad hole. If neither one faces that ultimatum, they might be in a playoff come Sunday afternoon. Lowry had a chance to separate from the pack by 3-4 strokes. He reached -10 with his 6th birdie of the day, on number 10, but that would be the final, sub-par hole of the day for him. The Irishman bogeyed 2 holes coming in, dropping back to -8 with Holmes. As neither has a major title on the resume, neither has demonstrated the capacity for success on the oldest stage. Should be an interesting pairing on Saturday afternoon.

5. So many lurkers!

Justin Rose…2 strokes back. Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Brooks Koepka…3 shots behind. Four in arrears are Finau, Rahm, Kuchar and Reed. Many majors, much potential, and a lot of power in those 8 names. Yes, we’ll miss the guys who aren’t in contention (Bubba Watson, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell) and the aforementioned ones whose watch ended early. As anticipated a venue as Royal Portrush has been, so too, will the outcome be this weekend. Get your rest, get up early, put on coffee, get some doughnuts, and enjoy breakfast the next two days!

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Equipment

Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense

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After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.

The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.

We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.

The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.

Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.

For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.

Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.

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Morning 9: A Kentuckian in Northern Ireland | Chamblee: McIlroy choked

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1. A Kentuckian in Northern Ireland
From an unbylined report on TheOpen.com regarding J.B. Holmes’ opening-round 66 to lead…
  • “The 37-year-old suffered something of an inauspicious start when he bogeyed the 1st but birdies at 2, 3 and 5 sent him out in 34 before three further birdies on the back nine – including one at 18 – set a target no-one else in the field could match.”
  • “I was very confident going in,” said Holmes, who finished third at Royal Troon in 2016. “I felt like I was hitting it really well and we had a good plan, a good line on the golf course.
  • “You don’t expect to shoot that, but I’m not surprised.”
  • “Holmes has a one-stroke advantage over Shane Lowry – who carded an impressive 67 that could have been even lower after a number of near misses on the back nine – with a slew of players then at -3 – including major winners Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson and Sergio Garcia.”

Full piece.

At the time of this writing, Holmes is -8 for the tournament and leads by a stroke in round 2…
2. “His major muse”
Brian Keogh at the Irish Independent on Shane Lowry’s 4-under start…
  • “But as Pádraig Harrington shot a 75 that summed up his injury-delayed season, Lowry announced his Major championship candidacy by carding a four-under 67. That left him a shot behind long-hitting JB Holmes but one clear of a chasing posse featuring a host of dangerous desperadoes, including the relentless Brooks Koepka and the swashbuckling Jon Rahm.”
  • “The crowd was begging for an Irish story and where McIlroy failed, Lowry delivered in spades…The Clara native (32) confessed he was “uneasy” about the test this week – feeling in his bones that a big performance was within his compass but anxious that he might fail to find the freedom to deliver it.”
  • “In the end, all it took was a frank chat with his coach Neil Manchip over coffee in the Bushmills Inn on Wednesday to put him at ease.”
3. The word is “choking”
That’s how Brandel Chamblee characterized Rory McIlory’s British Open out-of-bounds opening shot/first-round 79…
  • “He has had, historically, just a bad run of first rounds. … He consistently gets off to a bad start and then inexorably plays himself back into it, and then when all the pressure is gone, all of that talent arises and then he plays a beautiful second or third or fourth round and gets himself back in it. … But when someone plays poor golf in the beginning of a tournament and then great golf the rest of the way, or great golf in the beginning and then poor golf at the end – both of those on either end he’s been guilty of over the last five years – then you know it’s not something physical, it’s not something technical, that they’re not putting themselves in the right frame of mind to either begin a golf tournament or to end a golf tournament. He needs to find that magic that he had when he was winning major championships.”
  • “On paper – I know what the world rankings say, that Brooks Koepka is the best player in the world – but on paper, coming in here, demonstrably, Rory McIlroy is the best player. Strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained total – he’s better than he was in 2012. He’s better than he was in 2015. And logically, experience should make him a better player. But when someone consistently performs under expectations, the word is choking.”
4.  Ailing? Ill-prepared? Awful opening round from Woods…
Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck penned this regarding Tiger Woods’ opening-round 79…
  • “The triumph at the Masters erased all of that but can’t change the glum reality that Woods is a man playing on borrowed time. His light schedule this summer left him unprepared for the rigors of the major-championship tests but, to hear him tell it on Thursday, there was no other way to get to the starting line. “One of the reasons why I’m playing less tournaments this year is that I can hopefully prolong my career, and be out here for a little bit longer,” Woods said. After his short scrum with reporters he was heading to the physio for treatment on his back. But Tiger ended a disappointing day with a parting thought more troubling than one bad round: “Just the way it is,” he said. “Just the way it’s going to be.”
5. Good on you, Double D
Golf Digest’s John Strege…”Duval, who has a claret jug on a resume that is borderline World Golf Hall of Fame caliber, took a 14 on the par-4 seventh hole en route to a front nine of 49. It was the kind of hole in the kind of round that might have caused integrity-challenged golfers to walk off the course, or at the very least to avoid the ignominy of having their score posted for all to see by not signing the scorecard and taking a disqualification.”
Not Duval. Here’s what he said after his round...”You have an obligation as a professional athlete. If you play, you post your score. Am I happy about that? Is there some embarrassment to it? I don’t know. But I teed off in the Open and I shot 90 today. So put it on the board.”
6. Upsets aplenty
Brentley Romine at Golf Channel...”Thursday was a day filled with upsets at the U.S. Junior Amateur. None was more shocking than Palmer Jackson’s victory over defending champion Michael Thorbjornsen.”
  • “Jackson held a 1-up lead over Thorbjornsen in their Round-of-32 match when he missed the green at Inverness Club’s par-4 18th hole. But with Thorbjorsen facing a 5-footer for birdie to force extra holes, Jackson chipped in for birdie and the 1-up victory.”
  • “I knew I had to make that chip because he had a 5-footer for birdie and he was making those all day,” Jackson said. “It feels really good to take him out.”
7. Meanwhile, at the Barbasol…
AP report…” J.T. Poston shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the PGA TOUR’s Barbasol Championship.”
  • “Poston birdied six of the first eight holes at rain-softened Keene Trace, bogeyed the par-3 ninth and added five more birdies on the back nine for his lowest score on the PGA TOUR.”
  • “It was one of those days everything clicked,” Poston said. “Hit it good, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. I was hitting it so good I didn’t really have that many lengthy birdie putts that I made until the last hole.”

Full piece.

8. Creamer-Pressel? Pressel-Creamer?
However you structure it, the duo are atop the leaderboard…
AP report…”Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer shot a best-ball 6-under 64 on Thursday for a share of the second-round lead in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour’s first-year team event.”
  • “Stephanie Meadow and Giulia Molinaro had a 61, and Frenchwomen Celine Boutier and Karine Icher shot 62 to match Pressel and Creamer at 10-under 130 at Midland Country Club. The teams will play alternate shot Friday and close Saturday with a best-ball round.”
  • “You have two balls in play, you can play much more aggressively,” Pressel said. “I know I certainly could play aggressively knowing my partner had my back the whole way around.”

Full piece.

9. Daly rides his way to 71
Reuters report…”John Daly rode his cart to a respectable one-under-par 71 on a day of sizzling scoring in the opening round at the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky on Thursday.”
“After being denied use of a cart for the British Open, Daly decided to take a pass on playing in the major championship this week, instead teeing up in Nicholasville with the tour’s bottom-feeders.”
Bottom-feeders? That’s pretty harsh, Reuters! Full piece.
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