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Morning 9: R&A Chief admits rules rollout “hasn’t gone as smoothly as I would have liked” | Dustin Johnson: a master of sports psychology in practice?

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By Ben Alberstadt

February 27, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans
Consider this your hopefully less obnoxious “Your Ad Here” banner. If you’re interesting in advertising in the Morning 9, I’d be happy to talk. 
Just drop me a line at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com.
1 “Hasn’t gone as smoothly…”
Geoff Shackelford writes…”While USGA CEO Mike Davis sees the revamped rules rollout as a “huge success”, his counterpart at the R&A offered a different view Tuesday.”
  • “From Alistair Tait’s report at the chief’s St. Andrews sitdown with writers…”There’s been some unfortunate situations, no doubt about that,” Slumbers said. “It hasn’t gone as smoothly as I would have liked.”
  • “That’s a rather stark difference from Davis’ position, but also a more credible one that will resonate with most golfers.”

Full piece + Tait’s piece.

Indeed it is! It’s reassuring, however, that Mr. Slumbers seems attuned to the goings on of this galaxy!
2. Golf savant?
While Golf Digest’s Joel Beall’s use of the term “savant” in regards to Dustin Johnson may conjour up less than flattering images (Rainman and the like), there is plenty of good stuff in Beall’s chat with sports and performance psychologist Dr. Bhrett McCabe…and her offers a sort of theory of DJ’s lack of verbosity.
“Johnson’s answers, paired with his game, paint the picture of a beautiful house with no one home. McCabe says the opposite is often true.”
“We confuse a large and deep vocabulary with intelligence,” McCabe says. “Sometimes those big words are really an obfuscation, to make us think the talker knows more than they do, or to bring an elevated sense of self-worth.” McCabe says it’s elementary, really: intelligence is getting the message across to the recipient, and being comfortable that the right answer doesn’t need bells or whistles. For some, that takes 40 words. Others, a mere four.
“Although, there are exceptions. McCabe notes that geniuses often struggle in explaining their ways. It’s not that Johnson is inarticulate; how do you translate what you have, what you know, to those that will never have either?
3. Wie’s gratitude
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”Michelle Wie makes lists every day of what she’s grateful for. This week in Singapore, simply being there counts…At a press conference Tuesday at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, 29-year-old Wie talked more about this latest hurdle.”
  • “I got into a car accident two years ago with my right hand on the wheel and got rear-ended,” said Wie. “That’s what happened with the neck at (the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open at) Bedminster and I had an avulsion fracture in my right hand. So a piece of the bone had chipped off.”
  • “So they just went in there and cleaned it up, cleaned up a little bit of scar tissue since I was with it for almost two years now. So the surgery went good. It was a pretty easy, normal procedure, and yeah, it’s taken quite a bit, but I think I’m back on track.”
Not only is she grateful to be “back on track,” but the Hawaiian expressed gratitude that the accident wasn’t worse. Can’t argue with that outlook.
4. Trend or nah?
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell reflects, as others have, on the relative lack of star power at this week’s Honda Classic and talks with the tournament’s director, Ken Kennerly. e
  • “Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler are the only players from the top 10 in the field this week.”
  • ‘”What’s going on?”‘
  • ‘”The schedule change hurt us,”‘ Kennerly said.
  • “This more muscle-bound schedule is squeezing Honda’s place in the order of things.”
  • ‘”The sad thing in all of this is that somebody’s got to get hurt,” Kennerly said. “Unfortunately, if you look at the one most affected, it’s the Honda Classic. It’s just a fact.”
5. Executive optimism!
Stephen Hennessey of Golf Digest caught of with Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation.
One of the Qs and As….”How do you assess our efforts thus far in attracting women golfers and minorities, and how important is that going forward?”
“It’s critically important in golf. One of our stated objectives is for golf to look like America does. And the two areas where we do not align with how America looks, generally, are in respect to women and minorities. With respect to women, as you know, they are 50+ percent of the U.S. population, but 24 percent of the golf population. But encouragingly, more than 35 percent of beginners are women. That’s really encouraging. Similarly, as it relates to junior golfers, it’s actually the same number-35 percent of junior golfers are women. So if you subscribe to the notion that today’s juniors are tomorrow’s golfers, then the face of golf will change. On the women’s side, 41 percent of off-course-only participants are women. (Off-course being Topgolf, simulators, ranges.) Not to get too lost in the stats, but if you study them like we do, it really bodes well for the future of the game-if these pathways end up bringing women into the game on what I would call a permanent basis, so they become committed golfers. Introducing them to the game, getting them involved off-course is good, getting them involved is a junior is a tremendous pathway, that’s how a lot of us got started. And as a general beginner, that’s a pathway, too. But as any golfer knows, there’s a pathway from going through trial to commitment, and that’s really where we have to do our best work as an industry. So I’m very encouraged by the numbers that show us women are coming into the game. “

Full piece.

6. Revisions to the rules of…sponsorship
Prohibitions on association with gambling companies no more!
  • “The PGA TOUR has revised its regulations toward sponsorships with gambling entities, a move that reflects the changing landscape of public acceptance between sports leagues and legalized gambling.”
  • “Gambling companies can now be considered for Official Marketing Partners (OMPs) for all six tours overseen by the PGA TOUR, and tournaments and players also can seek sponsored deals with such entities. Players were informed of the policy change during a meeting Tuesday afternoon prior to this week’s The Honda Classic. The change is effective immediately.”
7. Lefty returning to Bay Hill
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Phil Mickelson has committed to next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and will make his first appearance in Orlando since missing the cut in 2013.”
  • Mickelson won at Bay Hill back in 1997 and was a runner-up to Tiger Woods in 2001, but he has been absent the last five years. His commitment further bolsters a field that now includes six of the top 10 and 13 of the top 20 players in the latest world rankings.”
  • “Among those joining Mickelson next week at Bay Hill will be Woods, world No. 1 Justin Rose, defending champion Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.”
8. Strange sequence in Mexico
Tony Finau found himself in the midst of an interesting bit of rules confusion at the WGC-Mexico.
Here’s a portion of the drama, via an AP report.
  • “It started with his first shot of the tournament on the par-4 first hole, high and left and into the trees. Finau was lucky to find the ball some 10 feet up in a tree, which was in the middle of a fenced area that had been established as a temporary immovable obstruction.”
  • He called for an official, and when Gary Young of the PGA Tour showed up, Finau said he was going to declare it unplayable. Young said he first had to identify it to make sure it was his, and Finau – helped by being 6-foot-4 with alignment shafts in his bag – was able to swat it down. Young proceeded to give him a free drop outside the fenced area, without making clear to Finau that it was a TIO and he was allowed relief no matter the lie of his ball.”
  • “I told the scorer he was hitting his second shot,” Young said.
  • “Finau still had in his head that he was taking a penalty drop, and after making par, signed for a 5″ 

Full piece.

9. Brexit concerns hover over Open
A BBC Report centers on further remarks from the R&A chief surrounding the specter of Brexit…
  • “The decision to bring the event to Portrush was announced in October 2015, eight months before the referendum to leave the European Union.”
  • “Since then, there has been uncertainty surrounding the backstop to retain an open border on the island of Ireland, which is causing concern for golf’s governing body.”
  • ‘”We are concerned that we start building in April,” Slumbers told BBC Sport. “What will be the situation? Will there be any border or not? We need some certainty. we need to know what rules we need to comply with.”‘
  • “We have developed multiple contingency plans. We’ve advanced some, deferred others, but like every business we’re trying to work contingency plans into an uncertain environment…We’ll make it happen though.”‘
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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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