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Morning 9: The real Brooks | Make backstopping black and white | Wie injured again

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By Ben Alberstadt
Good Thursday morning, golf fans
1. The real Brooks!
Per Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”You’re actually, probably, getting the real me now,” Koepka said after playing the Honda Classic pro-am Wednesday. “I think, before, I was just trying to be politically correct, not stir any bubbles and just kind of go on with things and be unnoticed.”
  • “….Koepka is making headlines for more than his game this year, calling out Sergio Garcia for “acting like a child” with those tantrums at the Saudi International, and calling out Bryson DeChambeau and the game’s governing bodies because “no one ever has the balls to penalize” slow play. Koepka also broke the news that Patrick Reed “kind of apologized” to Ryder Cup teammates.”
2. Take the gray out of backstopping!
Shane Ryan, in a meditation on the recent backstopping controversy, delivers this heater.
  • “So how in the world does it make sense to leave backstopping up to the players? How has the USGA not covered this to the last detail? It’s a little bit like watching a hoarder casually dump a box of old magazines on the curb-it’s against their nature!”
  • “Even if backstopping has never decided the winner of a tournament, every stroke means money, and every dollar that goes in the pocket of one player means a dollar not going in the pocket of another. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and nobody should be punished or rewarded because of the temperament of his playing partner.”
  • “Establishing a rule would be very easy, and the only tricky part would come in deciding the parameters. When is it reasonable to require players around the green to mark their ball without unduly slowing down the action? Anywhere within 30 feet of the green, if the ball stops within 10 feet of the hole? Smarter people than me can decide how it should work, and while it may involve some head-scratching, at least it becomes a question of logistics.”
3. TW pulling for EC
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell writes Tiger Woods is among the many Floridians rooting for Erik Compton this week.
  • “The proof is on his cell phone, where he received a good luck text from Tiger Woods on Wednesday morning. Woods is the most famous local rooting for him this week.”
  • “Compton, who is playing the Web.com Tour, won the Monday qualifier to get into the Honda Classic. Woods lives in nearby Jupiter but isn’t playing this week.”
  • “Compton was raised in Miami, a 90-minute drive south of PGA National. He’s hoping a Honda start will help re-boot his bid to get back to the PGA Tour.”
4. A kinder, gentler Bear Trap
Randall Mell again, this time on a shortened 17th hole and other changes to the Bear Trap.
  • “The Honda Classic moved up the tee box at the PGA National Champion Course’s 17th hole and rebuilt the seating around the party pavilions.”
  • “The scorecard yardage is now 175 yards, but it will probably play even shorter, perhaps as short as 150 yards with a front pin location, which feels like a reprieve for Tour pros who typically face tough crosswinds playing to a green guarded front and right by water. The hole played to 190 yards on the scorecard last year.”
  • “Padraig Harrington gave me a hug when I told him we are moving up the tee box,” Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly said. “It’s better for the players and the fans.”
5. Wie injured again
Michelle Wie’s hand injury flared up again at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
  • AP report…”Defending champion Michelle Wie was forced to withdraw with a recurrence of a right hand injury. Wie, making her second start of the season after surgery on her right hand earlier this month, was 10-over after 14 holes when she withdrew while playing the 15th. She was holding her right wrist and hand as she walked up the fairway.”
  • “Wie fractured her hand and sustained extensive neck injuries in a car accident two years ago.”
6. BK’s brighter mood
Mike McAllister at PGATour.com…
  • “A year ago, Brooks Koepka was at home, sidelined with an injured left wrist, while The Honda Classic was being played just a few miles away. His mood – and his diet – were both going through a dark period.”
  • “I was sitting on the couch, probably eating a bunch of food,” Koepka recalled. “I wasn’t doing a whole lot. I gained, I think, 15, 20 pounds. I was obviously upset. I just missed competition. It wasn’t fun for me.”
  • “The wrist injury kept him out for four months and prevented him from playing the Florida Swing in March. He didn’t return until the week before THE PLAYERS Championship in May. Of course, you know how the rest of the season turned out — two major victories and the PGA TOUR Player of the Year award.”
Yes, indeed!
7. College coaches as Ryder Cup captains?
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine makes an interesting case…
  • “Steve Stricker, if you’re reading this, it’s time to make a statement. It’s time to strengthen your staff for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. It’s time to name Illinois coach Mike Small an assistant captain.”
  • It would not only be an unprecedented move, but it would be the right one.”

Read the full piece for his rationale.

8. Slimming down
A few interesting paragraphs from Adam Lawrence for Golf Course Architecture…
“…Having established then that width is good, but there must be a point at which more width stops being better, we are in a position to analyse the question in more detail, and perhaps come to some conclusions about how much width is needed. This, essentially, is the process which golf architect David McLay Kidd has famously been through in recent years. Having created a number of extremely difficult, though spectacular, courses, Kidd re-emerged a few years ago as golf’s Apostle of Fun. At Guacalito de la Isla in Nicaragua and Gamble Sands in Washington state in America’s Pacific Northwest, Kidd built courses that were super-wide and designed to ensure that as many golfers as possible came off the eighteenth hole with a smile on their faces and the same ball in their pocket as they started the round with. And then, at the Sand Valley resort in Wisconsin, he built Mammoth Dunes.”
“…Which brings us to Tom Doak and Sedge Valley. We should not be ignorant as to other factors going on here. Doak has, throughout his career, cleverly maintained his image as an outsider, a contrarian who likes to buck trends. To arrive at Sand Valley and build a par 68, 6,000-yard course is a brilliant way of keeping himself just that little bit ahead of the game. But it is also true that Doak has never bought into the Kool Aid of massively long golf. Wide, yes, for sure. He likes to cite his affection for old British courses like Rye and West Sussex – both short but both offering plenty of challenge because of a skinny par featuring only one par five and that at the first hole.”

The full piece is well worth a read.

9. A mortal blow to the ruling bodies?
Geoff Shackelford makes an interesting suggestion regarding the performance-enhancing benefits of putting with the flag in and possible negative ramifications for golf’s governing bodies.
  • “…both organizations have suggested that should there be signs the new rule is enhancing performance and de-skilling the game, they might have to revisit the change.”
  • “From Alistair Tait’s Golfweek story [quoting Martin Slumbers]…”It wasn’t intended as a rule to improve performance. It was intended as a rule to improve pace of play, and it’s something we will watch and see. But these are early days. This is not the time to make knee-jerk reactions.”
  • “Slumbers is right, this is not the time. But even if this one does pan out to somehow allow a few more people to make more putts, rescinding this rule might just be the undoing of the governing bodies.”
  • “After all, might most wonder why the possibility of performance enhancement was not investigated before making the rule change?”
Indeed…

 

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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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