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Morning 9: Vegas leads in Palm Beach Gardens | Wie on her WD | Yardage book DQ

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

March 1, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans. Top story today: it’s March, meaning it’s theoretically possible I may actually play golf in the month in question.
1. Vegas to the fore in Florida
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Vegas has contended at the Honda before, notably a T-4 finish two years ago, and he’s again in the mix after opening with a bogey-free 64. That score came among the early wave and stood up all afternoon, with Glover getting within a shot before bogeying his final hole of the day. The Venezuelan now has three major champs in close pursuit as he looks for his fourth career PGA Tour title and first in nearly two years.”
  • “Vegas made a tough course seem easy, carding six birdies without dropping a shot. Vegas made his move on the back nine, teeing off on No. 10 and then making four birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 12-18. It’s a rare bright spot for a player who tied for 10th in Phoenix but has otherwise struggled to start the year.”
2. Els, Z. Johnson in contention
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge on the elder statesmen’s strong starts
  • “World Golf Hall of Fame member Ernie Els and two-time major champion Zach Johnson each shot 4-under 66 in the morning wave and were tied for second by mid-afternoon, two shots behind outright leader Jhonattan Vegas.”
  • “The wind was relatively calm – not traditional “Honda wind,” according to Johnson – but the Champion Course doesn’t let up much.”
3. Olson ahead at HSBC
A more snarky headline would be “No stopping Olson…”
  • AP Report…”Amy Olson’s eagle on the front nine and a late birdie on the 16th hole were enough for the American to emerge from a five-way tie from the first-round lead to shoot a 3-under 69 and take a two-stroke lead after two rounds at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.”
  • “The 26-year-old American had a two-round total of 7-under 137 Friday on the Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong course.”
  • “There was a five-way tie for second -Inbee Park (69), Azahrara Munoz (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70), No. 1-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and No. 3 Minjee Lee (71).”
4. Wie on withdrawal: “I couldn’t lift the club”
BBC Sport report, quoting Michelle Wie‘s social media post….
  • “Wie, who had surgery on the injury in October, said an MRI scan on Thursday showed “nerve entrapment.”
  • “I made the decision on 15 to withdraw because at that point, I was unable to lift the club,” said the 29-year-old.
  • “After getting surgery, I had it in my mind that I was going to be completely pain free when I came back to Asia to defend my title.
  • “I was so ready to be pain free, I ignored a couple of warning signs. As a result of not listening to my body, I endured a bad flare-up during my round.
  • “Being in that amount of pain, I was scared that I could possibly do further damage.
  • “Deciding to withdraw during the tournament is always the hardest decision to make but it was heartbreaking.”
5. Cejka disqualified for illegal yardage book
Our Gianni Magliocco…”While Thursday’s opening round of the Honda Classic saw Rickie Fowler poke some fun at the rules of golf in an amusing way, it also saw a disqualification which has the unfortunate title of being the first DQ of its kind since the updated rules of golf came in to play.”
  • “Alex Cejka is the professional in question, who was deemed to have been using a green-book which did not adhere to the new rules of golf. Cejka had been using last year’s green-book for the Honda Classic throughout the opening round, which contained larger scales of diagrams of the greens than are now allowed on the PGA Tour.”
  • Following the DQ, PGA Tour rules official Robby Ware who informed Cejka of the decision after his 14th hole of the day, stated (per a Golfweek report)
  • “It was brought to the committee’s attention that Alex might possibly be using some old greens reading materials. Alex was basically using an old yardage book and old greens reading materials that did not fit the size to scale limit. He knew he was using an old book. He told me that. I don’t know that he was completely understanding of what the scale limits are.”

Full piece.

6. Before the sandstorm delay…
European Tour report...”Joachim B. Hansen reeled in overnight leader Kurt Kitayama before a sandstorm saw play suspended on day two of the Oman Open.”
  • “Relatively calm conditions had allowed for some good scoring in the very early stages at Al Mouj Golf but the winds picked up, bringing sand with them, and play was suspended at 11:38.”
  • “With winds remaining high throughout the early afternoon, the situation was being monitored and the forecast suggested conditions could improve as the day went on.”

Full piece.

7. Zinger: Tiger should top Snead
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister talked with new NBC golf analyst Paul Azinger.
  • “If Tiger’s healthy – assuming no more injuries – 100 percent. That’s what I think,” Azinger said. “If he gets hurt, it could go right to zero.”
  • …”Azinger said it’s definitely doable for Woods to catch Snead. “There’s just no way if he’s healthy enough that he won’t… break that record,” said Azinger, who’s not as sure about Woods winning four more majors to match Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.”

Full piece.

8. The most influential African-Americans in golf in 2019
Black History month concluded yesterday. As a fitting bookend, our Michael Williams put together his list of the most influential African-Americans in golf in 2019.
A few of his selections…
“Junior Bridgeman…An All-American and NBA All-star basketball player, Bridgeman went on to become a highly successful restaurant entrepreneur. In 2008 he was named to the PGA of America Board of Directors.”
  • “Lee Elder…Elder broke the color line at Augusta, becoming the first African American to play in the Masters tournament in 1975. Playing with style and courage despite the many death threats he received that week, Elder missed the cut that year.  But made his mark on the game, notching four wins on the PGA Tour and eight on the Champions Tour. Elder was also the first African-American to play in the Ryder Cup. He was just named the 2019 winner of the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor. His omission from the World Golf Hall of Fame is a travesty that should be corrected while the 84-year old Elder is still alive to appreciate it.”
9. Putting the drop in dropping
Our Gianni Magliocco…“Rickie Fowler may have gotten hit with a penalty for an improper drop last week in Mexico, but the 30-year-old wasn’t about to make the same mistake today during his opening round at the Honda Classic.”
“Though that news may not surprise you, the technique he considered using to execute the drop more than likely will.”
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  1. D

    Mar 1, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Always nice to see a Titleist wearing dude using a TM driver. Well done Cejka 🙂

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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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