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Morning 9: Mitchell by a nose | LPGA winner: Tiger made me win | The ballad of JT & the USGA

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

March 4, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans. If you haven’t become acquainted with the wonder that is Honda Classic winner, Keith Mitchell’s, caddie on Twitter, you may want to do so.
1. Mitchell by a nose
Edging out the likes of Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, long-hitting Keith Mitchell rolled in a 15 footer at the 72nd hole for his first PGA Tour win.
  • From Bill Speros piece for Golfweek…”A University of Georgia product, Mitchell birdied four of his final seven holes after starting the day with a pair of bogeys.
  • “Koepka steadily worked his way up the leaderboard all day Sunday before taking the clubhouse lead at 8-under par late. Fowler would birdie three of his final four holes to finish tied with Koepka at 8-under, setting up a potential playoff.
  • “Ryan Palmer entered the clubhouse early with the 72-hole lead at 7-under par. He would eventually be joined by as many as six players at one point, including Koepka and Vijay Singh.

Full piece.

2. Comeback Kitayama
Reuters report…”American Kurt Kitayama produced a fine comeback and a strong finish on a marathon Sunday to claim a one-shot victory at the Oman Open, his second European Tour title of the season.”
  • “Kitayama carded a final round 70 for a seven-under-par total of 281 at Al Mouj Golf to finish one shot ahead of the quartet of Spain’s Jorge Campillo, France’s Clement Sordet, Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti.”
  • “It feels great to win,” said Kitayama who also won the Mauritius Open last year. “My comeback this morning helped set up this final round. I was back in contention and with it being continuous rounds it helped me cruise into the next one.”
3. LPGA winner: Tiger made me win
Golf.com’s Jessica Marksbury“Sung Hyun Park just claimed her sixth LPGA victory since 2017 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore. The 25 year old came from four shots behind to claim the title, and shot a final round of 64 – eight under par – to end up two shots clear of runner-up Minjee Lee.”
  • “Currently ranked second in the world, Park cited a familiar figure as inspiration for her stirring comeback victory: Tiger Woods.”
  • “We just met for the TaylorMade shooting on beginning of February,” Park said in her post-round press conference. “But, if Tiger is watching this interview, then I would want to say that because we met, you gave me such a good energy, that made me win this tournament.”
4. JT & the USGA
“The USGA says it will meet with Justin Thomas in the coming days, in response to his criticisms over some of the game’s newest rules changes.”
“The world’s No. 3 player and the USGA engaged a bit over Twitter during the weekend, and then chatted offline as well. USGA senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer says he has arranged a meeting with Thomas, one of many players who have expressed displeasure about the modernized Rules of Golf that took effect this year.”
  • And this via Golf Channel…”It was a little upsetting, just because it was inaccurate,” Thomas said. “I haven’t cancelled anything, especially any meetings, but it is what it is, and all I want is the best for the game of golf and the best for the sport, and that’s what we’re going to continue to try to communicate with each other, to get that.”
5. “We know we have more work to do”
John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships, appeared on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive and had this to say, per Golf Channel…
  • “It’s very clear there is a certain level of discomfort with some Tour players, certainly not all, and we are working to address that with certain rules,” Bodenhamer said. “We know we have more work to do.”
  • “With the amount of change this was, we thought there would need to be clarification, and there still will be. We are only eight weeks into this. Things are going to continue to happen. We are going to have to continue to talk about it and engage with players. That’s the key, and we are going to make a concerted effort to do that, and to continue to do that throughout the season.”
6. A heartwarming VJ story?
Golf.com’s Joel Beall tells the tale of, some 20 years, ago watching a top player practice at the range, getting stiffed for an autograph before being consoled by…none other than Vijay Singh.
  • “Emerging from thin air was an arm that seemed as big as my body, and it wrapped around my shoulder like a tentacle. As I turned my head to the right to see this massive limb, a voice boomed from above: “Hi son. How are you doing?”
  • “I gazed up to see a towering man, his glasses tucked underneath a Wilson visor and his shirt so drenched it appeared he had fallen into Ike’s Pond. And smiling. I’ll never forget that smile from Vijay Singh.”
  • “His arm still around my shoulder and a rope in between us, Singh guided me from the practice area to the side of the clubhouse. As we walked, he peppered me with question after question: “How was your day? Is this your first time here? What was your favorite hole?” He treated each answer with interest, as if I had unlocked Hogan’s secret. He told me how much he enjoyed Augusta National, and what a delight it would be if he could win the green jacket. “I don’t think I would ever take it off!” he laughed.”
7. The vaunted Seminole Pro-Member
The Forecaddie writes…”With Seminole’s Pro-Member attracting seven of the world top 10, The Forecaddie wonders if maybe it’s time to give out world ranking points?”
 

Seriously, though, it basically features a stronger field at the top than the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational…combined

  • More….”The Man Out Front jests, but it’s still a mighty statement for this annual post-Honda Classic gathering of Seminole members and pros the Monday after the stop at PGA National. That event, with its $6.8 million purse, drew just three of the world top 10.”
  • “The Seminole event dates to 1937 and what was once a Calcutta died after a USGA crackdown on such events in the 1960s. The one-day event returned with a new format in 2004. The honor roll of past champions, displayed in Seminole’s quaint clubhouse, includes Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.”
8. The caddie’s shank
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell on how exactly Adam Schenk’s caddie earned his player a controversial penalty.
  • “Adam Schenk said his caddie wasn’t lining him up in the video footage at the Honda Classic that led to his two-shot penalty for violating the new rule designed to prevent caddies from aligning players.”
  • “He said he was talking to his caddie about where to land the bunker shot he faced at the 17th green in Friday’s second round, the shot that led to the retroactive penalty, assessed 40 minutes before he teed it up in Saturday’s third round.”
9. All the Tour news…
Our Ronald Montesano rounds up all the professional golf action every Monday morning, and while I’m slightly biased, I think it’s the best way to quickly get up to speed with everything that happened outside of the Big Tour.
Here’s his entry for Mark O’Meara’s PGA Tour Champions win at the Cologuard Championship
“Did you hear the one about the professional golfer who birdied eight consecutive holes? On Friday, it was Mark O’Meara. After opening with par at the first, he didn’t make another until the 10th. Turning in 28, O’Meara slacked his way in with eight consecutive pars, then a bogey at the last. Despite the unconscious display of brilliance, all O’Meara had to show for his efforts was a tie for second, one shot behind Kenny Perry. As the leader tumbled on Saturday, O’Meara played a decent round (70) to take a one-shot lead over three golfers. With everything on the line on day three,  O’Meara made eight birdies against one bogey for another 66, and claimed his first Champions Tour title since 2010, by four strokes over Willie Wood, Kirk Tribplett, Darren Clarke, and Scott McCarron.”
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  1. Lee & Denny

    Mar 4, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    My best golf friend and I always watch golf with the volume off, instead of listening to Bones or Feherty with their comedy routine. Web.com and European tour is much more enjoyable to listen to. Concerning the players complaining about the rules, since they have swing coach, nutritionist’s, mental coaches, why don’t they just hire rules coaches? They can certainly afford it. Grow up Boys! Learn the rules of your trade, just like everyone else does.

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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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