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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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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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