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Morning 9: Nice headline | Opinion: Tour pros’ Rules whining is a bad look| “Unknown” champions

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

March 5, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans
1. TW WD
Owing to a neck strain that’s been bothering him “for a few weeks,” Tiger Woods announced today he is withdrawing from this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, while stressing that his surgically repaired back is “fine” and that he has “no long-term concerns.”
  • The 14-time major champion posted the following to Twitter
  • @TigerWoods….1) Unfortunately due to a neck strain that I’ve had for a few weeks, I’m forced to withdraw from the API. I’ve been receiving treatment, but it hasn’t improved enough to play. My lower back is fine, and I have no long-term concerns, and I hope to be ready for The Players.
  • 2) I’d like to send my regrets to the Palmer family and the Orlando fans. Its connection to Arnold makes it one of my favorite tournaments and I’m disappointed to miss it.
The 43-year-old hasn’t missed a tournament due to injury since returning to competition following his April, 2017 spinal fusion surgery at the Hero World Challenge in December of that year.
2. Not a good look?
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch with some thoughts on PGA Tour pros voicing their (largely negative) opinions on the changes to the Rules of Golf.
  • To be fair, the moaning isn’t entirely without merit. Golf’s rule book is infamously Byzantine and often the source of uncertainty in high-stakes situations on Tour. A long overdue process began Jan. 1 when the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient introduced more than three dozen changes designed to simplify things. The chorus of complaints by Tour players began almost immediately and strengthens by the week.”
  • The revisions made golf “a laughingstock,” said Adam Scott….”I think they’re terrible,” Justin Thomas added before getting into it with the USGA.”
  • “Rickie Fowler made his opinion clear at PGA National during the Honda Classic when he took a ‘dump drop,’ reaching around to drop his ball from behind while squatting. Fowler was probably still smarting from the penalty he received a week earlier in Mexico for dropping from shoulder height in the old, outlawed manner. “It’s not doing any favors for our sport,” he said.”
3. Feinstein: Celebrate the “unknowns”
John Feinstein, penning a piece for Golf Digest, praises both the “unknowns” who have won in professional golf and the possibility of, say, the 200th best player in the world beating the best players, which he finds to be unique to the game.
  • “But golf history is littered with stories even more surprising and dramatic than Mitchell’s and Long’s. Frances Ouimet comes to mind and, no, I didn’t cover the 1913 U.S. Open, though I suspect Dan Jenkins did. Jack Fleck over Ben Hogan in 1955 at Olympic is another example.”
  • “Fast forward to 2003 when Ben Curtis, a PGA Tour rookie ranked 396th in the world, won the Open Championship, outdueling Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Thomas Bjorn down the stretch. A month later, Shaun Micheel-who had never won before on the PGA Tour and would never win again-hit one of the great shots in golf history on the 18th hole at Oak Hill (a 7-iron to a foot) to clinch the PGA Championship.”
  • “A year after that, Todd Hamilton beat Ernie Els in a playoff in the Open Championship. Hamilton, however, had won 11 times in Japan and had won the Honda Classic-how about that?-earlier in the year. But, after that victory in Scotland, he never won again.”
4. Along those lines…
How about the Palm Beach Post’s sports sections’ front page following Keith Mitchell’s win (below)? The paper has since apologized, but one wonders how many parties signed off on the angle, and then, seeing the mock up, said, “Yes! Let’s go with this.” (Image via Peter Robbins on Twitter)

 

5. Strokes gained/lost
Gianni Magliocco returns with his weekly look at where the winner and other top players gained and lost strokes as the tournament that was.
  • HOT…”There is only one man to begin this section with, and that’s the winner himself, Keith Mitchell. Mitchell came into the event with three missed cuts in his last four tournaments, and unlike many breakthrough winners on Tour, Mitchell didn’t claim victory due to an exceptionally hot putter in Florida. Mitchell gained less than a stroke with the flat-stick for the four days of action at PGA National, which was less than any other player who finished in the top-six, and significantly less than every other winner on the PGA Tour so far in 2019.”
  • “What Mitchell did was produce the performance of his career tee to green. The American led the field in strokes gained tee to green for the four days with a total of 11.9 strokes. Sergio Garcia was the only other player in the event to gain double digits over the field in this department.”
  • COLD…”Justin Thomas failed to get himself into contention at the Honda Classic settling in the end for a T30 finish. One area of Thomas’ game which was off all week was his approach play. Thomas lost 3.2 strokes to the field with his irons at PGA National, and incredibly, it is the first time Thomas has lost strokes for his approach shots since the WGC-Mexico in March of last year.”
6. Crunchy Pete!
If you STILL haven’t familiarized yourself with Keith Mitchell’s caddie after my prompting yesterday, here’s a little bit on “Crunchy Pete” from Golf Digest’s Christopher Powers.
  • “…many golf fans who may have not even heard of Mitchell before were also introduced to his caddie Pete Persolja, whose appearance alone instantly grabs your attention. But there was another reason fans on social media were intrigued by his presence, and it was because he was using a compass as he and Mitchell navigated “The Bear Trap.”…
And this…”His Twitter account is full of quotes that belong on plaques. Seriously, some of these would look great on my desk at work”
  • While I appreciate the gesture of the @pgatour giving me a health insurance stipend I assure you that won’t be necessary. I have never had so much as a hang nail. I cleanse my body by drinking from natural springs and hanging upside down from tree limbs.”
7. New No. 1
Interesting note from LPGA.com‘s Kent Paisley on Sung Hyun Park retaking the No. 1 spot in the world.
  • “Calling her shot like Babe Ruth, three weeks ago Park’s team put out a press release saying that Park “will soon reclaim the world number 1 spot.” She backed that up, with the spot claimed following her win in Singapore. Park credited her victory to a former world number one golfer in Tiger Woods, who she met at a TaylorMade commercial shoot roughly three weeks ago as well.”
  • Park last held the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings top spot in October 2018, when Ariya Jutanugarn finished in second place at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.  Jutanugarn relinquishes the number one spot after an 18-week reign. Park previously held the world number one spot for ten weeks, from August to October of last year, which began when she won the Indy Women in Tech Championship.”
8. The Arnold Palmer Award
Hard to argue with this move by the Tour.
  • Via PGATour.com staff…”Today at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, the PGA TOUR announced that as a tribute to the late Arnold Palmer, the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year – as voted upon by the TOUR’s membership — will now receive the Arnold Palmer Award.”
  • “The PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year dates back to 1990, with the inaugural winner Robert Gamez compiling a season that included two wins, perhaps most notably the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he holed out from the fairway on the 72nd hole at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge to defeat Greg Norman by one shot. A marble plaque on the right side of the 18th fairway remains in place today, commemorating one of the PGA TOUR’s most memorable finishes.”
  • “Arnold Palmer was golf’s greatest ambassador with his go-for-broke style of play, his charitable endeavors and his true passion and respect for the game and its fans,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “A thumbs up, a wink, a carefully signed autograph, a thank you – simple gestures like these passed on by Mr. Palmer to countless young players helped shape their character, on and off the golf course. The Arnold Palmer Award will now reflect those contributions in honoring the TOUR’s most outstanding rookie. Our thanks to the Palmer family and the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation for their support with this initiative.”
9. Monahan’s memo
Per Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard, the PGA Tour commissioner sent a lengthy memo to Tour players following rules pushback.
  • Hoggard writesFollowing weeks of growing discord between Tour pros and the USGA and R&A, the memo points out that the rules makeover that has sparked so much debate this year has been a “collaborative process” that the Tour has “been a part of from the beginning.”
  • From the memo…“[The Tour] put forward a lengthy list of recommendations to improve the rules in many ways, including the removal of numerous penalties, and virtually all our suggestions were incorporated,” the memo from Monahan read. “We also had the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed rules prior to implementation, which resulted in modifications for the final version.”
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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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