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Morning 9: Apologies abound | Long live the King! | Tiger just being cautious?

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

March 6, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans
1. TW just being cautious?
Golfweek’s Steve Dimeglio…”Still, no player is holding his breath until they see a healthy Woods again. Not even defending champion and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, who saw Woods receive treatment before and after each round two weeks ago at the WGC-Mexico Championship.”
  • Quoting Zach Johnson…”I know that guy well enough to know this is something he’s being overly cautious of, and he should be, because of what is on the table and what’s ahead of him,” Johnson said. “Rest will help, with the proper attention to go with that rest.”

Full piece.

2. Long live the King (and the umbrella)
This longread from Cameron Morfit on the strength (and meaning) of the Arnold Palmer brand is so stellar, excerpting it does little justice.
  • Here’s a morsel, though…”But that’s just the tip of the umbrella. If recent activity is any indication, the Palmer brand is like that old Wilford Brimley movie, Cocoon-not only undying but forever young.”
  • “Druh belts, out of Europe, and Orlando-based Corkcicle, maker of coolers, water bottles and tumblers, recently began selling Palmer-branded merchandise. Oregon-based Seamus Golf, which makes high-end ball marks, divot-repair tools and bottle openers, also recently became a formal licensee of Arnold Palmer Enterprises. PRG, whose customized golf accessories run the gamut from bags to ball-marks, is also new, as is Smathers & Branson, which makes high-end needlepoint belts and accessories.”
  • “Britt and the rest of the small APE staff at Bay Hill Club & Lodge have been busy….”A lot of interest from companies that I don’t think would have looked at us five years ago,” he says. Asked why he thinks that is, he’s careful to give credit where credit is due.”
3. Rory says…
While this doesn’t really contradict anything Woods said in his tweets announcing his withdrawal from the Arnold Palmer Invitational (if anything, it confirms it), Rory McIlroy’s remarks are getting a measure of attention.
  • This per Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”I hope he’s OK,” Rory McIlroy said on Tuesday at Bay Hill. “I saw him in Mexico [two weeks ago] getting treatment before and after he played and he did have some tape on sort of his upper back, so he was dealing with it back then as well.”
4. What a couple of days
Can you imagine what it must be like to win your first PGA Tour event? Especially as a relatively unheralded player (no disrespect)?
  • Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge on Keith Mitchell’s victory celebration and reflection…The full replay from Sunday’s final-round broadcast was playing in the background while they partied and listened to music. Then, once the replay showed Mitchell arrive to the 15th hole, everyone gathered around the TV and turned the music down. All of them watched the final four holes, which included a pair of birdies and a clutch 15-footer to avoid a playoff with Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler.
“It was really cool to see my reaction on TV,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “I never thought I would be there, but it looks like it happened.”
5. USGA backpedals
Golf Digest’s Christopher Powers on the latest episode of the Justin Thomas, USGA saga.
“The USGA took notice, and in a somewhat out-of-left-field move replied to Thomas’ tweet. “Justin, we need to talk,” read the USGA statement. “You’ve cancelled every meeting we’ve planned with you, but we are reaching out again. We were at the first 5 events, and tournaments last year, and your tour has had a seat at the table for 7 years. We’d love nothing more than to give you a seat. Call us.”
  • “Thomas was confused by the statement, later calling it “a little shocking,” and “inaccurate.” His claims were solidified on Tuesday morning, when the USGA PR Twitter handle tweeted out, “After further and more direct conversations with Justin Thomas, we realize he did not avoid a discussion with the USGA nor cancel any meetings. We value his and all players’ opinions and are committed to a productive dialogue as the golf world adjusts to the modernized rules.”
  • @USGA_PR tweeted…“After further and more direct conversations with @JustinThomas34, we realize he did not avoid a discussion with the USGA nor cancel any meetings. We value his and all players’ opinions and are  committed to a productive dialogue as the golf world adjusts to the modernized rules.”
 
6. Asking for a mulligan
Not surprisingly, the Palm Beach Post has issued a mea culpa for its Keith Mitchell victory headline.
  • The bizarre decision makes a bit more sense with context, sure, but assuming the readership understands the requisite nuance and background….not the best editorial choice!
  • Anyway, the editor in question is expectedly penitent…but maybe don’t put that apology/explanation behind a paywall?
7. Snedeker reunites with former swing coach, Todd Anderson
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on the pair getting back together
  • “In 2014, Brandt Snedeker made what he called one of the hardest choices of his career when he left long-time swing coach Todd Anderson to work with Butch Harmon.”
  • “At the time, Snedeker, who won the 2012 FedExCup while working with Anderson, said he needed to hear something different. But after four and a half years apart, Snedeker and Anderson have reunited.”
  • ‘”I just felt like this was a good move for me. We’ve always been friends and Todd knows me so well. It was an easy decision for us to start working together again,” Snedeker said.”
8. Rory returns to Bay Hill
Site of his most recent PGA Tour victory, McIlroy isn’t frustrated, he says, that he hasn’t won since slipping into the red cardigan at last year’s tournament.
  • Philip Reid of the Irish Times writes…”In fact, McIlroy’s last outing in the WGC-Mexico Championship saw him finish runner-up to Dustin Johnson – who has since returned to number one in the latest world rankings – and profess to having “good vibes” about returning to Bay Hill for the defence of his title.”
  • “My game’s been good, really solid,” observed McIlroy, backed up by a run of 4th-5th-4th-2nd in his four tournament outings so far this season.
  • “McIlroy – one of three Irish players in the field at Bay Hill this week, where Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell are also competing – has to believe that sooner or later, and more likely sooner, he will again be back in the winner’s enclosure.”
  • I’m not frustrated, because it seems like I can only do what I can do and I can only control me . . . . it’s just about staying patient, and hopefully one of these weeks it will fall my way.”
9. You’re a cheat!
A wild scene at a South African golf tournament led to a viral video clip…and really, reading anything pertaining to the context is never going to paint the full picture of the comic brutality…
  • But here’s this, via Justin Terranova of the New York Post…”A South African golf tournament turned ugly when one competitor accused the presumed winner, named Mike, of cheating at the bar afterwards.”
  • “You’re a thief, man. You’re a cheat!” was yelled across the clubhouse at Lake Club Benoni when the man charged at his accuser, headbutted him through a window and then punched him repeatedly.
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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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