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Morning 9: The legend of Crunchy Pete | Leishman’s perfect Palmer take | Big February for Golf Channel

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

March 7, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans
1. The legend of Crunchy Pete
Good on Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner for further investigating the man of mystery that is Keith Mitchell’s caddie, “Crunchy Pete” Persolja-and Persolja’s story is as #vanlife and all the rest as you might expect. Does. Not. Disappoint.
  • A few crunchy morsels…”After dropping out of Bowling Green University in the early 1990s, Persolja packed his bags and took a one-way bus bound for Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He spent the winters there trying odd jobs to get by: collecting garbage in the cafeteria of a resort gondola, setting up banquet rooms at the Sheraton and working as a certified cross-country ski instructor and lift operator (his station topped out at 11,775 feet). One summer, he worked out of a hot spring, mixing cement and carrying stones for masoners.”
  • And this…”When the weather turned, his identical twin brother, Dave, introduced him to whitewater rafting in West Virginia. It remains the greatest job he’s ever had, training with a group of wild characters who walked around barefoot and slept under the stars. The bare-bones existence appealed to him.
  • And this..”All throughout his 20s he chased the next adventure, wherever that took him. He lived for a month out of his Volkswagon van, camping all over Idaho. He worked an industrial-roofing job in Seattle and drove 48 hours nonstop to return for Gauley Season in West Virginia and bussed tables at a coffee shop in Cleveland. Eventually he grew tired of the nomadic lifestyle, and his funds were getting dangerously low.”
These are but a few of the many lives of the Crunchy One. Read the full piece.
2. Golf Channel’s most-watched February ever
Press release…”26.3 Million Unique Viewers Tuned into Golf Coverage Across GOLF Channel and NBC in February, Doubling January”
  • “NBC Sports Group’s golf coverage posted its most-watched February ever, averaging a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 142,000 viewers-per-minute in Total Day (24-hour period). GOLF Channel also returned as the No. 1 single-sport network in February, which became the most-watched month for GOLF since March 2018 (157,000 TAD). 26.3 million unique viewers tuned into golf coverage across NBC Sports in February, driven by PGA TOUR coverage on NBC delivering its most-watched February in 11 Years, according to data released by The Nielsen Company.”
  • “Following GOLF Channel’s most-watched year in 2018, February’s record viewership shows that the golf season is heating back up on GOLF Channel and NBC,” said Mike McCarley, president, GOLF, NBC Sports. “This momentum will continue as the sport’s new schedule builds with THE PLAYERS’ return to March – the first of six championship events over the next six straight months.”
3. How golf’s new rules change the game
A timely refresher from ESPN’s Bob Harig on the changes to the Rules of Golf–from flagsticks, to drops, to penalty areas, to broken clubs, to caddie alignment, and more.
“The R&A along with the USGA, spent the better part of six years revamping the rulebook, and the various tours, including the PGA Tour, had a role in the discussions.”
 
Here’s one…”Accidentally moving the ball…Rule: 13.1dDustin Johnson never even touched his golf ball on the green during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open, leading to a controversial 1-stroke penalty that luckily did not cost him the victory. In the aftermath of that situation, local rules were put in place. Now it is permanently in the rulebook: if you are deemed to have accidentally moved your ball, or marker, on the green, you simply put it back and play on, without penalty. The same applies for a lost ball. If you accidentally step on it or kick while searching, you can move it back without penalty.”
4. Tony’ll tee it again
Golfweek’s Kate Culpepper with the details on Tony Romo’s return to the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic in March–where he finished last in last year’s event on a similar exemption.
  • “The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback received his third sponsor exemption, the PGA Tour announced Wednesday, and is expected to make his second Tour start on March 28 at the 2019 Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic.”
  • “The 38-year-old lead analyst for the NFL on CBS also received a sponsor exemption in 2018 when he played in the first edition of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship- previously the Web.com Tour event until it landed on the PGA Tour schedule in 2018. The amateur finished his first PGA Tour start in last place.”
5. Leish sums it up
Tony Webeck, writing for the PGA of Australia’s website, conveyed this quote from Marc Leishman after his 2017 win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. You have to think/hope Leishman spoke for many of his peers with the remarks.
  • “He’s someone that you look up to, not just in golf,” Leishman said following his win in 2017.
  • “They say ‘a life well played’ because he’s lived his life to the fullest.
  • I don’t want to get 30 years down the track and wish I had spent more time with my kids.
  • “I feel like if you can be a good dad, good husband, good person, play some good golf along the way, enjoy yourself, enjoy a few beers, enjoy some good food… I feel like that’s a life well played and that’s how he lived his life.
  • “You hear some of the stories that Sam (Saunders, Palmer’s grandson) tells and you can tell that it’s truly from the heart and that he’s such a great man.
  • “That’s what it means to me and that’s how I try to live my life, to be known as a great person who played good golf.”
6. Rose’s buffer
Golf Channel’s Will Gray on Justin Rose charting his own course through the first part of 2019 season (as fortune smiles).
  • “Rose turned heads with his decision to switch to Honma equipment to start the new year, but that choice quickly paid dividends with his strong play at Torrey Pines. The Englishman flew from San Diego to Saudi Arabia the following week and missed the cut. He hasn’t played competitively since.”
  • “Having ceded the top spot in the world rankings this week to Dustin Johnson, Rose is rested and eager to get back to work in a town he once called home and on a course where he finished third a year ago.”
  • “Having those points on the board just made it feel like a really significant break, and something that hopefully I will gain a benefit of, not necessarily this week but at some point in the summer,” he said. “There’s big events coming all the way through until August now, and so that was the intention really is to sort of build in a bit of a buffer.”
7. The forgotten major winner
GolfWRX Featured Writer Matthew O’Neill on the sad case of Paul Lawrie…
  • “When the name Paul Lawrie is mentioned on GolfWRX, it is usually on a forum thread where the question of the worst major winner of all time is posed. Recognition of sorts, but recognition, which is beginning to slip away at least in minds of many who have replaced Lawrie’s name with that of Danny Willett.”
  • “That Lawrie is treated in that way is as disappointing as it is wrong. The Home of Golf has not produced many major winners in the last 100 years. Sandy Lyle aside, Paul Lawrie is it. So how can it be that the winner of The Open, eight European Tour events, and a two-time Ryder Cup player has been relegated to such to an afterthought amongst golf fans, commentators, and tournament organizers. In spite of his efforts to get invited, he is now being regularly ignored by Champions Tour events and he faces a yearly ghosting the PNC Father-Son Challenge that he so dearly wishes to play in with one of his sons.”
  • “That things have seem to be going this way for Lawrie has perhaps been inevitable. A “lucky” major winner who only happened to shoot a 67 on the final day, around the most difficult Open course in recent memory before then birding the toughest two holes on the toughest closing stretch of the toughest test in golf. The most recent high point in his career is inarguably his qualifying for the Ryder Cup in 2012. 13 years after making his debut and a number of years after seemingly having slipped into obscurity he was back on golf’s grandest stage. His play that week was solid before a spectacular Sunday saw him beat Brandt Snedeker in singles.”
8. The thrill of the hunt
Our Ryan Barath on the joy of scouring used golf clubs at retail in general, and the experience at Fore Golfers Only’s massive sale…”As golfers, we are always chasing; chasing the next course on our list, our career-best score, the sun towards the horizon in late summer and fall, and for many, that one club for the collection or just for fun. In the case of hunting for that one club, there is a mecca located in a small Southern Ontario town just a couple hours West of Toronto in St. Thomas, Ontario: Fore Golfers Only (FGO).”
  • “Interestingly, St. Thomas is the hometown of PGA Tour caddy Brennan Little, close to nearby VERY exclusive Redtail Golf Club (interesting history to read up on). Anyway, Fore Golfers is in a humble building that stretches across the side of a driving range, but in the era predating golf big box, Fore Golfers Only was the only game in town for hours in any direction. This offered a distinct advantage: being located in a hotbed of golf, both public and private in Ontario, Canada (fun fact: Canada has the most golfers per capita in the WORLD).”
  • “Even when a big box arrived, Fore Golfers was still the ONLY place that offered the opportunity to hit the clubs you were going to buy outside, off of grass, including new ones (demos of course) that weren’t at a green grass facility. Add to the fact that they are known for their massive used club selection – every OEM rep around knows that if a customer loses an iron out of production FGO is the first place they call. FGO features a friendly, knowledgeable staff that have been in the industry fitting clubs and talking gear for a long time. Add to this reasonable trade-in values, and you have a recipe for long-term success.”
9. A golden putter for Cam
Ping’s tradition of awarding a gold(-plated) putter to staffers has to be one of the cooler OEM practices.
  • Apparently, though, turnaround time isn’t the quickest for flatsticks with precious metal facades, as Champ was just awarded his PLD Mid Tyne 4 this week.

 

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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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