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Morning 9: RIP Dan Jenkins | Rafa rises at Bay Hill | Phull Phil, Pt. 237

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1. Rafa!
Not bad for his first spin around Bay Hill!
Ye olde AP report on round 1…”Cabrera Bello opened with four birdies in six holes in the morning chill, put together another run of birdies that included consecutive putts from the 30-foot range, and wound up leading by two over Keegan Bradley.”
  • “The rest of the Spaniard’s putts were from 6 feet or closer.”
  • ”I really didn’t know what to expect,” Cabrera Bello said. ”I know how nice and tough the course is and I think it’s a course with many, many daunting shots. So I feel the more you play it, probably the better. So I wasn’t really having much high expectations as opposed to just getting out there and playing my golf.”
2. The full Mickelson
Phil took (what else) a unique route to his first-round 68.
Steve DiMeglio…”Of the 68 shots, however, one stood out.”
  • “After making the turn at 3 under and looking every bit the man ready to pounce on the leaders, Mickelson got tangled up in an out-of-bounds mesh fence on the 10th hole when his tee shot wound up under the green, vinyl barrier.”
  • “And then Phil went all Phil.”
  • After surveying his options, Mickelson high-stepped the fence with ease despite his 48 years of age. He took his stance in someone’s backyard, flipped over a 9-iron and hit his second shot right-handed.”
3. RIP Dan Jenkins
The legendary golf writer has passed away at 89.
The tributes are, as expected, pouring in. Here’s a bit from Tom Callahan’s remembrance for Golf Digest.
  • “Dan always rooted for the best stories, which usually meant the best players (the real reason he loved Hogan might have been that Ben once saved him from having to write about Masters runner-up Skee Riegel), though some of golf’s journeymen, the ones with wit and perspicacity, like Ed Sneed, became trusted sources. Dave Marr, a PGA champion but not an all-time great, was Dan’s No. 1 draft choice for dinner.”
  • “…Tiger Woods didn’t want to know Jenkins. “We have nothing to gain,” agent Mark Steinberg said, the dumbest thing any agent ever said. During the 2006 Open Championship at Hoylake, Woods’ second-most-amazing tour de force, coach Hank Haney was staying at the Golf Digest house. Every night, after hitting balls post-round, Tiger dropped Haney off and never came in. Perhaps just that squandered opportunity of a beer with Jenkins, or at least the astonishing cluelessness it represented, was the real first cough by Ali MacGraw in “Love Story” (as it preceded Tiger’s come-from-ahead loss to Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA). At Woods’ peak, Jenkins wrote, “Only two things can stop him: injury or a bad marriage.” Birdie, and birdie.”
4. Meanwhile, in Qatar…
EuropeanTour.com report...”Mike Lorenzo-Vera carded a second consecutive 68 to set the clubhouse target on day two of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.”
  • “The Frenchman went eight seasons without a European Tour top three before finishing third on home soil in the Rolex Series at the 2017 HNA Open de France and he has been trending in the right direction ever since.”
5. Dark possibilities!
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on the potential downside to legalized betting in golf.
  • “It can become problematic. It became a problem in cricket how they started fixing games,” Ernie Els said this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “They have to watch that very carefully. In golf I don’t know. I would say we still play by the honor of the game. I still feel like guys give their best.”
  • “Cricket has been scandalized by several gambling and match fixing allegations in recent years, including a case involving South African cricketer Hansie Cronje in the 1990s that led to a World Cup investigation in 2007.”
  • “The Tour is well aware of the hazards of gambling and the circuit’s integrity regulations cover nine pages and is published in English, French and Spanish. The program covers players, anyone affiliated with players [caddies, managers, trainers] and even tournament volunteers, and addresses everything from “contriving an outcome” to “providing insider information.”
  • “I want to stress protecting our brand and our competition is paramount. We must all remain vigilant in this area. Our brand is 100 percent linked to our reputation,” Monahan reiterated to players at last week’s meeting.”
6. Day’s bad back is back
PGATour.com’s Cameron Morfit on Jason Day’s WD from the API with a back injury (which puts his status for next week’s Players in jeopardy)
  • “Day, 31, started his round on the back nine and informed playing partners Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter on the 16th hole that he would not be continuing. Day was 2 over at the time.”
  • “I (aggravated) it last Sunday,” he said, “and then got an MRI Monday, which came back that I had an annular tear in my disc, and then I’ve got facet problems as well. My back was sore when I was practicing from Tuesday to Saturday, and I was going to practice on Sunday, but I woke up and couldn’t really walk or sit in the car.
  • “I was on a dose pack to try get the inflammation out of it,” he added, “and that didn’t get any better. I saw a physio here (in Orlando) and tried to do as much work as I possibly could to get ready for this week. I couldn’t play at 100 percent today, so I just wanted to see if I could get out here and (my back) may have loosened up. But, unfortunately, it didn’t, so I had to pull out.”

Full piece.

7. Remember this?
Jenkins fake interview with Tiger Woods? (“Steiny” and Tiger sure do!)
A bit of it…
Why did you turn down previous interview requests with me?
Like Steiny said: We had nothing to gain.
So why now?
Steiny says we have to rebuild my brand.
Why? TV still loves you.The print press still loves you. The average fans still love you. Of course the average fans still love the Kardashians, too, but I feel sure America will find a cure for this someday.
I just do what Steiny says.
Why haven’t you fired Steiny, by the way? You’ve fired everybody else. Three gurus, Butch, Hank and Sean Foley. Two caddies, Fluff and Stevie. Your first agent, Hughes Norton, who made you rich before you’d won anything. Other minions.
I’ll probably get around to it.
I like to fire people. It gives me something to do when I’m not shaping my shots.

Full piece.

8. The walk of shame
Rough stuff for Mark Leishman!
  • From the AAP…”It’s the walk of shame, cruising back to the tee with the tail between the legs. Phil Mickelson [in the group behind] had already teed it up,” Leishman said.
  • After a double-bogey seven, even children were sledging the 35-year-old Victorian.
  • “Walking to seventh tee I had a kid say to me, ‘How’s the water, Leishman?’ That caught me off guard,” said Leishman, who was then four over after six holes.
  • However, he composed himself following a stern talking to from caddie and childhood friend Matthew Kelly and rattled off four back-nine birdies to sign for an even-par 72.
9. The most unenthusiastic hole-in-one reaction you’ll ever see
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…”Playing in this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, Points hit a weak tee shot on Bay Hill’s par-3 seventh. Or at least what Points perceived to be a poor shot, telling his ball to “Get up!” and “Go!” in an indignant tone. His stance` conveyed a similar thought, as the veteran crossed his legs and angled his arm on his waist as if his dog had just soiled himself on the kitchen floor.”
You have to see the clip, which you can do here.
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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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