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Tour Rundown: Moli-Moli-Moli-Molinari!

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With the exception of Meghan MacLaren, third-round leaders did not fare well on Sunday the 10th of March. An overnight lead on any tour is like a wild animal: it wants to get away and you have trouble holding on. Matthew Fitzpatrick, Fran Quinn and Oliver Wilson watched the chaser become the chased in round fours this weekend, and three daring champions emerged. As for MacLaren, well, she has a liking for the New South Wales Open championship.

Time to run down the tours like a chihuahua at the poodle races.

PGA Tour: Arnold Palmer Invitational to Moli-Moli-Moli-Molinari

Remember those Ryder Cup chants in the fall for the inscrutable, undefeatable pair of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood? They’re back, at least for the reigning Open champion. Francesco Molinari made Orlando the Italian town its name implies for one weekend this year. He went one stroke lower than Rafa Cabrera Bello’s opening 65, and sneaked past Fitzpatrick by two slim strokes for his second stateside triumph.

Fitzpatrick had the misfortune of playing with Rory McIlroy, who finds any manner of struggling when in the mix these days. The Northern Irishman’s presence spurred Patrick Reed on to victory last spring at Augusta, but it didn’t work the same magic with Fitzpatrick. Fitzy was a steady presence this week, hovering around 70 in three of the four rounds. His Saturday 67 vaulted him up to the top spot, but he would always be low-hanging fruit for the mid-60s round that Molinari crushed on Sunday. How crushed? Eight birdies against zero others, including a three at the last. Fitzpatrick’s bogey at 15 was his undoing, despite a bounce-back birdie at the next. Forza, Francesco!

European Tour: Qatar Masters is Harding’s to hold

Part-way across the world in Doha, Oliver Wilson must somehow take success away from his nine-way tie for second spot in the Qatar Masters. The one-time winner and four-time playoff loser on the European Tour was relegated to 2nd Division last year. Two wins on the Challenge Tour returned him to the Premier Division, and he nearly pulled a Leicester on Sunday. Unfortunately for him, along came Justin Harding. Wilson battled all Sunday long, but came up two strokes shy, along with eight others, of Harding’s impressive, day-four 66. It wasn’t the low score, as that belonged to Jinho Choi with 64. Harding’s pair of sixes included birdies at three of the final four greens, including 17 and 18. After two victories in Asia, and seven on his native South Africa circuit, Harding offered a massive debut victory outside his homeland with his win in Doha. Here’s to more appearances across the world for the 33-year old with the long putter!

Ladies European Tour: young MacLaren defends title at New South Wales Open 

It’s only two dates, but Meghan MacLaren has developed an affinity for this part of Australia. The young English professional captured the NSWO in 2018 by 2 shots, for an inaugural tour win. 365 days later, she went one better, holding off Munchin Keh of New Zealand and Lynn Carlsson of Sweden by three strokes for win number two. The titleholder was tied with Carlsson through 54 holes, but the Swede went out in 38 to the Englishwoman’s 36. The golf wasn’t stellar quite yet, but a bold eagle from three feet at the 16th stamped MacLaren as the worthy heiress to, well, herself. Keh’s 67 was the second-lowest round of the day, and it brought the 26-year old her best professional finish to date.

Champions Tour: Hoag Classic is Triplett’s 7th on Senior circuit

Woody Austin’s combined playoff record from PGA and Champions tours was 4-1 until Sunday. Unable to birdie the closing par five, he went toe to toe with Kirk Triplett, he of the bucket hat. On the day’s third go at the finishing hole, Triplett made a spectacular eagle to dash Austin’s hopes for victory. The mercurial Austin had the oddest of rounds. A front-nine eagle, a back-side birdie, and 16 pars. His 68 equaled Triplett’s, as both went roaring past overnight leader Fran Quinn. The Bay State journeyman could not find any of the birdies that brought him to the top on Sunday. His three bogeys and one birdie etched 74 on his card, dropping him to a tie for fourth spot.

In an eerie replay, Triplett’s eagle putt came on the same line and distance as the birdie putt he made in regulation, to force the playoff. If that’s not a run down, well, we’ve done our best!

 

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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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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Morning 9: OWGR point allocation issues | Reed on switch to Titleist irons | Els picks assistants

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

March 20, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. OWGR issues
Overshadowed by rules-related discontents, many tour pros are less than thrilled about the allocation of Official World Golf Ranking points. So great is their grieving that the PGA Tour tasked a duo of mathematicians to investigate.
  • Their findings: Relative to the PGA Tour, other tours are allocated too many points.
  • An AP report with this anecdote…”Against a field as strong as some majors, Tommy Fleetwood shared the lead after 18 and 36 holes, played in the final group and was still in the mix at The Players Championship until a tee shot into the water on the 17th hole. His three-way tie for fifth was worth 16.53 ranking points.”
  • “Earlier that day, Guido Migliozzi won his first European Tour title at the Kenya Open, which until this year was a Challenge Tour event. The strength of its field was slightly weaker than the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on the Asian Development Tour in January…Migliozzi received 24 ranking points, the minimum for the European Tour.”
2. Captain Els picks Choi, Immelman, Weir
Captain of the Presidents Cup International team, Ernie Els named K.J. Choi, Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir to join Geoff Ogilvy as his assistant captains for the December event.
3. Good on them
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols with the news that a pair of the expecting Brittany Lincicome’s sponsors will pay her full contracts for 2019, even though she won’t meet the required minimum number of starts.
  • “…Two of her sponsors, CME Group and Diamond Resorts, will honor her full contracts in 2019 even though she won’t play a full season.”
  • “Lincicome, a two-time major winner, and husband Dewald Gouws are expecting a baby girl, due Sept. 1, two weeks before the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.”
  • “I mean, I never thought in a million years that they would do that,” said Lincicome. “I feel so honored and blessed to be represented by two great companies that are going to do this. It’s just fantastic.”
4. Pepperell’s process
Never change, Eddie Pepperell. He’s a bit from the Englishman following his T3 finish at The Players, via Doug Ferguson at the Associated Press.
  • “There is a method to what others might consider madness.”
  • ”’Historically, whenever I’ve been at courses a long time, come Thursday I can be de-motivated,” Pepperell said. ”I don’t want to work my (tail) off too hard on Monday through Wednesday. That represents you’re lost. I don’t want to be lost. That always represented a sign of struggle for me.”’
  • “Pepperell is more interested in being technically sound….”Most courses are in front of you, require good shot-making and skill,” he said. ”It doesn’t matter how well I know a golf course. If I’m struggling with technique, I ain’t going to go out there and beat these guys.”’

 

5. Monahan speaks
Golf Digest’s Stephen Hennessey mined the transcript of PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, for some of the most interesting morsels.
Here’s one.
  • Q: “You mentioned some things you wanted to sort of button up with the other organizations. Can you give an example of something where you feel like the relationships have been strained and need fixing, and is some of that related to your view on distance versus what they’re kind of building to with their distance study?”
  • MONAHAN: “I think — so the way I’ll characterize that is that if you look at — let’s talk about slow play, my favorite subject. There’s a lot of discussion about slow play. And when you have six or seven different organizations that have different policies and different perspectives and we’re not each fully aware of what those are, that may not be serving the best interests of the game. So how do we learn from each other on a subject like that? How do we diagnostically look at something that is getting a lot of discussion and ultimately can we improve? So that would be one.”
  • “Driving distance is another. How do we fully understand each other’s perspectives, and then how do we have good debate and discussion about what the solutions, what the opportunities or where we go from here. But I just think that — and I want to be clear that this is on us, too. We just need to be more transparent, more forthcoming about our thinking across the board, and I think that’s going to get us to a good place.”
6. Reed’s switch to Titleist irons
Andrew Tursky at PGATour.com talked to Patrick Reed about his wholesale iron switch ahead of last week’s Players.
Why the big iron switch on the week of THE PLAYERS?
  • “I needed a new set because my irons were getting worn out. When I talked to the Titleist guys, I was fortunate enough that they were able to help me out and work with me to get a new fresh set of irons into play. After they built them, I absolutely loved the way they I hit ’em and how they were performing. From that point on, I felt like I had to get them battle-tested and put them under-the-gun, and I was able to do that last week…I actually got them that week (of THE PLAYERS). I was looking for new irons already because, my Callaways were great, they were just worn out. The grooves were gone.
  • For me, (I just had to) make sure (the Titleist irons) had the right weight and the right swing weight, because they looked the same and felt the same going through the turf (as the Callaway irons). For me, it was just making sure they were fresh. I knew I needed a fresh set leading into this stretch [of tournaments]. When I tested [the new Titleist irons] on the range, they were unbelievable on Tuesday, and Wednesday when I played on the course they were just as well. I felt like… I hit them great on the golf course, I just needed to dial in distances a little bit…They feel great. I look forward to continue playing with them.”
Reed also added that Titleist’s tour van added the lead tape to match the head weights to his previous gamers.
7. Eyes on Akshay
Golf Channel’s Will Gray on the 17-year-old phenom, Akshay Bhatia, who will play in this week’s Valspar Championship, and his somewhat atypical path to turning pro.
  • “Like many skilled players his age, Bhatia aspires to turn pro. But his timeline is significantly shorter than most of his peers, as his amateur career is measured in months, not years. He is open about his plan to turn pro later this year, eschewing any thoughts of college in a decision he made along with the help of his father, Sonny, and “inner circle” when he was still in middle school.”
  • ‘”I’ve never liked school. I’ve never been very smart, like sitting in a classroom, and I have the worst attention span when it comes to it. But I love being outside and love playing golf, just competing,” Bhatia said. “So my dad was like, ‘You know what? Let’s just not go to college. Let’s not do it.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ I mean, I’m an eighth-grader, of course I’m going to say no to school.”‘
8. A tiny oral history of Ho Sung at Pebble

Stellar stuff from Anna Katherine Clemmons at ESPN, talking to the folks who teed it up with Ho Sung Choi at Pebble Beach…

“AARON RODGERS, PACKERS QUARTERBACK: I watched video of his swing, and I tweeted that I’d love to play with him because I already had a Pebble Beach partner, Jerry Kelly, who leans a ton. I thought that’d be a fun pairing.”

“JERRY KELLY, THREE-TIME PGA TOUR WINNER: I thought the swing wasn’t real. Then I saw he’d won in Japan, so I tweeted, “Hey, my long-lost brother on the Japanese Tour!”

“CHRIS O’DONNELL, ACTOR WHO WAS WITH RODGERS, KELLY AND CHOI AT PEBBLE BEACH: I’d seen his swing when it first went viral. Then, when the pairings came out, I asked, “Who is Ho Sung Choi?” Later I watched the video again and was like, “Oh my god, it’s him!”

“RODGERS: His impact positions are incredible. He tees it up so high, and other than a popup on 10, he really hit it well off the tee. He’s super flexible-it’s like a yoga backbend. I tried to do one at one point on the range, teasing with him, and my back started hurting.”

Full piece.

9. The 14
If you didn’t catch our new series (in partnership with TXG), I think you’ll want to. Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser do a deep dive into the PGA Tour winner’s WITB in “The 14” (like, half-an-hour-long video deep). If you’re a gear junkie, it’s must-watch stuff.

See “The 14” here.

 

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Rahm’s water ball at 11: Is the Spaniard his own worst enemy, or should his caddie have stayed silent?

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Few shots on the course have stunned golf fans and analysts alike more than Jon Rahm’s water ball on the 11th hole while leading the Players Championship on Sunday.

The exchange prior to the shot went viral on social media, which has now been removed by the PGA Tour. With his caddie, Adam Hayes, pleading for Rahm to lay up, the Spaniard pulled rank and proceeded to fire his ball into the water, in a moment of madness which proved a fatal blow in his bid to capture the Players trophy.

Immediately after the incident, announcers called the move “perplexing” as well as explaining how they “didn’t understand any of that,” referring to the seemingly rash decision made by Rahm after what appeared to be a calm and constructive assessment of the situation with his caddie.

Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee went even further than those commentators, calling the fiery 24-year-old’s decision and subsequent water ball “the most baffling decision” in the history of the tournament.

Rahm, however, came to a very different conclusion to what had occurred. With the ball taking a splash, the Spaniard lost his cool and was audibly heard saying “I was so f****** sure the first time,” which could only allude to him believing that his caddie had injected some doubt into his mind, causing the error.

Another water ball at 17 sank his chances entirely, and speaking after the round, Rahm stuck to his guns, believing that he had done the right thing and confirmed how he believed that his caddie’s involvement had hindered him.

“Adam was trying to convince me to go right. When I first got to the ball, I was really sure I could do it. If you give me 10 balls, besides that one, I’ll hit the other nine on land. Unfortunately, I got a little bit of doubt in me.”

Veteran caddie Kip Henley, speaking to GolfDigest, explained that while Hayes and the rest of America knew he was suggesting the right thing, he had no choice but to back down.

“Ninety-eight percent of America looks at that and knows Adam was making the right call. Birdie is great, but par doesn’t kill you, and a good caddie is able to look at the situation without as much emotion as the player.

“The whole time you’re fighting you better be aware where your guy is leaning because if you know he’s not coming over, you need to start backpedaling. You then need to make him feel like it’s a good decision. Everybody does that. You read your guy, and you find a way to change your tune.”

How the incident will affect their future working relationship remains to be seen. But Rahm’s refusal to accept that he may have been better served by listening to his caddie while speaking after the event is only likely to ignite the doubts over the Spaniard’s impetuous temperament.

 

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