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Morning 9: Francesco! | Rory on why Rory isn’t winning | Ernie Els is totally over the Masters

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

March 11, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans. Congratulations to Michelle Wie and Jonnie West (son of Jerry and Director of Basketball Operations for the Golden State Warriors) on their engagement!
1. Francesco!
In this first start as a Callaway staffer, playing a full bag of the company’s wares, Francesco Molinari followed up an uninspired Saturday 73 with a blistering final-round 64 to race from the middle of the pack to the fore. If you think the reigning Champion Golfer of the Year is happy, imagine how they’re feeling in Carlsbad!
Reuters report…“The British Open champion enjoyed his “best putting day ever” which he capped off by sinking a 45-foot birdie at the difficult par-four 18th at Bay Hill in Orlando.”
  • “The usually low-key Italian raised his arm in the air to hail his final putt, the longest he has holed on the PGA Tour this year.”
  • “Molinari posted a 12-under 276 total and, after a two-hour wait in the clubhouse, celebrated his third PGA Tour victory when none of the overnight frontrunners could match his total.”

Full piece.

2. Why isn’t Rory winning?

That’s the question many are asking and Bob Harig addresses in his ESPN column after McIlroy yet again failed to get the job done when playing in the final group.
Harig writes…”For whatever reason, McIlroy is not getting it done in final rounds, Sunday the most glaring example. Certainly you can’t expect him to rally to victory every time he is in the final group, but this was the fourth time in those nine events he has been within one of the lead and failed to win.”
  • “I’ve had to tell myself [to have] patience at times,’‘ McIlroy said. “It’s just letting that golf come out when it matters most. And that’s when you need to almost take your foot off the gas and just let it happen. And that’s obviously easier said than done.”
  • “If anything, McIlroy is slowing down rather than barging through, a plight that is more pronounced when you are an acclaimed four-time major champion with but a single victory over the past 30 months.”
3. Ernie Els is done with the Masters…in every sense of the word
The Big Easy hasn’t played in the Masters since 2017, and it sounds like he’s more than fine with that fact.
Per the Washington Post’s Mark Cannizzaro, here’s a bit of what Els had to say.
  • “To be honest with you, I won’t miss the place,” Els told The Post on Friday after shooting a second-round 75 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill to stand at 2-over to miss the cut by one shot. “I had enough of it – especially the last five years I played it terribly.”
  • And this…”When a thing stings you it keeps stinging you,’‘ Els said. “When it gives to you it keeps on giving. I’ve seen that with Gary Player. I’ve seen it with Jack [Nicklaus]. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with the place. It was always almost like a curse to me. It was not a romantic deal to me. It was a f-king nightmare for the most part.
  • And this “…you start disliking the place when you shouldn’t. I try to keep my honor for the golf course and the people, because the members are great and the course is actually great. But it just doesn’t want to give me anything and then I was finally like, ‘You know what? That’s fine. Let’s move on.’

Full piece.

4. Meanwhile, in Doha…
EuropeanTour.com report: “Justin Harding birdied three of his last four holes to claim a first European Tour win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.”
  • “The South African arrived at Doha Golf Club without full playing privileges after finishing third on last season’s Asian Tour but now has his breakthrough in his 54th European Tour start.”
  • “Harding made three early birdies to share the lead but his chance looked to have gone as he made two bogeys and South Korea’s Jinho Choi signed for a brilliant 64 to set the clubhouse target at 11 under.”
5. Tait: Gender pay disparity looms large in Europe
The Golfweek writer highlighted the gulf between men and women playing professional golf in Europe.
  • “Meg MacLaren successfully defended the Ladies European Tour’s Women’s New South Wales Open just outside the Australian capital Canberra. The former Florida International player earned $15,853 for the victory. First place this week in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters was worth $291,660.”
  • “Total prize money in Qatar, a weak-field European Tour event, was $1.75 million. The Women’s NSW Open carried a total prize fund of just under $106,000. Yes, it’s a bottom-of-the-food-chain LET event, but prize money for average LET events isn’t exactly eye-watering. Run-of-the-mill events average about $285,000.”

Full piece.

6. 30-day sentence
Architect Keith Foster was sentenced to 30 days in jail for selling products derived from endangered animals.
  • From Rachel Weiner at the Washington Post…”Foster is, in the words of his attorney, a “world-renowned golf architecture” designer. He also ran the Outpost antique shop in Middleburg, Va., as a charity operation, donating the profits.”
  • “But he turned his feel-good hobby into a criminal operation by smuggling blades, bags and decorative mounts made from endangered species.”
  • “Foster imported about $136,000 worth of products made from illegal endangered wildlife, including sea turtle, hippopotamus, swan and ivory, according to court records. He also imported porcupine quills, African game mounts, ostrich pieces, deer antlers and other animal parts without following regulations.”
7. Death of the hazard
Excellent stuff from David Normoyle, writing for Golfweek, an an unacknowledged casualty.
  • He begins…”Looking back on the first two months of the new year, everyone in golf has had something to say about the far-reaching changes to the Rules of Golf. But what in these new rules, beyond the unseemly social media tiffs about dropping or alignment, has to do with architecture and course design yet which nobody seems to be talking about?”
  • “The modernization efforts by the U.S. Golf Association and R&A have been lauded and criticized, depending whom you ask, but little attention has been paid to the fact that on Jan. 1, for the first time since the original rules were put in play on April 2, 1744, by The Gentlemen Golfers at Leith Links near Edinburgh, Scotland, the word “hazard” no longer appears in golf’s rulebook.”
8. Triplett’s seventh
Not to be forgotten, on the elder statesmen’s circuit, Kirk Triplett won the Hoag Classic in playoff fashion
AP Report...”Kirk Triplett made a 12-foot eagle putt on the second hole of a playoff with Woody Austin on Sunday to win the Hoag Classic for his seventh PGA Tour Champions victory.”
  • “The 56-year-old Triplett forced the playoff with a similar left-to-right breaker for birdie on the par-5 18th, then matched Austin with a par on their first extra trip down the tree-lined hole.”
  • “It was the exact same putt I had the first time through,” Triplett said. Full piece.
Interestingly, on the equipment front, and more specifically, in non-white golf ball news, Triplett gamed the new Optic Yellow Titleist Pro V1 en route to victory, making him the first player to win with the non-white variety of the ball.
9. Lefty at The Players?
The tweet from @PhilMickelson: Hanging with Steve Loy and Glenn Cohen while practicing at TPC. The course here is in spectacular shape with very little rough, much like Augusta! If I remember correctly, the week before I won at Pebble I missed the cut. Just saying…”
After all but swearing off the event earlier this year, Phil Mickelson may be changing his tune. (For context: the left-hander [who hit one shot right-handed from outside an out-of-bounds fence] missed the cut at Bay Hill).
Could we see Phil teeing it up in Ponta Vedra Beach?
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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Gary

    Mar 11, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Regarding “Gender pay disparity looms large in Europe” and in America as well. Personally I feel the only thing depressing the LPGA’s (and all of women’s golf) prize money, is WOMEN. More precisely, the lack of women. More pointedly the lack of women watching women’s golf. The bottom line is the more advertising dollars the more prize money. And, the more eyes watching, the more advertising dollars. Like many of my male counterparts, I throughly enjoy watching the LPGA. Can you imagine what would happen to the LPGA if male golfers stoped watching! The ladies on the LPGA deserve more support from women than they are currently getting. So, ladies, grab a friend or two and turn on the TV and start watching!

  2. Paul Starr

    Mar 11, 2019 at 2:59 pm

    Rory isn’t winning because his putting and iron accuracy hasn’t been very good.

    • James

      Mar 11, 2019 at 11:48 pm

      Karma for being a cheater and a world class DB. WGC Mexico cart path.

  3. Go lakers

    Mar 11, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    Jerrry west is special advisor to Steve ballmers clippers

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European Tour and Ladies European Tour announce Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam will co-host mixed event in Sweden

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For the first time, the European Tour and Ladies European Tour will co-sanction an event which will combine a mixed field playing for the same trophy in a 72-hole strokeplay event.

The inaugural Scandinavian Mixed will take place from June 11-14, 2020, with a field of 78 men and 78 women playing for a total prize purse of €1.5 million at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club in Stockholm, Sweden.

Swedish golf stars Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam will co-host the event, with Stenson set to compete in the championship. Sorenstam, who has been retired since 2008, plans to play in the pro-am.

Speaking on hosting the event alongside Sorenstam, Stenson stated

“I’m extremely excited to host the Scandinavian Mixed alongside Annika, one of the best golfers the world has seen. To have men and women competing alongside one another showcases what is great about our game.

The European Tour has been leading the way in terms of innovative formats, and I believe this is certainly one that can be part of the way golf is played in the future.”

Ryder Cup and Race to Dubai points will be awarded to the male players in the event, while winnings from the tournament will count towards the LET’s official Order of Merit totals.

Both Stenson and Sorenstam are committed to co-host the event for the next three years.

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Morning 9: Bravo, Lanto! | Wisberger wins again | Rickie Fowler is a married man

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1. Bravo, Lanto! 
AP report on Lanto Griffin bursting out of the gate in his PGA Tour career at the Houston Open…
  • “Lanto Griffin took the lead with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and won the Houston Open on Sunday with a 6-foot par that gave him a 3-under 69 and a one-shot victory that sends him to the Masters next year.”
  • “Griffin was locked into a battle on the back nine at the Golf Club of Houston with Mark Hubbard and Scott Harrington…Hubbard lost the lead with a bogey on the par-5 16th, while Harrington’s big rally ended with a three-putt bogey on the 17th.”
  • “Griffin’s birdie on the 16th was his first since the eighth hole. On the 18th hole, he ran his 60-foot birdie attempt about 6 feet by the hole and made that to avoid a playoff.”

Full piece.

2. Capstone on Wiesberger’s comeback 
“Austrian Bernd Wiesberger held off a spirited challenge from England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick to claim his third European Tour title of the season at the Italian Open in Rome on Sunday.”
“Wiesberger carded six-under-par 65 in the final round at the Olgiata Club for a 16-under total to overturn a three-shot deficit and beat overnight leader Fitzpatrick by one stroke.”

Full piece.

3. Beemer!
Great stuff from Eamon Lynch, who spoke with the golfer-turned-analyst-turned-golfer-for-the-week Beem.
  • Here’s Beem discussing his son caddying for him…”I want to teach him how good rounds happen, how to save marginal rounds and how to make the most out of a bad situation,” Beem said. “He’s at that age where he gives up mentally. It’s easy to teach them when things are going well. But when things are going sideways, as they did today, how do you save this thing?”
  • “Rounds of 69-71 had put Beem inside the top 20 at the halfway point, but a lousy finish earlier to his third round was chapping him. “I shot 76 today and inside I’m fuming. But there’s nothing I can do,” he said between bites of the Mexican fast food the pair were sharing. “I gave it my best. That’s what I had today.”

Full piece.

Beem tied for 55th after a final-round 71
4. Kang’s advice
Mike McAllister at PGATour.com…“LPGA pro Danielle Kang had some choice words for her boyfriend, PGA TOUR rookie Maverick McNealy, after he shot a third-round 73 on Saturday at the Houston Open.”
“…So what exactly did Kang tell McNealy, who started the week nicely with a 68 before sliding down the leaderboard with middle rounds of 74 and 73?”
“She wanted me to do three things today,” said McNealy, who then provided the specifics.
  • “1. Don’t look at the leaderboards. “So I intentionally did not look at a single leaderboard today,” McNealy said, a difficult task on the back nine given his big move that at one point had him inside the top 10.”
  • “2. Be stronger and stricter with the mental scorecards. “I did that with my 95% of my shots today,” McNealy said. “I only had two shots that I wasn’t fully focused or in the zone or committed on, so I was really happy with that. If I can keep it to two or less, it’s going to be a good day.”
  • “3. Say two good things to himself after every shot. “So it was a very positive day out there for me,” McNealy said.”
5. Kelly rallies
AP report…”Madison’s Jerry Kelly knew he needed to make as many birdies as he could Sunday in a sprint to the finish in the SAS Championship. He was so locked into the process that he didn’t realize how many he made until he marked them down on his card.”
“Locked in a tight race, Kelly ran off five straight birdies to close out the front nine and then made an insurance birdie late that carried him to a 7-under 65 and a one-shot victory in the final regular-season event on the PGA Tour Champions.”
6. Hammer’s takeaway
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”The 20-year-old University of Texas sophomore was extended a sponsor invite into the Houston Open, his hometown PGA Tour event, and walked away Sunday with a 1-over performance and four rounds under his belt.”
  • “It was a great week,” said Hammer, whose only other pro start came at the 2015 U.S. Open when he was 15 years old. “Obviously, I would’ve liked to have played a little better the last three rounds, but I made the cut and played for four days.”
  • “He also got a taste of just how tough the Tour can be. The reigning McCormack medalist as the world’s top-ranked amateur earlier this year, Hammer got a difficult draw. He had to play 12 holes in 30 mph gusts Friday and then wake up early to finish his second round on what was a 24-hole day on Saturday.”
7. Knight’s whirlwind
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…:”Cheyenne Knight drove through Whataburger on her way home from winning her first LPGA event.”
  • “After a satisfying meal of chicken tenders, sweet tea and fries, there was dancing in the kitchen with her family to “We are the Champions” by Queen.”
  • “It didn’t really sink in, however, until later on Monday when the family watched the replay from the final round of the Volunteers of America LPGA Classic. Congratulatory texts from the likes of Morgan Pressel, Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis, Angela Stanford and the Korda sisters helped too.”
  • “The whirlwind continued throughout the week, with Knight boarding a plane bound for China after getting in the field for the Buick LPGA Shanghai.”

Full piece.

8. Q-School storylines 
Zach Sepanik for LPGA.com with this on Lucy Li…”She may be gearing up for her first taste of Q-School and one of the youngest individuals competing at 17 years old, but Lucy Li (Redwood Shores, California) has big plans in her future both on and off the golf course.”
  • “As the professional ranks beckon, Li has no timetable for her announcement on making the leap. While she is still determining the right moment for a decision, one thing is for sure and that is how Li will make an impact outside the ropes.”
  • “I’m going to start a foundation giving back to junior golf part of my earnings from events I play,” said Li, who first got started in golf at the age of 7. “It is such a great sport and I really want more kids to play, especially with how many opportunities come through it. I’m going to take the time from now until next season starts to really figure things out with help from my family.”

Full piece.

9. ICYMI: Rickie’s off the market
As reported by Golf Channel’s Grill Room team…”Congratulations go out to Rickie Fowler and Allison Stokke, who just revealed that they got married last Saturday.”
“Fowler and Stokke on Friday both posted pictures of their Oct. 5 beach wedding to Instagram”
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Tour Rundown: Heroic and human in Houston

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It was a funny thing, to read on various social and traditional media sites, that this week’s PGA Tour event was not quite up to snuff. I hope that those pundits took the time out to watch the final 9 holes on Sunday. They saw a mix of heroic and human shots, of smart and silly decisions, and nerves galore. For those who decry the dominance of Brooks Koepka, this week was for them.

It was a lean week for professional golf, with the European Tour and PGA Tour Champions as the only other games in town. As with the Houston Open, each of those offerings provided an 11th-hour finish, providing attention-grabbing golf until the final putt was holed. Lest we forget, golf from October on used to be called the Silly Season, and it featured free money for dour professionals. Count how lucky we are on both hands, that the wraparound season, and the Schwab Cup, Race To Dubai, and Race to CME Globe came about. Let’s have a quick Tour Sprintdown, starting now.

PGA Tour: Houston Open readies for Memorial Park with Lanto’s win

The PGA Tour might have unknowingly stumbled onto a vial of elixir at this week’s H.O. With nary a star golfer to be found, the event came down to a battle of the also-rans (Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell, Harris English) guys who once were at the top, but now, are not; versus the wanna-get-theres (Lanto Griffin, Scott Harrington, Mark Hubbard) golfers freshly promoted from Triple A, itching for the security and confidence that a big-tour victory brings. I’m not sure how to package it, but there is something there! Paging Chris Harrison. Bring roses.

Back to the tournament. The Houston Open used to hold the door for the Masters, entertaining the best of the world; now, it doesn’t. That’s a negative. The tournament used to be played at a yawner of a tour course, in a town called Humble; in 2020, it returns to the city center, to a public course reborn from Tom Doak and Mike Nuzzo. That’s a huge positive. In 2019, viewers watched as a trio of non-winners soared and stumbled down the stretch, risking all to gather in an initial tour triumph.

It was a tale of three golfers: Lanto Griffin, the 3rd-round leader; Scott Harrington, the survivor; and Mark Hubbard, the best Twitter handle on any tour. Hubbard got nothing going on the back nine. Just one birdie would have brought him a tie for 1st. Instead, a lone bogey at the 15th cemented a tie for 2nd with Scott Harrington. Harrington narrowly missed a tour card during last season’s Korn Ferry schedule, but redeemed himself in the playoffs. He had four birdies and two bogeys over a 6-hole stretch late Sunday. Like Harrington, just one more birdie might have done the trick. Instead, it was Lanto Griffin, also a KF Tour graduate, who made a 6-feet putt for par at the frightening 18th, to win an inaugural tour title in style.

European Tour: Wiesberger holds off surging Fitzpatrick

Good old internal out of bounds. It snagged Rory McIlroy in Northern Ireland this summer, and it tackled Matthew Fitzpatrick at this week’s Italian Open. Something that should not exist, yet does, once again changed the course of a tournament. Fitzpatrick had the lead at the 9th, then he did not. He fought back gamely, but missed a golden chance for eagle at the 17th. The resulting birdie forced him to birdie the 18th, and he could not muster a 2nd-consecutive chirp.

Finishing a few groups ahead of Fitzy was Bernd Wiesberger, the talented Austrian who summoned all his skills over the closing 55 holes. From the 9th hole on Saturday through the finish, Wiesberger had 12 birdies and 0 others. He was flawless when he needed to be, and there was just enough flaw in Fitzpatrick to let Bernd through the door. The young Englishman had four birdies on the day, 3 on the inward half, when he needed to press. Would he have made them, had the 9th hole yielded par or birdie, rather than double bogey? Impossible to say. For the champion, Olgiata provided a venue for his 2nd Rolex Series title of the season, pairing well with Wiesberger’s Scottish Open triumph over the summer.

PGA Tour Champions: Kelly collects 3rd title of 2019

Jerry Kelly has never been one to hide his emotions. One imagines the glee on his Wisconsin-bred face as he birdied holes 5 through 9 on Sunday, racing to an outward 29 and the lead at the SAS Championship. One also imagines the consternation as New Zealand’s David McKenzie turned the tables, coming home with 5 birdies and 1 eagle for an inward 31. Fortunately for Kelly, he added birdies at 15 and 17, granting freedom to bogey the last and win by a stroke.

Kelly hasn’t been a Champions-Tour golfer for long. He won twice in 2017, a year after he reached the senior circuit, then dipped to 1 victory last season. 2019 has been a veritable motherlode for the tour grinder. SAS represented his 3rd title of this campaign, following wins in June at the AFI and September, at the ALLY. It also means that Kelly closed the gap on Scott McCarron, in the race for the Charles Schwab Cup. Three events remain, spread out over the next 5 weeks. As with everything else autumn, this race will not decide itself until the final putt falls.

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