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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

  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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5 things we learned Friday at The Open Championship

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36 holes have come and gone, unexpected early departures happened for Jason Day, Tiger Woods, and all the amateurs, while unexpected extensions were granted to Paul Waring, Matt Wallace, and Innchoon Hwang. Royal Portrush was kinder in the morning than the afternoon, for the second consecutive day. What does that mean? It means that whoever has the lead today will be pressed to hold on through Saturday, then rinse and repeat for Sunday. In other words, more drama than a Snap.

Have a quick glance at what we deemed to be the five most important things we learned on Friday at #TheOpenChampionship.

1. What a difference a day makes! Wipeout Guy tosses 65 on Friday

Justin Harding is a good stick, for a tumbler. He won in Qatar this year on the European Tour, so let’s not define him by one swing of the golf club (even though we are going to show it below.) Harding uncovered 6 birdies and 1 eagle around Royal Portrush Friday morning, jumping from Even Par to, well, minus-six, with the first 65 of the week. He might win a skin for that 7th-hole eagle, if the fellows are playing for skins today. If not, He’s certainly positioned for an afternoon tee time on Saturday. Harding tied for 12th at the Masters in April, and made the cut at Bethpage in the PGA; his major-championship experience grows even more this weekend.

2. Meet The Woods

No, not the one with stripes. He’s down the road, after missing the cut. It’s early on Friday, but Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood may very well peg it together on Saturday afternoon. The English pair posted identical rounds of 68-67 over 2 days, to reach 7-below par. They find themselves tied for 3rd, behind JB Holmes and Shane Lowry. Prepare yourselves for announcers to dance around Lee having won no majors over his career, and Tommy looking to match his Ryder Cup bro, Francesco Molinari, with an Open Championship of his own. So predictable! What’s not predictable, is how the two will play on day three of the Portrush Summer Invitational.

3. Rory is the story of the 2019 Open Championship

Yes, there will be a winner on Sunday. Indeed, there will also be runners-up and various degrees of elation and disappointment. No one will come close to doing what Rory McIlroy did over the first 36 holes … and he didn’t even make the cut! David Duval spoke as much for Rory as for himself on Thursday, when he unequivocally mandated that a professional golfer signs the scorecard. Rory’s opening 8 was just a bit less gory than his closing 7. He missed a 12-inch putt on Thursday. On Friday, facing the worse of the weather draws, he tied the low round of the tournament with 65, 14 strokes better than his day-one offering. When the final flag stick was replaced in the 18th hole, he had missed the cut by those 12 inches. Odds are long that he would have challenged for the title over the weekend. McIlroy would have needed another low round to get to -5 or so, and would have needed everyone to back up substantially. In the end, he wore his home colors proudly, he never gave up, and he gave us something to cheer for, and to learn from.

4. J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry might be cousins, in a parallel universe

Our co-leaders each sport a beard, a barrel chest, and an ability to hit the long ball when it matters. Both appear unflappable thus far, and both have exhibited an ability to go on a tear. The only thing we have yet to see from either is, the guts to come back from a rotten break or a really bad hole. If neither one faces that ultimatum, they might be in a playoff come Sunday afternoon. Lowry had a chance to separate from the pack by 3-4 strokes. He reached -10 with his 6th birdie of the day, on number 10, but that would be the final, sub-par hole of the day for him. The Irishman bogeyed 2 holes coming in, dropping back to -8 with Holmes. As neither has a major title on the resume, neither has demonstrated the capacity for success on the oldest stage. Should be an interesting pairing on Saturday afternoon.

5. So many lurkers!

Justin Rose…2 strokes back. Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Brooks Koepka…3 shots behind. Four in arrears are Finau, Rahm, Kuchar and Reed. Many majors, much potential, and a lot of power in those 8 names. Yes, we’ll miss the guys who aren’t in contention (Bubba Watson, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell) and the aforementioned ones whose watch ended early. As anticipated a venue as Royal Portrush has been, so too, will the outcome be this weekend. Get your rest, get up early, put on coffee, get some doughnuts, and enjoy breakfast the next two days!

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Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense

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After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.

The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.

We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.

The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.

Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.

For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.

Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.

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Morning 9: A Kentuckian in Northern Ireland | Chamblee: McIlroy choked

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1. A Kentuckian in Northern Ireland
From an unbylined report on TheOpen.com regarding J.B. Holmes’ opening-round 66 to lead…
  • “The 37-year-old suffered something of an inauspicious start when he bogeyed the 1st but birdies at 2, 3 and 5 sent him out in 34 before three further birdies on the back nine – including one at 18 – set a target no-one else in the field could match.”
  • “I was very confident going in,” said Holmes, who finished third at Royal Troon in 2016. “I felt like I was hitting it really well and we had a good plan, a good line on the golf course.
  • “You don’t expect to shoot that, but I’m not surprised.”
  • “Holmes has a one-stroke advantage over Shane Lowry – who carded an impressive 67 that could have been even lower after a number of near misses on the back nine – with a slew of players then at -3 – including major winners Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson and Sergio Garcia.”

Full piece.

At the time of this writing, Holmes is -8 for the tournament and leads by a stroke in round 2…
2. “His major muse”
Brian Keogh at the Irish Independent on Shane Lowry’s 4-under start…
  • “But as Pádraig Harrington shot a 75 that summed up his injury-delayed season, Lowry announced his Major championship candidacy by carding a four-under 67. That left him a shot behind long-hitting JB Holmes but one clear of a chasing posse featuring a host of dangerous desperadoes, including the relentless Brooks Koepka and the swashbuckling Jon Rahm.”
  • “The crowd was begging for an Irish story and where McIlroy failed, Lowry delivered in spades…The Clara native (32) confessed he was “uneasy” about the test this week – feeling in his bones that a big performance was within his compass but anxious that he might fail to find the freedom to deliver it.”
  • “In the end, all it took was a frank chat with his coach Neil Manchip over coffee in the Bushmills Inn on Wednesday to put him at ease.”
3. The word is “choking”
That’s how Brandel Chamblee characterized Rory McIlory’s British Open out-of-bounds opening shot/first-round 79…
  • “He has had, historically, just a bad run of first rounds. … He consistently gets off to a bad start and then inexorably plays himself back into it, and then when all the pressure is gone, all of that talent arises and then he plays a beautiful second or third or fourth round and gets himself back in it. … But when someone plays poor golf in the beginning of a tournament and then great golf the rest of the way, or great golf in the beginning and then poor golf at the end – both of those on either end he’s been guilty of over the last five years – then you know it’s not something physical, it’s not something technical, that they’re not putting themselves in the right frame of mind to either begin a golf tournament or to end a golf tournament. He needs to find that magic that he had when he was winning major championships.”
  • “On paper – I know what the world rankings say, that Brooks Koepka is the best player in the world – but on paper, coming in here, demonstrably, Rory McIlroy is the best player. Strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained total – he’s better than he was in 2012. He’s better than he was in 2015. And logically, experience should make him a better player. But when someone consistently performs under expectations, the word is choking.”
4.  Ailing? Ill-prepared? Awful opening round from Woods…
Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck penned this regarding Tiger Woods’ opening-round 79…
  • “The triumph at the Masters erased all of that but can’t change the glum reality that Woods is a man playing on borrowed time. His light schedule this summer left him unprepared for the rigors of the major-championship tests but, to hear him tell it on Thursday, there was no other way to get to the starting line. “One of the reasons why I’m playing less tournaments this year is that I can hopefully prolong my career, and be out here for a little bit longer,” Woods said. After his short scrum with reporters he was heading to the physio for treatment on his back. But Tiger ended a disappointing day with a parting thought more troubling than one bad round: “Just the way it is,” he said. “Just the way it’s going to be.”
5. Good on you, Double D
Golf Digest’s John Strege…”Duval, who has a claret jug on a resume that is borderline World Golf Hall of Fame caliber, took a 14 on the par-4 seventh hole en route to a front nine of 49. It was the kind of hole in the kind of round that might have caused integrity-challenged golfers to walk off the course, or at the very least to avoid the ignominy of having their score posted for all to see by not signing the scorecard and taking a disqualification.”
Not Duval. Here’s what he said after his round...”You have an obligation as a professional athlete. If you play, you post your score. Am I happy about that? Is there some embarrassment to it? I don’t know. But I teed off in the Open and I shot 90 today. So put it on the board.”
6. Upsets aplenty
Brentley Romine at Golf Channel...”Thursday was a day filled with upsets at the U.S. Junior Amateur. None was more shocking than Palmer Jackson’s victory over defending champion Michael Thorbjornsen.”
  • “Jackson held a 1-up lead over Thorbjornsen in their Round-of-32 match when he missed the green at Inverness Club’s par-4 18th hole. But with Thorbjorsen facing a 5-footer for birdie to force extra holes, Jackson chipped in for birdie and the 1-up victory.”
  • “I knew I had to make that chip because he had a 5-footer for birdie and he was making those all day,” Jackson said. “It feels really good to take him out.”
7. Meanwhile, at the Barbasol…
AP report…” J.T. Poston shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the PGA TOUR’s Barbasol Championship.”
  • “Poston birdied six of the first eight holes at rain-softened Keene Trace, bogeyed the par-3 ninth and added five more birdies on the back nine for his lowest score on the PGA TOUR.”
  • “It was one of those days everything clicked,” Poston said. “Hit it good, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. I was hitting it so good I didn’t really have that many lengthy birdie putts that I made until the last hole.”

Full piece.

8. Creamer-Pressel? Pressel-Creamer?
However you structure it, the duo are atop the leaderboard…
AP report…”Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer shot a best-ball 6-under 64 on Thursday for a share of the second-round lead in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour’s first-year team event.”
  • “Stephanie Meadow and Giulia Molinaro had a 61, and Frenchwomen Celine Boutier and Karine Icher shot 62 to match Pressel and Creamer at 10-under 130 at Midland Country Club. The teams will play alternate shot Friday and close Saturday with a best-ball round.”
  • “You have two balls in play, you can play much more aggressively,” Pressel said. “I know I certainly could play aggressively knowing my partner had my back the whole way around.”

Full piece.

9. Daly rides his way to 71
Reuters report…”John Daly rode his cart to a respectable one-under-par 71 on a day of sizzling scoring in the opening round at the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky on Thursday.”
“After being denied use of a cart for the British Open, Daly decided to take a pass on playing in the major championship this week, instead teeing up in Nicholasville with the tour’s bottom-feeders.”
Bottom-feeders? That’s pretty harsh, Reuters! Full piece.
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