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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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News

5 things we learned on Saturday at The Open Championship

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On Saturday, the Royal and Ancient announced that tee times would be moved up on Sunday, in anticipation of, well, British Open golf weather. Cue head scratch and chin stroke. At least the organizers didn’t opt for split tees or some other, silly-American addition to the game. On Saturday, we again watched the ebb and flow of Royal Portrush. The “strike early and hold on late” mantra that has characterized this tournament.

On Saturday, we marveled at one man’s near-mastery of this wondrous, Harry Colt design, whose absence from the Open Championship rota must never be repeated. To limit ourselves to five things learned is lamentable, but it is both burden and duty. Accordingly, here are the 5 things that we learned from Saturday’s 3rd round of the Open Championship.

1. European golf fans are marvelous, while American ones have much to learn

“Ole, ole ole ole” is the most supportive thing you can hear on a golf course. Not bah-bah-black sheep, err, booey, not mashed potatoes. Today, the “ole” was replaced with “Lowry,” in tribute to the Irish champion. There is community in European events, and much as they want their golfer to win, they support everyone who plays proper golf. There will be no appeal here to the wags who insist on cementing their unfortunate place in history as burdensome; instead, we tip our cap to the great golfing fans of Northern Ireland, who carry all who compete on the wings of appreciation.

2. Shane Lowry is happy to dream a dream

Don’t wake him just yet, thank you very much. Another 24 hours of this hypnagogic state will suit him well. The Irishman had 8 birdies on Saturday, for 63 and 197. He has 19 birdies and a mere 3 bogeys on the week. He sits at 16 shots below par, 4 clear of his nearest pursuer. No, it’s not over. It has barely begun. Royal Portush has shown that it will cede a low score to great golf, so a 62 is not out of the realm of the possible.

In truth, perhaps a dozen golfers have a chance, but you would be challenged to find a better selection of challengers. Justin Rose, Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood are four Englishmen who would love to lift the Claret jug in triumph on Sunday. Brooks Koepka, J.B. Holmes and Rickie Fowler represent the American contingent who hope to spirit the trophy away to a distant shore. And lest we forget, the young Spaniard, Jon Rahm, continues to take steps toward the highest echelon of championship golf. Above them all sits Lowry, current occupant of the Iron Throne. He has lost a final-round lead in a major event before. Sunday will give him a chance to demonstrate all that he has learned in the interim.

3. Brooks Koepka blueprints major championship golf

Speaking of Koepka, he’s still here. He birdied 17 and 18, just as viewers and fans were convinced that this tournament had left his domain. Only the envious and the haters (cousins to the envious) find fault with his golf game. They attempt to marginalize his skill set, focusing in desperation on his power, calling him one dimensional. In truth, we haven’t yet seen his best. He has reached -9 with a B+/A- effort at best. If the cylinders that fired for Lowry on Saturday, find their way to Koepka’s engine on Sunday, he will claim the title. It’s not possible to say that confidently nor currently about any other golfer than him.

 

4. Tommy Fleetwood will have his major opportunity on Sunday

The Englishman did what he needed to do on Saturday, to secure the coveted pairing with Lowry in round 4. Fleetwood made 5 birdies on the day, and didn’t threaten to make worse than par. The only difference between his round and that of the leader, was his concluding run of 6 pars. Reverse hole 15-17, and Fleetwood sits at -15, while Lowry resides at -13. Fleetwood has been accurate as a laser this week, and he will need to repeat that performance from both tee and fairway, to give himself a chance at victory.

5. What will the weather bring?

Wind, for one thing. For three days, competitors have dictated the shape of their shots. On Sunday, that right will not be theirs. Winds from the left, from the right, from every possible angle, will demand that golfers play shots low, under and through the gusts, to reach their targets. Rain, for another thing. The moisture will thicken the rough, allowing balls to drop deep into the native grasses. It will cause shots to squirt sideways, perhaps down a ravine, perhaps worse. If what is predicted, comes to pass, we’re in for an entirely-new tournament over the final 18 holes.

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News

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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Equipment

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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