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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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Morning 9: (People’s) Champion Golfer of the Year | BK on J.B.’s pace of play | Xander vs. R&A? | Portrush triumphant

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

July 22, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Champion Golfer of the Year
Look, you watched Shane Lowry win The Open by six strokes, holding his never to improve by upon the margin he started Sunday at Portrush with by two. No need to recap that. Instead, let’s check out some of the fantastic writing inspired by Lowry’s hoisting of the Claret Jug.
For example, this passage from Tom English at BBC Scotland…
  • “…The 16th is infamous around here. It’s called Calamity Corner for a reason. Lowry, though, was in a place where nothing could hurt him. He was kicking for home and preparing for victory. Still a steely focus, still in his bubble. It’s impossible to know if Lowry heard it, but on his way to the 16th tee a Northern Irishman shouted out at him: “You’re doing us proud, Shane.” Us.”
  • “Through the sunshine of Saturday and the brutality of Sunday, Lowry was serenaded. He wasn’t south or north, he wasn’t Catholic or Protestant, he was Irish. He was their guy. He was the one they transferred all their passion and all their love to when Rory McIlroy exited on Friday.”
  • “Through Lowry, they united. And it was powerful. Back in the worst days of The Troubles, the people trying to build bridges were always horribly undermined by those trying to blow them up. The badness always got more projection than the goodness.”
2. Lowry’s day in the sun was windy, rainy for pretty much everyone else
Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”The final round of the 148th Open Championship will be remembered for Shane Lowry’s fairytale victory and the sordid horror stories that many of his pursuers will recall with strains of bemusement and bewilderment.”
  • “Royal Portrush was as mendacious as advertised on Sunday after three days of general hospitable appeasement. All it took was a strafing wind out of the southwest – the wind most oppressive on the Dunluce Links – to provide the kind of necessary accouterment.”
  • “…It’s not that the weather that moved in over the Causeway Coast and Glens was more severe than anything most competitors had seen before. But as Russell Knox explained after shooting a 77: “We’ve played in worse rain. We’ve played in more wind. But it was on the biggest stage on a demanding course. So everything is kind of highlighted.”

Full piece.

3. BK won’t blame J.B. 
Per Golfweek’s Steve Dimeglio Koepka (who finished tied for fourth after a final-round 74) had this to say about his exceedingly deliberate playing partner…”J.B. had a rough day. J.B. is a slow player. I know it’s difficult with the wind, but I didn’t think he was that bad today,” Koepka said. “I thought he was all right. There were times where I thought it was slow. There’s a lot of slow guys out here.”
  • “What I don’t understand is when it’s your turn to hit, your glove is not on, then you start thinking about it, that’s where the problem lies. It’s not that he takes that long. He doesn’t do anything until his turn. That’s the frustrating part. But he’s not the only one that does it out here.
  • “But like I said, it wasn’t that bad today, it really wasn’t. It was slow, but it wasn’t that bad for his usual pace. It was relatively quick for what he usually does.”
4. Leaning on Bo
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…”Lowry needed someone to talk to Sunday afternoon.”
  • He knew he was lucky to escape the first hole without significant damage, dropping just one shot to Tommy Fleetwood by making a bogey putt of significant length. All afternoon he held his lead, and all afternoon thoughts persisted about how bad it would hurt to see it slip away in front of his countrymen. Some of them were faces he recognized from back home in Clara, County Offaly.”
  • “Enter caddie Brian ‘Bo’ Martin.”
  • “He was unbelievable today,” Lowry said. “He kept on my back all day, kept talking to me, he kept in my ear. I kept on telling him now nervous I was, how scared I was, how much I didn’t want to mess it up. All I could think about was walking down 18 with a four- or five-shot lead. And lucky I got to do that.”
5. John Bradley’s bad Sunday
Golf Channel’s Jay Coffin…”Holmes began the final round in third place and in the penultimate group with Brooks Koepka. He shot a final-round 87, seven shots worse than any other player, and tied for 67th place, beating only three players who made the cut.”
  • “The first shot of the day flew left off the first tee and into the internal out of bounds. He reloaded and opened with a double-bogey 6.”
  • “By the time Holmes made the turn, he shot 41 and was well out of contention. But the next nine holes were much, much worse than the previous nine.”
  • “Holmes, 37, made triple bogey on the par-4 11th hole, then followed it with a double bogey on the par-5 12th. After two more bogeys over the next four holes, he closed with consecutive double bogeys on the final two holes to shoot a second-nine 46 and a 16-over 87.”
6. A relatable champion
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”Only his exquisite command of a golf ball distinguishes Shane Lowry from any Irishman you’d get from central casting. He is a dry wit, is fond of a pint, is colorful with his language, is devoted to his family and is a stranger to the gym. He looks like a man more likely to be guarding the Claret Jug than having his name engraved on it, but he’s undeniably a man you’d want to be drinking from it with.”
“Lowry grew up just 130 miles from Royal Portrush, a journey of four hours across Ireland’s backroads and, crucially, the U.K.’s border. That’s why Lowry can escape the yoke that has often been draped on the shoulders of Northern Irish natives who make a name in the world beyond. Unlike Rory McIlroy, he need not navigate the binary bigotry of Northern Ireland, and isn’t asked to declare an allegiance, Irish or British. In a place consumed with identity, he is someone fans can simply identify with.”
7. Take us back to Portrush!
So pleads Golfweek’s Forecaddie...
“After all, players have given their thumb’s up, as The Man Out Front’s colleague Alistair Tait reported. And R&A officials on site all seemed giddy about the venue, openly gushing about ticket sales and mostly pulling off a successful operation. The club members, other than having their phones ring off the hook with golfers wanting to experience one of golf’s best courses, struck TMOF as quite pleased they hosted and sounded ready for another.”
  • “Golf architect Martin Ebert, the club’s consulting architect who was doing his best to take in the proceedings in between congratulations for deftly touching up H.S. Colt’s design, told The Forecaddie that meetings this week will determine what went well and what needs work. Topics may include adjustments to Ebert’s new 7th hole, the internal out of bounds that killed Rory McIlroy’s week and a few other intriguing restorative elements held back from the pre-2019 preparations.”
8. Xander vs. the R&A?  
ICYMI: Xander remained unhappy over the weekend about his (driver’s) failed test (he did delete a couple of tweets on the subject though)…
Geoff Shackelford…”At issue: Who went public or even leaked news of Schauffele’s Callaway Epic driver failing a COR test for “spring like effect”?
  • “Schauffele says it was the R&A, host this week and one of two governing bodies in golf. But assembled media and fans were unaware of the issue until the world No. 11 spoke following Friday’s second round. While there were rumblings of failed tests on the grounds, according to Schauffele, within the “traveling circus” of pro golf the failed test was known. One player jokingly heckled Schauffele, and he blames the R&A.”
  • “It is an unsettling topic,” Schauffele said. “I’ve been called a cheater by my fellow opponents. It’s all joking, but when someone yells ‘cheater’ in front of 200 people, to me it’s not going to go down very well.”
9. Other golf stuff!
On the LPGA Tour…(AP report)Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura ran away with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on Saturday, shooting an 11-under 59 in best-ball play for a six-stroke victory.
  • At the PGA Tour’s alternate event, the Barbasol Championship, Jim Herman fired a final-round 2-under 70 for a one-stroke win over Kelly Kraft.
  • Kristoffer Ventura won on the Korn Ferry Tour.

 

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Not even gaoth and basiteach could stop Lowry’s march to the Open Championship

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In Gaelic, gaoth is wind, and basiteach is rain. Don’t ask for a pronunciation lesson, however. Neither of those elemental forces offered much opposition to Shane Lowry, in his essentially, wire-to-wire victory in the 148th playing of the Open Championship.

10 years after he won the Irish Open, as an amateur no less, on the same golf course, Lowry returned to Royal Portrush and held off Tommy Fleetwood to win his first major championship. We’ve identified 5 keys to victory, and are pleased to relate them below. It was a glorious week in Portrush, and our return should not be too far off in the future.

1. The atmosphere

In Scotland, it’s the craic; in Ireland, it’s the shebeen. That wondrous, celebratory mood that transcends age, weather, and any conceivable obstacle. Lowry withstood a short, missed putt in 2009, and here he was again, a decade later, in similar circumstances. Eager to lay away the burden of his 2016 US Open loss to Dustin Johnson, Lowry breathed in the environment with enthusiasm. Eschewing a Saturday evening of monastic contemplation, he and his caddie went out for a pint or two. It was the craic and the shebeen that carried him on its shoulders, to victory.

2. The quick starts

There was no doubt that Brooks Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, had much experience going round the Portrush. Trouble was, Brooks didn’t. His putting abandoned him for four straight days. In complete contrast, Lowry appeared to make every roll in site, until Sunday. By then, no one was making putts. Have a glance at these starts for the burly Lowry:

  • Thursday: -2 through 7
  • Friday: -5 through 8
  • Saturday: -2 through 7
  • Sunday: -2 through 7

Never once did he get off with a struggle. 11-under par each day, heading to the back nine, was a whale of an advantage. Many will point to the glorious birdies he made over a closing hole or two, but it was that knowledge that the outward half was his, that doubtless buoyed his spirits.

3. Grace while scrambling

It would be fitting that, in some dialectal variation of a communication system, the word Lowry or a derivative, meant Big man with soft hands. His driving was exquisite all week, but in order to secure birdies, he needed to chase it on here, bump it on there, flop it on here, and roll it up there. The launch pad made no difference: short grass, thick stuff, or sand. Lowry was on point from start to finish. If it were a Ryder Cup year, the European captain would doubtless search for a partner for the Irish Hagrid. As it is, they have plenty of time to figure out how to use this latest weapon.

4. Consistently great play

Not once all week did Lowry make a fortunate bogey. Even as he gave a shot or two away  (8 bogies in total, 5 in the final round) he was never on the brink of disaster. Near as the cliffs and the causeway were for some, Lowry never dance along gravity’s edge. The entirety of the week was an artisan’s master class. Fortunate us, we have the video to review, to review what Lowry taught us in real time.

5. The fan support

There’s a difference between atmosphere and fan support. Atmosphere is for the fans, and can distract the player if he allows it. Support needs nor writing nor speech; it is felt by the intended recipient and utilized to will shots toward their target. After Clarke, McDowell and McIlroy gave evidence that they would not challenge for the title of Champion Golfer of the Year, Lowry became a de facto Ulsterman. And why not? County Westmeath borders County Cavan, and the later is one of the 3 non-Northern Ireland counties of Ulster. There was great affection and appreciation for each competitor this week, but a special warmth was reserved for the eventual champion.

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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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