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Morning 9: “Healthy” Tiger at Sawgrass…working with a putting coach too | What PXG means | Vokey on Woods’ 2001 wedges



By Ben Alberstadt (

March 12, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. PSA to all anti-Tigerites who will email me about the abundance of TW items. There are several Woods-related stories included today. Read items 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9 only.
1. Woods arrives at Sawgrass “healthy”
Per USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio…”I feel good, man.”…Those were the words of Tiger Woods as he arrived Monday at TPC Sawgrass to begin preparing for The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s aflagship event that begins Thursday.”
Channeling James Brown? Better than channeling Nine Inch Nails (“Hurt”).
  • DiMeglio also writes…”He said he’ll play a 9-hole practice round Tuesday before meeting with the media.”
  • “I didn’t want to push it. No need to,” Woods said of his decision to bypass one of his favorite tournaments. “Not at my age. Can’t do that anymore.”
2. …and works with putting coach Matt Killen
Our Gianni Magliocco writes…”Tiger Woods says he is fit and healthy ahead of this week’s Players Championship, and the 14-time major champion has putting coach Matt Killen alongside him at TPC Sawgrass as he seeks his third title at the event.”
  • “Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte broke the news on social media, and the move represents the first time Woods has had an instructor of any type since his split with Chris Como in 2017.”
  • Here’s the tweet: “@TimRosaforteGC…. Back of the range @TigerWoods was working with @killengolf. I’ll have more tonight on Live From Players @GolfChannel”
  • “Woods struggled with the flat-stick at his last outing at the WGC-Mexico, where he three-putted six times. That event represented the first time that Woods has lost strokes to the field on the greens at a tournament since the Northern Trust back in August, and over his previous 24 rounds, the 43-year-old ranks 42nd in this week’s field for strokes gained putting.”
3. In or out?
Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura pointed out Francesco Molinari holed the most significant “flagstick in” putt of the new era.
  • “The great debate over whether to leave the flagstick in while putting got another endorsement Sunday when Francesco Molinari holed a swerving 44-footer for birdie with the pin in on the 18th at Bay Hill to cap his closing 64 and the Arnold Palmer Invitational victory. However, one of the world’s leading putting instructors and the resident expert on putting at the TPC Sawgrass thinks the flagstick’s value just might end up being more mental than physical.”
  • He also writes, “….Molinari was of at least two minds when it came to his putt on 18. He said his brother, Edoardo, has produced research questioning the value of leaving the flagstick in, and those findings mirror the research conducted for Golf Digest by Tom Mase, a professor of mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University. The research project from Cal Poly showed that breaking putts were holed 80 percent of the time with the flagstick out, but only 56 percent of the time with the flagstick in…”
4. What PXG, Honma mean
Geoff Shackelford quotes and comments on a few portions of Brian Costa’s WSJ item on the expansion of the luxury golf club market.
“I was thinking that PXG’s driver price drop signaled a weakening of the high end club market, but as WSJ’s Brian Costa writes, Honma’s entry into the U.S. and other signs suggest an expansion…”
“There was this from Mark King, ex-Taylor Made CEO:
  • “‘How do you justify these prices? How do you justify the price of a Lamborghini?'” said Mark King, the former chief executive of TaylorMade who is now a consultant to Honma. “‘People don’t understand what’s under the hood, nor do they care. There is a certain status it represents.'”
  • “And yet…’U.S. retail sales of golf equipment grew 8% from November 2017 to November 2018, at $2.6 billion, according to market data compiled by NPD Group. Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst for the company, said that growth was largely driven by low-cost, entry-level gear.'”
5. Voke on Woods’ 2001 Players-winning wedges
Andrew Tursky talked to the maestro of wedgecraft, Bob Vokey, about Tiger Woods’ wedges, gamed during his 2001 Players Championship win.
  • “As Vokey explained, Woods used two Titleist Vokey 200-series wedges — a 258-08 sand wedge and a 260-06 lob wedge — during his tenure as a Titleist staffer. Vokey says he “lightly touched the heel” of each wedge for a slight bit of heel relief, and that Woods “liked a certain radius” of the leading edges.”
  • “Woods’ 58-degree wedge, which originally had 8 degrees of bounce on it, was no ordinary 58-degree wedge. According to Vokey, Woods liked the look of a 58-degree wedge, but he had it bent to 56 degrees, since playing a 58- and 60-degree wedge left too small of a yardage gap. Bending the wedge 2-degrees strong gave the wedge 6 degrees of bounce rather than 8, though. Comparatively speaking, 6 degrees is not a lot of bounce for a sand wedge. Knowing this, Vokey cautioned Woods that the low-bounce sand wedge might “grab” the turf too much, and Woods ultimately made the proper adjustments.”
6. Remembering TW’s U.S. Am win at Sawgrass’s Sean Martin with an excellent reflection on Tiger Woods’ U.S. Amateur victory at TPC Sawgrass in 1994.
  • “…The wiry Woods, wearing a striped shirt and large straw hat, let out a violent fist pump after holing his birdie putt on the Stadium Course’s iconic par-3. It’s an image that has a permanent place in his career’s highlight reel. For many, it was the first time they witnessed one of Woods’ electric celebrations.”
  • “He was once 6 down to Trip Kuehne in the Amateur’s final match. That putt gave Woods a 1-up lead. He won the 18th hole, as well, to become the youngest player to hoist the Havemeyer Trophy.”
  • “He was 18 years old and still weeks from starting his college career at Stanford. It was the first of three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles that preceded his 80 victories on the PGA TOUR.”
7. Get well, Double P!
Pat Perez posted on Instagram that he “blew out” his Achilles, saying “See y’all down the road somewhere.”
According to the scuttlebutt, Perez sustained a freak injury in the gym.
8. Masters odds update
Per Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Here’s a look at the other notable odds via the Westgate, with the Masters now just four weeks away”
10/1: Dustin Johnson
12/1: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose
14/1: Justin Thomas
16/1: Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka
18/1: Jon Rahm
20/1: Bryson DeChambeau
25/1: Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood
30/1: Phil Mickelson, Francesco Molinari, Hideki Matsuyama
9. Tell us how you really feel, Zac Blair!  
Zac Blair on Twitter...
  • “Here’s my take … the players is a HUGE golf tourney … 1 that I’m positive any pga tour member would absolutely LOVE to win … but it’s not a major & I don’t think it’ll ever be a 1 when everyone is trying to shove it down your throat as a 1 … Just let it be the Players”
  • “So again to recap … it’s a HUGE event … it’s the best field in golf by a long shot … biggest payday in golf … but it’s not a major …. BUT I don’t think that should take away from how great the event it … it’s amazing … just stop trying to spoon feed it as a major”
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  1. Chuck

    Mar 13, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    The Vokey 200 series and 400 series (Vokey’s personal favorite) are still to this day the best looking shapes he’s ever made.

    I’d love to compare Tiger’s current custom wedges to some old Vokey 200’s.

  2. Joey5Picks

    Mar 12, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Grown men look ridiculous wearing a cap backwards.

  3. Thomas A

    Mar 12, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Pat Perez in the gym?!?! His Achilles didn’t stand a chance.

  4. Martin Ayers

    Mar 12, 2019 at 9:25 am

    Finau paying less than Molinari.. and Rickie on same line of betting as Brooks and Spieth .
    Go home Vegas, you’re drunk!

    • Swirley

      Mar 12, 2019 at 8:54 pm

      I guess you don’t understand how it works.

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Morning 9: DJ: I’m as close as I have been pre-2017 Masters form | How much should a Tour pro pay his/her teacher?



By Ben Alberstadt (

March 21, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. DJ: I’m as close as I have been to pre-2017 Masters form
A scary thought for the competition: Dustin Johnson feels he’s as close to his pre-2017 Masters slip-and-fall form as he has been since the unfortunate tumble down the stairs that derailed the green jacket hopes of the then Masters favorite.
  • Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Johnson has won plenty of tournaments in the two years since, and he’s spent much of that time as the top-ranked player in the world. But with victories already this year in Saudi Arabia and Mexico and coming off a T-5 finish at The Players Championship, Johnson believes heading into this week’s Valspar Championship that his game is as strong as it’s been since his ill-fated week in Augusta.”
  • “Now is the closest I’ve been to that. I mean, back then that was probably the best form I’ve ever been in, and getting injured it’s taken a while to get back to that form,” Johnson said. “Obviously, I played very well in that stretch, but I wasn’t as comfortable as I was then, kind of throughout the whole bag. But it’s getting, it’s definitely the closest I’ve felt to that stage of my career.”
  • “Johnson’s result last week was his first career top-10 finish in 11 trips to TPC Sawgrass, and his dominating run to the title last month in Mexico was reminiscent of the one he offered up two years ago during his strong run of form. When asked if he believed the performance he authored in Mexico City would be good enough to win his first green jacket next month, Johnson didn’t back down.”
2. #DriveOn
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins on the LPGA Tour’s new initiatie…”The LPGA is enjoying a time of growth. Purses are bigger than ever, and more companies are partnering with the LPGA than at any other time in the tour’s history. It was in part looking at why this is that led the LPGA to its new campaign, Drive On.”
  • …The campaign itself is about more than the LPGA or golf, it’s about empowering people of all ages and genders to pursue what they are passionate about, regardless of what others may think of them. As the tour explains in its press release, “Drive On isn’t just about golf and it isn’t just about women. For girls and boys, women and men. It’s about the fire that burns inside you when you discover your passion. It’s about the motivating power of big dreams and the resolve to defy convention and stereotypes. It’s about finding the vision to see beyond what has already been done and to believe something greater is possible.”
3. More Akshay Staff report on a few of the 17-year-old phenom’s pre-Valspar Championship remarks.
  • …”In 2014, he participated in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National, the weekend before the start of the Masters. He was among 88 juniors who advanced their way to the finals, and his family was there to enjoy the moment.”
  • “So humbling and such a great experience,” dad Sonny told the News and Observer.
  • “He’s had lunch with Jack Nicklaus at a Walker Cup event – and heard Nicklaus say, “You know, when I went to college, I didn’t learn much.” Said Akshay: “Which is funny, because you know, arguably the best player in the golf.”
  • “At the recent Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship, Akshay shot a tournament-record 10 under at TPC Myrtle Beach en route to winning the event. Afterward, Akshay said Johnson “is a mentor of mine. It was an amazing week.”

Full piece.

4. Meanwhile, in Malaysia…
European Tour report…”Matthias Schwab was pleasantly surprised after opening his Maybank Championship account with a 66 on Thursday.”
  • “The Austrian, making his first appearance at Saujana Golf and Country Club this week, carded seven birdies and a solitary bogey on day one to sit a single stroke behind co-leaders Marcus Fraser and Nacho Elvira.”
  • “On a morning of low scoring, Schwab recovered from a bogey at the tenth – his first – with birdies on the 13th, 14th and 17th to avoid falling too far behind the early pace-setters.”

Full piece. 

Thomas Pieters is two back at 5 under.
5. Fair price to pay a teacher?
The Undercover Tour Pro (with Max Adler) tackles the question of a fair price for a pro to pay a golf instructor.
  • A few morsels…”I pay my guy 40 grand a year. He’ll hop on a flight and cover his expenses whenever I need him, but neither of us wants that happening often. Usually, I can send him a swing video and we can talk on the phone for five minutes, and that’s plenty. Our deal used to be 20 grand annually, plus a bunch of percentages that kicked in for top-25s and top-10s, but then I had my best season. The number I was supposed to pay him was ridiculous. I said, “Whoa, buddy, I’ve barely seen you. How ’bout here’s a check for 40 grand and we call it square?” He didn’t say no.”
  • “I know one famous teacher whose deal is $150,000 per year. Even if you pay that, you’re on his schedule, because he might have four or five players to visit before you at any given tour event. He had one student who was a major champion, a veteran who’d made more than $20 million in his career. But this player had some real dry seasons in his 40s. His decision to stop working with said teacher was purely financial.”
6. Back back to OK, Day trying not to push it
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Showing no signs of issue during Wednesday’s pro-am at the Valspar Championship, Day explained that his back feels “good” and that he has required no further cortisone shots since the initial dose.”
“It seems like every time my back goes out I get the questions for about two or three weeks, and then they slowly go away,” he said. “It’s coming along. I’ve just got to not push myself too hard. But I feel good about it.”
7. Monday Q
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols on the rigors of Monday qualifying–on the Symetra Tour, no less–through the eyes of Cheyenne Knight. In short, just like on the mens’ circuit, you better be ready to circle some numbers on your scorecard.
  • ‘”That first one is always the hardest,” said Knight, who knocked in a 25-footer on her 15th hole. Birdie putts from 6 feet followed on the next two holes and on the closing par 5, she hit the green in two with a 3-hybrid and poured in a 30-footer for eagle.”
  • “Knight thought for sure that she’d be safe with an 8-under 63. Cheyenne Woods, playing two groups ahead, posted a 64. When Csicsi Rozsa turned in a 63 of her own, Knight headed to the range.”
  • “Could it really be possible that 63 wasn’t enough to get in?…Turns out it was – both Knight and Rozsa advanced out of the field of 72. But it took some red-hot golf….”You hear about Monday-qualifying and how hard it is on the PGA Tour and,” said Knight, “but it’s hard out here too. It’s really difficult.”‘
8. Stairs fell another Johnson
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”This week at the Valspar Championship it’s his brother and caddie, Austin, who’s suffering. Austin Johnson was sporting a black cast on his left wrist Tuesday on the driving range, and he added a sling while carrying the bag during Wednesday’s pro-am.”
  • “Dustin Johnson explained that his brother broke a bone in his hand Sunday night, slipping while going up some stairs as the two were packing up their house near TPC Sawgrass following Johnson’s T-5 finish at The Players Championship.”
  • “He had a bit of a run-in with a pair of stairs, kind of like I did,” Johnson said. “Those stairs, man. They’ll get you.”

Full piece

Indeed, they will.
9. Russell Knox’s one-off Bettinardi
Great reporting by’s Andrew Tursky, getting the inside scoop on a very interesting flatstick…
  • “Every week on the practice green at a PGA TOUR event, you can find Arnie Cunningham, TOUR representative for SuperStroke grips, standing beside a SuperStroke staff bag. Propped up against the bag are a dozen or more putters from different manufacturers, each equipped with the newest versions of SuperStroke putter grips. The putters are there mostly so TOUR players interested in changing grips can see how the grips feel with a putter head and shaft on them. If the player likes a grip, Cunningham and team will build that player’s gamer head with the new grip on it.”
  • “One of the putter heads that Cunningham uses to show off the new grips is his old gamer putter that was custom-made for him by Bob Bettinardi prior to 2009, when Bettinardi still had a partnership with Mizuno.”
  • “I brought that [putter] out more as a novelty item because back in about 2007, Bob [Bettinardi] made me a SeeMore copy, let’s call it, with a red dot, that was on a Tomahawk head; there was an old putter company called Tomahawk back in the 60s and 70s,” Cunningham explains. “So I ask [Bob Bettinardi] to make me a Tomahawk head with a red dot and a straight-in putter… it is a one-off Bettinardi [from] back in the Mizuno-Bettinardi days, it has both names on the putter.”
Read the full piece for how Knox ended up with the wand.


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Stairs strike the Johnson family again, this time getting brother/caddie Austin



Two years after Dustin Johnson slipped down a staircase in his rented home in Augusta forcing him to withdraw from the event, another Johnson has now suffered a similar fate, with his brother and caddie Austin causing himself harm falling up a staircase.

Austin felt the wrath of the stairs late Sunday after the final round of the Players Championship, slipping while going up the stairs in their rented house. Austin suffered a broken bone in his hand, and his arm is now in a cast, but he will still be on Dustin’s bag this week as he tees it up at the Valspar.

Speaking before his opening round at Innisbrook, Dustin Johnson had this to say on the incident

“He had a bit of a run-in with a pair of stairs, kind of like I did. He was carrying the stuff in the house after TPC on Sunday night and slipped going up the stairs. Those stairs, man, they’ll get you.”

Back in 2017, Johnson was in imperious form heading to Augusta, winning three successive events before taking the drive down Magnolia Lane. Though we’ll never know what would have happened had he not injured himself on that staircase before the Masters that year, on Wednesday, Johnson sent this ominous warning to his competitors as the years first major looms large, saying he’s now the closest he’s been to that form since the accident.

“Now is the closest I’ve been to that. I mean, back then that was probably the best form I’ve ever been in, and getting injured it’s taken a while to get back to that form.

Obviously, I played very well in that stretch, but I wasn’t as comfortable as I was then, kind of throughout the whole bag. But it’s getting, it’s definitely the closest I’ve felt to that stage of my career.”

Dustin Johnson is the betting favorite this week and tees it up alongside Gary Woodland and Paul Casey in the opening round at 18.03 ET.




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Ernie Els announces final 3 Presidents Cup vice-captains – which includes 2 previous Masters champions



Ernie Els has revealed that Mike Weir, K.J. Choi, and Trevor Immelman will take on the role of vice-captaincy for the 2019 Presidents Cup.

The trio joins Geoff Ogilvy, who Els named as one of his vice-captains back in November, in what is a truly international team of captain’s assistants.

Both Choi and Weir have experience with the vice-captaincy role, with Choi being a part of Nick Price’s team in 2015, while Weir was an assistant captain under Price in 2017. Immelman will be making his debut as a vice-captain.

Speaking concerning his choices for assistant captains, Els cited the importance of his vice-captains coming from all corners of the globe and stressed how a “new formula” was needed to previous regimes to help the International side defeat the U.S. team for just the second time in the event’s history.

“We’ve got almost every continent covered with these four guys. So that’s basically why I chose these guys, and we really need to change things up from previous Cups. And I wanted them to buy into this new formula and make them take this formula forward.”

The South African also mentioned how he would be approaching the pairing process for the event at Royal Melbourne differently than his predecessors, and that he would be leaning heavily on statistics and science before the biennial team event kicks off in December.

“I’ve seen what other captains have done in the past. In this instance, I really wanted to try and start a new thinking process around the pairing system. I’m using a lot of data, a lot of science into what we’re going to be doing in December in Australia, and I wanted to get guys who have played a lot of Presidents Cups like myself.”

U.S. captain, Tiger Woods, has thus far appointed three vice-captains — Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker. Woods has the option to choose one more captain ahead of the event.

The 2019 Presidents Cup gets underway on Dec. 12 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, the site of the International team’s sole victory in the event back in 1998.



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19th Hole