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Morning 9: Tiger: I have to shut it down sometimes | Who is Matt Killen? | J-Day on Disney visit

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

March 13, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans. (For the concerned: 2 directly Tiger-related stories today, 2 indirectly)
1. Tiger: “I’m going to have to shut down at times”
Martin Dempster of the Scotsman reports on Tiger Woods’ Tuesday press conference at The Players, which followed his traditional morning nine-hole practice round.
  • “Woods wasted no time dismissing fears that a neck strain that led to him missing the event at Bay Hill, where he’d won eight times, was a result of his back problems having flared up again.”
  • “It’s not painful now,” reported the 14-time major winner, who, nonetheless, linked the injury to the spinal fusion surgery he underwent in April 2017. “It was getting to the point where it was affecting my set up, my backswing, my through swing. It was just gradually getting worse and that’s just because my lower back is fused. “The stress has to go somewhere if I don’t have movement, so it’s very important for me to keep pliable. I have to stay fit and I have to stay as loose as I possibly can for as long as I play out here.”
  • Woods also states…”I have to be conscious that I can’t practice like I used to,” he said. “I can’t devote the hours I used to on every facet of my game. I have to pick 20 minutes here an hour there and focus on parts of my game. That’s how it is going to be going forward. I have to pick my days and I’ve got to pick my hours. On top of that, there are times I just can’t do it. I have to shut it down, just like I did last week. I had to shut it down to get ready for this week.”

Full piece.

2. Who is Matt Killen?
Two years ago, our Johnny Wunder spoke with the man who would one day advise one of the greatest putters of all time on his craft.
A bit from JW’s profile of Matt Killen…
  • “On my way home from Toronto during the Canadian Open, I ran into Killen, whose story is every bit as compelling as the players he coaches. It was a random encounter at the Toronto airport, but I was compelled to introduce myself being hugely interested in his story. He’s a soft-spoken, Southern native with an overwhelming sense of confidence when he discusses golf mechanics. After a bit of small talk, we dug into his swing philosophies. I found myself dumbfounded with the ease in which he was able to explain body mechanics and clubface dynamics. That’s what the great teachers seemingly all have in common; their knowledge of the swing is ridiculously rich, but their ability to deliver the message simply and tailor it to the learning styles of each student is what breeds success.”
  • “Although the attention on our golfing prodigies always seems to focus on the players, being a swing coach to those players at such a young age is far more unlikely than winning on the PGA Tour. Young teachers are at a disadvantage based on experience and time. So how can a strong, trusting relationship be built with someone so young? After all, information in regards to the golf swing, especially at that level, always just seems a bit more reliable coming from the mouth of say a 40- or 50-year-old guy who has made the rounds in golf academies, and/or was a successful player in his own right.”
  • “Killen was just a skinny teenager who had the courage to speak up when his best friend’s father, Kenny Perry, was looking for something or someone to light the fire. With the burning passion of youth, Matt was the kid for the job. Most teenagers would have shied away from an intimidating situation like that. The saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” never seemed more appropriate.”
  • “What’s Killen’s first point of focus when working with a top player?…”What’s gonna make them the most money?” Killen said.”

Full piece.

3. JT on Killen
Matt Killen also works with Justin Thomas (it was Thomas who facilitated the introduction to Woods).
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard quoting Thomas…
  • “I would say a lot of people have found out that he was my putting coach this week. I had a lot of people [who] probably had no idea,” Thomas laughed.
  • “Thomas explained he’s known Killen since he was 6 or 7 years old and characterized the duo’s relationship as more of a friendship than a business arrangement.”
  • Thomas added…”He’s good at saying things in different ways,” Thomas said. “He can dumb it down for you as much as you want or get as technical as you want to try and help out.”
4. Champ’s changes
PGATour.com’s Andrew Tursky reports on Cameron Champ’s equipment changes ahead of The Players…
  • “Champ, on the other hand, after missing two cuts in his last two starts, is going back to clubs that he played in the past after messing around with new equipment for much of 2019. Since his first PGA TOUR victory at the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship, Champ has changed a lot of his equipment. He went from Ping iBlades with KBS Tour C-Taper irons to the new Ping Blueprint prototype irons with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts in 2019. He also changed into a new Ping G410 Plus driver with a longer shaft length, and while he’s played a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 63 shaft for most of his professional career, Champ switched into an LA Golf Shafts prototype last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.”
  • “For Champ, who’s ranked 94th in Strokes Gained Approach in 2019, it’s back to old faithfuls; Ping iBlades with KBS Tour C-Taper 130X shafts, and a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 63 driver shaft at its original length.”
  • Cameron made a bunch of switches that were very positive,” Ping rep Kenton Oates told PGATOUR.COM. “I think they were good for him. But there’s value in — especially out here [on TOUR] — in what you’ve built and what you’ve done with [the equipment] you had. You can’t put a number on that. There’s no number on Trackman that says, ‘You hit a 6-iron to 20 feet at Sanderson Farms and made the putt for birdie to give you a three-shot lead.’ That you can’t value. So that’s always going to be in the back of your head, and that’s why this is going to be a positive move, just getting more back to a baseline of where he was at.”
5. Day on Disney
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge on Jason Day’s trip to the Happiest Place on Earth during the same week he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the surrounding social media firestorm–to which Day has now responded.
  • “…Several media members eventually fired back at those criticizing or laughing at Day’s expense, and Disneygate took on a life of its own.”
  • “Day finally had a chance to weigh in during a Tuesday afternoon press conference at TPC Sawgrass, where he’s ready to go for the Players Championship after receiving four cortisone injections in and around his spine.”
  • “That treatment took place last Thursday in Palm Beach, Fla., the day he withdrew at Bay Hill, and Day was instructed to walk around and stay active over the weekend.”
  • “That’s why he was fine walking around a theme park with his family Friday, though he said he didn’t go on any of the rides.”
6. Teachers to watch
…literally…as in, they post a lot of videos and social media content…
  • Golf.com’s Luke Kerr-Dineen…”The list of new inductees to our Top 100 Teachers list was extraordinarily strong for 2019-2020. There were 16 in all, including the likes PGA of America President Suzy Whaley, Tony Finau’s golf coach Boyd Summerhays, and George Gankas, coach to highly-rated Oklahoma State amateur Matt Wolf.”
  • “So this year, the Top 100 selection committee wanted to take the extra step of highlighting eight up-and-coming, digitally-minded young coaches and golf teachers to keep your eye on…”
  • A few of the selections:…Erika Larkin…Trillium Rose…Corey Lundberg…Dan Carraher

While you’re at it, check out Golf’s full list of the Top 100 Teachers in America

7. Teeing it up with Tiger
Quality stuff from ESPN’s Bob Harig talking to some of the Tour’s younger guns about getting paired with Tiger Woods during the course of his comeback.
  • “From Sam Burns at the Honda Classic to Brandon Harkins at the Wells Fargo Championship to Mackenzie Hughes at the Players Championship to Joel Dahmen and Burgoon at the Quicken Loans to Shaun Norris at The Open to Austin Cook at the Northern Trust to Cody Gribble and Peter Malnati this year at the Genesis Open, Woods has seen no shortage of unfamiliar faces. Many of them were in high school or even grade school when he was dominating the game.”
  • “Back then, Woods was not much for small talk on the golf course, especially among his so-called rivals. But these encounters have shown a softer side, as Woods is more willing to engage with his peers, recognizing that many of these younger players are truly ecstatic about the opportunity.”
  • ‘”It was like a dream come true,” said Dahmen, 31, who is in his third full season on the PGA Tour and played with Woods during the third round of the Quicken Loans. “That night [prior] was kind of wild. Didn’t sleep well. Thought about what I was going to say to him. Should I come up with some jokes? I was kind of stunned, basically.”‘
8. Sawgrass to inspire boldness?
Geoff Shackelford, writing for Golfweek, on the changes to Pete Dye’s Ponta Vedra Beach course owing to its March calendar placement…
  • “TPC Sawgrass is greener thanks to the overseed of cool-season perennial ryegrass. But will it be more forgiving, or just a lot more interesting?
  • “While no less testing thanks to Pete Dye’s intimidating design features, the change in hue has players believing that more length and aggressiveness will be necessary to contend in the first March Players Championship since 2007. At a golf course that lost some of its dramatic appeal during May playings, the change in vibe has players considering a more aggressive approach despite TPC Sawgrass’ ability to punish the presumptuous.”
  • And this…”The primary unknown: just how much more players will attack a course known for showing no major biases by stout ball-striking, mastery of misses and a generally conservative approach. Early on, however, players sound freed up by the slightly softer feel and richer look of TPC Sawgrass.”
9. Wanna loop for Bryson?
...you can tread the turf of the Golfing Scientist’s “classroom”…for a price.
  • Golf Digest’s Stephen Hennessey on a couple of DeChambeau-related charity auctions…”The proceeds go toward a charitable donation to the Bryson DeChambeau foundation, so your cash will be well-spent-and you’ll get to relieve Tucker of his duties for the day and carry the bag at Harbour Town.”
  • “Oh, and you can also bid to play in the RBC Heritage pro-am alongside Bryson, with the proceeds directly benefiting Bryson’s newly formed foundation.”
  • “The current bid to play with DeChambeau is $10,000, slightly less money than it would actually cost to pay for a spot in a PGA Tour pro-am, which is typically $15,000. But we expect that bid to go higher, as the auction was just announced. And the “value” of the spot in the RBC Heritage, is projected by CharityBuzz to be $50,000, so $10,000 is truly a value. The bid to caddie for DeChambeau is $4,000.”
Full piece…including the link to the bid, should you have the means and desire.
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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?

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

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
PGATour.com 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 web.com,” 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 PGATour.com’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

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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

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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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