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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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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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Morning 9: OWGR point allocation issues | Reed on switch to Titleist irons | Els picks assistants

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

March 20, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. OWGR issues
Overshadowed by rules-related discontents, many tour pros are less than thrilled about the allocation of Official World Golf Ranking points. So great is their grieving that the PGA Tour tasked a duo of mathematicians to investigate.
  • Their findings: Relative to the PGA Tour, other tours are allocated too many points.
  • An AP report with this anecdote…”Against a field as strong as some majors, Tommy Fleetwood shared the lead after 18 and 36 holes, played in the final group and was still in the mix at The Players Championship until a tee shot into the water on the 17th hole. His three-way tie for fifth was worth 16.53 ranking points.”
  • “Earlier that day, Guido Migliozzi won his first European Tour title at the Kenya Open, which until this year was a Challenge Tour event. The strength of its field was slightly weaker than the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on the Asian Development Tour in January…Migliozzi received 24 ranking points, the minimum for the European Tour.”
2. Captain Els picks Choi, Immelman, Weir
Captain of the Presidents Cup International team, Ernie Els named K.J. Choi, Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir to join Geoff Ogilvy as his assistant captains for the December event.
3. Good on them
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols with the news that a pair of the expecting Brittany Lincicome’s sponsors will pay her full contracts for 2019, even though she won’t meet the required minimum number of starts.
  • “…Two of her sponsors, CME Group and Diamond Resorts, will honor her full contracts in 2019 even though she won’t play a full season.”
  • “Lincicome, a two-time major winner, and husband Dewald Gouws are expecting a baby girl, due Sept. 1, two weeks before the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.”
  • “I mean, I never thought in a million years that they would do that,” said Lincicome. “I feel so honored and blessed to be represented by two great companies that are going to do this. It’s just fantastic.”
4. Pepperell’s process
Never change, Eddie Pepperell. He’s a bit from the Englishman following his T3 finish at The Players, via Doug Ferguson at the Associated Press.
  • “There is a method to what others might consider madness.”
  • ”’Historically, whenever I’ve been at courses a long time, come Thursday I can be de-motivated,” Pepperell said. ”I don’t want to work my (tail) off too hard on Monday through Wednesday. That represents you’re lost. I don’t want to be lost. That always represented a sign of struggle for me.”’
  • “Pepperell is more interested in being technically sound….”Most courses are in front of you, require good shot-making and skill,” he said. ”It doesn’t matter how well I know a golf course. If I’m struggling with technique, I ain’t going to go out there and beat these guys.”’

 

5. Monahan speaks
Golf Digest’s Stephen Hennessey mined the transcript of PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, for some of the most interesting morsels.
Here’s one.
  • Q: “You mentioned some things you wanted to sort of button up with the other organizations. Can you give an example of something where you feel like the relationships have been strained and need fixing, and is some of that related to your view on distance versus what they’re kind of building to with their distance study?”
  • MONAHAN: “I think — so the way I’ll characterize that is that if you look at — let’s talk about slow play, my favorite subject. There’s a lot of discussion about slow play. And when you have six or seven different organizations that have different policies and different perspectives and we’re not each fully aware of what those are, that may not be serving the best interests of the game. So how do we learn from each other on a subject like that? How do we diagnostically look at something that is getting a lot of discussion and ultimately can we improve? So that would be one.”
  • “Driving distance is another. How do we fully understand each other’s perspectives, and then how do we have good debate and discussion about what the solutions, what the opportunities or where we go from here. But I just think that — and I want to be clear that this is on us, too. We just need to be more transparent, more forthcoming about our thinking across the board, and I think that’s going to get us to a good place.”
6. Reed’s switch to Titleist irons
Andrew Tursky at PGATour.com talked to Patrick Reed about his wholesale iron switch ahead of last week’s Players.
Why the big iron switch on the week of THE PLAYERS?
  • “I needed a new set because my irons were getting worn out. When I talked to the Titleist guys, I was fortunate enough that they were able to help me out and work with me to get a new fresh set of irons into play. After they built them, I absolutely loved the way they I hit ’em and how they were performing. From that point on, I felt like I had to get them battle-tested and put them under-the-gun, and I was able to do that last week…I actually got them that week (of THE PLAYERS). I was looking for new irons already because, my Callaways were great, they were just worn out. The grooves were gone.
  • For me, (I just had to) make sure (the Titleist irons) had the right weight and the right swing weight, because they looked the same and felt the same going through the turf (as the Callaway irons). For me, it was just making sure they were fresh. I knew I needed a fresh set leading into this stretch [of tournaments]. When I tested [the new Titleist irons] on the range, they were unbelievable on Tuesday, and Wednesday when I played on the course they were just as well. I felt like… I hit them great on the golf course, I just needed to dial in distances a little bit…They feel great. I look forward to continue playing with them.”
Reed also added that Titleist’s tour van added the lead tape to match the head weights to his previous gamers.
7. Eyes on Akshay
Golf Channel’s Will Gray on the 17-year-old phenom, Akshay Bhatia, who will play in this week’s Valspar Championship, and his somewhat atypical path to turning pro.
  • “Like many skilled players his age, Bhatia aspires to turn pro. But his timeline is significantly shorter than most of his peers, as his amateur career is measured in months, not years. He is open about his plan to turn pro later this year, eschewing any thoughts of college in a decision he made along with the help of his father, Sonny, and “inner circle” when he was still in middle school.”
  • ‘”I’ve never liked school. I’ve never been very smart, like sitting in a classroom, and I have the worst attention span when it comes to it. But I love being outside and love playing golf, just competing,” Bhatia said. “So my dad was like, ‘You know what? Let’s just not go to college. Let’s not do it.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ I mean, I’m an eighth-grader, of course I’m going to say no to school.”‘
8. A tiny oral history of Ho Sung at Pebble

Stellar stuff from Anna Katherine Clemmons at ESPN, talking to the folks who teed it up with Ho Sung Choi at Pebble Beach…

“AARON RODGERS, PACKERS QUARTERBACK: I watched video of his swing, and I tweeted that I’d love to play with him because I already had a Pebble Beach partner, Jerry Kelly, who leans a ton. I thought that’d be a fun pairing.”

“JERRY KELLY, THREE-TIME PGA TOUR WINNER: I thought the swing wasn’t real. Then I saw he’d won in Japan, so I tweeted, “Hey, my long-lost brother on the Japanese Tour!”

“CHRIS O’DONNELL, ACTOR WHO WAS WITH RODGERS, KELLY AND CHOI AT PEBBLE BEACH: I’d seen his swing when it first went viral. Then, when the pairings came out, I asked, “Who is Ho Sung Choi?” Later I watched the video again and was like, “Oh my god, it’s him!”

“RODGERS: His impact positions are incredible. He tees it up so high, and other than a popup on 10, he really hit it well off the tee. He’s super flexible-it’s like a yoga backbend. I tried to do one at one point on the range, teasing with him, and my back started hurting.”

Full piece.

9. The 14
If you didn’t catch our new series (in partnership with TXG), I think you’ll want to. Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser do a deep dive into the PGA Tour winner’s WITB in “The 14” (like, half-an-hour-long video deep). If you’re a gear junkie, it’s must-watch stuff.

See “The 14” here.

 

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Rahm’s water ball at 11: Is the Spaniard his own worst enemy, or should his caddie have stayed silent?

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Few shots on the course have stunned golf fans and analysts alike more than Jon Rahm’s water ball on the 11th hole while leading the Players Championship on Sunday.

The exchange prior to the shot went viral on social media, which has now been removed by the PGA Tour. With his caddie, Adam Hayes, pleading for Rahm to lay up, the Spaniard pulled rank and proceeded to fire his ball into the water, in a moment of madness which proved a fatal blow in his bid to capture the Players trophy.

Immediately after the incident, announcers called the move “perplexing” as well as explaining how they “didn’t understand any of that,” referring to the seemingly rash decision made by Rahm after what appeared to be a calm and constructive assessment of the situation with his caddie.

Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee went even further than those commentators, calling the fiery 24-year-old’s decision and subsequent water ball “the most baffling decision” in the history of the tournament.

Rahm, however, came to a very different conclusion to what had occurred. With the ball taking a splash, the Spaniard lost his cool and was audibly heard saying “I was so f****** sure the first time,” which could only allude to him believing that his caddie had injected some doubt into his mind, causing the error.

Another water ball at 17 sank his chances entirely, and speaking after the round, Rahm stuck to his guns, believing that he had done the right thing and confirmed how he believed that his caddie’s involvement had hindered him.

“Adam was trying to convince me to go right. When I first got to the ball, I was really sure I could do it. If you give me 10 balls, besides that one, I’ll hit the other nine on land. Unfortunately, I got a little bit of doubt in me.”

Veteran caddie Kip Henley, speaking to GolfDigest, explained that while Hayes and the rest of America knew he was suggesting the right thing, he had no choice but to back down.

“Ninety-eight percent of America looks at that and knows Adam was making the right call. Birdie is great, but par doesn’t kill you, and a good caddie is able to look at the situation without as much emotion as the player.

“The whole time you’re fighting you better be aware where your guy is leaning because if you know he’s not coming over, you need to start backpedaling. You then need to make him feel like it’s a good decision. Everybody does that. You read your guy, and you find a way to change your tune.”

How the incident will affect their future working relationship remains to be seen. But Rahm’s refusal to accept that he may have been better served by listening to his caddie while speaking after the event is only likely to ignite the doubts over the Spaniard’s impetuous temperament.

 

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