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Morning 9: Respect the Fleetwood | Better putting from Tiger | Thank you, Alice Dye

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

March 15, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Fleetwood on the verge
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch points out Tommy Fleetwood, who co-lead The Players after one round at 7 under par, is garnering attention from his strong play this season…rather than his flowing mane.
  • “On Thursday at the Players Championship it was Fleetwood’s clubs rather than his coiffure that drew attention. The world No. 13 shot an opening-round 65 to grab the early lead ahead of a chasing pack that includes Rory McIlroy.”
  • “There were some tough holes there, but I kind of drove it so well that I was always in a good position,” Fleetwood said. “The course feels different then. Like if you’re in the fairway all the time, the course feels very, very different.”
  • “Thursday was Fleetwood’s ninth round at TPC Sawgrass, one of the most difficult venues on Tour, and the fifth time he has broken 70. But while he has enjoyed a string of high finishes on Tour – including a second place at last year’s U.S. Open on the back of a Sunday 63 – Fleetwood has yet to lift a trophy in the United States. He threatened to break through at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational two hours south in Orlando, but a disastrous Saturday sank his hopes.”
2. A wild route to 70
Woods on his opening 2-under effort…
  • “I felt like I could have got something in the 60s today and got off to not actually the best of starts today,” Woods said.
  • “I hit some bad shots early, rectified that, made a few adjustments, and then went about my business, and then the back nine, there’s nine holes on the back nine, made one par, so that was interesting.
  • “Usually if I had one par it’s usually shooting 30 or 29, not what I did today.”
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill…”Tiger Woods produced a fairly innocuous opening nine holes in his opening round at THE PLAYERS Championship before sending his fans on a wild ride with an eventful back nine at TPC Sawgrass.”
  • “Woods traded one bogey and birdie on the front side of Pete Dye’s Stadium Course to turn even par but carded just a single par on his final nine holes.”
  • “Five birdies and three bogeys meant the 80-time PGA TOUR winner signed for a 2-under 70 to sit five shots off the pace set by England’s Tommy Fleetwood and fellow American Keegan Bradley.”
3. Satisfied with his stroke again
After a series of poor putting performances, Tiger Woods, neck feeling better and with a bit of help from Matt Killen, turned in a solid putting performance in round one.
Per Golf Channel’s Will Gray…
  • Well, it wasn’t like I had to do a lot. I just got back into something that I do naturally,” Woods said. “I putt with the toe moving and toe releasing. My face moves a lot more than most players do. And we just went back to that.”
  • Woods had some issues tee-to-green during his opener at TPC Sawgrass, but he ranked 15th in strokes gained: putting despite missing a 4-foot par putt on his final hole. Instead of a weak spot, the putter proved to be an area of strength in his first competitive round since asking Killen to take a peek.
  • “I feel like I can go ahead and hit it with my right hand again,” Woods said. “That’s how I’ve always putted. I always had a lot of hit in my stroke, and that felt good again.”
4. HV III’s penalty
Our Gianni Magliocco…
  • Varner III damaged his driver on the range before teeing off on Thursday and began his opening round at TPC Sawgrass with just 13 clubs in his bag after stating his intent to officials that he planned on replacing the club during his round, which is all perfectly legal under Rule 4.1b.
  • Varner III, wanting to keep the original shaft of his driver, and knowing that under the same rule that he is not permitted to take the shaft with him on to the course and have the new club assembled during play, left the shaft on the tee so that his agent could assemble the driver in the locker room.
  • However, a walking scorer believing that Varner had forgotten the piece of equipment brought the shaft to Varner on the course, and when the driver’s head was brought out to Varner, and the club was assembled on the course, Varner was deemed to have violated the rule and incurred a two-stroke penalty.
5. “I just don’t play this course well”
Golf Channel’s Will Gray on Phil Mickelson’s lackluster opening round…
  • “I knew when I got here, just because the setup is so great,” Mickelson said. “The rough is playable, the conditions of the course are really good. The greens are soft.”
  • Unfortunately for Mickelson, those conditions couldn’t turn around his recent slide on the Stadium Course. Lefty shot a 2-over 74 that included an approach shot on No. 5 from the middle of the cart path and was largely derailed by a triple bogey on the par-3 third hole when he four-putted from inside 25 feet after finding a greenside bunker with his tee shot.
  • “I was so upset I couldn’t get the ball on the green that I ended up kind of losing my focus and four-putting,” he said. “It happens.”

Full piece.

6. Mickelson surprised by admissions scandal
Yesterday, Phil Mickelson tweeted...”Our family, along with thousands of others, used Rick Singer’s company to guide us through the college admission process. We are shocked by the revelations of these events. Obviously, we were not part of this fraud, our kids would disown us if we ever tried to interfere.”
  • Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington…”The Mickelsons hired the Edge College & Career Network to help in the college search process for all three of their children after getting positive recommendations from others regarding the company and William (Rick) Singer, its CEO. Singer has pled guilty to charges that his company, which also went by the name of The Key, bribed university coaches and officials and created fraudulent profiles for high school students pretending they were athletes in hopes that it would assist in the application process. The company also allegedly helped students improve their standardized test scores.”

Full piece.

7. Meanwhile, in Kenya…

EuropeanTour.com report…Louis de Jager posted a 66 to maintain his momentum and open up a four shot clubhouse lead on day two of the Magical Kenya Open presented by Absa.

  • The South African entered the second round with a share of the lead and combined seven birdies with two bogeys to jump to 12 under, clear of fellow overnight leader Jack Singh Brar.
  • Singh Brar’s 70 left him at eight under, a shot ahead of India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar, South African Justin Harding and Italian Guido Migliozzi.

Full piece.

8. Thank you, Alice
PGATour.com’s Jim McCabe with a nice piece on Alice Dye getting a bit of solo recognition this week…
  • “…in a break from the form of embracing them as a team, one member is being singled out in a fitting remembrance at THE PLAYERS Championship this week – Alice. She died Feb. 1 at the age of 91 and her significant contributions to this world-famous golf course are being recognized in a fitting locale – on the flagstick at the 17th, easily the most recognized hole at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course and arguably one of the most famous in the world.”
  • “Thank you, Alice is what it reads at the bottom of the flag. But emblazoned across the top is a quote from Alice that helped created the phenomenon that is the island-green 17th. “Why not just make an island green,” Alice famously said to her husband after he concluded that he had backed himself into a corner between the par-5 16th and par-4 18th.”
  • “As the story goes, Pete Dye – who is 93 and living with Alzheimer’s disease – needed sand throughout this swamp of a landsite and he got the majority from the area around what was going to be the 17th green. “So, one day Pete came to me and he said, ‘You know, we’ve got a big problem.’ He said, ‘I’ve only got 17 holes out there; where’s the par 3 supposed to be? All I’ve got is a gigantic hole in the ground,’ ” Alice Dye recalled.”
The full piece is excellent. Read it.
9. If you haven’t seen it…
Ryan Moore slam-dunked his tee shot at the 17th. Not a figure of speech, Moore’s ball landed in the cup on the fly and stayed there.

 

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  1. JR

    Mar 17, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    As much as I like Tommy Fleetwood, he’s looking like the latest in a long line of British chokers. Fabulous player though he is, he seems to get a look in his eyes when he’s in contention that suggests he doesn’t have the self-belief to close it out. I hope to be proven wrong but I expect to see him drop out of contention at Sawgrass on Sunday.

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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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