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Morning 9: ANWA was a symbolic triumph (and symbolism matters) | A meditation on McIlroy

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

April 8, 2019

Good Masters Monday morning, golf fans.
1. From Monday qualifier to tournament winner
Reality: Corey Conners is not an immensely popular or well-known golfer. As such (and especially the week before the Masters) enthusiasm for his victory was muted. Fair enough. However, we should stand up and applaud Conners not only for the W, but for the fact that he MONDAY QUALIFIED (firing a 68, one of four qualifiers) for the tournament. It’s an unthinkable achievement, really…and one that hasn’t occurred in nine years. Entering this week, only 17 of 51 qualifiers had made the cut in PGA Tour events…
AP Report…”He made three birdies in the final five holes, shooting a 6-under 66. He was 20-under for the tournament, winning by two shots over Charley Hoffman.”
  • “Next stop for Conners: Augusta, Georgia.”
  • “My wife got an email this morning letting her know we could check in for our flight back home,” Conners said. “I told her, `Aw, don’t check in yet. Maybe we can make other plans.’ Big change of plans. It was going to be an off week. I’m glad it won’t be.”
  • “Hoffman, the 2016 Valero Texas Open winner, shot 67 for 18-under on the week…Ryan Moore closed with an 8-under 64, a shot off the course record, and was third at 17-under…Si Woo Kim, THE PLAYERS Championship winner in 2017, led the opening three rounds but dropped to a tie for fourth with Brian Stuard (15-under) after an even-par 72.”

Full piece.

2. Ko wins ANA
Todd Kelly at Golfweek on the first major champion of 2019, Jin Young Ko…
  • “For the second day in a row, Ko saw a comfortable back-nine lead slip away, but a key birdie on the 16th hole allowed Ko to keep that lead and win the ANA Inspiration, the first major championship of the year.”
  • “I can’t believe. I’m still excited. I mean, I can’t believe it. I don’t know,” Ko said after the round. “Always I had a little bit nervous (in) all the shots. So I’m just try calm down and like, focus and have fun this week.”
  • “Ko managed a 2-under 70 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club for a tournament total of 10-under 278. That was three shots better than Mi Hyang Lee, who also shot 70 on Sunday on a warm and windless afternoon in Rancho Mirage.”

Full piece.

3. Meanwhile, in Jordan…
EuropeanTour.com report…”Daan Huizing made golfing history by becoming the first player to win a full-field mixed professional tournament with his triumph at the Jordan Mixed Open presented by Ayla.”
  • “The Dutchman began the final round at Ayla Golf Club two shots behind overnight leader Meghan MacLaren, who opened the world-first tournament with consecutive rounds of seven under par 65.”
  • “MacLaren started the final day strong, carding two birdies on her first three holes, but Huizing was able to slowly chip away at the Englishwoman’s lead, and by the time the two golfers reached the 13th tee, they were deadlocked on 14 under par.”

Full piece to see how Daan got it done.

 
4. Yes, it was symbolic, but symbolism matters
Such is the contention of Eamon Lynch in his reflection on the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
He writes…”Golf has an ignoble record on matters of inclusion, the residue of being a country club sport enjoyed by people disinclined to lower a ladder to others who aspire to share the privileges of membership. Exclusion long has been evident in formal policies – like corralling women into less desirable tee time windows – and informal practices, such as confining African Americans to the caddie barn or maintaining a discouragingly lengthy waiting list for prospective members who keep kosher.”
  • “That accumulated grime won’t be scraped away by one event, of course. Not even an event at Augusta National Golf Club. For many golf fans – and even more sports fans – the home of the Masters represents the pinnacle of the game, so what happens there has a disproportionate influence on golf’s image. It’s too early – by years, perhaps – to judge the impact of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.”
5. Big ratings for ANWA
Golfweek’s Bill Speros relays the ratings data…”The ANWA earned a .96 overnight rating on its Noon-3 p.m. Eastern telecast Saturday. That was the most for any women’s golf telecast since Brittany Lang beat Anna Nordqvist in a three-hole playoff to win the 2016 Women’s Open at CordeValle Golf Club.”
  • “The .96 rating also marked the most viewers of any amateur golf telecast – men’s or women’s – since the 2003 U.S Amateur men’s final. That was won on the 37th hole of a sudden death playoff by Australian Nick Flanagan.”
6. A meditation on McIlroy
Superb stuff from Vincent Hogan at the Irish Independent taking the measure of Rory McIlroy as he strives again for the career grand slam at Augusta National.
  • A morsel…”We still see him as the guy who can obliterate a field, as he did with that 16-under at Congressional in 2011. But can he win a Major arm-wrestle? Especially in this storied place with so many personal ghosts in the pines?”
  • “Sunday, last year, sets you wondering. Rory talked the talk, then unravelled after that missed eagle putt and was gone by the turn.”
  • “He picked a fight with a man who’d previously drawn something out of him at Hazeltine that – he admits – left him “a little tired, a little mentally fatigued”. Someone who is a natural street-fighter.”
  • “McIlroy thrives, not on anger, but momentum. On staying true to himself. On being focused, not edgy; clear-headed, not mean.”
7. Return of the Fooch
Justin Rose’s longtime bagman, who has been out of action since a mitral valve repair, will be back at it for the Masters
  • Brian Wacker at Golf Digest...”As Justin Rose teed off for a practice round on Augusta National’s back nine late Sunday afternoon, he had a familiar face on the bag. Caddie Mark Fulcher is returning for this week’s Masters after being sidelined the last three months following heart surgery in mid-January.”
  • “I could have come back at the Match Play [two weeks ago], but I thought why push it,” said the veteran looper who has spent the last 10-plus years alongside Rose after two decades on the LPGA Tour. “I’m very happy. It feels good to be back.”
8. Meanwhile, at Augusta National…
Doug Ferguson files a report from amid the cathedral in the pines
  • “Players began filtering in at Augusta National in the last few days even as they had to share the golf course. The inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur was held the previous two days, with 72 players practicing on Friday and the 30 players who made the cut competing on Saturday.”
  • “On Sunday, parts of the practice facility, the putting green and the 18th green were occupied by kids ages 7 through 15 for the sixth Drive, Chip and Putt.”
  • “With yesterday and today, the buzz is unbelievable,” Adam Scott said. “The kids are amazing, and it makes me feel like a kid again. As long as they’re still finding it fun, these kinds of things are so good. Just wait – one day, a Drive, Chip and Putt champion will be a Masters champion.”
9. 5 priciest charity golf auctions ever
Wisely, there are always big auctions ending during the week of the most-watched professional golf tournament of the year…and of course, there’s plenty of Masters memorabilia to go around.
Examining the not-for-profit auction space, Mike Dojc looked at online auctioneer CharityBuzz to determine the most expensive golf auctions the site has facilitated.
Here are 2 entries.
No. 3 entry…Private stay and golf at Albany, The Bahamas
Winning Bid: $40,000
Benefited: Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research
No. 2 entry…”Golf with Dustin Johnson”
Winning Bid: $75,000
Benefited: The Dustin Johnson Foundation

 

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Q2Q: Johnny gets a hand from Claude Harmon III

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In this episode of the Q2Q brought to you bu GolfWRX and Cobra Golf, Johnny and performance coach Nick Starchuk travel to West Palm Beach to see Claude Harmon III at his performance center. It’s a Golf IQ reality smackdown with CHIII breaking down the truth that the Arccos system has shown Johnny.
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Morning 9: Lowry leads | MJ on TW | The Tour’s secret cut-making machines

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

April 19, 2019

Good Friday morning on this Good Friday, golf fans.
1. Lowry leads
AP report…”The Irishman admittedly had started the year off on a strong note with a win in Abu Dhabi in the season-opener on the European Tour. But he simply hadn’t been able to build on that momentum – on either side of the Atlantic — in the weeks following his third career win”.
  • “In fact, Lowry hadn’t broken 70 in four stroke-play events on the PGA TOUR since he missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am back in February. He was a combined 24 over par in those tournaments and had only made the weekend once.”
  • “On a blustery morning at Harbour Town Golf Links, though, Lowry was back in control — firing a bogey-free 65 that earned him a one-stroke advantage.”
  • “Pretty much my whole game felt good,” Lowry said. “… I haven’t had that feeling in a while. So, it’s kind of nice.”
2. Augusta’d!
The Golf Channel Digital Team…”Beginning on the 10th hole Thursday, Spieth played his opening nine holes in 2 over par, with one double – after hitting his tee shot short, into the water at No. 14 – and eight pars. He recovered on the front side with three birdies compared to one bogey.”
  • “For the day, he hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation but needed 33 putts.”
  • “”I really got Augusta’d out here. What I mean is, I was still putting to the speed of Augusta. I haven’t fully made the transition away from that,” Spieth said after his even-par 71. “And as we are expecting high winds I’m sure the greens will slow down even more to make it fair. I’m really going to need to dial in my speed on the greens. Just tough out there coming off last week to this week, to get yourself to pop it harder than you really want to.””
3. Berger resurgent
Golfweek’s Roxanna Scott…
  • “After taking significant time off late in the year, Daniel Berger has to like what he sees in his game after an opening-round 5-under-par 66 in the RBC Heritage.”
  • “A finger injury forced Berger to take more than four months off after withdrawing from the BMW Championship in September. The 26-year-old Floridian was among a group of five tied for second Thursday, one shot behind leader Shane Lowry. Dustin Johnson, No. 1 in the world rankings, shot 3-under 68 in the afternoon.”
  • “”It’s just been kind of touch and go here,” Berger told reporters after the round at Harbour Town Golf Links. “And finally got a full week of practice where I actually got to play golf every day. That’s just the biggest difference. When you’re going to a golf tournament and you’ve played one round of golf in two weeks, you don’t feel very good. To be able to put the work in and be rewarded it makes me feel like I’m ready to go when I get out here.”
4. Meanwhile, in Hawaii…
AP Report…”Eun-Hee Ji rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 18th with a pitch-in eagle on the par-5 first and shot a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over Nelly Korda on Thursday in the Lotte Championship.”
“Ji had a 15-under 129 total to break the tournament 36-hole record by five strokes.”
5. MJ on TW
Golf Channel’s Will Gray rounds up a few MJ quotes from The Athletic and expands…
  • “I took two years off to play baseball, but nothing like that,” Jordan told The Athletic. “I’m pretty sure he questioned himself, whether he could get it back, and he had to put a lot of work in. But he took it head-on. He had to change his game; he had to change his perspective a little bit. To me, it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen.”
  • “I never thought he’d get back physically,” Jordan said. “He didn’t think he’d get back physically. But he did it. No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He’s probably the only person who believed he could get back. To me, that’s a major accomplishment. To me, it’s unbelievable. Mentally, you always think you can. But you can’t answer to what your body has to deal with.”
6. USWO entries
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”Rolex world No. 1 Jin Young Ko and defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn topped the list of players qualified for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Wednesday’s close of entries.”
  • “Forty-seven of the top 50 players in this week’s world rankings are qualified for the event, scheduled May 30-June 2 at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.). (Click here for the full exempt field)”
  • “Sectional qualifying begins later this month.”
7. Secret cut-making wizards
Shane Ryan, in the course of Tiger’s Masters triumph, got to thinking about the tour’s cut-making maestros, reaching out to Mark Broadie for data…
“Broadie disappeared into his secret temple of statistics (I imagine it looks like the House of the Undying in Game of Thrones), and came out bearing a bounty of figures. For the last two seasons, beginning in the fall of 2017, Thomas and Johnson were indeed the leaders, with Thomas in front by percentage points. But there were a couple surprises in the top ten”
Justin Thomas – 19/20 – 5.0% missed cut rate
Dustin Johnson – 17/18 – 5.6%
Tommy Fleetwood – 16/17 – 5.9%
Bryson DeChambeau – 24/26 – 7.7%
Hideki Matsuyama – 18/20 – 10.0%
Tiger Woods – 17/19 – 10.5%
Emiliano Grillo – 25/28 – 10.7%
T-8. Justin Rose 16/18 – 11.1%
T-8. Rafa Cabrera-Bello 16/18 – 11.1%
Rickie Fowler – 21/24 – 12.5%
“Grillo is the one of that group you might not expect, and there’s a couple more in the next 10, from An to Keegan Bradley to Charles Howell III. The inspiration for this post, Tony Finau, clocked in at 12th.”
8. Talking to a D, C & P finalist
Our Brendon Elliott spoke to Briel Royce, a finalist in the Drive, Chip and Putt.
So how cool was it driving Down Magnolia Lane?
  • Briel: “Driving down Magnolia Lane was awesome.  Usually, you do not get to experience the scenic ride unless you are a tour player or a member. Everyone got extremely quiet upon entry. There were tons of security along our slow ride. Seeing the beautiful trees and the Masters Flag at Founder’s Circle in the distance was surreal. Having earned the right and opportunity to drive down this prestigious lane was breathtaking. I would love to do it again someday.”
  • What was the coolest part of your time at Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National?
  • Briel: “Everything was cool about the DCP. Not too often do you see people taking walks in the morning with green jackets on. We were not treated like kids. We were treated like tour players, like we were members at Augusta. The icing on the cake was when they took us to the practice green and we were putting alongside Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. Everyone was confused when we first got there because we weren’t certain we should be putting on the same green around the pros. Again, we were treated like we were tour players. Where else would I be able to do this? Nowhere other than DCP at Augusta. One of my favorite reflections is having Bubba Watson watch us chip and congratulating each of us for our efforts. He did not need to do that. He took time out of practicing for a very important week in his career to support the DCP players. I think his actions show what the game of golf is about: the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and support.”
9. Trophy gallery
Here’s something interesting and easily digestible: a look at all the trophies handed out on the PGA Tour this season. Some are…interesting…
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Michael Jordan describes Tiger Woods’ comeback as the greatest he’s ever seen

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Former NBA star Michael Jordan is no stranger to legendary comebacks, but according to the six-time NBA champion, there has been no greater comeback in the history of sport than that of Tiger Woods.

Jordan, who was speaking to The Athletic, talked about the monumental journey which Woods, who Jordan is a close friend of, traveled to reach this point, of which perseverance and self-belief played a significant role.

“I took two years off to play baseball, but nothing like that. I’m pretty sure he questioned himself, whether he could get it back, and he had to put a lot of work in. But he took it head-on. He had to change his game; he had to change his perspective a little bit. To me, it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen.”

Three years ago, Jordan told ESPN that he thought Woods’ best days were behind him,  with the golfer’s ailing back contributing to much of that belief. Mentally, Jordan never doubted the 81-time PGA Tour winner, but the basketball legend admitted his surprise at his friend overcoming his chronic back issues.

“I never thought he’d get back physically. He didn’t think he’d get back physically. But he did it. No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He’s probably the only person who believed he could get back. To me, that’s a major accomplishment. To me, it’s unbelievable. Mentally, you always think you can. But you can’t answer to what your body has to deal with.”

As for what’s next for Woods, Jordan believes the sky is the limit, firing this warning to the 43-year-old’s rivals.

“They got problems. His confidence is only going to build from here. The unknown is the biggest thing. He’s won a Tour event, he’s won the Masters, he’s won a major.”

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