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Morning 9: Masters tee times | RIP Marilynn Smith | Tales of Tiger’s equipment

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

April 10, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Masters tee times announced
Masters round 1 and 2 tee times are out.
Here are a pair of back-to-back notables (via the WaPo)
11:04 a.m.: Tiger Woods, Haotong Li, Jon Rahm
  • “Woods eked into the weekend last year after shooting 4 over par on Thursday and Friday and was able to salvage a tie for 32nd. His last top 10 Masters finish was a tie for fourth in 2013. Ranked ninth in the world, Rahm has six top 10s in eight stroke-play events this calendar year and finished fourth at Augusta last year.”
11:15 a.m.: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Cameron Smith
  • “McIlroy, the betting favorite after his win at the Players Championship, looks to complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 29. He’s finished no worse than a tie for 10th at the Masters the last five years. Fowler came up one stroke short at Augusta last year after a 5-under Sunday charge and is hoping to shake the whole “best player never to win a major” thing.”

Full piece.

2. Juggling, meditating McIlroy
Phil Casey at the Irish News…
  • “And the four-time major winner has revealed how meditation, juggling and a wide variety of reading material helped him end a number of final-day failures and triumph at Sawgrass.”
  • “I’m not going to go and live with the monks for a couple months in Nepal, it’s 10 minutes a day,” McIlroy said in a fascinating pre-tournament interview. “It’s not as if I’m being consumed by it.
  • “But it’s definitely something that has helped from time to time. Especially in situations where you need your mind to be right. I meditated for 20 minutes on the Sunday morning of the Players.”
  • “My routine now consists of meditation, juggling, mind training, you know, doing all the stuff to get yourself in the right place. It was actually cool. I was watching the [Augusta National] Women’s Amateur over the weekend and I saw a few women on the range juggling, so it’s catching on.”
3. Augusta Spieth’s slump-ending elixir?
George Willis at the NY Post suggests Spieth, whose game is showing signs of life, could come fully alive at Augusta this week…
  • “More alarming, his putting, which once was compared with Jack Nicklaus’ and Tiger Woods’, has become unreliable. Before the recent WGC Match Play, he ranked 116th in strokes gained in putting at (-0.15), which is not good. But Augusta National has brought out the best in Spieth, and it should again this week.”
  • “My expectations are high this week,” Spieth said Tuesday. “I feel great about the state of my game right now. I feel like my recent results aren’t a tell of where my game actually is. I feel like I’ve made a lot of strides in the last couple of days. It’s just a matter of trust in the stuff that I’m working on.”
4. Tiger and the believers
Doug Ferguson at the AP examines the question of whether Woods can win major no. 14 at age 43…
  • “His believers – and there are legions of them – are hopeful that might change this week, if only because optimism is always at its peak before the first tee shot is hit. The old Tiger may not be fully back, but the prevailing thought is there’s enough of his greatness left to fit comfortably inside a green jacket come late Sunday afternoon.”
  • “Count Woods among the believers.”…”I know I can play this golf course,” he said. “I’ve had some success here.”
  • “Indeed he has, with four green jackets stitched with his name. That’s a haul that by itself qualifies him as one of the greatest players ever, though it is two short of the collection won by Jack Nicklaus.”
  • “But it isn’t what Woods or anyone else expected after he won his first four in just nine years. Nicklaus himself predicted that Woods would win 10 green jackets on his way to obliterating Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.”
5. Reed family matters
Karen Crouse at the New York Times examined Patrick Reed and his estranged family…and the possibility that members of said family will make an unwelcome appearance at Augusta this week.
  • “Yet easily the worst distraction that Reed faces any week, but especially this one, when he will defend the Masters title he won last year, is the possibility that at any moment he will look up and come face-to-face with the most painful chapter of his life.”
  • “Reed’s parents live six miles from Augusta National Golf Club, in a two-story, Southern-style Colonial replete with a bedroom shrine to their first child and only son, who hasn’t stepped foot in the house since 2012. This week should be a joyous homecoming for Reed, who led Augusta State (now Augusta University) to back-to-back national championships and will preside over Tuesday’s legends-laden Champions dinner. But instead it has all the makings of a nightmare, with his acrimonious relationship with his family threatening to become as much a part of this year’s Masters narrative as his attempt to become the first golfer since Tiger Woods in 2002 to successfully defend his title.”
  • “I wouldn’t at all be surprised if they show up,” Reed said.
  • “Reed, 28, has steadfastly declined to speak publicly about the reasons for the family schism. In a Sports Illustrated story in 2015, Reed’s mother insinuated that the rift resulted from Reed’s marriage, at age 22, to the former Justine Karain, against the advice of his parents who worried that he was too young.”
6. RIP Marilynn Smith
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell on the passing of a legend…
“Though she earned induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame with her 21 LPGA victories and two majors, her legacy goes beyond the trophies she won.”
  • “As one of the 13 women who founded the LPGA in 1950, Smith filled so many roles vital to the organization’s growth. She spent time as tour president, secretary, business manager and public relations specialist. She fulfilled sales and marketing duties and tournament operation responsibilities.”
  • “Smith, like the 12 other women who built the organization, served all of those roles in either official or unofficial capacity to give the fledgling women’s tour a foundation that would last.”
  • “Different players who were in that era, including myself, all thought Marilynn did an extraordinary job as president, and more than anyone contributed greatly to the success of this tour,” Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth said when introducing Smith as a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee in the 2006 ceremony. “Mickey Wright said she always remembers the hours and hours Marilynn would spend on the phone talking to these sponsors, potential sponsors, the press and anyone else she thought might help the Association.”
7. Tales of Tiger’s equipment
Superb work by Andrew Tursky at PGATour.com. AT talked to Tiger’s former Titleist club builder, Larry Bobka, and his equipment concierge at Nike to get the backstory on some of Woods weapons over the years.
  • “In 1997, Tiger used a Titleist 975D with 7.5 degrees loft. Bobka kept about six driver heads in his office, either 6.5 or 7.5 degrees loft, and occasionally Tiger would mess around with the 6.5. The swing weights were D4, which Tiger preferred on every club from driver through pitching wedge, with his other wedges a little heavier, around D6.”
  • “Tiger used a 43.5-inch steel-shafted driver during his time at Titleist. He tried various graphite shafts to see if he could pick up yardage, but then the question became: Could he control it? “He just never felt like at that time that he could find something that was consistent,” Bobka said. “Now, you’re talking about graphite shafts from late-’90s compared to how well graphite shafts are made now, in the year 2019 it’s a totally different story.”
8. Science returns to Augusta
Interesting nuggets in this AP report regarding BAD’s continued search for the holy grail…
  • “…he discovered something last week – just what he won’t say – that might make him just as effective with his short wedges as he has been with the rest of his game.”
  • “I’ve had some disadvantages with a couple of the irons I’ve had for a little bit,” DeChambeau said. “And just being able to practice and getting comfortable and seeing the ball flights come out the proper way for the first time ever in my life is pretty cool.”
  • “I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of tournaments using the equipment that I’ve had so far and it’s been great,” DeChambeau said. “But there’s always that little bit of room for improvement. So we’ve been working quite heavily this past week in trying to figure out some things that could give me an advantage this week.”
9. Clarification on rule related to replacing damaged club
Golfweek’s David Dusek on the introduction of a new local rule….
  • “…less than 48 hours before the start of the 2019 Masters, the USGA and R&A have released a clarification that introduces a new local rule related to damaged clubs.”
  • “Under the local rule, any club that is broken or significantly damaged can be replaced unless the damage occurs as a result of abuse. To make things easier to understand, the USGA and R&A have supplied examples of what broken or significantly damaged means.”
  • “However, a player is still not allowed to replace a club because there is a crack in the clubface or clubhead.”
  • “Under the new Rules of Golf that went into effect in January, the rule stated that any damaged club could not be replaced by another club except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence, a natural force or by someone other than the player, partner or his caddie.”

 

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Tour Rundown

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Thank goodness for the Women’s PGA! Instead of post-Men’s US Open doldrums, we had a return to wondrous Hazeltine (sorry, Dave Hill) for yet another major event, the Women’s PGA championship. This one came down to the finish tape; more on it later. Two shortish hitters in a long-ball world captured other events, while a home-town hero grabbed a third. And, as I finish typing this, they’re finishing up in Wichita, thanks to a rain delay. It’s on to another episode of Tour Rundown. Grab your snacks and a comfy chair, and enjoy the show

Women’s PGA to not-so-green Green at Hazeltine (yes, they rhyme!)

Am I the only one who noticed that each of Hannah Green’s final 3 drives just missed a divot hole, despite finding the nuclear center of each fairway? Golf, she is not fair. Fortunately for the young Aussie, the ball spun her way this day. Green led this PGA Championship from beginning to end. She endured the questions of everyone from fans to media, to possibly herself. As playing partners Ariya Jutanugarn and Lizette Salas failed to mount a viable challenge, Green’s attention turned to others on the move. Sung Hyun Park made a late run at holding onto the title she won last year, at Kemper Lakes. Park played a marvelous tune of 68, marred by a solitary off-key note, a bogey at the 12th. The defender ultimately finished one agonizing stroke behind the winner. Mel Reid also played marvelously. With 66 on the day, thanks to 8 birdies and 2 bogeys, she moved all the way to a tie for 3rd spot. It was Green who stood the tallest, who made the putts, especially that nervy 5-feet job on the final green. She was not perfect on day four, with birdies matching bogeys at the count of three. When things looked like they might go south, after consecutive bogeys at 11 and 12, Green corrected her path. Her first LPGA tour win, her first major title, a fine way to say Hello to the world.

Travelers Championship is Reavie’s 2nd tour triumph in a decade

Chez Reavie put on a Saturday show, blowing past the leader and everyone else, with a back-nine 28. He then had a front-row seat as hometown hero Keegan Bradley tried to put the same move on him. Although Reavie wasn’t making mistakes, Bradley was making every putt in site. With six birdies on the day, the gap had narrowed to one shot as the two stood on the 17th tee. An unpredictable dance partner, with rough and sand left, and massive water right, it’s not for the faint of heart. Bradley blinked, with a drive into the sand. If there’s one thing Reavie does, it’s hit fairways with maniacal accuracy and consistency. He did not disappoint, and followed up the tee ball with a dagger to the frontish hole location. His birdie, combined with Bradley’s double bogey, turned the tide in nearly an instant, making the walk up 18 a tranquil affair. Reavie tapped in for -17 and a 4-shot win over Bradley and 36-hole leader Zack Sucher. 11 years after winning the Canadian Open, Reavie hoisted victor’s silver for a 2nd, satisfying time.

BMW International Open~Forza Italia! Pavan secures 2nd Euro Title

If there was a tournament ever, whose purpose was to encourage caution over calamity, this was it. Long-hitting golfers like Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matt Wallace, and Mathias Schwab chose daring lines, fired, and fell back toward calamity. In stark contrast, Italy’s Andrea Pavan eschewed the risky play, time and again. Electing to lay short of hazards, Pavan holed a putt of abbreviated length on the 2nd playoff hole. This birdie allowed him to edge past Fitzpatrick, with whom he tied in regulation play at -15, and collect his 2nd European Tour title.

The day began brightly for England. Jordan Smith held the 3rd-round lead, but he would lose momentum early. Then came Fitzpatrick, who found 15-under with a 72nd-hole birdie. Next to try for glory was Wallace, who hit the worst drive ever under the siren’s pressure, going farther left than Marx, ending in watery demise. Pavan had finished 40 minutes prior to the final grouping, and he went about his business, warming up, then executing to near-perfection in the playoff. Indeed, the long hitters take fans to places they will never know, but the crafty archers show all of us the proper manner and method.

Wichita Open continues into 5th day

We weren’t kidding in the opening paragraph. First came the rains, then came the 5-way tie for top spot. Erik Compton, the overnight leader, birdied the 18th to join Kevin Dougherty, Henrik Norlander, Bryan Bigley and Sebastian Cappelen at 15-under par. The quintet arrived there on different trains, but there they were, joined together for an evening playoff. Cappelen went lowest, with 65 on Sunday. Compton signed for a 3rd-consecutive 67, while the other 3 golfers tacked 66s on the leaderboard. With time for a single playoff hole, organizers were certainly hoping for a walk-off ace, to settle the matter. They didn’t get that result, but birdies from Norlander and Bigley sent 60% of the fivesome home. As the ink dries on this web report, Norlander and Bigley prepare to play the 4th hole for all the cookies. Fortunately for all, the waters have receded.

American Family title goes to Madison’s finest

Madison folks would have been happy with a winner from Edgerton, but they absolutely adore a winner from Madison. In the most glorious example of how home-state and home-town golf people make an event happen, the Wisconsin Love Fest American Family went overtime on Sunday. 2 of the 3 participants were Badger state representatives. Steve Stricker had a wee putt to win in regulation, but missed. He bowed out with bogey on the first extra hole. Retief Goosen (not from Wisconsin) had a wee putt to win on the event’s final hole, too, but missed. He went two holes longer than Stricker, but ultimately succumbed to the intimidation of the goateed warrior, Jerry Kelly. With a barbaric yawp the likes of which we won’t hear soon, if ever, Kelly drained a birdie putt on the driveable 15th hole, and collected his 4th Champions Tour title. Kelly’s yawp was guttural, unexpected, jolting. It was such an event that television played it over and over, from different angles. The win propelled Kelly to 2nd spot on the season-long points list, but more importantly, it earned him a hug from mom when the dust had settled.

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Tearful Michelle Wie suggests career may be coming to an end after opening round of 84 at Women’s PGA Championship

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Various ailments to Michelle Wie’s right hand and wrist has forced the 29-year-old out of action for most of 2019, and after posting a round of 12-over-par in the opening round of this week’s Women’s KPMG PGA Championship, Wie suggested that her days on Tour may be coming to an end.

Wie, who has arthritis in both wrists and underwent surgery on her right wrist back in November, made six bogeys, two double-bogeys and a quadruple-bogey on her way to an opening 84. After her round, an emotional Wie broke down in tears after stating

“I’m not entirely sure how much more I have left in me. So even on the bad days, I’m just like trying to take time to enjoy it. But it’s tough, I just love being out here.”

The 29-year-old began her tournament on the back nine, and according to GolfWeek’s Beth Ann Nichols, began applying an ice pack to her wrist as early as the 11th hole.

Wie is set to tee off for her second round on Friday 2.44 PM CT.

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Morning 9: LPGA players to add to Hazeltine’s history | Web.com Tour no more | Mickelson’s U.S. Open dream dead?

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

June 20, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1 Adding to Hazeltine’s history
Doug Ferguson at the AP….”This is where Rich Beem, a former car stereo salesman, held off a charge by Tiger Woods in the 2002 PGA Championship. It’s where Y.E. Yang became the only player to come from behind and beat Woods in the final round of a major at the 2009 PGA Championship.”
  • “It’s where the Americans actually won a Ryder Cup in 2016.”
  • “Hazeltine also is an example of how much the second-oldest major in women’s golf has risen in stature since the LPGA Tour and PGA of America became partners to stage what is now the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.”
  • “The magnitude of this event has gone up so high, and it’s neck and neck with the USGA and U.S. Open,” said Danielle Kang, who won the Women’s PGA two years ago at Olympia Fields, the course south of Chicago where Walter Hagen and Jim Furyk won majors. “It’s just when you get here and people talk so much about the golf course. ‘Oh, you’re going to play Hazeltine.’ They talk it up so much.”

Full piece.

2. Caddie arrested on charges of human trafficking, exploitation of a child
Bizarre, awful stuff, here. As reported by Joel Beall at Golf Digest…
  • “Evan H. Vollerthum, a caddie on the Korn Ferry Tour, was arrested Monday for human trafficking and attempting to sexually exploit a child.”
  • “Vollerthum was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations in Topeka, Kansas, according to an ICE news release. Topeka is about two hours away from this week’s Wichita Open.”
  • “Shawnee County Jail (Kansas) records state Vollerthum is being held in connection with one count of aggravated human trafficking involving hiring a child 14 or older to engage in sexual acts, and attempted commercial exploitation of a child involving hiring a person under 18 for a sex act.”
3. Korn Ferry Tour
Via the Golf Channel Digital team…”As of Wednesday, the Web.com Tour will now be known as the Korn Ferry Tour, after inking a 10-year deal through 2028.”
“Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm, also becomes a PGA Tour’s official marketing partner and will assume sponsorship of the developmental circuit’s Tour Championship, the third and final event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.”
4. Mickelson: I’m out of U.S. Open chances
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge…
  • “….He made a run up the leaderboard Friday and made the cut for a ho-hum T-52 finish. He also had nothing but praise for the USGA’s setup after ripping the organization’s past failures in the days and weeks leading up.”
  • “It was nice to see cooler heads prevail on both sides throughout the week, but it doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. Open remains Mickelson’s white whale. And he’s starting to get more and more realistic about his Career Grand Slam chances at age 49.”
  • “I’m appreciative of the opportunity, even though I didn’t play my best and didn’t win,” Mickelson said. “I really don’t have many more chances. Probably have to come to the realization that I’m not going to win the U.S. Open, but I’m not going to stop trying. I’ll keep trying. You never know.”
5. Hovland on being a Ping man
Andrew Tursky at PGATour.com went deep with Viktor Hovland on his new Ping weaponry (photo above is Tursky’s)
A few of his specs and remarks
Driver: Ping G410 LST (draw setting, 9 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS 6.5-flex 62 grams
  • Hovland says: “I just put this in the bag on Thursday morning of the U.S. Open. I drove it really nice and it was a big part of my success last week… I’ve been messing around with the different kind of heads and I felt like this was a great fit for me. I was struggling with a bigger left-to-right curve. I put it on draw [setting] and it keeps it neutralized a bit. I was able to hit a lot of fairways with it at the U.S. Open.”
3-wood: Ping G410 LST (14.5 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke 6.5TX 80 grams
  • Hovland says: “I really like [the way it] sits down because it looks like it has a lot of loft and it sits real tight to the ground, so for me it’s real easy to launch. I’m a guy who hits a lot of drivers off the tee, I don’t really like to hit a lot of 3 woods [off the tee]. So for me it’s key to have something I can launch up in the air and get it to stop on the greens, [such as going for] par 5’s in two. That’s been a great help for me.”

Full piece.

6. The role of restoration in Gary Woodland’s 17th-hole chip
An interesting note from Geoff Shackelford…
  • “The neck of the “hourglass” green created by Egan had been reduced to a sliver, the green unpinnable anywhere near the surrounds. The square footage restoration estimate was over 1000 square feet and while the green was still not as large as the original, the remodel made the 17th was made functional again.”
  • “But more important than the reclamation of architectural roots or reminding us of this wonderfully bizarre vision by Egan, the expansion gave Gary Woodland the opportunity to hit a shot for the ages, requiring him to clip the ball and land in a very small area and join Pebble Beach’s other 17th hole classic moments by Nicklaus and Watson.”
  • “The shot reminds how important golf course design is to giving us golf-watching thrills, and the vitality of caring for architectural gems.”
7. What it’s like without tour status
...rough…
Nick Menta focuses through the lens of Chip McDaniel…
  • “I saw [Roberto Diaz] in the locker room today,” McDaniel said Wednesday at the Travelers Championship. “He’s like, ‘What’s up, Mr. Monday?’
  • “I already have a nickname out here, which is pretty cool.”
  • On Thursday, McDaniel will make his sixth PGA Tour start this season and his second in as many weeks.
  • The 23-year-old out of the University of Kentucky went through local and sectional qualifying to make it to Pebble Beach, where he made the cut on the number and finished 78th in his U.S. Open debut.
  • “Then I had to hop on a red-eye and get back to the real world and play in a Monday qualifier,” he said.
8. Getting good at golf without a golf course
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins offers the example of Sung Hyun Park, who only visited an actual golf course about once per year early in her golfing development…
  • “…In her first few years playing golf, she barely set foot on the golf course.”
  • “I first started playing when I was nine years old, and I only practiced indoors,” Park said through a translator in her pre-tournament press conference at the KPMG. “It was like a three-meter distance, and I used to hit my shots over there. And playing like that for three years, I probably went on the golf course around four or five times only, which probably means like once a year. And so I always looked forward to going out on to the course and to play.”
  • “If you’re someone who loves golf, but don’t have easy access to a course, there’s hope for you. Park is proof that you can get good-sometimes really, really, good-even if you can’t get on-course as much as you’d like.”
 
9. Why does the USGA now care about player complaints?
Good point from Alan Shipnuck in his weekly mailbag.
  • Whining players > non-whining players during the U.S. Open? -@Nolanddad
  • “Oh, hell yes. Going back decades, the soundtrack to every U.S. Open was the plaintive wailing of the players. That’s how we knew it was our national championship. “Fair” is often codeword for too easy, so I knew we were in trouble when the players universally employed that word to praise the Pebble setup. I pray that future Opens will feature the appropriate amount of kvetching.”

 

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