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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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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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