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Morning 9: Par 3 Contest | Rory & Augusta | No cell phones at ANGC, ever!

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

April 11, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans. Enjoy the Masters!
1. Par 3 Contest
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on Matt Wallace’s Par 3 Contest win.
  • “Matt Wallace is making his first start in the Masters this week, so he probably didn’t know about the “curse.”
  • “No player has ever won the Par 3 Contest and the Masters in the same year. The Englishman, however, hopes to break that tradition.”
  • “Wallace defeated Sandy Lyle, a two-time winner of the Par 3 Contest, on the third playoff hole Wednesday after both players finished tied at 5 under.”
  • “I wanted to hole that putt on the last and I didn’t, and then went to a playoff and it got a little bit more serious than how the nine holes went and I guess I just I wanted to win this,” said Wallace, who used a hole-in-one on the eighth hole to help him get into the playoff.”
2. Gal on Smith
Sandra Gal wrote a beautiful remembrance of her (perhaps unlikely) friend, Marilynn Smith, for Golf.com.
“She started writing me letters, and then suggested we talk on the phone. After our first chat she asked me if I would call her again the next week. And so it began. We spoke every Sunday, no matter if I was in Florida or Taiwan. There were plenty of times when I didn’t feel like it, but still I called. Every time we hung up, my heart felt full and I think hers did, too.”
  • “Marilynn loved to give me little tips but I’m quite stubborn so I was reluctant to try them. I can’t even tell you how happy she was when I finally switched to left-hand low putting and my stats improved. She must’ve told me a thousand times, “Don’t forget to aim at the top of the flagstick so you don’t end up 15 feet short of the hole.” Yes, Marilynn, I will. But she cared more about me as a person than as a golfer. “Are you smiling? Keep smiling and hold your finish,” she would remind me. “Are you writing your thank you letters and thanking the pro in the pro shop?” Yes, Marilynn.”
  • “Every little gesture meant so much to her. In January 2018, I went through a difficult time in my personal life and was slowed by an injury. All I did was paint, walk in the Austrian mountains and contemplate life. Marilynn was very concerned and our calls during that time were so precious to me. She asked me to paint something for her, preferably a landscape. I hate doing landscapes but I gave it a try. To my surprise, it turned out okay, and I gave it to her at our tournament in Phoenix, where we had first met two years earlier. She loved it and every Sunday after that would tell me she had found something new in the painting. I couldn’t fathom the gratitude she had for the smallest of things in life.”
3. The pain lingers
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch talks to a few big-time players who narrowly missed out on the green jacket.
  • “In ’98 Duval was sitting in Jones Cabin, tied for the lead with Mark O’Meara after a final round 67 when O’Meara hit his approach shot on the last to 20 feet. “Don’t worry David, no one ever makes that putt,” said Augusta National’s then chairman, Jack Stephens.”
  • “O’Meara holed it. “Hey good tournament,” Stephens said to Duval. “We look forward to seeing you next year.”
  • “The other losses lacked such poignancy, but were no less painful for the former world No. 1. A year later he was T-6 behind Jose Maria Olazabal. The new millennium began as the old one had ended: T-3 behind Vijay Singh in ’00 and solo second to Tiger Woods in ’01.”
4. A chronology of Rory & Augusta
As the Ulsterman bids again for the career grand slam, Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker take a look at Rory McIlroy’s history at Augusta National
Beginning with 2009…
  • “His first Masters? There was curiosity more than expectation – a top junior, his reputation had preceded him and this was his first major as a professional after having turned pro the year before.”
  • “McIlroy played a practice round early in the week with 2003 winner Mike Weir, a player whose game couldn’t be more different. “I didn’t really ask him too many questions,” he said. “I was just putting to the tees he was putting to. He probably knows the greens pretty well.”
  • “The hole that scared McIlroy the most? The 12th. “Sometimes you’ve got to play away from the pins here and take a 30-footer and 2-putt and go to the next,” he said. “Par is a pretty good score around here.” Four pars for the week. Pretty good all right.”
McIlroy tied for 20th in ’09. Full piece.
5. They’ve done it all…except win the Masters
Barry Svrluga at the Washington Post looks at the top players in the game and the unifying reality that none of them have green jackets in their closets.
  • “Brooks Koepka won two majors a year ago, and he credits sitting out the Masters because of an injury as rekindling his affection for golf. Justin Rose arrives at Augusta National Golf Club as the top-ranked player in the world, and twice has played in the final group on Masters Sunday. Rory McIlroy hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in any tournament this year, nor has he finished outside the top 10 at the Masters since 2013, the kind of profile that makes for an easily identifiable favorite. Dustin Johnson has won in both Saudi Arabia and Mexico this year – further proof he can win anywhere at any time, regardless of course or competition.”
  • “Those are the top four players in the world at the moment, each a worthy pick at the 83rd Masters. Total green jackets among them: zero. The highest ranked player in the world who has won here? That would be No. 12 Tiger Woods, whose last Masters title came in 2005.”
  • “This Masters, then, will do one of two things: It will provide either validation for one of the accomplished players who have never won here, or it will prop up a past champ who enters the year’s first major championship sputtering, to one degree or another. There’s almost no in-between.”
6. Reed returns
Paul Newberry at the AP…”He’s an anomaly at staid, ol’ Augusta National, which has always preferred bland and homogenized winners, who’ll always say the right things without saying much of anything.”
  • “Patrick Reed, that’s not.”
  • “His family life is messy. His attitude is brash. His college days are pock-marked with allegations of cheating and teammates wronged.”
  • “That’s OK.”
  • “Villains are more fun anyway.”
7. When it rains…
Matthew Rudy examines the effects of rain on Augusta National–a course where the powers that be have more agronomic control than any other.
  • “At the most basic level, rain reduces roll in the fairways and makes the greens slightly more receptive to shots coming in at steeper angles. The lack of roll in the fairway doesn’t mean much to players like Rory McIlroy, who can carry it more than 320 yards, but for players with mid-pack power, losing 20 yards of roll out means picking entirely different lines off the tee.”
  • “”Most of the preparation for a major is focusing on tee clubs and the lines you like to take,” says top teacher Tony Ruggiero, who works with a stable of PGA Tour players including 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover. “When the course plays out of character, you have to make the time to play the holes where you might not be as comfortable with the line the course and the weather is going to make you take.”
  • “A prime example? The 10th hole offers a speed slot that shoots tee shots played in the right place-down the right center, with a slight draw-upwards of 50 yards farther down, where the uphill approach to severely sloped green gets way easier. When the ball doesn’t roll as much, players will be forced to use a harder-to-control driver instead of 3-wood to take full advantage of the slot. That makes clean ball-striking with the driver more of a factor than normal on a course that usually allows some forgiveness.”
8. No cell phones…ever!
Todd Kelly at Golfweek on Fred Ridley’s comments on ANGC’s (no) cell phone policy.
  • “I think that’s something that does set us apart.” Augusta National Chairman Fred S. Ridley said during his annual Wednesday news conference in the interview room on the first floor of the spacious press building. “I think our patrons appreciate our cell phone policy.  I know that we have now become an outlier, if not the only outlier in golf, as well, at allowing cell phones.”
  • “Go to any sport event, and that’s pretty much all you see: Fans holding up their phones to capture pictures or video of the action.”
  • “But I think it’s part of the ambience of the Masters,” Ridley said. “I read Rory’s interview yesterday, Rory McIlroy, and he made some very insightful comments about that. He said it was really nice to be out there on the golf course and not seeing everyone with — looking down at their hand with their cell phone.”
9. Finau1
Tony’s Finau’s hands-in-the-air, backpedaling, ankle-dislocating mishap after acing the 7th hole during last year’s Masters Par 3 Contest is a tired trope at this point. Still, you have to respect the guy for embracing, what has to be, the most embarrassing moment of his professional golf career.
  • A first act to the humor: Nike “developed” this ultra-hightop golf shoe, the Finau1, for the golfer.
  • And while April Fool’s Day jokes assuredly stink 10 days later, Finau, again, gets credit for embracing the moment (“time to put the shoe on”) and lacing up am 10-eye Finau1 during today’s Par 3 Contest, Wednesday.
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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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