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



By Ben Alberstadt (

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
“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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Why players are living so far under par



The PGA Tour’s tagline is “Live Under Par,” and every week we see the best players in the world take on courses set up to challenge them as much as possible. Even on these difficult courses, with pin positions tucked around greens and rough grown out beyond what many regular golfers might ever experience, we still see the pros who are playing their best get way under par and often break scoring records.

But how and why does this happen week after week? Are these courses just not challenging enough? Are players really that good? (“These Guys are Good” was the tour’s previous motto, after all)

Let’s break down a few factors that relate to scoring on the PGA Tour and why we keep seeing low scores on an almost weekly basis.

First off, we have the length. It’s not a guarantee that more length equals higher scores. Pebble Beach under U.S. Open conditions is a great example of that, but if we are to use a recent example, at Hamilton Golf & CC (host course to the RBC Canadian Open), we saw Brandt Snedeker shoot 60 during his Friday morning round, and multiple rounds in the low 60s. Hamilton is not a long course by modern PGA Tour standards, but on a day with some benign pins, little wind, and slower, softer greens (thanks to a wet week leading up), it’s a perfect scenario for someone to make a score. On top of that, to finish off the tournament we saw Rory McIlroy get on a total heater Sunday afternoon to shot 61 – with a bogey at the last, and win by 7 – yes 7!

Rough. As we saw at the PGA Championship this year at Bethpage Black, length plus rough means that you are going to eliminate more than half the field before the tournament even starts. It’s the exact reason we saw the bomber-filled leaderboard that we did.

On the opposite end of the spectrum a dry Open Championship often proves that tightly mown areas actually pose a greater risk to players than rough, since once a ball starts rolling, there is no telling where and when it’s going to stop – although a hazard is usually the answer. Average length rough around the greens makes chipping and pitching difficult, and when you add in the fact that as the week goes on the pins get closer to slopes and edges, it’s a recipe for those having the best week with their irons having the best chance to take home the trophy.

Player skill. This is the X-Factor. No matter what you do to the course fans need to realize that week to week, you have the world’s best players taking their games to every tournament. It all comes down to a numbers game. Half aren’t going to make the cut, 35 percent are going to play well but miss some putts, and the final 15 percent are going to have their games peaking and be inside the top ten.

Within that 15 percent, one or two of those players are going to be firing on all cylinders, and if you are a casual observer, that’s all you really get to see on TV, the guys on fire like Rory this past Sunday at the Canadian Open.





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5 things we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open



If the weather forecast is to be believed, the next 48 hours of Pebble Beach weather will be a blend of cloudy, partly cloudy, and mostly cloudy skies. Rain will never have less than a 10 percent chance of falling, but never more than 20 percent. Winds will peak at 11 mph, dropping to three mph, blowing from west to east, at a variety of angles. What that consistent weather forecast means, is that golf will not be consistent.

The USGA should not need to water the greens, which means that they will slowly firm up, forcing golfers to be even more precise in the changing landing spots they select. It means that anyone who shoots the score of 65 (that was low each of the first two days), will find himself in the thick of the chase. For now, let’s take a brief look back at five things that we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open.

5. The numbers

79 golfers made the cut at 2 over, 11 shots behind the leader. Eight golfers missed the cut by one stroke, while 24 others made the cut on the number. Of the 79, four are amateurs, at 2 over, E, E and 2 under, respectively. That foursome will do battle for its own tournament medal, although none is expected to challenge for the overall championship trophy. Rhys Enoch had an 11-stroke turnaround, from 77 to 66, to make the cut on the number.

Rickie Fowler went 12 strokes the other way, from 66 to 78, to move from squarely in title contention, to 10 shots off the lead. Pebble Beach showed no favoritism to either wave, morning or afternoon. Low and high scores came during each. What Pebble Beach did do, was fray the nerves and distract the attention of the competition. The first act is now complete.

4. Brooks Koepka looks like…Brooks Koepka

True to his word, Koepka doesn’t change much. No soaring highs, no crashing lows…yet. The U.S. Open Champion of 2017 and 18, who is also the PGA Champion of 2018 and 19, stands at 4 under par, tied with four others in sixth place,  five shots behind the leader. Of the nine golfers between him and the top, three have won major titles, none since 2014. Only one of them, Rory McIlroy, has won the U.S. Open, and his win came on a rain-softened Congressional course in 2011.

Besides McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson at 1 under, and Tiger Woods at even par, no other golfer in the field has more than one major championship to his credit. It’s a wide-open weekend, so why shouldn’t Koepka have as much say as anyone in the outcome? The defending champion had half as many birdies (six to three) on Friday, but one-third as many bogies (three to one). It’s that second number that will weigh heavily on his result. The fewer the mistakes, the more likely the victory.

3. A Rose by any other name … needs another major title

In 2016, Justin Rose won the Olympic gold medal, a unique achievement in his generation. Problem is, no one knows where it ranks in terms of tournament victories. In 2017, Rose went into a playoff at Augusta National with Sergio Garcia, but came out a runner-up. The Englishman has won 24 times around the globe but lists just the 2013 U.S. Open in his major victories column.

In terms of a place in history, he needs more than one. Rose sits tied with Dustin Johnson, Jerry Pate, Henry Picard and a hundredfold of other champions of a solitary grand slam event. Trouble is, Rose’s long game is not at its best. His putting is sublime, but his driver is wayward, and his iron game, misguided. Do Aaron Wise, Chez Reavie and Chesson Hadley pose a threat to the man currently in 2nd place? Probably not. It’s the Oosthuizens, the McIlroys and, of course, the Koepkas that demand that Rose preserve his pristine putting stroke, while getting his long game in order. This is the elite of the elite, after all. No excuses, no margin for error.

2. Will the U.S. Open see another, first-time major champion?

Five of the last seven U.S. Open champions had not previously won a major title. Two of the last three Open champions at Pebble Beach (Graeme McDowell in 2010 and Tom Kite in 1992) made the Open their first major victory. For those reasons alone, names like Wise, Hadley, Reavie, Kuchar, and Wallace should not be eliminated from consideration this weekend.

True, the U.S. Open environment is a cauldron of pressure, increasing in constriction as each nine holes passes. At the same time, Koepka, Johnson, Kaymer, Rose and Simpson each had to find something yet unknown, to push aside the detractors and gain admission to the exclusive club of Open champions. Pebble Beach is a known commodity to PGA Tour regulars, so the putting might not be the greatest concern of the final 36 holes.

What will come into play, are the playing corridors. Fairways essentially cut in half, pushed left and right toward hazards and other dangers, a fraction of the width normally seen in February. The sure thing is that there is no certainty. The holder of the champion’s silver come Sunday might as soon be a first-timer as a repeat winner. Time will tell. After all, things like this could happen to anyone.

1. Gary Woodland is in uncharted territory

On the bright side, Gary Woodland played around Pebble Beach in 65 strokes on Friday. Six birdies against zero bogeys added up to the low round of the day and a two-shot advantage over Justin Rose. Also on the bright side, Woodland has hit 22 of 28 fairways, and 26 of 36 greens in regulation over the first two days. The leader has three PGA Tour titles to his credit, including Phoenix in 2018.

On paper, Woodland looks like a good bet to hoist the trophy on Sunday. That’s where the confidence begins to wane. Woodland’s track record in major events is improving, with consecutive top-10 finishes in the 2018 and 2019 PGA Championships. His best U.S. Open finish, though, was eight years ago, his only top-30 finish in the event. Woodland tees it up on Saturday in the final pairing, with the 2013 U.S. Open champion. No time like the present to find out if a step to the next level is in the offing.

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Morning 9: Record Rose | Tiger’s iron game betrays | Plenty more from Pebble



By Ben Alberstadt (

June 14, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1 Rose starts with 65
AP’s Doug Ferguson on the synergy…”Justin Rose played alongside Tiger Woods, and then joined him in the U.S. Open record book at Pebble Beach.”
  • “In a gentle start to the toughest test in golf, Rose birdied his last three holes Thursday for a 6-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead on a day so accommodating that more than three dozen players broke par.”
  • “It was an ideal start for Rose and for the USGA, which wants a smooth ride after four years of various mishaps in the U.S. Open. The idea was to start safe and make the course progressively more difficult, and a forecast of dry weather for the week should make that easier to control.”
  • “Rose knew what was at stake when he blasted out of a bunker short of the par-5 18th to about 12 feet. He was watching the telecast earlier when Rickie Fowler had a birdie putt for a 65 to tie the lowest U.S. Open round at Pebble Beach, set by Woods in the first round of his record-setting victory in 2000.”
2. “One of his better rounds”
Ryan Lavner at Golf Channel on Rickie’s start…
  • “With little wind and receptive greens, Fowler missed only one fairway and just three greens on his way to a 5-under 66 that shared the early lead at Pebble Beach.”
  • “It’s probably one of my better rounds I’ve played in a major,” he said Thursday.
  • …”It’s been a long road to get to the point where majors felt like another week, because they are bigger. They’re majors,” Fowler said. “But it’s time to soak it all up and have some fun.”
3. O’Connell recovering
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge on Kevin O’Connell’s wild week at Pebble…
  • “It was a little bit of a blur, because literally 10 minutes later I was throwing up in the fairway on eight,” O’Connell said Thursday.
  • …O’Connell said he wasn’t feeling great when he started his practice round Tuesday, but he didn’t think much more of it. By the time he got to No. 7 he was in trouble, so much so that he couldn’t even enjoy the ace.
  • …A nasty case of food poisoning had already started to take hold.
  • “I had a stomach ache, but I didn’t know it was full-on food poisoning like I was gonna be vomiting,” O’Connell said. “I could kind of tell when I walked up the hill on eight and started sweating a lot, I kind of had that feeling. … Honestly when I hit it in the hole on seven, I don’t want to say I didn’t care, but I was feeling pretty bad. I was ready to get out of there.”

Full piece.

4. Not so much for Phil
  • Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Mickelson remains in pursuit of the final leg of the career Grand Slam, and this week that quest brings him back to a familiar venue in Pebble Beach. But the conditions he encountered Thursday morning weren’t a far cry from those he saw in February en route to a win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, as many big names in the field feasted on a soft layout that will undoubtedly become more difficult as the week progresses.”
  • “But Mickelson was stuck in neutral, making just two birdies against three bogeys en route to a 1-over 72 that left him six shots off the early lead. He made just one putt outside of 10 feet all day, that coming on the difficult 10th where he salvaged par, and he missed a 22-inch putt on No. 3 that led to a bogey.”
  • “There was a good opportunity to score, and I played better than I shot,” Mickelson said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to get a few shots, and I just didn’t do it.”
5. Tiger struggles with irons
George Willis at the NY Post on Woods 1-under opening effort…
  • “After playing the front nine in 1-under, including a double-bogey on the par-3 fifth, Woods played the back nine in even-par, draining putts from as far as 30 feet to keep his scorecard in red numbers. He’ll start the second round five shots behind Justin Rose, who fired a 6-under 65 on Thursday.”
  • “It was typical Pebble Beach where the first seven holes you can get it going and then after that you’re kind of fighting and kind of hanging on,” Woods said. “I proved that today. I had it going early and had to fight off through the middle part of the round and hung in there with pars. I’m very pleased to shoot under par today.”
  • “He made a 30-footer to save par at the par-5 14th, and scrambled out of the bunker to make a 7-footer for par at the 17th. He closed with his 10th straight par at the 18th after his second shot landed in the bunker left of the green.”
6. Who is Sepp Straka?
Scanning the U.S. Open leaderboard, it’s a question plenty are asking. Thanks to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols for putting a prime together.
  • “…The Straka brothers played college golf together at Georgia, with Sepp staying on for a fifth season. Sam, who was born two minutes before Sepp, went into commercial real estate for three years after graduation but recently decided to give golf another go. He’s currently playing on mini tours in the southeast and plans to try for Q-School later this year.”
  • “They’ve spent their entire lives pushing one another. Both share a career-low round of 62.”
  • “When we were growing up, any time I played golf, good or bad, I always asked what Sam shot,” said Sepp. “That’s the one guy you want to beat in the field.”
7. Good start for Rory report on Rory’s opening round…
  • “All four of McIlroy’s previous Major Championship wins came after a first round in the 60s and the 30-year-old will hope that sequence continues in California after an opening 68 which left him three under and continued his recent fine form.”
  • “The former World Number One has moved up to third in the Official World Golf Ranking after a win last week on the US PGA Tour, his second of the season to go with top tens at the WGC-Mexico Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and US PGA Championship.”
  • “The Northern Irishman started on the back nine and made a bogey on the tenth after pulling his approach into a bunker but birdied the 13th and then hit a superb tee shot on the par three 17th to set up another.”
  • “After scrambling for a par on the 18th, McIlroy picked up further shots on the second and third and also rattled the pin from 15 feet for par on the fifth after duffing his chip from heavy rough.”
8. BK
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on Koepka’s opening 69…
  • “…Maybe this is the ultimate chip for a player who relishes the role of being the overlooked superstar. Although he’d mentioned a promotional spot for this week’s championship that didn’t include him as a perceived slight, perhaps the real fuel comes from the idea that this wasn’t supposed to be his kind of course.”
  • “It certainly didn’t look that way early in his round when the two-time defending champion birdied four of his first six holes to move to within a stroke of the early lead.
  • “There were hiccups coming in – a missed green at No. 8 that bounced hard and into the hay, a wayward drive at No. 13 and a tee shot at the iconic 17th hole that airmailed the green. They all led to bogeys and added up to a 2-under 69 that was four shots off the pace set by Justin Rose.”
9. So your dad wants to play golf?
Andrew Tursky talked to PGA Pro Anne Cain about the particulars of getting your holdout father started playing golf ahead of Father’s Day.

“…To help us sift through the clutter, and get dad started the right way, PGATOUR.COM recently spoke with Anne Cain, a Top-100 ranked instructor from the PGA TOUR Academy at World Golf Village. Cain was an All-American at the University of Georgia, played golf professionally, and then went on to coach dozens of TOUR players and collegiate competitors”

PGATOUR.COM: What are the essential purchases that need to be made to start playing golf?

ANNE CAIN: “I think a good starting set is a putter, wedge, 7-iron and driver.”

PGATOUR.COM: Should you spend more money on lessons or a club fitting/new equipment?

ANNE CAIN: “I would recommend spending more time on lessons initially. A good instructor should be able to guide you on future club purchases, as well.”

PGATOUR.COM: Do you recommend group lessons, or one-on-one lessons?

ANNE CAIN: “I recommend private lessons if your budget allows for it. Imagine taking piano lessons in a group – you are not going to get the same individual attention as you will in private instruction. Group lessons are better for socializing or getting info on a particular shot within the game.”

Full piece. 


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19th Hole