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Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus hit out at today’s golf ball and green reading books

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As is tradition, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player opened up the 2019 Masters alongside Tom Waston on Thursday morning as the honorary starters of the event. Afterwards while in the press center, both Nicklaus and Player spoke together, and the two men had some harsh words to say regarding the harm that they feel modern technology is doing to the game of golf.

Nicklaus has long been outspoken about the dangers that modern technology could cause the game, and on Thursday, the 18-time major champion railed against the modern day golf balls, believing the extra distance they now provide players with has gotten out of hand.

“The golf ball has gotten ridiculous. I have so many things on that. The golf ball from 1930 to about ’95 gained about six yards. From 1995 to 2005, about 15 yards, and that’s a big difference. Probably the organizations won’t tell you that, but that’s exactly about what happened.”

Like Nicklaus, Player believes the current technological innovations are damaging to the sport, and the three-time Masters champion fired a stark warning on Thursday concerning the possible consequences of a lack of action on the issue from the game’s organizations.

“We’d better start thinking. They are going to hit wedges to all the par-5s, and golf courses like St. Andrews, this marvelous golf course, is completely obsolete. They can drive probably six greens. So I don’t know where we’re going.

And our leaders of such have got to get together now and form a ball for professionals that’s different to the amateurs. Let the amateurs have anything they’d like. … But we have got to stop this, otherwise it’s going to be a joke, in my opinion.”

The South African also hit out at the use of green reading books, which are banned from Augusta National but allowed at several stops on the PGA Tour, describing the process of using the books as an aid on the greens as “artificial.”

“Bobby Locke was the best putter that ever lived, and Tiger Woods was the best putter and so on. I never saw him take out a book to read the damn green. To read the green, you’ve got to look at a book. Well if you can’t read a green, you should be selling beans. It’s part of the game. Where are we going? Everything is so artificial.”

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

63 Comments

63 Comments

  1. Joro

    Apr 14, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    It is simple, make the courses tougher to stop the 300 + yd. Drives that make long holes short and is ridiculous. I am sure the ball has a lot to do with it but the main thing is length, fast fairways , and no real trouble for being super long and straight. Face it a Drive and Wedge on 13 at the Masters is just plain BS. Put something out there so the players cannot hit it that long without a huge risk. In fact narrow fairways, real rough, and other obstacles will keep things down.

    I know the manufactures are producing the length for all that it is worth, like the Car companies are using fast as a sales point although 90% of the buyers have any business going fast and the Death rate shows it. If in fact they don’t cut it back where will it end? Five Hundred yard Drives and having to chip back to the Green. Of course not, it only affects the Pros and long hitters and when Joe the Hack sees Tiger hit it over 300, or Rory 350 he has to have one,,,, as if he can get it off the ground.

    It has gone too far and time to get back to skill and keep everyone in the Ballgame, not just the Gorilla.

  2. daniel

    Apr 13, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    Since it’s the masters. Why don’t we do what Bobby Jones did when the Niblick/SW became a thing bunker plays were no longer a challenge for the pro, so he decided too add water and a lot of it. Hence recreating golf courses isn’t a new thing, just a change of the times.

  3. Bobby

    Apr 13, 2019 at 8:44 am

    And to add a solution to my previous comment…. move tee boxes back ten yards theres plenty of room and grow out the fairway alittle to stop the ridiculous run out of 30-40 yards we see at every pga tour event…you say the amateurs can use any ball we want but ill tell ya my ball dont roll out more than ten yards on most amateur courses i play and iam a 3 handicap who gets plenty of distance….. easy fix

  4. Bobby

    Apr 13, 2019 at 8:37 am

    So they are saying its a major problem that the ball gained 15 yards and now they hit wedges to greens? So if they back it up the 15 yards what are they gonna use 9 iron? Stop it….. Yes equipment is getting too good i somewhat agree but the other issue is the amount of money they can win has brought in real athletes….. Say what you want but the older guys never looked no where near what Koepka and Rory look like today. All the young kids are big athletic guys too…. Tiger was the first of the real
    Athletes and look how he did against the others of his time…..

  5. Glenn D.

    Apr 13, 2019 at 8:37 am

    And they wonder why rounds are taking so long to play. They’ve needed to add yards to every hole to accommodate the “new” length golf balls go. Like playing an extra hole. An extra 1/2 hour or longer?

  6. Simms

    Apr 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

    That PXG on Gary’s hat makes anything he has to say about equipment BS. Sorry boys it is like all sports the more education we get the better the players and equipment get. I would not worry to much about golf because Pro golf is big dollar entertainment and the Country Clubs they play and high end public courses are all that will be left in years to come…Public golf is on its last legs with courses being worth more closed then open and the ones open are fighting a loosing battle trying to match green fees with operating costs, public golfers are not going to pay over $45 dollars to play more then once a month and tee sheets even on the least expensive courses are still not full.

  7. the koob

    Apr 12, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Bifurcation seems logical. But don’t take my ball away from me. I want my MTV.

    • D

      Apr 12, 2019 at 11:16 pm

      They already do bifurcate.
      The Pros get to use metal spikes

    • PG

      Apr 13, 2019 at 8:28 am

      The tee boxes already “bifurcate”.

  8. Brendan Welch

    Apr 12, 2019 at 6:35 pm

    Why don’t they just make everyone play blades or all play the same lofts?

  9. Acemkr9

    Apr 12, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    I love the comments on here! Most of the people railing against Jack and Gary have never hit a persimmon or a balata! They grew up being indoctrinated on length. Golf is going the way of baseball the uneducated baseball fan wants 7 home runs a game not a pitchers dual, The uneducated golfer wants to see 350 yard drives and 27 under it’s simply the times and unfortunately TV is the culprit they always want more people and more people, you then pull in the uneducated sports fan who doesn’t understand the art of the sport or the tactical parts of the sport. They simply want to view something, yell at the players and ruin the next sport!

    • Alan

      Apr 12, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      I didn’t notice Jack and Gary dropping back to Hickory and Haskell balls from their modern technology advantages.

    • Aztec

      Apr 12, 2019 at 10:01 pm

      You mention ‘uneducated’ 3 times but your grammar is terrible. Kind of funny, eh?

  10. Kim

    Apr 12, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    JN has been whining about this for ages, as previous posts have mentioned, perhaps jealously. If you want to eliminate the “bombers” set the course up like they did at the Ryder Cup. There is virtually no rough at Augusta. Punish the wayward shot more severely. The changes on 5 seem to have had the desired affect. Narrow the fairways. These guys are better athletes, yes, technology is better, embrace it. Going backwards is not the answer.

    • acemkr9

      Apr 12, 2019 at 6:23 pm

      Actually if you had any historical knowledge instead of just an opinion Jack in his prime was the longest hitter on tour, Courses actually starting adding bunkers because he flew the original ones!
      Alistair McKenzie in his book ‘the Spirit of ST Andrews warned of the ball going to far! You should read it!

  11. Harry Adam

    Apr 12, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    Whatever is decided, it would be a great mistake to differentiate equipment rules between amateurs and professionals.

  12. Tom54

    Apr 12, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    I guess it’s only fitting that two of the names greatest champions are now fussing about how far the modern ball and equipment are making the game unfair. I guess it comes with the territory once you have become honorary starters for the Masters. Pretty sure they wish today’s ball and clubs were out in their heyday. If we have maxed out the ball and the clubs,then it must be the player. Courses can handle 325 yd drives but if they start averaging 350+ then maybe there is a problem. Until then sit back and marvel what talent it takes to propel a golf ball around a course like they do.

    • acemkr9

      Apr 12, 2019 at 6:25 pm

      “Until then sit back and marvel what talent it takes to propel a golf ball around a course like they do.”

      bwahaahhahahaahahaahaahahaahahahaaah Jack Nicklaus has 18 majors and you think he doesn’t know what it takes! I marvel at peoples comments!

  13. Jow

    Apr 12, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Nicklaus is clearly right. If you value the historic courses around the world, the technology cannot get longer perpetually. These courses will not change in kind.

    If you’re ok with Augusta, St Andrews, Bethpage etc becoming easier and easier as time marches on the I suppose it’s not an issue for you.

    It would be great if we could make clubs easier to hit without always adding length.

  14. Bob Jones

    Apr 12, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    In the 1960s, Bobby Jones described how Augusta plays in the Masters. You can read it in his book, Golf Is My Game. For example, hole No. 16, 190 yards, he described as a 2, 3, or 4-iron. Now it’s a 7, 8, or 9-iron. Don’t tell me these guys don’t have a point about distance. As for the Masters not allowing green reading books, hear hear!

  15. Darrin Lygrisse

    Apr 12, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    I will disagree with Jack on one thing…it’s more the driver than the ball, or a combo of the two. The modern driver with a spring face COR launches the harder ball when you have a high swing speed. The long get longer, the short hitters have gained very little. It takes speed to make that face flex, the rich got richer, the short got shorter in a relative sense.

  16. Tom

    Apr 12, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    The older folks probably said the same thing when they switched from hickory. You can’t fault advancements in technology.

  17. LLL

    Apr 12, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    Lets go back to lumber

  18. Bryan

    Apr 12, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Hmmm…the modern golf ball did not seem to make Merion obsolete in 2013, did it?

    • Caddy

      Apr 12, 2019 at 4:28 pm

      Only because other features were harder. Greens were never much more than about 8 on the stimp until the early 1980’s. Now 12-13 is normal on tour. Bobby Jones would have thought that was ridiculous. Augustas greens were made for slow speeds.

  19. Rae Ashley

    Apr 12, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    I totally agree with Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Player!!! Why shouldn’t Golf have a standard ball like all other sports? Plus, I just love to hear these duffers and hackers criticize two of the greats. Total disrespect and actually very ignorant!!

    • Anton kruger

      Apr 13, 2019 at 2:29 pm

      It’s not being ignorant or disrespectful it’s fact that technology has improved the game and athletes are better than these two old timers who have nothing better to do or say and use the masters as a platform to create controversy to get press coverage . They had there time . Respect the new generation and their better abilities

  20. Stump

    Apr 12, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Did Jack and Gary play hickory and gutta percha balls or did they play steel shafts and a balata ball? I’ll bet Jack could hit his steel and balata 21 yards further than the older guys hit their hickory and GP.
    Jack was complaining about the ball back in the 80s. Ironic that Gary was complaining of technology while wearing the hat of one of the most advanced and expensive equipment companies.
    Maybe we should all watch the Masters on our black and white 13″ TVs…for only the last 9 holes on Sunday instead of streaming it.

  21. David

    Apr 12, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Old men complaining… A tradition unlike any other.

  22. frank cichon

    Apr 12, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    It is not Rocket Science or Brain Surgery…..the rules are there, just enforce them. I have volunteered several times at the PGA Tour stop in Vancouver BC and could not at two Canadian Opens that we had here several years ago (both times more people volunteered than were needed) Have 2 timers per group with a stop watch and time each player ….first slow time a warning, second slow time a 1 stroke penalty , second slow time 2 strokes.We would see twosomes play inside of 4 hours overnight.

  23. dat

    Apr 12, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    Has a lot to do with the physical fitness of the best players of today. That gains more yards, period. Equipment is not out of control, except the ball – so it is likely a combo of both the ball and the gym work ethic these guys have today.

    If Nicklaus or Player were playing today, and in their former “prime” shape – they’d get destroyed. If they were around today, and worked at the same level as today’s best – they’d probably still be great, but not win like they did back then.

    • Funkaholic

      Apr 12, 2019 at 2:52 pm

      You obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

      • Jim regan

        Apr 12, 2019 at 3:19 pm

        Agree! Hey watching the Masters today these guys were hitting drivers that CARRIED 280-290!! This is ridiculous. jack and Gary know what they’re talking about.

    • Boyo

      Apr 12, 2019 at 5:37 pm

      You’re out of your Vulcan mind.

  24. Jose

    Apr 12, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    I get so tired of little short man syndromes. I saw a picture of Phil standing next to jack about 25 yrs ago and Phil made him look like the midget he is. What Jack never mentions is the pure Geometry of the game. If you hit a drive 280 yards and it’s on the right side of the fairway, then Dustin hits next on the exact line, he’s 30+ yards into the trees. Jack just needs to go away, his ego is bigger than his fat old gut he has hanging out. Fans go to watch pros to see them hut shots they can’t, which is why the LPGA doesn’t draw the numbers the guys do. They want to see things that amaze them, 240 yard drives aren’t amazing. You think golf is losing ground now, take amazing out of it and watch what happens.

    • Funkaholic

      Apr 12, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Nicklaus hit the old ball with the old clubs 341 yards in 1963, you have no idea what you are talking about. If you don’t respect legends like him, you have no business on the course.

    • Joseph R Dreitler

      Apr 12, 2019 at 3:02 pm

      Because you never saw Jack when he was 22 years old. He was 6′” tall and is now about 5’8″. It happens when you get old. Like most old men, he’s lost height, a lot of it. The training argument is bogus. YouTube the 1971 All Star game when 170 pound, steroid-less Reggie Jackson took a Doc Ellis fastball and it was still climbing when it hit the light tower on top of the upper deck. Point is that there are not just 3 or 5 or 10 big/super guys hitting it this far, most of them on the Tour are. Is making golf courses obsolete.

    • Boyo

      Apr 12, 2019 at 5:38 pm

      Another moron speaks.

  25. Mike Cleland

    Apr 12, 2019 at 11:21 am

    It is a shame to see what has happened to Golf. No one walks, everyone rides around in their little golf carts loaded with beer & pretzels. My son, who is 5’7” tall & never works out, regularly hits 325 yard drives & 160 yard pitching wedges in between smokes. We have $500 drivers & $300 putters, $250 green fees & $10,000/year dues on mediocre country clubs. It takes 5+ hours to play 18 holes. The USGA & R&A are clearly in the pocket of the equipment companies. Kids are not taking up golf because it costs too much & parents that can’t afford to play golf. Gee, why is golf not growing?

  26. Chris

    Apr 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

    No disrespect to Jack or Gary, but they are playing a caricature of the two old muppets in the balcony. I understand their argument and concerns, but 1) these guys aren’t the same burger-eating, smoking, “everymen” of days of old. They are athletes. They hit a long ball partially because of the ball/equipment, but mostly because they have worked their arse off to be strong enough to unload a club like that. 2) These guys all have to putt and play a short game. The ball doesn’t help putting pressure. 3) Long balls go long into the woods too. It’s risk/reward – if you’re straight, great. If not, you’re no better off than a short knock. 4) Pick your battles – with the rules bumbling in the USGA and the US Open setup issues, introducing a new complication / controversy into the mix is just dumb and myopic.

    • dat

      Apr 12, 2019 at 1:29 pm

      100% Agree. These guys are now full blown athletes for the mostpart.

      Perhaps courses should focus on making long distance drives a major risk reward, narrow those fairways. Or, get the USGA/R&A to issue a joint ruling on golf ball limitations like they did with COR.

    • N

      Apr 12, 2019 at 3:49 pm

      No, it’s all equipment lol

    • acemkr9

      Apr 12, 2019 at 6:28 pm

      So they would hit a balata the same distance as the current balls because of their stature and strength? Obviously you never hit a balata with a persimmon!

    • Murv

      Apr 12, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      You got it right!

  27. R

    Apr 12, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Get rid of golf carts too, in between holes, and in between front and back 9s on Tour, and really see how long rounds take if they all actually had to walk every corner of the course without help. That should help eliminate more than half the courses on Tour easily that are all too big, too wide open.

  28. Brandon

    Apr 12, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Pretty simple to just narrow the fairways and make the rough unplayable for pro tournaments if they are worried about courses playing too easy.

    • R

      Apr 12, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Ditto

    • Jim K

      Apr 12, 2019 at 10:52 am

      It’s not so much a question of courses playing too easy; it’s about courses playing the way they were intended to be played. Narrowing fairways and growing rough won’t do that. It will just take the driver out of the game. It’s like baseball where a lot of people think the home run has become too big a part of the game. You could change that by moving all the fences back 50 feet, but that would also change the basic nature of the game. Restricting the ball in both sports would be the best way to restore the games to what they were intended to be.

    • Jim Garner

      Apr 12, 2019 at 10:55 am

      But all the folks that holler Bobba Booey and Uda Man would quit attending

  29. Thomas A

    Apr 12, 2019 at 9:45 am

    Player railing against modern technology, just signed a club deal with PXG. That’s rich.

    • R

      Apr 12, 2019 at 10:38 am

      Ditto

    • Justin Wheeler

      Apr 12, 2019 at 3:12 pm

      This was exactly my thought. Of course, they didn’t blame the equipment like drivers and irons. Watching The Masters now and seeing guys hit driver with 170+ ball speed. I’d be curious what the ball speeds were back in the day. It’s a combination of club, ball, strength and conditioning, efficiency, and agronomic conditions.

    • D

      Apr 12, 2019 at 7:34 pm

      That is a really good point.

  30. CC1718

    Apr 12, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Jack was one of the first guys to start making his own yardage books back in the day… I guess he can take some credit for the guys taking it one step further with the making green reading books… PGA should just give everyone an ipad and a GPS course app and maybe the pro game pace of play would speed up… Throw in a barometer too for DeChambeau so he can get his air pressure worked into his yardage…

    • Red Nelson

      Apr 12, 2019 at 5:18 pm

      I love the creative use of ellipsis. Or is this Morse code? dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot.
      “Help! I don’t know what I’m doing.”

  31. Gurn Blanstin

    Apr 12, 2019 at 9:14 am

    What do you have against grocers selling beans?

    I miss the rubber bands in the ole balata …

    • LoPro

      Apr 12, 2019 at 8:39 pm

      How many yards of rubber bands were in that ball?

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Why players are living so far under par

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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

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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

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

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 Web.com 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
EuropeanTour.com 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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