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Morning 9: Battle of brains & brawn? | Tiger 2 under | BK bites back | Nicklaus, Player sound off

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

April 12, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. “Brains and brawn”
ESPN’s mark Schlabach on the two very different gentlemen tied for the lead after round 1 in Augusta.
  • “Brains and brawn share the top spot on the leaderboard heading into the second round of the 83rd Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.”
  • “Bryson DeChambeau, with a physics degree from Southern Methodist University, fired an opening-round 66, with nine birdies and three bogeys.”
  • “Brooks Koepka, who is known to spend as much time in the gym as on the practice green, posted the same 6-under score with a flawless bogey-free round.”
2. Tiger 2 under
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister…”From a historical perspective, Tiger Woods was quite content to shoot a 2-under 70 in Thursday’s opening round of the Masters.”
  • “I’ve shot this number and won four coats, so hopefully I can do it again,” Tiger said.
  • “Technically, it was just the first three of his four green jackets that were fueled by an opening 70, in 1997, 2001 and 2002. The last time Woods won at Augusta National, he opened with a 2-over 74 before getting back into the mix with rounds of 66-65.”
  • “Of course, maybe his factual gaffe was his way of foreshadowing a fourth opening-70 victory. Woods was certainly solid for most of the day and was definitely in a groove off the tee.”
3. BK defiant
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”Asked to respond to the recent criticism surrounding his weight, Koepka echoed some of his critics when he said: “I lift too many weights, and I’m too big to play golf. And then when I lose weight, I’m too small.”
  • “He added: “I’m going to make me happy. I don’t care what anyone else says.”
  • Then he looked up at the electronic leaderboard in the Masters press building, where he’s tied at the top.”
  • “I’m doing it for me, and obviously it seems to work.”
4. Day shoots 70, despite back injury
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner with the report on Jason Day’s back…
  • “Day did not speak with the media following the opening round and instead received treatment. His wife, Ellie, said that Day threw out his back before the round, when he bent down to kiss his 3-year-old daughter, Lucy, on the practice putting green. She said he had been receiving treatment all week.”
  • “On the second hole, Day was seen getting worked on by a physiotherapist. He was able to continue the round, ultimately getting to 3 under for the day before a bogey on the 17th…Day has been plagued by back issues for years, but the injury flared up again last month at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he withdrew during the first round. He said then that an MRI revealed an injury to his L4-L5 discs.”
5. Lefty
ESPN’s Bob Harig on Mickelson’s strong start…”Mickelson, 48, opened the tournament with his best first round since shooting the same score in 2010, when he won the third of his three green jackets. There is a long way to go, but a victory at the Masters would make Mickelson the oldest to win a major championship in the game’s history, surpassing the record held since 1968 by Julius Boros.”
  • “It was great. It was a lot of fun,” said Mickelson, who is in third place, one stroke behind leaders Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. “And it’s fun to finish off the round. It’s fun to make a good par save on 17 and birdie the last. It’s fun to finish a good round off rather than leak one here or there coming in. So it was a good day.”
6. Cheers, Cup and Tee Committee
Geoff Shackelford lauded the work of the Cup and Tee crew in setting up ANGC…
  • “The Cup and Tee Marker Placement Committee dug into their bag of tricks on day one of the Masters to fend off a birdie onslaught. For a while, they contained scoring with help from Mother Nature’s swirling winds.”
  • “But as the already slow-for-Augusta greens slowed and the winds calmed down, the course yielded a 72.874 scoring average, with 28 of 87 players posting rounds under par. For perspective, the record first round came 10 years ago when 38 of 96 were in red numbers.”
  • “About as tough as they can get,” Nick Faldo noted of the flagstick locations during the broadcast in response to Peter Kostis declaring the hole locations as the most difficult 18-hole set he’d seen in years.
7. 5 things
Our Ron Montesano rounds up 5 things we learned on day 1 at Augusta
Among them…
  • For a very long time on Masters 2K19: Day 1, 69 appeared to be the top score for the opening 18. This made Tiger Woods fans ecstatic, as the growler sat but one shot back, having signed for an opening 70. The afternoon wave of golfers caught fire late. Two of the game’s top young talents shared the lead at 6-under par. As Masters veterans know, not much is decided on Thursday, beyond the recipients of crystal for daily low score, eagles, and the like. Still, the message sent by Dechambeau and might be one of concern for those more than 4 back.
  • The best thing for Tiger is …“Phil. Nothing drives the furry one like his number-one rival. Despite having bested the lefthander on most occasions over the years, Tiger has no plans to let up. The longer Phil hangs around, the more likely Tiger is to lock in and go low. Cheer for the 40-somethings and you just might see major #15 and Masters #5 from the golfer formerly known as Eldrick.”
8. Nicklaus, Player on distance, green-reading books…
Our Gianni Magliocco…”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.”

Full piece.

9. Technology compromising charm?
An interesting suggestion from Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker on the heels of the new Masters digital offerings…
  • “It helps to have pockets as deep as Augusta National, which in recent years has dropped $200 million snatching up property all around its borders with no plans of stopping anytime soon. Tech isn’t cheap, either, and this latest unveiling has now set the standard for all other sporting events going forward.”
  • “Except this isn’t like any other sporting event, which begs a question: Did the Masters lose a little bit of its magic with all this too-good-to-be-true at-your-fingertips technology?”
  • “In CBS’ first broadcast of the tournament in 1956, the network provided just a half hour of coverage on Friday with one hour each on Saturday and Sunday. Chris Schenkel and Bud Palmer were behind the mics, and CBS only covered holes 15 through 18, with all of its cameras stationary and most pointed at the greens.”
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Keegan Bradley Puts Srixon Z-Forged Blades in the bag

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This week at the BMW Championship, Srixon staff member Keegan Bradley switched irons from the cult classic Z745 to the company’s current Z-Forged blade irons.

For most players, an iron change is not something you would do during the playoffs, but when talking to the team at Srixon, Keegan had been trying to replace his set for a little while. The Z745s were getting on in years and with recent swing changes, he was also looking for more consistent numbers and distance control. That’s an impressive request from one of the top-50 ballstrikers on tour

Let’s take a quick look at his stats

  • 12th in Proximity to Hole with an average distance of 34.2″
  • 16th in Strokes Gained Approach with .642
  • 38th in Greens in Regulation at 68.45%

His new Z-Forged Iron setup is 4-PW with Nippon Tour 120 X shafts.

Although Keegan started the BMW Championship in 66th place in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, he still has a chance of making it to the Tour Championship with a solid weekend in Chicago.

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Senior golf: Practical suggestions for lowering your scores

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This is the second article is our senior series. I was away for a while, so let’s get back to helping you seniors! If you missed the first article, take a look.

I live just a few yards from the green of a par 3, and it never ceases to amaze me the number of times I see two shots turned into three. Or more. All golfers, (particularly seniors) looking to cut their scores need to pay attention, not just to putts, but to the simple up and down opportunities that they missed. The par three by my house plays anywhere from 160 to 200 years, has a pond bordering the green on the left, and out of bounds (MY HOUSE) on the right. So it’s not an easy hole, and golfers miss that green all day; but even the poorer shots will come within 15, maybe 20 yards of the green. I see no reason a player should leave that hole with anything more than a bogey. Yet I see fives and sixes more than you can imagine…a chip shot is a very simple shot to learn.

MOST of your senior golf years should be spent chipping, pitching and putting.  Here’s why:

After a certain age. or perhaps when one has played a certain number of years, your golf swing can be changed slightly at the most! By slightly I mean this: Let’s say you are a 15 handicap player, you are hitting around five greens a round in regulation. If you make huge improvement in your swing, you may get to seven greens a round in regulation (the average of a 10-handicap player). That still leaves you 11-12 times per round OFF THE GREEN. Now, it’s true of course that swing improvements can also lead to missing closer to the green, but even here we are talking perhaps a pitch instead of a chip from the edge. BOTH these shots are within the skill set of most any golfer if they think and play differently around the greens. Hitting more greens is not always in that player’s capability, but getting the golf ball in the hole in fewer strokes IS!

I’ll use the green by my house as an example: the green is over 25 paces (75 feet) long. Like most courses, carts are kept on the cart path on all par 3s. I can’t begin to tell you how many players leave the cart with ONE, maybe TWO clubs regardless of the length of the shot. Those clubs are very often a wedge (of some loft) and/or a sand/lob wedge. Again most golfers are short with their tee shots (on all holes not just par 3s). So now they are standing in front of chip possibly 70-80 feet long with a 55-degree club. They either stub it or skull it, leaving themselves in double-bogey (or worse) position. That club selection is like taking a hit on 16 in blackjack when the dealer is showing 6!

Again, I know studies show that ballstriking is primary. Of course, you have to get your swing to the point where you can get the ball in play off the tee, but let me ask this question: when ballstriking is as good as it is going to get, you will still miss plenty of greens. What then? Are you doomed to shoot 94 because your swing cannot change greatly? The answer is NO, if you think better, and learn to hit short shots better. A big change in a golf swing requires time and athleticism. Short shots need technique and feel, but MUCH less strength, flexibility or general athleticism.

As a general rule, I teach most of my students the following priority list when near the green

  • PUTT whenever you can
  • CHIP if you can’t putt
  • PITCH only when you must.

Putting and straightforward chipping or bumping-and-running is a MUCH higher percentage shot. Do yourself a favor and play the shot that you are most capable of NOT the one you’ve seen on TV. Look, you’re probably not gonna hole a chip or pitch, so where do you want to be on your next shot?

Many of you have heard of the “rule of 12.” I’m going to try to explain this as simple as possible and suggest quick math for the course.

  • Pace off the distance you want the golf ball to fly and land two paces (5-6 yards) on the green. NO FURTHER THAN THAT!
  • Let’s say that distance is 4 paces (two yards off the green, two yards to land on the green).
  • Now pace from that point to the hole. Let’s say for the sake of simplicity the hole is 8 yards (25 feet or so) from the landing spot.
  • You have a 2 to 1 relationship of carry to roll.
  • Here’s how to do quick course math in your head: 12-2=10 iron, PW
  • If you have 3X roll vs carry, 12-3=9, iron.
  • If you have 4X roll vs carry, 12-4=8 iron. and so on…
  • This is NOT CAST IN STONE, it is merely a guide.
  • NOTE:  This applies to chipping only; next time I’ll deal with pitching. And course, just like putting uphill, downhill, into grain, down grain etc. have to be taken into consideration.

 Simple drill:  Put a headcover two paces on the green. Chip to it, no further! See what club it takes to reach various hole positions.

No one knows better than a golf instructor of nearly 40 years how difficult it is to get someone to change their habits. I can’t tell you how many times I have suggested people try another approach around the green, and invariably they go right back to their “favorite club.” It’s your choice, but PLEASE practice your short game most of the time!

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Morning 9: U.S. Am, BMW report | Tiger’s start | ROY race

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

August 16, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Round 1 report
AP report on Justin Thomas’ opening-round 65…”On the range, Justin Thomas had no idea where the ball was going. Some five hours later, he had a share of the course record at Medinah.”
  • “Ultimately, all that mattered Thursday in the BMW Championship was taking a good step toward an important goal. Thomas already is set for the TOUR Championship next week and the chase for FedExCup and its $15 million prize. That’s not what interests him.”
  • “It’s about winning tournaments,” he said.
  • “He made his first birdie after hitting a tree on the fourth hole, leaving him a 5-iron he hit to 2 feet. His last birdie was a putt from about 60 feet on the fringe from the back of the 16th green. He did enough right in between for a 7-under 65 and a share of the lead with Jason Kokrak.”

Full piece.

2. U.S. Am
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard on the action from the Round of 16…
  • “The afternoon session on Pinehurst No. 2 began with a handful of lopsided matches, highlighted by Parker Coody’s 6 and 5 loss to Spencer Ralston. Before his Round of 16 loss, Coody had been cruising through match play with victories of 7 and 6 on Wednesday and 5 and 4 in Thursday’s morning Round of 32.”
  • “Georgia Tech’s Andy Ogletree followed suit shortly after with a 5 and 4 victory over Blake Hathcoat, with 17-year-old junior golfer Cohen Trolio defeating Alex Fitzpatrick by the same margin. Fellow teenager Palmer Jackson, 18, earned a 2 up victory over Isaiah Salinda, who earlier this Spring went 3-0 in match play to help lead his Stanford Cardinal to the NCAA national championship.”

Full piece.

Other matches: Austin Squires topped John Pak…William Holcomb V beat Pierceson Coody…Karl Vilips eliminated Brad Dalke…
3. Green in front
EuropeanTour.com report…”Gavin Green picked up where he left off 12 months ago with an opening 64 to take the first round lead at the D+D Real Czech Masters.”
  • “The Malaysian made his debut at Albatross Golf Resort last season and was one of four players to match the course record with an opening 64 before he went on to post the lowest 36 hole total in tournament history.”
  • “Another eight under par effort handed him the solo lead after 18 holes this time around, as he led the way from England’s Lee Slattery and South African Erik van Rooyen.”

Full piece.

4. Tiger’s start
Steve DiMeglio for Golfweek“On a day when most players were in the Diamond Lane rising to the top of the leaderboard as venerable Medinah Country Club was vulnerable after recent rains, Woods got stuck in the slow lane and got lost in the leaders’ rearview mirrors.”
  • “Woods put his signature to a pedestrian 1-under-par 71 on a day when nearly half the field was speeding along in the 60s. While breaking par was a victory for Woods after he was forced to withdraw from last week’s Northern Trust with an oblique strain, there was little to celebrate.”
  • “Once I got on the golf course and felt how soft the greens were, it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to make birdies,'” said Woods, who did make three in his first five holes but only one after that. “I didn’t feel any tightness in my oblique at all, so that was a positive, and I just need to clean up my rounds and get going. Seems like the whole field is under par. The golf course is soft. Even though it’s long, it’s just gettable.”
5. ROY race
Cameron Morfit at PGATour.com…”It was hard to miss the symbolism as Sungjae Im, 26th in the FedExCup and the current favorite for Rookie of the Year, stroked putts on the practice green after an opening-round, 2-under 70 at the BMW Championship at Medinah No. 3.”
  • “That’s because behind him, meeting the press after his 5-under 67, was Collin Morikawa.”
  • “…Five rookies have advanced to the 69-player BMW Championship: frontrunner Im (FedExCup No. 26), Morikawa (57), Cameron Champ (58), Adam Long (65) and Wyndham Clark (68).”
6. The fateful call
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…”Speaking on Wednesday night as part of his induction into the Western Golf Association’s Caddie Hall of Fame, LaCava regaled attendees with this simple back and forth between him and his current boss, Tiger Woods, circa 2011.”
  • Woods to LaCava: “Are you interested [in being my caddie]?”
  • LaCava: “F*** yeah, I’m interested!”

Full piece.

7. Viktor! 
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker…”When the PGA Tour regular season ended a couple of weeks ago, former Oklahoma State star Viktor Hovland found himself on the wrong side of getting his card straight out of college, coming up an agonizing 67 FedEx Cup points short.”
  • “Naturally, there was a swell of support that he should be granted one anyway, since in five of his starts he didn’t earn any points because he was an amateur. Among the finishes that didn’t count: A T-12 at the U.S. Open and a T-32 at the Masters. Had he been retroactively awarded those points, he would have earned enough to qualify for the Playoffs and more importantly gotten a card for next season.”
  • “I knew going in that most likely the way I had to make my PGA Tour card was through the Korn Ferry [Tour] Finals,” Hovland said from this week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Ohio, where he continues his quest to earn a PGA Tour card. “So I’m looking forward to getting off to a good start here at Scarlet.”

Full piece.

8. Top instructors on slow play
Digest’s Matthew Rudy chatted with some of the biggest names in instruction about pace-of-play in pro golf…
  • “Jim McLean (Jim McLean Golf School at the Biltmore, Coral Gables, Fla.): It’s a major issue. Slow play ruins golf, whether you’re talking about a tour event or a regular weekend round at a public course. How many tee times is a course losing when a round takes five and a half hours?”
  • “Mark Blackburn (Greystone Golf & Country Club, Birmingham, Ala.): Yes, it’s an issue for the Tour, but I wouldn’t call it a universal issue. So much of it has to do with course design. In the U.S., you’re usually riding, and the tee boxes are far away from the previous green. I walked 11 miles following [student] Chez Reavie in Kapalua. That takes time. A course with water and sand? It just takes longer. They’re not having the same problems in the U.K., where the classic courses have tees and greens that are closer together. You’re playing in two and a half hours over there.”

Full piece.

9. Screw the haters
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…”During the Wednesday round he recorded a video for another user’s Snapchat account, which was subsequently recorded and made the rounds in a more public manner.”
  • “In the video DeChambeau remains unapologetic, noting that despite the viral putt he was “never on the clock last week” at Liberty National.”
  • “I’m out here, doing the right thing, having a great time with the pro-am guys, killing it,” DeChambeau said. “And honestly, we’re on these guys’ asses all the time. Last week I played under time par, this week we’ll do the same thing.”
  • …”Y’all can say whatever you want, but we’re having a f—ing awesome time,” DeChambeau said. “So screw all y’all haters, no big deal. I still love you all, even though you hate me.”
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