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Tour Rundown: Kentucky Derby weekend yields plenty of partying

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Kentucky Derby weekend, May The Fourth Be With You, Cinco de Mayo, whatever you celebrated over the last three days, the first weekend in May of 2019 was made for a party. Max Homa had a party, as did Scott McCarron, Mikko Korhonen, and Robby Shelton. There were first-time winners on two tours, along with a victory from a golfer who wants to establish himself as his tour’s best, and a winner who nearly gave it all away. Will May 5th be remembered as the start of something special, some day down the road? Have a look and let us know, as we offer up this week’s Tour Rundown.

PGA Tour’s Eddie Pepperell-light takes 1st title at Wells Fargo 

Max Homa won’t ever be confused with the wit of Eddie Pepperell, the funniest golf guy on Twitter. Homa has a fine education from Berkley, but his Twitter takes are not nearly as rakish as those of the Englishman. Still, Homa has one more PGA Tour victory than Pepperell, thanks to a victory at Quail Hollow, one of the tour’s most daunting and difficult tracks. Homa, Joel Dahmen and Jason Dufner were all in the mix on Saturday night, but ironically, it was the more-experienced Dufner who caved.

The 2013 PGA Champion blew north to +2 and a 4th-place tie. Dahmen, best known previously for calling out Sung Kang for cheating at the Quicken Loans, followed opening 66s with closing 70s, to finish at -12. A fine performance, to be sure, but Homa ran for homa like a Derby champion on Sunday. 5 birdies and a clean card through 15 holes in round four were enough for the Walker Cupper to make bogey at 16 and still win by 3. Dahmen came 2nd at -12, with Justin Rose in Show position at -11. Homa was part of a stellar 2013 USA Walker Cup side, but transition from top amateur to top pro is an unspecific science. Justin Thomas was a part of that team, as was Michael Kim. Kim has won, and we know what Thomas has done. Homa now joins them as tour winners, but will he reveal more, to get to the next level?

Korhonen captures 2nd European Tour title at China Open

A lot of names were in the mix as the China Open drew to a close this weekend. Benjamin Hebert of France made an attempt to win his first top-shelf professional title A week after claiming his 1st big event, Spain’s Jorge Campillo joined the hunt, in search of a quick 2nd. Mikko Korhonen of Finland birdied the 17th hole to reach 20-under par, then watched as Hebert birdied the 18th to tie him, one shot clear of Campillo. Off to extra holes they went, but the journey was brief. Both golfers returned to the drivable 18th, all of 320 yards, and nearly reached the putting surface. Korhonen was able to get up and down for 3, while Hebert came up shy of a matching birdie. In my opinion, Korhonen’s all-or-nothing approach to the playoff was the correct one. Playing safe with a chance to win is a fool’s errand; when a stroke-play event is down to you and the other guy, go for the win!.

Another Web.Com Tour win for Sweet Home Alabama at the Nasvhille Golf Open

Robby Shelton and Scottie Scheffler played on different astral planes this week. Shelton was 4 better than Scheffler on Thursday. The tables turned as Sheffler went 6 better on Friday. Shelton returned on Saturday with a 9-stroke differential, and Sunday returned the advantage to Scheffler, this time by 7 strokes. Of course, all this topsy-turvy play assured that the two youngsters with unlimited potential would tie for first at -15. One behind them was Sweden’s Henrik Norlander, whose 72nd-hole birdie brought him agonizingly close to the top. S and S headed out to the par-five closer at Nashville GAC.

Shelton had been oh-s0-close this year (come to think of it, so had Scheffler) and fittingly, a birdie on extra hole one by the former University of Alabama golfer brought him his first Web.Com title. As for Scheffler, the former University of Texas athlete had to find consolation in his best Web.Com tour finish of his career. It won’t surprise anyone to see both golfers earn battlefield promotions during the 2019 regular season. Their games are more refined than any other golfers on the Triple-A circuit, and a budding rivalry is the best thing for the tour, and for them. They don’t have to hate each other, but they do have to hate the thought of losing to the other. If we’re lucky, this rivalry will carry all the way to the PGA Tour, where things could really get fun.

The Comeback Kim takes LPGA Tour’s Mediheal Championship in extra time

Sei Young Kim looked for all the world a champion on Saturday afternoon. After 2 holes on Sunday, her disguise came off. A double bogey-bogey start sent her toward a +4 front nine, where she fell hard from the top of the leader board. Fortunately for her, the free run was accepted by no challenger, and a birdie-par-bogey-birdie finish was enough to get the struggling Kim into a playoff with England’s Bronte Law, and Korea’s J Lee6. That’s right, Lee6. Lee6 finished 4-under over the closing 4 holes to nearly snatch a regulation-time victory. After Kim’s eagle effort from off the 18th green just missed, the trio headed back to the home hole’s tee. Kim made yet another birdie to claim victory. After playing the closing hole birdie-eagle-birdie over the first three days, Law parred it twice on Sunday. That’s lack of crunch time experience. Lee6 came closer, with birdie in regulation, but it was the many-times winner Sei Young Kim who gathered herself when the winds had changed against her, and fought back like a lion.

Scott McCarron grabs 2nd PGA Tour Champions win of 2019 at Insperity Invitational

Over Kentucky Derby weekend, betting a guy named “Scott” on the Champions Tour was a sure thing. Figuring out which of the two hot Scotts would be the winner was the greater challenge. Scott McCarron found himself in very good form, having won his 9th career Champions tour event last month in Atlanta. Scott Parel won twice in 2018 and came close earlier this year, losing in a playoff at Rapiscan.

At this week’s Insperity Invitational in Houston’s northern suburbs, McCarron finished at -18 for a 3-shot winner over Parel. Each golfer made 3 bogeys on the week and, while Parel had the edge in eagles (1-0), McCarron had 4 birdies more for the winning margin. It was another 3 strokes back to 3rd place, where 2-time US Open champion Lee Janzen sat. McCarron moved $300K ahead of Kirk Triplett in the Schwab Cup race for 2019 and that’s where he should stay. McCarron is one of those golfers whose best days are ahead of him. He is fit, strong and long, and has a decided advantage over every other golfer on the senior circuit. All that holds him back is himself. McCarron is the guy to put an end to Bernhard Langer’s ridiculous dominance.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Morning 9: Will Captain Woods pick Tiger? | Would new Tour Champ format have altered past outcomes? | Pelley on slow play

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

August 20, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Captain Tiger’s expectations 
AP report…”Tiger Woods wants the eight players who made his Presidents Cup team and four more under consideration as captain’s picks to play tournaments and stay sharp over the next three months leading to the December matches Down Under.”
  • “…Woods said he told prospective Presidents Cup players at a meeting two weeks ago how important it was to be committed to the team and to the event.”
  • “And that means playing and being prepared,” he said during a conference call Monday evening. “The only time we have ever lost the Cup was in Australia, and quite frankly, some of the guys didn’t play or practice that much. It was our offseason, and we got beat pretty badly.”
2. …but will TW pick himself? 
ESPN’s Bob Harig with Woods‘ remarks on the matter…
“Woods said Monday that although the final decision remains his, he won’t participate as a player unless that is what all involved want. And even then, he might not.”
  • “My job as the captain is to put together the best team possible,” Woods said during a conference call Monday to discuss the eight players who automatically qualified for the team following the BMW Championship. “Trying to put together the best 12 guys. We’ll be going through the whole process of having communication with the top eight guys and vice captains.
  • “That is something that we’ll certainly talk about. Ultimately it’ll be my call. But I want to have all of their opinions before that decision is made.”

Full piece.

3. How Tiger will remember 2019…
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…
“The rest of the tournaments I didn’t really play as well as I wanted to,” Woods said. “But at the end of the day, I’m the one with the green jacket.”
  • “It was a perfect encapsulation of the dichotomy that ruled Woods’ 2019 campaign. For most of the year, he was mediocre and sometimes worse – this, despite coming off a season that saw him capture the Tour Championship and come within a whisker of winning the FedExCup. The good rounds were sporadic, the bad ones were more plentiful, and the few decent results usually stemmed from a palatable final round that began with Woods well out of contention.”
  • “In fact, there was only one tournament all year where Woods even finished within eight shots of the winner. But that’s also the only one most people will remember.”

Full piece.

4. What if…
Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington on what the past FedEx Cup finales would have looked like with the current seeding…
  • “What if, however, the system that begins this week had been in place the previous 12 years of the FedEx Cup? How might history be different?”
  • “As it turns out, not all that much. And that’s the way the tour officials wanted it, having run thousands of computer simulations to try and approximate as best they could the point differential in play under the old system.”
  • “We went back all 12 years, took the top 30 in the FedEx Cup list entering East Lake and applied the adjusted strokes to the players scores at the Tour Championship to determine who would have won if the new format was used retroactively.”
  • “Nine times the actual FedEx Cup winner also would have won in the new strokes-based system, and a 10th time the winner (Jim Furyk in 2010) would have been in a sudden-death playoff for the title.”
5. Steph Curry bankrolls Howard golf
Our Gianni Magliocco…”NBA star and avid golfer Stephen Curry has donated a seven-figure sum to Howard University in a move that will see men’s and women’s golf teams at the school for at least the next six years.”
  • “As the Washington Post reported on Monday, this will be the first time the school will compete at the Division I level in the sport, and the university plans to have the teams ready to compete for the 2020/21 academic year.”
  • “Curry’s donation was partly inspired by Howard senior and golfer Otis Ferguson IV, and speaking on bringing golf back to Howard, the 31-year-old stated”
  • “Golf is a sport that has changed my life in ways that are less tangible, but just as impactful. It’s a discipline that challenges your mental wherewithal from patience to focus, and is impossible to truly master, so when you hear about these passionate student athletes who have the talent but don’t have a fair shot at the game, it’s tough. I feel really honored to play a small role in the rich history of Howard University.”
6. U.S. Am ratings…
Per Geoff Shackelford…”According to Sports Business Daily, the 2019 BMW Championship drew a 1.9 Saturday audience and a 2.4 for Sunday’s final round on NBC, well up over non-Tiger-contending Wyndham Championship’s previously played in this schedule spot.  The 2018 Wyndham drew a 1.9.”
“The slide in US Amateur interest and visibility continued with a .4 Saturday and a .3 for Sunday’s finale on Fox going head-to-head with most of the BMW final round. Talk about an event screaming out for a change in its Monday to Sunday format to avoid being an afterthought.”
7. Do away with the Tour Championship name? 
Randall Mell says it no longer applies…
  • “The Tour Championship isn’t really a “tournament” anymore.”
  • “They’re hosting something bigger and better at East Lake in Atlanta this week, something completely different.”
  • “They’re hosting the FedExCup Finale.”
  • “Really, the PGA Tour ought to rename this week’s event exactly that, because keeping “Tour Championship” shackles fans to conventions that offend traditional sensibilities. You don’t, after all, start a tournament with a lead of seven or more shots on two-thirds of the field, the way Justin Thomas will.”

Full piece.

8. Ogletree’s tough love short game lesson
Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington on the discussion between Georgia Tech’s coach and the eventual U.S. Am winner…
  • “The tough-love conversation between Ogletree and Heppler had become the stuff of legend in the Georgia Tech camp. They were at Blaze Pizza in Atlanta last November, and Heppler let Ogletree know he had the game tee-to-green to be a successful tour pro, but the reason he had yet to win a college event was that he just wasn’t good enough around the greens.”
  • “Ogletree played the equivalent of six under par for 35 holes en route to the title. So Ogletree did something about it, working with Jeff Patton on technique in the sand. Meanwhile, teammate Noah Norton helped him with some putting drills. Ogletree put in time daily at the short-game area. And in the spring semester, he saw his stroke average drop 1½ shots without hitting his driver or irons any different.”
  • If perseverance in part characterizes Ogletree’s golf development, it certainly describes how he claimed the Havemeyer Trophy on Sunday. The day started with promise; Ogletree shot the equivalent of a 67 on Pinehurst No. 4 during the morning 18 (for the first time in U.S. Amateur history the 36-hole final was contested over two courses). The problem? Augenstein, a rising senior at Vanderbilt, shot a 65, and held a 2-up lead.”

Full piece.

9. Euro Tour chief on slow play
Keith Pelley penned an op-ed of sorts for EuropeanTour.com, that reads in part…
“Slow players, on the other hand, have become increasingly prevalent and problematic in our game in recent years, to the extent that we risk fans, both core and casual, switching off if we don’t do something about it.”
  • “The European Tour has been at the forefront of the assault on slow play for the last four years. We have the most aggressive monitoring policy in our sport, and we have issued shot penalties, but the past four months showed us finally that the time had arrived when players were willing to take a tough stance and we applauded that.”
  • “Slow play became a critical issue because our players wanted it to be.  That moment was the door opening and the mandate we were given at May’s tournament committee meeting empowered our operations and rules team to present stronger, more robust recommendations”
  • “We took a formal proposal back to the next Tournament Committee meeting at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open last month and following some fine tuning over the past six weeks, we yesterday publicly announced a four-point plan focusing on regulation, education, innovation and field size reduction where appropriate.”

 

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European Tour announces 4-point plan in a bid to tackle slow play

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On Monday, the European Tour announced a four-point plan aimed at tackling the issue of slow play in the game.

The plan, which will come into effect this November, will focus on four areas—regulation, education, innovation and field sizes.

Of those four areas, notable updates include that players will now only have to breach the time allowances twice in a round to incur a one-stroke penalty, and players who are put on the clock at least 15 times next season will now be fined £26,000 compared to the £9,000 fine they currently face.

In their statement, the European Tour said

“When players are out of position and either being monitored or timed, a one-shot penalty will be incurred after two bad times – currently a player would be ‘monitored’ and if he breaches the time allowance (50 seconds for first to play, 40 seconds for second or third to play) he will then be ‘officially timed’ and would then have to breach twice more before being given a one-shot penalty. Players will, however, have the option to request one time extension per round, giving an additional 40 seconds to hit a shot on this request.”

The Tour will also look to reduce the number of players in the field at events where possible, while rules officials are set to be proactive regarding targeting slow players on the course.

Speaking on the four-point plan, Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, stated

“We are already at the forefront of pace of play management in the professional game, but after being mandated by our Tournament Committee to be even firmer in dealing with this issue, the time was right to take these additional steps.

I believe the plan we are implementing for the 2020 season will bring about meaningful change that will make golf even more enjoyable for the players and our fans, whether they are at the course in person or watching on television.”

To retain their European Tour card, each member will have to pass an interactive online rules test, while a trial pace of play timing system will be implemented at the Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth next month where there will also be larger gaps between start times over the weekend’s rounds.

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Tour Rundown: How the pros (and amateur) got it done this weekend

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The Presidents Cup automatic-qualifying chase came to an end on Sunday. While students returned to schools across the country, and football teams played their 2nd preseason games. 8 USA golfers and 8 World professionals were named to their respective teams. Each captain has f our at-large selections to make. For team USA, the unfortunately-underperforming Rickie Fowler may have two weeks for more Farmer’s Insurance commercials, as he finds himself in the #11 slot. Only Tiger Woods’ beneficence will save him from an early vacation. Xander Schauffele left nothing to chance this time around. After being ignored for a Ryder Cup captain’s pick last year, he made the PCup team on merit this year. The World team still has a load of Aussies (3 at last count) but has the presence of golfers from Taipei, Mexico, China, South Africa and Japan. This year’s competition at Royal Melbourne has the potential to be quite memorable, assuming that the qualifiers don’t lose their edge over the next four months.

As for individual competition this week, we had lots of it. Playoff events on two tours, a male US Amateur champion to go with last week’s female winner, and a terrific story of rags to riches on the Champions tour. Seize the day and enjoy this week’s Tour Rundown.

BMW Classic

You had to chuckle a bit this week as another of the game’s vaunted hollows caved to the expansive skill of the modern golf professional. Medinah #3 has long been held as a bastion of defense, but this week, well, they ate it up. Hideki Matsuyama shot 63 on Friday for a course record, then did it again on Sunday. Not only did he not win (he had 73 on Saturday) but his course record lasted all of 24 hours. Matsuyama did finish 3rd at -20, 2 shots behind Patrick Cantlay. The fellow who broke Matsuyama’s fresh course record was someone for whom 2018-19 has been relatively quite: Justin Thomas. So quiet, that is had been 53 weeks since his last victory. Thomas blistered Medinah Tres with 8 birdies and 2 eagles on Saturday, moving oh-so-close to the hallowed, sacred 59. In the spirit of generosity, he made bogey at the 6th (after opening with 5 birdies) to not completely eviscerate Matsuyama’s record (and Medinah’s spirit.) Of course, JT would open Sunday with a bogey, to give just a bit of hope to the chasers. He had 2 birdies on the outward nine, steadying the ship but certainly not assuring himself of anything. After making 6 at the par-5 10th (twice as many strokes as he needed 24 hours earlier) Thomas was once again forced to dig deep. In the past, he has been unable to follow up super-low rounds with the needed performance, but he was up to it on this day. The Kentucky lad made 4 birdies over the closing 8 holes to hold off Cantlay by 3.

Nationwide Championship

Scottie Scheffler knew that he was headed to the PGA Tour after this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs. The Korn Ferry Tour playoffs would offer him an opportunity to better his standing, and he accomplished that task during week one of the finals. Scheffler, 3rd place during the regular season, vaulted into 1st on the strength of his 2-shot win over the Killer Bs (Brendan Todd, Beau Hossler and Ben Taylor.) Scheffler played like a seasoned vet, despite his 23 years of age. Scheffler made just 4 bogies during his final three rounds of 68-67-67 at the Ohio State University’s Scarlet course. That miser’s touch separated him from his chasers and gave him his 2nd win of the season. 25 PGA Tour cards were awarded during the regular season, and 25 more will be delivered at the Korn Ferry tour championship on September 2nd. If nerve-wracking putts are your flavor, stay tuned over the next fortnight.

Real Czech Masters

Thomas Pieters reminds you of every great range superstar. His swing exudes control and power, and you can’t help wondering how he doesn’t contend every week. That’s the mystery of golf, but Pieters reminded us why he has played Ryder Cup golf for Europe with a win this week in the Czech Republic. The tall Belgian sat 2 back of Edoardo Molinari after 36 holes, then took charge with a 66 on Saturday. On his heels was the young Spaniard, Adrian Arnaus, who posted middle 65s to stand one back on Saturday evening. The final round was half-shootout, half-stumble. Defending champion Andrea Pavan came out of the woods with 8 birdies over the first 15 holes. On a day when he needed perfection and 10 birdies, Pavan closed with 1 bogey and 0 birdies to tie Sam Horsfield for 3rd spot. Arnaus had three bogies on the day, and 2 of them came on the heels of birdie and eagle. The opposite of bounce-back, Arnaus gave Pieters breathing room with those mistakes. Closing with birdies at 16 and 18, Arnaus reached 18 below par, to put pressure on the leader. Pieters was 4-under on the day through 12 holes, and needed only to avoid disaster over the closing stretch. He stumbled with a bogey of his own at the 16th, but finished with pars to claim his 4th Euro title, 2nd at the Czech Masters, and 1st since 2016.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Open

Sometimes, the right person wins. Doug Barron epitomizes journeyman; he had to Monday-qualify to get in this week, and even has an are-you-kidding suspension on his record … for testosterone supplements. He’s not a big guy, and has low testosterone. He’s not Fred Couples, nor Langer, nor McCarron. Today, however, he is the Dick’s Sporting Goods champion. Barron and Miguel Angel Jimenez began the week with 65s, and Barron never let up. He followed with 68 on Saturday, and came home in 66 on Sunday, for a 2-shot victory. Understand that he had one of the game’s great personalities, and top golfers, on his heels on Sunday. Fred Couples turned in a tremendous 63 to finish at 15-under par, 2 clear of 3rd-place Woody Austin. Couples had the luck of the sleepy on his side: he dunked his tee shot on the par-3 14th hole, took his penalty drop, then chipped in for 3. Staying at the birdie-par timeshare in round 3, Couples had 9 of each to put serious pressure on Barron. How did the unlikely winner respond? Nearly identical to Freddie. Barron had 0 bogies on the day, and only 1 the entire week. The title elevated him 50 spots on the Schwab Cup money list, giving him an opportunity to move into the season-ending, playoff chase over the next 8 events.

U.S. Amateur rests in Ogletree’s arms

Andy Ogletree and John Augenstein were a perfect match in the U.S. Amateur final at Pinehurst. Ogletree was the 18th-ranked golfer in on-site qualifying, while Augenstein was #20. Both have had distinguished careers in college (Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt, respectively) and both were named yesterday to the USA side for the upcoming Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool, in England. In a most unique final, the morning 18 was played on the #4 course, while the afternoon round took place on the #2 layout. During the AM, 10 holes were won by the golfers, while 8 were halved. Augenstein stood 2-up after 18, but Ogletree delivered a warning bell with a birdie at the last. Ogletree returned to the course in identical form, making birdie on the 2nd hole to close within one hole. Augenstein remained in command, as most holes were halved until the 29th. At that juncture, Ogletree seized command with 3 wins in the next 4 holes, moving from 2 down to 1 up. A par at the par-3 17th hole, the 35th of the day, gave the Georgia Tech golfer a 2 up lead with 1 to play, making him this year’s national amateur champion.

In other news, the USGA added 7 golfers to its Walker Cup side. The one surprising move was the naming of Ricky Castillo, #9 in WAGR rankings and winner of 2 matches at Pinehurst, as 2nd alternate. The USGA decided that Steven Fisk and Alex Smalley, both ranked lower than Castillo, were better bets for success. Fortunately for the California kid, he is 18 and should have an opportunity to make both the 2021 and 2023 squads.

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