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Morning 9: Most hyped PGA Champ since…? | Golf Digest sale | LaCava on Woods’ readiness

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

May 14, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.  
1. Elevated status
The Telegraph’s James Corrigan hits all the notes here…
  • “The temperature at this week’s USPGA is far cooler than it would be in Augusta and certainly it is much wetter on Long Island as well. But there can be no questioning that in terms of the hype, the mercury is rising to levels that could just prove unprecedented for the major that for so long was regarded as not only fourth on the calendar but also in importance.”
  • “Of course, the PGA of America has Tiger Woods to thank for that. His remarkable comeback win at The Masters five weeks ago has ensured that golf is going into Bethpage on the crest of a new wave of Tigermania. The New York crowd could never be classed as “reserved” in the most beige of times, but with the red-shirted one back prowling on the major hunt, the buzz is sure to be more vocal than ever by Thursday’s first round.”
2. Woods named in wrongful death suit
Via ESPN’s Bob Harig…
  • “Tiger Woods, restaurant manager Erica Herman, who is Woods’ girlfriend, and The Woods restaurant in Jupiter, Florida, are being sued for the wrongful death of an employee, who after working a shift in December drank alcohol at the restaurant before being killed in a driving accident.”
  • “Nicholas Immesberger, 24, had a blood-alcohol reading of .256, more than three times the legal limit in Florida, according to the suit filed in West Palm Beach, Florida. The lawsuit says Immesberger lost control of his car on Federal Highway in Martin County and suffered fatal injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene on Dec. 10, 2018.”
3. Golf Digest finds a buyer
AdAge’s Simon Dumenco on Discovery’s acquisition…
“The purchase is a logical strategic investment for Discovery, as the company notes in a release, saying that,”
  • “The acquisition creates a powerful programming engine by adding Golf Digest to GOLFTV’s offerings that already include exclusive carriage of the PGA TOUR, the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour, as well as the Masters Tournament, in select territories outside the U.S. and Discovery’s exclusive global content partnerships with Tiger Woods, winner of 82 PGA TOUR events and 15 major championships, and Francesco Molinari, winner of three PGA TOUR events and the reigning Open champion.”
  • “Discovery also seems quite happy to be bringing Jerry Tarde, the long-running editor-in-chief of the monthly, on board. He’s keeping his EIC role and adding “global head of strategy and content, Discovery Golf” to his title, which means he’ll also manage GOLFTV and report in to Alex Kaplan, president and general manager of Discovery Golf. Ad sales at Golf Digest fell under the purview of Eric Gillen, chief business officer of Condé Nast’s Lifestyle Division, which also includes Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Architectural Digest, Self and Condé Nast Traveler. Discovery’s existing golf-media sales apparatus is expected to take over.”
4. Perspective
Two points of note on the transaction, courtesy of Geoff Shackelford…
  • “Keith Kelley reported on Page Six (link not live) that Discovery paid $30 million for Golf Digest, Golf World and assorted elements after a “bidding war” with NBC/Comcast. Multiple sources tell me, however, that no bid was even made by Comcast.”
  • “The $30 million figure noted by Kelley, if his reporting is accurate, marks a steep plunge from the $430 million Conde Nast paid for Golf Digest in 2001. But they were also buying a robust monthly then with millions in lucrative monthly ad sales and a staff full of must-read writers.”
  • “…It seems hard to imagine any other scenario where the PGA Tour driving and selling the content by Golf Digest is a plus. Some fans may like that this keeps the operation viable, but I’m guessing most golfers wanting coverage of the game will be disappointed in where this leads.”

More of his take.

See the full press release, here.

5. JT out
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Justin Thomas has withdrawn from the PGA Championship with a lingering injury to his right wrist.”
  • “My wrist is not yet fully healed,” Thomas wrote in a statement he posted on Twitter. “Obviously as a past champion this tournament is extra special to me. It consistently has the strongest field in golf and I’m disappointed to not be among those competing this year but I’m optimistic about a return in the near future.”
6. Weather check
Golfweek’s David Dusek on the conditions at Bethpage…
  • “When it was announced that the PGA Championship was moving from August to May, some pundits and fans balked at the idea of holding a major championship in the Northeast or upper Midwest because of days like Monday at Bethpage State Park.”
  • “After about an inch of rain fell on the Black Course on Sunday, scattered showers and chilly temperatures persisted as a Nor’easter developed off the coast of southern New England, bringing showers and a chilly eastern wind that kept temperatures in the high 40s.”
7. Are New York golf fans really that rowdy?
That’s the question Joel Beall and Christopher Powers discuss…
Beall: “What was sui generis at Bethpage is now a common sight at every Ryder Cup, and though the behavior at the Waste Management Phoenix Open isn’t seen on a widespread basis, it’s sprinkled in on a weekly basis”
  • “There will be catcalls and jeers and a handful of “Boston sucks!” cries, but this ain’t Carolina traveling to Cameron Indoor Stadium. If anything, New Yorkers are some of the more knowledgeable fans out there. They view 2002 not as a badge of honor but scarlet letter.”
  • “The two things, or should I say players, that could change that: Tiger and Phil Mickelson. As we saw at Augusta, there’s collateral damage to those going up against Big Cat, and Phil’s rapport with New York is consummate. Anyone trying to impede these Hall of Famers from the Wanamaker may be on the receiving end of the gallery’s wrath.”
  • Powers: “He’s right about WMPO behavior being more prevalent than ever week in and week out, but you can double that type of behavior for a Met Area event. The strange desire to make it on Barstool’s Instagram page or Total Frat Move’s Twitter account brings out the absolute worst in folks, admittedly bros around my age that can’t handle their alcohol. Add in the Tiger factor and every move he makes near a camera will be an opportunity for some hardo to scream something dumb. God help whoever he’s playing with on Sunday if he’s even within shouting distance of the lead.”
8. LaCava’s take
Steve DiMeglio caught up with Woods’ looper at Bethpage…
  • “Being well rested is more important than anything,” LaCava said. “And winning the Masters took a lot out of him. Playing another tournament, wherever it might have been, I don’t think it would have been a setback, but it would have taken a lot out of him. Probably wouldn’t have done him any good because he would have been too tired. When you’re tired there’s no need to play.
  • “He’s happy, he’s in a good mood, he’s in good spirits. And I think he misses playing. How can’t you be in good spirits when you just came off a major win? He’s relaxed and fresh. I love it.”
9. Fake Media Day
If you haven’t seen it, you have to.
EuropeanTour.com staff…”so Eddie masterminded an epic prank that would test the very limits of Matt’s patience.”
  • “The BMW International Open defending champion thought he was being asked to take part in a Media Day, but he was secretly being filmed from start to finish on a day where everything that could go wrong, would go wrong.”
  • “Starting with an unbearably annoying courtesy car driver, followed by an impossible voiceover session led by a pushy director and ending with an unfortunate accident in a BMW showroom, Pepperell watched everything that happened from a secret location.”
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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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