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Morning 9: How many majors will Koepka win? | Getting to know BK’s caddie | eSports comes to the European Tour

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

May 21, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Koepka’s coach speaks
Coming fresh off the celebration of Brooks Koepka’s fourth major win, Koepka’s long-time coach, Claude Harmon III chatted with Johnny Wunder as he was just about to hop on a plane back to The Floridian.
A bit of their conversation…
  • JW: Brooks is walking off the 18th green after another major triumph. What is the first thing you guys said to each other?
  • CH3: Well, obviously there was a lot of emotion in that moment, but he told me it was the happiest he has ever been on the golf course, and after everything he’s done, that’s a big statement.
  • For him to put in all the hard work and to fight as hard as he did on a golf course that completely changed on the last day and come out on top makes me extremely grateful to be a part of the team that supports that. I believe he will find out more about himself from getting through the final nine holes than he would if he would have had a parade coming in and won by seven.
  • JW: That’s a great point. It seems like he is more apt to win even more majors based on that back nine than he would have otherwise.
  • CH3: I don’t think if you were watching it on TV you could have any appreciation for just how difficult it was. What DJ did yesterday was impossible and having that up ahead applies even more pressure to a leader. Ricky Elliott and BK are looking at the scoreboard and seeing DJ and 3 under and having no idea how that’s even possible. It was that tough.
  • JW: I think Brooks stubbornness is part of his true greatness. Would you agree?
  • CH3: His perspective constantly was “I’m still in the lead and someone is going to have to catch me and this golf course is extremely difficult.” Even after all the bogeys on the back side, he still controlled the lead and kept that mantra. The crowd yelling “DJ! DJ!” actually didn’t piss him off, it woke him up and made him want to hit a good drive and show the crowd he was still leading.

2. Welcome to Brough Creek National!

Our Peter Schmitt spoke with the founders of the (in-progress) backyard golf course that has taken Instagram by storm…
  • “Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted a golf course in your backyard.”
  • “Of course you have.”
  • “Now leave your hand raised if you actually rolled up your sleeves and made it happen.”
  • “Among the very few people left with their hands in the air are Ben Hotaling, Zach Brough, Evan Bissell, and Mark Robinson, the driving force behind Brough Creek National. That’s right. These guys are building a golf course in their backyard. From scratch.”
  • “The true beginnings of golf aren’t well-documented, but one thing’s for sure: people were playing golf at least 400 years before the first working internal combustion engine. Long before golf course architecture was a multi-million dollar investment before the first dime of revenue trickled in, courses were laid down largely by hand using the natural movement of the land. In that same spirit, Ben happened to notice that there was one particular shot in their backyard that reminded him of the Road Hole at St. Andrews, as it plays over their barn and to a green situated right in front of the road to the property.”
3. How many majors does BK win?
ESPN’s panel of golf experts (and Michael Collins–just kidding…love you, Michael) discusses this subject (and others)
  • “Bob Harig: Seven. He is making it look easy right now, but we all know that it is not. Rory McIlroy seemed destined for double-digit majors five years ago and is stuck on four. Jordan Spieth, same thing. It’s hard to win them, and while he’s got a great formula, stuff happens. And let’s say he does get seven. That is still phenomenal.”
  • “Michael Collins: Twelve … if he stays healthy. I think his philosophy on how to approach tournaments is working pretty damn well so far. Why would he change anything? Let’s say he has 10 more “solid” years — that’s 40 major chances. What has he shown that would make you believe he can’t go 8-for-40?”
  • “Ian O’Connor: I love the fact that Koepka is gunning for 10 or more and, according to his former college coach, gunning for Tiger’s 15 and Jack’s 18. But since his great uncle Dick Groat was buddies with another slugger with blacksmith arms, Arnold Palmer, I’ll give Brooks Arnie’s seven.”
4. Get used to it
….as though you weren’t already.
Tod Leonard of the San Diego Union Tribune…
  • “If there was something we learned from Brooks Koepka’s dominating and then nerve-jangling victory in the PGA Championship on Sunday, it is to step back, put away our biases, and appreciate the history we are seeing.”
  • “Koepka is never going to be as eloquent in sharing his thoughts at Rory McIlroy. He doesn’t possess Jason Day’s all-out candor, or Jordan Spieth’s entertaining nervous chatter.”
  • “Koepka is never going to smile just because we want him to. It seems that only looking into his reflection in a trophy can do that.”
  • “Yet, the man, still a golfing pup who only turned 29 this month, is evolving in the public eye while becoming one of the game’s most intriguing characters.”
  • “We could all do a better job of recognizing that.”
5. Ricky!
An excellent portrait of Brooks Koepka’s caddie, Northern Irishman Ricky Elliott, in this BBC report…
  • “Elliott was a good golfer in his own right, winning titles such as the Ulster Boys Championship and the Ulster Youth Championship as well as representing Ireland at the 1990 European Youths Championship.”
  • “After attending the University of Toledo on a golf scholarship, Elliott tried to make it as a professional before accepting an assistant professional’s post at Lake Nona in Orlando.”
  • “The 42-year-old eventually moved into caddying and worked for the likes of 2003 Open champion Ben Curtis before the job opportunity which would change his life at the 2013 US PGA.”
  • “Claude Harmon was coaching Brooks and he said he needed a caddie for Oak Hill,” Elliott added.
6. European ETour Championship
Interesting stuff…
“The European Tour has teamed up with Dreamhack to launch its first esports competition – the European eTour Championship – at this week’s Made in Denmark presented by FREJA.”
  • “Eight of the best players from around the world in the most popular online golf game “World Golf Tour” by Topgolf will go head-to-head in knockout match play format for a prize fund of $5,000 – the biggest prize pool in an esports golf tournament.”
  • “These eight players represent the more than 15 million players around the world that play World Golf Tour (WGT) for the most realistic golf game experience online or on their mobile devices.”
7. Don’t compare
JT, for one, is having none of the “2000-2001 Tiger vs Brooks” talk…
Per Golfweek’s Roxanna Scott…”You can’t compare any of us to Tiger because the stuff that Tiger did – nobody has come close to. Now if Brooks continues this run and does this for 15 years, yeah you can compare the two somewhat. The guy’s won four majors; Tiger’s won 15,” Thomas said Monday morning at a media event at Ralph Lauren’s headquarters in Manhattan to launch his new PoloGolfxJT collection for the brand.
“They’re just so different. It’s not fair to Brooks either; everyone should be bowing down to him and giving him the utmost respect because what he’s done is nothing short of miraculous and unbelievable. I know I’m jealous of him. I’m just hoping somehow to do some of the same.”
8. Equipment streaks
Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson with an interesting note about some equipment-related major championship streaks…
  • “Brooks Koepka has now won three of the past five major championships played and four of eight. How historically dominant is Koepka’s stretch? Only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan are the only male golfers to have won four majors in a eight-major stretch in the modern era. Koepka’s PGA Championship win has elevated him into elite territory.”
  • “There were a few other impressive streaks in majors solidified on Sunday as it relates to the equipment front. Koepka’s winner’s bag from the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black extended four significant equipment runs in drivers, driver shafts, irons shafts and the golf ball. TaylorMade, Mitsubishi and True Temper have all won the past five majors while Titleist golf balls have found the winner’s circle in eight of the last nine, with Tiger Woods’ win at this year’s Masters using a Bridgestone ball stopping a seven-major winning streak for Titleist.”
9. Another side of BK
Golfweek’s Forecaddie…
“Every so often Brooks Koepka will send Florida State coach Trey Jones a text message that reads – Do you guys need a ride?”
“That translates to a lift in a private jet for the FSU men’s golf team.”
“Jones told the Forecaddie that the now four-time major winner is largely misunderstood. Koepka isn’t going to offer up much information – about his generosity or otherwise -­ unless directly asked. “
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  1. Speedy

    May 21, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    We’re used to BK winning majors, and what a breath of fresh air it is.

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Morning 9: U.S. Open ratings soar | ….and still, calls for Joe Buck’s head | Woodland’s big betting buddies trip

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

June 18, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. U.S. Open ratings up 44 percent
AP report on the big uptick in viewership…”This year’s U.S. Open was the most watched since Fox started televising the event in 2015.”
  • “Nielsen ratings show Sunday’s final round averaged 7.31 million viewers and peaked at 10.17 viewers from 9:15 to 9:30 p.m. EDT, when Gary Woodland clinched his first major.”
  • “Sunday’s final round saw an increase of 44% over last year, when an average of 5.09 million watched. It is the first time since 2013 that the final round has averaged over seven million. The 2013 U.S. Open on NBC averaged 8.4 million for the final 18 holes.”
2. When the U.S. Open returns to Pebble…
Good stuff from Geoff Shackelford with some modest (in a Swiftian sense) suggestions regarding what we could see when the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach in 2027
Here’s one thing he sees when looking into his crystal ball…”This year’s pre-tournament buzz centered around how many holes would require driver. But as a new wave of 5-9, 150-pound super jocks continue to overtake pro golf and the governing bodies cave to their marketing departments instead of regulating distance, players in the 2027 U.S. Open ponder whether to add a sixth wedge to their bag over carrying the big stick. Just days before the event and citing pressure on their business model, equipment manufacturers successfully lobby the USGA for a local rule mandating players carry at least one of their drivers, now priced at $750. But 58-year-old Phil Mickelson, playing on a special exemption, bucks the trend and carries three drivers.”
3. Woodland’s debt to basketball
The New York Times’ Karen Crouse…
  • “Gary Woodland grew up a serial monogamist, in love, depending on the season, with basketball, baseball and golf. He bonded with his father on the golf course, aspired to be like the Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett and had shooting-guard dreams of glory until they were crushed in college by a future first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls, Kirk Hinrich.”
  • “Woodland, 35, was tasked with guarding Hinrich in his first game for Division II Washburn University against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. It did not go well. He can remember thinking, “O.K., I need to find something else, because this ain’t going to work.”
  • “The next year, at roughly the same age that the three-time major champion Jordan Spieth won for the first time on the PGA Tour, Woodland transferred to Kansas and fully committed himself to golf. Sixteen years later, Woodland became the first Kansas alumnus to win one of the four major golf championships.”
4. On Gary Woodland’s equipment…
Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson…
  • “It’s in the woods where Woodland gets particularly lumberjack-like. His Ping G410 Plus driver is a 9-degree head that actually measures out at 7 degrees. Only Bubba Watson on Ping’s staff plays with less loft. Woodland’s driver shaft is an Accra RPG 472 with the company’s M5 rating, which equates to extra-stiff, and it weighs 76 grams, again probably 25 percent or more heavier than your driver shaft. But that’s not enough for Woodland. The shaft is “tipped” approximately two inches, which makes it play at a stiffness like a triple-X shaft.”
  • “Woodland was fit for the Accra shaft almost three years ago at the RBC Canadian Open, and he’s used the same specs through multiple heads ever since. According to Accra’s Gawain Robertson, on the range Woodland “hits it farther probably than anyone in the world,” but in a tournament he wants to play a controlled fade. Like most pros, he hates the hook, so by choosing to play a fade, Woodland’s also bringing more spin into the equation. So he is doing everything equipment-wise to drop that spin. Hence the stoutness of the stiffness of the shaft on his driver and the extra-low loft.”
5. Family pleads guilty to Masters badge scheme
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…
  • “On Monday a Texas family pleaded guilty to federal charges to a scheme involving stolen identities to obtain Masters badges.”
  • “In the tournament’s hometown of Augusta, Ga., Stephen Freeman appeared before a U.S. District Court to admit to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. As part of a plea deal, Freeman agreed to three years in a federal prison.”
  • “Freeman’s sister and parents pleaded guilty to the same crime. However, their pleas called for no jail time. The four will have to pay more than $275,000 in restitution, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine.”
6. Opinion: Joe Buck has to go
West Valentine at Pro Golf Now has had enough…
  • “On Monday a Texas family pleaded guilty to federal charges to a scheme involving stolen identities to obtain Masters badges.”
  • “In the tournament’s hometown of Augusta, Ga., Stephen Freeman appeared before a U.S. District Court to admit to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. As part of a plea deal, Freeman agreed to three years in a federal prison.”
  • Freeman’s sister and parents pleaded guilty to the same crime. However, their pleas called for no jail time. The four will have to pay more than $275,000 in restitution, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine.”
7. Suh sticks to his sticks
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”When Suh turned pro after last month’s NCAA Championship and teed it up in the Memorial Tournament, the flatstick remained in the bag. So did Suh’s other 13 clubs.”
  • “While Suh signed a head-to-toe apparel and bag deal with Puma and a contract with Titleist to continue playing the Pro V1x ball, he decided to hold off on an equipment agreement and continue using his all-Ping setup that he’s used for three years.”
  • “It’s a rare move during a time where the top amateurs are chasing six-figure paydays from equipment companies.”
  • “What I have in the bag is something that I’ve had success with for years, and when I tee it up at a tournament, that’s something that I want in my hands,” Suh said. “I don’t want to look down and look at something completely new. I’m a big believer that the success on the golf course is ultimately going to determine the success you have off the golf course.”
8. Gary’s big betting buddies trip AKA “a little much for some of the guys” 
As told to Jason Sobel at the Action Network…”I went out to Pebble Beach with some buddies. Me and another guy were playing a shamble against two guys scrambling. Each team got three presses. The money got up to where it got to be a little uncomfortable.
  • “Fortunately, though, we were winning.
  • “It’s coming down to the 18th at Pebble and we give them a half-shot on the last hole, just because it got a little out of hand for guys who didn’t have it.
  • “There were a couple of us who could afford it, but we were playing the last hole for $32,000 each. That was a little much for some of the guys.
9. Why Was it Great?
I love this video series from our resident equipment expert Ryan Barath. If you haven’t caught it yet, take five minutes of your life and stroll memory lane…or green as RB discusses the iconic Bullseye putter.

 

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Morning 9: Woodland triumphant | “Cockroach” Koepka | Brooke = Canadian GOAT | No Tiger til Portrush

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

June 17, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1.Woodland!
AP report…”Gary Woodland denied Brooks Koepka’s bold bid at history with two clutch shots and made U.S. Open memories of his own, starting with that silver trophy in his hands at Pebble Beach.”
  • “Woodland finished in style Sunday. He holed a 30-foot birdie putt for a 2-under 69, giving him the lowest 72-hole score in six U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach and a three-shot victory over Koepka, who was going for a third straight U.S. Open.”
  • “Koepka had to settle for a footnote in history as the first player with all four rounds in the 60s at the U.S Open without winning. But he made Woodland earn every bit of his first major championship.”
2. A quick detour to the LPGA Tour…
Brook Henderson now winningest Canadian pro golfer, man or woman, ever.
  • BBC report…”The 21-year-old, who won the Lotte Championship in April, hit a two-under 70 to finish on 21 under, one stroke ahead of a four-way tie for second.”
  • “Henderson has now won nine LPGA titles, giving her the most wins for a Canadian golfer on either the PGA or LPGA Tour.”
  • “Earlier this year, to get my eighth win and to tie that record was a huge deal for me,” said Henderson. “To now breakthrough that is awesome. I’m just really excited for the rest of the summer and hopefully many more wins in the future. It’s really special.”

Full piece.

3. Koepka the “cockroach”
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker…
  • “He’s like a cockroach,” Xander Schauffele said. “He just won’t go away.”
  • “Koepka did not win on Sunday at Pebble Beach to join Willie Anderson as the only other player ever to claim three straight U.S. Open titles.”
  • “So what? He doesn’t know much about Anderson, or Google, anyway. And he doesn’t even like golf, remember?”
  • “Koepka, who finished second three strokes behind winner Gary Woodland, is the best player in the world and that much he does know. He just wasn’t the best for four days along the Monterey Peninsula, though he was close.”

Full piece.

4. Hovland sets amateur scoring record
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”On Sunday, Hovland birdied the 18th hole to finish with a final round 67, giving him a four-day total of 280 (-4) and setting the 72-hole scoring record for an amateur in U.S. Open history.”
“Hovland broke the mark held by Jack Nicklaus…Hovland opened his week with a 69 on Thursday, then posted 73-71 before his Sunday 67.”
5. See you at Royal Portrush, Tiger
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”Don’t expect to see Tiger Woods again until The Open next month in Northern Ireland.”
  • “The 2019 Masters champion shot his best final round at the U.S. Open in 10 years on Sunday — despite a horrific start to the round — to finish tied for 21st and take a bit of satisfaction out of what had mostly been a disappointing week.”
  • “Woods’ 2-under-par 69 came after he bogeyed four of his first six holes. He played the final 12 holes in 6 under par. He previously broke 70 in the final round of a U.S. Open in 2009 at Bethpage Black.”
  • “Now he’s looking at skipping four weeks of tournament golf leading up to The Open at Royal Portrush, a plan that didn’t work so well heading into the PGA Championship but one that is likely part of a new reality for the 15-time major champion.”
6. Phil
Harig again on Phil Mickelson’s forgettable Open effort.
  • “You couldn’t help but know it was Phil Mickelson’s birthday on Sunday, as much as it was noted among the gallery as he played the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.”
  • “Mickelson managed to birdie the final hole and shoot 72 to complete a disappointing U.S. Open that saw him finish before the leaders teed off, never much of a factor in the championship he finished at 4 over par. And that 49th birthday he celebrated Sunday was yet another reminder that the opportunities to win the U.S. Open after six runner-up finishes are coming close to an end.”
  • “Well, I don’t know what else to say. It’s not like I’m going to stop trying,” said Mickelson, who has played in 28 U.S. Opens. “I enjoy the challenge. But I thought this was a really good chance for me.”
7. What we learned
From our Ron Montesano’s post-mortem on the 2019 U.S. Open
  • “Gary Woodland, the private man, and Gary Woodland, the public man, unite to form the man who captured the world’s attention this week. In 2017, Woodland and his wife quietly revealed that one of their expected twins had passed in the womb. Their son, Jaxson, was born early and light of weight, but improved in health with great and tender care. Now two years old, Jaxson and the Woodlands await the arrival of twin sisters later this summer.”
  • “In 2019, the golf world watched as Gary teamed with Amy Bockerstette during a practice round at the Phoenix Open. Bockerstette executed a series of unexpected shots on the par-3 16th to make par, supported all the while by Woodland. It was apparent that Woodland was invested in the entirety of the moment. Three simple words went back and forth between the pair: You’ve got this. On Sunday, at Pebble Beach, a tweet from Amy’s account arrived: You’ve got this, Gary Woodland.”
8. Pete Cowen
A good time to revisit this Pete Cowen Golf Digest “My Shot” (Cowen has recently worked with Gary Woodland on much-improved short game)
One of his best bon mots…“IMPROVING AT GOLF is not that big a deal. I can guarantee dramatic improvement from 15 minutes a day, without even using a club. But that commitment is way out of the range of most people. I spoke recently at a seminar attended by 500 Australian club pros. I said, “We’ve long known that exercising 15 minutes per day will add several years to our lives. Those of you who have spent 15 minutes daily over the last 10 years, raise your hands.” Not a hand went up. I said, “If you won’t commit 15 minutes to lengthening your very life, what makes you think you’ll devote 15 minutes to golf?” The problem comes down to actually doing it. It’s a very tough sell.”
9. The original 0311
I’d like to call your attention to GolfWRX’s new video series with PXG. It breaks new ground for the site, and biasedly, I think the results so far are excellent. Whatever your perception of Bob Parsons is, you’ll want to watch Johnny Wunder’s 25-minute interview with the PXG founder.

Watch it here.

 

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How Gary Woodland won the 2019 U.S. Open

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Let us begin with a clarification, which is not to be confused with a rant. Just as difficult as the measuring of a champion of one era against that of another, is the comparison of one tournament venue with another. Pebble Beach is unlike any other U.S. Open site in the current rotation. The entirety of the PGA Tour visits it for two competitive rounds each February. While the fairway configurations, the green speeds, and the wind patterns differ in June, it is still Pebble Beach Golf Links. As such, it should be expected that golfers would play it better than a site on which they compete but once a decade. Now, on to our most worthy champion.

5. Before there was Brooks Koepka …

…there was Gary Woodland. When the notion of the super-athletic, athlete from another sport first took root with Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland was there. Growing up, there was golf, but there was basketball (he could dunk with ease) and baseball (he attended Washburn University for a year, playing baseball as he studied.) Golf’s siren call was strong, however, and he left Washburn for the University of Kansas, to study and play golf. From 2007 to 2011, Woodland worked at his craft, spending time on both the Nationwide (now Web.Com) and PGA Tours.  In early 2011, Woodland lost a playoff for the Bob Hope title to Jhonattan Vegas, but came back two months later to win in Tampa. Strong, athletic, but was his win due more to good fortune and athleticism, than golf prowess? Eight years later, the question would finally be answered.

 

4. Before we go on, here’s to Brooks Koepka

In no way, shape, or form, did the 2-time, defending U.S. Open champion lose the 2019 playing. Koepka outplayed an entire field, save the one athlete destined to hoist the eponymous trophy. The Florida man played four rounds in the 60s, one of only 2 all week to achieve this distinction (guess the other!) He made 6 bogeys on the week, despite the shifting and narrowing of the fairway lines, courtesy of the host association. With all the attention of the world squarely on his shoulders, his visage, Koepka responded better than anyone anticipated. He improved his position each day, then seized the tournament on Sunday. Except, of course, for Gary Woodland.

3. Power gets you far, but the short game brings you home

Every great champion learns this lesson. Jack Nicklaus learned it later in his career than most. Dustin Johnson became a major champion when he embraced it. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson always had it. Brooks Koepka personifies it, and Gary Woodland showed the world that he had, at last, honed a world-class short game. Think back to all the long putts, all the par-saving efforts, that found the bottom of the cup this week. Recall the chip shot holed at the 12th on Saturday, the pitch over the hourglass on the 17th green on Sunday. Nothing less than precise execution would suffice in those situations, nothing less than precise execution was offered.

2. The humanity reveals the man

Gary Woodland, the private man, and Gary Woodland, the public man, unite to form the man who captured the world’s attention this week. In 2017, Woodland and his wife quietly revealed that one of their expected twins had passed in the womb. Their son, Jaxson, was born early and light of weight, but improved in health with great and tender care. Now two years old, Jaxson and the Woodlands await the arrival of twin sisters later this summer. In 2019, the golf world watched as Gary teamed with Amy Bockerstette during a practice round at the Phoenix Open. Bockerstette executed a series of unexpected shots on the par-3 16th to make par, supported all the while by Woodland. It was apparent that Woodland was invested in the entirety of the moment. Three simple words went back and forth between the pair: You’ve got this. On Sunday, at Pebble Beach, a tweet from Amy’s account arrived: You’ve got this, Gary Woodland.

1. Where are you going? I’m going to Woodland!

Where exactly is Woodland? This week, it was a place where 17 birdies eclipsed 4 bogeys by some distance. A place where Woodland matched games with Justin Rose (twice), Tyrell Hatton and Shane Lowry, and came out far apace. Woodland has finally evolved into a space where an adrenaline-filled athlete came to manage his energy and emotions: “It took me a lot to learn to control adrenaline; and other sports you use adrenaline to your advantage. Out here, when I get a little excited, I need to find a way to calm myself back down.” Woodland is a place where sagacious teachers (Butch Harmon, Pete Cowen, Phil Kenyon) contribute their expertise to the competitor. Finally, it is a place where a golfer confirms what some might call cliches: hard work, humility, and a constant desire to improve can bring complete success.

 

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