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Tour Rundown: McIlroy’s Canadian adventure, Lexi in AC, and more

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It’s the week prior to a men’s major championship, so the top golfers in the world found themselves near Toronto, getting one more week of reps in advance of a trip west, to Pebble Beach. The coolest golf event of the year took place in trendy Portugal, while the LPGA had its annual #ShoreThing in Atlantic City. Familiar names topped some leader boards, while a few surprises came our way on June the 9th. Have a glance at our rundown below. The nice weather has finally arrived!

European Tour: GolfSixes sees an unexpected winner in Team Thailand

Six-hole tournaments, we’ve said before, need to have more of a presence on the world’s professional golf tours. They demand constant attention, as changes happen at a lightning pace. Tournament organizers see them as an opportunity to debut new elements to keep fans enthused and happy. At this week’s GolfSixes Cascais, in Portugal, golfers teed off over a swimming pool, played a course specifically designed for this event, grooved to a variety of music feeds, and played a format called “Greensomes.” The two-golfer format allowed for true team and country spirit, and the gentlemen from the kingdom of Thailand held high the event trophy after the final match.

16 teams entered group play, including two women’s teams from Germany and England. Modeled on FIFA World Cup structure, each squad played the others in its 4-team group, with the top 2 from each group moving into the knockout stage. Surprise losers in stage one were South Africa and Ireland, but that’s the beauty of the format. With golfers each hitting a team shot, selecting one, then playing alternate-shot the rest of the way, the Greensomes format demanded reliance on the other for true team success. No one did it better than veteran Thongchai Jaidee and his prodigy, Phachara Khongwhatmai, although Spain, Italy and England’s Men did their level best. In the final match, England had a chance to win on the 6th hole (the Pool hole) but missed a short putt for birdie. The 2 teams returned to the tee twice more in overtime, going to an all-or-nothing, closest to the pin decider. Khongwhatmai locked in to about 24 inches, and the deed was done.

PGA Tour: McIlroy’s Canadian adventure sauces the field at the Canadian Open-June Version

Combine a great date (June!) with a classic venue (Hamilton golf club, known locally as Ancaster) and the world’s 2nd-oldest, Open championship returns to the herald it merits. From a guy who lives on the NY/Ontario border, the Canadian way is well-known to me. From penalty boxes, to referees, to hockey sweaters, to a little bit of sauce, Canada presented itself impeccably this week. Harry Colt’s Hamilton masterpiece was on full display, and the players embraced the venue and the attendees. Given the intervening decades and the advances in golf equipment, it’s safe to say that Old Harry would be just fine with what one Rory McIlroy did on his golf course on Sunday.

McIlroy bogeyed the 16th and 18th holes. That’s the story. Not because those 2 faux pas cost him victory; he won comfortably by 7 shots over Shane Lowry and Webb Simpson. Those two bogeys cost McIlroy a 59. Without them, he was 11-under on the day. McIlroy had 5 birdies heading out, including a nearly-holed pitch for eagle at the first. He had birdies from 11-14 to seal the victory and signal the 59 watch. Birdie at the last would have done, as the NIrishman followed his first bogey at 16, with eagle at 17. Alas, he tried to hard and made another bogey. 60, 61, not much difference. Is McIlroy the favorite for Pebble? Not really, but he was absolutely sublime in his first trip to the land of Maple Leaf.

LPGA: Lexi walks the boardwalk in Atlantic City triumph

We’ll get to the finish in a moment. Know this: Seaview is the least-long course the LPGA plays. In an era of technological wonderment, that’s not a sought-after designation. Pair it with the winds that chastise the Jersey Shore, however, and you get a golf course that plays, well, quixotic. How else to explain these final-day numbers from the top two golfers: 5 birdies, 1 eagle & 3 bogies; 5 birdies & 4 bogies. If you can’t control the height of your flight at the Shoprite Classic, you’re not likely challenging come Sunday sunset.

Jeongeun Lee6 had herself quite a week. A win at the US Open, followed 7 days later by a win 2nd-place finish at Shoprite. Lee6 found herself 2 shots clear of the USA’s Ally McDonald at the end of play. Trouble was, Lexi Thompson eagled the 54th hole to edge Lee6 by 1 shot. Yes, you read that correctly, eagle. It was a fitting end to a back-and-forth final round, when no one else seemed to matter. Each made some birdies and a bogey on the way out, then Lee6 had a 3-hole bogey run to seemingly give up the ghost. The thing was, Lexi bogeyed 2 holes over the same run of holes, so not much changed. Lee6 finished birdie-par-birdie to reach -11, but Lexi did her one better, finishing birdie-par-eagle to reach 4-under on the day and 12 deep on the week.

PGA Tour Champions: McCarron masters Narita in Japan for 3rd Champions Tour title of 2019

We’re not ready to say that the era of Langer will give way to the time of McCarron, but a case could be made. No other Champions Tour golfer has the ability to separate from the pack like the Californian, so pay close attention as major-championship season arrives in the coming months on golf’s senior circuit. McCarron made tidy work of the Narita golf club with a 13-under par total. He limited daily damage to one bogey each day, never threatening a big number. His play forced golfers to come after him with a low-60s round, but none did. With daily medal scores never dipping below 65, the super-low 60 from last week never materialized.

McCarron blends power with precision. Eschewing the draw for the power fade, he is most likely to find the fairway and the green. Unlike Langer, the steeliest golfer of a generation, McCarron is possessed of distraction from time to time, but none of it was in evidence this week. Billy Andrade made a front-nine run on Sunday, going 4-under through 10 holes. His bogey at 11, paired with a 3-under inward half from the champion, put an end to the challenge. Kirk Triplett closed fast to match Andrade at -10, 3 back of the winner, in a tie for 2nd. Oh, if you’d like to see McCarron hit a rare draw, check out the clip below.

Web.Com Tour: 28th year in Greenville sees a Gibson victory at the end

If you’ve never been to Greenville, you should go. Smack in the middle of downtown, is a waterfall. Not the crashing, vertical type you find in Niagara, but a casual, gentle slider that reminds all of the Carolina way. Never hurry, never worry, enjoy the ride. The weather, however, got in the face of all that slow jam, shrinking the event to 54 holes this year. Golf ended early Saturday afternoon, but was unable to wedge 1.5 round in on Sunday. The Webbers did battle with the knowledge that round 3 would be it. Would Michael Miller, former amateur stalwart, hold on for a massive win, or would someone come from the way-back to take the title?

It was the latter. Miller played well enough to win some week, with -3 over the final 18. He reached -18 on the week, and had a clean card with 3 birdies and 0 bogies in round the final. Rhein Gibson schooled Miller in how one goes about securing a Web Win with a dirty, nasty 63 over the final 18. Gibson rode an eagle at the 5th to an outward 30. He added 3 birdies coming home (remember, that’s how many Miller had on the day) for 33 and a 3-shot edge at -21. To show the importance of victory, Gibson shot from 32 to 7 in The 25 PGA Tour card chase. Miller jumped from nowhere (188) to 49th, but oh how far would a win have taken him! All part of school, they say.

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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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The DailyWRX: What’s buzzing on social media 6/5/2020

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With everything going on, I wanted to find some humor out there…hope you all can find some time to have a chuckle, it helps.

I relate to this on so many levels…

My game therefore I am trash.

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Send this to a trash golfer ????

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It’s funny…

But the guy might do it cuz he’s so damn savage.

I’m in…

Once again…

I love the shots and tips that come out of these vids…..but these backyard setups continue to solidify that I have failed at life…SMH. My jealousy rages.

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Rainy Wednesday…we going skippin!

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He is a literal walking ray of golden sunshine…

He’s inching up my list of favorite player…just sayin’.

DM @johnny_wunder for anything good

 

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Morning 9: U.S. Open could feature fans after all | LPGA skins match? | Singh WD’s from Korn Ferry event

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1. Singh bows out of Korn Ferry opener
Adam Woodard reports we will unfortunately not be getting the Singh/Schnell pairing we were hoping for…“Vijay Singh caused quite a stir a few weeks back when the three-time major champion’s name appeared on the field list for the Korn Ferry Tour’s first post-pandemic event at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course June 11-14.”
  • “On Sunday, the PGA Tour confirmed Singh has withdrawn from the Korn Ferry Challenge. Golf Channel was first to report.”
  • “Singh riled up golf Twitter – Korn Ferry Tour pro Brady Schnell, in particular – with his initial decision to enter the KFT event. Being a lifetime PGA Tour member, The Big Fijian was eligible to enter the event because he wasn’t playing in the Tour’s return to play that same week at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.”
2. Still no fans at Colonial
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Despite a revised state order that would allow fans to attend next month’s Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas, the PGA Tour plans to proceed without fans for at least the first four events when play resumes.”
  • “The PGA Tour’s primary focus continues to be the health and well-being of all involved with our tournaments and the communities in which we play,” a statement from the Tour read. “We plan to resume play at the Charles Schwab Challenge with the event – and the three to immediately follow – closed to the general public.”
3. Lynch on player mics
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch has a few thoughts on one of the most-discussed matters coming out of The Match 2…“The most compelling possibility raised by “The Match II” is having players wear microphones during tournament play, and this week the European Tour said it will encourage players to be mic’d when it resumes action in July. The ET’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, exhibits more confidence in golfers agreeing to this than any of the people I know who produce live tournament golf for a living. Those producers will unanimously tell you it’s near impossible to get a simple walk and talk from a PGA Tour player, much less an intimate audio feed for 18 holes of competition.”
“The absence of mic’d competitors in tournaments isn’t because producers don’t want greater access. For all their garrulousness on social media, even younger Tour players maintain an old school mentality passed down from generations of Curtis Stranges and Raymond Floyds, who were as about as approachable as a piranha with toothache when they were working between the ropes. There is also a cost attached. “The Match II” was carefully stage-managed, with players held up along the way to ensure they were live at the right times. That won’t happen in tournaments with 156 guys in the field. Sure, you can stream a single group wired for sound, but for network broadcasts you’ll add the expense of a production staffer to monitor all the chatter for gems and a tape operator to cue it up (and armchair critics will still bemoan that it’s tape-delayed).”
4. Stymied LPGA skins match
Wherefore art the women in these charity matches? Apparently, we’d have already seen an LPGA skins match featuring top players, but for a lack of financial backing…
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols has the full story…
“It’s all in place:
  • “Two courses are interested in hosting
  • Twelve players have agreed to compete
  • If they can pay for TV production, Franzen says they have the full support of the LPGA to work with their broadcast partners
“The idea is to deliver two days of skins matches to outlets around the globe. Players will have the ability to choose which COVID-19 relief fund they want their winnings to go toward.”
“But here’s the deal: Franzen needs funding. Lots of it.”
5. USGA: USO could feature fans
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”But the United States Golf Association is now optimistic about keeping the championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in suburban New York City and remains hopeful that spectators in some limited form will be able to attend.”
  • “The organization had been working on contingency plans to move the tournament to another venue, if necessary.”
  • “We are focused singularly on Winged Foot,” John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said in a phone interview Friday. “Once we got the September dates, that was our thinking. Time is on our side. We did look at multiple scenarios, but given the recent news we felt we could focus there.”
  • “Winged Foot is a special place for us. And the golf course will be amazing. And to be able to do this in New York, where things have been so challenging, will put an explanation point on it. We see Winged Foot as our sole focus.”
6. Fill-in Tour event?
Rob Oller, Columbus Dispatch, syndicated in Golfweek…“Columbus could be in the mix to host a second PGA Tour event the week before the Memorial Tournament scheduled for July 16-19, two sources confirmed to the USA Today Network on Friday.”
  • “The Columbus-based tournament would serve as a temporary fill-in for the John Deere Classic, which was scheduled to be held July 9-12 in Silvis, Illinois, but canceled on Thursday because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. It was to be the first tour event to include spectators.”
  • “…Other leading alternative site is Detroit with Lexington, Kentucky, and Carmel, Indiana, also possibilities. (This story was updated on Saturday, May 30, to include new information from the Akron Beacon-Journal, a member of the USA Today Network.)”
7. Mackenzie Tour cancels season
Carson Williams at Golf Channel…“Border restrictions, mandatory quarantines for those who enter Canada and gathering restrictions in all provinces because of the coronavirus pandemic were just a few reasons that led the tour to cancel its season.”
  • “With growing uncertainty surrounding the border and the 14-day quarantine regulations, among other factors, we’ve weighed all of our options and concluded that it is not feasible to play this summer,” Mackenzie Tour Executive Director Scott Pritchard said in a press release. “With the safety of the communities we play in mind, as well as the well-being of our players, sponsors, tournament-organizing committees, volunteers and golf course staff, we came to the realization that this is the best decision for everyone involved.”
  • “Mackenzie Tour members have been sent information detailing eligibility for the 2021 season. Those who have earned status at three 2020 Qualifying Tournaments will keep their status for next season. For the Qualifying Tournament entrants who have not yet competed, they will be guaranteed a spot for the 2021 event.”
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Morning 9: Latest memo from Tour to players | Phil’s post-Match perspective | Greg Norman’s regrettable take

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1. Latest “bubble” memo
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard details the most recent communique from Tour to its players…“In a memo sent to players on Wednesday, tournament director Michael Tothe outlined many of the protocols that will be required when play resumes on June 11 at Colonial including the four Fort Worth, Texas, hotels that will create the foundation of the circuit’s “bubble” for the week.”
  • “The core of the PGA Tour’s plan to return was always about testing, but it’s a fine line to walk. In two weeks, at the Charles Schwab Challenge, we’ll find out if it will be enough.”
  • “Players are allowed to stay in individual RVs or rental homes but they are being encouraged to assure the health and safety of their accommodations if they choose to stay outside the bubble.”
  • “Players were also informed where COVID-19 testing will occur when they arrive in Fort Worth as well as meal options at Colonial, which will be limited to grab-and-go lunches in order to follow safety protocols.”
2. Little John finishes second at Crooked Stick 
Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star…Daly II made that same walk on Wednesday, up the 18th fairway for the final round of the inaugural Dye Junior Golf Invitational at Crooked Stick.”
  • “I think a lot of guys have re-watched the 1991 PGA tournament,” Daly II said. “I watched it every night before the tournament. (Watching him) walk down the 18th with all of the fans everywhere was pretty cool. He started as the ninth alternate and didn’t expect to play. For him to win, it was a ridiculous story. He loves it.”
  • “Daly II put together a remarkable tournament in his own right, finishing a three-way tie for second place behind winner John Marshall Butler of Louisville, Kentucky. Daly II was 4 over for the two-day, 54-hole event, which featured 33 of the top high school boys players in the country and 33 of the same on the girls’ side.”
3. Phil open to wearing mic
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Speaking on the Dan Patrick Show, Mickelson admitted that he didn’t expect the same level of banter during a typical Tour event with a seven-figure prize on the line, but he’d nonetheless be willing to broadcast his inside-the-ropes dialogue.”
  • “I would be open to the idea because of how it’s being received, and some of the insight and so forth,” Mickelson said. “But you don’t have the play between individuals. I had a partner, and Tom and I could talk back and forth. And maybe you could get some of that with the caddie, but having a partner is much more intimate and you have much better conversation.”
4. …wants annual Match
AP report…”Phil Mickelson, fresh off the success of Sunday’s charity golf exhibition with Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, says he would like to see “The Match” become an annual event.”
  • “I think you could showcase guys like Steph Curry and Michael Jordan or Tony Romo and Patrick Mahomes, who are all good golfers, elite talents and have great personalities,” Mickelson told the Los Angeles Times in a column published Wednesday. “Those personalities are going to come out with this event. Or you could have someone who loves the game and is competitive but is really entertaining like Larry David and Bill Murray. I think that could shine.”
5. More audience info
Interesting stuff from Geoff Shackelford…“According to Showbuzzdaily.com, almost 1/3 of The Match 2’s audience was in the coveted 18-49 demo and the number was even better on on TruTV, also meaning there are people of any age group who know how to find TruTV”
  • “About 30% of The Match’s audience landed in the 18-49 demo despite the 44.5 average age of the participants…The numbers for TaylorMade Driving Relief with a foursome averaging 29.5 years”
  • “That’s 25% of the almighty buyers for a younger, supposedly more millennial-friendly group of golfers. And a grand total of (at least) 860,000 fewer viewers 18-49.  While not a huge difference in the percentage department, The Match did rout Driving Relief in overall audience and even took chipped away at NASCAR’s ratings.”

Full piece.

6. After a long layoff, how do the pros play?
Dylan Beirne, 15th Club for PGATour.com, examines the question…“As we might expect, there’s a clear relationship between performance and the number of weeks a player has been off. We can analyze how well players perform by comparing our estimate of their ability (how we would expect them to perform) to how they actually performed.”
  • “Generally, players taking small breaks of two weeks or less are marginally better than expected, while longer breaks result in an average drop in performance of between 0.1 and 0.2 strokes per round. For context, a drop of 0.2 strokes per round is about the gap between 100th- and 135th-ranked players in the world. It’s a significant change, but not enormous.”
  • “Additionally, the drop in performance after a 10-20 week gap is quite consistent across different levels of players. Top-50 players in the world are affected by a similar amount to those outside the top 50.”
7. A really bad take from Greg Norman
I mean, what else can you call it? A man who has a history of obtuseness and putting his fin in his mouth outdid himself with unfounded speculation about the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash in an interview with Michael Bamberger…“I asked Norman about the January helicopter crash in Los Angeles that killed all nine people aboard, Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, among them. I asked Norman if he had any insight, from his own experience as a helicopter pilot, and as an elite athlete who has flown often in helicopters as a passenger, into the tragedy.”
  • “Yes – yes,” he said. His voice was sober. “Probably pilot error and pressure from the back,” Norman said. Norman could imagine the legendary basketball player saying, “‘Get me through this; get me there. I’ve got to get my daughter to this game.’
  • …”My instructor and I had a saying, ‘If you can’t see through it don’t fly through it.’ If I was flying to Doral or Orlando or Naples and there was fog, we just put it down and waited it out.”
8. Sprint to the Cup
Ben Everill at PGATour.com…“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting cancellations and postponements of tournaments leaves just 11 eligible tournaments over a 10-week stretch for players to qualify for the Playoffs and a chance at the $15 million bonus that comes with the season-long FedExCup crown.”
  • “While the top 125 will not double as the cutoff for TOUR cards next season in this reduced schedule, it will remain the mark to get into THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first of three Playoffs events in the chase for the FedExCup.”
  • “Gone is the luxury of extended rest between starts for those sitting way back on the list, such as Koepka, who was just starting to find his feet again on a return from injury when the pandemic halted play in March.”

 

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