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Morning 9: Perspectives on Pebble | Why Rory can rule and it’s Phil’s last shot

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

June 11, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Pebble weather, setup, etc
Golfweek’s Geoff Shackelford offers his initial impressions of how the venerable track is looking ahead of competition.
  • “The mowing height appears to have topped off the tall stuff Sunday morning around 4 inches, with the USGA reserving the right to keep it trimmed as they see fit, with another topping off likely Wednesday evening based on past protocols. Gone is the secondary cut through the course, though some areas where balls might roll off a fast fairway, such as the right of the second fairway, appear to have an expanded “intermediate” cut.”
  • “…The fairways also have a carpet like density which, while cutting down on the potential for fast running-landing areas, will make Pebble Beach play a bit longer than previous U.S. Opens.”
  • “And the greens? They are borderline “lush” with incredibly consistent and healthy poa annua turf. The USGA has applied a wetting agent after much study and hopes to reduce the amount of inconsistent drying out as the U.S. Open’s long days proceed.”

Full piece.

…Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard adds…”One of the concerns following the last U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, in 2010, was how the poa annua greens became particularly difficult in dry conditions, much like those forecast for this week. Perhaps in reaction to that officials have told players that they will syringe greens between the morning and afternoon waves on Thursday and Friday if needed.”
“Although the USGA has syringed greens between waves and during rounds, including at Shinnecock during the final round in 2004, it is rare.”
2. Continued…
Doug Feguson at the AP with this succinct assessment…
  • “The fairways are roughly the same width as always at Pebble. The rough is lush and penal. The forecast is good.”
  • ”I don’t think I’ve seen the golf course in better condition,” said John Bodenhamer, the senior managing director of championships for the USGA.
  • “So what could possibly go wrong?”
  • “Based on the recent run of U.S. Open mishaps, that’s a question that lingers for some of golf’s best players.”
  • “And the USGA can only hope it has the answer.”

Full piece.

3. Mickelson’s last, best U.S. Open chance?
From a Canadian Press report…”It’s what makes Mickelson’s trip next week to Pebble all that much more tantalizing. It’s his chance to finally win the tournament he’s wanted so badly – maybe too badly – at a course teeming with history and good vibes for not only himself, but for his family and for the game itself. It’s a week during which the five-time major winner, who turns 49 on the day of the final round, will come face to face with what could be his last, best chance to win the U.S. Open.”
“….It’s hard to argue Mickelson hasn’t proven he has the game to win a U.S. Open. He has played in 25 of them as a professional, finished in the top 10 in 10, and finished runner-up in six of those. And yet, the defining trait of America’s national championship is that it delivers the ultimate examination of every part of a player’s game. That includes the mental and emotional approach – and, it follows that a big piece of that puzzle is the ability to stay cool and make good decisions when the lights are the brightest.”
4. Why Rory can rule Pebble
Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail…”McIlroy has missed his last three U.S. Open cuts. Yes, he’s coming off a dominant win at the Canadian Open, but is there reason for optimism this week?”
“Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail provides six reasons he thinks we could be in for another McIlroy romp. “
  • “HE’S FIRING WITH DRIVER…”After missing the cut the previous week at the Memorial Tournament, McIlroy put the idle weekend to good use and found the missing piece with his driver. On Sunday, he talked about playing with freedom and that stems from having confidence in his weapon of choice once more.”
  • HE’S GOT ANOTHER WEDGE…”McIlroy’s distance control with his wedges has long been his Achilles heel, and the greens at Pebble are so tiny that you have to be spot on to have any chance…With one eye on the US Open, McIlroy added a fourth wedge to his bag in Canada last week and the plan worked well over the weekend.”
5. U.S. Open storylines
CBS’ Kyle Porter rounds up a few the most notable plot points for the third major of the year.
  • “Three for Brooks Koepka: Nobody has won three consecutive U.S. Opens since Willie Anderson did it in 1905 at Myopia Hunt Club. He opened 81-80 that year and won by two. Don’t think that will cut it for Koepka at Pebble Beach. Koepka winning two straight U.S. Opens and two straight PGA Championships is already historic, but if he takes three in a row and does it at a track like this one before the age of 30, he’s an instant golf icon.”
  • “Tiger Woods gets No. 16: Can you imagine Woods going Augusta National-Pebble Beach in the same season to get within two of Jack Nicklaus? I don’t know that anything can top what he did at Augusta in April in terms of coverage or historicity, but if something could then it’s winning 19 years after his surreal 15-stroke lap around Monterey on a Sunday night on national television.”

Full piece.

6. JK to channel his inner BK
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill…
  • “But he used the moment to further his education in the school of golf. Thomas was especially attuned to seeing how Koepka dealt with his sizeable 54-hole lead at Bethpage Black. When Thomas led by seven shots at the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii with a round to play he found it difficult to contain his nerves.”
  • “I promise I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back, but I have started a Sunday with a 7-shot lead and it’s still to this day the most nervous I’ve been teeing off,” Thomas admitted ahead of this week’s U.S. Open.
  • “It was tough at the Sony Open... so I can’t imagine how it was at the PGA Championship, Bethpage Black, best field in golf, tough conditions…. I’ve learned a lot watching Brooks at the PGA.”
7. Viktor Hovland
Steve Dimeglio for Golfweek…
  • “…And in a Monday practice round, Hovland played with Rickie Fowler, a former OSU standout.”
  • “Viktor is going to be fine. I’m not worried about him,” Fowler said. “It is an adjustment turning pro. Sometimes it takes longer for some guys than others. I’m excited for him to start his professional career soon. I think he’s going to have a lot of success. I hope that would be sooner rather than later. But I’m looking forward to helping him if I can at all. He may not need it. He might come out and just get on a run and go.”
  • “Hovland has reached out to some pros for some advice but isn’t too worried about joining the pro ranks.”
  • “I’m pretty laid back,” he said. “I’m thinking about the U.S. Open right now, and when I get to Connecticut next week, we’ll figure it out. There’s no real secret. You’ve just got to play good golf. Go about your business. Get a good routine and strategy to the course and just got to play good golf.”

Full piece.

8. The James Hozhauer of golf
An interesting case made by Shane Ryan for Golf Digest…
“In short, Holzhauer is a Jeopardy! demigod who just went on a thrilling 32-game, $2.46 million winning streak that some believe is the greatest stretch of … Jeopardying? … that humankind has ever witnessed. I’m of two minds: He was spectacular, yes, but in the end he fell a few dollars short of Ken Jennings’ overall money record, and many, many days shy of his total-wins mark (a whopping 74). There’s a school of thought that believes those two numbers are the alpha and omega of any Jeopardy! G.O.A.T. discussion, which puts him a notch below Jennings. Still, Holzhauer earned money at a clip we’ve never seen before, and currently holds the top 16 greatest individual games in the show’s history (he’s the only person to ever make more than $100,000 in a single day, and he did it six times), and he nailed 97 percent of all questions, beating Jennings’ 91 percent mark. In other words, it’s a legitimate argument.”
“I will not tell you that Brooks Koepka deserves a mention in the corresponding golf debate, because I am not stupid. He’s not even close to G.O.A.T. status, and despite his current torrid pace, smart money says he’ll never get there. And yet, as with Holzhauer, Koepka has subjected his chosen game to an almost unbelievable blitzkrieg that is changing how we view the sport’s biggest stages. It is, arguably, the greatest stretch of major golf that we’ve ever seen when you take his “usual” level into account. How does a guy who has won exactly one “normal” tournament in the past three years manage to win four of the last eight majors he’s entered, and come extremely close in another?”
9. U.S. Open photo buffet
…like a clambake with ample portions for all, you might say…
Check out GolfWRX’s photos from Monday at the U.S. Open here
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Tour Photo Galleries

Interesting photos from the 2019 Sanderson Farms Championship

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GolfWRX was on site at the 2019 Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi.

In addition to the usual spread of range photos from Monday and Tuesday, we also got a look at a new flatstick from Bettinardi, a few of Matt Jones’ Scotty Cameron putters, new wands from PXG, and some new shafts from Mitsubishi.

Check out a few highlights below and find the links to all our galleries after that.

2018 Scotty Cameron Hula Girl cover sighting!

A look at the unique tee markers

New Callaway staffer Akshay Bhatia’s awesome Callaway Apex MB irons

“Furby Boy” Joaquin Niemann’s 56-degree wedge

New Mitsubishi Tensei AV shafts spotted

One of the several new PXG Gen2 putters we got an in-hand look at

Sam Ryder with a little weight taken out of his Cleveland RTX-3 wedges

One of Matt Jones’ prototype Scotty Cameron putters

An in-hand look at the limited Bettinardi QB8 that launched in The Hive this week

All our photos from the Sanderson Farms Championship

WITB

General galleries

 

 

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Morning 9: Hoage! | Another Romo sponsor’s exemption | First foreign-born U.S. Mid-Am winner | Skins game details

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

September 20, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Another bite at the Hoge 
Sean Martin at PGATour.com…“Tom Hoge couldn’t keep pace with Joaquin Niemann over the final holes of last week’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, but now Hoge finds himself atop the leaderboard in the second event of the PGA TOUR season.”
  • “Hoge, who finished second to Niemann on Sunday, shot a bogey-free 64 on Thursday to lead the Sanderson Farms Championship before first-round play was suspended due to weather.”
  • “Hoge temporarily tied Niemann at The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC after making birdie on the 12th hole. Hoge bogeyed on two of his next three holes, though, and Niemann made six back-nine birdies to win by six strokes.”

Full piece.

2. Meanwhile, in Europe…
Round one at the BMW PGA…“Rory McIlroy made six bogeys and a double bogey in his last 11 holes to shoot 4-over 76 at the BMW PGA Championship, leaving the world No. 2 already 11 strokes off the first-round lead held by Matt Wallace on Thursday.”
  • “McIlroy’s round fell apart after his birdie at No. 5 that followed an eagle at No. 4, as he shot 42 in his back nine in glorious conditions at Wentworth.”
  • “One over for his round arriving at the 17th tee, he pulled his drive and wound up making a double-bogey 7. Another wayward drive led to a bogey at the 18th and he didn’t talk to reporters after his round.”

Full piece.

At the time of this writing, Danny Willett has an -8 second round going and is ahead by three at -12.

3. Romo planning to make the cut?
“The Forecaddie perused the Safeway Classic field next week and saw former quarterback Tony Romo will be playing on a sponsor invite. This was hardly earth-shattering given the former Cowboy’s appearance in three PGA Tour events and his passion for competitive golf.”
  • “But The Man Out Front also remembered Romo’s job with CBS where his uncanny ability to predict play calls has rapidly made him America’s most beloved football analyst. So what happens if Romo makes the cut in Napa when he and Jim Nantz are penciled in to work that Sunday’s Vikings-Bears game?”
  • “The Forecaddie hears CBS is just fine with Romo’s appearance and a backup plan is in place should he have the rounds of his life.”

Full piece.

4. First foreign-born U.S. Mid-Am winner
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“Australian Lukas Michel rallied to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur final, 2 and 1, to punch his ticket to next year’s Masters and U.S. Open.”
  • “The 25-year-old from Melbourne trailed Joe Deraney for much of the 36-hole final at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo., and Deraney held a 1-up advantage with just nine holes to play. But from there Michel turned the table, closing with birdies on four of his final eight holes. That included a birdie on No. 15, which gave him his first lead in 29 holes, and another on No. 16 to push his opponent to the brink.”
5. Stadium’s a goin’ up!
Golfweek’s Todd Kelly…”The Waste Management Phoenix Open is more than four months away but construction at TPC Scottsdale has already started.”
  • “The Thunderbirds House and Grounds Crew got things going on Monday, Sept. 16, the earliest the construction has ever started, but workers need to get going now because of the time and material it takes to build the luxury suites, grandstands, bleachers and all the other infrastructure for the tournament that draws the largest crowds in golf.”
  • “In 2018, tournament organizers announced a weekly attendance mark of more than 719,000. Close to 217,000 fans were tallied on Saturday that year, always the most highly attended day of the year for the Phoenix Open.”

Full piece.

6. ZJ takes advantage
PGATour.com’s Sean Martin…”‘Opportunity’ is a word used often at the Sanderson Farms Championship. The second event of the PGA TOUR season provides new players fresh off the Korn Ferry Tour the chance to gain experience, get a head-start in the FedExCup race and even earn that maiden victory and all the trappings that accompany it.”
  • “The PGA TOUR’s newest members aren’t the only ones who can change the trajectory of their career during this time of year, though. Veteran players, the ones with majors and FedExCups on their resume, also appear on the tee sheets of these early events. Many are trying to recapture that winning feeling or at least gain some confidence before the calendar changes to a new year.”

Full piece.

7. Hovland’s “home” debut
Golf Digest’s John Huggan…”Viktor Hovland has never failed to shoot in the 60s on the European Tour. Not even once.”
  • “Of course, the three-under-par 69 with which the 22-year-old Norwegian began the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Thursday is also his first round as a professional in a European Tour event. Which did not go unnoticed.”
  • “Interviewed by Sky Sports and the BBC after his seven-birdie, four-bogey trip around the famous old Burma Road, which left him four off the lead of England’s Matt Wallace, Hovland was then surrounded by a posse of the U.K.’s print media. And still then he wasn’t done. Three journalists from his home country-one from VG, the biggest-selling newspaper and another from NRK, the most-watched television station-are here to cover his debut on the Old World circuit.”

Full piece.

8. Molinari speaketh
An interesting question for Francesco Molinari in a New York Times interview…”On a personal note, does it bother you that soccer players get more adoration than golfers in Italy?”
  • After last year, I get stopped a lot more often and get asked for autographs and pictures. It’s the recognition of the results I’ve had and things I’ve accomplished in the last two years. And it feels nice. I love it when it’s young kids. Part of what I do is because I was that young kid looking up to Costantino Rocca and all the Italian players that were on tour. It’s great to know that I’m doing the same now with the younger generations.”
  • “But I’m not the kind of guy who looks for too much public attention. Footballers get a lot of love, but they also get a lot of hate as well when they don’t play well. Italians are very passionate about sports. Football is a tough sport to be in. I’d rather golf.”

Full piece.

9. ICYMI: Skins game details
News from yesterday, in case you missed it. Our Gianni Magliocco…”The upcoming skins match in Japan involving Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama is set, with a prize purse of $350,00 up for grabs.”
  • “The opening six holes of the event billed as ‘The Challenge: Japan Skins’, will be worth $10,000 each, with the value of holes increasing as the match continues – with the potential of there being a total of $100,000 on the line on the 18th hole.”
  • “The event is scheduled to finish under the lights, and according to the release, will feature “special in-match challenges and surprises.”
  • “Viewers in the U.S. can watch the skins match live on Golf Channel, while those outside the U.S. will be able to tune into the event on Discovery’s GOLFTV. Viewers in the UK and Ireland will need to pay a subscription fee for the service.”
  • “Coverage of ‘The Challenge: Japan Skins’, which takes place on the week of the Zozo Championship, begins on Oct. 20 at 11 PM ET.”
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Morning 9: Red lights for slow play? | Thorbjorn still suspended | Rory on Solheim slow play

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

September 19, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Red lights for slow play at Wentworth this week
Golf Digest’s John Huggan…”A lot of the time players are unaware that they are out of position,” said John Paramor, the European Tour’s chief referee. “So we felt that we would like to find a method that would tell them when they are. So we are trialing this week a system where they will have that information on five tees [Nos. 4, 7, 10, 13 and 16]. The previous group’s time will be recorded when they walk off the green. Then that time will be deducted from that of the next group, who will then be able to tell if they are within time.”
  • “Specifically, each monitor will operate a color-coded system, similar to a traffic light. If the number shown is red, then that group can expect to be monitored by the rules team very soon thereafter. If it is green, the players are in good shape and in position with the group ahead. Amber means the group is only slightly out position, but the players should be aware that they are going to have to move a little quicker.”

Full piece.

2. Thorbjorn stays suspended
BBC Staff report…”Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen will remain suspended from the European Tour until his court case is finished.”
  • “The 29-year-old Ryder Cup winner made his second appearance in court on Wednesday, charged with sexual assault and being drunk on an aircraft.”
  • “Olesen, of Chelsea, south-west London, has also been charged with assault by beating.
  • “…Olesen, who has been granted unconditional bail, did not enter a plea at a short hearing on Wednesday at Isleworth Crown Court.”

Full piece. 

3. Why Rory re-joined the European Tour…
From a Press Association report…”Everyone has to look out for themselves and next year I’m looking out for me,” McIlroy said during the DP World Tour Championship in November, before describing the European Tour as “a stepping stone” ahead of the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January.”
  • “However, following a meeting with European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, McIlroy took up his membership before the May 1 deadline and can begin earning points for the 2020 Ryder Cup when qualification begins with this week’s BMW PGA Championship.”
  • “Asked what led to the change of heart, McIlroy said: “My wife. She said to me, ‘what are you trying to do, or what sort of point are you trying to make?’.”

Full piece.

4. Rory on Solheim slow play
Martin Dempster at The Scotsman quoting McIlroy…”I think it’s a start,” said the world No 2 of a GPS tracking devices being used to monitor each group’s position on the course, with the data to be displayed on five tees to inform players where they stand in relation to the groups around them.”
  • “Get all the latest news, analysis and expert opinion with an online subscription Subscribe Today”
  • “Look, it’s not a great thing for our game. I don’t want to single out particular people, but I watched a lot of the Solheim Cup at the weekend, and it was really slow. As much as you want to sit there and watch and support the European girls, it’s just hard not to get frustrated with it. If I’m a fan – and I am a fan of golf – I want the best for the game. It’s hard because there’s different scenarios where you have to take your time. It was tough conditions up there. It was windy. It was tough.”
5. The PGA Tour is also using GPS slow play tracking…
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”The PGA Tour began using GPS tracking devices this year at “numerous” events, including The Players in March, as well as information provided by ShotLink.”
  • “We’ve used ShotLink data for some time to work with players over the years and maybe show them areas of their game where they might take a little more time,” said Tyler Dennis, the Tour’s chief of operations. “These [GPS] devices are the last missing piece. How long does it take to reach a tee, how fast do they walk. These are things that we can now see.”
  • “The Tour announced last month a plan to review its pace-of-play policy using data generated by ShotLink and Dennis explained that players have been asked at various events this season to test the tracking devices, which are simply placed in a player’s golf bag.”

Full piece.

6. Vice captain Karlsson 
Via RyderCup.com…”European Captain Padraig Harrington has named Robert Karlsson as his first vice captain for The 2020 Ryder Cup against the United States at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin next September.”
  • “The 50-year-old Swede twice represented Europe in The Ryder Cup – including partnering Harrington twice in foursomes at Valhalla in 2008 – and he will return to the backroom team in the biennial contest having been vice captain to Thomas Bjørn at Le Golf National in 2018″
7. Distinguished service
Via the PGA.com staff…”Barbara Nicklaus, one of the game’s most successful ambassadors and admired advocates for the healthcare of future generations in addition to being the wife of the greatest champion in golf history, has been named recipient of the 2019 PGA Distinguished Service Award.”
  • “Nicklaus, 79, will be honored Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the PGA of America’s 103rd Annual Meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since 1988, the PGA Distinguished Service Award honors outstanding individuals who display leadership and humanitarian qualities, including integrity, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for the game of golf.”

Full piece. 

8. Jack discusses the Concession 
And in news related to her husband…the Golden Bear recently discussed the most famous gimme in pro golf history…
  • USA Today, Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio...”Jacklin left his putt two feet short, while Nicklaus ran his attempt five feet by the hole. But Nicklaus drained his comebacker and then extended his hand in a gesture that was criticized by a few at the time but heralded by many more ever since.
  • “I knew going down the 18th hole as long as I didn’t lose the hole, we would retain the cup. Jacklin had a 25-footer and I had a 17- or 18-footer. He ran it up close and I ran it five feet by the hole and thought ‘Oh what an idiot,'” Nicklaus said. “I had a downhill left-to-right slider that I made, and I knew the match was essentially over from the standpoint of losing. I didn’t think of all this at the same time, but Tony had been the first hero that England had had in a long time. If he would’ve missed that putt, the British press would’ve barbecued him.”
  • “Instead of Jacklin facing a knee-knocker to earn the first tie in Ryder Cup history, Nicklaus bent over and picked up his opponent’s marker and conceded the putt. The two finished equal and the matches ended up 16-16. “

Full piece. 

9. Bhatia ready for the big time
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”At just 17 years old, Bhatia bears the fresh face and thin frame you might expect of a typical high school senior. His golf game, however, is ready for the big time. At least that’s the assertion of Bhatia and his close-knit team, as the teen sensation gets ready to make his pro debut this week at the Sanderson Farms Championship without ever setting foot on a college campus.”
  • “Bhatia’s game is well-regarded in the amateur ranks. He won the prestigious Jones Cup, was ranked No. 5 in the world and just this month helped the U.S. to a Walker Cup victory at Royal Liverpool. Bhatia received social media well-wishes Wednesday from former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, whose academy in South Carolina has been a frequent destination for the bespectacled southpaw as he honed his game.”
  • “Bhatia’s fast track to the pros has not been an overnight decision. When he made his PGA Tour debut in March, missing the cut with rounds of 74-72 at the Valspar Championship, he told reporters that he and his parents had talked about his option to skip college since he was in the eighth grade.”

 

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