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Morning 9: Pebble Beach: Just what the USGA needs? | Rory’s putter saga | TW and the art of the rest day

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

June 13, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Pebble the panacea?
Dave Kindred says a U.S. Open at Pebble could be just what the USGA needs…
  • “The folks in charge of the United States Open golf tournament do many things well, and the thing they do best is bring their ultimate competition to the Pebble Beach Golf Links, the ultimate golf course. Maybe some places demand more of a player; Oakmont comes to mind. Maybe some places speak more to history; Augusta. No place, it says here, does all that while sending its players to the edge of the known world – way past Gilroy, just south and west of Salinas – and onto the greatest stage in golf.”
  • “…And now they come not to a place unknown, not to Erin Hills or Chambers Bay, but to a place called felicitous and breathtaking and “one of the most amazing pieces of property in the world” (Spieth, Tuesday). They come to Pebble Beach, a property sanctified by Nicklaus and Watson and beatified by Woods, and we’ll see if Brooks Koepka can add to the history. Victory would be Koepka’s third straight in the Open. That trifecta has been done, but only once, and a lot has happened since Willie Anderson came over from Scotland and did it in 1903, ’04, and ’05.” 

Full piece.

2. Feeling the pressure…
AP report reminding us what’s at stake…”From rules gaffes to dead grass to lack of rain or wind, the story surrounding the past four U.S. Opens has been as much about the management of the tournament as it has been the shots by the players in the field.”
  • “Because of that recent history, the USGA might be under as much pressure as any of the competitors this week.”
  • “It is not lost on us this is an important week, not only for golf, this is an important week for the USGA,” executive director Mike Davis said at a news conference Wednesday, the day before this year’s national championship starts at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
3. Final prep for Tiger (and everyone else)
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“Woods joined Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Kevin Kisner for a tour of Pebble’s back nine. There’s usually not much to extract the day before a major: the preparation has been done, the strategy laid out. It’s more out of routine, sprinkled with the search for one final secret or observation that will prove the difference. Those needing Wednesday to get their swing or mind right can be written off.”
  • “Yet Woods, a year-and-a-half into his comeback but still very much in the exploratory stages of what his body can and can’t do, views Wednesdays in a different light…”
  • “…The 43-year-old now takes Tuesdays off-or as much as a three-hour practice session can qualify as “off”-to conserve energy. Because his latest back procedure has tightened his muscles up, Wednesday serves as a litmus test for Woods, making sure the swing that was there on Monday has returned.”
4. Bring on the driving irons?
Golfweek’s David Dusek on a popular weapon for attacking Pebble Beach this week…
  • “At 7,075 yards, Pebble Beach Golf Links is not a long course by modern standards. However, the cool, damp climate is perfect for growing grass, and it has allowed the United States Golf Association to line the fairways and surround the greens with deep, thick rough.”
  • “That rough would typically compel golfers to consider adding a high-lofted fairway wood to their bag and remove a long iron. Fairway woods, like a 5-wood or a 7-wood, have a wider sole than a long iron and a lower center of gravity. They can work through tall grass and get the ball up more easily. Plus, because they have a longer shaft than a long iron, a fairway wood will hit the ball a little farther than an iron with the same loft.”
  • “But this week at Pebble Beach, the firm fairways and a weather forecast that calls for virtually no rain has players rethinking their options. Driving irons, normally put into play on windy courses to keep the ball low and allow it to run after it lands, have been more popular than expected.”
5. Slow starts have doomed Rory’s major efforts of late
John Huggan for Golf Digest….
  • (What Johnny Miller told Rory) “Johnny told me to look at the history of major championships,” said McIlroy, who tees off the 10th hole at 7:51 a.m. local time on Thursday. “That first round is so important. And I agree. My first rounds at Augusta [73] and Bethpage [72] this year put me a little bit behind the eight ball. And it’s hard to catch up. Especially as major championships are played on the toughest courses. The temptation is to chase and it’s hard to do that.
  • “In the majors I’ve won, I started really well with rounds in the mid-60s. And that’s sort of what’s held me back a little bit [in the others]. If I can take the freedom that I played with on Saturday and Sunday last week [when he shot 64-61 to win the Canadian Open by seven shots] and get off to a good start here, I’ll hopefully be right in the tournament from the get-go and stay there. That’s what is wonderful about golf, whether you win or lose. You go to the next week and it’s sort of forgotten about. You start again. You can’t dwell on success or failure. You keep looking forward.”

Full piece.

6. …but at least he has his putter!
Tim Dahlberg at the AP…
During the trophy presentation at the Canadian Open…”McIlroy momentarily traded his putter for a Toronto Raptors jersey with the CEO of Golf Canada, Laurence Applebaum, and they nearly forgot to trade back.”
  • “I traded him. He gave me a Raptors jersey, and I gave him my putter and thought he was going to give it to [caddie Harry Diamond] up at the scoring area or whatever,” McIlroy said on Wednesday at the U.S. Open. “And I saw Harry. He goes, Where’s your putter? And I said, I better go find it. So, no, I definitely didn’t give it away. I know I’ve done some stupid things in the past, but that would have been right up there.”
  • …”I said to Harry, Could you go and find Laurence? He’s got my putter. And put it back in the bag and make sure the bag gets on the plane and goes to California,” added McIlroy. “That was really it … the guy I gave it to was running the golf tournament. He knows it’s not for him.”
7. Contrast of Woods, Koepka
James Raia at the Monterey Herald with an interesting perspective…
  • “But unlike Woods, Koepka believes he doesn’t get enough attention and is misunderstood by the public for his stoic nature while competing. Also unlike Woods, a diplomat and often cautious with the media, Koepka doesn’t have much of a filter.”
  • “While other prominent players, including Woods, have criticized the United States Golf Association for U.S. Open course set-ups, Koepka said others complain too much. He prefers to reference the “even playing field” golf offers.”
  • “Koepka has also “challenged” players saying: “winning majors is easier than other tournaments because there are only a handful of players who are talented enough and mentally strong enough to compete with me.”
8. Rory the liberated
The NY Post’s Mark Cannizzaro…
  • “…you saw what Rory McIlroy did in his runaway RBC Canadian Open victory Sunday and don’t think that was a loud-and-clear message entering this week’s U.S. Open, you’re not paying attention.”
  • “If McIlroy brings the form he had in posting a final-round 61 in Canada to Pebble Beach, look out field…McIlroy is perhaps the most dangerous front-runner in the game, a player who can get hot and go low in a hurry.”
  • “Liberating, satisfying … I mean, there’s a lot of different words you could use to describe what it would feel like,” McIlroy said Wednesday of the prospect of winning another major. “I had a chat at the [U.S. Open] champions reunion [Tuesday] night with Johnny Miller and Johnny said, ‘You look at the history of major championships. That first round is so important.’
9. USGA’s show and tell
The Forecaddie on the museum pieces the USGA brought to the U.S. Open champions dinner…
  • “As with the amateurs over at Cypress Point, USGA Golf Museum director Hilary Cronheim said Hogan’s 1-iron and its striking wear pattern near the hozzle got the most attention, with McIlroy, Geoff Ogilvy, Martin Kaymer and Lee Janzen taking the most interest.”
  • “I’m a golf geek, and I love the traditions and history of the game,” McIlroy said. “And that was so cool.”

 

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Tour Rundown: Swafford slips and recovers | Wolfe | + Catch up on the winners you missed last week

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During the excitement of last week’s US Open, we were unable to give proper coverage to the LPGA and PGA Tour Champions. We plan to rectify that this week, with a look back at the last, full week of golf in September 2020, along with a look waaay back at what else went on during US Open week. It’s strange to imagine fall as majors season, but with the Masters coming up in November, golf suddenly carries some weight with American football. The world’s top players will play some sort of schedule, in the run-up to an 11th-Month Augusta, and we should have quite the look at our favorite players as the leaves turn majestic. Time to Tour Rundown. Wake me up, when September ends.

Swafford captures Corales Puntacana title after slipping

The University of Georgia’s Hudson Swafford came out on tour in 2011. He won on the Korn Ferry tour the following season, then claimed an inaugural PGA Tour title in 2017. Three years on, he has a second, big-tour win to add to his wiki, thanks to a solid, bike-balancing in the Dominican Republic.

Swafford sat second to Adam Long on Saturday evening, but inherited the top spot as Long struggle on the outward nine, eventually settling in fifth place. Swafford was out in 31, thanks to a mighty eagle on the par-five fifth hole. Then, awareness rose from the mists, and he made double bogey at 13, followed by bogey at 15. At that juncture of the fairways, Nate Lashley, Tyler McCormick, and Mackenzie Hughes had worked into contention.

Bogey at 17 did Lashley in, while Hughes suffered a similar fate at the final hole. McCumber surged late, capping a bogey-free 32 back nine with a birdie at the last. This effort garnered him solo second spot. As for Swafford, he struck a magnificent iron on the windy, par-three 17th hole to fifteen feet, then dropped the slow-roller for deuce and a lead that would hold to the end. The tour returns stateside this week, at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.

Wolfe claims second KF Tour victory of 2020

Back in January, before the world knew that it would turn inside-out, Jared Wolfe took a large step in his ten-year touring career. Buoyed by PGA Tour Latinoamerica victories in three consecutive seasons, the former Racer from Murray State earned a Korn Ferry tour victory in the Bahamas. Eight months later, Wolfe can add a bookend trophy to his home shelf, following a one-shot win over Canada’s Taylor Pendrith.

The pair entered the final round 1-2, and held position throughout most of day four. Pendrith made birdie at the 15th, but Wolfe topped him with an eagle at 14. Pendrith then notched a bogey at 16, but Wolfe outdid him again with bogies at 15 and 16. In other words, they were feeling the nerves. Pars at the final two holes for both meant a one-stroke cushion for Wolfe, and increased buoyancy in the world of professional golf.

It should be mentioned that Taylor Pendrith, in any other year, would be the story of the season. After finishing outside the top 25 in his first five KF Tour events, followed by a pair of missed cuts, the Ontario native has collected four 2nds and a 3rd over his last nine starts. With a win anywhere, Pendrith would top The 25 money list. Currently, he sits in 2nd spot, behind Will Zalatoris. The Korn Ferry tour heads to Savannah, Georgia, for this week’s penultimate 2020 tournament.

Catlin corrals second 2020 win in Northern Ireland

2020 is defining itself, in mild golf terms, as a year of the late bloomer. In addition to Jared Wolfe, we now have John Catlin. Over the years, the former University of New Mexico golfer has plied his trade on the Asian and European tours. As September arrived, so did Catlin, with a career-changing win in southern Spain. After the Irish Open this week at Galgorm Spa, the Sacramento native now has a pair of Euro tour titles, and a fair amount of standing and cache in the world of golf.

England’s Aaron Rai held a four-stroke lead on the first tee, Sunday morning. He worked his way around the course in 70, the second time he had done so all week. Thrice on the day, he traded birdie for bogey. Rai began his round with a lost shot, but retrieved it immediately at the second. His second birdie of the day, at the 10th, was immediately offset by stray play at the 11th. Finally, and most injurious, he made birdie at 17 to keep hope alive. Needing a 2nd consecutive one to tie Catlin, Rai made bogey at the par-five closer to finish at 8-under par, in solo second position.

What drove Rai to desperation? A seven-birdie onslaught by the American. Catlin burst forth with four birdies over his first 10 holes. A bogey at the 13th slowed his roll, but he surged again toward the end. Catlin gained strokes on Old Man Par at three of his final four holes, only failing to go red at the par-four 17th hole. His 64 was 2nd low of the week and day, eclipsed only by Fabrizio Zanotti’s Sunday 63. The European Tour returns this week to the Renaissance Club in Scotland, for that nation’s Open championship.

Hall earns first LPGA title on US soil (last week)

Georgia Hall, she of the masterful 2018 Open championship title, earned a 2nd career win and first in the states last week. Hall and her compatriots journeyed to the kingdom of Oregon, and waged war at the Columbia Edgewater Club. Hall lurked in the shadows after an opening 70, but burst forth into the light with a second-round 66. Joining her in contention was a healthy mix of names and not-yet-names. Among the former were Moriya Jutanugarn and Inbee Park. Checking boxes in the later were Robyn Ree, Yealimi N0h, and Ashleigh Buhai. It was this last name that would prove most intriguing.

While Hall crafted another fine round, a 68 marked by six birdies and two bogeys, Buhai was on the prowl. The South African posted eight birdies on day three, including four of her final five holes. Only an unfortunate bogey at the 13th kept her from a clean card (and an outright win!) As the dust settled and the ink dried, Hall and Buhai headed toward a reckoning in extra holes, thanks to their tie at twelve deep.

Pars at the 18th brought them to the 1st, where both missed the green with approach shots. Neither recovery was stone dead, but Hall was able to coax her five-feet putt into the abyss for par. Buhai was not so fortunate, as her wee par putt stayed on the surface. The LPGA Tour travels to the opposite coast this week, for a go-round in Galloway, New Jersey, at the ShopRite Classic.

Furyk holds off Kelly in PURE playoff (last week)

Any weekend in Monterey is special, and the PURE Insurance championship made certain to hold itself to that standard. Finishing 3rd was Ernie Els; 4th was Mike Weir; and 5th was Retief Goosen. Major champions in their hey day, any member of that trio would have been a worth winner at Pebble Beach. Instead, it was left to Jim Furyk and Jerry Kelly to decide matters in overtime. Let’s reverse gears, though, and find out how we arrived at extra holes.

Furyk opened with 64, good for a one-shot advantage over Els, Cameron Beckman and Stephen Leaney. Kelly was seven shots back, at 71. On day two, Weir shone with 65, while Furyk regressed with 73, and jumped up with 68. Els was your overnight leader, but the Big Easy was too easy on the field, and did not capitalize on his standing. It’s safe to say that Els lacks the killer instinct of a Bernhard Langer; too many times in his career, he has let tournaments large and small, escape from his clutches.

Day three saw Kelly complete his monster comeback. His 65 was tied for low with Rod Pampling, and while Rod rocketed from 63rd to 31st, Kelly’s rise was even more valuable. He jumped from 9th to 1st, with a bogey at the scenic 8th the only speed bump between him and outright victory. As for Furyk, that 73 left a rotten taste in his mouth, so he returned a slightly-bizarre 67 of his own. The bald eagle was out in 31 strokes, thanks to three birds and a bald eagle in the first six holes. Furyk then Faldo-ed his way home, with 12 consecutive pars. Somehow, his bland play was good enough to reach the playoff.

The old guys lasted just one hole. Both Furyk and Kelly had wedge approach shots left to the fabled 18th green at Pebble Beach. Kelly got his ball left of the hole, and it spun away, to a dozen feet. From there, he two-putted for par. Furyk was able to keep his approach right of the flag, and the spin brought it back to about 30 inches. He knocked down the birdie putt, and moved to two events, two wins, on the tour for seniors. He might want to retire undefeated, but we doubt it. The PGA Tour Champions returns to action next week, in Cary, North Carolina.

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Morning 9: Hud Swaff | Finau’s former backer sues | Gene Parente: Hero | Tiger backup putter fetches $150K

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1. Hud Swaff!
A big win…and some interesting victory headwear. 
 
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“Thanks to a timely birdie on the penultimate hole and a clutch par putt on the final green, Hudson Swafford got back into the winner’s circle at the Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.”
  • “Swafford started the day two shots behind Adam Long, but he quickly became the man to beat in the Dominican Republic after playing the first eight holes in 5 under. At one point Swafford held a four-shot lead on the back nine, but a double bogey on No. 13 let a handful of players back into the tournament. After dropping another shot on No. 16, Swafford stepped to the tee at the par-3 17th tied for the lead with Mackenzie Hughes and Tyler McCumber.”
  • “But he went on to hit the shot of the tournament, stuffing his approach inside 15 feet to set up a decisive birdie.”
2. Catlin closes in Ireland
AP report…”John Catlin birdied three of his last four holes Sunday to close with a 6-under 64 and storm from behind for a two-shot victory in the Irish Open, his second in three weeks on the European Tour.”
  • “Catlin, a 29-year-old American who until this year had only won on the Asian Tour, will move into the top 100 in the world for the first time in his career.”
  • “Aaron Rai never got anything going in favorable conditions at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort. A birdie on the 17th hole pulled him within one shot of Catlin, and a birdie on the par-5 closing hole would have forced a playoff. Instead, Rai made bogey and closed with a 70.”
3. Gene Parente’s in-flight heroics
Mike Stachura at Golf Digest with a heckuva story featuring Golf Laboratories’ Gene Parente as protagonist and hero.
“…Relaxing in a mostly empty business section on a return trip from Incheon, South Korea last Thursday, Parente found himself called on to wrestle down an unruly passenger on a Korean Air flight who was threatening he had a bomb and was trying to break down the cockpit door…”
  • “I was probably a little groggy so I really wasn’t sure what was going on,” he said when reached by phone on Sunday after initial news reports of the incident. “But then I saw this guy up ahead of me in business class yelling, maybe not psychotically but he’s clearly upset. And then I see that’s he’s got a plastic bag on his head.
  • ….”Parente said as he reached for the man he was nearly knocked out when the man punched him in the chest, but then he began returning punches and shouting in the galley at the front of the plane, an area Parente said felt about two feet square. “I’m doing all of this while wearing a mask, but I can assure you we were not social distancing,” he said. “I don’t know if this was going on for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, it was all a blur. I push him against the wall and we’re screaming and punching each other and just at that instant both my arms are grabbed from behind.”
  • “Two Korean Air pilots who were traveling on the flight had jumped in to break up the disturbance not realizing that Parente was the good guy. When the man had been subdued by Parente and the pilots, he refused to speak to anyone but Parente. “We had been fighting each other like five seconds ago, but when we got him he sat down, I could see in his eyes that he was mentally ill,” Parente said. “And then the guy bolted for the cockpit again, and ran through another flight attendant like NFL linebacker hitting a middle school kid.”
4. Another winning wolf
Golfweek’s Jared Wolfe…“Make that two Korn Ferry Tour players who are now one win away from promotion to the PGA Tour.”
  • “Jared Wolfe captured the Wichita Open on Sunday at Crestview Country Club to join Davis Riley as two-time winners this season on the developmental tour. The 32-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky, shot 1-over 71 and hung on at 16 under for a one-shot victory over Taylor Pendrith.”
  • “Wolfe made no birdies during his closing round in cold, wet and windy conditions, but his eagle at the par-5 14th hole gave him the cushion he needed, as he bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16. Pendrith, who now has five top-3 finishes since the restart, also bogeyed No. 16 before making two pars coming in for a closing 69.”
5. Finau sued by former backer
Mike Sorensen for the Desert News…“Utah professional golfer Tony Finau is being sued by Molonai Hola, a former business associate, for more than $16 million.”
  • “The suit, which was filed last week in 3rd District Court, claims Hola paid Finau and his family’s expenses for several years with the agreement of being paid back, but was never compensated.”
  • “Hola became acquainted with the Finau family around 1997, and as the owner of Icon Sports began financing expenses for Tony and his younger brother Gipper, according to the suit.”
  • “Also named in the lawsuit are Finau’s brother, Gipper, his father, Gary, his agent Christopher Armstrong and the Wasserman Media Group.”
6. A Tiger Woods backup putter fetches $150K
Tom VanHaaren at ESPN…“A Tiger Woods backup putter from 2001 sold at Golden Age Golf Auctions early Sunday morning for $154,928, which is believed to be the most a putter of this caliber has ever sold for.”
  • “The putter is a Scotty Cameron Newport II produced for Woods as a backup to the putter he has used to win 14 of his 15 major championships. Scotty Cameron made Woods a backup putter nearly every year if something were to happen to the putter he used in tournament play or he decided to make a switch.”
  • “This putter was produced in 2001, the year Woods completed the “Tiger Slam” in which he won all four majors consecutively after winning the Masters that April.”
7. Will Zalatoris’ impressive run continues
Adam Stanley for PGATour.com writes Zalatoris is…”inching closer to special temporary membership on the PGA TOUR.”
“Zalatoris, who is tops on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, shot a bogey-free 65 Sunday at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship to finish T8.”
  • “With the top-10 result, the former Walker Cup team member will earn a spot in next week’s Sanderson Farms Championship. He got into the event in the Domincan Republic after an impressive T6 at the U.S. Open.”
  • “Zalatoris is in the midst of a record-setting season on the Korn Ferry Tour but admitted he was “drained” this week after finishing inside the top-10 at Winged Foot.”
8. Mel Reid opens up
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols with an excellent piece on Mel Reid’s journey…A morsel: “Four years before that, Reid lost her mother, Joy, in a car accident in Munich. Mel was there to compete in the UniCredit Ladies German Open. She’d go on to win in Prague one month later.”
  • “Yet the healing process was anything but a straight line. Reid, a six-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, nearly quit the game twice and only recently said she’s starting to come to grips with so many struggles from the neck up that have held her back.”
  • “One week before she left for Royal Troon in August, Reid spoke with sports psychologist Howard Falco for the first time. She immediately felt comfortable with Falco, and opened up deep-rooted wounds she’d been reluctant to address.”
  • “Understanding her self-worth was at the heart of it.”
  • “I think that has been a big issue for me,” she said, “whether I deserve stuff.”
9. Hudson Swafford’s winning WITB
Driver: G400 LST (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila NV 60 TX
3-wood: Ping i25 (14 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue 125 MSI 80 TX
5-wood: Ping i25 (18 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Tour Blue 85
Irons: Ping S55 (4-9)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM8 (46-10F), SM7 (52-12F, 56-10S), TaylorMade MG Hi Toe (60-09LB)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Tour
Grip: SuperStroke
Ball: Titleist Pro V1

 

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The DailyWRX (9/24/2020)

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My kid trying to convince me Pokemon is a kid in his school…

…best words start with F and end with K…if you wanna get creative add you or me to the end. Helps me daily.

Is it me or did Rory barely swing at that…

I’m bummed I have to leave a course I won and play at a course I dominate on. Classic TDub!

Who cares…ESPN isn’t ESPN anymore…hasn’t been in YEARS.

DM @johnny_wunder if you know what happened to ESPN

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