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5 things we learned on Thursday at the U.S. Open

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Golf at Pebble Beach is different, especially in the U.S. Open. For the professionals, it is a known commodity, a course that they see on multiple occasions each February. For the viewers, it represents an accessible (albeit expensive) public option, a course hard against an ocean, as we have been told golf should be. For the association that conducts the event, it is the ideal course on  which to hold this championship. It allows each qualified golfer to hit driver as often as he dares, yet lay back as often as he desires. Pebble Beach offers familiarity at the end of the continent, a destination sought by most, and a journey measured by an elite few. The first round of the 2019 United States Open championship reminded us of these insights, and it gave us five things worth remembering.

5. Brooks Koepka has a wide-right that he needs to fix

For a guy from Buffalo, wide right has an especially painful significance for this scribe. For Brooks Koepka, it nearly cost him an opportunity to defend his consecutive victories in this event. On #16, Koepka’s drive finished in the right rough, as did his approach to the green. The result: a near-bogey. On #17, his 4-iron flared once again to starboard, finding the first of two greenside bunkers. The result? Bogey. At the 18th hole, Koepka opted to lay back with a fairway metal from the tee, then bombed the ball again to his right, nearly out of bounds. His 2nd was played from the macadam path that borders the hole, and he escaped with another par. Our point? Koepka played the closing stretch in +1, which should have been better and could have been worse. To contend over the next 54 holes, wide right needs to go away.

4. Tiger Woods is … somewhere

Forget Ted Talks. Forget Master Classes. Follow Tiger Woods around Pebble Beach, or any U.S. Open venue, and you’ll witness a golfer who squeezes every ounce of opportunity from himself and the golf course. On Thursday, Woods’ round started with 3 birdies in the first 7 holes. Only an inexplicable double bogey at 5 kept him from a run at the top. 11 consecutive pars followed, some conjured in the mysterious ways of a magician. The 2000 champion at Pebble Beach made an improbable par from beyond the 14th green, after blading a sand shot from the fronting bunker. On 17, he again saved par from the sand, while a 3rd trip to a bunker at the home hole was also fraught with difficulty. Somehow, some way, he managed 70 on the day, a mere 5 strokes behind the leader.

3. Xander Schauffele lies in wait

The X Man has two runner-up finishes in major championships. He tied for 2nd at the 2018 Open championship, and did the same at this year’s Masters. Every facet of his game lends itself to major competition. On Thursday, Schauffele made eagle at the last to reach five-under par, tied with Rickie Fowler, Louis Oosthuizen and Aaron Wise (at the time) for 1st place. As do Woods and Fowler, Schauffele hails from California, and his west-coast familiarity might be what pushes the 4-time PGA Tour champion into the realm of major champion. Whether he hoists the trophy on Sunday or not, Schauffele will certainly be in the mix.

2. A golf course might just survive US Open criticism-does it matter?

Let’s see, Oakmont had bad officiating, Chambers Bay had bad grass. Erin Hills had wide fairways. Shinnecock Hills had Phil Mickelson. Raise your hand if you want to host a U.S. Open. What’s that? No one? (cue crickets chirping.) It’s a tough gig, being the site for a pre-eminent event in the USA, subject to the scrutiny of multiple elements, the carping of unsatisfied competitors. Would Oakmont have been vestal without the DJ affair? Would Chambers have received its due if the greens hadn’t apparently died? What might we have done with the Hills twins, Erin and Shinny? The point is, fans, media and history demand that each playing exceed the previous ones. That shouldn’t be the case. yet here we are. As demonstrated in the introduction to this piece, Pebble is many things to many people. Let’s raise a glass to how a tournament course can be prepped, and an event can be conducted … oh, wait, we still have 54 holes left.

1. Justin Rose is a major player

We found this out in 1998, when the English lad holed from 50 yards out at the last, on his way to a 4th-place tie and low amateur status. In 2013, Rose established himself as a major champion at Merion, winning a U.S. Open in Hogan-esque fashion. In 2016, Rose became the first golfer in over 100 years to capture an Olympic gold medal. Buoyed by an eagle at the 6th, Rose added five birdies to counteract his lone misstep, a bogey at the treacherous 8th. Just as Pebble is a long way from emerging unscathed as an Open site, Rose has three rounds left to prove himself worthy of a 2nd title in the event. His lead is one slim stroke, but the composure and assurance he demonstrated in round one, makes Rose a worthy contender this week, on the California coast.

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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.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. L

    Jun 14, 2019 at 10:37 am

    The USGA caved and set the course up like the AT&T and it’s fairly innocuous. Not like a tough major. Quite a snooze fest. Greens are way too receptive.
    Lets have some wind

    • dat

      Jun 14, 2019 at 11:32 am

      Yes, the USGA told GOD HIMSELF not to let the wind blow so the course would play easy.

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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.

View this post on Instagram

Send this to a trash golfer ????

A post shared by Joshua Kelley (@holein1trickshots) on

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.

View this post on Instagram

Rainy Wednesday…we going skippin!

A post shared by R I C K I E (@rickiefowler) on

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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