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

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

June 18, 2019

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

 

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Morning 9: Kuch leads Riv | Women’s Aus Open | Tiger Woods: Ball testing robot | Couples on PGL

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1. Genesis: Kuch in front
AP report…”Kuchar drove to the edge of the 10th green and two-putted for birdie and kept right on rolling until he had a 7-under 64 on Thursday, matching his best score at Riviera and giving him a three-shot lead in The Genesis Invitational.”
  • “So clean was Kuchar’s round that he only once had to stress over a par putt, and he made the 10-footer at the par-3 fourth.”
  • “I think it’s one of the few courses that has truly stood the test of time,” Kuchar said. “It was a great test of golf 50 years ago when Ben Hogan was playing, it’s a great test today with Tiger Woods and all the young boys playing.”
  • “The conditions were ideal once the morning chill gave way to mild sunshine, and Kuchar took advantage in the morning. As much as Kuchar loves the course, he has only one top 10 in his 13 previous appearances.”
2. Women’s Australian Open update
LPGA report…”The top of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open leaderboard features a 19-time LPGA Tour winner and a 10-year Member looking for her breakthrough first career victory. Korea’s Inbee Park, whose 19 wins include seven major titles, shot a bogey-free 69 in the morning’s perfect scoring conditions to grab the clubhouse lead at -10.”
  • “It was a little bit more calm this morning, so it was nice to play out there,” said Park, looking for her first win since the 2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup. “My putting was consistent, like the last couple of days, so it was good. I just love the golf course and the atmosphere here. So, hopefully I can pull it off on the weekend.”
3. Tiger’s start
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport…“Tiger Woods began the Genesis Invitational with two perfect shots, easily reaching Riviera’s benign par-5 first hole in two. He then drained the eagle putt of 24 feet, 8 inches.”
  • “Seriously. In Kobe Bryant’s city, in Woods’ first tournament since learning of his longtime buddy’s shocking death, Woods’ first putt of the day corresponded with both numbers Bryant wore during his Hall of Fame career.”
  • “…Woods opened the first-ever Genesis Invitational with a two-under 69, getting his latest bid for a record-breaking 83rd PGA Tour victory off to a solid start. He’ll enter the second round five behind Matt Kuchar, who fired a bogey-free, seven-under 64 amid perfect scoring conditions early Thursday morning and is three clear of his closest chasers.”
4. In praise of In-bee
Golf Australia reporting…”as Park showed on the opening day at Royal Adelaide she is a skilful player but one you need to watch carefully to see why she has been so successful.”
  • “The swing is far from classic. The shaft is almost vertical halfway up the backswing and her head swivels toward the target as, or even before, she hits the ball. It’s not a method you would teach, but nor it is one a wise teacher would seek to alter.”
  • “It works and what more can you ask of a golf swing?”
  • “Park split the opening fairway just as most in the clubhouse were beginning their lunch, -which was a pity because they missed her holing an opening wedge from a 100 metres for an eagle.”
5. Tiger Woods: Ball testing robot
Tom VanHaaren at ESPN spoke with the folks at Bridgestone about Tiger Woods’ ball testing process and role in the creation of the new Tour B line…
  • A morsel…”From there, they move to the green to putt and try to get the same feedback. Woods is looking at how long the ball sticks to the face and whether he notices any differences in the speed of the ball. From there, the team makes its way to the course, where Woods will hit driver, 4-iron, 7-iron and full wedge shots.”
  • “Andrew Troutner is the head of Bridgestone’s test site and has experienced testing with Woods on numerous occasions. Troutner has seen firsthand the impeccable attention to detail Woods has, but also the accuracy and depth of knowledge Woods can provide. That happened as the company was testing its new line of Tour B balls that Woods would later put in use.”
  • “With all those shots, he’s looking for how not only the ball reacts on his good shots, but he knows when he misses that ball slightly to the right or slightly to the left,” Troutner said. “How much does the spin increase or decrease based on those misses, he doesn’t want that number to be higher than a certain percentage. With the 7-iron, that window is probably most important, if it goes outside of his window, he’s going to kick that ball out.”

Full piece.

6. Couples on PGL
Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News… “If the Team Golf Concept or another iteration of this structure becomes a reality in 2022 or at any time before or after, our members will have to decide whether they want to continue to be a member of the PGA Tour or play on a new series,” the memo read, according to The AP.”
  • “And that’s all it took for Couples to share his thoughts on the chances of the Premier Golf League coming into existence.”
  • “I saw Jay Monahan’s quote. That’s how long I follow it,” Couples said Thursday from The Classics at Lely Resort, where the two-time Chubb Classic champion was practicing for this week.
  • “You play there, you don’t play on the Tour,” he said in summarizing Monahan’s sentiments. “Your choice. You want to win one of these things or you want to win the L.A. Open?

Full piece.

7. A tale of two Rory McIlroy 3-woods 
Interesting stuff from Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”But on his second hole of the day, the par-5 11th, McIlroy belted a drive and had 278 yards to the flag. It was go time. Under normal conditions, his 3-wood typically flies 285 yards in the air. McIlroy pounded this 3-wood, even walking after it as it soared through the air … and it expired 30 yards short.”
  • So: “It went 40 yards shorter than what it usually does,” he said.
  • “Fast forward six holes. It’s warmer now, probably in the low-60s, and McIlroy had 289 yards left into the par-5 17th. The shot called for an all-out 3-wood … and he wound up pin high, 35 feet from the hole. He buried the putt for eagle, sending him on his way to a 3-under 68 that put him four shots off the early pace.”
8. Bravo, Champ
Ben Everill at PGATour.com…”Cameron Champ continued his quest to bring people together through his profile in golf, sporting one black and one white shoe during his opening round at The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.”
  • “He also paid homage to his late grandfather Mack with a new Nike polo patch dedicated to preserving Mack’s legacy.”
  • “Champ repeated his footwear move from last season during Black History Month, following the lead of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James as a way to continue awareness, spark conversation and promote diversity and equality.”
9. Canceled 
Golfweek’s Julie Williams…”As concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in China continue, more professional golf tournaments in the region have been delayed. Most recently, the PGA Tour Series-China has decided to postpone two qualifying tournaments scheduled in Indonesia and Thailand, which will also delay the start of the regular season.”
  • “The Tour has notified players who were slated to compete in the event. On pgatour.com, the effect on the rest of the 2020 schedule was explained this way:”
  • “As a result of this decision, PGA TOUR Series-China will also postpone the first four tournaments of the previously released regular season schedule, aiming to play the two postponed Qualifying Tournaments sometime in the latter part of April or early May, with the regular season beginning in the latter part of May or early June. The Tour is planning on a 10-tournament regular season schedule, which will still include 2021 Korn Ferry Tour benefits going to the best-performing players.”

 

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Morning 9: Rory on being #1 | New Tour media deal? | Chris Couch’s Moonlight Tour domination

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1. Rory on No. 1
Phil Casey at the Belfast Telegraph…“This is McIlroy’s 96th week in total as World No.1, one behind the record for a European player held by Sir Nick Faldo, although his lead over fellow four-time Major winner Koepka is just 0.03 points.”
  • “Everyone keeps saying congratulations but the work’s only started, it’s staying there is the hard part,” McIlroy told a pre-tournament press conference.
  • …”I’ve always said it’s a by-product of doing the right things week in, week out, playing well, trying to win tournaments, and if I can continue to do that then hopefully that thing takes care of itself.”
  • “Asked if it was something of an anti-climax to become No.1 during a week off, McIlroy added: “I’ve already that euphoric moment in 2012; I won the Honda Classic to get to No.1 in the world, Tiger was coming down the stretch, I was able to hold him off. That to me was the really cool moment.”
2. Speculating about the next deal 
Per Geoff Shackelford…”Multiple well-placed sources confirmed to GeoffShackelford.com a major change in the next PGA Tour media rights deal.”
  • “Modeled in some ways after the Olympic Broadcast System, production will be handled by a primary PGA Tour operation providing a world feed to likely broadcast partners CBS, NBC, Golf Channel, ESPN+ and GolfTV.  The networks will retain production independence with the final product, along with familiar voices by producing announcers, graphics, replay and other extras beyond the “world feed”.”
  • “The move allows the PGA Tour to more cohesively produce coverage and improve PGA Tour Live streaming presentation that has often looked under-produced.”
3. Woods on wanting to win at Riv
Great stuff from PGATour.com’s Ben Everill putting Riviera in context for Tiger Woods-and what not having won there yet means to the golfer…
“Woods recounted a story from his childhood where, as a spectator, he ran over to the eighth green to watch Tom Watson hit a chip shot from near the gallery, only to be moved out of the way by Watson’s caddie Bruce Edwards. He recounted it when he joined the TOUR and was told playfully, “well, you were in the way.” Woods still beams at such stories from his younger years.”
  • “For me to have experiences like that here at Riv and to have now this be my event.. (it’s great), and hopefully on Sunday we’ll be having this discussion a little bit more,” Woods added.
  • “I’ve played in a number of events over the years and for me not to win an event that has meant so much to me in my hometown (is tough). I’ve done well in San Diego, I’ve done well at Sherwood, just haven’t done well here. So hopefully I can put together this week and we’ll have a great conversation on Sunday.”
4. Rory not looking to battle with Brooks…outside the ropes
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”When he steps onto the tee Thursday morning to start the Genesis Invitational, McIlroy will do so as the world No. 1, the reigning FedExCup champion and 2019 PGA Tour Player of the Year. Of course, Koepka would be quick to point out – as he did last fall – that the accolades are nice, but what McIlroy lacks is another major title, at least since Koepka came on Tour full time in 2015. That dig was factual but piercing. As McIlroy said in October, with a slight grimace: “I didn’t need him to remind me.”
  • “In a sport desperate for a rivalry, McIlroy seems to have little interest in retaliating publicly, even after those biting comments. He said there’s no added satisfaction nipping Koepka. Asked by a reporter about the “fun back and forth” they’ve had over the past few months, McIlroy interjected: “Have we? I feel like it’s been a one-way street.”
  • “But Koepka has done some chirping, right? Again, McIlroy interrupted: “But that’s not my area to comment on. That’s his prerogative.”
5. New BMW Championship locale
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“The BMW Championship is heading to Baltimore next season, according to the Chicago Tribune.”
  • “Teddy Greenstein writes that Caves Valley, located in Owings Mills, Md., will be named as the BMW host in 2021 in an announcement on Monday. The Tom Fazio design-which has the reputation of a player’s course-has previously held the 1995 U.S. Mid-Am, 2002 U.S Senior Open, 2005 NCAA Championship, the inaugural International Crown in 2014 and the 2017 Senior Players, but never a Tour event. It is ranked No. 152 in Golf Digest’s America’s Second Greatest 100 list.”
6. The incredible saga of Chris Couch
Quality writing from Brian Wacker here in a feature on Chris Couch’s Moonlight Tour dominance…
  • “Last week, Chris Couch won his 34th golf tournament in the last 12 months. No, that’s not a typo. That it came in his 118th start in that span is also impressive-it’s a winning percentage that would rival that of Tiger Woods’ best years on the PGA Tour.”
  • “It felt good, I gotta tell ‘ya,” the 46-year-old Floridian says in a gentle drawl.
  • “Of course, none of those victories for Couch came on the PGA Tour. They took place on the Open Golf America Tour, more commonly known among its participants as the Moonlight Tour given how most everyone playing also has a day job. It really isn’t even a tour so much as an assortment of one- and two-day events at a handful of courses in the Orlando area, including West Orange Country Club, where Couch now spends his days giving lessons and playing.”
7. He did indeed!
Mike McAllister at PGATour.com…“Yes, Justin Thomas is well aware of what Tiger Woods said this week about their undefeated partnership at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.”
  • “I carried his ass in Australia,” a smiling Tiger said Tuesday during his press conference for this week’s The Genesis Invitational.”
  • “A few hours later, JT saw Tiger and offered a response….”All I know is,” he told Woods, “if I didn’t make a putt, you’d have a one next to your halve column.”
  • “So you’re welcome for that.”…You may recall that it was Thomas, not Woods, who buried a 17-foot putt on the 18th hole to win their Foursomes match against Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong Hun An on that Friday in mid-December. Afterwards, Thomas shouted, “I love me some me” as he and Woods celebrated.”
8. Hamlin vs. Fowler (at MJ’s new place)
Michelle Martinelli, For the Win… “The good news for NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin is he didn’t lose any money playing golf against Rickie Fowler this week.”
  • “The bad news for him is he didn’t win any, either.”
  • “Hamlin, Fowler and former NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip visited Michael Jordan’s new exclusive golf course, Grove XXIII, in Hobe Sound, Florida (near Jupiter), and the defending Daytona 500 champion said he bet Fowler “a lot and ended up with nothing.”
  • “I tied Rickie on the final hole,” Hamlin said Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. “Thank goodness that got me back square, so that was a lot of fun. But it’s just amazing to see how good pros are. You think you’ve seen people that are good at their craft; go see a professional athlete do his craft. And it’s just amazing to watch.”

Full piece.

9. GolfWRX Shop
As I’ve mentioned before, we’re expanding our YouTube content. Our resident Master Club Builder, Ryan Barath, will be hosting the GolfWRX Shop series, and in the first video since our reboot, he shows you a driver build using a new TayorMade SIM head.
  • I think the content is excellent, and I’m excited for the future of our channel in general and the Shop in particular.

 

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Tour Photo Galleries

10 revealing photos from the Genesis Invitational

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GolfWRX was live this week from the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. If you missed any of the photos from this week, make sure to catch up on them below, where we have seven general galleries from Hogan’s Alley, a number of WITB looks, and even a thread filled with photos of a certain 15-time major champions.

All other galleries

Piretti Putter Kobe Bryant tribute covers

FYI: Two numbers? Kobe wore No. 24 in high school and switched to 33. But when drafted by the Hornets and traded to the Lakers in 1996, 33 was already retired by the team in tribute to Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant then chose 8, the number he wore as a youth in Italy, which also coincided with the sum of “143,” the number Bryant wore at Adidas ABCD Camp in high school. Bryant also wore 24 in the NBA from the 2006-2007 season onward, explaining, “24 is a growth. Physical attributes aren’t there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. Marriage, kids. Start having a broader perspective being one of the older guys on the team now, as opposed to being the youngest.”

Jason Dufner’s custom Scotty Cameron

Looks like a custom Timeless Cameron with a smooth face (no milling), which is not available in retail. Tiger Woods WITB has the same smooth face on his gamer. Here’s a link to Duf’s putter pics

Sergio’s WITB is off the hook

The Spaniard is gaming the new TaylorMade SIM Driver and fairway woods, some Ping Blueprint silverware, and a Ping PLD putter.

“It seems most of the Ping staffers who play the PLD putters have either completely flat faces or the plain horizontal milled lines on the face. I’m not really sure why they seem to prefer this, but I suspect it’s because they don’t really need the “forgiveness” of the TR grooves. They also may not like that the putter sounds slightly different when hit on the deeper grooves compared to the thinner spots.” -nova6868 from the forums.

Dustin Johnson’s WITB showed us his TaylorMade 64* Hi-Toe wedge

Adam Scott’s WITB features both LAB and Cameron broomstick putters

New 2020 Fourteen wedges

Please, Fourteen, bring these to market! (Link is here to see more photos in the forums).

Kevin Na’s WITB graphite shafted Odyssey/Toulon bronze Madison putter

Link to Kevin Na’s WITB here. 

Matt Fitzpatrick’s WITB is representing his favorite football team Sheffield United

Matt Fitzpatrick’s WITB has his Yes Tracey putter. His Bettinardi cover is for his favorite Football team: Sheffield United

Let’s not forget thee GOAT is here. Tiger Woods w/ his TW20 shoes

Are those metal spikes? Yes, they are. We don’t miss the marks on the green, but we do miss their sound clattering in the clubhouse!

If you want to see all the Genesis photos and discussion click this link!

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