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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: Skins winner | CJ Cup | Colsaerts a victor again | Kang defends

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and golfwrxEIC on Twitter.

October 21, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans. [featured image c/o GolfTV]
1. Day wins skins
Good stuff from Daniel Rapaport in, what I believe is, his first or second piece since making the jump to Golf Digest…”Jason Day summoned two disparate up-and-downs from bunkers to win MGM Resorts The Challenge: Japan Skins at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Monday. One was as routine as it gets for a tour pro-a lob wedge that led to a winning tap-in birdie on the par-5 18th. The other one was the type of shot you’d dare your buddy to hit after a few back-nine beers.”
  • “I haven’t hit a bunker shot with a 6-iron in probably eight years,” Day said of his play on 14. You’d have no idea given how easy he made it look. He squatted-“I felt like I was sitting on the sand,” he said-opened his clubface up, nipped it perfectly, then used that same 6-iron to sink the par putt.”
  • “That type of short-game wizardy is what allowed Day to turn a so-so round into $210,000 and a victory over Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama”

Full piece.

2. CJ Cup
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill on JT’s win…”Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, Thomas has 10 wins after grabbing his 11th career title at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES on Sunday. In that span Johnson is next with eight, Koepka six. It’s no contest.”
  • “It was the second win on JeJu Island in three years for Thomas as he held off a plucky crowd favorite in Danny Lee by two shots.”
  • “The 26-year-old former FedExCup winner has now converted eight of 11 54-hole lead/co leads into victory. He finds a way. And while those watching him are very impressed with such resolve Thomas isn’t ready to adopt the closer title just yet.”
  • “I don’t think you can ever necessarily call yourself the best closer. I’ve only won 11 times. I feel like once I get to 40 or 50 times and I’ve closed a lot of those, then I think that’s kind of different,” Thomas says.”

Full piece.

3. Colsaerts wins again
Reuters report…”Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts captured his first European Tour title in seven years on Sunday, winning the French Open by one shot after a final round of 72.”
  • “The 36-year-old, who held a three-shot lead coming into the final day at Le Golf National, fired three birdies and a superb eagle on the par-five 14th before a double bogey on the next hole to finish at 12-under for the tournament.”
  • “Denmark’s Joachim B Hansen carded a three-under-par 68 in the final round to finish a shot behind, while South Africa’s George Coetzee was third after signing off with a 71.”

Full piece.

4. LPGA
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins on Danielle Kang’s scrappy victory…
“There wasn’t a single hole that I thought I won until the last putt dropped,” Kang said after earning her third career LPGA title.”
  • “Kang, the tournament’s defending champion, birdied the first hole of Sunday’s final round at Qizhong Garden Golf Club to take the lead over Korda, her teammate in the recent Solheim Cup. It was a good way for Kang to start the round, which happened to fall on her 27th birthday, but she didn’t make another birdie until the 15th hole. A steady stream of pars in between, and on the final three holes, gave her a two-under-par 70 to finish at 16-under 272 for the tournament. Mind you, she had to work for each one of those pars. Kang’s usually strong ball-striking disappeared on Sunday. She missed six greens, and three times found herself in greenside bunkers. Aggressively aiming at pins left her with difficult short-sided chip shots. To her credit, she converted them all.”
5. Never stop pushing
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski on what may be the secret to Justin Thomas’ success...”It takes a certain mentality, not to mention unalloyed confidence, to continually light a match to PGA Tour scorecards the way Justin Thomas is inclined to do. It wasn’t one so much taught to Thomas-though his father Mike, a PGA professional, supplied him the tools-as it has been cultivated from within.”
  • “As a youngster, Thomas would play the short course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., determined to ace every hole. That doesn’t sound all that unusual, but this kid was different; if he didn’t ace it, he’d promptly move on to the next hole. Go low or go “doh.”
  • “Now, it’s dough. And it keeps rolling in.” 

Full piece.

6. While you were sleeping
Christopher Powers at Golf Digest on what you missed-and some of the more curious elements-of the Japan Skins, including this…
  • “Rugby players spice things up…After six quiet holes, four rugby players in Japan for the Rugby World Cup added their own brand of excitement. Mike Tindall of England, George Gregan of Australia, Bryan Habana of South Africa and Brian O’Driscoll of Ireland were part of the second “charity challenge,” which paired them each with one of the pros. The hole ended in a tie, but it was an electric tie at that. Matsuyama made the first birdie from way downtown, causing his partner, Habana, to jump into his arms/scare the hell out of him. Moments later, O’Driscoll buried his birdie putt for the halve”

Full piece.

7. Monday finish
AP report…”Heavy rain forecast to last throughout the day forced the postponement of the third round of the PGA Tour Champions event on Sunday.”
  • “Scott Parel and Tommy Tolles share the lead at 12 under par, with Colin Montgomerie one shot back.”

Full piece.

8. An unexpected opportunity
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols on how tournaments like the Senior LPGA Championship provide once-elite players the opportunity to tee it up again…
“I used to do that,” said Suzanne Strudwick, “but could I do it again?”
  • “There were plenty of players trying to answer that question at the Senior LPGA Championship. Players like Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, a major winner who hadn’t teed it up in real competition in a decade.”
  • “Two back surgeries later, Meunier-Lebouc took one look at the entry list at French Lick and couldn’t resist. And with good friend Helen Alfredsson winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Open earlier this year, her mind had already started churning at the possibilities. Alfredsson, of course, completed the Senior Slam by once again besting Juli Inkster at the Senior LPGA.”
  • “But the week at the demanding Pete Dye Course wasn’t about a trophy for the French National coach. Meunier-Lebouc knew that some of players on that entry list, like her, hadn’t played much golf at all recently, and the knowledge freed her up to the idea of coming back “for the experience” – a foreign phrase for elite-level athletes.”

Full piece.

9. Worth a listen
Our Ryan Barath appeared on The Hackers Paradise podcast to discuss club building. It’s a great listen, whether you’re a novice of the craft or have a wealth of experience turning down ferrules.
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Morning 9: Tour updates | One-week offseason | Forgotten father of Skins Game?

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and golfwrxEIC on Twitter.

October 18, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans. Get out there and enjoy some fall golf this weekend!
1. CJ Cup
AP report on the action on Jeju Island, where tournament favorite Justin Thomas has surged to the top…”Justin Thomas shot a 9-under 63 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, putting himself in position to win his second PGA Tour event in South Korea in three years.”
  • “Thomas, who won the inaugural CJ Cup in 2017, has a two-round total of 13-under 131.”
  • “South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee (66) is in a tie for second place with first-round leader and former U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An, who shot 69 before his home fans.”

Full piece.

2. French Open
With round 2 underway, here’s the post-round one report from Reuters…”George Coetzee and Ryan Fox carded six-under-par 65s to share the lead in the French Open first round on Thursday as the European Tour returned to Le Golf National in Paris a year after the course hosted the Ryder Cup.”
3. Hole-in-one and a second-round lead 
AP report…”Brooke Henderson made a hole-in-one and shot an 8-under 64 to take the lead in the second round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai on Friday.”
  • “The Canadian aced the 175-yard second hole. She followed that with a bogey, but then birdied four more holes on the front nine, finishing her round at 11-under 133 total.”
  • “Jessica Korda (67) was two strokes behind in second, followed by defending champion Danielle Kang (67) in third.”
4. One-week offseason
The Forecaddie with an interesting scheduling observation…”The Man Out Front could not get past the dates for the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs.”
  • “The season-ending stretch will compete head-to-head with the PGA Tour playoffs, right down to the final Sunday of Aug. 30.”
  • Which means while the FedEx Cup comes to a conclusion at East Lake, the Korn Ferry Tour’s always valiant battles to gain Tour cards will be playing out at Victoria National and once again presented by United Leasing but without the spotlight those finals enjoyed this year when finishing on Labor Day, a week clear of the 2019 Tour Championship.”
5. Molinari splits with caddie
Our Gianni Magliocco writes…”Francesco Molinari has parted ways with his caddie Pello Iguaran, who has been on the Italian’s bag for the last four years.”
  • “The 2018 Open Champion will now employ Jason Hempleman until the beginning of 2020 where Mark Fulcher will then take the reigns. Fulcher caddied for Justin Rose for 11 years, in which period Rose won the U.S. Open and Olympic Gold.”
  • “The 36-year-old announced the decision via his social media accounts, where he stated…”It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.”

Full piece.

6. Tiger’s back, but is he ready?
ESPN’s Bob Harig, always a voice of reason, breaks down Tiger Woods’ activities since last playing professional golf, along with what he has on the docket, before concluding..”All of this assumes a level of health and fitness that went missing for the latter part of 2019. Woods turns 44 on Dec. 30 and performing at a high level — competing and winning tournaments — depends so much on his ability to properly prepare, let alone be fit enough to compete with the best in the world.”
  • “But first things first: a long trip to Japan, a skins competition followed by a PGA Tour event, and some answers to where Woods is headed with his game.”
7. How the Skins Game started
Speaking of skins, great stuff from Adam Schupak for Golfweek on the forgotten man from the genesis of the beloved event…”When Steve Sesnick read about the upcoming reboot of the Skins Game in Japan headlined by Tiger Woods, he couldn’t help but feel a moment of pride like that of a proud parent. And why not? It was further confirmation that his concept – even if he believes it has outlasted its expiration date – still works.”
“More than 35 years ago, Sesnick claims that he conceived the concept that became one of the most successful made-for-TV franchises in all of sports: four of golf’s biggest names, competing in a go-for-broke format over two days during Thanksgiving weekend when golf traditionally was dark, college football was limited, and even the NFL had two fewer games to compete against.”
8. Record rounds in the 60s
Viktor Hovland’s incredible play continues…Golf Channel’s Carson Williams…”A day after setting a PGA Tour record with his 18th consecutive round in the 60s, Hovland was at it again Friday during the second round of the CJ Cup in South Korea where he carded his 19th straight round in the 60s. The newly-minted Tour member drained a testy par putt at the par-4 ninth to keep his streak alive.”
  • “No, it’s cool,” Hovland said Friday following a second straight 3-under 69. “Obviously I would have liked to have maybe higher finishes in the tournaments that I’ve played, but it really goes to show the consistency that I’ve had over the summer.”

Full piece.

9. Tiger’s Olympic goal 
Reuters report…”Tiger Woods says next year’s Tokyo Olympics are a “big goal” as he looks to add to his decorated career.”
  • “Woods, 43, won his 15th major at the Masters earlier this year but injury ruled him out of golf’s return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence in 2016.”
  • “I don’t see myself having too many opportunities other than next year,” the American said.
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Francesco Molinari splits with caddie Pello Iguaran

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Francesco Molinari has parted ways with his caddie Pello Iguaran, who has been on the Italian’s bag for the last four years.

The 2018 Open Champion will now employ Jason Hempleman until the beginning of 2020 where Mark Fulcher will then take the reigns. Fulcher caddied for Justin Rose for 11 years, in which period Rose won the U.S. Open and Olympic Gold.

The 36-year-old announced the decision via his social media accounts, where he stated

“It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.

We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together. Best of luck for the future and thanks for an amazing run together Jason Hempleman will be on the bag until the end of the season. Mark Fulcher will be on the bag at the start of 2020.”

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It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for. Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career. We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together. Best of luck for the future and thanks for an amazing run together Jason Hempleman will be on the bag until the end of the season. Mark Fulcher will be on the bag at the start of 2020. Sono state quasi 4 stagioni di emozioni incredibili e lavoro davvero produttivo, ma sfortunatamente le relazioni a volte non finiscono come tutti vorremmo. Pello sarà sempre un membro del mio team e, soprattutto, della mia famiglia. È una delle persone più laboriose, leali, positive e riflessive che ho incontrato durante la mia carriera. Abbiamo avuto momenti belli e momenti difficili sul campo, ma soprattutto siamo cresciuti insieme e come individui durante il tempo insieme. Buona fortuna per il futuro e grazie per una fantastica esperienza insieme Jason Hempleman sarà il mio caddie fino alla fine dell’anno. Mark Fulcher sarà il caddie dall'inizio del 2020 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

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In the period Molinari and Iguaran were together, some of the highlights include Molinari’s win at The Open Championship in 2018, the BMW PGA Championship, and the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, since April, Molinari has failed to record a top-10 finish.

 

 

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