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Morning 9: Wolff the disruptor | TW’s 1 a.m. wake-up call | Open women’s purse bumped 40%

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

July 9, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Wolff the disruptor
Arguably the definitive Matthew Wolff take, via PGATour.com’s Ben Everill…
  • “Matthew Wolff certainly brought plenty of notoriety with him when he came to the PGA TOUR this season. The 20-year-old was a stud in college golf, the best in the country actually, and on top of that has an unconventional YouTube swing that is riveting to some, but has been dismissed by many long-term analysts and coaches publicly and privately. Yet here he is, in just his fourth start, winning the 3M Open.”
  • “In the days of hyper hype in sports those people who thought the noise around Wolff was over the top can be forgiven. But he called himself a disruptor leading into his pro debut on TOUR a few weeks ago and he was right. Whether this all translates into long-term success remains to be seen, but you can’t start trying to build that road without the first win. And that has come in rapid time. Only Ben Crenshaw and Tiger Woods previously won the NCAA title and a TOUR event in the same year… they went on to do pretty decent things”
2. Equipment tweaks key for Wolff? 
Via Andrew Tursky at PGATour.com…
“…according to Ryan Ressa, Manager of Product Development at TaylorMade who’s worked with Wolff since 2013.”
  • “Before turning pro, Wolff used a TaylorMade M5 driver head (9 degrees) equipped with a Graphite Design Tour AD-TP 7TX driver shaft, and a TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees) 3-wood with a Graphite Design Tour AD-BB 8X shaft. At the Travelers Championship, however, Wolff switched to a TaylorMade M6 8-degree head with the same shaft as before, and he switched into a TaylorMade M6 fairway wood (15 degrees) with a new Project X HZRDUS Smoke shaft.”
  • “While Wolff was able to knock down spin with the M6 driver, and he saw greater forgiveness from the club’s design versus the M5, he was unable to hit the low-spinning, left-to-right cut shot that he likes to hit, according to Ressa. So Wolff returned to the M5 driver design, except this time he used an 8-degree head with the adjustable sole weights farther forward to reduce spin and create more of a fade bias. The result was that Wolff was better able to hit a “traditional flat cut” that he’s used to.”
3. …and credit to his caddie as well!
The Forecaddie writes…”Yes, Matthew Wolff practically cried on the shoulder of caddie Steve Lohmeyer after sinking an eagle putt to win the 3M Open and you were thinking, what happened to The Forecaddie report saying a famous caddie was hired to carry Wolff’s golf club luggage?”
“Seems J.P. Fitzgerald was not a good fit and got the pink slip after just one week when Wolff posted a lackluster T-80 at the Travelers. On the bag instead was a former assistant pro-turned looper, Lohmeyer. Wolff credited the former Kent State golfer for keeping him loose by talking NBA free agency, among other things.”
4. Women’s Open purse increased 40%
BBC report…”The prize money for August’s Women’s British Open will rise by 40% to $4.5m (£3.6m), the R&A have announced.”
  • “The winner will receive $675,000 (£540,000), up from the $490,000 (£392,000) won by Georgia Hall in 2018.”
  • “In the men’s Open Championship, which takes place at Royal Portrush later this month, the purse is $10.75m (£8.56m) and the winner will claim $1.89m (£1.51m).”
  • “This is an important first step,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.“We know it will take time to move closer to achieving parity with the men’s game.
5. Inside childcare on the LPGA Tour
Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, syndicated in Golfweek…
  • “As Icher shot a 70 in her final round Sunday at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic at Thornberry Creek at Oneida, and finished tied for 35th place overall, her daughters spent the day playing, reading and exploring with three full-time credentialed child development staffers – the same three who will be on tour all year. There’s also a police officer for security.”
  • “The LPGA Child Development Center was the first traveling childcare center in pro sports. Now in its 25th year, it will travel to 21 LPGA tournaments this year, with a van packed full of toddler beds and high chairs and picture books.”
6. An invite for Noh
Randall Mell at Golf Channel…”American teenager Yealimi Noh will get another chance to build on her promising LPGA debut as a professional.”
  • “With Noh, 17, making a stirring run into contention at the Thornberry Classic last week, the Marathon Classic announced Saturday that she had accepted a sponsor’s exemption to play in its event this week. Noh ended up tying for sixth on Sunday.”
  • “I’m just overall really happy with how I played and how I finished, too,” No said. “It was my goal to be inside the top 10.”
7. Peter Alliss’ 1951 Portrush adventure
BBC report…””I’d opened up (at Royal Portrush) with a 69 (in the second qualifying round),” the 88-year-old tells The Open – Portrush ’51 which will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland at 22:35 BST on Wednesday, 10 July.”
  • “Then my brother and I went down to the town that night and met a couple of girls on holiday from London.”
  • “Feeling decidedly the worse for wear, Alliss fired a 79 on the Dunluce course the next day and after an 80 followed on the Thursday, the young man’s Portrush playing adventure was over although he did stay on to see compatriot Max Faulkner win the Championship during the final 36 holes of action on the Friday.”
8. Let’s remember Sam Snead! 
Guy Yocom at Golf Digest…”Even Tiger remembers Sam. In 1982, when Tiger was 6 and Sam 69, they played a two-hole exhibition at Soboba Springs in San Jacinto, Calif. On the first hole, Tiger hit his tee shot on a par 3 into water, his ball partially submerged. “I got in there to play it, and the ball was sitting up, but from behind me Sam yells, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Woods recalls. “I look around, dumbfounded. I’m going to hit the shot. Sam says, ‘Just pick it up and drop it. Let’s go on.’ I didn’t like that very much.” Tiger’s teacher at the time, Rudy Duran, recently told writer Bill Fields, “Tiger kind of looked at Snead kind of funny and got his iron out and hit it on the green. Sam shook his head like, That’s pretty good.”
“Tiger in the last couple of years has become more relaxed, more approachable. Still, his accessibility is nothing like Sam’s, who would talk with anyone, anywhere, anytime. The first time I asked a colleague for Sam’s phone number, he said, “Call directory assistance. He’s in the phone book.” Sam loved people, enjoyed showing off and relished the give and take, especially if your face was somewhat familiar. Once you penetrated the first outer ring of Snead’s circle, he treated you like there weren’t many circles left. Is there a great modern player like that? Phil Mickelson comes closest, but most others understandably keep the rank and file at a distance. As Tiger will tell you, there are perils out there. It’s a different time.”

Full piece.

9. Rise and shine

Chris Bumbaca at USA Today…

“In an effort to adjust to the time-zone change when he and the rest of the golfing world head across the Atlantic Ocean to Royal Portrush and the 148th Open Championship later this month, the 15-time major champion has been waking up at 1 a.m., or 6 a.m. local time in Northern Ireland.”
“The time difference means Woods will have to have his body ready for optimal performance earlier in the day than it’s used to, hence the unique training strategy with 10 days before the first round.”
“Nike, a longtime sponsor of Woods, posted an Instagram story Monday with Woods speaking into the camera, timestamped at 1 a.m”

 

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5 things we learned on Saturday at The Open Championship

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On Saturday, the Royal and Ancient announced that tee times would be moved up on Sunday, in anticipation of, well, British Open golf weather. Cue head scratch and chin stroke. At least the organizers didn’t opt for split tees or some other, silly-American addition to the game. On Saturday, we again watched the ebb and flow of Royal Portrush. The “strike early and hold on late” mantra that has characterized this tournament.

On Saturday, we marveled at one man’s near-mastery of this wondrous, Harry Colt design, whose absence from the Open Championship rota must never be repeated. To limit ourselves to five things learned is lamentable, but it is both burden and duty. Accordingly, here are the 5 things that we learned from Saturday’s 3rd round of the Open Championship.

1. European golf fans are marvelous, while American ones have much to learn

“Ole, ole ole ole” is the most supportive thing you can hear on a golf course. Not bah-bah-black sheep, err, booey, not mashed potatoes. Today, the “ole” was replaced with “Lowry,” in tribute to the Irish champion. There is community in European events, and much as they want their golfer to win, they support everyone who plays proper golf. There will be no appeal here to the wags who insist on cementing their unfortunate place in history as burdensome; instead, we tip our cap to the great golfing fans of Northern Ireland, who carry all who compete on the wings of appreciation.

2. Shane Lowry is happy to dream a dream

Don’t wake him just yet, thank you very much. Another 24 hours of this hypnagogic state will suit him well. The Irishman had 8 birdies on Saturday, for 63 and 197. He has 19 birdies and a mere 3 bogeys on the week. He sits at 16 shots below par, 4 clear of his nearest pursuer. No, it’s not over. It has barely begun. Royal Portush has shown that it will cede a low score to great golf, so a 62 is not out of the realm of the possible.

In truth, perhaps a dozen golfers have a chance, but you would be challenged to find a better selection of challengers. Justin Rose, Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood are four Englishmen who would love to lift the Claret jug in triumph on Sunday. Brooks Koepka, J.B. Holmes and Rickie Fowler represent the American contingent who hope to spirit the trophy away to a distant shore. And lest we forget, the young Spaniard, Jon Rahm, continues to take steps toward the highest echelon of championship golf. Above them all sits Lowry, current occupant of the Iron Throne. He has lost a final-round lead in a major event before. Sunday will give him a chance to demonstrate all that he has learned in the interim.

3. Brooks Koepka blueprints major championship golf

Speaking of Koepka, he’s still here. He birdied 17 and 18, just as viewers and fans were convinced that this tournament had left his domain. Only the envious and the haters (cousins to the envious) find fault with his golf game. They attempt to marginalize his skill set, focusing in desperation on his power, calling him one dimensional. In truth, we haven’t yet seen his best. He has reached -9 with a B+/A- effort at best. If the cylinders that fired for Lowry on Saturday, find their way to Koepka’s engine on Sunday, he will claim the title. It’s not possible to say that confidently nor currently about any other golfer than him.

 

4. Tommy Fleetwood will have his major opportunity on Sunday

The Englishman did what he needed to do on Saturday, to secure the coveted pairing with Lowry in round 4. Fleetwood made 5 birdies on the day, and didn’t threaten to make worse than par. The only difference between his round and that of the leader, was his concluding run of 6 pars. Reverse hole 15-17, and Fleetwood sits at -15, while Lowry resides at -13. Fleetwood has been accurate as a laser this week, and he will need to repeat that performance from both tee and fairway, to give himself a chance at victory.

5. What will the weather bring?

Wind, for one thing. For three days, competitors have dictated the shape of their shots. On Sunday, that right will not be theirs. Winds from the left, from the right, from every possible angle, will demand that golfers play shots low, under and through the gusts, to reach their targets. Rain, for another thing. The moisture will thicken the rough, allowing balls to drop deep into the native grasses. It will cause shots to squirt sideways, perhaps down a ravine, perhaps worse. If what is predicted, comes to pass, we’re in for an entirely-new tournament over the final 18 holes.

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News

5 things we learned Friday at The Open Championship

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36 holes have come and gone, unexpected early departures happened for Jason Day, Tiger Woods, and all the amateurs, while unexpected extensions were granted to Paul Waring, Matt Wallace, and Innchoon Hwang. Royal Portrush was kinder in the morning than the afternoon, for the second consecutive day. What does that mean? It means that whoever has the lead today will be pressed to hold on through Saturday, then rinse and repeat for Sunday. In other words, more drama than a Snap.

Have a quick glance at what we deemed to be the five most important things we learned on Friday at #TheOpenChampionship.

1. What a difference a day makes! Wipeout Guy tosses 65 on Friday

Justin Harding is a good stick, for a tumbler. He won in Qatar this year on the European Tour, so let’s not define him by one swing of the golf club (even though we are going to show it below.) Harding uncovered 6 birdies and 1 eagle around Royal Portrush Friday morning, jumping from Even Par to, well, minus-six, with the first 65 of the week. He might win a skin for that 7th-hole eagle, if the fellows are playing for skins today. If not, He’s certainly positioned for an afternoon tee time on Saturday. Harding tied for 12th at the Masters in April, and made the cut at Bethpage in the PGA; his major-championship experience grows even more this weekend.

2. Meet The Woods

No, not the one with stripes. He’s down the road, after missing the cut. It’s early on Friday, but Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood may very well peg it together on Saturday afternoon. The English pair posted identical rounds of 68-67 over 2 days, to reach 7-below par. They find themselves tied for 3rd, behind JB Holmes and Shane Lowry. Prepare yourselves for announcers to dance around Lee having won no majors over his career, and Tommy looking to match his Ryder Cup bro, Francesco Molinari, with an Open Championship of his own. So predictable! What’s not predictable, is how the two will play on day three of the Portrush Summer Invitational.

3. Rory is the story of the 2019 Open Championship

Yes, there will be a winner on Sunday. Indeed, there will also be runners-up and various degrees of elation and disappointment. No one will come close to doing what Rory McIlroy did over the first 36 holes … and he didn’t even make the cut! David Duval spoke as much for Rory as for himself on Thursday, when he unequivocally mandated that a professional golfer signs the scorecard. Rory’s opening 8 was just a bit less gory than his closing 7. He missed a 12-inch putt on Thursday. On Friday, facing the worse of the weather draws, he tied the low round of the tournament with 65, 14 strokes better than his day-one offering. When the final flag stick was replaced in the 18th hole, he had missed the cut by those 12 inches. Odds are long that he would have challenged for the title over the weekend. McIlroy would have needed another low round to get to -5 or so, and would have needed everyone to back up substantially. In the end, he wore his home colors proudly, he never gave up, and he gave us something to cheer for, and to learn from.

4. J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry might be cousins, in a parallel universe

Our co-leaders each sport a beard, a barrel chest, and an ability to hit the long ball when it matters. Both appear unflappable thus far, and both have exhibited an ability to go on a tear. The only thing we have yet to see from either is, the guts to come back from a rotten break or a really bad hole. If neither one faces that ultimatum, they might be in a playoff come Sunday afternoon. Lowry had a chance to separate from the pack by 3-4 strokes. He reached -10 with his 6th birdie of the day, on number 10, but that would be the final, sub-par hole of the day for him. The Irishman bogeyed 2 holes coming in, dropping back to -8 with Holmes. As neither has a major title on the resume, neither has demonstrated the capacity for success on the oldest stage. Should be an interesting pairing on Saturday afternoon.

5. So many lurkers!

Justin Rose…2 strokes back. Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Brooks Koepka…3 shots behind. Four in arrears are Finau, Rahm, Kuchar and Reed. Many majors, much potential, and a lot of power in those 8 names. Yes, we’ll miss the guys who aren’t in contention (Bubba Watson, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell) and the aforementioned ones whose watch ended early. As anticipated a venue as Royal Portrush has been, so too, will the outcome be this weekend. Get your rest, get up early, put on coffee, get some doughnuts, and enjoy breakfast the next two days!

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Equipment

Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense

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After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.

The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.

We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.

The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.

Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.

For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.

Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.

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