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5 Things We Learned On Thursday At The Open Championship

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Build-Up. Anticipation. Expectation. The Open Championship returned to Royal Portrush 68 years after it was first and last contested over the storied links in Northern Ireland. The 2012 Irish Open began the march back to this moment. The 2014 Amateur championship gave a bit more insight to the layout. After so many years of difficulty, the return of the Open Championship offers an opportunity for sport to help in recovery. With that in mind, have a glance at five things that we learned on day one of the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

1. The world is better with Beef

It really is. After his recent disclosure on mental-health issues, to see the large man with the even-larger beard smiling again was worth getting up at 3 am. As he walked in his improbably eagle putt on the 2nd hole, the giddiness of the moment was not lost on anyone present. Beef was out early, and ultimately retreated to a +2 round of 73. Here’s hoping he makes it to the weekend; his enthusiasm is infectious, and the crowd loves to cheer him on.

2. One swing undoes an entire lifetime of preparation

To put into words the opening tee shot of Rory McIlroy: what were you thinking? You’re a 4-time major champion. You’re playing the ultimate home game. How do you hit 2 consecutive, rope hooks off the first tee WITH AN IRON? He’s crushing his driver this last month, straighter than straight. How an iron was the play, well, that’s beyond me. If McIlroy isn’t working with a mental coach, he needs to seriously consider doing so. Something in his preparation is off, and at this level, it begins with the mind. Have a glance at his 2 country men~Darren Clarke was 3-under for a portion of the outward nine, before finishing at even par. Graeme McDowell … oh, wait, never mind. #RoughFinish

3. JB Holmes is a nice story

People love to rag on JB Holmes. Poster child for slow play, they call him. Remember that he was one of the Good Old Boys foursome on Paul Azinger’s legendary, USA Ryder Cup side. Why wasn’t Azinger named Captain In Perpetuity again? Whoops, wrong article. Remember, too, that he underwent what was called “low-risk brain surgery” and recovered. Low Risk? It’s the brain…nothing is low risk. Take a look at that finish~seems like everyone else was making bogey or worse at 16, 17, or 18, or even all three! Holmes made a sweet birdie putt to lock in a 66 on the day. Bogey at the first, then 6 birdies and 11 pars the rest of the way. Nice start, Kentucky! By the way, he won’t win this week, because …

4. Take your pick from this attractive bundle

Dylan Frittelli, winner last week on the PGA Tour. Or, Jon Rahm, winner 2 weeks ago at the Irish Open~What a double this would be! #KingOfAllIreland. Perhaps, Tommy Fleetwood, desperate to not be the 2nd coming of Lee Westwood (who, ironically, is tied with Fleet at -3.) Both probably look at Danny Willett and silently wonder, “How does this guy have a major, while I don’t?” Consider that American lad, Brooks Koepka. He has 4 wins in majors, a local caddie, European tour experience in spades, hands of a surgeon and strength of Loki. As Royal Portrush is a tournament wild card, it’s anyone’s guess who will win, but odds favor the currently-hot and the always-dangerous. It won’t be Emiliano Grillo, but we need an excuse to show you this.

5. Here’s your winner: Shane Lowry

In 2016, Shane Lowry went head-to-head, toe-to-toe, with Dustin Johnson at Oakmont. As we recall, Johnson head-butted him, then stepped on his toes. Sunday did not go well for the thick Irishman that day. Fast forward 3 years and here we find Lowry, 4-under par and 1 stroke behind the leader. Sure, he’s tied with Jon Rahm, with a host of trouble lurking on the course and the leader board and away from the fairways. With the northerners collapsing all around, it’s Lowry who holds the key to the hopes of an island. There is an element to him that reminds one of Gary Woodland: career grinder whose moment in the sun has arrived. We’ll stake every penny we earn from this column on Lowry’s fitness this week.

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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.

11 Comments

11 Comments

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  8. Prime21

    Jul 19, 2019 at 2:18 am

    Are you really questioning Rory? Stop. Until you walk in a man’s shoes your commentary is irrelevant as you have no idea what he was going through. To kick him while he is down is certainly in poor taste as is your journalism. If we were to reflect on all of your poor “calls” regarding previous tournaments and how they would play out, we would certainly find many bad choices and predictions. He has probably hit that tee shot thousands of times and his game plan was rock solid, His execution obviously left much to be desired. But that in no way, shape, or form gives you the right to question a future hall of fame player, his preparation nor his decision making. Throwing dirt from the press box is quite easy to do, as you have proven here, but hitting that tee shot, with an entire country riding your back, would be a bit more difficult, don’t you think? The ONLY thing we LEARNED from this article is that you are a hack in every sense of the word.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Jul 19, 2019 at 6:15 am

      I cannot disagree with much of what you said, other than not having the right to question …

      Precisely what we do as human beings, is question. In your vitriol, you question me. I question each decision made by each golfer.

      I wish that all my readers had the enthusiasm, the vocabulary, the passion, that you exhibit. I do hope that you will return for the next three days’ reviews, and hold me accountable. This is what allows for debate, civil of course, to flourish.

      Enjoy round 2 this morning and afternoon.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Jul 19, 2019 at 8:54 am

      A more experienced golfer than I had this to say about Rory’s undoing on Thursday:

      The word is “choking”

      That’s how Brandel Chamblee characterized Rory McIlory’s British Open out-of-bounds opening shot/first-round 79…

      “He has had, historically, just a bad run of first rounds. … He consistently gets off to a bad start and then inexorably plays himself back into it, and then when all the pressure is gone, all of that talent arises and then he plays a beautiful second or third or fourth round and gets himself back in it. … But when someone plays poor golf in the beginning of a tournament and then great golf the rest of the way, or great golf in the beginning and then poor golf at the end – both of those on either end he’s been guilty of over the last five years – then you know it’s not something physical, it’s not something technical, that they’re not putting themselves in the right frame of mind to either begin a golf tournament or to end a golf tournament. He needs to find that magic that he had when he was winning major championships.”

      “On paper – I know what the world rankings say, that Brooks Koepka is the best player in the world – but on paper, coming in here, demonstrably, Rory McIlroy is the best player. Strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained total – he’s better than he was in 2012. He’s better than he was in 2015. And logically, experience should make him a better player. But when someone consistently performs under expectations, the word is choking.”

    • some guy

      Jul 20, 2019 at 1:45 am

      Ok Rory, whatever you say.

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Thorbjorn Olesen pleads not guilty to sexual assault; will face trial next month

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On Wednesday, Thorbjorn Olesen indicated that he would plead not guilty to the charges of sexual assault, being drunk on an aircraft, and assault by beating, and he will now face trial in September.

Sky Sports broke the news that the Dane appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday where he confirmed his name, address, date of birth and nationality as well as his not guilty plea, and he has since been released on unconditional bail.

Olesen will now face trial at Isleworth Crown Court on 18th September which is the day before the European Tour’s Flagship event – the BMW Championship at Wentworth.

The 29-year-old was arrested on 29th July at Heathrow Airport and released upon investigation after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman and urinating in the aisle of a first-class cabin.

Olesen is currently suspended from the European Tour while the case is ongoing.

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PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan stresses that the Tour won’t be “overly reactionary” in attempts to solve slow play issue

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Days after the European Tour announced their 4-point plan to tackle slow play in the game, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has stated that the Tour will not be reactionary to their counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean.

According to USA Today, Monahan spoke to media at East Lake Golf Club on Tuesday and acknowledged the ire of golf fans around the world. But the commissioner stressed that while the Tour is currently in the process of combating the issue—there is no quick fix.

“We’ve been working on this, and we can be criticized for taking too long. But there’s been more than 1.2 million shots hit this year, and we’re talking about a few instances – and granted, they’re instances that are extreme – and we’re going to go down a path and we’re going to address that.

And I feel really good about where we’re going to get to, but it takes longer than you want, and you can’t be overly reactionary. I tend to have a fair amount of urgency around everything I do, and sometimes you can’t execute the urgency you want. You have to stay on the path you’re on.”

Per the report, PGA Tour officials have held numerous meetings with the Player Advisory Council and the Policy Board and one rule change which we know will be coming into effect for the 2020 season is that only the top-65 and ties instead of the top-70 and ties will play the weekend next season. While teams in Florida have also reportedly been analyzing ShotLink data going back to 2003 to identify trends and solutions to solve the issue plaguing the sport.

But while the European Tour have gone about things their own way, Monahan says that their new ideas will not influence the PGA Tour’s future decision making on the situation in any way.

“I wouldn’t say we’re going to be influenced in any way. I think everybody looking at this, talking about it is a good thing, and they’ve obviously decided that that’s the right thing for the European Tour. And when we’re ready to talk about what we’re going to do, I’ll be excited to talk to all of you about it.”

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Morning 9: PGA Tour commish wants to slow down slow play discussion | Greg Norman: Roll back the ball | Langston

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

August 21, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Let’s slow down the slow play discussion
Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio…”Monahan, in a gathering with members of the media Tuesday morning at East Lake Golf Club, said the Tour is on the right path toward resolving any issues regarding pace of play.”
  • “He feels everyone’s pain, he has seen the ire on social media and heard from the mouths of top players after recent episodes of excruciatingly dawdling play. He’s just not going to lead a sprint to any resolutions.”
  • “We’ve been working on this, and we can be criticized for taking too long,” Monahan said to a few chuckles from the listeners.
  • “But there’s been more than 1.2 million shots hit this year, and we’re talking about a few instances – and granted, they’re instances that are extreme – and we’re going to go down a path and we’re going to address that,” he added. “And I feel really good about where we’re going to get to, but it takes longer than you want, and you can’t be overly reactionary.”
  • “I tend to have a fair amount of urgency around everything I do, and sometimes you can’t execute the urgency you want. You have to stay on the path you’re on.”

Full piece.

2. Greg Norman: roll it back to pre 96!

 

(h/t to Geoff Shackelford for the spot & Golf.com)
3. No risk, plenty of reward
Will players going to approach East Lake differently owing to the staggered scoring?
PGATour.com’s Sean Martin…”There’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain. The only question is how to make up those strokes.”
  • “Don’t expect drastically different gameplans, especially in the early rounds, though. East Lake isn’t a course that offers a lot of risk-reward opportunities. Instead, it’s a straightforward layout that rewards repetitive execution.  Plodding along with pars and taking advantage of the occasional birdie opportunity is the best way to succeed here. Professional golfers are a conservative bunch by nature, and they aren’t convinced that slamming on the gas pedal for 72 holes is the best strategy at the season finale.”
  • “I don’t think I’m really going to change my game plan too much,” Conners said. “I’m going to try to make a lot of birdies. Starting in this position, there’s really nothing to lose. You can’t be silly, but if I can put four really good rounds of golf together, I have a chance. I think everyone feels like they have a chance.”
  • “Since 1983, there have been 19 victories by players who trailed by 10 or more strokes after any round. Nine players won when trailing by 10 or more strokes with 54 holes remaining, while seven players did so with two rounds left to play.”

Full piece.

4. Inkster losing sleep
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”Juli Inkster joked that making her two U.S. Solheim Cup captain’s picks are so difficult this year, she wished she didn’t have any picks at all, but the truth is that she would like more.”
  • “Inkster said Tuesday at the CP Women’s Open that she wished she had three picks.”
  • “Two picks don’t really do much for me,” Inkster said. “If I had four picks, it would be great, but I do think we need one more pick in there.”
  • “Inkster’s automatic qualifiers will be determined with Sunday’s finish to the CP Women’s Open. She’ll announce her two captain’s picks on Monday. European captain Catriona Matthew made her four captain’s picks last week. Inkster said another pick would help her with pairings.”

 

5. Well done, Lucas!
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on Lucas Glover’s return to the Tour Championship
  • “For the three-time Tour winner, rock bottom came in 2015 when he was forced to play the Korn Ferry Tour’s finals events to regain his status.”
  • “That was a pretty bad year,” Glover said on Tuesday at East Lake. “I didn’t do anything very well. That was about as low as it got, that first journey back to the Korn Ferry finals.”
  • “By comparison this season has been an unqualified success. He’s made 20 of 25 cuts, posted seven top-10 finishes and heated up at the perfect moment with a tie for seventh last week at the BMW Championship to qualify for East Lake for the first time since 2009.”

Full piece.

6. The forgotten history of Langston
Elliot Williams at The Washingtonian…”In 1927, golfers petitioned Uncle Sam to build a course for African Americans. While they eventually prevailed, the replacement wasn’t much of an upgrade. Located atop an abandoned city dump in Northeast DC, Langston-named after John Mercer Langston, Howard University’s first law school dean and the first black man from Virginia elected to Congress-opened in 1939 with grass missing and just nine holes. (The other nine were added in 1955.) There were no shelters for bad weather, and the course was surrounded by disused tires and a sewage ditch. Trash and all, though, Langston was still home.”
  • “Over the years, it also became a see-and-be-seen destination. Heavyweight champion Joe Louis played an amateur tournament at Langston in 1940, drawing 2,000 fans. Lifelong golfer David Ross met Muhammad Ali one day on a putting green: “His limousine pulls up, and . . . he said to me, ‘I’ve never picked up a golf club before,’ and he reached out and got my putter.”
  • “By the 1970s, black people could comfortably play at many courses. As the demographics of the city changed around it, Langston did, too. Today newcomers-often white and in their twenties-play just as often as the old-timers. The course, however, is again in shambles. The National Park Service says it will open up operations to bidders this year and will strike a new contract by October 2020. But a similar plan to renovate was under way two years ago and ended abruptly. Longtimers hope the limbo will soon be in the past-and that after 80-some years, the course conditions will finally befit its loyal players.”

Full piece. 

7. Bobby’s missing medal
A segment of a fascinating story from Helen Ross at PGATour.com
  • …”The medal, which is slightly larger than a silver dollar, is the one Jones received when he won the 1927 Southern Open. On the front is the crest of the Southern Golf Association while the back is engraved in 14-carat gold with the words: Open Championship, Atlanta, March 1927, Won by Robert T. Jones Jr., 281 strokes.”
  • “What the younger Jones didn’t know is that serious golf collectors had wondered where it was ever since his grandfather donated all his championship medals to the United States Golf Association. The medal was the only first-place award not in the collection.”
  • “One day, Jones and his wife, Mimi, who happened to be wearing the medal, walked into a reception. A good friend, Sidney Matthew, the Tallahassee, Florida lawyer who is one of the foremost experts on all things Bobby Jones, immediately took notice.”

Full piece. 

8. A Tiger-inspired generation
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“The world that Woods took by storm two decades ago is far different from the one he looked to reconquer last year, and different still from the one that watched him slip into a green jacket this spring. Gone are the scores of journeymen who once cobbled out a decent living on Tour without much time for practice. Same for the single-skill specialists, the ones who shined so brightly in one area as to make up for glaring deficiencies elsewhere.”
  • “This is the Tiger Effect. The one he bore and the one he’s had to overcome.”
  • “Out on Tour in 2019, you need to have the entire package. Fairways are lined not with players who spend more time at the buffet table than the gym, but instead by physical specimen who have honed their craft by combining two workouts for every round played. The era of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy is upon us, with athletes taking to golf rather than golfers gleaning athletic skills to boost their skill set.”

Full piece.

9. Youngest CWO competitor ever
BBC report on 12-year-old Michelle Liu…”As well as practicing alongside LPGA players, Liu met Henderson, 21, on the driving range on Monday and said she had a picture taken with the defending champion, who became the first home winner last year.”
  • “Liu qualified for the event, which started in 1973, via the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship in July.”
  • “I know there is a lot of great players in the field here so I definitely say it’s going to be pretty hard,” she added.

 

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