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Morning 9: Most likely Open spoiler: internal OB | Woods’ rainy Wednesday grind | Respect Allan Robertson

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

July 18, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Beware the internal out of bounds! 
(As Rory McIlroy learned the hard way)
  • PGATour.com’s Sean Martin on the danger…”A plethora of O.B. stakes, especially early in the round, means that some players will face the dreaded re-tee. The first, second, fourth and 18th holes all have out-of-bounds, and some of it is too close for comfort.”
  • “On the 482-yard, par-4 fourth hole, just a thin strip of rough separates the fairway from the boundary. Players must squeeze the tee shot between the bunker and those stakes.”
  • “Out-of-bounds stakes line both sides of the first hole. Some of the stakes are within 20 yards of the fairway’s left side. Players are still on Royal Portrush’s property if they miss it left on 1, but that area was deemed O.B. to keep consistent with history. The same is true down the left side of the dogleg-right 18th.”

Full piece.

2. R&A chief on distance
Geoff Shackelford…Martin Slumbers “confirmed completion of the Distance Insight Report’s findings and a release of those conclusions until this fall. I asked after the press conference what his views were and Slumbers focused on the question of skill erosion. From my Golfweek report on the comments”
  • “Golf should be a game of skill,” he said Wednesday. “It should not  be a technology driven game. And where that balance is depends on how  good you are. And that’s still my gut view. The data will guide us.”
  • “Not surprisingly, it sounded as if the report will focus heavily on the question of some skills having been reduced or nullified by distance, just as the original Statement of Principles said 17 years ago.”
3. McIlroy leaning on caddie Diamond…
…but you shot the course record?
  • Anyway…Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”But as McIlroy explained Wednesday at Royal Portrush, site of this week’s Open Championship, Diamond was an accomplished amateur whose experience could be particularly helpful this week.”
  • “I think that’s one of the things people don’t realize, Harry has played more rounds of golf on this golf course than I have, and definitely more competitive rounds,” said McIlroy, who shot a course-record 61 as a 16-year-old in the North of Ireland Amateur held at Portrush in 2005. “He’s just as comfortable on this golf course as I am. So that is a big help this week.”
4. Focused on “enhancing status”
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”Asked Wednesday whether he foresees a day when the women and men would compete for equal pay – the women’s purse is now $4.5 million, compared to $10.75 million for the men – R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said he’s more focused on a sustainable business model for the Women’s British Open.”
  • “To build the economics of the Women’s British Open, to be able to keep raising the prize money, we need to do it as a sustainable business model,” he said. “It needs to be a long-term business model. How do we build a better model to have a more finally successful Women’s British Open that will then flow down into the prize money?”
  • “Where it ends up, I don’t know. But my ambition is to keep growing the overall performance of it and keep enhancing the status of the event.”

 

5. Meanwhile, in Michigan…
AP report…”Canadians Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp shot a 5-under 65 in alternate-shot play Wednesday to take the first-round lead in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour’s first-year team event.”
“Henderson and Sharp had seven birdies and two bogeys at Midland Country Club.”

Full piece.

6. Rainy Wednesday grind session
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”Amid some of the heaviest afternoon rain that fell on this famed links course, Woods tidied up his golf swing and his putting stroke in a practice session that lasted approximately 55 minutes. Tiger appeared relaxed, and he smiled and laughed with the people around him, including caddie Joe LaCava and Golf Channel broadcaster and close friend Notah Begay III.”
“Woods arrived at Royal Portrush a little after 3 p.m. local time and ventured to the range around 4. Within minutes, the skies opened up and heavy rain accompanied by gusting winds chased away all but a few players. Woods and Jason Day were the last two to leave the range.”
7. G-Mac and the workingman’s club
So begins Mike McAllister’s excellent piece…”Roughly 180 steps outside the main entry gate for The Open Championship is a small clubhouse. Rathmore Golf Club is the home for the Valley course, the little brother to what the members call the “Big Club,” Royal Portrush with its more famous Dunluce course that will get all the TV attention this week.”
  • “The fact that Rathmore’s clubhouse is outside the ticketed confines of the Open is not particularly intentional, but it is somewhat symbolic. After all, when Rathmore opened in 1947, it was considered an artisans club, one created for the greens staff, the bar staff, the kitchen staff and any others of service to the more elite and well-heeled Royal Portrush.”
  • “In essence, Rathmore is the affordable club. Or as Graeme McDowell calls it, “the workingman’s club.”
8. Sagebiel on Robertson
Neil Sagebiel on a name you might not know (Allan Robertson) and his significance to The Open.
  • A bit on Robertson’s pedigree…”In 1843 Robertson famously defeated Willie Dunn Sr. in a challenge match played over 20 rounds in 10 days. Oral history tells us Robertson never lost a challenge match. For many years he teamed with Old Tom Morris, defeating all comers in foursomes. They were known as “The Invincibles.” This partnership enabled both Robertson and Morris to elevate their financial status from near poverty into the Victorian middle class, another amazing feat! Robertson was also the first golfer to break 80 on the Links at St. Andrews.”
  • And this…”The Open tournament and the Challenge Belt’s genesis are due to the unexpected death of Allan Robertson in 1859 at 43 from an attack of jaundice.”
  • “His death left unanswered as to who was the best golfer in the land. As such, in 1860 an “Open” tournament was organized and held at Prestwick, a 12-hole gem designed by Old Tom Morris, to crown Allan Robertson’s heir as the Champion Golfer of the Year.”

Full piece. 

9. Tour Van Intel
A little PSA: We’re trying a new series at GolfWRX, tentatively titled “Tour Van Intel.” Our Johnny Wunder is in contact with all the reps and techs at tour sites pre-tournament, and we’re trying to parlay some of the information he’s privy to into a quick, informative piece.
From the first installment….
Whispers from the tour vans at The Open Championship, via our Johnny Wunder’s crack reporting. JW has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the world of reps, techs, new builds, and new product. Here are his notes on equipment switches of note from Royal Portrush.
  • 1. Tony Finau had a Ping Blueprint 2-iron built up. The strategy here is self-explanatory: knee-high fastballs.
  • 2. Tiger Woods was seen testing a heavier headed Scotty Cameron proto that is a replica of his famous wand that he’s used to win 14/15 majors. In addition, he also added lead tape to the back of his famous Scotty. The strategy here is to create a heavier head feel which is helpful on slower greens.
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Morning 9: Rory offers simple slow play fix, isn’t sure about TC format | Brooks favors the Euro plan | Sunjae Im!

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

August 22, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Rory’s simple slow play fix
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard reporting...”The Northern Irishman has always been one of the most outspoken players when it comes to pace of play on the PGA Tour but enough is enough.”
  • “I saw [the European Tour] released a four-point plan, but I only read the headline. I didn’t go deeper into it. I’ve had enough of the slow play stuff,” McIlroy said. “I had two hours of it last week at the [player advisory council] meeting, and that came to nothing.”
  • “Although he didn’t know the details of the new European pace of play policy, McIlroy did offer a solution for slow play when he pointed out that pace of play won’t be an issue at this week’s 30-man Tour Championship.”
  • “Seriously, it’s like traffic, right? You get 156 in the field, and it’s hard to get those guys around quickly. Even last week, 70, there was no mention of pace of play,” McIlroy said. “I’m in a privileged position that I can say that because I’m going to get into a field of 30 or 70. Obviously, guys that are not quite in my position would disagree with that. [But] if you want to speed up play, cut the field sizes.”

Full piece.

2. Rory unsure regarding new Tour Championship format 
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”While saying Wednesday that he understands many of the reasons for the new format, he also said “come back to me Monday and I’ll tell you whether it’s worked or not.”
  • …”If we’re at the PGA Tour trying to do the season of championships, where it starts at the Players in March and goes through the four majors and culminates with the FedEx Cup in the end, if the FedEx Cup really wants to have this legacy in the game, like some of these other championships do, is people starting the tournament on different numbers the best way to do it?” McIlroy said Wednesday at East Lake Golf Club.”
  • “That’s my only thing. I get it from a fan experience point of view. I get it from giving guys that have played better throughout the year an advantage. But at the same time, it will make it sweeter for a guy that starts at even or 1-under par and goes all the way through the field and wins. Or if Justin Thomas shoots the tied low score of the week and doesn’t end up winning. … I don’t know.”

Full piece.

3. JT wants the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup
Good to hear he didn’t endorse finishing third if it’ll secure the cup…JT isn’t keen for a repeat of 2017
  • AP report…”Justin Thomas lived it two years ago when he capped off his best year by capturing the FedEx Cup with a runner-up finish in the Tour Championship. Thomas was thrilled to win the cup and its $10 million prize, but felt like a loser in the immediate aftermath because he was second in the Tour Championship to Xander Schauffele.”
  • “As the No. 1 seed, he starts Thursday at 10-under par with a two-shot lead under the staggered start. It’s possible that Thomas could finish the most under par and win the FedEx Cup, even though he doesn’t have the lowest 72-hole score.”
  • “And yes, he will be paying attention…“You guys probably won’t believe me, but, yeah, it will irk me,” Thomas said of such a scenario. “I want to beat everybody every week I play.”

Full piece.

4. Can anyone really win the FedEx Cup? 
Shane Ryan investigates…
  • “…a player starting at even par has to overcome a 10-shot deficit against the top player, but he also has to overcome a variety of smaller deficits against 25 other players. That compounds the problem, but one way we can try to answer the question is by examining other big comebacks in PGA Tour history. A look at final-round comebacks shows us that one player, Paul Lawrie, managed to take back 10 strokes in a single round, though it did require Jean Van de Velde’s infamous collapse at the 1999 Open Championship”
  • “…But Stewart Cink also roared back from nine shots down, and eight players have managed the feat on Sunday from eight shots back. In some respects, the task facing the “start-at-even” crew in the Tour Championship this weekend is much easier. First, they have 72 holes, not 18, to overcome a 10-stroke deficit. Second, the competition is 29 players, not the 70-or-so who typically make the cut at a “normal” event. They have a longer time to beat a smaller number of players, and by that reckoning, chipping off 2.5 shots per round seems far from impossible.”

 

5. In case you missed it: U.S. Prez Cup team top 8 set
Brooks Koepka
Justin Thomas
Dustin Johnson
Patrick Cantlay
Xander Schauffele
Webb Simpson
Matt Kuchar
Bryson DeChambeau
6. Olesen pleads not guilty
BBC report…”Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen has appeared in court charged with sexual assault and being drunk on an aircraft.”
  • “The 29-year-old Ryder Cup winner has also been charged with assault by beating…He indicated he would plead not guilty when he appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.”

Full piece.

7. Brooks favors the European plan? 
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…“Koepka has been an outspoken critic of slow play, calling for stiff penalties against lallygagging PGA Tour players. He was asked about a policy announced this week by the European Tour that cracks down on idlers by imposing stroke penalties, not the meaningless fines used this side of the Atlantic.”
  • “Perfect. We should adopt it,” Koepka replied. Then came the surgical insertion of the needle.
  • “I think you’ll see some urgency to play. It doesn’t matter how quick you walk. It doesn’t matter how quick you do anything.”
  • “The “quick walk” argument – that hoofing it to one’s ball faster excuses taking more time than permitted to execute the next shot – is the flaccid defense of Bryson DeChambeau, a notorious laggard and someone with whom Koepka has sparred on the issue.”

Full piece.

8. Cole Hammer time…for you to win the McCormack medal
Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington…“On Wednesday, the USGA and R&A announced that Hammer remained the No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and thus had secured the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the leading men’s player at the end of the summer.”
  • “With the honor comes exemptions into the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and the 2020 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, so long as Hammer remains an amateur when playing in the majors.”

Full piece.

9. Alone in anonymity?
Sungjae Im has hardly gotten the recognition he deserves this season…
  • Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“One of the tour’s premier talents walked East Lake in anonymity Wednesday afternoon. Hard to do, given there are just 30 players at this shindig. When he passed a group of fans, necks strained to see the name on the bag, followed by a common chorus of whispers. Who’s that? … that’s not Hideki, right … wow, pretty nice shot. The man would nod as he made his way through, paying no heed to their ignorance. He doesn’t even blame them.”
  • “Hey, I’m surprised I’m here too,” Sungjae Im says with a laugh.
  • “In the Year of Young Guns, from Cameron Champ’s auspicious start to the torrid summers of Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland, only one-Im-is standing at the Tour Championship.”
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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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