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Morning 9: Women’s British Open | Lexi’s caddie details debacle | WGC ratings slide

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

August 2, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans. 
1. WBO
Ron Sirak’s intro to his first-round game story on the Women’s British…”They put some beef on the bone at Woburn Golf Club for the AIG Women’s British Open, adding 300 yards to what it played in 2016. But on a windless day, the best players in the world devoured the rain-softened course with perfect greens. Ashleigh Buhai led a brilliant birdie barrage Thursday with a 7-under-par 65 for the first-round lead.”
  • “Hinako Shibuno, 20, a JLPGA rookie, is one stroke back along with Danielle Kang. Sung Hyun Park, trying to win a major for the third consecutive year, is at 67 as are Charley Hull, who thrilled the fans on her home course, Moriya Jutanugarn and Megan Khang.”

Full piece.

A look at the leaderboard as I write this has Lizette Salas and Hinako Shibuno tied for the lead at -8.
2. An & Im
And on the PGA Tour
AP report…”Byeong Hun An and Sungjae Im each shot 8-under 62 on Thursday to share the lead after one round at the Wyndham Championship.”
  • “Mackenzie Hughes, Rory Sabbatini, Patrick Rodgers and Johnson Wagner were a stroke back of the South Korean leaders in the final PGA TOUR event before the FedExCup Playoffs.”
  • “Former Wyndham winners Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson joined Jordan Spieth among the nine players at 6-under 64.”

Full piece.

3. An inconvenient quest
If you want the full story of Benji Thompson’s quest for Lexi’s passport, he detailed the debacle for The Caddie Network.
  • A morsel…”We pulled up and Ian had about five golf bags and three pieces of clothing luggage outside of the van on the ground. He’s a little older and it had taken a toll on him, and, hey, this wasn’t his problem or job to do. I immediately knew this was about to be a nightmare of a task to get to her travel golf bag. After I cleared the area, I started pulling these bags off and getting them out of the way. No wonder the players and caddies who used this service didn’t have anything with them when they arrived in London (It was all in the heavy-ass golf bag traveling cases)! Once I got about 30-40 bags out, I saw Lexi’s on the bottom, and cha-ching! I knew where the passports were and was able to dig down and get them out. I made sure I had both of them and put them in my pocket.”
  • “Now is when the fun started… Every one of those heavy bags I removed I had to put back. They had to be packed very tight and there is a certain way for all this to fit. Somehow, I got all of the bags back in the van, and I still don’t know how I did it. Looking at all of it out on the ground I was telling myself there is a way and just kept plugging. When I finished, it took the cab driver and Ian holding the bags and me sliding the door to make it close.”

Full piece. 

4. Spieth’s lowest opening round of the year
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Jordan Spieth, who ended a six-year hiatus at Sedgefield Country Club by picking up right where he left off during a memorable playoff loss to Patrick Reed in 2013. Spieth leaned on a red-hot putter en route to a 6-under 64, an effort that left him two shots off the early lead and, surprisingly, was highlighted by a pair of impressive bogeys.”
  • “The first such score came on the par-3 12th, where Spieth flared an iron into an awkward lie above a bunker and needed to sink a 15-footer to avoid a double. Then on the par-4 18th, his tee shot sailed out of bounds down the right side, but a re-tee led to a 21-foot make from the fringe for a round-saving bogey that brought the Greensboro crowds to their feet.”
  • “That birdie with the second ball is nice,” Spieth said. “I look at the card, and I don’t really think of it as an out-of-bounds ball. I just feel like I actually stole something coming in, so hopefully that’s momentum for tomorrow.”
5. Patrick Rodgers’ “really tough year”
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski on a difficult 2019 for the Stanford alum…”First, he fired weekend rounds of 61-62 in the RSM Classic in November in a bid for his first PGA Tour title only to lose in a playoff to Charles Howell III. More recently he was forced to spend 16 weeks on the sidelines with wrist and thumb injuries while watching his place in the FedEx Cup standings drop each Sunday night.”
  • “But had it not been for that career-best finish in Georgia, Rodgers would have been fidgeting on his sofa a bit more nervously. When he shut it down after a missed cut at the Valspar Championship in late March, he was 38th in the FedEx Cup standings. He showed up this week ranked 96th, well inside the top 125 that ensures retaining his card.”
  • “It’s been a tough year. It’s been a really tough year,” said Rodgers, 27, the top collegiate golfer in 2014. “I didn’t really know what was going on with my injury for a couple of months, and I just kind of had to sit and watch myself fall down the FedEx Cup. After getting off to such a great start, that was frustrating. But it’s really nice the way the FedEx Cup is formatted, you can make a nice little run here late in the year and that’s my intention.”

Full piece.

6. This guy!
AP report…”Jake Beber-Frankel, the 17-year-old son of Academy Award-winning director David Frankel, followed his record 10-under 60 with a 65 on Thursday in the Boys Junior PGA Championship to break the 54-hole mark.”
“Beber-Frankel, from Miami, had an 18-under 192 total at Keney Park Golf Course to shatter the tournament record of 199 set by Akshay Bhatia in 2017 at the Country Club of St. Albans outside St. Louis.”
“I definitely never had to ‘bounce back’ from a 60 before,” said Beber-Frankel, a Stanford commit. “It was a fun experiment to see what happened.”
7. In praise of senior golf
Shane Ryan with some excellent perspective in general, and superb work putting meat on the bone…
“Golf is not the only professional sport that features official contests among players “of a certain age,” by which I mean those who have passed their competitive prime and entered the autumn of their years. If you’re a tennis fan, you can watch John McEnroe play in barnstorming exhibitions, and you can see similar matches between former stars at some of the grand slams. The New York Yankees famously have Old-Timers’ Day, which has been duplicated by a few other major league baseball teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox. And … well, after that, the well of examples runs a bit dry.”
“Despite this debatable company, though, golf is the only sport that takes competition among older players seriously. The PGA Tour Champions, founded in 1980 as the Senior PGA Tour, features golfers 50 and older playing a full January-through-November schedule with major championships (five of them!), a money list and playoffs. The European Senior Tour was founded in 1992 and features 21 events (some of them co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour Champions) and a two-tournament championship. Besides the fact that the non-major tournaments are 54 holes rather than 72, and players are mostly allowed to use carts, the format is essentially the same as the “real” tours.”
8. Remembering Gordon Brand, Jr. 
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait on the departed all-class Mr. Brand…”This writer can’t believe he’s gone either. The breakfast conversation was one of several I had during the Open Championship, one of too many to mention over the years. My fellow Scot revelled in taking the mickey out of me every chance he got. Not just me, but many others too.”
  • “Yet while he was one of the most affable and approachable players I dealt with during my career, he didn’t suffer fools gladly. Brandie wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when something was amiss, like the Spanish tournament when he took a popular local pro to task for being, shall we say, a little lax with the rules. Said player was disqualified after Brand reported him, and local galleries booed the Scot for the final two rounds as a result.”
  • “Was it worth it?” I once asked him.
  • “Absolutely,” he said. “You’ve got to play the game the way it’s meant to be played, otherwise why play?”

Full piece. 

9. WGC ratings slide
Geoff Shackelford…”The schedule in 2020 will stick the new Minnesota stop in the slot after The Open, so maybe this is an aberration. But given the quality of the leaderboard (Brooks Koepka/Rory McIlroy final pairing), the final ratings for the WGC FedEx St. Jude were not good.”
  • “Paulsen from SportsMediaWatch attempted to compare them to both the old WGC Bridgestone (played in August) and the FedEx St. Jude Classic’s ratings (June). And the new WGC FedEx still fell shy of those events.”
  • “Last Sunday’s final round of the PGA Tour/WGC-St. Jude Invitational averaged a 1.6 rating and 2.31 million viewers on CBS, down 30% in ratings and 33% in viewership from last year (2.3, 3.45M), and down 11% and 13% respectively from 2017 (1.8, 2.66M). The 1.6 rating is the lowest for final round coverage of the event – previously the Bridgestone Invitational – since 2012 (1.3).”
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13-time major champion Mickey Wright passes away at the age of 85

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@wilsongolf

LPGA Tour legend and Hall of Famer Mickey Wright passed away on Monday after suffering a heart attack, according to the AP.

Wright won 82 titles on the LPGA Tour including 13-major titles in a career which began in 1955 and ended with her retirement at the age of just 34.

Per the 13-time major champion’s lawyer, Sonia Pawluc who was speaking to AP, Wright had been hospitalised for the last few weeks after suffering a fall.

The sporting legend is the only LPGA Tour professional to hold all majors at the same time, and Ben Hogan once described her swing as the finest in the game.

Speaking on the news of her passing, LPGA Tour commissioner, Michael Whan said

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Mickey Wright. We lost a legend, but we may also have lost the best swing in golf history today. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

Wright’s long list of accomplishments in the game includes the most victories in a single LPGA season (13), four consecutive LPGA money titles (1961-64), 14 successive years with an LPGA victory (1956-69) and a stunning 44 wins from 1961 through 1964.

She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1976.

 

 

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Morning 9: Tiger: Bad week inside ropes, good week outside | Scott, Park end droughts | CBS’ coverage panned (again)

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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.
February 17, 2020
Good Monday morning, golf fans.

 

1. Scott gets first Tour win since 2016
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner with a succinct breakdown…“Scott started the day in part of a three-way share of the lead, and he suffered an early stumble with a double bogey on the fifth hole. But the notoriously wobbly putter steadied his nerve down the stretch, burying birdie putts on Nos. 13 and 17 that proved to be the difference. Scott earned an unofficial victory at Riviera in 2005 when he won a 36-hole, rain-slogged event, but now he has an official title as part of his Riv credentials. It’s back-to-back worldwide wins for Scott across two calendar years, as the veteran closed out 2019 with a victory at the Australian PGA Championship. But after a number of recent near-misses, the Aussie now has his first PGA Tour win since March 2016, when he went back-to-back at Honda and Doral.”
2. …and Down Under, another title drought endeth
AP report…”Seven-time major champion Inbee Park saw a seven shot lead shrink to two shots Sunday before winning the Women’s Australian Open by three strokes to clinch her first LPGA title in almost two years.”
  • “Park started her final round three shots in front of 19-year old South Korean compatriot Ayeon Cho. She bogeyed the ninth hole but still turned five shots ahead of the field and went out to a seven shot lead early on the back nine at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club.”
3. …and on the Korn Ferry Tour
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Andrew Novak birdied each of his final two holes to earn his first career Korn Ferry Tour victory at the LECOM Suncoast Classic.”
  • “Novak, 24, started the final round in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., one shot off the lead, and he was part of a crowded leaderboard as the tournament entered the closing stretch. But thanks in large part to birdies on Nos. 17 and 18, two of the seven hardest holes at Lakewood National GC, he closed with a 6-under 66. That left him at 23 under, one shot ahead of John Chin and two shots clear of Taylor Montgomery, both of whom closed with rounds of 64.”
4. Not the weekend he wanted
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill…”It was another week to lament at the famed course where Woods started his PGA TOUR career as a 16-year-old. He faded on the back nine of his rounds on Thursday and Friday and then shot 76-77 on the weekend to be 11 over par, some 22 shots behind winner Adam Scott.”
  • “Woods was full of praise for the event he and his foundation put on in its new elevated status, but could only try some self-deprecating humor when asked of his personal on course efforts.”
  • “I did not do much well today. Good news, I hit every ball forward, not backwards, a couple sideways. But overall, I’m done,” he said. “I’ve been in this position many times unfortunately. Just keep fighting hole by hole, shot by shot and try to make some birdies, which I did not do.
ESPN’s Bob Harig on what he saw…“Woods was still not moving great. While he looked good at times, his overall game was a shell of what he produced three weeks ago at Torrey Pines, let alone in December at the Presidents Cup or October at the Zozo Championship.”
  • “This was simply a day to endure, not make matters worse — and then hand the tournament trophy to winner Adam Scott, who finished 22 strokes ahead of the tournament host.”
  • “And it was yet another reminder: Woods is 44 years old, has a fused spine, had three previous back surgeries prior to that, and counts himself lucky to be playing the game at all, let alone a high level.”
Full piece. 
5. Chubb champ: Scott Parel
Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News…”Scott Parel lost two opportunities at victories last year in playoffs. He wasn’t going to take that chance Sunday in the Chubb Classic.”
“Parel, 54, birdied six of the first 12 holes to come back from five shots off the lead and went on to win at The Classics Country Club at Lely Resort for his third PGA Tour Champions victory. Parel tied the tournament record at 17-under 196 on the par-71 course, and won $240,000 out of the $1.6 million purse.”
6. Rave review for CBS’ golf coverage…
Joel Beall with a (incomplete) tally of some of the (many) errors…
  • “An incorrect score board from the LPGA’s Women’s Australian Open, caught by No Laying Up. The tournament ended Saturday night.”
  • “A singular Korn Ferry Tour highlight, featuring a putt from Peter Uihlein. Although Uihlein entered the day with the lead, he finished T-20 at the Suncoast Classic, which had already been decided when the event update was televised.”
  • “Delayed footage of Harold Varner III topping his tee shot at the iconic 10th hole. Varner was tied at the time of the miscue, which was noted by CBS Sports analyst Ian Baker-Finch. Varner’s top was eventually shown in a highlight package some 90 minutes after it occurred.”
  • “The relative broadcast absences of Max Homa, one of the more popular PGA Tour players on social media, and Joel Dahmen. As the Twitter handle Deep Fried Egg pointed out, at one juncture Homa, then a stroke back of the lead, had only a single shot televised while Rickie Fowler-who was not in the field-had two highlights during the program.”
7. Rory talks Brooks & more
Adam Woodard at Golfweek draws on more of Rory McIlroy’s conversation with journalist Paul Kimmage…a few morsels…
  • “So, I go out in the final round and my midset was . . . It’s another round of golf . . . a great opportunity . . . I’m going to try to play well. And I was beaten on the day,” McIlroy remembered. “Obviously, Brooks played great and shot 65 but I think, more than anything, I was beaten by his intensity and his desire. I was too relaxed.”
  • “Later on in the season, McIlroy learned of a text Koepka sent to his friends before the final round in Memphis: “I’m going to crush him.”
  • “Yeah, and f*** he sort of did,” said McIlroy. “Well, Brooks and I have always got on great – we do get on great – but he was obviously taking that mindset, ‘It’s me and him’. And I guess it was a good thing that he thinks highly of me, or not highly of me, if he was saying he was going to crush me.”
8. Unplanned break ahead
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”When Muni He triumphed at LPGA Q-Series last November, she seized control of something every professional golfer holds dear: her schedule…”
  • “He, 20, decided early on that she’d skip the first three LPGA tournaments that she was eligible for and start 2020 on a three-week stretch in Asia, playing off of sponsor exemptions in limited-field events in Thailand and Singapore and the Blue Bay LPGA in her native China.”
  • “No one could’ve predicted that her first three starts would be canceled due to threats from the coronavirus. That control He worked so hard for went up in a puff of smoke. She’ll now make her first start of 2020 in late March at the LPGA event in Phoenix.”
9. Genesis a big success for Tiger…outside the ropes
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport rightly points out…”It was not his week on the course, obviously. But Woods’ time here was about more than how he fared inside the ropes. He has hosted this event for the last three years in conjunction with his TGR Live venture, but this was the first year the tournament formerly known as the L.A. Open was no longer an open. It’s an Invitational now, which means a reduced field size to 120, an increased purse and an elevated status.
  • “And the first year was, by any measure, a marked success-four cloudless days, a challenging Riviera that flashed its teeth all week and a bunched leader board that didn’t sort itself until late Sunday afternoon, when Adam Scott prevailed for a two-shot victory.”
  • “From a tournament perspective, it couldn’t have gone any better,” Woods said. “We’ve had perfect weather, people have come out and supported this event. Our elevation, being a part of the new invitational status, look at the players that come out and supported this event that have played this week, we couldn’t have asked for a more dream scenario. The golf course was fantastic. Everything couldn’t have been any better from that side.”

 

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Tour Rundown: Scott’s grit and guile, Queen Bee, Wofford’s pride

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The PGA Tour’s Cali Swing came to a close for 2020, while the Champions Tour returned to the continental USA after a stint in Morocco. The ladies of the LPGA stood tall in Australia, just as the Korn Ferry tour also docked in the lower 48, after time spent in South America. As the world of golf considers the pros and cons of a world tour, it’s easy to look around and see how such a grand plan might come to pass. As the globe continues to orbit, we take our turn in running down this week’s results.

PGA Tour: Scott claims 14th tour title with grit and guile

Say what you must about the back nine at the Augusta National, but I will stand the inward half at Riviera as the ultimate gut-check site in golf. For starters, we saw Tiger Woods go out in 4-under par on Thursday, stoking the embers of bonfires of hope everywhere. El tigre played the inward half in 36-38-41-39, so we know which high-school crush still makes him nervous! Wasn’t much different for the rest of the field; play the inward half well and you stand a chance. How about Adam Scott? After an inexplicable 37 on Thursday, he back-nined Riviera for 31-33-35. For those (like me) not counting, that’s the essential difference between what Tiger tallied, and what the tournament victor posted. Scott had his hands full, as players like Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, and late to the party: Sung Kang and Scott Brown. Both Kang and Brown closed fast, reaching -9, joining Kuchar in a tie for 2nd. They call Riviera Hogan’s Alley, for the playing record of the wee ice mon over its 18 holes. It begs the question, which Riviera was Hogan playing, that he could get that good, that repeatedly, over these beguiling, 18 holes?

LPGA: Queen Bee secures 20th title in Royal fashion. Could gold be next?

Inbee Park has been many things over the years: Major champion (she won her first LPGA event at the 2008 US Open); Olympic Gold Medalist (yup, that was her in Rio, wearing the bling); and now, comeback kid. Park was injured in 2017, and despite a victory in 2018, has yet to capture the stature that thrust her to #1 in the world, and 18 tour victories. Watch out, world; she might be back. Park stood sooo tall after three rounds; 67-69-68 had her at  15-under par over the glorious, Royal Adelaide course in Seaton. Only Ayean Cho managed to find similar altitude, with 3 rounds of 69 for -12. Would Cho solve the mystery of the final round, the one that eluded her last week, when she gave back a lead over the final 9 holes? In a word, no. She closed with 77 and dropped to -8 and a tie for 6th place. All part of the learning curve, as they say. With her playing partner stalled, Park played things close to the safety vest. She finished with a +1 74 on Sunday, good for a 3-putts margin of victory over new runner-up Amy Olson of the USA. If Inbee is rounding into form now, she’ll be a certain threat to claim a second gold medal this summer, in Japan.

Korn Ferry: Wofford’s pride birdies final two holes for 1st victory

You know you’re small when … your small town isn’t the bigger of the two small towns in an arguably-metro region. Spartanburg ain’t no Greenville, says no one in those parts, but it’s true. And Wofford College is a charming, southern institution of higher learning, located in the middle of Spartanburg. And Andrew Novak found a golf and learning home at Wofford. And now, he has a title and Wofford again has a pro tour winner. Again? You mean another Boston Terrier has won on tour? Uh-huh, one William McGirt, at the 2016 Memorial Tournament. According to my researchers, that’s all. The dynamic duo of McGirt and Novak.

Right, back to Andrew Novak. He and 5 other golfers reached 20-below par at the Lakewood National (not to be confused with other, national golf clubs) near Sarasota. Greyson Sigg, Chandler Blanchott, and David Kocher ran out of gas there, and tied for 4th. Taylor Montgomery actually reached -22, before a bogey at the last dropped him to -21 and solo 3rd place. John Chin had 5 birdies throught 7 back-nine holes, but failed to summon a 6th, and ended his run at -22. And Novak? He birdied 17 and 18, to jump from 3rd to 1st in the blink of an eye. Novak moved all the way from 26th to 3rd on The 25 chase for PGA Tour cards. He’ll certainly earn his for 2020-2021, but might he manage 2 more victories, for a battlefield promotion? Keep closing and the answer will be uh-huh. #GoTerriers

Tour Champions: The ultimate grinder peppermills his third Senior victory

Bernhard Langer, Stephen Leaney, and Chris DiMarco went out on Sunday and shot wonderful rounds … for the conclusion of a US Open. Hovering near par, on any day, would not bring baubles at the Chubb Classic. Bob Estes went out and posted 64, his best round of the week by 3, to reach 15-under par. He blazed past the aforementioned trinity, but could not reach the brass ring. That plum went to Scott Parel, probably the only Georgia Bulldog who never was … a Georgia Bulldog. Parel posted 63 on Sunday, eclipsing Estes’ 198 by 2 shots. The victory was Parel’s 3rd on the late-stage circuit, and was his first since October of 2018. Parel graduated from the large, state school in Athens, but never competed for the varsity squad. He made his living as a computer programmer, but never gave up his dream of playing professional golf. As a size 50+, he is now living that dream. Langer salvaged a tie for 3rd (with Kevin Sutherland) at -13. Ironically, Parel has been in two Champions playoffs in his career, and has lost both of them … to Kevin Sutherland. Good thing for him that the California native could “only” close with 67

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