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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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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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