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Morning 9: Shibuno’s win Ouimet-ish? | A sensible USGA rule change | Chamblee: Spieth must stop tinkering

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

August 6, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. 
1. Another Ouimet?
Helluva take from Geoff Shackelford regarding Hinako Shibuno’s Women’s British Open win.
  • “It may not be mentioned with Ouimet’s shocker at Brookline, Jack’s comeback in 86 or Tiger’s two most triumphant Masters wins in 1997 and 2019, but as far as golf tournaments I’ve watched Hinako Shibuno’s win at the 2019 British Women’s Open will rank with the wackiest, most improbable and most inexplicable.”
  • “She’s also just the second Japanese player to win one of golf’s major championships…Shibuno had never competed outside of Japan. At 20, I’m not thinking she’s multiple buddies trips to the heathland or linksland, so to say she was a tad green would not be rude.”

Full piece.

2. USGA relaxes U.S. Open exemption rule for U.S. Am winners
From some hack named Ben Alberstadt...No longer will the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions have to make the difficult decision of retaining amateur status to take advantage of the exemption into the U.S. Open.
  • The USGA announced today that, beginning in 2020, regardless of whether a player turns pro or remains an amateur s/he is still guaranteed a spot in the national open.
  • Previously, players were only entitled to the U.S. Open/U.S. Women’s Open spot if they maintained amateur status, leading to much handwringing over the decision to turn pro.
  • “We believe this change gives our champions an important option as they choose whether and when to embark on their professional careers,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA Senior Managing Director, Championships. “Given the significant purses awarded at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, we realize how important it is for players to make the most appropriate decision for his or her career, and the positive impact it could have at the outset of their professional careers.”

Full piece.

3. Spieth must stop tinkering!
….or risk oblivion! So says Brandel Chamblee, sort of.
  • Via Reuters…”Chamblee, citing British Open champions David Duval and Ian Baker-Finch as prime examples, pointed to a long list of players whose games went into permanent decline when they started tinkering with their swings.”
  • “(Spieth) is part of a problem that is going on in golf right now, almost an epidemic of players (aged from the mid-20s to mid-30s) who just disappear off the planet,” Chamblee said.
  • “If you put (Spieth) on a range and leave him alone he’ll put two and two together better than anybody else. You have to protect your talent and genius and do that at all costs. I see right now an onslaught of information overload.”

Full piece. 

4. How the FedEx Cup Playoffs work in 2019
Mike McAllister of PGATour.com refreshes us on the format for the end-of-season competition…
  • “The top 125 in regular-season FedExCup points qualify for the Playoffs. The points structure for the first two events will be quadrupled. At THE NORTHERN TRUST, 55 players will be eliminated, with the top 70 advancing to the second event, the BMW Championship. From there, 40 more players will be eliminated, with the top 30 moving on to the Playoffs finale, the TOUR Championship. This is similar to previous Playoffs, albeit with one less Playoffs event.”
  • “It’s at the TOUR Championship where the biggest change has been made…Instead of a points reset used in the previous format, the new format for East Lake starting this season involves a strokes-based bonus system called FedExCup Starting Strokes. Each player will start with a score (relative to par) corresponding to his position in FedExCup points after the BMW Championship…”
5. Pa Doc
Journalism students: This is a strong start to a feature: “Twenty-three years ago, a commercial real-estate agent named Charles (Doc) Cunningham took an old persimmon 5-wood and sawed it down for his 3-year-old grandson. It was the start of a long three-sided relationship between the man, the boy and the sport of golf.”
  • More from Shane Ryan on J.T. Poston’s grandfather/introduction to the game…”Of course, it would be easy to cast Cunningham as the kindly grandfather, but “kindly” is not a trait that wins PGA Tour events, and Poston’s mentor was every bit as focused as his grandson is today. Cunningham used to keep track of how often he shot his age, starting in his mid-60s when he first managed the feat, but the count rose so high as he grew older that he had to give up.”
  • “I want to say the last time I asked him and he told me, it was in the 600s, the number of times he shot his age,” Poston said.
  • “Even their games were similar-not extremely long off the tee, but very accurate and with a dynamic short game. And Poston didn’t just learn to love golf from Pa Doc, and he didn’t just learn to master the etiquette; he learned to win.”

Full piece. 

6. The 125
Who are the 125 golfers that made the FedEx Cup Playoffs?
Glad you asked…
Top 5, via PGATour.com…
1. Brooks Koepka: Looking to add the FedExCup to a three-win season that includes the PGA and a WGC.
2. Rory McIlroy: Shot a final-round 61 to win the RBC Canadian Open after winning THE PLAYERS.
3. Matt Kuchar: Two wins this season; finished a career-best second in the 2010 FedExCup.
4. Xander Schauffele: Back-to-back wins at WGC-HSBC and Sentry have him headed to East Lake again.
5. Gary Woodland: U.S. Open champ seeking his seventh East Lake appearance in the past nine years.

Remaining 120

7. ICYMI: Zac Blair triumphant
Perhaps lost in the shuffle yesterday, and potentially omitted by some zombified newsletter compilers, Zac Blair won the Ellie Mae Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour to secure his spot on the PGA Tour for 2019.
With plenty on his plate, ZB had seen his game slide. Rededicated, Blair took home a trophy.
  • Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Blair recorded his first Korn Ferry Tour victory Sunday at the Ellie Mae Classic, winning by a shot to secure his place among the 25 card earners after next week’s regular-season finale in Portland. Blair moved from 31st to 10th on the tour’s money list.”
  • “I’ve been playing really good the last four or five weeks, kind of knew that I was close, but at the same time I was kind of in a weird situation where I was playing a lot, so I knew I had to either take a break or get my card,” Blair said after shooting 3-under 67 to finish at 17 under, just ahead of runner-up Brandon Crick. “It was nice to lock it up, get it done, and [I’m] excited to get back out there [on Tour].
  • “The 28-year-old Blair, who played four seasons on the PGA Tour before losing his card prior to this season, was competing for the sixth straight week on the Korn Ferry Tour. Before that, he had just one week off after capping a nine-week stretch with a missed cut at the U.S. Open.”

Full piece. 

8. U.S. Women’s Am
Meanwhile, at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Waverly…
  • “Michaela Morard and Andrea Lee both shot 5-under 67 Monday to take the early lead entering Round 2 of stroke play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.”
  • “The field will be cut to 64 players after another round of stroke play Tuesday, with match play starting Wednesday and culminating in a 36-hole championship match Sunday at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss.”
  • Morard, a 2020 Alabama commit, was lingering around even par all day but finished with four consecutive birdies to shoot to the top of the leaderboard.”
9. How does your swing speed compare?
Excellent stuff from Chris Finn of Par4Success, writing for GolfWRX
  • “How fast a golfer swings the club has had an increasingly higher correlation to how much money the top PGA Tour professionals make in recent years-this is no secret.”
  • “What has been a secret, until now, is how fast other golfers your age swing and how you compare. No one has known, or if they have, they didn’t share it. We are going to reveal in this article, based on the research and data we have been collecting for over six years, where you stand compared to where you could be. No longer will you be held captive to father time and the belief that you are doomed to get worse with age!”
  • “After reading this article, you will see what is possible for you, depending on where you are in your golf life based on the cold, hard facts of science. The data sample we have is almost 800 golfers large and ranges from ages 10 to 80.  The really cool thing about this article, though, is that we aren’t stopping there. We are then going to dive into the top three tests that you can do at home that correlate to clubhead speed at an incredibly high level.”
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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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