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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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Tour News

Keegan Bradley Puts Srixon Z-Forged Blades in the bag

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This week at the BMW Championship, Srixon staff member Keegan Bradley switched irons from the cult classic Z745 to the company’s current Z-Forged blade irons.

For most players, an iron change is not something you would do during the playoffs, but when talking to the team at Srixon, Keegan had been trying to replace his set for a little while. The Z745s were getting on in years and with recent swing changes, he was also looking for more consistent numbers and distance control. That’s an impressive request from one of the top-50 ballstrikers on tour

Let’s take a quick look at his stats

  • 12th in Proximity to Hole with an average distance of 34.2″
  • 16th in Strokes Gained Approach with .642
  • 38th in Greens in Regulation at 68.45%

His new Z-Forged Iron setup is 4-PW with Nippon Tour 120 X shafts.

Although Keegan started the BMW Championship in 66th place in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, he still has a chance of making it to the Tour Championship with a solid weekend in Chicago.

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Senior golf: Practical suggestions for lowering your scores

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This is the second article is our senior series. I was away for a while, so let’s get back to helping you seniors! If you missed the first article, take a look.

I live just a few yards from the green of a par 3, and it never ceases to amaze me the number of times I see two shots turned into three. Or more. All golfers, (particularly seniors) looking to cut their scores need to pay attention, not just to putts, but to the simple up and down opportunities that they missed. The par three by my house plays anywhere from 160 to 200 years, has a pond bordering the green on the left, and out of bounds (MY HOUSE) on the right. So it’s not an easy hole, and golfers miss that green all day; but even the poorer shots will come within 15, maybe 20 yards of the green. I see no reason a player should leave that hole with anything more than a bogey. Yet I see fives and sixes more than you can imagine…a chip shot is a very simple shot to learn.

MOST of your senior golf years should be spent chipping, pitching and putting.  Here’s why:

After a certain age. or perhaps when one has played a certain number of years, your golf swing can be changed slightly at the most! By slightly I mean this: Let’s say you are a 15 handicap player, you are hitting around five greens a round in regulation. If you make huge improvement in your swing, you may get to seven greens a round in regulation (the average of a 10-handicap player). That still leaves you 11-12 times per round OFF THE GREEN. Now, it’s true of course that swing improvements can also lead to missing closer to the green, but even here we are talking perhaps a pitch instead of a chip from the edge. BOTH these shots are within the skill set of most any golfer if they think and play differently around the greens. Hitting more greens is not always in that player’s capability, but getting the golf ball in the hole in fewer strokes IS!

I’ll use the green by my house as an example: the green is over 25 paces (75 feet) long. Like most courses, carts are kept on the cart path on all par 3s. I can’t begin to tell you how many players leave the cart with ONE, maybe TWO clubs regardless of the length of the shot. Those clubs are very often a wedge (of some loft) and/or a sand/lob wedge. Again most golfers are short with their tee shots (on all holes not just par 3s). So now they are standing in front of chip possibly 70-80 feet long with a 55-degree club. They either stub it or skull it, leaving themselves in double-bogey (or worse) position. That club selection is like taking a hit on 16 in blackjack when the dealer is showing 6!

Again, I know studies show that ballstriking is primary. Of course, you have to get your swing to the point where you can get the ball in play off the tee, but let me ask this question: when ballstriking is as good as it is going to get, you will still miss plenty of greens. What then? Are you doomed to shoot 94 because your swing cannot change greatly? The answer is NO, if you think better, and learn to hit short shots better. A big change in a golf swing requires time and athleticism. Short shots need technique and feel, but MUCH less strength, flexibility or general athleticism.

As a general rule, I teach most of my students the following priority list when near the green

  • PUTT whenever you can
  • CHIP if you can’t putt
  • PITCH only when you must.

Putting and straightforward chipping or bumping-and-running is a MUCH higher percentage shot. Do yourself a favor and play the shot that you are most capable of NOT the one you’ve seen on TV. Look, you’re probably not gonna hole a chip or pitch, so where do you want to be on your next shot?

Many of you have heard of the “rule of 12.” I’m going to try to explain this as simple as possible and suggest quick math for the course.

  • Pace off the distance you want the golf ball to fly and land two paces (5-6 yards) on the green. NO FURTHER THAN THAT!
  • Let’s say that distance is 4 paces (two yards off the green, two yards to land on the green).
  • Now pace from that point to the hole. Let’s say for the sake of simplicity the hole is 8 yards (25 feet or so) from the landing spot.
  • You have a 2 to 1 relationship of carry to roll.
  • Here’s how to do quick course math in your head: 12-2=10 iron, PW
  • If you have 3X roll vs carry, 12-3=9, iron.
  • If you have 4X roll vs carry, 12-4=8 iron. and so on…
  • This is NOT CAST IN STONE, it is merely a guide.
  • NOTE:  This applies to chipping only; next time I’ll deal with pitching. And course, just like putting uphill, downhill, into grain, down grain etc. have to be taken into consideration.

 Simple drill:  Put a headcover two paces on the green. Chip to it, no further! See what club it takes to reach various hole positions.

No one knows better than a golf instructor of nearly 40 years how difficult it is to get someone to change their habits. I can’t tell you how many times I have suggested people try another approach around the green, and invariably they go right back to their “favorite club.” It’s your choice, but PLEASE practice your short game most of the time!

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Morning 9: U.S. Am, BMW report | Tiger’s start | ROY race

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

August 16, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Round 1 report
AP report on Justin Thomas’ opening-round 65…”On the range, Justin Thomas had no idea where the ball was going. Some five hours later, he had a share of the course record at Medinah.”
  • “Ultimately, all that mattered Thursday in the BMW Championship was taking a good step toward an important goal. Thomas already is set for the TOUR Championship next week and the chase for FedExCup and its $15 million prize. That’s not what interests him.”
  • “It’s about winning tournaments,” he said.
  • “He made his first birdie after hitting a tree on the fourth hole, leaving him a 5-iron he hit to 2 feet. His last birdie was a putt from about 60 feet on the fringe from the back of the 16th green. He did enough right in between for a 7-under 65 and a share of the lead with Jason Kokrak.”

Full piece.

2. U.S. Am
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard on the action from the Round of 16…
  • “The afternoon session on Pinehurst No. 2 began with a handful of lopsided matches, highlighted by Parker Coody’s 6 and 5 loss to Spencer Ralston. Before his Round of 16 loss, Coody had been cruising through match play with victories of 7 and 6 on Wednesday and 5 and 4 in Thursday’s morning Round of 32.”
  • “Georgia Tech’s Andy Ogletree followed suit shortly after with a 5 and 4 victory over Blake Hathcoat, with 17-year-old junior golfer Cohen Trolio defeating Alex Fitzpatrick by the same margin. Fellow teenager Palmer Jackson, 18, earned a 2 up victory over Isaiah Salinda, who earlier this Spring went 3-0 in match play to help lead his Stanford Cardinal to the NCAA national championship.”

Full piece.

Other matches: Austin Squires topped John Pak…William Holcomb V beat Pierceson Coody…Karl Vilips eliminated Brad Dalke…
3. Green in front
EuropeanTour.com report…”Gavin Green picked up where he left off 12 months ago with an opening 64 to take the first round lead at the D+D Real Czech Masters.”
  • “The Malaysian made his debut at Albatross Golf Resort last season and was one of four players to match the course record with an opening 64 before he went on to post the lowest 36 hole total in tournament history.”
  • “Another eight under par effort handed him the solo lead after 18 holes this time around, as he led the way from England’s Lee Slattery and South African Erik van Rooyen.”

Full piece.

4. Tiger’s start
Steve DiMeglio for Golfweek“On a day when most players were in the Diamond Lane rising to the top of the leaderboard as venerable Medinah Country Club was vulnerable after recent rains, Woods got stuck in the slow lane and got lost in the leaders’ rearview mirrors.”
  • “Woods put his signature to a pedestrian 1-under-par 71 on a day when nearly half the field was speeding along in the 60s. While breaking par was a victory for Woods after he was forced to withdraw from last week’s Northern Trust with an oblique strain, there was little to celebrate.”
  • “Once I got on the golf course and felt how soft the greens were, it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to make birdies,'” said Woods, who did make three in his first five holes but only one after that. “I didn’t feel any tightness in my oblique at all, so that was a positive, and I just need to clean up my rounds and get going. Seems like the whole field is under par. The golf course is soft. Even though it’s long, it’s just gettable.”
5. ROY race
Cameron Morfit at PGATour.com…”It was hard to miss the symbolism as Sungjae Im, 26th in the FedExCup and the current favorite for Rookie of the Year, stroked putts on the practice green after an opening-round, 2-under 70 at the BMW Championship at Medinah No. 3.”
  • “That’s because behind him, meeting the press after his 5-under 67, was Collin Morikawa.”
  • “…Five rookies have advanced to the 69-player BMW Championship: frontrunner Im (FedExCup No. 26), Morikawa (57), Cameron Champ (58), Adam Long (65) and Wyndham Clark (68).”
6. The fateful call
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…”Speaking on Wednesday night as part of his induction into the Western Golf Association’s Caddie Hall of Fame, LaCava regaled attendees with this simple back and forth between him and his current boss, Tiger Woods, circa 2011.”
  • Woods to LaCava: “Are you interested [in being my caddie]?”
  • LaCava: “F*** yeah, I’m interested!”

Full piece.

7. Viktor! 
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker…”When the PGA Tour regular season ended a couple of weeks ago, former Oklahoma State star Viktor Hovland found himself on the wrong side of getting his card straight out of college, coming up an agonizing 67 FedEx Cup points short.”
  • “Naturally, there was a swell of support that he should be granted one anyway, since in five of his starts he didn’t earn any points because he was an amateur. Among the finishes that didn’t count: A T-12 at the U.S. Open and a T-32 at the Masters. Had he been retroactively awarded those points, he would have earned enough to qualify for the Playoffs and more importantly gotten a card for next season.”
  • “I knew going in that most likely the way I had to make my PGA Tour card was through the Korn Ferry [Tour] Finals,” Hovland said from this week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Ohio, where he continues his quest to earn a PGA Tour card. “So I’m looking forward to getting off to a good start here at Scarlet.”

Full piece.

8. Top instructors on slow play
Digest’s Matthew Rudy chatted with some of the biggest names in instruction about pace-of-play in pro golf…
  • “Jim McLean (Jim McLean Golf School at the Biltmore, Coral Gables, Fla.): It’s a major issue. Slow play ruins golf, whether you’re talking about a tour event or a regular weekend round at a public course. How many tee times is a course losing when a round takes five and a half hours?”
  • “Mark Blackburn (Greystone Golf & Country Club, Birmingham, Ala.): Yes, it’s an issue for the Tour, but I wouldn’t call it a universal issue. So much of it has to do with course design. In the U.S., you’re usually riding, and the tee boxes are far away from the previous green. I walked 11 miles following [student] Chez Reavie in Kapalua. That takes time. A course with water and sand? It just takes longer. They’re not having the same problems in the U.K., where the classic courses have tees and greens that are closer together. You’re playing in two and a half hours over there.”

Full piece.

9. Screw the haters
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…”During the Wednesday round he recorded a video for another user’s Snapchat account, which was subsequently recorded and made the rounds in a more public manner.”
  • “In the video DeChambeau remains unapologetic, noting that despite the viral putt he was “never on the clock last week” at Liberty National.”
  • “I’m out here, doing the right thing, having a great time with the pro-am guys, killing it,” DeChambeau said. “And honestly, we’re on these guys’ asses all the time. Last week I played under time par, this week we’ll do the same thing.”
  • …”Y’all can say whatever you want, but we’re having a f—ing awesome time,” DeChambeau said. “So screw all y’all haters, no big deal. I still love you all, even though you hate me.”
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