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Morning 9: Stiffening Tiger, limited practice | Koepka, McIlroy on slow play | Ko responds to ‘haters”

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

August 8, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans. 
1. Stiffening Tiger, limited practice
ESPN’s Bob Harig reports on a stiff and ginger Wednesday for Tiger Woods at The Northern Trust…
  • “Woods spent most of the back nine of his pro-am round Wednesday just chipping and putting as he experienced stiffness and soreness during his early-morning warm-up session and did not want to take any chances prior to the start of the Northern Trust on Thursday.”
  • “It’s best to be smart about it,” Woods said afterward. “This is kind [of] how it is; some days I’m stiffer than others.”
  • “…All was fine during a nine-hole Tuesday practice round with Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Harold Varner. Woods then attended a dinner with players in the running to make the U.S. Presidents Cup team that he will captain in December.”
  • “Woods said. “As I’ve said to you guys all year, this is how it is. Some days I’m stiffer than others. Yesterday I was out there hitting it great. Driving it out there with Brooksy and D.J. Today, I’m stiff. Hopefully I’m not that way [Thursday].”

Full piece.

2. BK and Rory on slow play
Via Andy Kostka of Golfweek…
  • Koepka: “I get that you can take a long time for your thought process, but once you’re done thinking about it, just go. What else is there to do? That’s been the problem I have,” Koepka said Wednesday. “It’s just gotten out of hand. It seems now that there are so many sports psychologists and everybody telling everybody that they can’t hit it until they are ready, that you have to fully process everything. I mean, I take 15 seconds and go, and I’ve done all right.”
  • McIlroy: “For me, I think the guys that are slow are the guys that get too many chances before they are penalized,” McIlroy said. “So, it should be a warning and then a shot. It should be, you’re put on the clock and that is your warning, and then if you get a bad time while on the clock, it’s a shot. That will stamp it out right away.
  • “I don’t understand why we can’t just implement that. We are not children that need to [be] told five or six times what to do. OK, you’re on the clock. OK, I know if I play slowly here, I’m going to get penalized, and I think that’s the way forward.”
3. Lydia to the “haters”
Perhaps a coincidence the post comes a day after former coach David Leadbetter questioned Ko and her parents…
(Via Ko’s Instagram)
4. Cards are on the line!
If the drama of the FedEx Cup Playoffs doesn’t quite capture your attention, a reminder about the opposite end of the spectrum: the end of the Korn Ferry Tour’s regular season.
  • Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“The Korn Ferry Tour will conclude its regular season this week at the Winco Foods Portland Open, with 25 players earning guaranteed promotions to the PGA Tour for the 2019-20 season. China’s Xinjun Zhang currently tops the season-long points race, with veterans Henrik Norlander (eighth), Mark Hubbard (ninth) and Zac Blair (10th) all set to return to the main circuit.”
  • “Former college standouts Robby Shelton and Scottie Scheffler are second and third, respectively, in the standings, and they’ll become PGA Tour rookies next season. So, too, will Maverick McNealy, who moved from 28th to 20th at the regular season’s penultimate event.”
5. Not keeping track
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Two weeks ago, Koepka won the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational ($1.745 million) followed by the Wyndham Rewards for earning the most FedExCup points this season ($2 million) and the Aon Risk Reward Challenge ($1 million). That’s $4.745 million in two weeks with three FedExCup playoff events and a $15 million bonus for the points leader, who is currently Koepka, looming.”
  • “While most would be keenly aware of the financial possibilities of the next few weeks, Koepka explained that he’s never been fixated on that side of his profession.”
  • “I just love the competition,” he said on Wednesday at The Northern Trust. “I think back to when I’m 5 years old, and you wanted to be the best player in the world…”

Full piece.

6. Tiger talks 
Tiger Woods has, historically, always had his talking points in interviews. We’ve heard him discuss how “his kids associated golf with pain” for the 15-time major champion, but it’s still an astonishing truth.
Woods expanded on the theme Wednesday, walking with CBS This Morning’s Dana Jacobson during his full-shot free pro-am…
  • (Per Golfweek’s Bill Speros) “Daddy has won golf tournaments, and he’s not the YouTube guy. He’s not the YouTube golfer. You know, that they – that they’ve seen the highlights,” Woods said in an interview with “CBS This Morning” correspondent Dana Jacobson set to air Thursday. “They see highlights of that guy. You know, I’m not that guy. I can still do it.”
  • ...”I am just Dad. That’s all they know. They associated golf with pain. And, you know, that was – that’s – you know, still is one of the tougher things that they’re both excited I’m playing again. But also, ‘You OK, Dad?’ You know, that kinda thing. It – ’cause they – they remember those times when Dad couldn’t get off the couch,” Woods said.

Full piece.

7. Why Stenson is skipping 
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker…
  • “Though it was known since Friday when the field was announced that the Stenson, 43, wouldn’t be teeing it up at Liberty National, the reason was unclear until Tuesday. Stenson announced on Instagram that he was skipping the PGA Tour’s postseason so he could “practice and recharge [his] batteries” in his native Sweden before playing in the Scandinavian Invitation later this month.”
  • “Formerly known as the Nordea Masters on the European Tour, the Scandinavian Invitation is scheduled for Aug. 22-25-the same week as the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake, where $15 million will go to the season-long champ.”

Full piece.

8. Dinner on Harry?
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…“During the pro-am at the Northern Trust, the world No. 3 was given a target by his caddie Harry Diamond: shoot better than 3-under on his own ball and the bagman would pick up the tab at a planned dinner with friends on Friday night in Manhattan. A relaxed McIlroy cruised around Liberty National with a couple shots to spare, leaving Diamond likely facing a bill with a comma in a couple days. Diamond admitted he won’t mind if the boss keeps up that scoring pace and wins on Sunday, since his share of the $1.6 million first prize would cover the tab at New York’s finest eateries.”

Full piece.

9. Well played, Fax! 
Credit to Geoff Shackelford for spotting this piece from Joe Kayata at NBC-10 Providence.
  • “Metacomet Golf Club is a 118-year-old Donald Ross design that was once one of the state’s most luxurious golf courses that attracted the who’s who of Providence.”
  • “But since the recession in 2008, the club hit hard financial times and membership has suffered.”
  • “That’s until a new investment group that features Brad Faxon purchased the course in March with the intention of restoring the club to its former glory.”
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  1. bruce

    Aug 8, 2019 at 8:07 am

    My idea to address slow play:

    1. All players in a tournament to have their shots timed.
    2. After Thursday’s play a list of every player’s average time taken to play their shots is published so everyone can see who is the slowest,
    giving all a chance to improve the following day.
    3. After Friday’s play, the top five slowest players have one extra shot added to their score.
    4. This will mean that those on the cut line may miss out, those at the top may lose the chance of finishing in top spot.

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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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