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Morning 9: Tour Championship | Brooke Henderson | Decline of cookie-cutter swings

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

August 23, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1 New normal
After 1…Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, and Justin Thomas are all tied at the top.
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister…
  • “I guess it was a little bit strange,” said Casey when asked about teeing off eight shots behind. “It was nice once everybody was on the golf course.”
  • Unlike previous TOUR Championships in the FedExCup era, there’s only one leaderboard needed this week. Once the leaderboard started to fill up Thursday, and players knew exactly where they stood, it seemed, well, a bit normal.
  • “It didn’t feel that much different, to be honest with you,” said 2016 FedExCup champ Rory McIlroy, who started five shots behind Thomas but shot a 66 and is now just a stroke off the lead. “… I sort of had the mindset this week that I’m starting on even par, and I’m going to try to shoot a good four-round total and see where that leaves me at the end of the week.”
  • Said Koepka: “You could say I played it like a five-day event. I knew I was three down and … by the time the turn comes, try to get back to all square.”

Full piece

2. Brooks in the buff
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on BK’s ESPN Body Issue shoot…
“Koepka said the photos were taken at The Floridian in the spring and prompted him to lose 22 pounds in four months. Although he was pleased with the photo shoot he did acknowledge that there were some strange moments.”
  • “Getting naked is a bit weird; the first time you actually pull that robe off in front of 30, 40 people,” said Koepka, who was tied for the lead at East Lake after an opening 67.
  • “He said the weirdest moment came on a tee box as the photographers attempted to get a “face on” shot while Koepka’s swing coach Claude Harmon III was giving a lesson around the corner.
  • “I see Claude teaching this maybe 12-year-old kid, and his mom is just over here. I’m like, this is awkward. And Claude’s peeking around the corner laughing,” Koepka laughed. “You know, it’s fun. I’m pretty sure everybody that was at the golf course saw me that day, but whatever.”

Full piece.

3. Women’s Canadian Open
Defending champ, national hero is one back…
Golf Channel’ Randall Mell…”Henderson, 21, picked up right where she left off a year ago.”
  • “With a 6-under-par 66, she seized sole possession of the lead through the morning wave at Magna Golf Club. A strong gallery was there early to support her bid to win the national women’s open in back-to-back years.”
  • “To get a solid round like this in in front of them I think is really a confidence booster for me,” Henderson said. “Gives me a lot of momentum going into the next three days.”
  • “Henderson’s ball striking was sharp. She hit all but two fairways and all but two greens in regulation and converted seven of the birdie opportunities she gave herself, against a single bogey.”

Full piece.

4. Mr. East Lake?
Golf Channel’s Carson Williams…”There’s something about East Lake that seems to bring out the best in Xander Schauffele.”
  • “Just the style of this tournament being a limited field. It’s pretty exclusive,” Schauffele said. “It’s very relaxed. For how important and how topnotch this tournament is, it’s a very surprisingly relaxed week.”
  • “Schauffele certainly looked relaxed in Thursday’s opening round of the Tour Championship. He began the day at 4 under, six back of leader Justin Thomas, but quickly made up the ground and ultimately signed for a bogey-free, 6-under 64 to take a share of the lead with Thomas and Brooks Koepka.”
5. Scandinavian Invitation
AP report…”Wade Ormsby holed a 4-iron from 196 yards for eagle on his way to shooting a bogey-free, 8-under 62 at the Scandinavian Invitation, giving him the first-round lead in the European Tour event on Thursday.”
“The Australian’s eagle at the par-4 14th hole came in an opening-nine 28, after starting his round at No. 10. He also rolled in six birdies, including three straight from the 16th hole.”
6. Grayson! 
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Former PGA Tour winner Grayson Murray opened the Albertsons Boise Open with a 7-under 64 to grab a share of the lead in the second leg of the Korn Ferry Finals.”
  • “Murray won the 2017 Barbasol Championship, but his PGA Tour exemption for that win expired earlier this month. He was sidelined for much of the summer with an injured back, not playing on Tour after withdrawing from the Valero Texas Open in April. But Murray made a pair of rehab starts on the Korn Ferry Tour, including a T-2 at the Rex Hospital Open, and is participating in the three-event Finals as part of a medical extension.”

Full piece.

7. Timing Bryson
Joel Beall and the Golf Digest folks kept tabs on Bryson at East Lake…
  • “This comes with a caveat. DeChambeau was often the second player to hit, his drives a good 30 to 40 yards farther than Reavie. As such, he often had a generous amount of prep that wasn’t clocked (we didn’t time him during Reavie’s setup and shot). Even with the asterisk, DeChambeau’s average time of 43.57 seconds is more nuanced than the number conveys.”
“Almost half his approaches took less than 30 seconds, with a personal-best of 20.34 seconds at the par-4 eighth. However, there was no middle ground. If he wasn’t pulling the trig fast, it was a drawn-out process, even on a punch-out at the fifth (one minute, nine seconds) that went all of 30 yards. Aside from the third hole, there wasn’t much wind to calculate, and DeChambeau mostly kept his ball out of trouble. That he spent more than 40 seconds in three instances, including the punch-out, after waiting on Reavie (37.82 seconds average on approach) was somewhat odd. Although it did lead to this gem from a marshal on the fifth: “He’s trying to make Thanksgiving dinner when all he needs is a PB&J.”
8. Cherishing the experience
AP Report…Vancouver’s Michelle Liu was excited about striping her opening tee shot Thursday at the CP Women’s Open, but the 12-year-old left her history-making LPGA debut frustrated.
  • “Definitely wasn’t my best performance, I would say,” Liu said after opening with a 9-over-par 81. “My chipping wasn’t where it needed to be.”
  • Liu became the youngest player to tee it up in the 47-year history of Canada’s national women’s open, but she shed some tears of frustration in the end.
  • “Pretty disappointed about my score,” Liu said.
9. Decline of the cookie-cutter swing? 
 
Golf Digest staff….”We asked four top teachers from Golf Digest’s national and state rankings to discuss how (or if!) this new “freedom” will trickle down into the amateur player’s weekend game.”
What does a player like Matthew Wolff mean for golf?
  • “Rick Silva (Movement 3 Golf, Highland Park, Ill.): If you had walked down the range at a tour event the past 20 years, you’d have seen a lot of the same swings-almost robotic ones. I think the resurgence of individuality on tour is a great thing, and a real opportunity. It’s going to give tour players and recreational players permission to go beyond the numbers they see on a launch monitor or the images in a video to find what works for them.”
  • “Nick Clearwater (GolfTEC Vice President of Instruction, Denver): If I was a casual observer of golf from my couch, I’d be excited about the future of the sport. There are all these young players with fresh attitudes and different swing styles. It’s exciting. But how some of the swing stuff moves down to the average player is going to be terrifying! There are still plenty of people who think that the most noticeable thing is the most important thing, and the starting point for what you should be working on.”
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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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