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Morning 9: U.S. Solheim captain’s picks | Possibilities of Koepka-McIlroy | POY Koepka

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

August 27, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. (PGA) Player of the year: Brooks Koepka
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall on Brooks Koepka pipping Rory McIlroy a day after McIlroy bested him at the Tour Championship.
  • …”The PGA of America announced Koepka as its Player of the Year Monday afternoon, edging McIlroy for the honors.”
  • “The PGA uses a year-long points formula to determine its winner, with tournament victories, official money standings, and scoring averages featured in its equation. Koepka’s wins at the PGA Championship, WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and C.J. Cup bestowed 50 points, 10 more than McIlroy accumulated for his Players Championship, Canadian Open and FedEx Cup triumphs.”
  • “That category proved to be the difference maker, with Koepka finishing with 84 points to McIlroy’s 78.”

Full piece.

2. Inkster’s picks
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols says captain Inkster got it right…”U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster made the right call. She needed more veterans on the 2019 roster. She needed leadership. For those screaming for new blood, consider that only two of the 10 players who automatically qualified for the U.S. team were in Germany four years ago.”
  • “It was a new-look American team well before Inkster picked Morgan Pressel and Stacy Lewis to round out the 12.”
  • “Why not simply go with current form?…Because this isn’t like any other tour stop. Line up a dozen Hall of Famers and ask them to talk about Solheim Cup nerves. They’ll all tell you there’s nothing else like it in golf. And that playing overseas with fans rooting against you – loudly – can be overwhelming.”

Full piece.

3. No Creamer, Kerr
Here’s Golf Channel’s Randall Mell on Christie Kerr missing out…
  • “Kerr failed to make the team off the U.S. points list, via the Rolex world rankings or as one of Juli Inkster’s two captain’s picks. Her swing has been uncharacteristically out of sorts all summer. She has missed the cut in her last four starts in stroke-play events and in three of the last four major championships.”
  • “Kerr put out an Instagram post as her statement Monday before heading to the Cambia Portland Classic to play this week, saying she wouldn’t be fielding questions about the Solheim Cup while there.”
  • “It’s with a heavy heart that I say I won’t be going to the Solheim Cup,” she wrote. “I hold no bad feelings for Captain Inkster or any of the team. At the end of the day, you want the USA to bring home the trophy, and I could have made the team outright over the last 2 years. I want to sincerely wish captain @juliinkster and Team USA the best of luck and want to say congratulations to my amazing friend @mpressel for making the team. You’ve worked so hard these past few years! I’m so very proud of you!! Go bring that cup back girls!!! USA ALL THE WAY . . .

Full piece.

4. A new rivalry emergeth?
John Feinstein…”What made Sunday an important day for golf is this: McIlroy and Brooks Koepka went head-to-head in the final pairing for the second time in a month and-this time-McIlroy won. Previously at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Koepka shot a final-round 65 to win his third title of the year. McIlroy fell back to a tie for fourth with a 71 that day.”
  • “This time, the roles were reversed. It was McIlroy who went low, with a four-under-par 66 (best score of the final round) and Koepka who spun his wheels, shooting a surprising two-over-par 72 to drop into a tie for third.”
  • “Would it have been better if, in both cases, the two had dueled one another for 18 holes, with one dropping a winning birdie putt at 18? Yes.”
  • “But what we appear to have now is a real rivalry between the two best players in the world. “I wanted some revenge for Memphis,” McIlroy said, moments after his last birdie putt dropped in Atlanta.”
5. Most disappointing 2019? 
ESPN’s crew discussed, among other things, which player on Tour had the most disappointing year?
  • “Harig: Jordan Spieth. Jason Day is a close second, but for the second straight season, Spieth didn’t win and struggled mightily for much of it. The weekend woes continued, and although he showed improvement toward the end of the year, he was never really able to get to the back nine of a Sunday with a chance. It’s odd to think he has gone more than two years without winning. And he’s likely not going to be part of the U.S. Presidents Cup team.”
  • “Collins: Jason Day. I’m worried about Day in a way I’m not worried about Jordan Spieth. My worry with Day is not just on the golf course, but off. Not in a bad way, just in a way that juggling fatherhood and being the best golfer in the world can wreck a golf game. I think the caddie switch to Steve Williams was a mistake. I don’t think he can bring his old caddie(s) back, so I’m worried that this year was not an aberration.”
  • “O’Connor: Funny, but if Tiger Woods didn’t win the Masters, he’d be a candidate given the fact that he closed 2018 like a freight train. And every year that passes without Rickie Fowler winning a major makes him a candidate, too. But I’d go with Jordan Spieth, too. Went winless — again. Missed the Tour Championship — again. The sport will be better off when Spieth returns to relevance.”

Full piece.

6. Brooks
A few of BK’s remarks following the Tour Championship, per Dan Kilbridge at Golfweek…
  • “Just one of those days where you don’t feel comfortable,” Koepka said. “I mean, I can’t bring it every day.”
  • …Koepka won a career-high three events, including the PGA Championship, and might have been even better than he was while winning two major titles in 2018.
  • “I mean, I like two majors a little bit better,” Koepka said. “But at the same time, I thought my consistency was a little better. I think if you take away the major wins, I would say this year is probably better. … This year was very, very consistent. I felt like every time I needed to, I played well. You know, this week, just didn’t get it done. I don’t think I was going to beat Rory today, even if I had it. But pleased with the season overall.”

Full piece.

7. McIlroy the digital minimalist?
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard...”His tome of choice for the finale was “Digital Minimalism.” But before you think the Northern Irishman has jumped the anti-technology shark, consider the circumstances.”
  • “[The book] was lying on the bed the other night, and I was on my phone, and Erica [his wife] said, that’s ironic,” McIlroy laughed. “It’s just using [technology] the right way, I guess.”
  • ….”Some of the work that I’ve put in on the mental side of the game and some of the things I’ve been doing, I definitely think you’re starting to see the fruition of that,” McIlroy said at East Lake where he became just the second player, after Tiger Woods, to win the FedExCup twice. “Just a different approach, a little bit of a different attitude. That attitude and that consistency day in, day out, I think that’s what you’ve seen over the course of this year.”
8. …and a word on an equipment adjustment McIlroy’s tweak
Good stuff from PGATour.com’s highlighting what Rory McIlroy told the site earlier in the year about his switch to the TaylorMade Spider X.
  • “McIlroy: I love it. I loved it from the start. They first showed it to us at this photo shoot that we did in October in Florida, and I loved it. It’s a little bit more compact than the original Spider. I love the white channel. For me, one of my bad habits in my putting is that I would address the putter a little out at the toe. So to have that white channel right in the middle – that white channel is the exact same width as a golf ball – I can center the golf ball on that.”
  • “For me, having that contrast between the white channel and the black line… I’ve never aimed the putter as well as I have with that. Without even making any changes mechanically to my stroke, my stroke has gotten better because I aim my putter correctly. I make a stroke that starts the ball on the line that I’m aiming and there are no compensations throughout the stroke at all. So the putter has actually made me stroke it better. I went to The Kingdom (TaylorMade’s performance center in Carlsbad, California) and we tested it all in February, and my stroke between last year and this year is so different, so that’s been huge.”
9. Best drivers
I’m proud of the best driver piece we put together, so I want to call your attention to it in case you might not have seen it.
I wrote on Instagram: We believe in fitting foremost-especially if you’re going to invest hundreds of dollars in a driver. We believe the best driver for you will depend on a number of factors, not the least of which are your swing speed and (the other half of the battle) the shaft. Accordingly, we surveyed 13 of the best fitters around to see which drivers they were fitting players in three swing speed categories into, as well as their recommendation for the most forgiving driver overall. In short, what’s presented in this graphic is the shortlist of what we believe to be the best options in each category. If you don’t have access to a fitter, we don’t believe you’ll go wrong picking from the list. However, the BEST way to select the BEST DRIVER for you is to test the short-listed drivers in multiple configurations with multiple shafts under the eye of a reputable fitter on a launch monitor. Don’t settle for what works for a robot, what wins a gold medal, or what your buddy says is great.
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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,125 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen and more.

Last year, Keith Mitchell canned a 15-footer on the 72nd hole, outlasting Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka.

Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from PGA National.

General galleries

Special galleries

Vijay Singh using custom Mizuno MP-20 irons with lofts modified enough they had to stamp new numbers. Link to his full WITB

Camilo Villegas with old-school Air Jordans

Close up of Tommy Fleetwood’s putting grip

Luke Donald with a new putting training aid

LA Golf has a couple of new shafts

Brooks Kopeka with his pink and white Nike Air Zoom Infinity Tour shoes

Odyssey Stroke Lab Ten with new sightlines.  Link to galleries and discussion

Kevin Streelman is a huge Chicago Cubs fan, so he went to a spring training game and had the players sign his staff bag (to be fair, he probably took just the panel and not the whole bag)

Jim Furyk has gone back to his standard length putter and cross-handed after trying the arm-lock style for a while.

Kyle Stanley’s coach is taking a worm’s-eye view of Kyle’s alignment and stroke.

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Morning 9: Koepka talks golf | Tiger’s Champions Dinner menu | Tour caddies and hot seats

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1. Koepka talks golf
Adam Woodard at Golfweek…The former World No. 1 – who now sits third behind Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – opened up in great detail in a profile in GQ about what he would change about the game of golf, a sport that he truly loves despite some outside perception.
  • “One thing I’d change is maybe the stuffiness,” said Koepka, who’s never viewed himself as just a golfer. “Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn’t always have to be that way. That’s part of the problem.”
  • ...”Everybody always says, ‘You need to grow the game.’ Well, why do you need to be so buttoned-up? ‘You have to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ‘You’re not allowed in here unless you’re a member – or unless the member’s here.’…
  • …”I just think people confuse all this for me not loving the game. I love the game. I absolutely love the game,” said Koepka. “I don’t love the stuffy atmosphere that comes along with it. That, to me, isn’t enjoyable.”

Full piece.

2. Fajitas and sushi
“Being born and raised in SoCal, having fajitas and sushi was a part of my entire childhood, and I’m going back to what I had in 2006,” Woods said. “So, we’ll have steak and chicken fajitas, and we’ll have sushi and sashimi out on the deck, and I hope the guys will enjoy it.”
  • “Woods also said he’s considering serving milkshakes for desert like he did during the 1998 dinner.”
  • “That was one of the most great memories to see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead having milkshakes that night in ’98,” he said.”

Full piece.

3. Why a tour caddie is always on the hot seat 
The Undercover Tour Caddie writeth again…“I’ve been lucky to partner with 18 players on the PGA and developmental tours, four of which were longtime appointments. I’ve also been fired 17 times-and among my friends, that’s on the low end of the spectrum…”
  • “The majority of the time, the breakups are amicable and done in person. I consider myself friends with almost all the players I’ve worked for, and though there were some strong emotions from both sides when it came time to disband, I get it. This is a business, and they’re making a business decision. Plus, you don’t want to burn any bridges. I’ve had two guys toss me aside after a month’s work, only for them to circle back within the year, one of which ended up sticking for five seasons.”
  • “There have been callous splits. In the early 2000s, I was trying to get my guy to hit an 8-iron on an approach at the 71st hole. He was adamant that 9 was the play. I strongly, but respectfully, said he needed to club up. He went with the 9; his ball came up short of the green, and he couldn’t get up and down. That bogey dropped us out of the top 10. He fired me after signing his card, claiming he needed someone “who has faith in me.” Hey, I had faith-faith that his 9 was the wrong club.”

Full piece.

4. The best part of Tiger’s Masters win…
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”Last April at Augusta National Golf Club, behind the 18th green, after tapping in for a one-stroke victory and fifth Masters triumph, there were hugs all around, none sweeter than those from his daughter and son.”
  • “I think what made it so special is that they saw me fail the year before at the British Open. I had gotten the lead there and made bogey, double, and ended up losing to Francesco,” Woods said. “To have them experience what it feels like to be part of a major championship and watch their dad fail and not get it done, and now to be a part of it when I did get it done, I think it’s two memories that they will never forget. And the embraces and the hugs and the excitement, because they know how I felt and what it felt like when I lost at Carnoustie … to have the complete flip with them in less than a year, it was very fresh in their minds.”
  • “It’s a long and rambling thought, and totally justified in the context of all the emotion woven into the two experiences. Some things are just difficult to express cogently, and the struggle with doing so only underscores their impact.”
5. Dream of Coul is dead
Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”Coul Links was supposed to be Scotland’s next great links golf course. Envisioned to be built by Coore-Crenshaw on a protected wildlife site in Embo on dunes near Dornoch, those hopes took a serious blow on Feb. 21, when the Scottish government denied planning permission for a project spearheaded by golf course developer Mike Keiser.”
  • “I’m moving on. I have so many other projects,” Keiser tells The Forecaddie. “God bless Dornoch.”
  • “In its decision notice, Scottish Ministers determined that the proposed development would adversely affect the local environment, stating in their findings that the “likely detriment to natural heritage is not outweighed by the socio-economic benefits of the proposal.”
6. Koepka: Great round of golf with Trump
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…“In a profile in GQ, Koepka…talked about a recent round with President Trump…Koepka, his father, younger brother Chase and President Trump “had a blast” at Trump’s course in West Palm Beach.”
  • “It was nice to have my family there, my dad, my brother. Anytime it’s with a president, it’s pretty cool,” said Koepka. “I don’t care what your political beliefs are, it’s the President of the United States. It’s an honor that he even wanted to play with me.”
  • “I respect the office, I don’t care who it is,” added Koepka. “Still probably the most powerful man in the entire world. It’s a respect thing.”

Full piece.

7. Tiger on lengthening Augusta National 
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport…”Augusta National has been at the forefront of trying to keep it competitive, keep it fair, keep it fun, and they’ve been at the forefront of lengthening the golf course,” Woods said. “Granted, they have the property and they can do virtually whatever they want. They have complete autonomy. It’s kind of nice.
  • “But also they’ve been at the forefront of trying to keep it exciting as the game has evolved. We have gotten longer, equipment changed, but they’ve been trying to keep it so the winning score is right around the 12- to 18-under-par mark, and they have.”
8. Inside the Bear Trap
Golf Channel Digital team…“Here’s a look at some of the notable Bear Trap stats according to the PGA Tour (all figures since 2007, when the tournament moved to PGA National):”
  • “Among non-majors, the Bear Trap ranks as the third-toughest three-hole stretch on Tour at 0.644 over par on average. It’s behind only Nos. 16-18 at Quail Hollow (+0.873) and Nos. 8-10 at Pebble Beach (+0.673).”
  • “The Honda Classic field is a combined 3,629 over par across the Bear Trap and 4,934 over par across the other 15 holes at PGA National.”
  • “543 different players have played at least one competitive round at the Honda since 2007, with 76 percent (415) of them hitting at least one ball in the water on the Bear Trap.”

Full piece.

9. San Diego muni renovations (including Torrey)
Jason Lusk of Golfweek…“San Diego’s city council has allotted $15 million for upgrades and renovations to the city’s three municipally operated golf facilities including Torrey Pines’ South Course, site of the 2021 U.S. Open, according to a report Tuesday by the San Diego Union-Tribune.”
  • “…The $15 million approved Monday by the city council also will include contract work at San Diego’s other municipally operated golf facilities at Balboa Park and Mission Bay, the Union-Tribune reported. The courses will remain open during the jobs that include installing new irrigation systems and drainage, replacing and repairing cart paths, renovating bunkers and tree work.”

 

*featured image via Augusta National/the Masters

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Tour Rundown

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@asiapacgolfgrp

Only two of the world’s featured tours were in action this week, but the golf that they provided was memorable and historic. Not the type of historic that you find in school books, but certainly the type that golf aficionados point to, down the road. On the one hand, a prodigious yet poliarizing talent demonstrated complete control down the stretch, during his march to a 2nd World Golf Championship victory. On the other, a precocious competitor joined into a talented triumvirate with a marvelous birdie at the last, to secure an inaugural PGA Tour championship.Tuesday Tour Rundown is back, for this week only!

WGC-Mexico flies away in the hands of Patrick Reed 

Golf Twitter, depending on your perspective, is either entertaining or inflamatory. As happens in the world today, people take sides. In the case of Patrick Reed, that’s not difficult. One either forgives (or denies) Reed’s free interpretation (on multiple occasions) of the rules and their enforcement, or one preserves a disregard for a leading player who simply doesn’t act like one. What isn’t up for debate, is Reed’s seizure of this week’s World Golf Championship in Mexico. What looked for so long like a Bryson-DeChambaeau win, ultimately stowed away in Patrick Reed’s check-on pouch.

The tournament came down to the aforementioned duo. Both Jon Rahm and Erik Van Rooyen swam along the margin, but neither made enough of a Sunday move to figure in the outcome. Both, in fact, tied for 3rd place, 2 back of DeChambeau and 3 behind the champion. Bryson and his on-display muscles barged out of the 10th-hole gate like a man (and muscles) on a mission. Birdies at 4 of the first 5 holes on the inward half, staked him to a 2-shot advantage. Over the closing four, however, the magic went away, and a bogey at the penultimate hole brought him back to 17-under par.

Reed looked like a man playing for second. His long game was nothing exceptional, but his putter kept him afloat, time and again. And then, whatever DeChambeau had in his water bottle, came over to Reed. Birdies at 15, 16 and 17 suddenly brought the 2-shot advantage to the 2018 Masters champion. Even the cough of an expectorant fan, mid-backswing on the 18th, was not enough to convulse the champion. A closing bogey made the margin closer than it was, and Reed jumped from 33rd to 5th in the FedEx Cup standings.

PGA Tour Puerto Rico is Viktor Hovland’s debut decision

It wasn’t as mauling as Tyson Fury’s technical decision over Deontay Wilder, but Viktor Hovland and Josh Teater came down the stretch in Puerto Rico, like a pair of pugilists. The young Norwegian, Hovland, was pitted against the career grinder, Teater. First it was the veteran, with 3 birdies on the opening nine, to reach minus-19. Hovland chipped away, with a birdie at 5, and a 2nd at 10. And then, Teater hit Hovland with a right-cross (or Hovland hit himself with a sucker punch; you make the call.) Triple bogey! A startling six at the 11th, dropped Hovland into a tie with Teater (bogeys of his own on 10 and 11) who now had new life … and new pressure.

To his credit, Teater didn’t back down. He made birdies at 15 and 17, to recoup the lost shots at the turn. Unfortunately for him, tour victory the first would have to wait. Hovland, the Oklahoma State alumnus, made a sensational eagle at the 15th, to counter Teater’s birdie, and reclaim the advantage. The pair reached the 18th tee, a par five, all square, and it was there that Hovland dealt the final thrust. He took every bit of break out of a 25-feet birdie putt, and banged it into the hole. With the win, Hovland joined Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa as anticipated winners who actually won. Now comes the hard part: winning again and reaching a new echelon of champion.

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