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Morning 9: Tiger’s knee surgery (and new normal) | POY award and what matters | Lee Elder

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

August 28, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans. While his back has rightfully been the focus of injury concerns, remembering Tiger Woods’ knees are a veritable Swiss cheese of arthroscopic entry and he’s had no shortage issues beneath his patellas is hardly encouraging.
1. Knee surgery for Tiger
Our Gianni Magliocco…”On Tuesday, Tiger Woods announced that he had “an arthroscopic last week on his knee to repair minor cartilage damage.”
  • “Within the statement posted to his social media, Woods’ doctor who performed the surgery, Dr. Vern Cooley, explained that he expects Woods “to make a full recovery” and that there was “no additional problems” post-surgery.”
  • “Woods is scheduled to play in the new Zozo Championship in Japan in October, and the 15-time major champion ended his statement by stressing that he fully expects to be ready to compete by then.”
  • “I’m walking now and hope to resume practice in the next few weeks. I look forward to traveling and playing in Japan in October.”
  • The Zozo Championship will take place in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, from October 24-27.
2. Illustrating what matters
The AP’s Doug Ferguson says “It would be a shock if Koepka didn’t win” Player of the Year once player ballots are tallied…
“Rory McIlroy was asked before the Tour Championship began if he could build a case for himself if he were to win the FedEx Cup, and he did a reasonable job answering. He would have three victories, same as Brooks Koepka. He would have top-10 finishes in 74% of his PGA Tour starts (14 of 19). Yes, Koepka won a major at the PGA Championship and was runner-up in two others (along with a tie for fourth). But is player of the year about certain weeks or the entire season?…”
  • [After the Tour Championship McIlroy said] “I know it’s going to sting because he most likely will win the player of the year,” McIlroy said. “But he didn’t win the FedEx Cup, so I know it’s going to sting him for a bit. But I just wanted to tell him he’s playing so good. He’s the No. 1 player in the world and he’s had a great season.”
3. Falling out of love with the game
Sam Torrence, eight-time European Ryder Cupper, 44 times a winner as a professional has fallen out of love with the game.
  • Andy Roberts at GolfMagic: “…Torrance admits he has quit playing golf for the best part of two years now since last having played on the European Senior Tour.”
  • “I’ve kind of lost the love for it,” Torrance told BBC Radio 5 Live.
  • “I’m not very good. The hardest thing is I’m mediocre compared to what I was.
  • “I said to my manager, ‘tell me my scores over the last three years and my finishing positions’. She looked it up and she told me I was 200-over par and my best finish was 35th.
  • “So it was time. That was two years ago and I’ve not played since. It was tough to let go but I’m glad I did it when I did.

Full piece.

4. A costly finish for Cantlay
All the focus on the funny money players at the Tour Championship competed was directed at the top finishers, but how about the other side of the coin?
  • AP report…”Getting to East Lake meant a shot at the $15 million and a spot in the majors and World Golf Championships. But it was the wrong time for a bad week.”
  • “Cantlay, the Memorial winner with a pair of top 10s in the majors, began the PGA Tour’s postseason at No. 6. He tied for 12th at The Northern Trust and held his position. He was runner-up at the BMW Championship and moved to No. 2 in the FedEx Cup, starting the Tour Championship with a two-shot deficit.”
  • “Cantlay opened with a 70-71 and was six shots behind going into the weekend. But a 75-73 weekend at East Lake sent him to a three-way tie for 21st. Second place in the FedEx Cup is worth $5 million. With a tie for 21st, Cantlay received $478,000.”
5. Tiger’s new normal
Steve DiMeglio wrote this regarding the 15-time major champion (amid a larger look back at 2019)
  • “After delivering the season’s greatest triumph – heck, the decade’s greatest triumph – Tiger Woods showed golf fans what his future might hold. And it didn’t look good. At 43 and following eight surgeries to his left knee and back, Woods couldn’t practice, play and train enough to be competitive after he won his fifth green jacket and 15th major title at the Masters.”
  • “He played just 17 rounds and six tournaments after winning the Masters in April, and he didn’t earn a trip back to Atlanta to defend his title in The Tour Championship, where he capped his remarkable return to the game after spinal fusion with a victory in 2018.”
  • “His play was mostly listless after he looked so robust among the Georgia pines. He missed cuts in the PGA Championship and Open Championship, withdrew from the Northern Trust.”
6. On breaklessness
Christopher O’Day at Fansided writes…”Even if you take a look at golfers 71-125, those that didn’t make it to the BMW Championship, they will still only get one month off. Likely, they are going to jump on some of these early tournaments to try and score some easier FedEx Cup points for the upcoming season and enhance their chances of making it to the 2019-20 playoffs.”
  • “Give them a break. Golf is a demanding sport. Playing 72 holes in four days isn’t always easy, and it isn’t easy on your body either. Now do this 30-35 times a year, with never longer than a one month break.”
  • “I can’t imagine putting this kind of stress on my body and mind. For those guys who are young and single, I can see how it would give them a leg up on the competition, and that it wouldn’t bother them too badly.”

Full piece. 

Here’s why, Chris: The PGA Tour exists to create playing opportunities for its members before it exists as entertainment for fans. Maximizing those opportunities, both in terms of tournaments per year and purse/bonus money is a top priority. There are 52 weeks in a year. In a sense, then, it’s surprising there isn’t a tournament every week. If nobody’s playing for weeks or months, players aren’t making money. The Tour isn’t responsible for individual player schedules, pacing, or breaks. I don’t believe this is a bad thing, and unlike many in the media, I’m not pining for an extended offseason.
7. Lee Elder speaks
The Great Lee Elder’s My Shot (with Guy Yocom) is must-read stuff…
A taste…”I’m best known for being the first black man to compete in the Masters, back in 1975. The victory that got me into the Masters was the Monsanto Open in late April 1974. I beat Peter Oosterhuis in a playoff. After I holed out, the PGA Tour’s tournament director, Jack Tuthill, directed me to a police car. That surprised me, because I expected the trophy presentation would be outdoors. I said, “What’s going on, Jack?” Jack, a former FBI man, explained that death threats had been coming in all morning and that it would be safer if the presentation was indoors, back at the clubhouse. Jack said driving there in a police car would be safer than a golf cart. I agreed and understood the situation. It wasn’t the first time a black athlete had received death threats, and it wasn’t the last. But I was thrilled to win.”

Full piece.

8. Zuback reflects
Good stuff from Michael Shamburger (Bamberger? no Shamburger) at Golf Channel chatting with the famed long driver.
  • “When it comes to long-drive champions, Jason Zuback’s name is at the top of the list, right next to Sandra Carlborg (Women’s Division). Over the course of his career, Zuback won a total of five long-drive titles, with four of those coming in succession between 1996-99…It is by far the most dominating run in long-drive history, as there is no other male long-drive competitor with more than three titles to their name.”
  • “”When I started, you’d see maybe a little bit on TV and stuff in magazines,” said Zuback. “I’ve always gravitated to the power element of sports, whether it be sprinting, hitting home-runs, or hitting a hockey puck as hard as I could. I always loved to take a rip at it and try and it hit hard.”…That mentality served the Canadian well when he entered his first long-drive competition.”
  • “I was playing in a Monday qualifier for an event on the Canadian Tour, the Alberta Open,” said Zuback. “I got paired up with a couple of guys and one of them mentioned that there was a qualifier for this big long-drive event, and that I should give it a try because he had never seen anyone hit it as far as I did. There were close to 100 guys that were trying to get through the local [qualifier], and I think I ended up winning by around 50 yards.”

Full piece.

9. Best drivers
(In case you missed it yesterday…last time I’ll mention, I swear)…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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