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Morning 9: 23 years ago this week: TW’s pro debut | Rory questions major calendar | Golf buddies make back-to-back aces

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

August 29, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Remembering Tiger’s pro debut
23 years ago! Good grief.
Golf Digest’s John Strege with a couple of notable morsels from that week in Milwaukee…
  • “…In Milwaukee, Woods paid for dinner one night with a gift certificate he had received upon his arrival. A day later, when Woods and his instructor Butch Harmon were driving to Brown Deer Park Golf Course in the Milwaukee suburb of Glendale, Wis., Butch asked him whether he had his checkbook, so he could pay the $100 entry fee. “Butch, I don’t have $100,” he said, despite having already signed a $40 million contract with Nike. Harmon floated him a loan. Later, Woods said, “I haven’t seen a penny yet. I haven’t seen any check in the mail yet. I’m still broke.”
  • “…”A fatigued Woods was never in contention, yet on Sunday, he still found a way bring the focus back on him, as he was wont to do. On the 202-yard, par-3 14th hole in the final round, Woods made a hole-in-one using a 6-iron. Woods earned $2,544 for finishing tied for 60th, a sum of money he appreciated more than than the $43 million in contracts he had signed. “That’s my money,” he said. “I earned this.”
  • “En route via a commercial airline from home in Orange County, Calif., to Portland, Ore., for his final amateur event, Woods turned to his father and said, “I’m never flying coach again.” Indeed, the day after his U.S. Amateur victory, he had a corporate jet standing by to take him to Milwaukee. Suffice it to say, he was right.”

Full piece.

2. McIlroy questions major calendar 
Per Nick Menta at Golf Channel…”But I feel that if I keep doing the things I’m doing, sooner or later I’ll get another one and all this noise will then go away. However, if the narrative becomes that the majors are the only important thing in golf, then that’s dangerous because are fans not going to care for the other 48 weeks of the year?”
“McIlroy does recognise the majority of the interest will always focus on the big four and is concerned by the majors being condensed into four months. “If they are spaced so closely together will fans only care from the second week of April to the third week in July?” he added to the BBC. “I’d like to see them spaced out like tennis does. With the Australian Open in January and the US Open going on now, they’ve a nice nine-month window of relevancy.”
3. ROY race
The rise and fall of Cameron Champ opened the door for the likes of Matthew Wolff and Colin Morikawa.
  • After this look a Champmania…”He had a short-game prowess to match his prolific power, and his iron production was miles ahead of were it had been on the Web.com circuit. The results backed it up: Cam Champ, hailed as the “Future of Golf” by several publications-this one included-had a win, four top-11s and five top-25s in his first six starts of his rookie campaign. The then-23-year-old was so hot that he was listed as one of the Masters favorites, despite not receiving an invite to Augusta National. He was a lock for Rookie of the Year.”
  • …Golf Digest’s Joel Beall assesses the chances of Im, Morikawa, and Wolff.
4. JT’s failed bid to improve his putting
An interesting note, via the AP’s Doug Ferguson, who starts emptying his voluminous notebook this time of year.
  • “When I was hurt, putting was really the only thing I could do, and I putted so much that I was trying to be perfect,” Thomas said. “And striving to find that perfection, I got worse, which is – quite frankly – mind-blowing and a bit concerning. So I came out of that thinking I was going to putt better than I ever have, and I putted worse than I have in a couple of years. So that was pretty frustrating.”
  • He went back to the start – same putter, same golf ball, same drills, and eventually pulled his way out of it.
  • “We just were like, ‘Let’s go back to what got you here and stop trying to be somebody you’re not,’ because I did really well doing what I was doing,” he said.
5. Back-to-back holes-in-one 
Austin Danforth of the Burlington Free Press with the story…
  • “Rob Gaboriault knew he’d stuffed his shot pretty close. Bob Maritano couldn’t quite tell what happened to his – maybe pretty good, maybe a little left. His eyesight isn’t what it used to be.”
  • “At any rate, a small knob on the front of the green obscured their view of the hole from the tee box.”
  • “That’s why we couldn’t see them go in,” Gaboriault said. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
  • “The duo’s friendly afternoon round at the Links at Lang Farm had barely begun when it graduated to lore Tuesday afternoon. Gaboriault bagged his first hole-in-one from the white tee on the 156-yard par-3 10th hole and Maritano, playing from the red tee a few yards closer, followed suit moments later with the 18th of his career.”
6. Lyme disease sidelines Sandra Gal
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…”Sandra Gal, a two-time member of the European Solheim Cup team, will not play the remainder of the 2019 LPGA season after being diagnosed with dormant Lyme disease, the LPGA.com reported on Wednesday. The native of Germany said that she’d been feeling run down since the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open. She would come into tournaments with energy, ambition and goals, only to crash during the competition and feel as if she had zero energy. This continued in the 2019 season, and got bad enough that Gal, 34, was forced to withdrew from the Mediheal Championship in May.”
“I felt like I wasn’t myself,” Gal told LPGA.com. “I would come to a tournament, practice, I would have intentions of what I would want to do on the golf course, but I wasn’t able to execute it.” 

Full piece. 

7. Senior Am
Todd Kelly at Golfweek with the update on what’s going on at the Senior Am…
“Roger Newsom of Virginia Beach, Va., will square off against Bob Royak of Alpharetta, Ga., in the final of the U.S. Senior Amateur on Thursday…Each golfer won a pair of matches on Wednesday at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C., with Newsom the first to advance to the final. He defeated Paul Jett of Southern Pines, N.C., in the quarterfinals and then Rich Cloninger of McDonough, Ga., in the semifinals to punch his ticket.”
And on the women’s side…”The 58th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur final on Thursday will be an historic one, as Lara Tennant and Sue Wooster, who met in last year’s final, will meet once again in the first-ever rematch in tournament final history.”
“In Wednesday’s semifinals, Tennant defeated Patricia Ehrhart, while Sue Wooster knocked out Caryn Wilson….Tennant defeated Wooster 3 and 2 to capture the 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur title at Orchard Island Golf and Beach Club in Vero Beach, Fla.”

Full piece.

8. Jamie Sadlowski reflects
Golf Channel’s Michael Shamburger with the Canadian’s look back at his start in long drive…”A buddy of mine invited me to a local [qualifier] in Alberta near where I’m from,” Sadlowski recalls. “We were going to Edmonton to play golf and he had this qualifier later that afternoon, and the guy that was running [the qualifier] played hockey with my dad. He said there was a junior category and invited me to hit. I ended up hitting it like 367 [yards] and got through to the district qualifier. I think I had just turned 15, and I went to worlds that year and finished fourth [in the junior division], and the year after I think I finished second or third. And then after that I won back-to-back in 2005 and 2006.”
9. Self-driving golf ball! 
Our Gianni Magliocco...”Problems on the green? Well, Nissan’s self-driving golf ball will dispel all of those issues – a ball which is guaranteed to find the hole on your first putt. Every time.”
  • “Using Nissan’s Pro Pilot driver assistant technology, which the company plans to unveil with the new Nissan Skyline in September 2019, no matter how off the line or speed of your putt is, as long as you make contact the ball will find the hole.”
  • “How does it work?…Inside the Pro Pilot golf ball is a motor which is complemented by cameras which are placed above the ball’s trajectory. On each strike it allows the ball to find and execute a path to the hole.”
  • “Unlike Sphero’s self-navigating golf ball, Nissan’s motorized ball is the first to implement overhead cameras, and the same technology being used in the ball from Nissan will also help the new Skyline navigate roads and traffic by using map data, cameras, and a radar.”
  • “Alas, for those wondering if they might get the chance to test the ball out around their local course, Nissan has no intention of releasing the balls.”

See the video here.

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  1. Ryan

    Aug 29, 2019 at 11:19 am

    My dad and his buddy went back to back aces one time. Craziest thing ever.

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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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