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Morning 9: Danny Comeback | Nelly | Munoz (and the rise of Latin American golf)

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

September 23, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Danny Comeback 
James Corrigan at The Telegraph…”The great Danny Willett comeback is finally complete. The Englishman, who fell so far and so dramatically in the wake of his Masters glory, proved that all the talent and competitive resilience of 2016 remains with a 20-under destruction of Jon Rahm and a world-class field.”
  • “…To think, after this event last year, Willett was still struggling with injury, still suffering with a breakdown in confidence and down at 462nd in the world. Now at 31st, he has re-entered the all-important world’s top 50 for the first time in more than two years and on the evidence of this barnstormer, the Yorkshireman’s progress will carry on going in one direction only.”
  • “…The 31-year-old went toe-to-toe with world No6 Rahm on the West Course and put a Spaniard in the works of all those who expected the ruthless 24-year-old to ease to his fourth Rolex Series victory.  Willett’s 67, composed in difficult conditions as the wind and rain eventually remembered where Surrey is, awarded him a three-shot triumph and a £900,000 cheque.”

Full piece.

2. Munoz gets it done
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Munoz started the day with a one-shot lead, and for much of the afternoon it appeared to be his tournament to lose. But Im rallied with three straight birdies on the back nine to overtake him, leaving Munoz in the unenviable position of needing a birdie on the hardest hole to force the Tour’s first playoff since the RSM Classic in November. But his 15-footer on the 72nd hole found the bottom of the cup, and when Im missed a short par putt on the first playoff hole Munoz was left with a 4-footer for the win. The Colombian was battling to save his card at last month’s Wyndham Championship, but with the win he’s now exempt through the 2022 season and will make his Masters debut in April.”
3. Meet Munoz 
So, who is this guy? 
PGATour.com’s Sean Martin“Like his former teammate, he didn’t take long to enter the winner’s circle. Munoz won his second start on the Korn Ferry Tour, after receiving a sponsor exemption into the event in his native Colombia. It translated into his first PGA TOUR card.”
  • “He made his first start as a PGA TOUR member at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Three years later, it was the site of his first PGA TOUR win after he beat the reigning Rookie of the Year, Sungjae Im, on the first hole of a playoff.”
  • …”I never thought I was going to be a PGA TOUR player,” Munoz said. “It wasn’t even an option.”

Full piece.

4. Nelly!
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”Nelly Korda didn’t leave Europe without a trophy after all.”
  • “A week after Korda and the Americans were defeated by the Europeans at the Solheim Cup in Scotland, Korda romped to her first Ladies European Tour title.”
  • “With a 4-under-par 67 in blustery conditions Sunday, Korda won the Lacoste Ladies French Open by eight shots.”
5. Unleash the calves!
Steve DiMeglio for Golfweek on what’s ahead in Napa…
  • “Come for the calves, stay for the golf.”
  • “OK, that pithy pitch more than likely wouldn’t pass muster on Madison Avenue, but it’s not completely out of touch for this week’s Safeway Open in California wine country.”
  • “It directly plays to tournament headliner Phil Mickelson and his ongoing braggadocio on social media about his bodacious calves, the envy, it seems, not only of any 49-year-old, which Mickelson’s birth certificate reveals to be his age, but anyone period.”
  • “And that includes Tom Brady and Steph Curry, who recently exchanged light-hearted tweets with Mickelson about beefing up each other’s legs below the knee.”

Full piece. 

6. Rising, falling in strokes gained putting
Some research from David Dusek and the Golfweek team shows who’s improving (and who isn’t) in SG:P…”Unlike Spieth, who went from being a below-average putter to elite, Denny McCarthy went from being solid to the best on tour by lifting his average from 0.449 to 0.926, the 14th biggest rise last season.”
  • “Other notable golfers who made big strides last year with their putter include Sam Ryder (0.776), Aaron Baddeley (0.711), Adam Scott (0.633) and Ryan Palmer (0.569).”
  • “On the other side of the spectrum, Emiliano Grillo fell a massive -1.179, dropping from 10th in strokes gained putting to 185th.”
  • “It was also a rough year for Phil Mickelson, who dropped from an average of 0.51 to -0.16, the fifth-largest decline on tour. Justin Thomas also dipped significantly, -0.458, from 0.272 to -0.186. His wrist injury in late spring may have been responsible for some of the decline, but it was still the 10th largest on tour.” 

Full piece.

7. On spending $400 on a putter…
A question for Bomb & Gouge…Do I need to spend $400 on a putter or nah? –@Sam_Beishuizen
“Do you “need’ to spend $400 on a putter? No one truly needs to spend $400 on a putter. Of course, if you’re willing to spend $500-plus on a new driver, you could investigate the value of a higher end putter because you might be better fit at that price point than one from the bargain barrel. But fact is, most putters on the Golf Digest Hot List are well below that, and we’ve even had putters that go for as little as a hundred bucks make the list. And tour players have won with putters they picked up on sale or even used at the local golf shop or Golf Galaxy. If you’re the type of golfer that appreciates the quality of materials and the craftsmanship that comes with a $400 putter then you might not need to, but you might want to. It’s no different than the person who drives a Tesla or a Mercedes. They don’t need it to get where they’re going. A Honda CR-V will do just fine. But there’s a certain chest-puffing attitude that comes with knowing you have something special. Same applies to putters.”
8. Slow start to slow play monitoring
Geoff Shackelford writes…”The four-point plan debuted this week at the BMW PGA and despite some nice additions to the list of slow play remedies, we know the players aren’t always to blame. Even with the overrated field size reduction to 132, there is the pesky matter of modern distances on any course under 8,000 yards. That means waits, more waits and almost no chance of getting around in the time par of 4:30 or so.”

Full piece, including tweets from an unimpressed Matthew Fitzpatrick.

9. The rise of Latin American golfers?
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker writes…”A week ago, 20-year-old Joaquin Niemann of Chile became the youngest non-American winner on the PGA Tour since 1923. Sunday, 26-year-old Sebastian Munoz became the first Colombian-born player to win on tour since Camilo Villegas.”
  • “Quite the fortnight for Latin American golf.”
  • “[Joaquin] winning last week was kind of like the last piece of the puzzle that I needed to know that we’re good enough, we’re able to compete,” Munoz said after his playoff victory over Sungjae Im at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss. “That we’re here, we’re PGA Tour members, and we play to win.”
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Morning 9: Tour updates | One-week offseason | Forgotten father of Skins Game?

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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.

October 18, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans. Get out there and enjoy some fall golf this weekend!
1. CJ Cup
AP report on the action on Jeju Island, where tournament favorite Justin Thomas has surged to the top…”Justin Thomas shot a 9-under 63 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, putting himself in position to win his second PGA Tour event in South Korea in three years.”
  • “Thomas, who won the inaugural CJ Cup in 2017, has a two-round total of 13-under 131.”
  • “South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee (66) is in a tie for second place with first-round leader and former U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An, who shot 69 before his home fans.”

Full piece.

2. French Open
With round 2 underway, here’s the post-round one report from Reuters…”George Coetzee and Ryan Fox carded six-under-par 65s to share the lead in the French Open first round on Thursday as the European Tour returned to Le Golf National in Paris a year after the course hosted the Ryder Cup.”
3. Hole-in-one and a second-round lead 
AP report…”Brooke Henderson made a hole-in-one and shot an 8-under 64 to take the lead in the second round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai on Friday.”
  • “The Canadian aced the 175-yard second hole. She followed that with a bogey, but then birdied four more holes on the front nine, finishing her round at 11-under 133 total.”
  • “Jessica Korda (67) was two strokes behind in second, followed by defending champion Danielle Kang (67) in third.”
4. One-week offseason
The Forecaddie with an interesting scheduling observation…”The Man Out Front could not get past the dates for the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs.”
  • “The season-ending stretch will compete head-to-head with the PGA Tour playoffs, right down to the final Sunday of Aug. 30.”
  • Which means while the FedEx Cup comes to a conclusion at East Lake, the Korn Ferry Tour’s always valiant battles to gain Tour cards will be playing out at Victoria National and once again presented by United Leasing but without the spotlight those finals enjoyed this year when finishing on Labor Day, a week clear of the 2019 Tour Championship.”
5. Molinari splits with caddie
Our Gianni Magliocco writes…”Francesco Molinari has parted ways with his caddie Pello Iguaran, who has been on the Italian’s bag for the last four years.”
  • “The 2018 Open Champion will now employ Jason Hempleman until the beginning of 2020 where Mark Fulcher will then take the reigns. Fulcher caddied for Justin Rose for 11 years, in which period Rose won the U.S. Open and Olympic Gold.”
  • “The 36-year-old announced the decision via his social media accounts, where he stated…”It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.”

Full piece.

6. Tiger’s back, but is he ready?
ESPN’s Bob Harig, always a voice of reason, breaks down Tiger Woods’ activities since last playing professional golf, along with what he has on the docket, before concluding..”All of this assumes a level of health and fitness that went missing for the latter part of 2019. Woods turns 44 on Dec. 30 and performing at a high level — competing and winning tournaments — depends so much on his ability to properly prepare, let alone be fit enough to compete with the best in the world.”
  • “But first things first: a long trip to Japan, a skins competition followed by a PGA Tour event, and some answers to where Woods is headed with his game.”
7. How the Skins Game started
Speaking of skins, great stuff from Adam Schupak for Golfweek on the forgotten man from the genesis of the beloved event…”When Steve Sesnick read about the upcoming reboot of the Skins Game in Japan headlined by Tiger Woods, he couldn’t help but feel a moment of pride like that of a proud parent. And why not? It was further confirmation that his concept – even if he believes it has outlasted its expiration date – still works.”
“More than 35 years ago, Sesnick claims that he conceived the concept that became one of the most successful made-for-TV franchises in all of sports: four of golf’s biggest names, competing in a go-for-broke format over two days during Thanksgiving weekend when golf traditionally was dark, college football was limited, and even the NFL had two fewer games to compete against.”
8. Record rounds in the 60s
Viktor Hovland’s incredible play continues…Golf Channel’s Carson Williams…”A day after setting a PGA Tour record with his 18th consecutive round in the 60s, Hovland was at it again Friday during the second round of the CJ Cup in South Korea where he carded his 19th straight round in the 60s. The newly-minted Tour member drained a testy par putt at the par-4 ninth to keep his streak alive.”
  • “No, it’s cool,” Hovland said Friday following a second straight 3-under 69. “Obviously I would have liked to have maybe higher finishes in the tournaments that I’ve played, but it really goes to show the consistency that I’ve had over the summer.”

Full piece.

9. Tiger’s Olympic goal 
Reuters report…”Tiger Woods says next year’s Tokyo Olympics are a “big goal” as he looks to add to his decorated career.”
  • “Woods, 43, won his 15th major at the Masters earlier this year but injury ruled him out of golf’s return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence in 2016.”
  • “I don’t see myself having too many opportunities other than next year,” the American said.
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Francesco Molinari splits with caddie Pello Iguaran

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Francesco Molinari has parted ways with his caddie Pello Iguaran, who has been on the Italian’s bag for the last four years.

The 2018 Open Champion will now employ Jason Hempleman until the beginning of 2020 where Mark Fulcher will then take the reigns. Fulcher caddied for Justin Rose for 11 years, in which period Rose won the U.S. Open and Olympic Gold.

The 36-year-old announced the decision via his social media accounts, where he stated

“It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.

We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together. Best of luck for the future and thanks for an amazing run together Jason Hempleman will be on the bag until the end of the season. Mark Fulcher will be on the bag at the start of 2020.”

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It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for. Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career. We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together. Best of luck for the future and thanks for an amazing run together Jason Hempleman will be on the bag until the end of the season. Mark Fulcher will be on the bag at the start of 2020. Sono state quasi 4 stagioni di emozioni incredibili e lavoro davvero produttivo, ma sfortunatamente le relazioni a volte non finiscono come tutti vorremmo. Pello sarà sempre un membro del mio team e, soprattutto, della mia famiglia. È una delle persone più laboriose, leali, positive e riflessive che ho incontrato durante la mia carriera. Abbiamo avuto momenti belli e momenti difficili sul campo, ma soprattutto siamo cresciuti insieme e come individui durante il tempo insieme. Buona fortuna per il futuro e grazie per una fantastica esperienza insieme Jason Hempleman sarà il mio caddie fino alla fine dell’anno. Mark Fulcher sarà il caddie dall'inizio del 2020 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

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In the period Molinari and Iguaran were together, some of the highlights include Molinari’s win at The Open Championship in 2018, the BMW PGA Championship, and the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, since April, Molinari has failed to record a top-10 finish.

 

 

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Morning 9: LPGA, LET partnership? | Ryder Cup ticket fiasco | Alfredsson: Senior women’s golf dynamo

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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.

October 17, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. “True partnership”
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell on an exciting development for women’s golf…
  • “The LPGA and Ladies European Tour have renewed talks that could lead to “a true partnership” between the two organizations.”
  • “LET Board Chair Marta Figueras-Dotti sent a letter to LET players this week informing them of the discussions. She told players that a dialogue was “in full swing” to create a “50-50 joint venture” between the tours.”
  • “LPGA and LET officials said in a joint statement Wednesday that while it’s too early to publicly discuss specifics, they are working to complete terms of a new agreement in time to present it to LET players at their annual meeting on Nov. 26 in Spain.”

Full piece.

2. Alfredsson!
AP report on the emerging dynamo in women’s senior golf with the 2019 double…
  • “Helen Alfredsson added the Senior LPGA Championship to her U.S. Senior Women’s Open title, rallying Wednesday at cold and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two major championships of the season.”
  • “Three strokes behind Juli Inkster entering the day, Alfredsson closed with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory. The 54-year-old Swede was the only player to break par on the final day at the Pete Dye Course and, at 2-under 214, the only one under par for the week.”

Full piece.

3. And on Jeju Island…
AP report…An was on!
  • “In the first event of a three-tournament PGA TOUR swing through Asia, Byeong Hun An was the first-round leader in his home country at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES with an 8-under 64. Joaquin Niemann sits a stroke behind in second.”
  • “Jason Day’s attempt to impress International team captain Ernie Els for a spot at the Presidents Cup took a positive turn when the Australian shot a 6-under 66 to sit two strokes off the lead and in solo third after the opening round.”

Full piece.

4. Ticket fiasco
Oh boy. JR Radcliffe at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, syndicated in Golfweek…”Tickets for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, next year sold out in less than 50 minutes on Wednesday, and fans on social media were furious with the process.”
  • “Tickets for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler next year sold out in less than 50 minutes on Wednesday, and fans on social media were furious with the process.”
  • “The Ryder Cup website did indicate: “Due to high demand, having an access code does not guarantee you a chance to buy tickets. Available inventory may vary depending on when you’re able to access the sale.”
5. “Better options”
ESPN’s Bob Harig suggests Lefty doesn’t think he’s getting picked for captain Woods’ squads…”Mickelson said Wednesday that he doesn’t expect an at-large pick from U.S. Presidents Cup team captain Tiger Woods and that he does not believe he is deserving.”
  • “There are much better options of players that have played consistently at a high level that deserve to be on the team,” Mickelson, 49, said in South Korea at the CJ Cup, a PGA Tour event he is playing for the first time. “Even if I were to win, I have not done enough to warrant a pick.
  • “I’m not asking for one. I don’t expect one. I think there are a lot of better options for the U.S. side.”
6. 58 penalty strokes!
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers on a wildly penal occurrence…”Lee Ann Walker was assessed 58 penalty strokes after it was discovered she had violated Rule 10.2b several times over the course of the first two rounds at the senior major being played at the Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind. Implemented earlier this year, the rule prohibits caddies from lining up golfers on putting greens, among other spots on the course. And as Walker found out, there is no limit to the amount of penalty strokes a player can incur for breaking it.”
  • “In a statement released by the Senior LPGA Championship Rules Committee, the harsh decision came after Walker notified a rules official during the second round on Tuesday that she had been violating the rule. Obviously, Walker didn’t realize this until it was pointed out to her by a fellow caddie on her fifth hole. Walker then went through her round so far as well as the first round on Monday to determine just how many times she broke the rule. Considering the total, she was obviously being lined up by her caddie on most putts.”

Full piece.

7. BK vs. Rory
Our Gianni Magliocco…”The 29-year-old, who was speaking to the AFP ahead of this week’s CJ Cup, has been on the PGA Tour since 2015 and has won four major’s in that period, while McIlroy’s last success at a major championship came back in 2014.”
  • “I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry.”
  • “The world number one then further reiterated his lack of belief that there is currently a serious rivalry in golf and laid out his intentions to remain at the top of the sport for the foreseeable future.”
  • “I’m not looking at anybody behind me. I’m number one in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry. You know if the fans do (call it a rivalry), then that’s on them and it could be fun. Look I love Rory he’s a great player and he’s fun to watch, but it’s just hard to believe there’s a rivalry in golf. I just don’t see it.”

Full piece.

8. Meanwhile, at Q-School…
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell with the report on the action in Florida…”Germany’s going for a wire-to-wire victory at the LPGA’s second stage of Q-School.”
  • “Esther Henseleit grabbed a share of the second-round lead with a 5-under 67 Tuesday at Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Fla., a day after fellow countrywoman Olivia Cowan took the first-round lead.”
  • “At 9-under overall, Henseleit is tied at the top with China’s Yan Liu (67), one shot ahead of Cowan (72), Thailand’s Prima Thammaraks (68) and American amateur Sierra Brooks, whose 66 equaled the low round of the day.”

Full piece.

9. LPGA Shanghai update
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”Nasa Hataoka should be getting more worldwide attention.
With two Japan LPGA Tour major championship victories in her homeland over the last month, she arrived for the start of this week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai on fire.”
  • “And she didn’t cool off in Thursday’s first round.”
  • “A 5-under-par 67 at Qizhong Garden Golf Club gave Hataoka a share of the lead with South Korea’s Amy Yang.”

Full piece.

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