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Morning 9: Na Prez Cup captain’s pick? | LPGA’s slow play call out | Honesty and a brutal DQ

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and (reluctantly) now at golfwrxEIC on Twitter.

October 8, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Kevin Na: Presidents Cup captain’s pick?
Plenty of chatter on the subject, but Golfweek’s Steve Dimeglio makes the case as articulately as any…”After winning just once in his first 369 starts – he won in Las Vegas in 2011 – Na has won three of his last 30 starts on the PGA Tour. He’s ranked No. 24 in the world, ahead of many of the names being considered.”
  • “And only three players have won multiple titles on the PGA Tour this calendar year – world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy and, wait for it, Na.”
  • “Yes, as his critics will point out, the wins by Koepka and McIlroy were cream of the crop – Koepka a major and a WGC title, McIlroy won the Players, RBC Canadian Open and the season-ending Tour Championship. Na, on the other and, was victorious at Colonial in the Charles Schwab Challenge and at defenseless TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas on Sunday.”
  • “But winning is winning and winning twice in less than five months means something. In Las Vegas, he held off Patrick Cantlay, one of the eight players on the U.S. team who qualified in the points race, in a playoff.”

Full piece.

2. Poulter (defending champ) skipping Houston Open
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“This week the Houston Open will move into its new fall date on the PGA Tour calendar, but it will do so without defending champ Ian Poulter.”
  • “Last spring Poulter notched an emotional victory at the Golf Club of Houston, rolling in a birdie on the final hole to force a playoff before defeating Beau Hossler on the first extra hole. It was his first official PGA Tour win since 2010, and it earned Poulter the final spot in the 2018 Masters.”
  • “But rather than defend his title this week, Poulter will instead tee it up on the European Tour at the Italian Open. The decision likely has roots in the change to the PGA Tour schedule: played annually in the spring, often the week before the Masters, the Houston Open this week will debut as a fall event as part of a new five-year agreement after struggling in recent years to find footing with a title sponsor.”

Full piece.

3. You’ll be able to watch every shot of The Players live
Our Gianni Magliocco…”PGA Tour Live subscribers on either NBC Sports Gold or Amazon Prime Video Channels will have the opportunity to see every shot from any player in the 144 man field from TPC Sawgrass, with almost 120 cameras set to be utilized, as each group at the event will have its own dedicated stream.”
  • “Speaking on the project, Rick Anderson, Chief Media Officer for the Tour, stated”
  • “The PGA TOUR is the most content-rich sport on the planet and we have been focused on expanding the amount of content we bring to our fans from our competitions. Our vision is to bring every shot in every PGA TOUR golf tournament live and on-demand to our fans, and this is the first step to making that happen.”
  • “The Tour has already announced the addition of early-round featured groups coverage from seven events between September and December as they continue to ramp up live coverage.”

Full piece.

4. LPGA’s slow play call out
Golfweek’s Forecaddie writes…”Slow players on the LPGA are singled out each week on a sheet that’s posted in the locker room. The list includes those who have had plus times that have resulted in both fines and two-stroke penalties.”
  • “Does it help?…Depends on whom you ask. The Forecaddie wasn’t surprised to learn that some players didn’t even know about the public shaming. (It’s hard to get people to read.)”
  • “Others like that the list is up but don’t believe it makes that much of a difference.”
5. Money can’t buy rivalries
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch with this meditation in light of the upcoming Woods-McIlroy skins game…”It’s been 36 years since the Skins Game was first played and about 30 years since it lost its novelty, though only a decade since it was finally mothballed. Money mattered back then, even to Jack Nicklaus, who was ecstatic once after making a putt worth $240,000 (almost $100,000 more than he got for winning the ’86 Masters). Given the sums now commonplace in golf – 112 players earned over $1 million before bonuses last season on the PGA Tour – Skins games need a raison d’etre beyond testing the old ‘putt for dough’ theory, especially if the cash at stake won’t even gas the competitors jets or make caddies sweat their percentage.”

Full piece.

6. “Trying to grow the game like Seve”
BBC Golf Correspondent Iain Carter on Jon Rahm’s motivations outside the ropes…”Last weekend, his biggest battle was probably with himself. The Basque Country-born champion admitted he felt extra pressure in Madrid to perform in front of Spanish fans.”
  • “It’s great that I’ve done it here, to beat Seve’s record with his last professional win being at this course as well,” Rahm said. “It’s very special for me.
  • “Any time I can do anything close to what he did is unbelievable. That’s why I’m here, trying to make Spanish golf bigger and grow the sport in Spain like he did.”
  • “And this commitment stretches beyond the borders of his home country. Even though his elite amateur golf was played in the United States, Rahm is proving a significant ambassador for the European Tour.”

Full piece.

7. Young Payne never made it easy 
New book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever, by Kevin Robbins, is excerpted in Golf Digest (our Johnny Newbern talked with the author last month). The book details Stewart’s final year. Here’s an excerpt of an excerpt, as it were.
  • Payne Stewart chose the colors of the Chicago Bears for the final round. He played the front at even-par 36, capped by three irritating putts on the ninth that put him five strokes behind Mike Reid. Payne saw Jerry Pate, who was broadcasting on the course for ABC, on the walk to the tenth tee.
  • “If I can shoot 31 on the back nine, I could have a chance to win this thing,” he told Pate.
  • “It seemed like another bold pronouncement, another empty assertion, another case of spouted words he could not back up. That chance would depend on luck: a calamitous, uncharacteristic collapse by Reid.”

Full piece.

8. Honesty and a DQ
Heckuva story from Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, syndicated in Golfweek, regarding a high school golfer who found herself in a precarious position…
“Parrott, after eating lunch, noticed that the live scoring app had her at +3 for the tournament instead of +4. At first, she believed it was an error on the app. Then, after checking her official scorecard again, Parrott’s stomach dropped. She had signed an incorrect scorecard.”
  • “In the moment, the 17-year-old was faced with a conundrum: She could play along, knowing the score was incorrect by one stroke. Parrott would have tied for fifth with the incorrect score, five shots behind state champion Faith Johnson of Evansville North. Or, she could turn herself in”
  • “There was no way anyone else would have known,” Parrott said Monday.”

Full piece.

9. Meadow & Maguire
Good stuff from Brian Keogh for the Irish Independent on the rising talents Meadow and Maguire…
  • “Stars Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire want to inspire the next generation of Irish girls when they tee it up on the LPGA Tour next season.”
  • “Meadow (27) birdied her last two holes in the Volunteers of America Classic to keep her card, revealing she had to endure a nerve-racking wait for confirmation that she’d made the crucial top 100 money winners.”
  • “I was sick to my stomach for two hours afterwards until I knew for sure,” Meadow said of her tie for sixth in Dallas and her last-gasp leap from 112th to 99th thanks to a brilliant birdie at the last.
  • “I just knew I had to make that putt on 18 or I was going back to Q-School. It was a thrill to know I could do it when I really needed it.”
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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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