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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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Brooks Koepka withdraws from Presidents Cup with knee injury; replaced by Rickie Fowler

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Brooks Koepka has officially announced his withdrawal from the U.S. side for next month’s Presidents Cup, having been unable to fully recover from a knee injury which he re-injured at last month’s CJ Cup.

In a statement released on Koepka’s social media, the world number one stated

“Today, I am announcing my withdrawal from the USA Presidents Cup team because of my knee injury. I notified Captain Tiger Woods that despite constant medical care and rehab, I am not able to play golf at this time. I consider it to be a high honor to be part of the 2019 team and I regret not being able to compete.

Since my injury in Korea, I have been in constant contact with Tiger and assured him that I was making every effort to be 100% in time for the Presidents Cup in Australia. However, I need more time to heal.

I’m sorry I won’t be able to represent the Red, White, and Blue this time around and I wish my teammates nothing but the best as they work to retain the Presidents Cup for the USA.”

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Today, I am announcing my withdrawal from the USA Presidents Cup team because of my knee injury. I notified Captain Tiger Woods that despite constant medical care and rehab, I am not able to play golf at this time. I consider it to be a high honor to be part of the 2019 team and I regret not being able to compete. ? Since my injury in Korea, I have been in constant contact with Tiger and assured him that I was making every effort to be 100% in time for the Presidents Cup in Australia. However, I need more time to heal. ? I’m sorry I won’t be able to represent the Red, White, and Blue this time around and I wish my teammates nothing but the best as they work to retain the Presidents Cup for the USA.

A post shared by Brooks Koepka (@bkoepka) on

Koepka has now been replaced in the U.S. team by Rickie Fowler who will be making his third appearance at the Presidents Cup.

The 2019 Presidents Cup takes place at Royal Melbourne from December 12-15.

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Morning 9: Long-term extension for Whan | Rory bemoans major calendar again | Captain Tiger’s Koepka backup plan

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1. If BK can’t play…
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport considers the decision facing captain Tiger Woods should Brooks Koepka be unable to play in Australia.
  • “Brooks Koepka appears to be a question mark after withdrawing from last month’s CJ Cup with a knee injury, an extra concerning development because it was to the same knee that required a stem-cell injection after the Tour Championship in August. Tiger Woods said prior to the Zozo Championship that he was confident Dustin Johnson’s knee would be good to go by Dec. 12, but didn’t know whether Koepka would be able to play. With each passing day that Koepka doesn’t announce his intentions to make the trip to Australia, the uncertainty of him playing in the event grows.”
  • Rapaport’s short list includes…Brendon Todd…Rickie Fowler…Kevin Kisner…Kevin Na…more…

Full piece.

2. “Long-term extension”
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…“Mike Whan doesn’t intend to leave the LPGA anytime soon…With his contract set to expire late next year, Whan confirmed with GolfChannel.com Tuesday that he has signed a contract extension.”
  • “It’s a long-term contract,” Whan said. “I don’t even know how long it is. I really don’t.”..LPGA president Vicki Goetze-Ackerman confirmed there’s a new deal in place.”
  • “It’s a long-term contract,” Goetze-Ackerman said. “That’s all you’re going to get anyone to tell you. He has a vision for the future, and he wants to stay. He’s been fantastic, taking us from a dismal place in 2010 to where we are now, with a vision of an even stronger future.”

Full piece.

3. Ko playing hurt
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…”Jin Young Ko has had a dominant season on the LPGA, winning four times in 2019, including two major championships. She is the No. 1 player in the world, and she broke Tiger Woods’ record of consecutive tournament holes without a bogey, 114 to Woods’ 110. Moreover, she already has won Player of the Year honors. Yet Ko has arrived at the last event on the LPGA’s calendar, the CME Group Tour Championship facing her biggest challenge this season.”
  • “The 22-year-old from South Korea, citing an ankle injury, considered not playing this week…She said it happened in Taiwan, while playing in the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA, three weeks before the Tour Championship. On the 18th tee during her practice round at Miramar Golf Country Club in New Taipei City, she took a practice swing and immediately felt pain in her ankle, around the ankle bone both at the instep and outside of the foot. She said she stepped away from the tee, asking her playing partner to hit before her. After waiting a minute, she hit her tee ball, but still felt pain. Post-round, she got a massage and had a trainer tape the ankle.”

Full piece.

4. BBC loses Masters TV rights
Guardian staff report…”The BBC will not show any live golf next year for the first time since 1955 after the broadcaster lost the rights to live coverage of the Masters. Sky Sports will be the sole broadcasters of the tournament from Augusta.”
  • “The BBC lost the rights to the Open in 2016, ending a 60-year run with Britain’s flagship tournament, while their live Masters coverage was pared back to two days in 2011. From next year terrestrial viewers will be able to watch only highlights.”
5. Major calendar worries Rory for casual fans
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait…”Rory McIlroy has reiterated fears that casual golf fans may be turned off the game because the major championships are crammed too tightly together.”
  • “…Major Championship golf now ends in July at the conclusion of the Open Championship. The majors previously wound up in August, but that changed this year with the PGA Championship from its traditional August date to May to avoid a clash with the FedEx Cup.”
  • “I’d love to see the major schedule just spread out a little bit just so, you know, casual fans of the game are a little more interested in golf, not just for five or six months of the year but maybe nine or ten months of the year,” McIlroy said. “Especially with the way the game is going in terms of how important majors are and how much emphasis everyone puts on them.”

Full piece.

6. Lexi’s perspective 
“Remember, she was 12 when she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open in 2007. She was 15 when she finished runner-up at the Evian Championship. She was 19 when she won her first major at the Kraft Nabisco.”
  • “There was always the urge to feel like she’s playing for others…”I’ve gotten to that point at some parts of my career, just a lot of expectations and feeling like I have to perform for others,” she said. “But now I know I’m putting in the hard work. I’m going out and trying to win. But it’s not going to happen every time. I’m not a robot. I’m human. This is my life, and I’ve put in a lot of work, and that’s what people need to realize.”
  • “The challenge in golf is not one’s age or experience, but rather how young everyone else is getting.”

Full piece.

7. Kupcho
AP report…”After turning pro in May, the Colorado native disappeared from the leaderboard for several months. She had only one significant check, a fifth in the Marathon Classic worth $52,798.”
  • “Everything changed a few weeks later in France at her fourth major in eight starts, the Evian Championship. She shot a final-round 66, finishing two shots behind Jin Young Ko, in a three-way tie for runner-up and most importantly, a check for $290,778.”
  • “The LPGA rookie princess is loaded with confidence, and comfortable with her status that includes a 47th place in the Race to the CME Globe rankings.”

Full piece.

8. Leaning on the Patricks?
PGATour.com’s Sean Martin on the origin of the Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay friendship, which could prove significant for the American side in Australia…”He decided to phone a friend from his amateur days. Cantlay was a high-schooler when he played a practice round with Patrick Reed at one of the country’s top amateur events, the Western Amateur. Now Cantlay wanted to team with him at TPC Louisiana.”
  • “Reed accepted, and the partnership has lasted through all three team editions of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Cantlay and Reed are even the rare team that coordinates outfits.”
  • “The partnership could make its way to Australia next month. With Jordan Spieth not on this year’s roster and all 11 players clamoring to team with Tiger Woods, it could make sense for the Patricks to pair at the Presidents Cup.”
  • “Cantlay and Reed, two iconoclasts who are known to keep to themselves, are kindred spirits. Reed stays firmly ensconced in the tight circle known as Team Reed, while the quiet Cantlay is an old soul who can speak more easily about classic rock than college football.”

Full piece.

9. A rooftop bar overlooking St. Andrews?
Our Gianni Magliocco…”On Tuesday, U.S.-based investment firm, AJ Capital Partners, announced plans to renovate the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel beside the Old Course at St. Andrews, which is set to feature a new rooftop bar overlooking the Old Course’s iconic 18th hole.”
  • “The new bar is set to be 3,000-square feet in size and is expected to be completed by July 2021 for the 150th Open Championship.”
  • “Speaking on the new project, AJ Capital CEO Ben Weprin stated in a release…”St Andrews is one of the most iconic destinations in the world, and our team is honored to embark upon bringing our unique approach to hospitality to this incredibly historic and inspiring community.”
  • “As well as the rooftop “19th hole”, the hotels current 70 rooms and restaurant facilities will be upgraded, while an additional 44 rooms will be added – all of which will pay tribute to St. Andrews and the Old Course’s designer, Old Tom Morris.”
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Morning 9: Brandon Matthews is a good man | The art of the painful comeback | Are the Rules still too complicated?

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1. Singular stuff
Pretty impressive stuff from Brandon Matthews. Via Julie Williams at Golfweek…”Matthews, 25, entered a sudden death playoff with Ricardo Celia on Sunday after both reached 11 under for 72 holes.”
  • “The two men tied the first two holes, and as Matthews stood over an eight-footer for birdie to extend the playoff to a fourth hole, a yell rang out from the crowd. Matthews missed the putt, despite having felt his putter was dialed in all week.”
  • “…The missed putt was perhaps season-altering. It handed Celia the title. Matthews was frustrated in the moment, but that was before the pieces came together.”
  • “As it turns out, the voice belonged to a middle-aged man with Down Syndrome, a detail Matthews only came to know because a tour official sought him out to offer an explanation in the locker room after the playoff ended, according to Golf Digest reporting.”
  • “Matthews immediately returned to the course to meet with the man, sign a glove and assure him that he was not upset.”

Full piece.

2. Back-to-back for Brendon Todd
AP report…”Two tournaments, two victories…They didn’t make Brendon Todd forget about the dark years, when he had the full yips so bad he didn’t know where the ball was going and made only two cuts in 35 events he played over three years.”
  • “They just made him appreciate how good it feels to be back…Todd returned Monday morning and quickly holed an 18-foot birdie putt for a 1-shot lead, then closed with two nervy pars for a 3-under 68 to win the Mayakoba Golf Classic for his second straight PGA Tour victory. He won the inaugural Bermuda Championship two weeks ago.”

Full piece.

3. The art of the painful comeback 
Shane Ryan on the incredible resurgence of Brendon Todd…
“The dark days couldn’t have been far from his mind.”
  • “I really lost it,” Todd said of the first long slump of his career. “I would get to the first tee, no confidence, nervous, and I’d hit it 50 yards right. It might go out-of-bounds, and from there it would be an all-day grind just to keep the ball in play. Then I’d chip and putt phenomenally, shoot 75, and miss the cut.”
  • “At home, Todd would break down crying with his wife, Rachel, and though he never lost his desire to play, he began to question whether there was a real future. He knew he could get a regular job if he needed to, and a lot of people had it much worse, but that didn’t make him feel any better.”

Full piece. 

4. Love’s Plantation Course redesign
PGATour.com’s Sean Martin on Davis Love III’s work giving the Plantation Course a facelift…
  • “And that’s what the World Golf Hall of Famer did, hopping on a bulldozer to shape some of the sharp angles and old-school features that will be on display this week during the PGA TOUR’s annual visit to Sea Island. The Plantation Course will be used, along with the neighboring Seaside layout, on Thursday and Friday. The RSM’s weekend rounds will be played on Seaside.”
  • “The Plantation Course’s new look is a blast from the past, drawing upon the course’s history and other attributes common to golf’s Golden Age designs.”
  • “Plantation is the oldest course at Sea Island. The Walter Travis design opened as a nine-hole course in 1928, shortly before the Seaside nine that was designed by Harry Colt and Charles Alison.”
5. Are the Rules of Golf still too complicated?
The Golf.com team debated that question (among others) in Tour Confidential…
  • “Russell Henley was penalized eight strokes at the Mayakoba Golf Classic for violating the One-Ball Rule. Henley used a slightly different Titleist ProV1x model for holes 9-12, and that violation of Rule 20-3 cost him two strokes per hole (he missed the cut). This comes days after a bizarre Billy Mayfair rules controversy was reported by Michael Bamberger, and in a calendar year when a considerable number of rules infractions have made headlines. Almost a year after the governing bodies made sweeping changes to the rule book, are the rules still too complicated?”
  • “Josh Sens, contributor (@JoshSens): No. There are too many of them for the average player to expect to know them all offhand. But overly complicated? There’s nothing especially murky or obscure about the rules that have been violated recently. Where things have gotten muddy is in how certain people have responded to those violations. But that has to do with the complexities of human nature, not the rules themselves.”
  • “Michael Bamberger, senior writer: With Josh. Casual golf cannot be played with obsessive following of the rules. Serious tournament golf requires it. What Henley did show is that he could not live with himself had he known he played in violation of the rules. There’s a sound reason for that rule. If you want to get rid of it, start a petition, but you won’t get far. Henley set the right example.”

Full piece.

6. Wanna buy a golf course? 
Todd Kelly at Golfweek…”The Spring Valley Golf Club in Elizabeth, Colorado, is going up for auction Tuesday, Nov. 19, according to businessden.com. The course is located about 40 miles southeast of downtown Denver.”
  • “The 18-hole, par-72, 7,200-yard (from the tips) course opened in 1998. The land was previously a working cattle ranch. The 240-acre property includes the course, a restaurant, a maintenance facility and a pro shop as well as two adjacent vacant parcels of land.”
  • “The businessden.com story reports that the Haynes Family LTD sold the property in 2003 for $3.8 million, then re-acquired it in 2010.”
7. Financial security for LPGA pros
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols with some perspective…”Sunday’s unprecedented payday at the CME Group Tour Championship – $1.5 million to the winner – could be a life-changing day for one of the 60 players at Tiburon Golf Club. Unlike previous years, anyone in the field can claim the big prize. The total purse for the week is $5 million.”
  • “CME’s commitment to raise the bar sends a message to current and potential sponsors, and everyone else, that women’s golf deserves more. There are favorites – World No. 1 Jin Young Ko, Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson to name a few ­- but Caroline Masson believes that any of the 60 players here can win the CME. In fact, she’s hoping someone unsuspecting grabs the title to further illustrate the depth of the LPGA. Twenty different players have won on the women’s tour this season. The last player in the field to gain entry happens to be Lewis, a former No. 1.”

Full piece.

8. Dinner at DL3’s
Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”As far as The Man Out Front is concerned, the best Tuesday night meal of the golf year isn’t the Champions Dinner at Augusta National. That may be the most coveted invite, but The Forecaddie can attest that it doesn’t get much better than the RSM Classic’s pro-am draw party hosted in a tent in the backyard of former U.S. Ryder Cup captain and World Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III.”
  • “This is the 10th year Love has played host to more than 250 of his newest and closest friends willing to fork over $8,000, or $22,000 for a threesome, for the opportunity to play in the tournament pro-am on Wednesday. There’s nothing else on the PGA Tour quite like a night under the oaks feasting on the best low-country cuisine that can be had at DL3’s digs, A.K.A. Sinclair Plantation.”
9. ICYMI: The greatest shank
Our Gianni Magliocco…”While the claim of greatest shank ever is undoubtedly subjective, you’ll do well to find a hosel rocket which proved more effective than Joachim Hansen’s during Saturday’s round at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.”
  • “On the par-4 18th during the third round, Hansen found himself in the greenside bunker where his spectacular shank caused his ball to cannon into a bank and ricochet perfectly onto the green and end up just a foot away from the hole.”
  • “Fellow pro’s posted their tongue in cheek thoughts on the shot, with Luke Donald stating “Perfect spin control”, while Dylan Frittelli went into more in-depth analysis saying “Textbook bunker play. Hit two inches behind the ball, hosel-rocket to bank shot to reading the break perfectly.”

See it here.

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