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Morning 9: Good Asia Swing for Rory, PGA Tour | LPGA Q-Series rules controversy | End of an era for Phil

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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.

November 4, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans. 
 
**Just a reminder we’re looking for advertisers for 2020. Drop me a line if you’d like to talk about getting your message in front of the M9 readership.** 
1. Rory pips Xander, continues strong start to the year
PGATour.com’s Sean Martin…“McIlroy’s FedExCup defense has started with a third-place finish at the ZOZO Championship and now his first WGC win since 2015. He had to work hard for the victory despite shooting the second-lowest score in tournament history and going bogey-free on the weekend. Last year’s champion, Xander Schauffele, may have been under the weather but it didn’t keep him from putting pressure on McIlroy until the final hole.”
  • Schauffele trailed by two with four holes remaining, but birdied 15 and 18 to force extra holes.
  • “Xander pushed me the whole way, or all 73 holes we played together this week,” McIlroy said.
  • “But McIlroy felt he had an advantage as soon as Schauffele pulled a piece of paper from Slugger White’s hat. Schauffele’s slip had a “2” written on it, indicating that he’d hit second in their sudden-death showdown.”
  • “I knew that was the big moment because I could hit a drive down the fairway and put the pressure on him,” McIlroy said.
2. Todd’s drought over
Daniel Rapaport for Golf Digest…”Todd’s chase for 59 ultimately fell short at Port Royal Golf Club, but a nine-under 62 that included seven straight front-nine birdies was still satisfying. Todd finished a magical week at 24 under par, good enough to win his second PGA Tour title by four shots over 54-hole leader Harry Higgs.”
…”While Smylie Kaufman’s slump got all the press, Todd struggled just as mightily. Consider his plight just 14 months ago, when he had shot 75-78 to miss the cut at the 2018 Barracuda Championship. At that point, Todd had missed the weekend in 37 of his last 40 starts. Four years after the best year of his career-in 2014, he won the AT&T Byron Nelson, cracked the world top 40 and almost made the Ryder Cup team-Todd had dropped outside the top 2000.”

Full piece.

3. Q-Series controversy, larger pro golf culture
Forgive the length of the except, but Geoff Shackelford’s take on the Kendall Dye fiasco is required reading…
  • …”Christina Kim witnessed what used to be known as blatant cheating – a player asking a caddie for another golfer what club they hit. She reported it after the round, the LPGA ruled correctly and now two players have missed out on getting their cards. One deservedly, one not.”
  • “Sadly, for the player blissfully unaware her caddie was helping another player – Dewi Weber – this led to her Q-Series downfall even as she did nothing wrong. Fortunately for the spirit of the rules, the player unaware of a basic tenet of competition lost her card. Kendall Dye now has time to read up on the most basic guidelines that govern how the game is played.”
  • “The Rules of Golf can be cruel, as they were in this case for Weber, who trusted her caddie to know you don’t openly share information with players other than your own. And for Kim, who had to be wondering how oblivious her playing partner had to be to so brazenly ask the opposition for advice, she is now unfairly getting blowback for reporting a very basic and simple rules violation.”
  • “That’s pathetic. A professional golfer or caddie at an event as significant as qualifying school must be aware such information sharing is a no-no. More likely, this is another sign of the bizarre, we’re-all-in-this-together mindset in modern competitive golf.”

Full piece.

4. Nelly wins Swinging Skirts, triumphs over potential awkwardness 
Joe Hughes at National Club Golfer...“Korda was in control for the most part and led heading into the final round but, by the time the players reached the green of the 72nd hole, it was Caroline Masson who had a putt for the win.”
  • “The putt was missed and Korda went on to get the better of the German and playing partner Minjee Lee on the first play-off hole.”
  • “There was a little more to it than that though…Masson’s fiance Jason McDede would have undoubtedly been rooting for his partner to win the third title of her career but he was in fact also doing his part to prevent that from happening.”
  • “McDede is actually the caddie of Korda and has enjoyed plenty of success alongside the American but until this point, Korda had never gone directly head-to-head with Masson when vying for a title.”
5. LPGA Q School: Muni He medalist
From the LPGA communications team…“Muni He (Chengdu, China) went under-par every round of the 2019 LPGA Q-Series presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina en route to medalist honors in Pinehurst, N.C. He shot a final-round 70 to finish the eight-round tournament at -21.”
  • “…Two-time LPGA Tour winner Hee Young Park (Seoul, South Korea), finished in solo second at -18 after posting a 2-under par 70 today as well. Yealimi Noh (Concord, California) earned her card with a third-place finish at -15, a relief after the LPGA Qualifying Tournament Stage II and then the two weeks at Q-Series on Pinehurst No. 9″ 

Full piece.

6. End of an era
Phil Mickelson has fallen outside the top 50 in the OWGR for the first time in more than 25 years.
  • Golfweek’s Adam Schupak…”The streak is over. Long live the streak…For the first time since Nov. 27, 1993, Phil Mickelson is no longer ranked in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.”
  • “We knew this day would eventually come, but it doesn’t make the streak any less astounding. Shugo Imahira finished runner-up in the Japan Golf Tour’s Mynavi ABC Championship to vault past Mickelson and end his 1,353 weeks inside the top 50.” 

Full piece.

7. A very good trip to Asia
…for the PGA Tour, that is. 
ESPN’s Bob Harig makes an excellent point: Nobody is happier about the PGA Tour’s Asia Swing than commissioner Jay Monahan…”The week before [Rory McIlroy’s win], at the CJ Cup in South Korea, Justin Thomas won for the 11th time on the PGA Tour.”
  • “Thomas. Woods. McIlroy…PGA Tour brass in Florida could not have asked for much more from the tour’s foray to Asia, even if most of the heavy lifting for these events occurred overnight for American viewers.”
  • “At a time of year when American sports’ fans attention has been focused on the NFL, college football and the MLB playoffs as well as the start of the NBA and NHL seasons, golf managed to squeeze its away into the consciousness, duly helped by Woods’ surprising run in Japan, where he looked like a different player than in recent months in winning his 82nd PGA Tour title to tie the record held by Sam Snead.”
8. Delusions of what it takes to make it in the pro ranks
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch, amid a stellar piece putting the skill of professional golfers in perspective, and following an anecdote about Padraig Harrington, writes…
  • “That long-ago conversation came to mind this weekend as I waded through a Twitter thread initiated by Denis Pugh, the coach of Francesco Molinari. Pugh worked with Colin Montgomerie at his peak and with Seve Ballesteros. He is one of the more thoughtful men in golf and brooks no B.S. from any quarter, two traits that are assets everywhere except on social media.”
  • “If you think you can make a living as a Tour pro prepare and invest in your future properly,” he tweeted. “This winter find a Challenge Tour player in your area and play him twice a month, home and away courses, for £500 a game. If you can make money from him, you are a potential ‘player.'”

Full piece.

9. Langer didn’t win
Meanwhile, at the QQQ Championship, senior golf’s most dominant force was bested by, well, one of its other dominant forces.
  • AP report…”Colin Montgomerie won the Invesco QQQ Championship on Sunday with a par on the first hole of a playoff after Bernhard Langer took four strokes to get out of a greenside bunker.”
  • “With Langer finally on the par-4 18th green in six shots, Montgomerie two-putted for the victory, with the 56-year-old Scot tapping in from 2 feet to end the second of three events in the PGA Tour Champions’ Charles Schwab Cup playoffs.”
 
Four shots to get out of a bunker? Relatable.

 

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13-time major champion Mickey Wright passes away at the age of 85

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@wilsongolf

LPGA Tour legend and Hall of Famer Mickey Wright passed away on Monday after suffering a heart attack, according to the AP.

Wright won 82 titles on the LPGA Tour including 13-major titles in a career which began in 1955 and ended with her retirement at the age of just 34.

Per the 13-time major champion’s lawyer, Sonia Pawluc who was speaking to AP, Wright had been hospitalised for the last few weeks after suffering a fall.

The sporting legend is the only LPGA Tour professional to hold all majors at the same time, and Ben Hogan once described her swing as the finest in the game.

Speaking on the news of her passing, LPGA Tour commissioner, Michael Whan said

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Mickey Wright. We lost a legend, but we may also have lost the best swing in golf history today. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

Wright’s long list of accomplishments in the game includes the most victories in a single LPGA season (13), four consecutive LPGA money titles (1961-64), 14 successive years with an LPGA victory (1956-69) and a stunning 44 wins from 1961 through 1964.

She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1976.

 

 

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Morning 9: Tiger: Bad week inside ropes, good week outside | Scott, Park end droughts | CBS’ coverage panned (again)

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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.
February 17, 2020
Good Monday morning, golf fans.

 

1. Scott gets first Tour win since 2016
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner with a succinct breakdown…“Scott started the day in part of a three-way share of the lead, and he suffered an early stumble with a double bogey on the fifth hole. But the notoriously wobbly putter steadied his nerve down the stretch, burying birdie putts on Nos. 13 and 17 that proved to be the difference. Scott earned an unofficial victory at Riviera in 2005 when he won a 36-hole, rain-slogged event, but now he has an official title as part of his Riv credentials. It’s back-to-back worldwide wins for Scott across two calendar years, as the veteran closed out 2019 with a victory at the Australian PGA Championship. But after a number of recent near-misses, the Aussie now has his first PGA Tour win since March 2016, when he went back-to-back at Honda and Doral.”
2. …and Down Under, another title drought endeth
AP report…”Seven-time major champion Inbee Park saw a seven shot lead shrink to two shots Sunday before winning the Women’s Australian Open by three strokes to clinch her first LPGA title in almost two years.”
  • “Park started her final round three shots in front of 19-year old South Korean compatriot Ayeon Cho. She bogeyed the ninth hole but still turned five shots ahead of the field and went out to a seven shot lead early on the back nine at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club.”
3. …and on the Korn Ferry Tour
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Andrew Novak birdied each of his final two holes to earn his first career Korn Ferry Tour victory at the LECOM Suncoast Classic.”
  • “Novak, 24, started the final round in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., one shot off the lead, and he was part of a crowded leaderboard as the tournament entered the closing stretch. But thanks in large part to birdies on Nos. 17 and 18, two of the seven hardest holes at Lakewood National GC, he closed with a 6-under 66. That left him at 23 under, one shot ahead of John Chin and two shots clear of Taylor Montgomery, both of whom closed with rounds of 64.”
4. Not the weekend he wanted
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill…”It was another week to lament at the famed course where Woods started his PGA TOUR career as a 16-year-old. He faded on the back nine of his rounds on Thursday and Friday and then shot 76-77 on the weekend to be 11 over par, some 22 shots behind winner Adam Scott.”
  • “Woods was full of praise for the event he and his foundation put on in its new elevated status, but could only try some self-deprecating humor when asked of his personal on course efforts.”
  • “I did not do much well today. Good news, I hit every ball forward, not backwards, a couple sideways. But overall, I’m done,” he said. “I’ve been in this position many times unfortunately. Just keep fighting hole by hole, shot by shot and try to make some birdies, which I did not do.
ESPN’s Bob Harig on what he saw…“Woods was still not moving great. While he looked good at times, his overall game was a shell of what he produced three weeks ago at Torrey Pines, let alone in December at the Presidents Cup or October at the Zozo Championship.”
  • “This was simply a day to endure, not make matters worse — and then hand the tournament trophy to winner Adam Scott, who finished 22 strokes ahead of the tournament host.”
  • “And it was yet another reminder: Woods is 44 years old, has a fused spine, had three previous back surgeries prior to that, and counts himself lucky to be playing the game at all, let alone a high level.”
Full piece. 
5. Chubb champ: Scott Parel
Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News…”Scott Parel lost two opportunities at victories last year in playoffs. He wasn’t going to take that chance Sunday in the Chubb Classic.”
“Parel, 54, birdied six of the first 12 holes to come back from five shots off the lead and went on to win at The Classics Country Club at Lely Resort for his third PGA Tour Champions victory. Parel tied the tournament record at 17-under 196 on the par-71 course, and won $240,000 out of the $1.6 million purse.”
6. Rave review for CBS’ golf coverage…
Joel Beall with a (incomplete) tally of some of the (many) errors…
  • “An incorrect score board from the LPGA’s Women’s Australian Open, caught by No Laying Up. The tournament ended Saturday night.”
  • “A singular Korn Ferry Tour highlight, featuring a putt from Peter Uihlein. Although Uihlein entered the day with the lead, he finished T-20 at the Suncoast Classic, which had already been decided when the event update was televised.”
  • “Delayed footage of Harold Varner III topping his tee shot at the iconic 10th hole. Varner was tied at the time of the miscue, which was noted by CBS Sports analyst Ian Baker-Finch. Varner’s top was eventually shown in a highlight package some 90 minutes after it occurred.”
  • “The relative broadcast absences of Max Homa, one of the more popular PGA Tour players on social media, and Joel Dahmen. As the Twitter handle Deep Fried Egg pointed out, at one juncture Homa, then a stroke back of the lead, had only a single shot televised while Rickie Fowler-who was not in the field-had two highlights during the program.”
7. Rory talks Brooks & more
Adam Woodard at Golfweek draws on more of Rory McIlroy’s conversation with journalist Paul Kimmage…a few morsels…
  • “So, I go out in the final round and my midset was . . . It’s another round of golf . . . a great opportunity . . . I’m going to try to play well. And I was beaten on the day,” McIlroy remembered. “Obviously, Brooks played great and shot 65 but I think, more than anything, I was beaten by his intensity and his desire. I was too relaxed.”
  • “Later on in the season, McIlroy learned of a text Koepka sent to his friends before the final round in Memphis: “I’m going to crush him.”
  • “Yeah, and f*** he sort of did,” said McIlroy. “Well, Brooks and I have always got on great – we do get on great – but he was obviously taking that mindset, ‘It’s me and him’. And I guess it was a good thing that he thinks highly of me, or not highly of me, if he was saying he was going to crush me.”
8. Unplanned break ahead
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”When Muni He triumphed at LPGA Q-Series last November, she seized control of something every professional golfer holds dear: her schedule…”
  • “He, 20, decided early on that she’d skip the first three LPGA tournaments that she was eligible for and start 2020 on a three-week stretch in Asia, playing off of sponsor exemptions in limited-field events in Thailand and Singapore and the Blue Bay LPGA in her native China.”
  • “No one could’ve predicted that her first three starts would be canceled due to threats from the coronavirus. That control He worked so hard for went up in a puff of smoke. She’ll now make her first start of 2020 in late March at the LPGA event in Phoenix.”
9. Genesis a big success for Tiger…outside the ropes
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport rightly points out…”It was not his week on the course, obviously. But Woods’ time here was about more than how he fared inside the ropes. He has hosted this event for the last three years in conjunction with his TGR Live venture, but this was the first year the tournament formerly known as the L.A. Open was no longer an open. It’s an Invitational now, which means a reduced field size to 120, an increased purse and an elevated status.
  • “And the first year was, by any measure, a marked success-four cloudless days, a challenging Riviera that flashed its teeth all week and a bunched leader board that didn’t sort itself until late Sunday afternoon, when Adam Scott prevailed for a two-shot victory.”
  • “From a tournament perspective, it couldn’t have gone any better,” Woods said. “We’ve had perfect weather, people have come out and supported this event. Our elevation, being a part of the new invitational status, look at the players that come out and supported this event that have played this week, we couldn’t have asked for a more dream scenario. The golf course was fantastic. Everything couldn’t have been any better from that side.”

 

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Tour Rundown: Scott’s grit and guile, Queen Bee, Wofford’s pride

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The PGA Tour’s Cali Swing came to a close for 2020, while the Champions Tour returned to the continental USA after a stint in Morocco. The ladies of the LPGA stood tall in Australia, just as the Korn Ferry tour also docked in the lower 48, after time spent in South America. As the world of golf considers the pros and cons of a world tour, it’s easy to look around and see how such a grand plan might come to pass. As the globe continues to orbit, we take our turn in running down this week’s results.

PGA Tour: Scott claims 14th tour title with grit and guile

Say what you must about the back nine at the Augusta National, but I will stand the inward half at Riviera as the ultimate gut-check site in golf. For starters, we saw Tiger Woods go out in 4-under par on Thursday, stoking the embers of bonfires of hope everywhere. El tigre played the inward half in 36-38-41-39, so we know which high-school crush still makes him nervous! Wasn’t much different for the rest of the field; play the inward half well and you stand a chance. How about Adam Scott? After an inexplicable 37 on Thursday, he back-nined Riviera for 31-33-35. For those (like me) not counting, that’s the essential difference between what Tiger tallied, and what the tournament victor posted. Scott had his hands full, as players like Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, and late to the party: Sung Kang and Scott Brown. Both Kang and Brown closed fast, reaching -9, joining Kuchar in a tie for 2nd. They call Riviera Hogan’s Alley, for the playing record of the wee ice mon over its 18 holes. It begs the question, which Riviera was Hogan playing, that he could get that good, that repeatedly, over these beguiling, 18 holes?

LPGA: Queen Bee secures 20th title in Royal fashion. Could gold be next?

Inbee Park has been many things over the years: Major champion (she won her first LPGA event at the 2008 US Open); Olympic Gold Medalist (yup, that was her in Rio, wearing the bling); and now, comeback kid. Park was injured in 2017, and despite a victory in 2018, has yet to capture the stature that thrust her to #1 in the world, and 18 tour victories. Watch out, world; she might be back. Park stood sooo tall after three rounds; 67-69-68 had her at  15-under par over the glorious, Royal Adelaide course in Seaton. Only Ayean Cho managed to find similar altitude, with 3 rounds of 69 for -12. Would Cho solve the mystery of the final round, the one that eluded her last week, when she gave back a lead over the final 9 holes? In a word, no. She closed with 77 and dropped to -8 and a tie for 6th place. All part of the learning curve, as they say. With her playing partner stalled, Park played things close to the safety vest. She finished with a +1 74 on Sunday, good for a 3-putts margin of victory over new runner-up Amy Olson of the USA. If Inbee is rounding into form now, she’ll be a certain threat to claim a second gold medal this summer, in Japan.

Korn Ferry: Wofford’s pride birdies final two holes for 1st victory

You know you’re small when … your small town isn’t the bigger of the two small towns in an arguably-metro region. Spartanburg ain’t no Greenville, says no one in those parts, but it’s true. And Wofford College is a charming, southern institution of higher learning, located in the middle of Spartanburg. And Andrew Novak found a golf and learning home at Wofford. And now, he has a title and Wofford again has a pro tour winner. Again? You mean another Boston Terrier has won on tour? Uh-huh, one William McGirt, at the 2016 Memorial Tournament. According to my researchers, that’s all. The dynamic duo of McGirt and Novak.

Right, back to Andrew Novak. He and 5 other golfers reached 20-below par at the Lakewood National (not to be confused with other, national golf clubs) near Sarasota. Greyson Sigg, Chandler Blanchott, and David Kocher ran out of gas there, and tied for 4th. Taylor Montgomery actually reached -22, before a bogey at the last dropped him to -21 and solo 3rd place. John Chin had 5 birdies throught 7 back-nine holes, but failed to summon a 6th, and ended his run at -22. And Novak? He birdied 17 and 18, to jump from 3rd to 1st in the blink of an eye. Novak moved all the way from 26th to 3rd on The 25 chase for PGA Tour cards. He’ll certainly earn his for 2020-2021, but might he manage 2 more victories, for a battlefield promotion? Keep closing and the answer will be uh-huh. #GoTerriers

Tour Champions: The ultimate grinder peppermills his third Senior victory

Bernhard Langer, Stephen Leaney, and Chris DiMarco went out on Sunday and shot wonderful rounds … for the conclusion of a US Open. Hovering near par, on any day, would not bring baubles at the Chubb Classic. Bob Estes went out and posted 64, his best round of the week by 3, to reach 15-under par. He blazed past the aforementioned trinity, but could not reach the brass ring. That plum went to Scott Parel, probably the only Georgia Bulldog who never was … a Georgia Bulldog. Parel posted 63 on Sunday, eclipsing Estes’ 198 by 2 shots. The victory was Parel’s 3rd on the late-stage circuit, and was his first since October of 2018. Parel graduated from the large, state school in Athens, but never competed for the varsity squad. He made his living as a computer programmer, but never gave up his dream of playing professional golf. As a size 50+, he is now living that dream. Langer salvaged a tie for 3rd (with Kevin Sutherland) at -13. Ironically, Parel has been in two Champions playoffs in his career, and has lost both of them … to Kevin Sutherland. Good thing for him that the California native could “only” close with 67

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