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Morning 9: Whan emphasizes tour pay gap | Plenty of support for Fowler | WAGR revamp

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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 21, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans. Today is somehow my brother’s 31st birthday (and he’s soon to be a father). Tempus fugit! 
 
**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. Plenty of support for Rickie
There was, however, plenty of support for Fowler as the late addition to the team.
  • “Rickie loves the stage. A lot like a Phil Mickelson or now hanging around Kevin Kisner some, there’s some guys that like to walk out on the final green and make that putt, they want the ball with no time on the clock and Rickie’s that guy,” Davis Love III said. “It’s unfortunate for Brooks, but I think they picked up an all-around team guy both playing and in the team room, so I’m excited for him.”
2. Whan emphasizes pay gap in letter
Fresh off a contract extension, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan penned a letter to tour members and sponsors.
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”He put special emphasis on the LPGA’s opportunity to advance larger causes, including closing the gender pay gap.”
  • “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.”
  • “If a company’s stated values are to provide equal opportunities for women to advance and succeed, why wouldn’t their marketing/sponsorship dollars reflect that?” Whan wrote. “How is it that nearly every company claims equal opportunity is a cornerstone of their business, but 95% of all corporate sports sponsorship dollars are spent on male sports? There is no doubt we’re at a tipping point and more executives, shareholders and investors are questioning whether their corporate values are reflected in every aspect of their company, including marketing and sponsorship decisions. Increased corporate support translates into more opportunities for women in golf and more opportunities for female athletes to be seen as role models of confidence, ability and accomplishment.”

Full piece.

3. Revamp for World Amateur Golf Ranking 
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait…”The World Amateur Golf Ranking is to receive a major revamp for the 2020 season. The R&A and USGA is instituting a new system called the “Power Method” to try to improve the way amateurs are ranked.”
  • “The governing bodies believe the new system will “better reflect the current performance of golfers by placing greater emphasis on current form and results by improving the algorithms used to determine the WAGR.”
  • “In the new structure, every event in the world will earn a power number based on the strength of its starting field, which will then determine the total number of ranking points on offer to the field. This will extend to a maximum of 1000 for amateur events, with players also able to gain ranking points from playing in professional tournaments.”

Full piece.

4. The hardest thing about the LPGA Tour? 
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins with this interesting tidbit…”Jeongeun Lee6 made the transition from the Korean LPGA Tour to the LPGA Tour in 2019, and her rookie year has been an undeniable success. She won the U.S. Women’s Open in May and had nine other top-10 finishes…”
  • “Through a translator, Lee6 noted that on the KLPGA, you can take a cart during the pro-ams. “But in LPGA,” she said, “you have to walk no matter what, even during the pro-am, and so that was like the most hardest thing I ever experienced.”
  • “Really? Harder than the grind of traveling across country? Harder than playing against elite competition every week? Harder than winning the U.S. Women’s Open?”
5. Wide open
The first of two pieces by Greg Hardwig at the Naples Daily News, syndicated in Golfweek…
  • “No more promotional photos for the top 5 or top 9 players with their hands on the $1 million box of cash this week.”
  • “Instead, there will be 60…Whoever wins Sunday will take home $1.5 million – to be clear, they automatically win the $1 million Race to the CME Globe and $500,000 for finishing first in the tournament. It’s the biggest winning check in women’s golf.”
  • “Previously, the winner of the Race to the CME Globe, which went through the entire LPGA Tour season, won $1 million, with the tournament champion winning $500,000.”
  • “The tournament purse also has been doubled, from $2.5 million to $5 million.”

Full piece.

6. Ramifications 
“NBC Sports Group today announced it has acquired EZLinks Golf, a PGA Tour-affiliated company, including Teeoff.com, its online tee-time marketplace for golfers, and its technology platforms, business solutions and customer service for golf course partners.”
  • “The move cements GolfNow as the 800-pound gorilla in the online tee-time category, but it won’t be welcomed by course owners and operators, The Forecaddie hears. An independent TeeOff.com, backed by the Tour’s marketing clout, was perceived as critical to a healthy, competitive marketplace. The combination of the two largest players in the category means that, more than ever, partnering with GolfNow becomes almost a cost of doing business.”
  • “Rumors of this move had been circulating for a few months. As one insider tells The Forecaddie, the industry should have felt “the tremors.” This puts into the hands of one entity upwards of 85 percent of the online tee-time inventory in the United States, according to sources.”

Full piece.

7. A golfer, a brain infection & one heckuva story
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall relays the story of Brett White…
  • “By the time he returned to the physician’s office, White was in terrible shape. He had a fever, was sweating uncontrollably and in a state that was as uncomfortable as it was unfamiliar. A lab nurse recognized White’s situation and called the doctor, who told White’s dad to get him to the emergency room, and fast.”
  • “When White was admitted to Spectrum Hospital, the medical staff believed he was suffering vertigo. Treatments for it, however, were ineffective, so they focused on White’s recent visits to South America, testing for malaria, Zika and Lyme disease. Those results were negative, leading to further examination, which included more blood samples, an MRI and a spinal tap.”
  • “After 10 days of analysis, White received an ultra-rare diagnosis of viral encephalitis secondary to Epstein Barr Virus (mononucleosis) infection with complications of ataxia. His brain was under attack by a virus and was swelling at an alarming rate.”
  • “I didn’t know, or wasn’t told, at the time,” White says, “but at that point my life was in serious jeopardy.”

Full piece.

8. Does the LPGA need American golfers to be good? 
That’s the question, in part, Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News, explores…
  • “The year-to-year, ongoing saga of where Americans stand on the LPGA Tour against the rest of the world appears to be in another downturn.”
  • “Does it really matter?…Maybe not to the tour itself, which has successfully marketed itself as a global tour and tapped into the Asian market, which continues to grow rapidly. Maybe not to the players that much. Golf’s an individual sport anyway, and many tour players are happy to have friends on the tour from other countries.”
  • “It matters to the tour in the aspect of people watching and your sponsors,” said former world No. 1 Stacy Lewis. “Your American players that are the ones that sell a little easier. On our side, for the players, we don’t care. I don’t see those other players as being Koreans or Japanese. They’re just people I want to beat.”

Full piece.

9. Rahm’s break
Golfweek’s Alistair Tait…”What prompted the break? Two reasons: next year is going to be a busier season than normal with the Olympics Games in Tokyo, and he decided to get a little practice as a family man.”
  • “It was more like a future thing. Knowing that with me getting married in Christmas, and the year we’re going to have, I needed a break at some point. I feel like that was the only time I could get a break to recharge a little bit and make sure, you know, I’m going to be fresh for next year.”
  • “Rahm and girlfriend Kelley got engaged last year, and the Spaniard has given himself quite a few brownie points ahead of the wedding.”
  • “I’m not going to lie. At first it was hard to step away from it a little bit. Honestly, I did nothing special. Just being a 25-year-old, enjoying time with my friends, enjoying time with Kelley. We spend so much of our life making decisions just for me and for my golf game, that it was nice just to, you know, tell her for a month straight, ‘What do you want to do?’ right, instead of what do I need to do. It was very nice to be able to do that. I wish I could do it every day of the year, but golf, it’s somewhat of a selfish sport in that sense.”

 

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  1. Jbone

    Nov 21, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    The LPGA is delusional. It’s a successful women’s sport but give me a break about wanting to get paid the same as the men. If you want to be paid like an elite athlete you have to compete with them. So come over and try to make that money on the mens tour

    • Shallowface

      Nov 22, 2019 at 8:02 am

      No, we’ve seen that and it’s nothing more than a sideshow.

      If the LPGA or WNBA can figure out some way to draw the same size audience as their male counterparts, then the compensation will follow. But for anyone to expect more sponsorship dollars (which are in effect advertising dollars and advertising must reach a large audience. It’s why you see companies drop off the men’s tour. Often times it just isn’t money well spent) in the name of “equality” could certainly be characterised as delusional.

      Mike Whan understands that I’m sure, but part of keeping that job is to say the right things. So much of Corporate America today is about management appearing to be trying to do something, even if there is no possible way to accomplish it. The appearance is all that matters.

  2. Shallowface

    Nov 21, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    The LPGA pay gap has nothing to do with discrimination due to gender and everything to do with attendance and television ratings.

    If Whan can bridge THAT gap, then the pay gap will close as well. All the best to him in that effort.

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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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