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Morning 9: Tour champions: Rahm, Kim | Euro Tour’s “money problem” | Mickelson the host

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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 25, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans. If a balloon in the likeness of a professional golfer, living or dead, were added to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, who should it be? 
 
**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. Rahmian double
BBC Report…”Jon Rahm birdied the final hole to win the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on 19 under par and clinch the European Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai title.”
  • “Rahm holed a three-foot putt to finish one ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood and win the event for the second time.”
  • “The win also meant the 25-year-old Spaniard also pipped Fleetwood, 28, to be the number one in Europe for 2019.”

Full piece.

2. “Overlooked no more”
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins on Sei Young Kim’s statement victory...”Sei Young Kim might have just become the least-talked about wire-to-wire LPGA winner ever. The 26-year-old from South Korea quietly opened the CME Group Tour Championship with a 65 to take a lead she held or shared until her winning 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole worth $1.5 million on Sunday.”
  • “On a hot, humid Florida afternoon, most of the attention seemed to be directed elsewhere. Nelly Korda, the highest-ranked American at No. 3, was just a shot behind Kim at the start of the final round, and had attracted more attention from stretches of brilliant golf: four-under for her final three holes on Thursday, the 31 she shot on the front nine on Friday, the 31 she shot on the back nine on Saturday.”
  • “Even throughout the final round, as Korda fought through a difficult ball-striking day, Danielle Kang’s seven-under 65 to finish at 16 under generated more buzz around the golf course.”
  • “But to overlook Kim yet again was a mistake.”

Full piece.

3. Duncan downs Simpson
AP report…”Tyler Duncan made a 12-foot putt on the second hole of a playoff with Webb Simpson on Sunday in the RSM Classic for his first PGA Tour title.”
  • “Playing two groups ahead of Simpson in windy conditions on Sea Island’s Seaside Course, Duncan birdied three of the last four holes in regulation for a 5-under 65. He two-putted the par-5 15th for a birdie, made a 6-footer on the par-3 17th and a 25-footer on the par-4 18th.”

Full piece.

4. …a backstory that wasn’t
Nice work by Sean Martin of PGATour.com, penning a piece on the friendship between Webb Simpson and Brendon Todd, which, had Todd played better on Sunday, could have been an interesting backstory if they had dueled down the stretch…
  • “They first met when Todd moved to North Carolina in middle school and immediately started challenging Simpson’s dominance in the state.”
  • “I was kind of winning golf tournaments and then he moves to Cary, North Carolina, and he starts beating me like a drum,” Simpson said. “He was really good and I think we kind of inspired each other growing up. I’m only a couple months younger, but a grade behind him, so he definitely pushed me and hopefully I pushed him.”
  • “They also supported each other during the tough times, talking on the phone when they were struggling with their games. Simpson endured a winless streak of nearly five years after he was forced to switch putters. Todd’s slump was much deeper. He got the full-swing yips and had a tough time just breaking par.”
5. Phil Mickelson: host of the Hope
Larry Bohannon at The Desert Sun with the story from Phil’s flip-flop-clad presser…
“Phil Mickelson is convinced this is the right time for him to expand his role with the American Express golf tournament and the Coachella Valley.”
  • “It’s always been an important part of my life. I would come out here and play junior tournaments here,” Mickelson said. “I’ve always been passionate about here, and I love the tournament itself. But more than that, this tournament has meant historically a lot to this area, and I want to bring back the vision of Bob Hope.”
  • “The announcement that Mickelson will officially become the host of the tournament he won in 2002 and 2004 and where he finished second by a single shot last year was just part of activities Saturday at Madison Club in La Quinta, where Mickelson has a home. Much of the discussion Saturday centered around the addition of global financial company American Express as tournament sponsor and what the company can bring to the desert event”

Full piece.

6. The European Tour’s money problem
An interesting take from Alistair Tait…“There’s a contradiction here. The Rolex Series was set up precisely to try to get Europe’s top stars to play more on their home tour…The problem? The top players earn so much money they can afford to turn their noses up at tournaments worth $7 million and more.”
  • “The three final Rolex Series events came on the back of the $10.25 million WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. There was a time when the tops stars would have built their schedules around a quartet of events worth a combined $32.75 million. Not now. These guys are so rich they don’t have to play four in a row. Even players who are not box office names can afford to skip Rolex Series tournaments, a fact Pelley acknowledged.”
  • “I had an interesting discussion with Victor Perez, who is ninth in the Race to Dubai. Last year he was a Challenge Tour player but he got into the WGC-HSBC Champions but he doesn’t want to play four in a row, so he made a decision not to play in Turkey or South Africa.”
  • “If a relative unknown like Perez can afford to skip two tournaments worth a combined $14.5 million, it sends a pretty strong signal. It’s why Pelley is looking at ending the 2021 schedule with just two Rolex Series events instead of the current three.”

Full piece.

7. From golf shop employee to managing a pro golfer
Getting you up to speed: Our protagonist, Jennifer Kim, met Inbee Park’s husband while she was working at Golf Center, which eventually led to her talking with someone who worked at a Korean talent agency, who asked for her resume, which she didn’t think would lead to anything…
  • Via Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…“But in November, the team at Bravo and New actually did call her, asking if she was serious about working for them. The answer, of course, was yes.”
  • “Just six months out of college, with no experience working with professional athletes, she flew to Korea and met Jeongeun Lee6, who had just won LPGA Q-Series and was poised to start her rookie year on the LPGA Tour in January. In a meeting with Lee6’s parents and members of Bravo and New, the decision was made that Kim would be Lee6’s personal manager for 2019. Lee6 had wanted a female manager, and the thought was that it would be fun for Lee6 to travel with a peer. Importantly, Kim is bilingual. She was born in Chicago, but lived in South Korea from second through sixth grade, because of her father’s business. She’s fluent in Korean and English. Lee6 is still working on mastering the English language, so having a bilingual manager was imperative.”

Full piece.

8. Congaree
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch on a singular golf club…
“Located behind a wooden gate along a two-lane road in the woods, Congaree isn’t a golf club in the conventional sense. There is a course – actually, one of the best that Tom Fazio ever signed his name to – but that is almost incidental. At Congaree, golf is the route, not the destination.”
  • “It opened in 2017 and has only two official members – its billionaire founders Dan Friedkin and the late Robert McNair, who owned the Houston Texans. What it has instead are invited ambassadors, people prominent in their industries who aren’t so much expected to pay cash as donate their time and mentorship. Their number includes titans of industry and golf Hall of Famers like Masters winner Mark O’Meara.”
  • “Each year, the Global Golf Initiative at Congaree identifies dozens of high school students from around the world who have the talent to play college golf, but who lack the financial, parental or social advantages that kids from places like Sea Island might enjoy. The intense four-week program is a mix of educational, vocational and golf instruction, including college preparation, life lessons, counseling, fitness training and even club fitting. When they leave, Congaree’s advisors and counselors shadow them through the end of high school and into college.”

Full piece.

9. Nelly Korda has only scratched the surface
That’s the bold claim from Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols, who writes…”For those who follow this tour closely, she’s the answer to the ever-popular question: Who’s the next big star?”
  • “That’s not wishful thinking, though Nelly certainly presents the complete package. Extraordinary genes, model-like looks, an enviable golf swing, firepower, intensity and an easy laugh. Despite all that she even seems relatable.”
  • …”Beyond all the physical attributes, the intangibles are what make Nelly a most intriguing prospect as No. 1. And she’s not afraid to say that being No. 1 is her No. 1 goal.”
  • “Players have been known to shy away from that kind of declaration past a certain age.”
  • “Nelly seems to have more here to me,” said Judy Rankin, patting her heart.
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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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