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Morning 9: Woods: “I have to do everything right” to catch Jack | Mickelson heading to Saudi Arabia…responds to controversy

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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.

December 3, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.  
 
**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. Van Dam defends
In case you missed it over the weekend…
Julie Williams at Golfweek...”It was an impressive display of golf in the final round, particularly because van Dam had to overtake her Danish friend Nanna Koerstz Madsen to win her second title in this event. Interestingly, even Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez made an appearance in the gallery for the final round.”
  • “Madsen had a three-shot lead after three rounds at Aloha Golf Club in Marbella, Spain. She holed out for eagle at the par-4 ninth and was still two shots ahead at the start of the back nine. She was down to a one-shot lead on the 18th tee.”
  • “Madsen made a double-bogey there after dumping her drive left in the water. It was her third double-bogey in a final-round 74.”
  • “Van Dam played to her length and placed her tee shot in the middle of the fairway with a 4-iron. She won with a seemingly easy par for a final-round 70 and a 13-under total. She said she didn’t expect to see Madsen’s final hole unfold the way it did.”

Full piece.

2. Mickelson to play in Saudi Arabia 
Never one to pull punches, Geoff Shackelford quotes Alex Myers’ report and added a bit of his own spice…
  • “As Alex Myers notes, Phil Mickelson has made 30 Phoenix Open starts, including 27 in a row, but the ASU great will end that run this year to play the second ever European Tour event in Saudi Arabia. The event is the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, attempting to westernize the image of Saudi Arabia while regularly attacking journalists, including arresting more just last week on top of likely ordering the Jamal Koshaggi murder and dismemberment.”
  • “I am really looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia in January,”  Mickelson told the Saudi Gazette. “I watched Dustin win the title last  year and thought the course looked like an interesting challenge. Having  so many talented players on show also made it look like a much more established tournament than one in its inaugural year. I have enjoyed my  previous visits to the Middle East and am looking forward to playing in a new country and doing my bit to grow the game in the Kingdom.”
Shackelford then referred to the left-hander as “too enlightened, worldly and successful to be falling back on the “grow the game” sham.”
3. …and Phil responds
…via Twitter of course…
  • @PhilMickelson: Given that I turn 50 this year, there’s a good chance I’ve played my last Phoenix Open. We’ll see.
  • @brianmflaherty: You’re better than taking the money grab from a corrupt regime.  Come on, Phil.
  • @PhilMickelson: After turning down opportunities to go to the Middle East for many years, I’m excited to go play and see a place in the world I’ve never been. I understand those who are upset or disappointed. You’ll be ok. I’m excited to experience this for the first time.
4. Hero Shot
Golf Channel’s Jason Crook…”Woods kicked off his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas by claiming the inaugural Hero Shot at Baha Mar, an event where he topped some marquee names hitting shots at a floating target from 130 yards away.”
  • “Woods, who took home his record-tying 82nd PGA Tour title the last time he teed it up at the Zozo Championship in October, outlasted Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Henrik Stenson and Gary Woodland in the exhibition, and he did it in typical Tiger fashion.”

Full piece.

5. Tiger: “I have to do everything right” to catch Jack
Cassandra Negley at Yahoo Sports“But when asked directly, he does think the record of 18 major titles held by Jack Nicklaus is attainable.”
  • “I think it is. I think it is,” Woods said Monday morning on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive. “Obviously I have to do everything right like I did at Augusta and I have to have all of the pieces come together.”
  • …Woods trailed on the leaderboard heading into the final round at Augusta, and with four holes to go there were still five golfers – four of whom have won majors – tied for the lead.
  • “I was, what, 14-1 when either leading outright or tied for the lead going into Sunday [at a major]?” Woods said on Morning Drive. “I finally broke that snide and came from behind. Who knows if I can come from behind [again]? I’ve done it different ways.
  • “I’ve won tournaments in different ways and I finally have won a major and done that in different ways,” Woods said. “So, who knows what the future holds?”

Full piece.

6. Appreciate the GOATs
 
Perspective from Randall Mell at Golf Channel looking ahead to Saturday’s viewing schedule…
It’s a full day of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods playing live golf on Golf Channel and NBC.
  • …Yes, Father Time’s ruthless pull separated  the magic from the Golden Bear’s swing a long time ago, but if you’re a golf fan, there’s a sweet reminiscence seeing Nicklaus inside the ropes again. It doesn’t matter whether it’s hitting a ceremonial opening tee shot at the Masters, playing the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National or playing alongside his grandson, G.T., in the PNC Father-Son Challenge”

And Woods? He seemed to escape Father Time’s 

Full piece.

7. Tiger’s back-to-back stretch 
ESPN’s Bob Harig on what Woods faces over the next fortnight…
  • “Now ranked seventh in the world, playing again this week for the first time since winning his 82nd PGA Tour title at the Zozo Championship in October, Woods gets back to work with the other 10 members of the Presidents Cup team he will captain just over a week from now in Australia.”
  • “And therein lies the next question for Woods, who will not only play competitive golf in consecutive weeks for one of the rare times this year, but he also has hosting duties this week in the Bahamas, captain duties next week at Royal Melbourne and duties of simply the everyday issues of being … Tiger Woods.”
  • “The last time Woods played consecutive weeks didn’t go so well. And it really wasn’t all that much golf. Woods withdrew following the first round of the Northern Trust in early August, citing an oblique injury. The following week he competed in the BMW Championship — he played just nine holes in the pro-am — and tied for 37th to end his season and miss qualifying for the Tour Championship.”

Full piece.

8. Woods finally watches Masters win 
More from Harig…”Some six months after winning the Masters, Tiger Woods finally sat down with his caddie, Joe LaCava, to watch the final round and relive the tense moments leading to his 15th major title on April 14.”
  • “LaCava visited Woods recently at his South Florida home for some promotional work and they decided it would be a good time to see how it all transpired. “We spoke about the conversations we had over each shot,” Woods said Monday at Albany Golf Club, where he is playing in the Hero World Challenge that begins Wednesday. “Some of our friends and family who were there were like, “Oh my God, you guys really talked about that?’
  • “But that’s what we were talking about, that’s what was going on. We were running through all the scenarios, Joe looking at the (score)boards, I am looking at the boards. We were trying to figure out what was going on; who birdied what, who was making a move.”

Full piece.

9. Chamblee heading to Q-School
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers...”Thirty-four years after going to Q School for the first time, Brandel Chamblee is headed back. This time around, though, he’s got a pretty good day job to fall back on.”
“The Golf Channel analyst will be in the field at TPC Scottsdale when the final stage of PGA Tour Champions Q School starts on Tuesday. Chamblee will be one of 78 golfers playing for five spots on the senior circuit in 2020.”
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Patrick Reed’s caddie thrown out of Presidents Cup after altercation with fan

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Patrick Reed’s caddie, Kessler Karain, has been kicked out of the Presidents Cup after admitting that he shoved a fan following an altercation on Saturday at the Presidents Cup.

Karain, who is also Reed’s brother in law, admitted to losing his cool after becoming irate after a fan heckled Reed after his 5 and 3 defeat alongside Webb Simpson to Hideki Matsuyama and C.T. Pan on Saturday.

Karin spoke to ESPN and Barstool Sports following the news of his exclusion from the event.

@foreplaypod

In response to his caddie’s ban from the event, Reed stated

“I respect the Tour’s decision. We are all focused on winning the Presidents Cup tomorrow.”

Reed’s swing coach, Kevin Kirk, is expected to be on the bag for the Texan’s singles match on Sunday.

 

 

 

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5 things we learned on day three of the Presidents Cup 2019

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They’ve got us where they want us. We care. In the middle of December, we care about golf. We care about golf course architecture. We care about young golfers earning their first international cap. And about golfers who should and should not be on their respective teams. And about golfers who play well under pressure, on a Sandbelt course with all the traits of a links. And about at least five other things that I’m about to elaborate. Two rounds of four matches each, went in the books on day three of the Presidents Cup. In a facts-only retrospective, Team ROW moved from a 3-point, overnight advantage to a 4-point mid-day advantage. Team USA found a needed gear in the afternoon, and close the 4-point disadvantage to 2 points. And that’s where we stand, with 12 singles matches ahead. Team USA needs to claim 7 points from those 10 matches, in order to retain the cup. Team ROW (the Internationals) need 5.5 points to hoist the chalice on home soil.

1. Why the Internationals will win on Sunday

They’ve played better in Four-Ball competition. In the matches where a golfer’s own ball completes the hole, the ROW has won 6.5 of 9 points. They are making birdies and pars beyond the scope of anything the USA can match. Sungjae Im makes more birdies than anyone else on the PGA Tour. If he gets his usual bushel against Gary Woodland, that’s one point. Ancer has a bit of an advantage against Captain Tiger, in that Woods hasn’t golfed his ball since Friday. If Ancer’s short game stays lit, he has a chance. Unlike the USA, the International squad gets a world-level team event once every two years, and hosts it, once every four. Despite not being an official community (like Europe for the Ryder Cup), the impact of a captain like Els brings the importance of this event home for the team members. It seems that they want to win for him, which goes a long way.

2. Why the USA will win on Sunday

To begin, they hold higher rankings on the official ladder of golfing greatness, have won more major championships, and have more international-match caps (if only because they play one every year.) Team USA also has momentum, halving the 4-point deficit in one brace of matches, and being on the cusp of making it even closer. Justin Thomas is flat-out pissed (in the USA understanding of the term) about giving away a half-point. Winning zero holes on the inward half, and failing to tie one of the remaining five, did not leave a fine taste in the mouth of the young stalwart. Knowing his game, this will buoy him in his match with Cameron Smith. Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland finally won a point outright, which should give them the confidence they need to claim matches on Sunday. Oh, and there’s the Captain-Tiger effect. They may not want to win FOR him, but they don’t want a plane ride home WITH him, but WITHOUT a certain goblet.

3. Damage control, Team USA

Where to start? Are these guys all-in for international matches? Is it possible to get up for this competition, after peaking for four majors, a handful of almost-majors, and a three-week, tour playoff? And then taking September through November off (for some of them)? Add in the discomfort that many have with the ground game, the firm game, the non-spin game, the bunkers-cut-into-greens game, the holes-cut-on-the-edge-of-disaster game. How about guys like Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed, who have not partnered well, yet inexplicably been paired 3 times? Both took Saturday afternoon off, and both need to count on Sunday, or the ROW is well on its way to snatching the trophy. Not far behind are Finau and Kuchar (two half-points each). Finau must be the best guy in the team room, the most unlucky competitor, or something else. He continues to get the nod as a Captain’s pick, over match-play stalwarts like Kevin Kisner and Kevin Na.

4. Damage Control, Team International

Start with Haotong Li and Adam Hadwin. One match for Li over 3 days and 4 rounds, and only 2 for Hadwin. Is either one injured? Off form? A bother to partner with? Seeing the ease with which Captain Els and staff shifted golfers in and out of pairings, the first glaring absence was Li, with the Canadian not far behind. Follow up with the aging trio of Scott, Leishman and Oosthuizen. The first two have played every match thus far, with Louis appearing in 3 of 4. They’re the spiritual spine of the team, but do they have the endurance to make it one last day? Finish it off with Joaquin Niemann. Why is he here? South American representation? Perhaps. Youth? Perhaps. Future of the team? Perhaps. He has one-half point in four matches, and has shown an erratic, unreliable game. His win in September on the PGA Tour seems more fluke than fate, but a day-four victory over Patrick Cantlay would be a massive salve on his wounds.

5. The IF factors

So many “ifs” and so little ability to anticipate if they will turn out or not. Here’s a list of ten:

IF Tiger Woods or Abraham Ancer gets out to an early lead, in the day’s first (and most-anticipated) match, how will that impact the remaining 11 matches?

IF Haotong Li finds any semblance of the game that earned him a spot on the team. He’s out 4th, and a win over Dustin Johnson is certainly plausible.

IF Jason Day and Brooks Koepka were playing/not injured…

IF the weather isn’t as predicted (around 70 degrees, no rain, 10 mph winds), what impact will it have?

IF the USA can avoid shooting at flags, and work the ball into the hole using angles, splines and spines …

IF only the small ball still existed, and the ROW could use it to its advantage

IF the ghost of Peter Thomson returns to putt for the ROW

IF the entire ROW team wears yellow bucket hats on Sunday, in memory of Jarrod Lyle …

Now I’m getting misty. So much good about this game. Forget your usual, Saturday-evening celebrations. This Saturday Night Fever doesn’t involve young Travolta. It salutes the passing of one generation to the next, the opportunity to earn your stripes in international competition, and the opportunity to see an exquisitely-designed golf course, whose conditions are much easier to replicate for superintendents than, say, a certain fruit farm in Georgia. Sunday’s matches will be just like Royal Mel, brothers and sisters: fast and firm. Strap in and ride the coaster!

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5 things we learned on day two of the Presidents Cup 2019

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Guess who will take a split of the points each of the next two days? That’s absolutely correct! The men in tan and black, and green and black. In addition to having amazing color schemes for their wardrobe choices, Team International preserved a 3-point advantage over Team USA after two days of competition in Melbourne. Should it have been a wider margin? Might it have been closer? That’s what we want to dig into, with the five things we learned on day two of the last Presidents Cup of this decade. School is in session!

1. It should have been closer

Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar were 2 up after 5, and also after 7, in their match against Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen. By the 10th tee, they were all square. In fact, that 7th-hole win by the Americans was their last hole won on the day. Ouch. Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson won three holes on the outward half on Friday. Their only concern was that the ROWOE (rest of the world outside Europe) won four. And then won 3 against the RWB’s 1, for a 2nd-consecutive loss. I’ll have more on the Simpson-Reed pairing in a moment, but if the Americans are to win this competition, they will need to receive more birdies (ROWOE had 4 & 6 birds, respectively, in the aforementioned, in alternate-shot matches) from all team members, and get the ball in the hole first.

2. It should have been wider

The obvious match to point to, is the final one of the day. Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im stood on the 16th tee in a strong position. They held a 2-up lead over Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland, and were poised to make the margin 7 to 3. Back came the American duo, with birdies at 16 and 17, to erase the deficit. Imagine the horror if the RWB had won a 3rd-consecutive hole, and trimmed the margin to 6-4! Fortunately for Smith/Im, they held strong and halved the 18th in pars, escaping with a half-point and just a few bruises. In the day’s 4th match, eyes were on the powerful pairing of Tiger and Justin. Could they recreate their first-day magic? They needed to, if the USA were to preserve any hope. The day started well, with 2 holes won over the first 5 holes. Then Ben and Hideki lit fire to 3 consecutive holes, turning a 2-down into a 1-up, International-squad advantage. And then came the USA, with a win at the 9th, for an all-square (with 6 holes traded) at the midway point.

Things got interesting on the inward half. More a dance than a tussle, two more holes were exchanged early, then 4 went by with no blood. On the 18th tee, all square, with so much on the line (pride, margin, well, pride and margin) and JTTW came through. With a magnificent birdie at the last, Tiger and Justin didn’t lose, nor did they tie. They won the most crucial point for the 2nd consecutive day. Their win on Thursday avoided the shutout, the dreaded tennis bagel. On Friday, they gave Team USA a reason to cheer, and a reason to hope.

3. Bet me…Bet me!!!

I’m not the brightest when it comes to bets. Check out the comments from Friday’s, first-round 5 Things, and you’ll see a bet I made with one of our readers. Pretty awesome bet on Sungjae, except for the fact that he wasn’t playing his own ball on Friday! I shall accept my loss and claim distraction as my only culprit. I shall also ask for double-or-nothing from said reader, and wager as gentlemen once again, that Sungjae will make 9 birdies on his own ball, in Saturday’s first match. That’s correct, the one that tees off at 7:16. Yessir, the one where he and Abraham Ancer will compete against the state of California (Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele).

4. Back to golf…and Saturday’s AM pairings

TIGER ON THE BENCH! Indeed, the captain has benched himself. The captain knew that the player would need rest, and the captain needs to lead his golfers around Royal Melbourne. Take a look back at how quickly Seve Ballesteros drove around Ryder Cup matches…no governor in that golf cart. He needed to be everywhere, for everyone. Tiger will do the same, mark my words. As fast as Royal Melbourne is playing, he won’t need much acceleration. Yes, it’s an exhibition, and no, it won’t be the end of the world if the USA loses. Tiger doesn’t accept losing, not before, nor during, nor after, the final putt is holed. More important, his reclaimed legacy in the game will include how he fairs as #PrezCup and #RyderCup captain. He will say to Justin, Padawan, I’ve given you all I know. Now you are a Jedi. Get Rickie’s head in the game!!! To Patrick and Xander, he will say Hey, Calif boys, I’m one of you. Just a little older, is all. Let’s get it done, west coast style. To Webb and Patrick, he will … jeez, what do you say to these guys? O42 and not showing much sign of life. Maybe they will pull one out for the big cat. If not, we can remove the Captain-America nickname from Reed’s slumping shoulders. Finally, he will look at two more, underachievers (trust me, they’re great in the team room) named Finau and Kuchar, and perhaps say more than They’re good to Finau and Tip better to Kuchar.

And the International side? We begin with LiLeishman. Haotong Li makes his debut with Leishman in the morning’s first match. The faith that Els has in Leishman! He gave him Niemann on day one, Ancer on day two and now Li on day three. Leishman is the rookie whisperer on this squad. He must be like a mix of teddy bear and boa constrictor. Next we have Abe and Im. Guess what? They haven’t partnered each other yet, but Ancer is 2-0 and Im, 1.5-0.5. They are pretty strong and might be the darlings of these matches. Third come Pan and Matsu. This is the first time that partners have reprised their roles. That’s a mountain of respect from the Big Easy. First, he trusts them to play well with each other. Second, he trusts his entire company to play well WITH ANYONE! Last come Ben and Adam. OK, they also played together on day one. So much for my theory. Good pairing, I’ll admit. Big comeback, they had, against Finau and Bryson.

5. Speaking of Bryson…

Where is El fuerte, el gigante, los SMUsculos? On the sidelines for a second-consecutive match, he is. He and his 4-degree driver, his new build, his…inability to partner well in four-ball? If he didn’t play on Friday in foursomes, is he likely to play on Saturday in foursomes? Who knows? That’s a rough assessment, and will either motivate (or soul-crush) him for Sunday’s singles match. Oh, right, it’s an exhibition. I always get ahead of myself.

See all the things we learned? Sometimes they happen on the course, and sometimes, in my mind. Remember: 9 birdies this evening/tomorrow morning from Sungjae. Put it in the bank. And collect interest. And bet on him again.

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