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Team USA holds off International squad for Presidents Cup victory

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It was never going to be a Presidents Cup like all the rest, for so many reasons. It wasn’t Tom Weiskopf, skipping the Ryder Cup to go fishing, but the losses of Day and Koepka put the first damper on the teams that were initially selected. It wasn’t high treason, but Patrick Reed’s indefensible actions in the Bahamas were certain to galvanize support for the opposing squad. It wasn’t the MMA octagon, but the shoving of a spectator by a caddie served only to intensify matters. And those are the negatives!

The positive side includes the best golf course we’ve seen in decades, hosting a professional, international team event. Until now, only the Walker Cup venues were in the league of Royal Melbourne, in terms of design and conditioning. A player-captain, only the second in PrezCup history, and a legend at that, won all three of his matches and led his team to victory. Young players arrived on the scene, untested in international team competition; some became larger than life, while others shrunk from the glare of the sun. In the end, a 2-point differential, with more match swings that fit on our fingers and toes. The perfect end to the twenty-teens, the perfect event at the perfect time. Let’s wrap up the 2019 Presidents Cup, just in time for the holidays.

Ground control to Captain Tiger

Tiger finally got out of Tiger’s way in an international event. This thoughtful Woods was different than any we’ve seen in previous Ryder and Presidents Cups. Returned to proper mental, emotional and physical states, he carried this 2019 team on his rhomboids. Before a day-one shutout became a certainty, he lifted Justin Thomas to new heights, winning the day’s only USA point. When Friday looked to be another wound-licker for the USA contingent, Woods and Thomas once again pulled a point from the upside-down. Despite taking Saturday off, Woods’ shots were replaced by his wisdom. He rallied his lineup to 4.5 points of 8, trending in the direction needed for Sunday singles. Saving his most graceful for day four, Woods led Team America into the fray and never trailed in his 3 & 2 win over hot-handed Abraham Ancer. Forget the former holder of the nickname: there is only one Captain America. For all his flaws and his qualities, for his return from the depths of suffering, for his dedication to his craft, Captain America is, once again, Tiger Woods.

Ernie’s mistake

Quick thought: who would you say were the five strongest golfers this week for the International Team? I would have said Ancer, Sungjae Im, Cameron Smith, Louis Oosthuizen, and Hideki Matsuyama. And I would have led off with those five golfers, not the likes of C.T. Pan, Haotong Li, and Adam Hadwin. Els needed to get black flags on the board as soon as possible, and they failed. If your best can’t get it done early, your worst won’t later. Option two: put your veterans out first. Get Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen out in the first three matches. Let them carry their banner into the fracas, a position they’d earned. The brain trust of Team International, so strong in the pairings for three days, did an about-face on Sunday. It either abandoned the metrics that had carried them to the lead, or trusted a flawed algorithm when logic and history were paramount.

Flaws in the system

Team events will always be flawed in their conduct. To begin, the qualifiers who’ve lost their mojo. Golfers like Bryson DeChambeau, C.T. Pan, Haotong Li, and Matt Kuchar, and even Webb Simpson. Fellows who earned their points early on, but failed to show up for matches. There are ways of playing extremely well, yet losing to a hot hand. That was not the case for this quintet. Whatever collision of skill and fate that brought them to these heights, had abandoned them weeks and months before they stepped onto the first tee. Next come the captain’s picks. Until Sunday, not Reed, nor Niemann, nor Hadwin, had done a darned thing to help their squads. Their play was so weak, that their leaders were forced to brace against them. The exceptions were Woods himself, and Fowler, the latter having accrued 2 points in 3 appearances. This was as much a surprise as the failings of the other, aforementioned picks.

The enigma of foursomes

What is it about head-to-head play, that governs all professional, international team play? Is it tradition? Fine. Is it the notion of mano a mano and lining up against a solitary opponent? Okay. Is it the divergence from the norm of 18 holes of stroke play? Acceptable. Fourball is a known commodity. Golfers who succeed at medal play, are likely to play well in fourball matches. Ignore your partner if you must, and play your own game. When it comes to foursomes, there is a misnomer about USA players lacking the temperament, and generosity of spirit, to succeed. For some other reason, players from outside the gilded kingdom, are automatically granted these two traits, which therein give them an advantage in alternate-shot competition. In 2019, team USA won 5.5 of 8 foursomes points. If the ROW squad had merely halved those matches, they would have been 1.5 points closer to victory. Truth is, no one knows what makes a proper foursomes partnership. Is it the best way to identify the proper champion? No. Is it a magically-archaic, outdated anachronism, wreaking havoc on a modern world and its golf? 100 percent. For those reasons, it should always be a part of these matches. It represents the unknown.

Replace singles

Bold statement, I know. Remember, this is a team event, and the emphasis is on team play. I’m not suggesting scramble golf; that’s for the silly season. Probably would take these guys 6 hours per match, with the selection of whose shot, how to play it, where to place it, ad infinitum and nauseum. How about alternate-alternate shot, or sixsomes? Player A drives, player B approaches, player C putts for one team. On the next hole, they shift one slot, then again on the third hole. No? Consider quick-six, where each six holes is worth something, with the three segments determining the winner of the point. Adds a sense of urgency to one of the sessions. It sticks in my craw that sides can establish a proper lead in team play, only to see it vanish upon the abandonment of the essence of the competition.

Comeback kids

Speaking of singles, there were some freakishly-inexplicable comebacks on Sunday. Begin with Tony Finau against Hideki Matsuyama. 4 down on the 11th tee, the pride of Utah somehow won five of the next eight holes to square his match. Only a half point loss for the ROW, but Matsuyama had this one in the bag, and let his mates down, big time. Next would be Patrick Reed. What’s that you say? The guy who one five of his first six holes, with four birdies, against an outclassed Pan, was a comeback kid? Sure thing. You know why. It was a comeback from all the things that had gone wrong over the last fortnight. In truth, Reed deserved to do a Fortnite celebration dance, after his Sunday performance. The maligned Matt Kuchar fashioned a comeback of his own, against Louis Oosthuizen. Koooootch stood 3-down with nine to go, and strode to the 18th tee with a 1-up lead. Sure, he gassed a bogey there, to fall back into a tie, but controlling his own destiny for once, was a big step for the Georgian. As bitter as comebacks are for those who give up leads, they are equally-fulfilling for those who return from the dead.

The golf course

After any time at all in golf, folks talk about the Augusta Influence that drives golf course superintendents to desperation. Ignorant members demand that their courses look and play like The National does … for two weeks of the year. With luck, those members will demand that their courses look and play like Royal Melbourne, instead. No need to saturate fairways and putting surfaces with wasted water. No call to preserve a green hue unknown to Mother Nature. No need to avoid the natural bounce, the intuitive carom, the unpredictable roll, the unsettling roil caused by firm, uneven turf. Golf is infinitely more interesting when unpredictable. Its courses are why we play the game until the moment we depart, boots up, toward the next life. Stop humanizing it, for goodness sake!

Closing thoughts

I’m not looking forward to next year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, nor the 2021 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow. I have no anticipation that Wisconsin in late September will be at all firm, just as I know that piedmont North Carolina will be equally wet and soft, in September of the following year. I’m hoping for a dry red in 2022, at Marco Simone outside Rome, just as I hope that the yet-to-be-selected site of the 2023 PrezCup matches will be something special. American golf is treelined, windless, blah, even when played on a faux-links like Whistling Straits.

I hope that future captains resist the temptation to select members of their little clubs, their inner circles. Give someone like Kevin Kisner or Kevin Na an experience on a national team. Your win-at-all-costs, keep-it-in-the-family approaches are simply not what the human experience need be, all the time. Imagine an aging Kisner, a septegenarian Na, recalling the time when he was a captain’s pick for a USA squadron. Not Fowler, nor Reed.

Give us prime-time golf from around the globe. Give us venues as magical as those seen on the Wonderful World of Golf, decades ago. These form the inspiration for generations of young golfers; they always have and always will. Knowing that golf will transport you to another continent, another language, another playing surface, is more than any other sport or game can offer. We are a fortunate lot.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Dyson Bochambeau

    Dec 16, 2019 at 8:39 am

    The International team should have selected Greg Norman instead of Nieman. They needed his veteran presence and course knowledge.

  2. Terry

    Dec 15, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Would have liked to have seen an int’l victory for a change. Not a fan of kucher thomas reed dechambeau woodland. Better luck next time

    • Ronald Montesano

      Dec 16, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Thank you for writing.

      It was looking so good, for so long, for the International side. As an American, I’d like to see our men follow the lead of our lady professionals, and all of our amateurs, and represent better.

  3. James

    Dec 15, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    In loudmouth news of Sunday singles:

    Patrick Reed 4&3 over Cameron Smith
    Patrick Reed 5&4 over Adam Scott

    Lesson: Don’t talk sh*t until after the prize is decided.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Dec 16, 2019 at 9:27 am

      Thank you for writing.

      Could you elaborate? These seem like made-up numbers. Reed defeated C.T. Pan this year, not Smith and not Scott.

  4. CrashTestDummy

    Dec 15, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Bottom line is that the US team played better. I don’t believe there is that much strategy in the pairings and lineup that would have change the outcomes.

    I disagree that it was Ernie’s mistake. Not a fan of putting the rookies as the anchors to perhaps forced to win crucial points. Too much pressure on them if they have to win their point. The veterans are much better to handle those situations. The players will always try to win their match if they are behind or ahead in points. They want a good record.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Dec 16, 2019 at 9:29 am

      Thank you for writing.

      If there are International leads on the board, when the rookies tee off, it gives them hope. Putting them out there first, increases the pressure, from my vantage point.

  5. N

    Dec 15, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    You don’t like the courses selected in America? They could go back to Sea Island, or what about Pinehurst?
    Niemann was the International’s downfall. If he had even played for a Tie in all his matches the Internationals would have won. Ernie messed up his choice there. Should have been Corey Connors, paired with Hadwin, the Canadians would have been great. But alas.
    Yes of course who would’ve thought the Americans would end up dropping bombs and be so clutch in the singles. But hey.
    This whole event never needed to be created. Nobody cares.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Dec 16, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Thank you for writing.

      Lots to cover here. One at a time, here we go.

      1. I love the idea of Sea Island. I also like the sandhills of N.C. Give me Pasatiempo in California, or Streamsong in Florida.

      2. We agree on Niemann. Too young. Why was he never paired with Ancer, if only to have the comfort of speaking Spanish with your partner?

      3. It was obvious that great players existed outside Europe and the USA. Also a money grab. Have a few more matches like 2019, and I will continue to care!

  6. drjacko

    Dec 15, 2019 at 11:25 am

    They won. the author’s gripes about picks don’t reflect the following:-

    Reed needed that time to rehabilitate from the fiasco of the last Ryder cup. Now he can hold his head high and enter the next cycle of selections on the back of a storming singles victory. Tiger has done a solid for any future American captain.

    Fowler has more experience at this level than Kisner and Na- especially in pairs format. Feel free to check it yourself. Even at half strength- he was good enough to anchor.

    You can call out Ernie’s strategy all you want. It nearly worked, Matsuyama vs Finau Ooisthausen vs Kuchar in real life, Scott vs Schauffele on paper. Against an American team that apparently was fully higher in standings against every International player aside from Scott and Matsuyama- 16-14 was a monumental effort.

    • T

      Dec 15, 2019 at 4:46 pm

      Agree to a certain extent.
      But Ernie’s choice of Niemann failed him. Niemann did squat the whole week. It should’ve been Corey Connors, and paired with Hadwin, they could’ve been a dynamic Canadian duo, enough to not lose points and that would’ve been enough to win the thing.
      So Ernie can only blame himself for the picks and bad pairings.
      Next time in the US, the internationals will get pummelled, again, and nobody will care about this even. Again.

  7. Johnny Mike

    Dec 15, 2019 at 10:27 am

    September is about the only time piedmont VA and NC courses are firm, fast, and baked. There is a kind of 6 week mini-season every year (though this year it was cut short), and September is the surest bet for it.

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Morning 9: Two Gloves | Caddies push for sponsor $ again | “The true Sergio” | Phil moving to Phlorida

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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.
January 16, 2020
Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
**Drop me a line (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com) if you’d like to talk about getting your message in front of the M9 readership.**

 

1. Two gloves, one important win
You’d be forgiven for forgetting the detail, as it very deliberately wasn’t mentioned on the telecast…
  • Golfweek’s Todd Kelly…”Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, arrested in December in Florida and charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly soliciting prostitution as part of a major prostitution and human-trafficking sting, won the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour season opener on Wednesday.”
  • “Gainey rebounded from a second-round 75 with a 67-69 finish to win The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay by four shots over John Oda and Dylan Wu.”
2. After bombs, the Champions Tour
The Desert Sun’s Larry Bohannon…”I have to make sure that I’m ready when I get here, that I’m not going to find my game here because there’s some responsibilities,” said Mickelson, who takes on the job as host of the 61st American Express.
  • “A two-time winner of the tournament and a runner-up last year, Mickelson is expanding his role after three years as the ambassador of the event, a behind-the-scenes job to talk the tournament up to fellow players.”
3. Caddies (again) push for share of sponsorship $$
Paul Sullivan for the New York Times (if you’ll remember, a group of PGA Tour caddies PGA sued the Tour in 2015 for a cut of sponsorship revenue)
  • “Starting this season, that value will be acknowledged on the European Tour. Caddies will be paid, through the caddie association, to have a logo on items associated with their trade, like a hat, bag strap, towel, even yardage books. As it stands now, a player pays the caddie a weekly fee, mostly to cover expenses, and a percentage of his earnings, which could be as high as 10 percent for a win.”
  • “The new agreement is meant to help all caddies, particularly those carrying bags for lesser-known players, because those players make fewer cuts and their caddies struggle without the percentage.”
  • “This is not for the guy who caddies for the seventh-ranked player in the world, since he does very nicely,” said Sean Russell, the chairman of the European Tour Caddies Association and a professional caddie. “This is for the guy who caddies for the 157th-ranked player. If you do the math, that caddie probably earned 12,000 euros (about $13,000) in bonus payments over the fixed fee for the week that covers expenses. If you’re earning a 12,000-euro bonus you’d be better off stacking shelves.”
4. “The true Sergio”
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…”According to Garcia, who kept his reported $640,000 appearance fee despite being disqualified, this year will be different. For starters, he reportedly waived his appearance fee.”
  • “I feel terrible about what happened last year,” said Garcia ahead of this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. “Obviously there were some outside things that got me to that point.”
  • “You know, I want to go there,” Garcia added, referring to Saudi Arabia. “I want to show my respect to them. You know, the easy thing would have been for me to hide and never come back there. But I love the people there, and I love the guys, all the people we met and everyone that takes care of us during the tournament. They are amazing people, and they wanted me to go back.”
5. Pick a tour
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”To maintain membership on the European Tour, a player like Paul Casey must participate in four events, excluding the World Golf Championships and majors, which are co-sanctioned by both tours. In the past that requirement has been lessened by a regulation that allows players to count starts in unofficial events like the Ryder Cup, but that loophole appears to have been closed slightly.”
“Under the European Tour’s membership rules players can count just one start in either the Ryder Cup, Olympics or Presidents Cup as part of their membership requirement.”
6. Noh returns
Hoggard again…”Seung-Yul Noh returns to the PGA Tour this week at The American Express following two years of mandatory military service in South Korea.”
  • “It’s exciting because I feel like I just started as a pro (when he began his military service). Getting to see a lot of friends on Tour, it’s just exciting right now,” said Noh, who played twice on the Korean Tour last fall to prepare for his return.
  • “Noh last played a Tour event in October 2017″

Full piece.

7. A step toward equal pay
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”A credit to Aussie imagination and audacity, the Vic Open was added to the LPGA schedule for the first time last year. While it may have been the LPGA’s smallest purse ($1.1 million), it was the tour’s biggest idea. Once again, male and female pros will tee it up at 13th Beach Golf Links in Victoria and play the same courses at the same time for the same amount of prize money. It was a mustard seed of an idea that is spreading, with the European Tour and Ladies European Tour teaming to co-sanction the Scandinavian Mixed tournament in Sweden this summer. Male and female tour pros will compete against each other there for the same purse and the same trophy.”
8. Taking his talents to South Florida
…and away from the taxman!
“Mickelson confirmed to GolfChannel.com Wednesday at The American Express that his family closed on a lot on Jupiter Island, Fla., on Dec. 23 and he hopes to begin construction soon.
  • “Mickelson, who is the host of this week’s event, said the family’s current plan is to move to Florida after his youngest child, Evan, graduates from high school in a year and a half.”
9. Bryson rips Brooks lack of ripped-ness!
Christopher Powers at Golf Digest…”DeChambeau, who has spent his off-season bulking up (just ask him about it), dumped more gas on the fire during a Twitch stream on Wednesday. In the clip below, he’s presumably talking about Koepka when he states “in [ESPN’s] Body Issue he didn’t even have any abs, I can tell you that. I got some abs.”
@LukeKerrDineen on Twitter…
“Yea I weigh more than him now. Significantly more.”
“Did you see the body issue? He didn’t have any abs. I have abs.”
“We don’t talk about it. We just don’t see eye to eye.”

 

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Morning 9: Feinstein: Don’t give up on Phil | PGA Tour pace-of-play policy | Golf Channel’s top 25 moments

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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.
January 14, 2020
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. Email me with your pace-of-play solutions in professional golf!
**Drop me a line (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com) if you’d like to talk about getting your message in front of the M9 readership.**

 

1. Don’t give up on Lefty!
So cautions John Feinstein after examining the record of modern professional golf in general and Philip Alfred Mickelson in particular…
  • “So, as he begins the year in which he will turn 50, at an event he has won twice, is it time to write off the man his myriad of fans love to call Lefty? Even though he’s actually right-handed?”
  • “History says no.”
  • “Golfers are frequently written off prematurely (see Woods, Eldrick T. and Nicklaus, Jack as prime examples) largely because they can re-find their game well into their 40s, long after most stars in other sports have retired to spouting clichés from a TV booth.”
  • “Mickelson was 33 before he won his first major title and had been labeled a guy who could win non-majors, contend in majors and make huge money off the golf course, but couldn’t win on a Sunday that truly mattered. He had 16 top-10s in majors, including a second in the U.S. Open; a second in the PGA and four thirds in the Masters-including three years in a row-2001, 2002 and 2003. He was frequently on or around the podium, but never at the top of it.”
2. Golf Channel’s most impactful moments since its inception
Hard to believe Golf Channel is 25 years old/hard to believe Golf Channel is only 25 years old all at once. How many years ago did they drop the “The”…I don’t remember…
Anyway…
Here’s the complete list, 1-25, of Golf Channel’s most impactful moments over the last quarter-century.
1.Tiger Woods wins 1997 Masters by 12 shots
2.Tiger Woods wins 2000 U.S. Open by 15 shots
3.Tiger Woods completes Tiger Slam (2000 U.S. Open – 2001 Masters)
4.Arnold Palmer passes away at age 87
5.Tom Watson nearly wins 2009 Open at age 59
6.Solid-core ball developed
7.Tiger Woods wins 2008 U.S. Open on one leg
8.Tiger Woods ends major drought at 2019 Masters
9.Tiger Woods wins third straight U.S. Amateur and then says, ‘Hello, world’
10.Rory McIlroy recovers from Masters collapse, wins 2011 U.S. Open by eight shots
3. The PGA Tour’s new pace-of-play policy
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“What’s not addressed…In Hawaii, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was adamant that the primary objective is not necessarily to speed up play. “A focus on time creates other problems,” Monahan said.”
  • “PGA Tour senior vice president and chief of operations Tyler Dennis confirmed that’s not the focus. “The overall round times haven’t really changed over the last 20 years,” Dennis said, citing research from historical ShotLink data. As such, these changes won’t address the amount of time it takes to play a round-especially on Thursdays and Fridays-or the difficulty some events face in finishing in the daylight.”
  • “So, what is the change? The hope is to modify the habits of players that are leading to the growing frustration of slow play. According to ShotLink data, the slowest 10 percent of players take an average of 63 seconds for shots around the greens, more than 25 seconds than that of their fastest 10 percent counterparts. Approach shots (55 seconds for the slowest 10 percent) are another area of frustration.”
4. PAC
Per Geoff Shackelford…”While GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard notes the inability of Bryson DeChambeau to have convinced caucus goers he was worthy of adding context to the council’s prime area of concern-slow play-I’m struck by the departure of Matt Kuchar. “
Press release…

For Immediate Release, the 2020 Slow Play Policy Advisory Council and players who have shown an ability to use their brain for other thoughts  besides those revolving around golf, I mean PAC:

PGA TOUR announces 2020 Player Advisory Council
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The PGA TOUR today announced the 16-member Player Advisory Council (PAC) for 2020. The PAC advises and consults with the PGA TOUR Policy Board (Board of Directors) and Commissioner Jay Monahan on issues affecting the TOUR.
2020 Player Advisory Council
Ryan Armour
Paul Casey
David Hearn
Harry Higgs
Charley Hoffman
Billy Horschel
Zach Johnson
Russell Knox
Anirban Lahiri
Peter Malnati
Rory McIlroy
Ryan Palmer
Jon Rahm
Kevin Streelman 
Justin Thomas
Harold Varner III
5. “I didn’t hit their shots” 
Via Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“Conversely, Palmer was not particularly apologetic about his part in this sequence.”
  • “On Sunday night, Palmer tweeted, “And for all those questioning the last hole, I’ll do it again next week so deal with it,” after his 18th hole bogey dropped him to T-4. He also sidestepped a question about why he didn’t hit a provisional, faux congratulating a Twitter user for “The Only Negative Tweet of the day Award”
  • “However, Palmer must have received similar questions about the provisional throughout the night, because on Monday morning he responded that the final-hole adventures of Steele and Smith weren’t his fault, remarking “I didn’t hit their shots!”
(And on Twitter) @RyanPalmerPGA: I didn’t hit their shots!!
6. 3 putts from 4 feet, minus $100K
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…“Lost in the craziness of Sunday night’s wild finish at the Sony Open was a most disappointing end to an otherwise-solid week for Collin Morikawa.”
  • “Morikawa, who won his first PGA Tour title as a non-member last summer at the Barracuda Championship, was 1 over for the day but appeared headed for a final round of even-par 70 as he stared down a short putt for birdie at the par-5 18th.”
  • “Instead, he three-putted from 4 feet, racing the first putt by the hole and lipping out the comebacker for bogey and a round of 2-over 72.”

Full piece.

7. Open champ exemption for LAA winner
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta again…”For the first time in the Latin America Amateur Championship’s six-year history, its winner will receive an exemption into the game’s oldest major.”
  • “The event, which has offered a Masters invitation to its winner every year since its inception in 2015, will now also offer a spot in The Open Championship.”
  • “We are delighted to offer a place in The Open for the winner of the 2020 Latin America Amateur Championship,” Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said in a statement.
8. The world’s highest golf tournament!
Golf Digest’s Oliver Horovitz on teeing it up in the Himalayas…
  • “Listen, Ollie, I’ve got some exciting news. There’s going to be a major golf event here very soon. The world’s highest golf tournament….
  • It will be played up at Kongde Ri. That’s 14,000 feet. We’re going up in choppers.”…There’s a pause, then Deepak arrives at his main point…”I think you should come over for it.”
  • “I first visited Nepal in April 2016, with my friends Miles and Vlad. After trekking to Everest Base Camp, we put together an article on Nepal’s little-known golf scene. There are six courses in Nepal, including Royal Nepal Golf Club and the wonderfully named Yak Golf Club, Himalayan Golf Course and Nirvana Country Club. There are 700 golfers, of which one in 10 is a professional, earning cards at an annual Q school for the Professional Golf Tour of Nepal.”

Full piece.

9. XR vs. a golf course
Via bunkered…”The climate change pressure group Extinction Rebellion has been branded “unreasonable” after it protested for a golf course in Brighton to be closed for “re-wilding”.”
  • “Stephen Garrioch, the captain of Hollingbury Golf Club, hit out at the group after its activists staged a protest in the East Sussex town at the weekend.”
  • “The campaigners are calling upon Brighton and Hove Council, which operates the facility, to abandon the course and let it grow naturally to encourage wildlife.”

Full piece.

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Tour Rundown: Sony Open Twilight Zone, Grace under pressure

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The 2nd weekend in January of 2020 marked the return of multiple events during a single week. Granted, one was rescheduled from 6 weeks past, another began on Saturday (and will conclude tomorrow), a third was an unfortunate swamp…DOESN”T MATTER! Televised golf that counts is back, and we’re watching! One of the world’s finest percussionists, Neil Peart of RUSH, left this world last week. In a salute to his mastery, find tributes to his songs scattered throughout this piece. With a heavy, non-golf heart, let’s read Tour Rundown for Monday, January 13th, 2o2o.

Sony Open’s Twilight-Zone ending leaves lots of head scratching

Not all comebacks end in victory, nor do all golf tournaments end in logic. Consider the 2nd part before the first: squeegees on the 18th green, golf balls ricocheting off bleachers, delays of over 10 minutes for the final group. It’s really no surprise that Brendan Steele had trouble navigating the closing stretch at Waialae Country Club. Some of it was his undoing, but much of it wasn’t. Steele came into the week in a massive slump, and led until the final putt, when he suddenly didn’t. And yet, to come so close to victory and not drink from the cup, is still a comeback. And perhaps that can suffice for now.

Steele had a one-shot lead, and was standing in the middle of the 18th fairway, iron in hand. Exuberance gave way to a snapping hook, and his approach sailed over the grandstands. After a drop area was decided, the leader was unable to pitch far enough, to avoid the casual channel of water that traversed the final putting surface. Steele could only 2-putt, and hope that Smith would not make birdie (spoiler alert: he did.)

The victor, Cameron Smith, was able to make up 2 shots on Steele over the inward nine. He birdied the 18th to reach 11 under par, and off the two golfers went to the 10th tee. Why not 18, you ask? Recall, if you will, the condition of the closing hole. It was quite messy, with sloppy turf along most of its 551 yards. The 10th is a wee drive and pitch, but it gave Steele fits. He drove his ball in the fairway, while Smith missed wide right. The Aussie played a remarkable recovery, onto the green, not far from the hole. With a tiny wedge in his hand, Steele gunned his approach far beyond the green, precisely where he didn’t need to be. Unable to get the ball up and down, Steele’s bogey was no match for Smith’s 2-putt par, and the Aussie had his first PGA Tour title.

Webb Simpson and Ryan Palmer found themselves in contention, in the penultimate group. Simpson made a par to total -10, one putt shy of the playoff. Palmer’s finish was as bizarre as Steele’s. Palmer slammed his approach, from a fairway bunker, off the video board, over the grandstands, straight into a bogey. In one swing he went from potential playoff participant to 4th place tie. Can golf on the mainland possibly equal this? Doubtful.

South African Open victory completes journey of Grace under pressure

Within his home country of South Africa, Branden Grace had won every event of note but one: the Open championship. On Sunday, the 31-year old closed the trophy cabinet with a 3-shot victory over Louis Oosthuizen, winning his country’s national title at the Randpark golf club in Johannesburg. The victory moved him into the early lead in the 2020 Race To Dubai, the European Tour’s season-long points race.

Inspired, perhaps, by the sublime 62 of Marcus Armitage on Saturday, Grace teed off on Sunday and posted a 62 of his own. Two items stand out from that performance: he was actually +1 through 2 holes; and he did all his damage in an eleven-hole stretch. Grace made bogey at the 2nd to fall a stroke farther behind the overnight leader. Then, in a 2.5 hour bottle, Grace caught lightning. Birdies at holes 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 through 14, in addition to an eagle at the 4th, lopped a massive 10 shots off his tally, pushing him beyond 20-under par.

Oosthuizen had an eagle of his own. A perfectly-judged tee shot on the par-3 8th hole, played dangerously close to disaster, found the bottom of the cup. The 2010 Open champion had, incredibly, zero bogeys on the day. Unfortunately, he was able to pair just one birdie with the ace, finishing at a frustrating 18-under par. As for Armitage, had he visited a fortune teller before the start, he would have learned that he would stand over a critical putt on the week’s last green. No, not for the title, but for an automatic bid to the 2020 Open Championship, at Royal St. George’s in July. The Englishman drained a 20-feet putt for birdie, finished in solo 3rd position, and punched his ticket to the south of England this summer.

Hong Kong Open decided after 6-week delay

Wade Ormsby of Australia began his 2020 in the most proper way; he claimed the Asian Tour’s Hong Kong Open with a 4- shot triumph. The journey to conclusion began in November of 2019, when the tournament was originally scheduled. Anti-government protests were sufficient enough for tournament organizers to authorize a postponement. 1.5 months later, the event was contested at the Hong Kong golf club.

No one was more on-form this week, than the soon-to-turn-40 Ormsby. He opened with 65, for a share of the lead, then stitched a quilt of 66s the remainder of the week. Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand stood 2 back of the Aussie on day four, and closed to within a shot when the leader made bogey at the first on Sunday. Right the ship? Indeed. Ormsby birdied holes 2-4 and added another at the 9th, to turn in 31 and remind followers that it had always been his week. Charoenkul admirably stood strong, finishing in 3rd place 5 behind the champion.

It was the 2019 Champion Golf of the Year, Shane Lowry, who provided the fittest challenge of the day. Lowry closed within 1 of the week’s low round (63) with a 64 of his own. Standing 6 under on the day through 14, the Irishman had closed with a pair of strokes of the leader. Ormsby and Lowry each had bogeys at the daunting, par 4 15th hole. The 5 effectively ended Lowry’s challenge, as Ormsby was unlikely to fritter away his lead.

The title was Ormsby’s 2nd Hong Kong Open win in 3 years. Among notable competitors, American Tony Finau finished 5th at 10 below par. Rashid Khan of Indonesia, compiler of the aforementioned 63, claimed 6th place after closing with 70. The Asian Tour resumes play this week at the Singapore Open, at the Sentosa golf club. Enter the warrior, today’s Wade Ormsby.

Tournament of Champions to Thomas in energy-crackling finish

Although it took place last week, the PGA Tour’s annual TOC earned a look this week, thanks to its unanticipated and dramatic finish. It’s rare when a PGA Tour player misses a driving range, but that’s what Justin Thomas did with his 2nd at the par-5 18th hole on Sunday. From certain victory in regulation, Thomas tugged his fairway metal (which he didn’t need to hit) on the widest fairway in golf, into the native gunge left. The ensuing penalty forced him to get up and down from 75 yards for par and victory. Well, that didn’t happen, either. Off went Thomas and equal-parts-stunned-and-delighted Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed to the 18th tee. Thomas and Reed negotiated birdies, which eliminated Xander’s par. Playoff part two at the same hole dealt pars from the middle of the deck to the survivors, so back to the hilltop they went, for a 4th go (including regulation) at the long yet reachable par five. Thomas made birdie and watched as Reed could only make par. The win was Thomas’ 12th on tour, and 3rd in a playoff.

Much was learned with the resumption of the 2019-2020 PGA Tour season in Kapalua: Brendon Todd’s incredible run of top-five finishes came to an end (he placed 29th); Joaquin Niemann can play better than he did at Royal Melbourne (where he didn’t help the International Team a lick); and for Kapalua’s Plantation course to truly defend itself against the pros, it needs backward winds (which it got); brand-new greens (with new breaks, to stump the gods); and fairways that don’t run out (that will change as the redone turf firms up.) In other words, by 2022, Kapalua should be Kapalua again.

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