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Morning 9: Smith wins Sony as Steele falters | Grace in South Africa | Lynch: Tour’s risky Reed behavior | Michelle Wie isn’t finished

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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 13, 2020
Good Monday 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. Sony: Smith wins one for Australia
It was Brendan Steele’s tournament to lose down the stretch, and lost it he did, falling to Cameron Smith on the first playoff hole.
  • BBC report with a bit of the context for the Australian’s victory…”Australian Cameron Smith claimed the PGA Tour’s Sony Open and said he hoped his play-off win would allow people in his country to “smile for a moment or two” during the bushfire crisis.”
  • “Smith, 26, won the first play-off hole at Hawaii’s Waialae Country Club to beat American Brendan Steele.”
  • “Smith’s uncle Warren has lost his home in the bushfires in Australia….”Australia is doing it tough right now and the focus is probably not on my golf, for good reason,” said Smith…”But hopefully it gave a few people reason to smile for a moment or two.”

Full piece.

2. Why Steele didn’t win
AP report…”For this PGA Tour victory, his help came from the guy he was trying to beat.”
  • “Steele had a three-shot lead when he holed a bunker shot for birdie on the 11th hole, and he never trailed the entire day until it fell apart at the end. He missed a 6-foot par putt on the 17th, and then hit a wild hook from the fairway on the par-5 18th and never had a reasonable look at birdie.
  • “On the 10th hole for the playoff, Steele was in ideal position in the fairway, 88 yards from the hole, when he hit wedge over the green. He chipped off the rain-soaked grass and mud to 15 feet and missed the par putt. Smith, who had driven into right rough, chased his shot to 10 feet. He never imagined winning would come down to two putts from short range.”

Full piece.

3. Grace wins in South Africa
Golf Channel’s Will Gray...”Branden Grace’s red-hot putter netted him both a comeback victory at his national Open and a spot in the final major of 2020.”
  • “Grace started the day three shots behind countryman Louis Oosthuizen at the South African Open, but he torched Rand Park on the final day for a 9-under 62 that earned the South African a three-shot win and his first worldwide victory since 2017.
  • “That was remarkable. I’m at a loss for words,” Grace said. “I can’t remember the last time the putter was that hot. You know I told my caddie on 16, said I’ve made six one-putts leading up to this hole on the back nine. So I’m good, this is the one I really wanted.”

Full piece.

4. And in Hong Kong…
Golfweek’s Adam Schupak...”Australian Wade Ormsby fired his third consecutive 4-under 66 to complete a wire-to-wire victory at the Hong Kong Open.”
  • “Ormsby entered the final round with a two-stroke lead at the Asian Tour and European Tour co-sanctioned event and never relinquished it. He finished at 17-under 263 to notch a four-stroke triumph over reigning British Open champion Shane Lowry, who closed with 64 to record his best result since hoisting the Claret Jug in July.”
5. Lynch: Risky behavior
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”A number of truths became apparent when Golfweek revealed that Reed has engaged a lawyer in an effort to silence Brandel Chamblee, the most prominent critic of his alleged cheating at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas last month.”
  • “…Reed either ignores good advice or receives bad advice, and neither scenario recommends his inner circle, a group so small and lightweight it could fit comfortably on a golf cart and still leave room for his Tour bag.”
  • “…Others care more about Reed’s reputation than he seemingly does, specifically the PGA Tour. And that is where the deepest disconnect exists in this sorry episode – not between the Tour and Reed, or between Reed and fans, but between the Tour and a public that believes it has seen the evidence for itself.” 

Full piece.

6. Byron Nelson leaving Trinity Forest
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…”The PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson is leaving Trinity Forest after just three years. The decision, first reported by the Dallas Morning News on Saturday, has been confirmed by Golf Digest, with an official announcement expected to come Sunday.”
  • “As the necessary footprint to grow the event continues to expand, collectively, we will be evaluating other facilities in the Dallas area for 2021 to ensure a premium fan experience and allow the Salesmanship Club to continue to do great things through its support of the Momentous Institute,” Tyler Dennis, chief of operations at PGA Tour, told the Dallas Morning News.

Full piece.

7. Phil the host
Larry Bohannan at the Palm Springs Desert Sun, syndicated in Golfweek…”Now Phil Mickelson has La Quinta…Palmer served as host of a PGA Tour event at the Bay Hill club where he lived, an event that still bears his name. Nelson grew up in Fort Worth and was a long-time host of a Tour event in Dallas. Nicklaus and Woods also host PGA Tour events in cities and at golf courses that are important to their paths to golf greatness.”
  • “While the immediate connection for Mickelson to the Coachella Valley might not be as obvious to the average golf fan, Mickelson’s new role as host of the 61st American Express golf tournament in the desert puts him in the same company as the other Hall of Famers and major championship icons.”

Full piece.

8. Wie: Motherhood will make me play more, not less
Golf Channel’s Keely Levins...”After announcing her pregnancy, Wie said she has no intention of quitting golf. In part, it’s because she has some “unfinished business” when it comes to her career. Equally important, though, Wie said she wants her daughter to see her play. Wie was inspired last summer when Suzann Pettersen held her son, Herman, in her arms after holing the winning putt at the Solheim Cup, and when how Tiger’s children were there to see him win the Masters.”
  • “The motivation to come back is even stronger because I’m having a girl,” Wie said. “I really want her to see me play. I want her to see me be a strong woman. That’s really important to me. The motivation to come back and play is definitely there.”

Full piece.

9. PGA stepping in to try to save Palm Beach muni
Via Geoff Shackelford...”Tony Doris files an in-depth Palm Beach Post piece on PGA of America president Seth Waugh trying to get the city of West Palm Beach to not develop its shuttered muni.” (Doris’ piece here)
  • “‘With the city’s latest effort to nail down a redevelopment deal ending unsuccessfully, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, a longtime Palm Beach County resident, has urged West Palm Beach leaders to let the organization restore the course, run programs there and still have it affordable for city residents, he said in an interview Monday night.'”
  • “‘The city has to make a fundamental choice,” he said: “Do we want this to be about real estate and finances or about golf? … We just want it to be golf, not another development.'”
  • “A two year effort to find a savior for the golf course has failed, so Waugh has offered to get the PGA involved along with instructor Mike McGetrick and investors. It would seem a no-brainer” 

 

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GolfWRX’s 2020 PGA Merchandise Show coverage: What’s ahead

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GolfWRX staffers are presently scouring the range at the Orange County National Golf Center for PGA Show Demo Day. You can snack on some photo and video morsels—including the “3-Shot Challenge”—on our Instagram and in our Instagram stories.

Johnny Wunder testing the new Titleist T100-S irons (video in our Instagram story)

The crew have also gotten quick demos of the Cobra SZ Extreme driver, Titleist T400 irons, and an impressive new driver from Tour Edge so far as well as the new Callaway Mavrik and Mizuno ST200G drivers.

This evening, we’ll begin loading up the forums with photos from Demo Day.

We’ll post our daily recap pieces, along with takeaways from the crew on the ground, and when we see an absolute showstopper, we’ll do a deeper dive in article form.

Brian Knudson checking out a new Ping G710 iron.

Stay tuned!

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Morning 9: Gaby! | Happy 80th, Jack | Pace of play picking up on Euro Tour? | Tiger in 2020

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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 21, 2020
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. The equipment buffet that is PGA Show Demo Day is today!
Also: Happy 80th birthday, Jack Nicklaus!

 

1. Gaby!
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…“The 18th hole at the Tranquillo Golf Club is so hard to birdie, it felt like the playoff at the LPGA season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions might go on forever. And it sort of did. Mexico’s Gaby Lopez and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka played the No. 18 five extra times on Sunday evening (Inbee Park played it with them twice, eventually getting knocked out by a bogey on her third try) until darkness made it impossible to go any more.”
  • “So Lopez and Hataoka returned to the tricky 197-yard, downhill, water-to-the left, windy par 3 on a chilly Monday morning. After the pair made pars again on their sixth try, Lopez, who had birdied the hole twice in regulation-two of just five birdies made for the entire week-was able to do it one more time on the seventh playoff hole. It was enough to best Hataoka, securing Lopez, 26, her second career LPGA Tour victory.”
2. A legacy of character
John Feinstein reflects on how we’ll remember the Golden Bear, who is turning 80…
“Nicklaus turns 80 on Tuesday and there isn’t any doubt that just about everyone who has crossed his path during his remarkable life would agree with Alliss-and then some.”
  • “What you need to remember when you talk about him is that he wasn’t just the greatest winner in golf history, he was also the greatest loser,” says David Feherty. “Every time he finished second in a major [19 times], he went out of his way to make sure the winner got to enjoy what he had accomplished. He wasn’t just gracious, he was more than that. He was willing to humble himself-to always say, ‘The best man won.’ That may have been true on that occasion, but it was never true over the long haul. There was never any real reason for Jack Nicklaus to be humble. And yet, he was.”
  • “…It is that generosity of spirit that sets Nicklaus apart. During his Memorial Tournament each spring, he sits in the player dining area on Tuesday and Wednesday and welcomes the players, asks how they like the golf course, and if they need anything to make their week more enjoyable. When you ask players about that, most just shrug and say, “That’s Jack.”
3. “What Jack means to me”
Rory McIlroy’s perspective, via Golfweek, which has a collection of players offering their perspectives on the 18-time major champion.
  • “Jack has meant so much to me. That week we had lunch at the Bear’s Club and he gave me some advice then. Over the years, I live at his golf course, I practice at the Bear’s Club, I’ve lived there for nine years, and I see him a lot. And I’ve met Barbara and his children, as well. They are such a nice family. I think more so than anything else, they’ve kept who Jack Nicklaus is and all the stuff he’s done on the golf course and they’ve kept this normalcy about them. It’s endearing. They take an interest in other people, they do so much for charity, they are the epitome of being a class act and how you want to be. Jack and Barbara are great role models for me and Erica (McIlroy’s wife) in what they do for the community and charity. They are such a wonderful family.
  • “He has been the best at giving advice on how to play golf. Not how to swing, but how to play the game. He’s talked to me about his strategy and how to play the golf course and how to play the game and what he thought. The common denominator for him and Tiger is they are the best thinkers in the game. Just to pick Jack’s brain about that, and about preparation, and how he got himself around a golf course, that’s the best advice you can get. He was a master at playing the game.”

Full piece.

4. First slow play data is quickly here
The BBC’s Ian Carter…”This was the first event under the Tour’s new protocols on pace of play. More draconian rules mean two bad times during the entire competition – not just a single round – can lead to penalty”
  • “…Officials analysed timings from the Abu Dhabi first round compared with last year when similar weather conditions prevailed”
  • “Interestingly, the first round was actually 10 minutes quicker this year,” McFee stated.
  • “And the second round was about six minutes quicker, so both rounds were quicker.”

 

5. Daniel Tosh’s nephew leads
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…“Mickey DeMorat fired a second-round, 7-under 65 on Monday to take the 36-hole lead at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Bahamas Great Abaco Classic.”
  • “The 24-year-old DeMorat birdied seven of his first nine holes to card a front-nine, 7-under 29 at Baha Mar’s Royal Blue Golf Course in Nassau, this year’s host of the tournament after the Abacos were devastated by Hurricane Dorian last September. At 11 under, DeMorat leads Scott Gutschewski by a shot.”
  • “….DeMorat, who lives in the quiet intracoastal community of Merritt Island on the east coast of Florida, is the nephew of comedian Daniel Tosh, who tweeted non-stop support of his nephew during that U.S. Open at Shinnecock.”
6. Sam Torrance recovering after stroke
Martin Dempster at The Scotsman…“Ryder Cup legend Sam Torrance is hoping to make a full recovery after suffering a stroke.”
  • “The 66-year-old had a stent inserted in his neck on Boxing Day after being admitted to hospital.”
  • “He is now back home in Sunningdale, where the man who holds the record for most appearances on the European Tour is making good progress.”

Full piece.

7. On Rory’s equipment switch
Golf.com’s Andrew Tursky talked to to Keith Sbarbaro, VP of Tour Operations at TaylorMade, about the Ulsterman’s equipment changes ahead of the Farmers Insurance Open. McIlory is bagging the company’s SIM driver, woods, and, interestingly, hybrid.
  • “The rescue is really consistent,” Sbabarbo told GOLF.com. “I think with the rescue compared to the 5-wood, he feels like he has more control. He can hit it low and he can hit it high. He’s getting perfect numbers; perfect launch, perfect spin. He can hit it as high as the 5-wood and as low as his 790 2-iron…he can actually tee off with (the rescue) and keep it down. It’s just way more versatile.”
  • “…With the driver, McIlroy has gone up in loft slightly compared to last year, and he’s finding more speed and forgiveness”
  • “The driver has been incredible,” Sbarbaro said. “He’s been able to go into more loft with the SIM, so it should be more forgiving. He’s got more loft and the spin is more consistent. He’s not getting the low spins or the high spins. His speeds are obviously… everyone is getting more ball speed (with the SIM drivers). They’re picking up a minimum of 1-1.5 mph of clubhead speed. You pick up club head, you’re going to pick up ball speed; it’s as simple as that.”
8. What to expect from TW in 2020
An ESPN roundtable discussion concerning one Tiger Woods…
“Did the end of 2019 set expectations too high for 2020?”
“Bob Harig: No doubt. But it’s understandable. Expectations were extremely low after the summer, when Woods seemed like a guy who had sold his soul to win the Masters. The poor form, the bad back, a withdrawal due to an oblique injury. Woods never looked right. And then he had knee surgery, which suggested he’d have even more issues with his game. And yet, that unlocked all of the issues. Woods, after a shaky start, won in Japan. He played well enough to win in the Bahamas. And he was the best player at the Presidents Cup. It’s hard not to think everything is moving in the right direction as 2020 begins for him.”
  • “Michael Collins: Didn’t matter. Let’s be honest, even if Woods had finished last at Zozo and gone 0-3 at the Presidents Cup, all everyone would do is make excuses for why those didn’t matter and “blah blah blah” is why Tiger is going to shatter 2019. It’s Tiger Woods — when do all of us not overreact? Or does everyone forget “experts” picking him to win the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla after back surgery and a WD at the Bridgestone Invitational two weeks earlier?”

Full piece.

9. Moment of Zen: Smoltz’s standing putter
Geoff Shackelford…”I’m guessing the folks who didn’t like pro golfers leaving the flag in to putt-remember those days!-won’t be approving of the Bloodline putter use on grand stages…The look has always been of genuine hacker who watched an infomercial, but now with John Smoltz doing this en route to the Diamond Resorts win, might it have received a vote of legitimacy?”

 

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2020 Ping Heppler putters

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Say hello to the all-new 2020 Heppler putter family from Ping Golf.

Ping has always pushed the technology envelope, especially when it comes to putters and manufacturing techniques. The Heppler putters are no exception and are a combination of (big breath in)

  • State of the art manufacturing processes
  • Acoustically tuned high MOI shapes
  • Multi-material construction
  • Analysis-driven alignment tools
  • Fully customizable—including off-the-shelf length adjustability

Beyond just the technology, the new putters are also a tribute to Ping’s long-standing commitment to honoring heritage, family, and the individuals that helped build the company from a garage startup to one of the world’s largest golf club manufacturers.

From Ping:

The Heppler putter family is named in honor of Rick Heppler, a longtime Ping employee who began his career with the company as a teenager in 1966. The son of a General Electric co-worker of Ping Founder Karsten Solheim, Rick was hired by Karsten to help John A. Solheim build putters in the family garage. Rick eventually held several management positions at Karsten Manufacturing Corporation before passing away in a motorcycle accident in 2013.

“Rick was part of the Ping family for almost 50 years,” said John. “He was a dear friend who contributed greatly to our success in all that he did. Naming this putter series after him is a tribute to his dedication to our company and its employees.”

Solid-face technology

Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to call a flat putter face “technology,” but if we look past whether it is or isn’t, the reasoning behind the Heppler series departing from the TR (True Roll) face makes sense. The first being louder audible feedback for players that struggle with distance control. The second: to provide more options.

“We saw a high percentage of testers improve their ‘Strokes Gained’ results with a Heppler model, indicating that many golfers prefer the firmer sound and feel of a solid-face design,”
said Solheim. “We see the new putters as an appealing alternative to our Sigma 2 series, which offers a softer feel and sound through its dual-durometer insert and TR face technology. Our primary goal is to provide golfers a custom-fit putter with their desired feel and sound while delivering the performance and consistency they need to hole more putts.”

Multiple materials, multiple faces

To boost the MOI of each model in the Heppler Series, Ping used a combination of steel and aluminium parts to push weight to the perimeter of the designs. To create precise geometry, the engineers at Ping decided to use a high-pressure casting technique to better position weight around the heads to increase performance, which was especially useful when creating the highest MOI Tomcat 14

“The advantage of pressure casting is we can achieve highly precise design details while allowing our engineers much greater freedom to position weight where it benefits the putter’s performance the most,” said Solheim.

Let’s touch on the face for a moment. You’ll quickly notice the face material changes throughout the putter line, from either aluminum or steel, depending on the model. The reason behind the shifting face materials is based on positioning mass in each head to maximize forgiveness and optimize the center of gravity.

Adjustable-length shaft and grip options

As with the Sigma 2 putter, Ping is continuing to offer the adjustable length shaft in the Heppler; giving golfers the ability to customize length between 32 and 36 inches to fit their stroke and posture. The difference between previous versions of the shaft is the new Heppler putter shafts are finished in black chrome. For the consumer, Ping has made adjusting length a quick and simple process by simply placing the included adjustment tool into the top of the grip and turn until the putter reaches the desired length.

The are four Ping stock grip designs available to allow golfers to find their optimal fit and feel.

  • The PP59 is the standard grip, and its shape is inspired by the popular PP58.
  • The Midsized PP60 is lightweight and designed to fit comfortably into the contours of the hands with flats on the top and sides.
  • The PP61 is slightly heavier than the P60 and has a more exaggerated pistol shape.
  • The PP62, is larger and more rounded to reduce hand movement during the stroke while still remaining lightweight.

Price, availability

Starting today, January, 20 the Heppler putter are available for pre-order.

The designs include; Anser 2, ZB3, Piper C, Tyne 3, Fetch, Ketsch, Floki, Tomcat 14, and Piper Armlock.

Depending on the model, the putters range from $245 for the blade styles to $270 for the higher MOI Designs.

 

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