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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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The DailyWRX: What’s buzzing on social media 6/5/2020

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With everything going on, I wanted to find some humor out there…hope you all can find some time to have a chuckle, it helps.

I relate to this on so many levels…

My game therefore I am trash.

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Send this to a trash golfer ????

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It’s funny…

But the guy might do it cuz he’s so damn savage.

I’m in…

Once again…

I love the shots and tips that come out of these vids…..but these backyard setups continue to solidify that I have failed at life…SMH. My jealousy rages.

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Rainy Wednesday…we going skippin!

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He is a literal walking ray of golden sunshine…

He’s inching up my list of favorite player…just sayin’.

DM @johnny_wunder for anything good

 

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Morning 9: U.S. Open could feature fans after all | LPGA skins match? | Singh WD’s from Korn Ferry event

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1. Singh bows out of Korn Ferry opener
Adam Woodard reports we will unfortunately not be getting the Singh/Schnell pairing we were hoping for…“Vijay Singh caused quite a stir a few weeks back when the three-time major champion’s name appeared on the field list for the Korn Ferry Tour’s first post-pandemic event at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course June 11-14.”
  • “On Sunday, the PGA Tour confirmed Singh has withdrawn from the Korn Ferry Challenge. Golf Channel was first to report.”
  • “Singh riled up golf Twitter – Korn Ferry Tour pro Brady Schnell, in particular – with his initial decision to enter the KFT event. Being a lifetime PGA Tour member, The Big Fijian was eligible to enter the event because he wasn’t playing in the Tour’s return to play that same week at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.”
2. Still no fans at Colonial
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Despite a revised state order that would allow fans to attend next month’s Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas, the PGA Tour plans to proceed without fans for at least the first four events when play resumes.”
  • “The PGA Tour’s primary focus continues to be the health and well-being of all involved with our tournaments and the communities in which we play,” a statement from the Tour read. “We plan to resume play at the Charles Schwab Challenge with the event – and the three to immediately follow – closed to the general public.”
3. Lynch on player mics
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch has a few thoughts on one of the most-discussed matters coming out of The Match 2…“The most compelling possibility raised by “The Match II” is having players wear microphones during tournament play, and this week the European Tour said it will encourage players to be mic’d when it resumes action in July. The ET’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, exhibits more confidence in golfers agreeing to this than any of the people I know who produce live tournament golf for a living. Those producers will unanimously tell you it’s near impossible to get a simple walk and talk from a PGA Tour player, much less an intimate audio feed for 18 holes of competition.”
“The absence of mic’d competitors in tournaments isn’t because producers don’t want greater access. For all their garrulousness on social media, even younger Tour players maintain an old school mentality passed down from generations of Curtis Stranges and Raymond Floyds, who were as about as approachable as a piranha with toothache when they were working between the ropes. There is also a cost attached. “The Match II” was carefully stage-managed, with players held up along the way to ensure they were live at the right times. That won’t happen in tournaments with 156 guys in the field. Sure, you can stream a single group wired for sound, but for network broadcasts you’ll add the expense of a production staffer to monitor all the chatter for gems and a tape operator to cue it up (and armchair critics will still bemoan that it’s tape-delayed).”
4. Stymied LPGA skins match
Wherefore art the women in these charity matches? Apparently, we’d have already seen an LPGA skins match featuring top players, but for a lack of financial backing…
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols has the full story…
“It’s all in place:
  • “Two courses are interested in hosting
  • Twelve players have agreed to compete
  • If they can pay for TV production, Franzen says they have the full support of the LPGA to work with their broadcast partners
“The idea is to deliver two days of skins matches to outlets around the globe. Players will have the ability to choose which COVID-19 relief fund they want their winnings to go toward.”
“But here’s the deal: Franzen needs funding. Lots of it.”
5. USGA: USO could feature fans
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”But the United States Golf Association is now optimistic about keeping the championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in suburban New York City and remains hopeful that spectators in some limited form will be able to attend.”
  • “The organization had been working on contingency plans to move the tournament to another venue, if necessary.”
  • “We are focused singularly on Winged Foot,” John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said in a phone interview Friday. “Once we got the September dates, that was our thinking. Time is on our side. We did look at multiple scenarios, but given the recent news we felt we could focus there.”
  • “Winged Foot is a special place for us. And the golf course will be amazing. And to be able to do this in New York, where things have been so challenging, will put an explanation point on it. We see Winged Foot as our sole focus.”
6. Fill-in Tour event?
Rob Oller, Columbus Dispatch, syndicated in Golfweek…“Columbus could be in the mix to host a second PGA Tour event the week before the Memorial Tournament scheduled for July 16-19, two sources confirmed to the USA Today Network on Friday.”
  • “The Columbus-based tournament would serve as a temporary fill-in for the John Deere Classic, which was scheduled to be held July 9-12 in Silvis, Illinois, but canceled on Thursday because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. It was to be the first tour event to include spectators.”
  • “…Other leading alternative site is Detroit with Lexington, Kentucky, and Carmel, Indiana, also possibilities. (This story was updated on Saturday, May 30, to include new information from the Akron Beacon-Journal, a member of the USA Today Network.)”
7. Mackenzie Tour cancels season
Carson Williams at Golf Channel…“Border restrictions, mandatory quarantines for those who enter Canada and gathering restrictions in all provinces because of the coronavirus pandemic were just a few reasons that led the tour to cancel its season.”
  • “With growing uncertainty surrounding the border and the 14-day quarantine regulations, among other factors, we’ve weighed all of our options and concluded that it is not feasible to play this summer,” Mackenzie Tour Executive Director Scott Pritchard said in a press release. “With the safety of the communities we play in mind, as well as the well-being of our players, sponsors, tournament-organizing committees, volunteers and golf course staff, we came to the realization that this is the best decision for everyone involved.”
  • “Mackenzie Tour members have been sent information detailing eligibility for the 2021 season. Those who have earned status at three 2020 Qualifying Tournaments will keep their status for next season. For the Qualifying Tournament entrants who have not yet competed, they will be guaranteed a spot for the 2021 event.”
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Morning 9: Latest memo from Tour to players | Phil’s post-Match perspective | Greg Norman’s regrettable take

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1. Latest “bubble” memo
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard details the most recent communique from Tour to its players…“In a memo sent to players on Wednesday, tournament director Michael Tothe outlined many of the protocols that will be required when play resumes on June 11 at Colonial including the four Fort Worth, Texas, hotels that will create the foundation of the circuit’s “bubble” for the week.”
  • “The core of the PGA Tour’s plan to return was always about testing, but it’s a fine line to walk. In two weeks, at the Charles Schwab Challenge, we’ll find out if it will be enough.”
  • “Players are allowed to stay in individual RVs or rental homes but they are being encouraged to assure the health and safety of their accommodations if they choose to stay outside the bubble.”
  • “Players were also informed where COVID-19 testing will occur when they arrive in Fort Worth as well as meal options at Colonial, which will be limited to grab-and-go lunches in order to follow safety protocols.”
2. Little John finishes second at Crooked Stick 
Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star…Daly II made that same walk on Wednesday, up the 18th fairway for the final round of the inaugural Dye Junior Golf Invitational at Crooked Stick.”
  • “I think a lot of guys have re-watched the 1991 PGA tournament,” Daly II said. “I watched it every night before the tournament. (Watching him) walk down the 18th with all of the fans everywhere was pretty cool. He started as the ninth alternate and didn’t expect to play. For him to win, it was a ridiculous story. He loves it.”
  • “Daly II put together a remarkable tournament in his own right, finishing a three-way tie for second place behind winner John Marshall Butler of Louisville, Kentucky. Daly II was 4 over for the two-day, 54-hole event, which featured 33 of the top high school boys players in the country and 33 of the same on the girls’ side.”
3. Phil open to wearing mic
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Speaking on the Dan Patrick Show, Mickelson admitted that he didn’t expect the same level of banter during a typical Tour event with a seven-figure prize on the line, but he’d nonetheless be willing to broadcast his inside-the-ropes dialogue.”
  • “I would be open to the idea because of how it’s being received, and some of the insight and so forth,” Mickelson said. “But you don’t have the play between individuals. I had a partner, and Tom and I could talk back and forth. And maybe you could get some of that with the caddie, but having a partner is much more intimate and you have much better conversation.”
4. …wants annual Match
AP report…”Phil Mickelson, fresh off the success of Sunday’s charity golf exhibition with Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, says he would like to see “The Match” become an annual event.”
  • “I think you could showcase guys like Steph Curry and Michael Jordan or Tony Romo and Patrick Mahomes, who are all good golfers, elite talents and have great personalities,” Mickelson told the Los Angeles Times in a column published Wednesday. “Those personalities are going to come out with this event. Or you could have someone who loves the game and is competitive but is really entertaining like Larry David and Bill Murray. I think that could shine.”
5. More audience info
Interesting stuff from Geoff Shackelford…“According to Showbuzzdaily.com, almost 1/3 of The Match 2’s audience was in the coveted 18-49 demo and the number was even better on on TruTV, also meaning there are people of any age group who know how to find TruTV”
  • “About 30% of The Match’s audience landed in the 18-49 demo despite the 44.5 average age of the participants…The numbers for TaylorMade Driving Relief with a foursome averaging 29.5 years”
  • “That’s 25% of the almighty buyers for a younger, supposedly more millennial-friendly group of golfers. And a grand total of (at least) 860,000 fewer viewers 18-49.  While not a huge difference in the percentage department, The Match did rout Driving Relief in overall audience and even took chipped away at NASCAR’s ratings.”

Full piece.

6. After a long layoff, how do the pros play?
Dylan Beirne, 15th Club for PGATour.com, examines the question…“As we might expect, there’s a clear relationship between performance and the number of weeks a player has been off. We can analyze how well players perform by comparing our estimate of their ability (how we would expect them to perform) to how they actually performed.”
  • “Generally, players taking small breaks of two weeks or less are marginally better than expected, while longer breaks result in an average drop in performance of between 0.1 and 0.2 strokes per round. For context, a drop of 0.2 strokes per round is about the gap between 100th- and 135th-ranked players in the world. It’s a significant change, but not enormous.”
  • “Additionally, the drop in performance after a 10-20 week gap is quite consistent across different levels of players. Top-50 players in the world are affected by a similar amount to those outside the top 50.”
7. A really bad take from Greg Norman
I mean, what else can you call it? A man who has a history of obtuseness and putting his fin in his mouth outdid himself with unfounded speculation about the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash in an interview with Michael Bamberger…“I asked Norman about the January helicopter crash in Los Angeles that killed all nine people aboard, Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, among them. I asked Norman if he had any insight, from his own experience as a helicopter pilot, and as an elite athlete who has flown often in helicopters as a passenger, into the tragedy.”
  • “Yes – yes,” he said. His voice was sober. “Probably pilot error and pressure from the back,” Norman said. Norman could imagine the legendary basketball player saying, “‘Get me through this; get me there. I’ve got to get my daughter to this game.’
  • …”My instructor and I had a saying, ‘If you can’t see through it don’t fly through it.’ If I was flying to Doral or Orlando or Naples and there was fog, we just put it down and waited it out.”
8. Sprint to the Cup
Ben Everill at PGATour.com…“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting cancellations and postponements of tournaments leaves just 11 eligible tournaments over a 10-week stretch for players to qualify for the Playoffs and a chance at the $15 million bonus that comes with the season-long FedExCup crown.”
  • “While the top 125 will not double as the cutoff for TOUR cards next season in this reduced schedule, it will remain the mark to get into THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first of three Playoffs events in the chase for the FedExCup.”
  • “Gone is the luxury of extended rest between starts for those sitting way back on the list, such as Koepka, who was just starting to find his feet again on a return from injury when the pandemic halted play in March.”

 

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