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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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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,125 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen and more.

Last year, Keith Mitchell canned a 15-footer on the 72nd hole, outlasting Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka.

Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from PGA National.

General galleries

Special galleries

Vijay Singh using custom Mizuno MP-20 irons with lofts modified enough they had to stamp new numbers. Link to his full WITB

Camilo Villegas with old-school Air Jordans

Close up of Tommy Fleetwood’s putting grip

Luke Donald with a new putting training aid

LA Golf has a couple of new shafts

Brooks Kopeka with his pink and white Nike Air Zoom Infinity Tour shoes

Odyssey Stroke Lab Ten with new sightlines.  Link to galleries and discussion

Kevin Streelman is a huge Chicago Cubs fan, so he went to a spring training game and had the players sign his staff bag (to be fair, he probably took just the panel and not the whole bag)

Jim Furyk has gone back to his standard length putter and cross-handed after trying the arm-lock style for a while.

Kyle Stanley’s coach is taking a worm’s-eye view of Kyle’s alignment and stroke.

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Morning 9: Koepka talks golf | Tiger’s Champions Dinner menu | Tour caddies and hot seats

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1. Koepka talks golf
Adam Woodard at Golfweek…The former World No. 1 – who now sits third behind Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – opened up in great detail in a profile in GQ about what he would change about the game of golf, a sport that he truly loves despite some outside perception.
  • “One thing I’d change is maybe the stuffiness,” said Koepka, who’s never viewed himself as just a golfer. “Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn’t always have to be that way. That’s part of the problem.”
  • ...”Everybody always says, ‘You need to grow the game.’ Well, why do you need to be so buttoned-up? ‘You have to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ‘You’re not allowed in here unless you’re a member – or unless the member’s here.’…
  • …”I just think people confuse all this for me not loving the game. I love the game. I absolutely love the game,” said Koepka. “I don’t love the stuffy atmosphere that comes along with it. That, to me, isn’t enjoyable.”

Full piece.

2. Fajitas and sushi
“Being born and raised in SoCal, having fajitas and sushi was a part of my entire childhood, and I’m going back to what I had in 2006,” Woods said. “So, we’ll have steak and chicken fajitas, and we’ll have sushi and sashimi out on the deck, and I hope the guys will enjoy it.”
  • “Woods also said he’s considering serving milkshakes for desert like he did during the 1998 dinner.”
  • “That was one of the most great memories to see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead having milkshakes that night in ’98,” he said.”

Full piece.

3. Why a tour caddie is always on the hot seat 
The Undercover Tour Caddie writeth again…“I’ve been lucky to partner with 18 players on the PGA and developmental tours, four of which were longtime appointments. I’ve also been fired 17 times-and among my friends, that’s on the low end of the spectrum…”
  • “The majority of the time, the breakups are amicable and done in person. I consider myself friends with almost all the players I’ve worked for, and though there were some strong emotions from both sides when it came time to disband, I get it. This is a business, and they’re making a business decision. Plus, you don’t want to burn any bridges. I’ve had two guys toss me aside after a month’s work, only for them to circle back within the year, one of which ended up sticking for five seasons.”
  • “There have been callous splits. In the early 2000s, I was trying to get my guy to hit an 8-iron on an approach at the 71st hole. He was adamant that 9 was the play. I strongly, but respectfully, said he needed to club up. He went with the 9; his ball came up short of the green, and he couldn’t get up and down. That bogey dropped us out of the top 10. He fired me after signing his card, claiming he needed someone “who has faith in me.” Hey, I had faith-faith that his 9 was the wrong club.”

Full piece.

4. The best part of Tiger’s Masters win…
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”Last April at Augusta National Golf Club, behind the 18th green, after tapping in for a one-stroke victory and fifth Masters triumph, there were hugs all around, none sweeter than those from his daughter and son.”
  • “I think what made it so special is that they saw me fail the year before at the British Open. I had gotten the lead there and made bogey, double, and ended up losing to Francesco,” Woods said. “To have them experience what it feels like to be part of a major championship and watch their dad fail and not get it done, and now to be a part of it when I did get it done, I think it’s two memories that they will never forget. And the embraces and the hugs and the excitement, because they know how I felt and what it felt like when I lost at Carnoustie … to have the complete flip with them in less than a year, it was very fresh in their minds.”
  • “It’s a long and rambling thought, and totally justified in the context of all the emotion woven into the two experiences. Some things are just difficult to express cogently, and the struggle with doing so only underscores their impact.”
5. Dream of Coul is dead
Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”Coul Links was supposed to be Scotland’s next great links golf course. Envisioned to be built by Coore-Crenshaw on a protected wildlife site in Embo on dunes near Dornoch, those hopes took a serious blow on Feb. 21, when the Scottish government denied planning permission for a project spearheaded by golf course developer Mike Keiser.”
  • “I’m moving on. I have so many other projects,” Keiser tells The Forecaddie. “God bless Dornoch.”
  • “In its decision notice, Scottish Ministers determined that the proposed development would adversely affect the local environment, stating in their findings that the “likely detriment to natural heritage is not outweighed by the socio-economic benefits of the proposal.”
6. Koepka: Great round of golf with Trump
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…“In a profile in GQ, Koepka…talked about a recent round with President Trump…Koepka, his father, younger brother Chase and President Trump “had a blast” at Trump’s course in West Palm Beach.”
  • “It was nice to have my family there, my dad, my brother. Anytime it’s with a president, it’s pretty cool,” said Koepka. “I don’t care what your political beliefs are, it’s the President of the United States. It’s an honor that he even wanted to play with me.”
  • “I respect the office, I don’t care who it is,” added Koepka. “Still probably the most powerful man in the entire world. It’s a respect thing.”

Full piece.

7. Tiger on lengthening Augusta National 
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport…”Augusta National has been at the forefront of trying to keep it competitive, keep it fair, keep it fun, and they’ve been at the forefront of lengthening the golf course,” Woods said. “Granted, they have the property and they can do virtually whatever they want. They have complete autonomy. It’s kind of nice.
  • “But also they’ve been at the forefront of trying to keep it exciting as the game has evolved. We have gotten longer, equipment changed, but they’ve been trying to keep it so the winning score is right around the 12- to 18-under-par mark, and they have.”
8. Inside the Bear Trap
Golf Channel Digital team…“Here’s a look at some of the notable Bear Trap stats according to the PGA Tour (all figures since 2007, when the tournament moved to PGA National):”
  • “Among non-majors, the Bear Trap ranks as the third-toughest three-hole stretch on Tour at 0.644 over par on average. It’s behind only Nos. 16-18 at Quail Hollow (+0.873) and Nos. 8-10 at Pebble Beach (+0.673).”
  • “The Honda Classic field is a combined 3,629 over par across the Bear Trap and 4,934 over par across the other 15 holes at PGA National.”
  • “543 different players have played at least one competitive round at the Honda since 2007, with 76 percent (415) of them hitting at least one ball in the water on the Bear Trap.”

Full piece.

9. San Diego muni renovations (including Torrey)
Jason Lusk of Golfweek…“San Diego’s city council has allotted $15 million for upgrades and renovations to the city’s three municipally operated golf facilities including Torrey Pines’ South Course, site of the 2021 U.S. Open, according to a report Tuesday by the San Diego Union-Tribune.”
  • “…The $15 million approved Monday by the city council also will include contract work at San Diego’s other municipally operated golf facilities at Balboa Park and Mission Bay, the Union-Tribune reported. The courses will remain open during the jobs that include installing new irrigation systems and drainage, replacing and repairing cart paths, renovating bunkers and tree work.”

 

*featured image via Augusta National/the Masters

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Tour Rundown

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@asiapacgolfgrp

Only two of the world’s featured tours were in action this week, but the golf that they provided was memorable and historic. Not the type of historic that you find in school books, but certainly the type that golf aficionados point to, down the road. On the one hand, a prodigious yet poliarizing talent demonstrated complete control down the stretch, during his march to a 2nd World Golf Championship victory. On the other, a precocious competitor joined into a talented triumvirate with a marvelous birdie at the last, to secure an inaugural PGA Tour championship.Tuesday Tour Rundown is back, for this week only!

WGC-Mexico flies away in the hands of Patrick Reed 

Golf Twitter, depending on your perspective, is either entertaining or inflamatory. As happens in the world today, people take sides. In the case of Patrick Reed, that’s not difficult. One either forgives (or denies) Reed’s free interpretation (on multiple occasions) of the rules and their enforcement, or one preserves a disregard for a leading player who simply doesn’t act like one. What isn’t up for debate, is Reed’s seizure of this week’s World Golf Championship in Mexico. What looked for so long like a Bryson-DeChambaeau win, ultimately stowed away in Patrick Reed’s check-on pouch.

The tournament came down to the aforementioned duo. Both Jon Rahm and Erik Van Rooyen swam along the margin, but neither made enough of a Sunday move to figure in the outcome. Both, in fact, tied for 3rd place, 2 back of DeChambeau and 3 behind the champion. Bryson and his on-display muscles barged out of the 10th-hole gate like a man (and muscles) on a mission. Birdies at 4 of the first 5 holes on the inward half, staked him to a 2-shot advantage. Over the closing four, however, the magic went away, and a bogey at the penultimate hole brought him back to 17-under par.

Reed looked like a man playing for second. His long game was nothing exceptional, but his putter kept him afloat, time and again. And then, whatever DeChambeau had in his water bottle, came over to Reed. Birdies at 15, 16 and 17 suddenly brought the 2-shot advantage to the 2018 Masters champion. Even the cough of an expectorant fan, mid-backswing on the 18th, was not enough to convulse the champion. A closing bogey made the margin closer than it was, and Reed jumped from 33rd to 5th in the FedEx Cup standings.

PGA Tour Puerto Rico is Viktor Hovland’s debut decision

It wasn’t as mauling as Tyson Fury’s technical decision over Deontay Wilder, but Viktor Hovland and Josh Teater came down the stretch in Puerto Rico, like a pair of pugilists. The young Norwegian, Hovland, was pitted against the career grinder, Teater. First it was the veteran, with 3 birdies on the opening nine, to reach minus-19. Hovland chipped away, with a birdie at 5, and a 2nd at 10. And then, Teater hit Hovland with a right-cross (or Hovland hit himself with a sucker punch; you make the call.) Triple bogey! A startling six at the 11th, dropped Hovland into a tie with Teater (bogeys of his own on 10 and 11) who now had new life … and new pressure.

To his credit, Teater didn’t back down. He made birdies at 15 and 17, to recoup the lost shots at the turn. Unfortunately for him, tour victory the first would have to wait. Hovland, the Oklahoma State alumnus, made a sensational eagle at the 15th, to counter Teater’s birdie, and reclaim the advantage. The pair reached the 18th tee, a par five, all square, and it was there that Hovland dealt the final thrust. He took every bit of break out of a 25-feet birdie putt, and banged it into the hole. With the win, Hovland joined Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa as anticipated winners who actually won. Now comes the hard part: winning again and reaching a new echelon of champion.

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