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Morning 9: Perspectives on the Premier Golf League | Undercover Caddie on Saudi tourney | Rahm didn’t know he needed eagle to win

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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 28, 2020
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. Welcome to the Premier Golf League Edition of the Morning 9…

 

1. “The tipping point”
Derek Lawrenson at the Daily Mail with an excellent take both lambasting the current state of televised professional golf and suggesting the upstart could compel PGA Tour-European Tour alignment…
  • “It is beyond arrogant, with so many competing interests for people’s time, that golf persists with such dilution of its resources. No wonder the number playing the game is in decline and coverage of the sport worldwide is in retreat.”
  • “The latest idea, from a rather mysterious British-based organisation known as the World Golf Group and six years in the making, is for an eight-month season with 18 tournaments worldwide taking place over 54 holes and featuring the top 48 players, with a $10million prize fund each time….”
  • …As McIlroy says, there’s plenty there to ponder. But enough for the top 48 to throw their lot in and lose the right to play in so many tournaments laden with tradition?
  • “I still think the ideal would be for this to prove the tipping point that sees the European and PGA Tours finally agreeing to align. For a headline tour along F1 lines of 20 events for the top 80 or so players, predominantly based in America but including visits to Australia, South Africa and the Middle East, with a mid-summer Europe swing.”

Full piece.

2. Shaking up the status quo
Iain Carter for the BBC doesn’t see the PGL taking flight…
  • Here’s some of his reasoning…”The American-based PGA Tour is the world’s most lucrative circuit and routinely makes multi-millionaires of the world’s best golfers. It would be a huge surprise were it to grant releases for members to play a rival circuit.”
  • “The tour also operates a very successful pension and players would be reluctant to risk the security afforded by the scheme.”
  • “And how could the PGL function without the blessing of the official world rankings? These are run by an amalgamation of all the established tours and governing bodies.”
3. Fanciful 
So says Martin Dempster at The Scotsman…“It all sounds exciting and this proposal is not something on a whim, with the people behind it having been chiselling away in the background for a number of years in their bid to create a new format aimed at “revitalising the sport for this and future generations”.
  • “…Anything that can help grow the game has to be given consideration, but, at the same time, the European Tour and PGA Tour can’t be expected to welcome something like this with open arms when they rely on star players like McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas to headline events under the existing structure.”
  • “…However, as we saw recently when two of the top Europeans, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, played in an Asian Tour event in Singapore instead of teeing up in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, a Rolex Series event, golf already has big issues when it comes to scheduling and adding this into the pot would only add to that problem.”
4. Rahm didn’t know the score
Kyle Porter at CBS Sports quoting Jon Rahm…”So I did hit it with trying to make it with perfect speed thinking a two-putt would get into a playoff.”
  • “When [caddie] Adam [Hayes] told me the news, he’s like, ‘Hey, good try.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean, we’re in a playoff.’ He’s like, ‘Nope, he birdied 18.’ I didn’t hear any roars or anything, so I just assumed he parred. Again, even if I hit the right speed, that putt doesn’t go in, it was left of the hole the whole way, so it doesn’t matter. But still, it’s just a sour feeling.”
  • “That’s pretty incredible. It doesn’t take away from the fact that Rahm had a tremendous week in his first effort stateside at a win, but it’s just a wild thing to let happen. Still, his second-place finish fits nicely with a long run of elite performances that started last June at the U.S. Open.”
5. When an appearance fee to play in Saudi Arabia is-and isn’t-worth it
Via the Undercover Caddie (with Joel Beall)…”I don’t usually follow player commitments-I have a hard enough time keeping track of my schedule-but whenever I saw a big name sign up for the Saudi International, I think, Here we go. A quick glance of Twitter proves that premonition right, with fans ripping the decision to shreds. And, without fail, the first comment is along the lines of, “Why would he possibly participate?”
  • “Really? You don’t know why? Come on, brother. Yes, playing for a regime with human-rights issues is not a good look, especially after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. But here’s the answer that explains why anyone does anything in this life: It’s all about the money.”
  • “Growing the game, traveling to new spots, intrigued by the competition … all baloney. These guys are making the trip to pad their bank accounts- anywhere from $300,000 to $3 million for an appearance-and, perhaps, meet new sponsors. That players are given the finest accommodations, and their wives are pampered like princesses, doesn’t hurt. Any other justification of why they’re playing is a facade.”

Full piece.

6. Feherty and McCord reunited
Via Geoff Shackelford…”Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic learns from David Feherty of a one-night reunion with his former CBS sidekick Gary McCord.”
“Instead of his normal standup, Feherty will do his first half then return with McCord at Phoenix’s Orpheum theater.  He says “God knows where this is going to go.”

Full piece (including a link to Goodykoontz work)

7. Out of the top 50
Could you have imagined this a couple of years ago?
Via Golf Digest’s Joel Beall...”Jordan Spieth’s comeback showed signs of early promise at Torrey Pines, only for the weekend (73, 74) to bring much of what has plagued him for the past two years.”
  • “And with it, an unwanted distinction...For the first time since 2013, the former No. 1 is outside the Official World Golf Ranking top 50. Spieth, who was No. 20 this time last year, fell to No. 51 after a T-55 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open.”

Full piece.

8. Golf x Super Bowl bets
Westgate Las Vegas Superbook is doing something interesting that will have punters salivating…
Via Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Here’s a look at some of the prop bets involving golf, with the action tied to various final-round results on Sunday (Note: should the golfer in a given matchup miss the cut, the wager in question would be refunded)”
Total points scored by both teams in the first quarter (-1.5) vs. Total fairways hit by Justin Thomas in the WMPO final round”
Jon Rahm WMPO final round birdies (-0.5) vs. Emmanuel Sanders (SF) receptions
Kansas City total rushing yards (-18.5) vs. Rickie Fowler WMPO final-round score
Travis Kelce (KC) receiving yards (-3.5) vs. Jordan Spieth WMPO final-round score
Travis Kelce (KC) receiving yards (-2.5) vs. Dustin Johnson final-round score in Saudi Arabia

Full piece.

9. In praise of Pelham Bay Park
Golf.com’s Dylan Dethier on one of the municipal gems of New York City…”The 36-hole facility is just a fraction of New York City’s largest green space. Pelham Bay Park clocks in at 2,766 acres, more then three times the size of Central Park, and is home to sports fields, hiking trails, playgrounds and beaches, including a 13-mile shoreline on Long Island Sound. As for the golf? It’s much better than you’d expect.”
“The original Pelham course, designed by civil engineer Lawrence Van Etten before its upgrade in the 30s, is open and extremely playable, set on the land of former farmland estates. Renowned course architect John Van Kleek was the go-to guy for the Parks Department’s New Deal-era courses; he designed Silver Lake on Staten Island, Dyker Beach in Brooklyn, Kissena Park in Queens and redid Van Cortlandt in the Bronx. But his best New York course was Split Rock. It’s tree-lined without being too tight, rolling terrain without being boring and has a set of expansive greens replete with knobs, mounds, waves, slopes and plateaus that would please any Golden Age architect.”

Full piece.

 

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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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