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Morning 9: Rory to return to No. 1 | What Faxon told McIlroy about putting | Feral hogs take over Texas course

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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.
February 4, 2020
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. Our Brian Knudson did a heckuva interview with Callaway’s Roger Cleveland. If you’re looking for something to watch check it out!

 

1. Rory to return to No. 1
Golfweek’s Todd Kelly…“Rory McIlroy will ascend to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking when it gets updated next Monday, despite not playing this week.”
  • “It will also happen regardless of this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am…McIlroy is currently just .2 points back of Brooks Koepka, who is not playing this week either. Nor is World No. 3 Jon Rahm, leaving the door open for McIlroy to make the move to No. 1.”
2. …sounds off
On a number of subjects, including…”on playing with Tiger Woods in the final group on Sunday of the 2018 Tour Championship, where Woods beat McIlroy six shots (McIlroy shot 4 over in the final round)”
  • “It’s the Tour Championship and I’ve got myself into another final group and I’m playing with Tiger Woods. It’s something you dream about growing up, final round, big tournament, Tiger Woods. I didn’t know if I would ever get this opportunity. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Brilliant. … I was never in the lead. I was always playing catch-up, but that’s beside the point. It’s the final group, Tiger, and I just want to give a really good account of myself. To take the fight to him. To make him work for it. If he wins, well, it’s not great, but it’s good for the game. And I understand the bigger picture, but I’m going to make him earn it. And I never made him earn it. That’s what bothered me. And what bothered me even more was I came away [thinking], ‘I know I can play better than that. I know I can beat him.’ But I’d made it too much about him, and not enough about me. … It was an opportunity to beat Tiger Woods and go down the stretch with him. ‘This mythical creature in the red shirt’. And I just didn’t get into the right place mentally.
  • “It’s tough. Everyone was like “Wasn’t that a great moment?” And I’m like, ‘No, it was f—— s—!’ It was terrible. I birdied the last to shoot 4 over! And I got the bigger picture that it was wonderful for golf, and I’m sure I’ll look back and think ‘That was pretty cool,’ but it hurt. It really hurt. I was probably the only one at East Lake that day that was disappointed.”
3. McIlroy’s unorthodox putting lesson from Brad Faxon (and the fruits thereof)
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers…”In the first part of McIlroy’s latest (fantastic) interview with the Independent’s Paul Kimmage, the 30-year-old describes a three-hour meeting of which the majority was spent talking over coffee. And when it was finally time to go out to the practice green, Faxon made an odd request.”
  • “He said, ‘You just have to know what to work on – bring your putter, a sand wedge and a five wood,’ McIlroy tells Kimmage. “So we went onto the putting green and he got me to putt from eight feet. I hit three putts with the putter and holed one of them; three with the sand wedge and holed two of them; and I holed three in a row with the five wood.”
  • “He says, ‘I wanted to prove something to you. A lot of putting nowadays is very technical and mechanical – you have to have the right length putter with the right lie and the right loft. That thing (the five wood) has 19 degrees (loft) and is about ten inches too long and you’ve just holed three in a row. That’s what you need to get back to. It needs to be instinctive.”
4. Webb’s power surge
Brian Wacker at Golf Digest with the story of Webb Simpson’s pursuit of more distance… “…it at least helped that Simpson could uncork a 318-yard drive down the middle on the first sudden-death playoff hole, leaving only a wedge into the 18th green at TPC Scottsdale to set up a 10-footer for birdie and the victory. Not bad for a guy who came into the week 160th on the PGA Tour in driving distance.”
  • “Three years ago, Simpson hired a trainer in an effort to try to keep up with the Joneses. Or at least guys named Brooks, Rory, Rahm, JT, DJ and Tiger. Those are the only players (mostly bombers) higher than Simpson in the Official World Golf Ranking after what was the sixth PGA Tour victory of his career and first since the 2018 Players.”
  • “We set out on a journey to get longer, but very carefully because precision, accuracy, distance control is something for me that’s always been a strength and has to be a strength for me to play well, because I don’t hit it that far,” Simpson said. “We have picked up a mile-and-a-half to two miles an hour [clubhead speed] for the last two years and so we have made jumps. But I just didn’t want to do it overnight.”
5. Banishing the broomstick and a new beginning
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers…”But the most amazing part of the 34-year-old’s resurgence is how good of a putter he’s become since snapping his old putter over his knee and framing the pieces in his trophy room. Before the breakup, Simpson was solid on the greens, averaging being ranked 36th in strokes gained putting his first six seasons.”
  • “To be honest with you guys, I’ve never putted this well in my life,” Simpson said after that Players win. “And I think if I had stayed with the belly putter, I think I maybe average 35th to 60th every year in putting. So very average.”
  • “The numbers certainly bear that out. Upon making the switch ahead of 2015, he went a dismal 174th and 177th in the all-important stat the next two seasons. But after improving to 88th in 2016-2017, Simpson, following a move to a claw grip, finished fifth in 2017-2018 and 11th last season. He’s currently No. 7 this season.”

Full piece.

6. Harding blasts Euro Tour
Guess the slow play reforms still require refinement! Golf Digest’s Joel Beall with the story of Justin Harding’s discontent…”Following his final round at the Saudi International, Harding ripped into the Old World circuit for, in his eyes, a lack of regulation on slow play.”
  • “Turtles should be monitored AT ALL TIMES [at] European Tour,” Harding wrote on Twitter. “We as players who don’t take an age should not be responsible for them. Nor should our round be affected by their inconsiderate behavior. Pretty simple really.
  • “F1 doesn’t say to [driver] Lewis Hamilton… ‘Hey pal just slow down because the guys behind can’t keep up.’ If the other 120 players in the field act properly why are we as players forced to play with these guys if they couldn’t give a ****. Week in week out same story, same guys.”

Full piece.

7. Two holes-in-one, one round
Ken Willis, The Daytona Beach News-Journal with the wild tale of Gary Choyka…”The odds are so impossible to grip mentally, accomplishing such a thing led everyone to offer Gary Choyka an obvious piece of advice.”
  • “They all said I should go play the lottery,” he said…But Choyka had already enjoyed a small windfall, plenty enough to cover rounds of drinks at LPGA International after a recent hole-in-one.
  • …”Choyka’s ace on the par-3 third hole at LPGA’s Jones Course in Daytona Beach, Florida, was matched a couple hours later with yet another hole-in-one on the par-3 14th”

Full piece.

8. Daniel Berger notched a top-10 finish with 9-year-old TaylorMade irons
Excellent stuff from our Ryan Barath…”At the Waste Management Phoenix Open, former Callaway staff member and 2015 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Daniel Berger went back to a nine-year-old (in golf years that’s ancient) set of 2011 TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC irons-and recorded a top 10 at TPC Scottsdale.”
  • “…From pictures on the range at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the rest of Berger’s bag consisted of a Callaway Epic Flash driver and fairway woods, Callaway Apex 3-iron, Callaway MD4 wedges, and an Odyssey putter-no word on his ball of choice at this time.”
  • “It’s not uncommon to see a player go back to a comfortable set of clubs, especially irons, but to see a player go this far back is more unusual. The only other recent example would be Steve Stricker going back to a much older set of Titleist 755’s. The big difference, from what we can tell, is Berger’s set appears to be NOS (new old stock) and a recently built set, based on their condition.”
  • “When talking to those in “the know,” the 2011 TaylorMade Tour Preferred series of irons-including the MB, MC, and CB’s-were some of the best irons ever made by the Carlsbad-based OEM (I will personally admit to owning two sets of the MC’s and an MB set).”
  • “The distinct design feature of the 2011 Tour Preferred MC CB irons was the weight screw in the back of the head that kept mass centered right behind the sweet spot of each head. This feature, something we have seen before and that continues to this day from other OEMs, allows for precise controlling of head weight without altering the CG to maximize performance.”

Full piece.

9. Feral hogs overtake Texas course
Via Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…”No matter how much of a weekend hacker you may be on the golf course, you haven’t come close to damaging a property the way a “plague of pigs” (yes, you read that right) has in Texas.”
  • “According to a report from Houston’s KSAT, 35 to 50 feral hogs have wreaked havoc at Lockhart State Park, ruining the terrain and leaving nothing but muddy patches in their wake. This is nothing new for the golf course, which is still playable, but park official Austin Vieh said this year is “the worst they’ve seen so far.””
  • “Park rangers have been trapping and removing hogs with hopes of preventing the unwanted visitors from returning. Hogs may love rolling in mud, but it doesn’t make them stupid. Rangers have to move traps and come up with new tactics because the hogs have apparently become aware of the traps and are avoiding those areas.”
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13-time major champion Mickey Wright passes away at the age of 85

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@wilsongolf

LPGA Tour legend and Hall of Famer Mickey Wright passed away on Monday after suffering a heart attack, according to the AP.

Wright won 82 titles on the LPGA Tour including 13-major titles in a career which began in 1955 and ended with her retirement at the age of just 34.

Per the 13-time major champion’s lawyer, Sonia Pawluc who was speaking to AP, Wright had been hospitalised for the last few weeks after suffering a fall.

The sporting legend is the only LPGA Tour professional to hold all majors at the same time, and Ben Hogan once described her swing as the finest in the game.

Speaking on the news of her passing, LPGA Tour commissioner, Michael Whan said

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Mickey Wright. We lost a legend, but we may also have lost the best swing in golf history today. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

Wright’s long list of accomplishments in the game includes the most victories in a single LPGA season (13), four consecutive LPGA money titles (1961-64), 14 successive years with an LPGA victory (1956-69) and a stunning 44 wins from 1961 through 1964.

She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1976.

 

 

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Morning 9: Tiger: Bad week inside ropes, good week outside | Scott, Park end droughts | CBS’ coverage panned (again)

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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.
February 17, 2020
Good Monday morning, golf fans.

 

1. Scott gets first Tour win since 2016
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner with a succinct breakdown…“Scott started the day in part of a three-way share of the lead, and he suffered an early stumble with a double bogey on the fifth hole. But the notoriously wobbly putter steadied his nerve down the stretch, burying birdie putts on Nos. 13 and 17 that proved to be the difference. Scott earned an unofficial victory at Riviera in 2005 when he won a 36-hole, rain-slogged event, but now he has an official title as part of his Riv credentials. It’s back-to-back worldwide wins for Scott across two calendar years, as the veteran closed out 2019 with a victory at the Australian PGA Championship. But after a number of recent near-misses, the Aussie now has his first PGA Tour win since March 2016, when he went back-to-back at Honda and Doral.”
2. …and Down Under, another title drought endeth
AP report…”Seven-time major champion Inbee Park saw a seven shot lead shrink to two shots Sunday before winning the Women’s Australian Open by three strokes to clinch her first LPGA title in almost two years.”
  • “Park started her final round three shots in front of 19-year old South Korean compatriot Ayeon Cho. She bogeyed the ninth hole but still turned five shots ahead of the field and went out to a seven shot lead early on the back nine at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club.”
3. …and on the Korn Ferry Tour
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Andrew Novak birdied each of his final two holes to earn his first career Korn Ferry Tour victory at the LECOM Suncoast Classic.”
  • “Novak, 24, started the final round in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., one shot off the lead, and he was part of a crowded leaderboard as the tournament entered the closing stretch. But thanks in large part to birdies on Nos. 17 and 18, two of the seven hardest holes at Lakewood National GC, he closed with a 6-under 66. That left him at 23 under, one shot ahead of John Chin and two shots clear of Taylor Montgomery, both of whom closed with rounds of 64.”
4. Not the weekend he wanted
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill…”It was another week to lament at the famed course where Woods started his PGA TOUR career as a 16-year-old. He faded on the back nine of his rounds on Thursday and Friday and then shot 76-77 on the weekend to be 11 over par, some 22 shots behind winner Adam Scott.”
  • “Woods was full of praise for the event he and his foundation put on in its new elevated status, but could only try some self-deprecating humor when asked of his personal on course efforts.”
  • “I did not do much well today. Good news, I hit every ball forward, not backwards, a couple sideways. But overall, I’m done,” he said. “I’ve been in this position many times unfortunately. Just keep fighting hole by hole, shot by shot and try to make some birdies, which I did not do.
ESPN’s Bob Harig on what he saw…“Woods was still not moving great. While he looked good at times, his overall game was a shell of what he produced three weeks ago at Torrey Pines, let alone in December at the Presidents Cup or October at the Zozo Championship.”
  • “This was simply a day to endure, not make matters worse — and then hand the tournament trophy to winner Adam Scott, who finished 22 strokes ahead of the tournament host.”
  • “And it was yet another reminder: Woods is 44 years old, has a fused spine, had three previous back surgeries prior to that, and counts himself lucky to be playing the game at all, let alone a high level.”
Full piece. 
5. Chubb champ: Scott Parel
Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News…”Scott Parel lost two opportunities at victories last year in playoffs. He wasn’t going to take that chance Sunday in the Chubb Classic.”
“Parel, 54, birdied six of the first 12 holes to come back from five shots off the lead and went on to win at The Classics Country Club at Lely Resort for his third PGA Tour Champions victory. Parel tied the tournament record at 17-under 196 on the par-71 course, and won $240,000 out of the $1.6 million purse.”
6. Rave review for CBS’ golf coverage…
Joel Beall with a (incomplete) tally of some of the (many) errors…
  • “An incorrect score board from the LPGA’s Women’s Australian Open, caught by No Laying Up. The tournament ended Saturday night.”
  • “A singular Korn Ferry Tour highlight, featuring a putt from Peter Uihlein. Although Uihlein entered the day with the lead, he finished T-20 at the Suncoast Classic, which had already been decided when the event update was televised.”
  • “Delayed footage of Harold Varner III topping his tee shot at the iconic 10th hole. Varner was tied at the time of the miscue, which was noted by CBS Sports analyst Ian Baker-Finch. Varner’s top was eventually shown in a highlight package some 90 minutes after it occurred.”
  • “The relative broadcast absences of Max Homa, one of the more popular PGA Tour players on social media, and Joel Dahmen. As the Twitter handle Deep Fried Egg pointed out, at one juncture Homa, then a stroke back of the lead, had only a single shot televised while Rickie Fowler-who was not in the field-had two highlights during the program.”
7. Rory talks Brooks & more
Adam Woodard at Golfweek draws on more of Rory McIlroy’s conversation with journalist Paul Kimmage…a few morsels…
  • “So, I go out in the final round and my midset was . . . It’s another round of golf . . . a great opportunity . . . I’m going to try to play well. And I was beaten on the day,” McIlroy remembered. “Obviously, Brooks played great and shot 65 but I think, more than anything, I was beaten by his intensity and his desire. I was too relaxed.”
  • “Later on in the season, McIlroy learned of a text Koepka sent to his friends before the final round in Memphis: “I’m going to crush him.”
  • “Yeah, and f*** he sort of did,” said McIlroy. “Well, Brooks and I have always got on great – we do get on great – but he was obviously taking that mindset, ‘It’s me and him’. And I guess it was a good thing that he thinks highly of me, or not highly of me, if he was saying he was going to crush me.”
8. Unplanned break ahead
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”When Muni He triumphed at LPGA Q-Series last November, she seized control of something every professional golfer holds dear: her schedule…”
  • “He, 20, decided early on that she’d skip the first three LPGA tournaments that she was eligible for and start 2020 on a three-week stretch in Asia, playing off of sponsor exemptions in limited-field events in Thailand and Singapore and the Blue Bay LPGA in her native China.”
  • “No one could’ve predicted that her first three starts would be canceled due to threats from the coronavirus. That control He worked so hard for went up in a puff of smoke. She’ll now make her first start of 2020 in late March at the LPGA event in Phoenix.”
9. Genesis a big success for Tiger…outside the ropes
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport rightly points out…”It was not his week on the course, obviously. But Woods’ time here was about more than how he fared inside the ropes. He has hosted this event for the last three years in conjunction with his TGR Live venture, but this was the first year the tournament formerly known as the L.A. Open was no longer an open. It’s an Invitational now, which means a reduced field size to 120, an increased purse and an elevated status.
  • “And the first year was, by any measure, a marked success-four cloudless days, a challenging Riviera that flashed its teeth all week and a bunched leader board that didn’t sort itself until late Sunday afternoon, when Adam Scott prevailed for a two-shot victory.”
  • “From a tournament perspective, it couldn’t have gone any better,” Woods said. “We’ve had perfect weather, people have come out and supported this event. Our elevation, being a part of the new invitational status, look at the players that come out and supported this event that have played this week, we couldn’t have asked for a more dream scenario. The golf course was fantastic. Everything couldn’t have been any better from that side.”

 

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Tour Rundown: Scott’s grit and guile, Queen Bee, Wofford’s pride

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The PGA Tour’s Cali Swing came to a close for 2020, while the Champions Tour returned to the continental USA after a stint in Morocco. The ladies of the LPGA stood tall in Australia, just as the Korn Ferry tour also docked in the lower 48, after time spent in South America. As the world of golf considers the pros and cons of a world tour, it’s easy to look around and see how such a grand plan might come to pass. As the globe continues to orbit, we take our turn in running down this week’s results.

PGA Tour: Scott claims 14th tour title with grit and guile

Say what you must about the back nine at the Augusta National, but I will stand the inward half at Riviera as the ultimate gut-check site in golf. For starters, we saw Tiger Woods go out in 4-under par on Thursday, stoking the embers of bonfires of hope everywhere. El tigre played the inward half in 36-38-41-39, so we know which high-school crush still makes him nervous! Wasn’t much different for the rest of the field; play the inward half well and you stand a chance. How about Adam Scott? After an inexplicable 37 on Thursday, he back-nined Riviera for 31-33-35. For those (like me) not counting, that’s the essential difference between what Tiger tallied, and what the tournament victor posted. Scott had his hands full, as players like Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, and late to the party: Sung Kang and Scott Brown. Both Kang and Brown closed fast, reaching -9, joining Kuchar in a tie for 2nd. They call Riviera Hogan’s Alley, for the playing record of the wee ice mon over its 18 holes. It begs the question, which Riviera was Hogan playing, that he could get that good, that repeatedly, over these beguiling, 18 holes?

LPGA: Queen Bee secures 20th title in Royal fashion. Could gold be next?

Inbee Park has been many things over the years: Major champion (she won her first LPGA event at the 2008 US Open); Olympic Gold Medalist (yup, that was her in Rio, wearing the bling); and now, comeback kid. Park was injured in 2017, and despite a victory in 2018, has yet to capture the stature that thrust her to #1 in the world, and 18 tour victories. Watch out, world; she might be back. Park stood sooo tall after three rounds; 67-69-68 had her at  15-under par over the glorious, Royal Adelaide course in Seaton. Only Ayean Cho managed to find similar altitude, with 3 rounds of 69 for -12. Would Cho solve the mystery of the final round, the one that eluded her last week, when she gave back a lead over the final 9 holes? In a word, no. She closed with 77 and dropped to -8 and a tie for 6th place. All part of the learning curve, as they say. With her playing partner stalled, Park played things close to the safety vest. She finished with a +1 74 on Sunday, good for a 3-putts margin of victory over new runner-up Amy Olson of the USA. If Inbee is rounding into form now, she’ll be a certain threat to claim a second gold medal this summer, in Japan.

Korn Ferry: Wofford’s pride birdies final two holes for 1st victory

You know you’re small when … your small town isn’t the bigger of the two small towns in an arguably-metro region. Spartanburg ain’t no Greenville, says no one in those parts, but it’s true. And Wofford College is a charming, southern institution of higher learning, located in the middle of Spartanburg. And Andrew Novak found a golf and learning home at Wofford. And now, he has a title and Wofford again has a pro tour winner. Again? You mean another Boston Terrier has won on tour? Uh-huh, one William McGirt, at the 2016 Memorial Tournament. According to my researchers, that’s all. The dynamic duo of McGirt and Novak.

Right, back to Andrew Novak. He and 5 other golfers reached 20-below par at the Lakewood National (not to be confused with other, national golf clubs) near Sarasota. Greyson Sigg, Chandler Blanchott, and David Kocher ran out of gas there, and tied for 4th. Taylor Montgomery actually reached -22, before a bogey at the last dropped him to -21 and solo 3rd place. John Chin had 5 birdies throught 7 back-nine holes, but failed to summon a 6th, and ended his run at -22. And Novak? He birdied 17 and 18, to jump from 3rd to 1st in the blink of an eye. Novak moved all the way from 26th to 3rd on The 25 chase for PGA Tour cards. He’ll certainly earn his for 2020-2021, but might he manage 2 more victories, for a battlefield promotion? Keep closing and the answer will be uh-huh. #GoTerriers

Tour Champions: The ultimate grinder peppermills his third Senior victory

Bernhard Langer, Stephen Leaney, and Chris DiMarco went out on Sunday and shot wonderful rounds … for the conclusion of a US Open. Hovering near par, on any day, would not bring baubles at the Chubb Classic. Bob Estes went out and posted 64, his best round of the week by 3, to reach 15-under par. He blazed past the aforementioned trinity, but could not reach the brass ring. That plum went to Scott Parel, probably the only Georgia Bulldog who never was … a Georgia Bulldog. Parel posted 63 on Sunday, eclipsing Estes’ 198 by 2 shots. The victory was Parel’s 3rd on the late-stage circuit, and was his first since October of 2018. Parel graduated from the large, state school in Athens, but never competed for the varsity squad. He made his living as a computer programmer, but never gave up his dream of playing professional golf. As a size 50+, he is now living that dream. Langer salvaged a tie for 3rd (with Kevin Sutherland) at -13. Ironically, Parel has been in two Champions playoffs in his career, and has lost both of them … to Kevin Sutherland. Good thing for him that the California native could “only” close with 67

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