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Morning 9: Distance Insights Report Edition: What you need to know, key responses & reading between the lines

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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 5, 2020
Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
Welcome to the Distance Insights Report Edition of the M9. By now, you know well the USGA and R&A yesterday released the long-awaited joint study. What does it say? Well, let’s have a look at the headlines…Golf Digest: “USGA/R&A declares distance increases must stop in findings from Distance Insights Project”…Forbes: Cycle Of Distance Increases Is ‘Undesirable And Detrimental To Golf’s Long-Term Future,’ Project Finds…SkySports: R&A and USGA to address ‘detrimental’ increases in distance…
1. Distance Insights Report
I’m going to present half of our Gianni Magliocco’s item on the report, because, well, I can.
“On Tuesday, golf’s governing bodies released the “Distance Insights Report” in which the two ruling authorities found the “continuing cycle” of the “100-year trend of hitting distance increases in golf” is “detrimental to the game’s long-term future.”
“The Distance Insights Report is a 102-page document, which includes data and information from 56 different projects that was co-released by the USGA and R&A and which hints at potential significant changes in the equipment rules over the coming years following a “broad review of both clubs and balls.”
“In a key findings statement released by the USGA and R&A, the organization revealed that “after extensive stakeholder research, the report features more than 100 years of data, informed by a library of 56 supporting documents.”
“Here were the key findings of the report per the USGA and R&A”
  • There is a 100-year trend of hitting distance increases in golf, as well as a corresponding increase in the length of golf courses, across the game globally The USGA and The R&A believe this continuing cycle is detrimental to the game’s long-term future.
  • The inherent strategic challenge presented by many golf courses can be compromised, especially when those courses have not or cannot become long enough to keep up with increases in the hitting distances of the golfers who play from their longest tees. This can lead to a risk of many courses becoming less challenging, or obsolete
  • Increased hitting distance can begin to undermine the core principle that the challenge of golf is about needing to demonstrate a broad range of skills to be successful.
  • If courses continue to lengthen, it is at odds with growing societal concerns about the use of water, chemicals and other resources
  • Longer distances and courses, longer tees and longer times to play are taking golf in the wrong direction and are not necessary for a challenging, enjoyable and sustainable game.

“The USGA and R&A have also stated that with these findings “a broad review of both clubs and balls will be conducted to understand and assess a full range of options for addressing these issues relating to hitting distance.”

 

2. Pondering bifurcation? 
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”For the first time, golf’s governing bodies will study the possibility of letting golfers play by different rules as they relate to equipment in order to potentially reduce hitting distances.”
  • “Known as “bifurcation,” the United States Golf Association and the R&A announced Tuesday their results of a long-awaited distance study in which they surmised that the “continuing cycle of increases” in the distance a golf ball travels and the lengthening of courses is “undesirable and detrimental to golf’s long-term future.”
  • “The organizations said they will assess the potential use of a local rule that would specify use of clubs and/or balls intended to result in shorter hitting distances; for example, a ball that does not travel as far or equipment that cannot hit the ball as far.”
3. What’s next… (and shots fired?)
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”The next steps that are broadly outlined in the report are in keeping with golf’s fondness for deliberate, ruminative processes, and at odds with the modern thirst for flip-switch change. There’ll be a year or so of more research with invitations for input extended to stakeholders, not least equipment manufacturers. Hence this effort at reassuring that hostile constituency: “It is not currently intended to consider revising the overall specifications in a way that would produce substantial reductions in hitting distances at all levels of the game.””
“The distance report is awash with the noble language of consensus building, but make no mistake – the USGA and R&A have fired the first shot in a war for the future of golf. It is both overdue and necessary.”
4. Shackelford’s take
We have to check in with arguably the most persistent USGA watcher (and oftentimes critic)…
  • He writes…”Here is my summary of the Distance Insights Study “conclusions”: the report features the strongest language in the sport’s history regarding the state of affairs as the governing bodies see distance. While not an all-out admission of regulatory malfeasance, the report opens the door for bifurcation of the rules via a local rule that would open the door to different equipment. While that idea is not the least bit original, it has been resisted by the organizations until now.”
  • “The report also delivers lines about distance such as how it must be “brought to an end” and how the governing bodies intend to “break the cycle”.  There is even an early reading of 2002’s Joint Statement of Principles” to confirm that the line has been crossed as suggested in that document. There is a sound synopsis put forward explaining why the sport has been harmed in recent years by a distance pursuit and why a continued effort will do no one any good.”
5. LPGA’s response
Golfweek’s Todd Kelly…”The LPGA responded to Tuesday’s release by the USGA and R&A of the Distance Insights Project report.”
  • “The LPGA stated that it does not see “distance as a hindrance towards the growth of the LPGA Tour or to the courses on which we can compete.”
  • “But the statement went on to say that “the data shows there are some aspects of increased distance which are making the game more expensive and more difficult for recreational players. … we see opportunity in exploring ways to remove some of the longtime barriers of the game such as cost, limited teeing ground options, length of courses, time to play, etc.”
6. PGA Tour reaction
Per Golf Channel…”PGA Tour: “Since 2003, we have been working closely with the USGA and the R&A to closely monitor distance, and this latest report is an expanded and thorough review of the topic, and others, which are all important to the game. The R&A and the USGA are our partners, and the PGA Tour will continue to collaborate with them, along with all of our other industry partners, on the next steps in this process. We believe the game is best served when all are working in a unified way, and we intend to continue to approach this issue in that manner. The PGA Tour is committed to ensuring any future solutions identified benefit the game as a whole without negatively impacting the Tour, its players or our fans’ enjoyment of our sport.”
7. Mell: OEMs “on notice”
Interesting points from Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”If you’re Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade or another equipment manufacturer, the USGA and R&A’s release of their Distance Insights Project today triggers a warning system.”
  • “No, golf’s caretakers did not propose any restraints on balls, clubs or any of the other toys that help create distance in the game, but the project’s findings promise to heighten manufacturer readiness for incoming threats.”
  • And further…”The USGA and R&A are finally declaring war on unrelenting distance gains.
  • Of course, they don’t put it in those indelicate terms, but make no mistake, there’s a battle brewing as they seek to find a peaceful resolution to what manufacturers won’t even concede is a problem.”
8. Chamblee’s solutions
Adam Woodard at Golfweek quoting Chamblee’s Golf Channel remarks…”Brandel Chamblee has a few ideas on possible solutions, and he shared them during Golf Channel’s two-hour special edition of Golf Central Tuesday evening.”
  • “As I read (the report), I found myself agreeing with some of the issues from a sustainability standpoint as the game continues to grow,” said Chamblee. “But I found myself differing in a lot of aspects of the report. Namely, I feel like the game is out of whack at the professional level in one way, and I think we do agree about this, the inability to play the game with great accuracy, what I would define as being outside the top 100 in driving accuracy and to be rewarded is out of whack.”
  • “The golf ball can easily be constricted by raising the fairway heights, growing the rough and firming up the greens,” he explained.

Full piece.

9. Breaking down what the PGL proposes
“The format…The tour would be composed of 48 players competing in 18 tournaments from January through September, with 10 events staged in the United States and the other eight around the world. The events would be 54 holes with no cut and shotgun starts over the first two days to better showcase all the players during a television window.”
  • “The team concept…Modeled in part after Formula 1 racing, there would be 12 teams of four players each, with a season-long competition that culminates in a season-ending event for players and teams. How it would be structured is unclear, but in theory, players or other entities could own teams. The big questions: How would players feed into this tour? Into the various teams? What if a player is injured?”
  • “The prize money…So far, the Premier Golf League is talking about $240 million, with a $10 million weekly purse for 17 events with a season-ending event. There would be $2 million paid to the winner, and a $10 million bonus to the overall individual champion. In addition, there would be a $40 million team bonus pool.”
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  1. dj

    Feb 5, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    Quote”8. Chamblee’s solutions
    Adam Woodard at Golfweek quoting Chamblee’s Golf Channel remarks…”Brandel Chamblee has a few ideas on possible solutions, and he shared them during Golf Channel’s two-hour special edition of Golf Central Tuesday evening.”
    “As I read (the report), I found myself agreeing with some of the issues from a sustainability standpoint as the game continues to grow,” said Chamblee. “But I found myself differing in a lot of aspects of the report. Namely, I feel like the game is out of whack at the professional level in one way, and I think we do agree about this, the inability to play the game with great accuracy, what I would define as being outside the top 100 in driving accuracy and to be rewarded is out of whack.”
    “The golf ball can easily be constricted by raising the fairway heights, growing the rough and firming up the greens,” he explained.”

    This makes the most sense.

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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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