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Morning 9: Pebble, Vic winners | Mickelson comes up short | State of the Phil | J-Day nearing retirement?

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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 10, 2020
Good Monday morning, golf fans.

 

1. Taylor triumphs
Nice summary from James Colgan at Golf.com…”Taylor went wire-to-wire on Monterey Peninsula, outlasting Phil Mickelson with a windy final round 70 from Pebble Beach. It was largely a two-man show on Sunday, with Jason Day (the only other golfer within striking distance of Mickelson and Taylor heading into Sunday) shooting three over and ejecting early.
  • “Mickelson wasted a sublime Saturday 67  with a blow-up at the turn; making double on the eighth hole in a bizarre sequence to fall three back of Taylor, a deficit from which he would never recover (more on that later). Taylor, on the other hand, rode a mostly pain-free afternoon to a two-under 70. His biggest moment came on the par-4 15th when he rebounded from a dreadful double on the previous hole to chip-in for birdie, keeping Mickelson from nipping at his heels.”

Full piece.

And if you want to read a great perspective piece on Taylor’s life since he won his first tournament (2014)/an excellent treatment of the reality for tour pros on the card-keeping bubble, check out PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister’s piece.
2. Min Woo Lee!
EuropeanTour.com report…”Min Woo Lee held his nerve in difficult conditions to win his first European Tour title at the 2020 ISPS Handa Vic Open.”
  • “The home favourite entered the day with a three shot lead and never looked back after chipping in for a birdie on the first, signing for a 68 to finish at 19 under, two shots clear of Ryan Fox.”

Full piece.

3. …and on the ladies side: Hee Young Park
AP report…”Korea’s Hee Young Park, who came close to quitting golf last year, made par on the fourth hole of a three-way playoff Sunday to win the LPGA Tour’s Victoria Open from compatriots Hye-Jin Choi and So Yeon Ryu.”
  • “On a course swept by a boisterous wind and as evening closed in Park, Choi and Ryu returned repeatedly to the tee on the dog-leg par-5 18th to play out a gripping finale after finishing tied at 281, 8-under par.”
  • “Former world No. 1 Ryu dropped out on the second playoff hole when she missed a birdie putt but Park and Choi continued until luck and nature intervened.”
  • “Choi’s tee shot on the fourth playoff hole came to rest against a pine cone in light rough left of the fairway, leaving her with no choice but to chip out. Her attempt to do so came up short, she put her next into a hazard, dropped out, and finally reached the fringe of the green in six.”

Full piece.

4. Phil phalters
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister on Mickelson’s Sunday 74…”A disastrous double bogey at the par-4 eighth was the start of an 11-hole finishing stretch that he played in 4 over. Instead of pressing eventual winner Nick Taylor for the lead, Mickelson dropped a spot down the leaderboard, settling for solo third behind Kevin Streelman with a 2-over 74.”
  • “The Mickelson short-game magic, on full display the day before, only showed itself a couple of times Sunday. Certainly not enough to keep up with Taylor, who shot a 2-under 70 to win by four shots, in the final group.”
  • “No excuses, though. For one of the few times, Mickelson proved human at Pebble Beach when the pressure was on.”
  • “It’s disappointing certainly to have not won, but I got outplayed,” Mickelson said. “I mean, Nick played better than I did. He holed a couple of great shots.”

 

 

5. On the other side of the coin
The Pro-Am portion of the tournament, that is… Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Streelman took the tile for the second time.
  • Golfweek’s Adam Schupak…”This is the second time in three years that Fitzgerald and Streelman, who have never finished worse than T-27 in five appearances as a team, have won the title. In doing so, they became the first team to win the pro-am twice since Hubert Green and Dean Spanos in 1985 and 1990. Only four teams have claimed multiple victories at an event that dates to 1937 when it was called the Bing Crosby Clambake.”
  • “Perhaps some of that success can be attributed to their on-course chemistry. The two walked off the 18th green joking with each other, and with Fitzgerald, an eight handicap, draping an arm over the shoulder of his partner, who made a serious run at the individual title on Sunday, too.”

Full piece.

6. Meanwhile, in Bogota…
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…”With his win Sunday in Colombia, Mito Pereira just put himself in the mix for a PGA Tour card and maybe even a spot in this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
  • “Four back to start the final round, Periera fired a final-round 64 with a 72nd-hole eagle to win the Country Club de Bogota Championship by two over Ben Kholes.”
  • “The 24-year-old Chilean carded four birdies, two eagles and a bogey to steal his second professional victory, the follow-up to a 2016 PGA Tour Latinoamerica title.”

Full piece.

7. State of the Phil
Via ESPN’s Bob Harig…”Ahead was a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia for a big, seven-figure appearance fee and a European Tour event in which Mickelson began to find some form. He was in contention during the final round and eventually finished third — his best result by miles going back to Pebble Beach.”
  • “But it was a soulless event in the Middle East with maybe a few dozen fans on any hole and fairways as wide as the Red Sea. Sure, Phil got some confidence back, perhaps some momentum. But could he bring it all the way back across 11 time zones to California?”
  • “The fact that he did — shooting 68 at Spyglass, 64 at Monterrey Peninsula and 67 at Pebble Beach to put himself in the final group with Taylor — suggested Phil’s clubs were starting to do the talking.”
  • “What’s nice is I knew I was playing well start of the year,” he said. “In the first couple of tournaments, I ended up not really controlling my thoughts and my visualization very well. And these last two weeks, I’ve started to see things a lot clearer and execute a lot better without any type of negativity. So, I’ve been much more assertive and aggressive and controlling my mind a little bit better.”

Full piece.

8. Phil’s final act?
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”It’s clear that Mickelson does not intend to fade quietly into his golden years. He has lost weight but none of his competitive fire. But it’s also apparent that he has an eye on his next act, and that act won’t involve imitating past greats by plying his trade on the senior circuit while doffing his ceremonial cap as he exits major championships on Friday afternoons.”
  • “Phil Inc. has a much longer runway than Phil the player. Mickelson understands that his power is no longer dependent on his performances against kids on the PGA Tour but is best exploited in controlled environments where established celebrity has currency.”
  • “That explains his late conversion to social media, where he has diligently built an image of a self-deprecating jock that showcases for a new audience his enviable skill as a corporate pitchman. His viral calves, Stars & Stripes onesie and Phireside chats have all been in service of that image. So too his bravado about hitting bombs, despite a driving distance rank of 40th that suggests his bombs are more like hand grenades compared to his younger rivals.”

Full piece.

9. Nearly ready to call it a day?
Mark Townsend at National Club Golfer presents these quotes from Jason Day…”I’ve talked to my wife about this a lot,” Day said midway through the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “I’m like, ‘I think I’m nearly done here’, just because of how much pain I was in.”
  • “And then on top of it how stressful it is to play competitive golf week-in and week-out and try and live up to the expectations not only with yourself, but with what everyone else thinks that you should be doing.”
  • …”Sometimes I wake up and I feel like I’m 50, sometimes I wake up and I feel like I’m 70 and sometimes I feel like I’m 18 again.”
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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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