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Morning 9: Phil Draculason? | Shackelford: What the governing bodies can’t say | McIlroy #1

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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 11, 2020
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.

 

1. Phil Draculason?
An interesting analogy from John Feinstein amid an excellent piece…”But the fact that Phil was in contention until the closing holes should tell us something: Four months before turning 50, he’s not done. Mickelson is golf’s Dracula-every time you think he’s dead, he rises again. Two weeks ago, he hadn’t been in contention anywhere since winning at Pebble Beach a year earlier. He had played so poorly since Pebble 2019 that in December he failed to make a United States national team (Presidents Cup) for the first time since 1993 and had dropped far enough in the World Ranking that the question of whether he’d be offered or would accept an exemption to play in this year’s U.S. Open was on the table.”
  • “Except for this: Two weeks ago, after skipping the Waste Management Phoenix Open for only the second time in 31 years to take a huge-and controversial-appearance fee to play in Saudi Arabia, Mickelson finished T-3. Then, at Pebble Beach, a place where he has won five times, he lingered just off the lead all week before Taylor’s chip-in birdie at the 15th hole Sunday finally-more or less-put Phil away. Mickelson struggled most of the day in the high winds, shooting a two-over-par 74 to finish five strokes behind Taylor and one behind Streelman-after Phil had tied Taylor for the lead two holes into the final round.”

Full piece.

2. McIlroy back to No. 1 again
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“Rory McIlroy has supplanted Brooks Koepka atop the Official World Golf Ranking, and he did so without hitting a shot.”
  • “Both McIlroy and Koepka were idle last week, but because of slight changes to their respective OWGR calculations it’s now McIlroy on top with a 9.19-point average against Koepka’s new average of 9.16. This marks the first time McIlroy has held the top spot since September 2015, and his 53-month gap sets a new record for longest time between a player losing and regaining the No. 1 ranking.”
3. Tour asks for dismissal of Haney case
Mark Schlabach at ESPN…”The PGA Tour’s lawyers have asked a federal judge to dismiss golf instructor Hank Haney’s lawsuit, in which he claims the tour pressured SiriusXM Radio to suspend him and then terminate him from hosting his radio show after his comments about women’s golf last year.”
  • “In a motion filed to U.S. District Court Judge Rodolfo Ruiz on Friday, the PGA Tour’s lawyers wrote that Haney and his attorneys failed to prove that the Tour “unjustifiably interfered with Plaintiffs’ business and/or contractual relationship with Sirius XM” and failed to prove that the decision to fire him was “based on anything other than [the radio network’s] own review of Haney’s racist, xenophobic, and sexist comments about the LPGA and its players.”

Full piece.

4. Next steps? 
Digest’s Dave Shedloski polled the players regarding what next steps ought to be taken in light of the Distance Insights Report…
 
“Many echoed the sentiments of Jason Day, one of the game’s leading long-ball hitters. “I think everyone has to ask themselves is the game of golf in a good spot right now in regards to distance, or do we have to dial it back?” Day then answered his own question: “I don’t know why they would want us to hit it shorter.”
  • “How about because in response to players hitting the ball farther, golf courses are being renovated and lengthened, which means higher maintenance costs, more water usage and rounds of a longer duration?”
  • “But Day’s point has validity as it relates to his job, the PGA Tour, which is in the entertainment business (subset sports). Nothing in golf enthralls a gallery more than pugilism from the tee box…”
  • “If, however, the industry were to attempt to keep distance increases from continuing, among the remedies that tour pros discuss most is limiting the flight of the golf ball.”
5. Shackelford: “What the governing bodies can’t say”
You may disagree with Shackelford’s sentiment about the significance of OEM’s opinions, but you can’t disagree with the raw numbers. Anyway, here’s his take…”Golf is an $84.1 billion industry in America when you factor in everything from courses, to travel to sales, according to We Are Golf.”
“In the United States, the National Golf Foundation puts the manufacturers contribution to that number at $2.6 billion. Frankly, that seems woefully low to me, but even if you quadruple the number it’s still not a significant portion of the golf industry.”
“…in the grand scheme, fussing and fighting over the manufacturing world’s needs over the greater good seems short-sighted given the course industry and its 2 million or so domestic jobs. A healthy golf industry is good for all, but giving disproportionate attention and weight to the view of one constituting such a small portion of the overall financial picture, seems unwise.”
6. Pros on first time playing with Tiger

Excellent roundup of accounts from Tiger’s contemporaries regarding the first time they teed it up with the 15-time major champion.

“ADAM SCOTT: “I had just decided to turn pro in 2000 and got Butch Harmon’s blessing to do that because he was coaching me, and of course Tiger, at the time. We talked about it and he felt strongly that I should go and play in Europe first and gain some experience. A week or so before the U.S. Open, I was in Las Vegas and Tiger was stopping in on the Sunday before heading to Pebble Beach. Butch said to me on Saturday, ‘Tiger is coming in and if he goes and plays, you can play with him.’ So I was nervous, of course.”
  • “We went out and played and we had a match, and I was maybe 1-down through the turn at Rio Secco, and then Tiger stepped it up and went birdie, birdie, birdie and had an eagle. He closed me out on the 14th and shot 63 – with a double bogey at the ninth. I was a bit blown away by what I saw. It was quite windy and I thought I played quite well. I probably shot even par and I was nine off the pace. I made a throwaway comment to Butch, something like, ‘Maybe I should reconsider turning pro.’ The only thing that made me feel good was he won the U.S. Open by 15 the next week, so I was quite happy to see that no one else really played like that.”
7. Genesis as an invitational 
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport…”The tournament formerly known as the Genesis Open is making its debut this week as the Genesis Invitational, a switch that’s more than simply cosmetic. First, the tangible changes: a reduced field size from 144 to 120; a three-year tour exemption for the winner, rather than the usual two-year pass; and a $1.9 million increase in the purse to $9.3 million, including a $1.674 million winner’s check.”
  • “On a more symbolic note, the Genesis joins the Memorial Tournament, hosted by Jack Nicklaus, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational as PGA Tour events with “elevated status.” Now Tiger’s tournament, Jack’s tournament and Arnie’s tournament stand above the rest. Sounds about right.”

Full piece.

8. Who could buy in? 
Geoff Shackelford speculates as to the players the PGL is targeting (and if you want to know more about the potential team structure you have read Geoff’s piece)…
  • “And now for the $350 million question, who might be the twelve players targeted as a player-owner offered the chance to purchase a team maximum of 75% (documents use the word purchase, but I was not privy to what this would actually entail for players. Presumably there will not be a high price since they hope to lure players away from major Tours. Or perhaps players will be able to join forces with a rich friend?).”
  • “…Based on the initial list I saw and the description of players to be selected as based on “global profile, personality, marketability and playing potential and/or record,” here would be the most likely candidates. Oh, and don’t rule out an elder statesman, great talker or overall personality like Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington or Ian Poulter to enter the equation. (Els said last week he “loved” the idea.)”
Rickie Fowler
Dustin Johnson
Brooks Koepka
Hideki Matsuyama
Rory McIlroy
Phil Mickelson
Jon Rahm
Justin Rose
Adam Scott
Henrik Stenson
Justin Thomas
Tiger Woods
9. Topgolf Augusta?
Via Damon Cline of the Augusta Chronicle…”Topgolf has released details on its new Augusta entertainment venue, a first-of-its-kind prototype that is expected to be open by the Masters Tournament.”
  • “Craig Kessler, chief operating officer for the Dallas-based company, said the venue under construction at the Village at Riverwatch shopping center will have a mini-golf course, outdoor yard games and fire pits in addition to the company’s signature climate-controlled driving range.”

 

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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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