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Tour Rundown: Hatton holds, Campillo, nearly the Big Eerie, Rocha

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It’s not the week before a major, but it is the week before the Players Championship. Bay Hill played as much like TPC will play as it could. In fact, Sawgrass is going to have to show me something, to play any tougher. Firms greens, speedy surfaces, thick rough (not a fan) and wind (can’t prepare that) made the O-Town course as difficult as one could encounter. For the 2nd consecutive week, a well-decorated Englishman led after 54 holes. It wasn’t Tommy Fleetwood this time, but Tyrrell Hatton. Would he hold on? How would compatriots fare in Qatar, Mexico, and California? Fortunately for you, we run it all down this week in Tour Rundown for March 8th, 2020.

PGA Tour: Hatton holds lead and claims Bay Hill

For some Englishmen victory on the US PGA tour will always be an unsolvable mystery. Colin Montgomerie, Ken Brown and Mark James never won. Among the current lot, Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick remain among the uncrowned. Nick Faldo won 9 times, including 2 major titles. Luke Donald (5 ), Paul Casey (3) and Lee Westwood (2) were among the ones who solved, in part, the mystery. This week, Tyrrell Hatton left the former group and earned membership in the latter. He did so in the grittiest manner. If #GolfTwitter wasn’t waiting for him to implode in spectacular eruption, it sat marveling at his ability to handle the most trying of conditions. Hatton entered round four with a 2-shot lead, but Bay Hill was not the simple test of prior years.

Hatton’s inward half consisted of 8 pars … and a double bogey. He drove left off the tee, into the water. Four swings later, he thought the game was over. Imagine his relief, looking at the leader board at 13, upon discovering he still had the lead. It was not his first brush with disaster; 2 bogeys in the first four holes brought him to the brink. 2 birdies as the front 9 closed, drew him back from the precipice. Still, there were challengers. Marc Leishmen, playing with Hatton, came home in minus-one, edging to 3-under par, ultimately claiming 2nd place alone. When every shot mattered, Hatton hit knives on 17 tee, 18 tee, and 18 fairway, to set manageable pars and victory in motion.

Writer’s Note: When you have to hit a perfect shot, “between the rocks and the sand,” as the commentators gleefully spurted, the hole set-up is bad. It may not have been the goal of the preparation committee, but it was the result at the 18th hole. This was Florida nightmare golf at its best; some love it and some disdain it. Perhaps there’s no other way to defend a course like Bay Hill. Having said that, it’s difficult to recall the last non-major event that had golfers absolutely turned in knots. It shouldn’t be an every-week thing, but much like the stadium hole at Scottsdale, from time to time, it’s warranted.

European Tour: Campillo and Qatar begin with <k>

Jorge Campillo has lost more than he has won, on the European Tour. He has won twice, though, on the big tour. David Drysdale has been at the professional game for 25 years, and has 2 Challenge Tour wins to his credit. For the longest time on Sunday, it was uncertain if any of the golfers in contention would hit the proper shots required for victory. Campillo made a bogey at 16, and a double at 17, ending on -13. Drysdale made bogey at 15, also dropping to the number of misfortune. Also in the mix was Denmark’s Jeff Winther, but he had 3 bogeys against 0 birdies on the back 9, to finish 1 agonizing stroke out of the playoff.

As if a switch were flipped, both Campillo and Drysdale played like world-beaters in extra time. They matched birdies at the 18th, then did it again on the 2nd go-round. Two more trips along the closing trace returned 4 pars, so it was back to the tee for a 5th attempt. This time through, Campillo knocked in a distant birdie putt, and Drysdale missed from closer in. The Spaniard had his 2nd tour victory, while the Scotsman had improved on his previous-best finish (twice a runner-up in regulation.)

PGA Tour Champions: Els gets by with a little help from his friends

Ernie Els’ arrival on the senior circuit was heralded. He nearly won his maiden event, falling to the pride of Malaga, Miguel Angel Jimenez, in extra holes. Two events later, the Big Easy finished on 16-under par, in Newport Beach, California. The South African found himself in amid a blend of tested and untested doyens: Scott McCarron and Fred Couples were nipping at his heels, as were Monday-qualifier David Morland IV and Ken Duke. Nowhere on the elder circuit is the gap greater, than the par-five holes. On this day, Els’ pursuers did him the greatest of favors: they made pars and bogeys on the birdie holes. Glen Day was on fire when he reached the 18th tee. In his pocket were 4 consecutive birdies. He made bogey on the piece-of-cake closer. That’s piece of cake for birdie, not par. And he made bogey. Dropped to -14. Still finished 2nd alone. McCarron portrayed the worst wedge player in the game, at least from a distance. His approach irons were routinely off by yards, not feet, and thus were his birdie opportunities limited. He shot 69 and dropped 3 spots, to 5th place. Neither Morland nor Duke broke 70, and each dropped away, toward 10th spot. Couples’ performance was also bewildering. He had 6 birdies on the day, but none over the closing third of the round. He matched Day at -14, but rued the missed opportunities.

Els’ round was nearly the Big Eerie. He birdied 1 and 18. He also bogeyed 8 and 11. See where we’re going? He had birdies on 3 and 6, and also on 12 and 15. Those don’t match up as precisely, but still, pretty spooky. All of it was good enough to separate him from the chasers, and bring him a well-earned, debut victory on the next stage.

PGA Tour Latinoamerica: Rocha waves Brazilian flag in Mexico

If the Sahara of birdies that was Bay Hill, had you wanting for redder numbers, the fans in Mazatlan cannot empathize. The golfers on PGA Tour LA went berzerk at the Estrella del Mar resort. on the west coast of Mexico. Despite opening with 65-67, Brazil’s Alexandre Rocha would not assume the lead until a 2nd 65, in round 3, brought him to 19-under par. Even then, he stood alongside Argentina’s Alejandro Tosti and Rowin Caron of the Netherlands. Raul Pereda and Alvaro Ortiz Becerra, of the host nation, each shot 64 in round 4, to surge up the board, to -2 and -26, respectively. Nice rounds, but can they compare with a 62? That’s what Rocha returned on day four. The man from Sao Paulo began his afternoon with 5 consecutive birdies, then added a 6th at the 9th, to turn in 30. He signed for 5 more chirps on the inward half, to offset an inexplicable bogey on the 14th. Caron had 66 on day four, but fell to a 3rd-place tie with Pereda. Tosti had 67, good for 5th place alone.

PGA Tour Latinoamerica will take two weeks off, allowing players time to reach the tip of South America. Three events will be held in Argentina, then a quick stop in Chile, before reaching the Caribbean in May.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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The DailyWRX: What’s buzzing on social media 6/5/2020

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With everything going on, I wanted to find some humor out there…hope you all can find some time to have a chuckle, it helps.

I relate to this on so many levels…

My game therefore I am trash.

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Send this to a trash golfer ????

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It’s funny…

But the guy might do it cuz he’s so damn savage.

I’m in…

Once again…

I love the shots and tips that come out of these vids…..but these backyard setups continue to solidify that I have failed at life…SMH. My jealousy rages.

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Rainy Wednesday…we going skippin!

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He is a literal walking ray of golden sunshine…

He’s inching up my list of favorite player…just sayin’.

DM @johnny_wunder for anything good

 

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Morning 9: U.S. Open could feature fans after all | LPGA skins match? | Singh WD’s from Korn Ferry event

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1. Singh bows out of Korn Ferry opener
Adam Woodard reports we will unfortunately not be getting the Singh/Schnell pairing we were hoping for…“Vijay Singh caused quite a stir a few weeks back when the three-time major champion’s name appeared on the field list for the Korn Ferry Tour’s first post-pandemic event at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course June 11-14.”
  • “On Sunday, the PGA Tour confirmed Singh has withdrawn from the Korn Ferry Challenge. Golf Channel was first to report.”
  • “Singh riled up golf Twitter – Korn Ferry Tour pro Brady Schnell, in particular – with his initial decision to enter the KFT event. Being a lifetime PGA Tour member, The Big Fijian was eligible to enter the event because he wasn’t playing in the Tour’s return to play that same week at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.”
2. Still no fans at Colonial
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Despite a revised state order that would allow fans to attend next month’s Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas, the PGA Tour plans to proceed without fans for at least the first four events when play resumes.”
  • “The PGA Tour’s primary focus continues to be the health and well-being of all involved with our tournaments and the communities in which we play,” a statement from the Tour read. “We plan to resume play at the Charles Schwab Challenge with the event – and the three to immediately follow – closed to the general public.”
3. Lynch on player mics
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch has a few thoughts on one of the most-discussed matters coming out of The Match 2…“The most compelling possibility raised by “The Match II” is having players wear microphones during tournament play, and this week the European Tour said it will encourage players to be mic’d when it resumes action in July. The ET’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, exhibits more confidence in golfers agreeing to this than any of the people I know who produce live tournament golf for a living. Those producers will unanimously tell you it’s near impossible to get a simple walk and talk from a PGA Tour player, much less an intimate audio feed for 18 holes of competition.”
“The absence of mic’d competitors in tournaments isn’t because producers don’t want greater access. For all their garrulousness on social media, even younger Tour players maintain an old school mentality passed down from generations of Curtis Stranges and Raymond Floyds, who were as about as approachable as a piranha with toothache when they were working between the ropes. There is also a cost attached. “The Match II” was carefully stage-managed, with players held up along the way to ensure they were live at the right times. That won’t happen in tournaments with 156 guys in the field. Sure, you can stream a single group wired for sound, but for network broadcasts you’ll add the expense of a production staffer to monitor all the chatter for gems and a tape operator to cue it up (and armchair critics will still bemoan that it’s tape-delayed).”
4. Stymied LPGA skins match
Wherefore art the women in these charity matches? Apparently, we’d have already seen an LPGA skins match featuring top players, but for a lack of financial backing…
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols has the full story…
“It’s all in place:
  • “Two courses are interested in hosting
  • Twelve players have agreed to compete
  • If they can pay for TV production, Franzen says they have the full support of the LPGA to work with their broadcast partners
“The idea is to deliver two days of skins matches to outlets around the globe. Players will have the ability to choose which COVID-19 relief fund they want their winnings to go toward.”
“But here’s the deal: Franzen needs funding. Lots of it.”
5. USGA: USO could feature fans
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”But the United States Golf Association is now optimistic about keeping the championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in suburban New York City and remains hopeful that spectators in some limited form will be able to attend.”
  • “The organization had been working on contingency plans to move the tournament to another venue, if necessary.”
  • “We are focused singularly on Winged Foot,” John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said in a phone interview Friday. “Once we got the September dates, that was our thinking. Time is on our side. We did look at multiple scenarios, but given the recent news we felt we could focus there.”
  • “Winged Foot is a special place for us. And the golf course will be amazing. And to be able to do this in New York, where things have been so challenging, will put an explanation point on it. We see Winged Foot as our sole focus.”
6. Fill-in Tour event?
Rob Oller, Columbus Dispatch, syndicated in Golfweek…“Columbus could be in the mix to host a second PGA Tour event the week before the Memorial Tournament scheduled for July 16-19, two sources confirmed to the USA Today Network on Friday.”
  • “The Columbus-based tournament would serve as a temporary fill-in for the John Deere Classic, which was scheduled to be held July 9-12 in Silvis, Illinois, but canceled on Thursday because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. It was to be the first tour event to include spectators.”
  • “…Other leading alternative site is Detroit with Lexington, Kentucky, and Carmel, Indiana, also possibilities. (This story was updated on Saturday, May 30, to include new information from the Akron Beacon-Journal, a member of the USA Today Network.)”
7. Mackenzie Tour cancels season
Carson Williams at Golf Channel…“Border restrictions, mandatory quarantines for those who enter Canada and gathering restrictions in all provinces because of the coronavirus pandemic were just a few reasons that led the tour to cancel its season.”
  • “With growing uncertainty surrounding the border and the 14-day quarantine regulations, among other factors, we’ve weighed all of our options and concluded that it is not feasible to play this summer,” Mackenzie Tour Executive Director Scott Pritchard said in a press release. “With the safety of the communities we play in mind, as well as the well-being of our players, sponsors, tournament-organizing committees, volunteers and golf course staff, we came to the realization that this is the best decision for everyone involved.”
  • “Mackenzie Tour members have been sent information detailing eligibility for the 2021 season. Those who have earned status at three 2020 Qualifying Tournaments will keep their status for next season. For the Qualifying Tournament entrants who have not yet competed, they will be guaranteed a spot for the 2021 event.”
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Morning 9: Latest memo from Tour to players | Phil’s post-Match perspective | Greg Norman’s regrettable take

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1. Latest “bubble” memo
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard details the most recent communique from Tour to its players…“In a memo sent to players on Wednesday, tournament director Michael Tothe outlined many of the protocols that will be required when play resumes on June 11 at Colonial including the four Fort Worth, Texas, hotels that will create the foundation of the circuit’s “bubble” for the week.”
  • “The core of the PGA Tour’s plan to return was always about testing, but it’s a fine line to walk. In two weeks, at the Charles Schwab Challenge, we’ll find out if it will be enough.”
  • “Players are allowed to stay in individual RVs or rental homes but they are being encouraged to assure the health and safety of their accommodations if they choose to stay outside the bubble.”
  • “Players were also informed where COVID-19 testing will occur when they arrive in Fort Worth as well as meal options at Colonial, which will be limited to grab-and-go lunches in order to follow safety protocols.”
2. Little John finishes second at Crooked Stick 
Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star…Daly II made that same walk on Wednesday, up the 18th fairway for the final round of the inaugural Dye Junior Golf Invitational at Crooked Stick.”
  • “I think a lot of guys have re-watched the 1991 PGA tournament,” Daly II said. “I watched it every night before the tournament. (Watching him) walk down the 18th with all of the fans everywhere was pretty cool. He started as the ninth alternate and didn’t expect to play. For him to win, it was a ridiculous story. He loves it.”
  • “Daly II put together a remarkable tournament in his own right, finishing a three-way tie for second place behind winner John Marshall Butler of Louisville, Kentucky. Daly II was 4 over for the two-day, 54-hole event, which featured 33 of the top high school boys players in the country and 33 of the same on the girls’ side.”
3. Phil open to wearing mic
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Speaking on the Dan Patrick Show, Mickelson admitted that he didn’t expect the same level of banter during a typical Tour event with a seven-figure prize on the line, but he’d nonetheless be willing to broadcast his inside-the-ropes dialogue.”
  • “I would be open to the idea because of how it’s being received, and some of the insight and so forth,” Mickelson said. “But you don’t have the play between individuals. I had a partner, and Tom and I could talk back and forth. And maybe you could get some of that with the caddie, but having a partner is much more intimate and you have much better conversation.”
4. …wants annual Match
AP report…”Phil Mickelson, fresh off the success of Sunday’s charity golf exhibition with Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, says he would like to see “The Match” become an annual event.”
  • “I think you could showcase guys like Steph Curry and Michael Jordan or Tony Romo and Patrick Mahomes, who are all good golfers, elite talents and have great personalities,” Mickelson told the Los Angeles Times in a column published Wednesday. “Those personalities are going to come out with this event. Or you could have someone who loves the game and is competitive but is really entertaining like Larry David and Bill Murray. I think that could shine.”
5. More audience info
Interesting stuff from Geoff Shackelford…“According to Showbuzzdaily.com, almost 1/3 of The Match 2’s audience was in the coveted 18-49 demo and the number was even better on on TruTV, also meaning there are people of any age group who know how to find TruTV”
  • “About 30% of The Match’s audience landed in the 18-49 demo despite the 44.5 average age of the participants…The numbers for TaylorMade Driving Relief with a foursome averaging 29.5 years”
  • “That’s 25% of the almighty buyers for a younger, supposedly more millennial-friendly group of golfers. And a grand total of (at least) 860,000 fewer viewers 18-49.  While not a huge difference in the percentage department, The Match did rout Driving Relief in overall audience and even took chipped away at NASCAR’s ratings.”

Full piece.

6. After a long layoff, how do the pros play?
Dylan Beirne, 15th Club for PGATour.com, examines the question…“As we might expect, there’s a clear relationship between performance and the number of weeks a player has been off. We can analyze how well players perform by comparing our estimate of their ability (how we would expect them to perform) to how they actually performed.”
  • “Generally, players taking small breaks of two weeks or less are marginally better than expected, while longer breaks result in an average drop in performance of between 0.1 and 0.2 strokes per round. For context, a drop of 0.2 strokes per round is about the gap between 100th- and 135th-ranked players in the world. It’s a significant change, but not enormous.”
  • “Additionally, the drop in performance after a 10-20 week gap is quite consistent across different levels of players. Top-50 players in the world are affected by a similar amount to those outside the top 50.”
7. A really bad take from Greg Norman
I mean, what else can you call it? A man who has a history of obtuseness and putting his fin in his mouth outdid himself with unfounded speculation about the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash in an interview with Michael Bamberger…“I asked Norman about the January helicopter crash in Los Angeles that killed all nine people aboard, Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, among them. I asked Norman if he had any insight, from his own experience as a helicopter pilot, and as an elite athlete who has flown often in helicopters as a passenger, into the tragedy.”
  • “Yes – yes,” he said. His voice was sober. “Probably pilot error and pressure from the back,” Norman said. Norman could imagine the legendary basketball player saying, “‘Get me through this; get me there. I’ve got to get my daughter to this game.’
  • …”My instructor and I had a saying, ‘If you can’t see through it don’t fly through it.’ If I was flying to Doral or Orlando or Naples and there was fog, we just put it down and waited it out.”
8. Sprint to the Cup
Ben Everill at PGATour.com…“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting cancellations and postponements of tournaments leaves just 11 eligible tournaments over a 10-week stretch for players to qualify for the Playoffs and a chance at the $15 million bonus that comes with the season-long FedExCup crown.”
  • “While the top 125 will not double as the cutoff for TOUR cards next season in this reduced schedule, it will remain the mark to get into THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first of three Playoffs events in the chase for the FedExCup.”
  • “Gone is the luxury of extended rest between starts for those sitting way back on the list, such as Koepka, who was just starting to find his feet again on a return from injury when the pandemic halted play in March.”

 

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