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Morning 9: Match 2: The most-watched golf telecast ever | Rory: Players don’t want fan-less Ryder Cup | Justin Thomas aces broadcast debut

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1. 5.8 million average viewers for The Match
AP report…”Two of the biggest names from the PGA Tour and the NFL proved to be must-see TV.”
  • “Turner Sports said the Sunday telecast of “The Match: Champions for Charity” attracted an average of 5.8 million viewers across four of its networks. Turner says it was the most-watched golf telecast in cable TV history.”
  • “It said the previous record was 4.9 million viewers on ESPN at the 2010 Masters, the year Tiger Woods returned to golf for the first time since the scandal in his personal life.”
  • “Woods and Peyton Manning scored a 1-up victory over Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady at Medalist Golf Club, a match that featured high entertainment with shots and with words, along with raising $20 million for COVID-19 relief funds.”
2. Shackelford’s take
A few observations from the scribe…“While still an overnight, it easily bests the previous week’s relief fund match that drew a 1.5 and total of 2.3 million viewers across three channels, including a 1.5 rating on NBC and a .24 on Golf Channel).”
“More incredibly, this means The Match 2 out-rated any major championship round on cable.”
“Given a so-so promotional run-up, a slow start to the show (caused in part by a slight weather delay) a dreary day to watch, and a long telecast, the rating is a stunning statement about the remaining star power of the contestants.”
3. JT’s TV debut
Adam Woodard at Golfweek…”That said, whenever he decides to put down the clubs, he should immediately pick up a mic.
The former Alabama star made his broadcast debut as an on-course reporter on TNT/TBS alongside CBS Sports’ Amanda Balionis on Sunday during The Match: Champions for Charity, which saw Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning defeat Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. Thomas received rave reviews from golf Twitter during and after the event. He was brilliant. His rapport with Woods and Mickelson allowed them to open up on a different level compared to the original The Match in 2018.”
“Most importantly, Thomas didn’t overdo anything. Unlike some broadcasters, he knew fans weren’t watching for him and he never once tried to steal the spotlight. He didn’t speak just to talk. When he had something to say, it was insightful or funny. Like a golfer picking out which holes he can attack and score on, Thomas picked his spots on where to interject throughout the broadcast like someone who’s been doing it for years, let alone a day.”
4. Tiger looked terrific 
Bob Harig writes…”For the first time in 98 days, we got to see Woods in action. And the last time we saw him, he didn’t look good. Woods shot 77 at Riviera Country Club on Feb. 16 and finished last among those who made the cut at the Genesis Invitational. And he complained that his back was stiff”
  • …”Woods hasn’t played since but neither has anyone else. And the time off has done him some good.”
  • “Woods didn’t miss a fairway. His swing looked smooth and in rhythm. He hit some deft pitch shots and a really nice long bunker shot. And all of this in difficult, rainy conditions.”
  • “It was just a charity match, but he looked pretty good. Who knows when Woods will resume his schedule when the PGA Tour returns next month, but his game looks good to go.”
5. Rory McIlroy: ‘Majority of players’ want 2020 Ryder Cup postponed until 2021 
Adam Woodard at Golfweek…”Rory McIlroy has a hunch about the Ryder Cup, and it’s one that golf fans around the world aren’t going to like.”
  • “In an interview with BBC Sport, the world No. 1 said: “My personal hunch is that I don’t see how it is going to happen, so I do not think that it will happen.”
  • “Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits is scheduled to host the 2020 Ryder Cup Sept. 25-27, but amid the coronavirus pandemic the event would most-likely take place without fans (if held at all).”
  • “I think the majority of players would like to see it pushed back until 2021 so that they can play in front of crowds and have the atmosphere that makes the Ryder Cup so special,” explained McIlroy. “The players are the ones that make the Ryder Cup. If they are not on board with it and don’t want to play then there is no Ryder Cup.”
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Bryson DeChambeau storms back to claim 7th professional title at Rocket Mortgage

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Golf writers rub their hands when Bryson DeChambeau enters tournament contention. #TheBigBangTheory moves the dip needle like no other of his generation. Ponder this for a moment: when Dustin Johnson joins the fray, the main topic is his repose. The man just might fall asleep while walking. Not much to write about there. When Brooks Koepka emerges, others fight for his spotlight, while he flat-out punishes the course. Bryson DeChambeau is different, in so many ways. His mind races so far ahead of his mouth, that when words do come out, they are scintillating. How else to explain his encounter with a camera operator, mid-round on Saturday, to discuss the impact of videography on a golfer’s brand? What other way to define a golfer who apologizes to a long-dead golf course architect, for dismantling the bunkering scheme of the layout? Bryson’s span of attention and interests is horizontally vast; he also does a pretty good vertical.

Make no mistake: BBT must continue to win, for his opinions to matter. Who isn’t looking ahead to a Bryson-Brooks collision? It’s like something out of the Marvel universe, with all of humanity at stake. Problem is, there’s no bad guy in the mix. Both are champion golfers, striving to make a mark on the game by collecting important titles and changing the way the game is played. With luck, we’ll see them do battle at three major championships this year. On to the week just ended.

Matthew Wolff entered round four with a three-shot advantage over DeChambeau and Ryan Armour. Philosophers, expound on whether it was good or bad for Wolff to not be paired with #Bang in round four; in the end, it will all be conjecture. What we know is, Bryson got off to the hot start (three-under through four, four-deep through seven) that Wolff wanted. DeChambeau seized control on the back nine, and finished with authority, making birdie on each of the final three holes. He would need them.

Wolff on this day was Rocky, and we mean neither the boxer nor the squirrel. He began each nine with a bogey, and if that isn’t a buzz-kill, momentum stopper for a professional, tell me what it is. If he is anything, though, Wolff is a fighter. Knowing that he owned the back nine all week, his eyes were set on victory, even after the 10th-hole bogey. After a great up-and-down for par at 11, Wolff made consecutive birdies, and reached the par-five 14th in regulation. Then, he missed a six-feet putt for birdie, a shot he could not afford to lose. Birdies at 15 and 17 brought him to 20-under par, but a second short birdie effort (eight feet at the 16th) missed the mark, as did a 10-feet putt for three at the last.

Wolff might not have expected to make birdie from hole 12 through hole 18, but he had the opportunity. On this day, when DeChambeau was in complete control of all his skills, Wolff needed to do so. The young man from Oklahoma State is not yet comfortable with the spotlight. He played meh golf in the Seminole exhibition in April, and played erratically on Sunday’s front nine (four bogies and two birdies.) He might have been forgiven, at plus-three on the day, staring at plus-four at the 11th, for walking it in and accepting a 10th-place-tomorrow-is-another-day condolence. That he fought back is testament to what lies within.

Back to Bryson. Physics guy, remember? There was a funny number thing with him and Wolff, all week. Bryson was three shots better than Wolff on Thursday. Wolff was three shots better than Bryson on both Friday and Saturday, and each shot the same number both days (64-64 and 67-67, respectively.) On Sunday, Bryson was six shots better than Wolff, and won by three shots. Something about the number three this week…oh, and it was Bryson’s sixth PGA Tour victory.

Does the PGA Tour still average a pair of drives each day, to establish the driving distance number? If so, that needs to change. If you’re telling me that Bryson averaged 360 yards on all driving holes, that’s offensive to my sense of distance. For the week, by the way, he was at 350. That put him 20 yards beyond Wolff on Sunday, and 25 yards ahead on the week. Thanks to technology, both can keep the ball on the course. What made the difference for the champion on Sunday, was the flat stick.

#Theory took one putt on each of the first five greens. The first putt that he missed came at the sixth, an 11-feet effort for his fourth birdie of the round. BD has 13 putts on the outward nine, his best work of the week. Coming home, he took 14 putts on the green, for 27 on the day. His most-visible struggle came at the par-five 14th, where he had posted eagle-birdie-birdie the first three days. Sunday was different. A drive to the upside-down forced a penalty stroke, a few slashes, and a cringeworthy bogey. Just for a moment, he gave Wolff hope. In another moment, he took stole that hope back.

Is DeChambeau’s faith in his game different from all the other great champions? It appears different, on the surface. His confidence is grounded in the science of his equipment, his swing, and his physique. He and his caddie still make the occasional poor strategic move, but those are infrequent. In the end, what will define his place in golf’s history book is his grit, his tenacity. Down the stretch, every great champion wins major titles not because of preparation and knowledge, but because she and he handled the moment. We’re rubbing our hands for those moments.

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5 things we learned: Saturday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic

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It’s a day of independence across the United States of America. In a time of pandemic, quarantine, isolation, this means a great deal to all citizens. Some view independence as an opportunity to live their best lives, be their best selves, and place others first. Others view it as an opportunity to live their best lives, be their best selves, and place their own wants and needs first. One of these will lead us down the road to perdition. The PGA Tour stop in Detroit is one of the most significant events of this young restart to the season. The Detroit Golf Club is located in a decidedly-urban setting. The neighborhoods that surround it are diverse, with a largely-black population. The health bubble that the PGA Tour hopes to create this summer, should not add a societal bubble to the agenda. Golf, along with humanity, needs to embrace diversity, respect the other, and welcome the uninvited. Raise your glass to a celebration of the entire populace, that fights for freedom and independence.

On that note, here are five things that I learned on day three, Saturday, July 4th, of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

5. Wolff has owned the closing stretch for two days

The run of holes that have caused fits for the competition this week have been Matthew Wolff’s playground. Glance at the majority of scorecards, and the under-par work through the 14th green becomes apparent. It’s the final four holes that put the brakes to record-low rounds over the past three days. Wolff played the closing five holes in birdies on Friday, to shoot into the mix. On Saturday, he played them in minus-four, thanks to a jump-start eagle on 14. If the former Oklahoma State Cowboy reaches the turn in minus-three on Sunday, he might run away with the trophy. Wolff currently resides in the high-rent district at minus-19, three shots clear of Ryan Armour and Bryson DeChambeau.

4. Simpson and Kirk kinda-sorta fell away

The final pairing didn’t blow up, but they didn’t play the type of golf needed to keep or extend the lead. Webb Simpson’s other-worldly long game fell back to earth, and he was unable to compensate with stellar putting. He went ’round in minus-one, and sits on 13-under par, six back, in a tie for 8th. Chris Kirk continued his average week of ball striking, but his interstellar putting joined Simpson’s long game on the sidelines. Kirk was one better than his playing partner, and occupies 4th place at -14, five behind the leader.

3. Big moves

Detroit Golf Club is not the type of course where big moves are likely, this late in the game. Four golfers inside the top ten made an upward move of more than five spots. Troy Merritt is tied for fourth at -14. His 67 featured a clean card of five birdies and zero bogies. Merritt’s day was an all-around success, from driving the ball in the fairway, to hitting 17 of 18 greens, to decent putting. Based on the long-game numbers alone, he should have gone lower. Former trick-shot phenom Wesley Bryan had eight birdies against one bogey for 65, and 34-spot elevation. Bryan’s round was similar to Merritt’s, with the exception of better putting. Both will need 64 or better on Sunday to have a chance.

Two golfers jumped up 12 spots, from 20th to 8th. Luke List and Viktor Hovland began the day at minus-eight, and each posted 67. List had six birdies plus one bogey, while Hovland counted five birdies against zero bad’uns. Both are long hitters, so accurate iron play on Sunday will give them a chance to go low and make a run.

2. The Big Bang Theory

El fuerte, Bryson DeChambeau, is hanging around. He’ll tee off in the 2nd-last group with Merritt. He may drive into the anti-penultimate group of Mark Hubbard and Seamus Power, so amped will the big fellow be. One of these rounds, his putting will finally emerge as a weapon. As long as it’s not used for saving par, DeChambeau should take the battle directly to Wolff, and he should do so early. DeChambeau has played the first four holes of the front nine in minus-two each day. His front-nine struggles have happened on holes five through nine. Two or three under early, followed by stable play toward the round’s middle, will give him an opportunity to compete. Anything less will leave him with another top-ten finish and loads of questions.

1. The predictions are in

Most likely pairing to offer a 60: The 1:25 tee time of Luke List and Viktor Hovland. Both made decent Saturday moves, and they might carry each other to an historic Sunday.

Guy I’d like to see win: Ryan Armour. His career was derailed when the heavy favorite lost the 1993 USGA Junior Amateur final to Tiger Woods (maybe Woods was the favorite, we don’t remember.) He’s a grinder, an early-forties sojourner, and he deserves a second tour victory.

Holes that will determine the finish: 8 through 11. This four-hole stretch is quite demanding, featuring two long par-three holes, a long four, and a tricky, short four.

Low round of the day: Rickie Fowler. The host is mired in a tie for 40th, and has done absolutely nothing, beyond making the cut. On Sunday, he brings it all together for 62, reaches 19-deep, and earns a top-five finish. 62 for nearly anyone else on Sunday will mean victory, but not for Rick.

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5 things we learned Friday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic

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One day away from the 4th of July, the Rocket Mortgage Classic bid farewell to 80 golfers as the 36-hole cut was made. Coming down the round’s home stretch, the important action didn’t take place at the top of the leader board. The cut fluctuated between -4 and -5 for a long time. At 5:56 EST, 16 golfers were tied for 55th spot at -5, while another 15 sat on -4, in a tie for 71st position. At that juncture, the majority of minus-fives had signed scorecards; it wasn’t a question of movement out, but of movement in. -4 wasn’t getting in, which meant that defending champion Nate Lashley was down the road. Joining him were stalwarts like Jason Day, Vijay Singh, Bubba Watson, and Patrick Reed. In the end, it was 71 golfers who moved on to the weekend. There’s more! Join us now for five things we learned on Friday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

5. Doc Redman finally played … poorly?

Kinda like the Madden jinx, or the Sports Illustrated Cover jinx, I mighta put the voodoo on Doc Redman. Prior to July 3rd, old Doc had never shot higher than 68 at the Detroit Golf Club. Even though it was just five rounds (last year and Thursday) it was a laudable streak. On day two, Redman had four bogies on his card. That’s an inconceivable number, given his previous play over 90 holes. The former Clemson golfer played off the 10th tee to start the day, and had a pair of birdies in his first four holes. He missed the 16th green and made bogey, then three-whacked the 18th green to return to even on the day. His second nine wasn’t much better. Four birdies got him to four-under, but bogies at one and nine brought him back to minus-two on the day. At the first, his second consecutive three-putt from 50 feet had to grind his gears. At the ninth, a yipped five-feet putt for par ended a day to be forgotten. Despite the struggle, Redman sits at nine-under par, just three behind the leaders.

4. The leaders: Simpson and Kirk

They have this in common: each has won since the quarantine restart. Webb Simpson won at Harbor Town in June, a day after Kirk won on the Korn Ferry Tour in Florida. Each posted eight birdies on day two, but a final-hole bogey dropped Kirk out of the solo lead. Kirk has played decently from tee to green, but has saved his daily bacon with his flat stick. In contrast, Simpson has been hoganesque with the full swing, but has struggled rolling the ball. Seem like decent guys, but they won’t win. Sorry, lads.

3. The 6-pack in third

The knock on the RMC this year is strength of field. Seems a fair number of golfers who played the first three weeks of post-quarantine golf, decided to take Detroit off. Can’t imagine that they were tired. Four weeks in a row is commonplace on tour. Won’t try to determine their motives, but shame on them and bully to those who arrived at Detroit Golf Club, ready to compete. The 6-pack in a third-place tie is a mixed bag. On the first shelf, you have proven tour winners Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Wolff, and Ryan Armour. Next come Seamus Power, Mark Hubbard, and Richy Werenski. Those fellows won in college and the amateur game, as well as minor tour victories. The top-shelf titles have eluded them thus far. Of the six, only one is an olympian (Power), so we’re going to go all in on him a bit later. Would it surprise if the winner emerges from this half-dozen? Not in the slightest.

2. Kisner

Like Bono, or Cher. Maybe not. Kevin Kisner, of the trio of first-round leaders, played the best golf on Friday. Palmetto Man had five birdies on the day, and also holed from 160 yards on the sixth for eagle. He somehow found four abandoned bogies and scooped them up, taking them home to the scoring tent, Lord knows why. Kisner’s appearance on the 2017 USA Presidents Cup side was thought to be his first of a string of international caps. It turned out to be his only one. The game he exhibited from 2016 to 2018 was world-class. Since then, he has fallen off. Perhaps he begins a comeback of sorts this week.

1. Predictions are in

Power to the people: Seamus Power claims his first tour title, in a playoff. Kevin Kisner loses in extra holes.

The old switcheroo: In an odd twist of fate, Kirk putts poorly and Simpson putts well…to save pars. Neither breaks 70 on Saturday and both fall toward 10th spot, heading into Sunday.

Guy we’re most enthused about: Matthew Wolff. Anyone need to know why? Good.

Guy we’re least enthused about: #BigBangTheory aka Bryson aka thebadone23. Guy is always in the mix, hitting inconceivable drives, yet finding ways to give shots back. Starting to get old, B.

Could come from middle of pack and win: HV3. Fresh off hosting an AJGA tournament, the golf gods give his due to Harold Varner, last in the line of Harold Varners.

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