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Thursday on Tour: 5 things we learned

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The magic of a returned PGA Tour moved to coastal South Carolina, with the playing of the first round of the RBC Heritage. A state and a half away, day two of the King and Bear Classic witnessed the continued, stellar play of a field of almost-there touring professionals.

With no fan attendance on either tour, the full focus continues to be on the players and their movement through a COVID-19 world. Testing continues, caution is evident across each venue, and the golf reaches new levels of excellence each week.

We’ve never written 5 Things We’ve Learned for 2 simultaneous tournaments, but if ever a time deserved a debut, this is it. Thank you for checking in to today’s installment of 5 Things We Learned on day 1 at the Heritage, and day 2 of the King and Bear.

RBC Heritage

5. Twitter presences tie for 1st-round lead

Whether it’s an up-close-and-groddy video of a COVID-19 nasal swab, or an interesting handle,  Twitter comes through as a parallel universe for the first-round leaders at Harbor Town. Ian Poulter had seven birdies on Thursday, on a course that rewards his accurate play. The Ryder Cup hero was at home along the low-country fairways on Hilton Head Island, as he took a PGA Tour lead for the first time in 2020. Poulter’s last tour victory came in 2018, at Houston, on a course as different from this one as, say, Poulter is to Mark Hubbard. #HomelessHubbs was fire himself on Thursday, pairing a course of five birdies with an eagle appetizer, to join #Poults at the top. Hubbard last won in February 2019, at the Korn Ferry Tour’s LECOM Suncoast Classic. Hubbard came 2nd to Lanto Griffin at last fall’s Houston Open, and had notched 28 rounds in the 60s before the PGA Tour’s quarantine hiatus.

4. The two faces of Webb Simpson

The Demon Deacon stood at -6 through ten holes this afternoon. 8 pars later, he finished at the same number. Is the back nine more challenging than the front at Harbor Town? Depends on whom you ask. For Simpson, there was a golden opportunity to go super-deep on day one, and establish himself as solo leader. Simpson hit seven of eight greens in regulation, saving par at the 17th from three feet. The other seven greens saw him miss birdie opportunities from 10 to 30 feet. No better case of putter-goes-cold than Simpson’s today.  No one complains of 65 for 2nd place, 2 shots behind the leaders, but Simpson can be forgiven for wanting a bit more out of a round that saw him essentially hit 16 of 18 greens.

3. Those young guys, again

Viktor Hovland tasted victory at the Puerto Rico Open in late February. He’s back for seconds, standing at 65 after round one. Sebastián Muñoz won last fall in Mississippi, and matched Hovland’s 65 on Thursday. It’s always difficult to delineate between young guys and kinda young guys and established young guys. Both Vik and Seb can add to their cachet by notching tour win number two this week, on a course not reserved for bombers. Win here, and you demonstrate patience, accuracy, and strategy.

2. Spieth Files

That old saw about watching car races for the crashes, comes to mind with Jordan Spieth. Half a decade ago, we thought that he might be the a guy to challenge the all-time greats in the majors. Spieth found a way to win three of them, then lost that way. Recently, when he finds himself in contention, a lack of confidence or focus (or perhaps, both) leads to a flameout. Last week, it was a four-putt green at Colonial. No one wants to see it happen to the young Texan, yet it lurks. On Thursday, Spieth had triple bogey on the day’s third hole, number twelve. It’s hard to determine which shot was the worst of the seven: the lost drive or the twitched 2nd putt. The 4-time major winner clawed back, with birdie at the next hole, then a front nine for the ages. 6 consecutive birdies came his way, from 2 through 7, followed by another at the 9th for 29 and 66. Is he a thrill ride? Yes. A spin-out? Sometimes. For all that, he is Jordan Spieth.

1. Predictions, please

Most likely to do just about anything: Do you have to ask?

Most likely to keep the ugly jacket in state: Matthew NeSmith. Played college golf at USC (the eastern one) but never won like we thought he might. Perhaps as a pro?

Most likely to say, Hello, USA: Matthew Fitzpatrick. It has been 7 years since his US Amateur triumph at The Country Club. Fitz has 5 wins on the Euro Tour, but none since 2018. Runner-up to Erik van Rooyen, tied with Fitz at 65.

The King and the Bear Classic

5. Let’s do it again

Vince India and Brett Coletta matched 63s on Wednesday. That was fun, so they matched 66s on Thursday, and stood for the halfway lead at 129. India bogeyed his final hole (#9), while Coletta made birdie at his (#18) and, in this case, the twains did meet. On Friday, India will play the course in proper order for the first time. Will this impact his performance? It might. Coletta will attempt to shake off Thursday’s lackluster front nine (2 birds and a bogey) and do some damage there in round three. Come to think of it, they might just match cards again in round three, and leave us in the dark until round 4.

4. Tour Guy Check In

Chris Kirk is more associated with the big tour, so his presence on the KFT begs the question, why isn’t he at Harbor Town? No matter, Kirk won four times on tour, from 2011 to 2015, but since then, it has been a mixed bag. The Georgian left the course bogey-free for the 2nd consecutive day. That sort of control might be the difference-maker come Saturday (sounds weird to write that, I know) and might be the ticket back to full-time PGA Tour status.

3. Z & D

Will Zalatoris made a name for himself at Wake Forest, before leaving the college ranks early. Davis Riley played four years at Alabama, then dipped his toes in the professional game. Zalatoris sits 2 behind the leaders, while Riley is a one shot farther back. They fit the profile of young guy wants to win now contestant, so you could do worse than back either one as we pass the halfway point.

2.Don’t you …

…forget about me. Mickey DeMorat and Justin Lower might wonder why we haven’t written about them yet. When you’re not a household name, you need to give us 36 holes before we make some noise. Or is it, you need to make some noise? No matter. DeMorat had 64 today, the 2nd-low score for round the 2nd. He led the Great Abaco after 36 holes this year, but found trouble on the weekend and posted a t47. Here’s to a better response this week. Lower tied for 11th at Great Exuma, and had a top-25 finish in the tour’s return last week. He matched yesterday’s 65, and who doesn’t love consistency? Four of those will win him the title, without doubt.

1. Prediction Time

Guys who might catch fire: Dawson Armstrong and Wes Roach. Both had 63 on Thursday, and if one or both can replicate on Friday, watch out!

Most likely to trend low: Ben Martin. Went from 68 to 64, and used to bet that guy, the one for whom much was predicted. Time to reclaim the skillset of the mid 2010s.

Most likely to prove me wrong: Taylor Pendrith. Still making bushels of birdies, but 2 bogeys and a double are hard to counter. I’m not selling just yet, but I’m close.

 

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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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1 Comment

  1. Nick

    Jun 18, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    I’m pretty Spieth has only won 3 majors.

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Equipment

TGD: Faldo, New TM Irons Drop, Bryson and Rickie scoop with Cobra Tour Manager Ben Schomin and the decline of my golf game

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On this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny goes in on the new TaylorMade MB, Faldo’s comment on Bryson’s wedges, the demise of his golf game and some nuggets on Rickie and Bryson with Cobra Golf Tour operations manager Ben Schomin.

Enjoy!

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GolfWRX Classifieds (07/09/20): YES! Putter, Mevo, Honma irons

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member mlp021 – Flightscope Mevo

If you are looking to add some fun to your practice routine, while also getting useful data to help you improve and become more consistent, the Mevo is one of the best options around.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Flightscope Mevo 

Member OpenPar – YES! Golf Holly Putter

Finding any classic YES! putters in good shape continues to be more difficult, but this Holly looks like it hasn’t seen many rounds of golf, and it even comes with the original cover! Yes!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Yes golf Holly

Member niznikd – In plastic Honma TW 747V Irons

These are a steal of a deal and just a third of their original asking price—and did I mention BRAND NEW!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: 747V Honma Irons

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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Morning 9: Why a fanless Ryder Cup never made sense | Rapid LPGA restart | How Tiger practices putting at home

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1. Officially no Ryder Cup in 2020…Prez Cup moved to ’22
What was widely reported is now official. Our Gianni Magliocco…”On Wednesday, it was officially announced that the 2020 Ryder Cup had been postponed and rescheduled for September 21-26, 2021.”
  • “Subsequently, the next Presidents Cup which was initially scheduled for September 30-October 3, 2021 will now be played in September 2022.”
  • “Per the announcement on the Ryder Cup website, the decision to postpone “was based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
  • “Speaking on the postponement, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh stated…
  • “Unlike other major sporting events that are played in existing stadiums, we had to make a decision now about building facilities to host the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. It became clear that as of today, our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible. Given that uncertainty, we knew rescheduling was the right call. We are grateful to PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan and our partners at the TOUR for their flexibility and generosity in the complex task of shifting the global golf calendar.”
2. A fanless Cup never made sense…
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”Some 50,000 spectators a day packed Hazeltine four years ago. They came ready and roaring, fueled by flowing alcohol and the freedom that comes with a Ryder Cup, where cheering and booing is expected and taunting of the opponent comes with the territory.”
  • “It was much the same two years ago at Le Golf National outside of Paris — although the event was lacking the boorishness observed two years before that — when the Europeans romped to victory in front of a serenading home crowd.”
  • “That, in essence, is the Ryder Cup….And to not have that in any form would be nearly as depressing from a sporting standpoint as what all have endured during these unprecedented times.”
3. Forecaddie on LPGA restart
Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”After nearly five months off, LPGA players can finally begin to explore what their comeback on tour might look like, and there’s not much time to ease into things either. The decision to travel overseas for two weeks in Scotland looms large ­- not to mention the possibility of fans in Toledo. To the Forecaddie, in many ways it feels like a straight plunge into the deep end.”
  • “One day after two events in Scotland were confirmed for next month, the LPGA hosted two tour-wide conference calls on Wednesday and sent out a couple of surveys.”
  • “The Forecaddie certainly didn’t expect the LPGA to offer its players anything remotely close to the $100,000 that PGA Tour players received after testing positive for COVID-19. It looks like LPGA players will receive a $5,000 stipend if they test positive during a tournament and $2,500 if it happens while at home. Same for caddies.”
4. Playing while testing positive
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“In what the PGA Tour is calling a clarification regarding its health and safety plan, players or caddies who continue to test positive for COVID-19 can now return to competition under certain guidelines.”
  • “Last week, the Tour announced a move to a “test-based model” for asymptomatic cases, which means that anyone who tests positive would be allowed to return competition if they returned two negative tests that were administered at least 24 hours apart.”
  • “Wednesday’s clarification addressed a player or caddie who continues to test positive after 10 days since the first symptoms appeared and hasn’t had a fever for 72 hours. That player would be allowed to return to competition with certain restrictions.”
5. LPGA return environment
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…“There are all kinds of challenges for the women going overseas, even with Scotland set to ratify the United Kingdom’s foreign athlete quarantine exemption, which will allow Americans and players from other foreign countries to avoid the 14-day quarantine required upon arriving.”
  • “That exemption doesn’t include parents or agents.”
  • “That’s a challenge for young players accustomed to traveling with their parents, a fairly common practice in the LPGA ranks.”
  • “The Women’s British Open is creating a “bio secure zone” at Royal Troon, allowing only players, caddies and other essential personnel inside the zone, which restricts movement to the course and designated hotel.”
6. Workday features COVID-19 grouping
Todd Kelly for Golfweek…“Nick Watney, Denny McCarthy and Dylan Frittelli, who all tested positive for COVID during the PGA Tour’s restart and who the Tour says continue to test positive, are in the field at this week’s Workday Charity Open and, after a late change to the tee times, will play in the same group for the first two rounds.”
  • …”The Tour said it is following the CDC’s symptom-based model for those three golfers, as they have continued to return positive tests but they all meet the CDC guidelines for Return to Work.”
7. Asia Pacific Ams canceled 
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…“The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, set for Oct. 7-10 in Thailand, and Asian-Pacific Amateur, scheduled for Oct. 29-Nov. 1 in Australia, will not be played this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • “While the women’s championship, which was already rescheduled from last February, will return next year for its third edition, to be played Feb. 4-7 at Siam Country Club, the men’s championship does not have a future date at this time. It was supposed to be contested at Royal Melbourne this fall.”
8. Rocket Mortgage ratings
Geoff Shackelford…”Another very solid weekend for PGA Tour ratings with not much sports competition due to the pandemic and a late start for NASCAR’s rance, a July 4 weekend that should have substantially cut into numbers, did not.”
  • “Bryson DeChameau’s win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic was up 56% from 2019 and if you ignore the silly demographics, earned plenty of eyeballs.”
9. Tiger’s at-home practice putting routine
In case you ever wondered how one of the greatest flatstick wielders practices his putting…
Explaining to GolfTV’s Henni Koyack, Woods revealed how he consistently focuses on his putting from 6 feet and in before going straight into a heavy workload of lag putting.
  • “I end up doing a few sets of chalk lines from probably about 6 feet and in. I work on my start line (and) I try and get that dialed in. And then I really don’t spend a whole lot of time in the 8-15 foot range.
  • “Once I get a lot of my dialed-in time on my putting, then I’ll lag putt a lot and start trying to get my feel in my fingers and how I like to release the putter and feel it in my stroke. I like to do designated tee drill, line drill and then lag putt to death.”
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