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5 things we learned: Saturday at the Travelers

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The rains came to the Hartford area around 12:30 on Saturday. Thanks to the meteorological skills of the PGA Tour’s advance planners, the golfers were gone from the greens by noon-thirty. Using split tees from seven to nine am, all those who made the cut were able to complete 18 holes on what was essentially Saturday morning. It was like a British Open, in terms of the time for the USA, and almost for the weather.

Before we get to the five things we learned on half-Saturday, here’s a bonus one: don’t bet this house. My predictions from Friday were as wretched as the afternoon weather, so bad that they are laughable. We’ll take a look at some of them, blended with the news of the day. That written (and read), here are the five things that we learned on Saturday at the Travelers.

1. Dustin Johnson did not exit

This prognosticator nominated Johnson as Most likely to make a Saturday exit. Well, nah. The big, bearded one had nine birdies and nine pars, for a cool 61. He had four on the front and five on the back. He reached 16-under par and secured a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. He’ll walk ’round with Brendon Todd (the leader) and Kevin Streelman (the next chaser.) Todd’s round mirrored Johnson’s; the Georgian had five birdies on the front and four on the back. If you have a rotten memory, let’s refresh Todd in November of last year. Two wins in consecutive weeks, with an almost-third a week later. The magic hasn’t left just yet, although this one will be a tough one to secure. As for Streelman, six years have passed since his second and last win. For a deep refresh, that win came at this event, and he closed it out with seven consecutive birdies. Hot time on the old town on Sunday, for sure!

2. Phil played like phifty

The Phil prediction was embedded in a paragraph, and not a separate line of its own. It basically suggested that the lefthander, who recently joined the AARP crowd, was most likely to do good things on Saturday. Instead, he did meh things. Two birdies, three bogeys, abandoned by his putter, six shots behind the leaders. What’s left for Phil? Go low on Sunday and take 3 of 4 away from this week. He ain’t winning; he would need 59 on Sunday to have a shot. Someone will reach at least 20 or 21-under par for the week, and Phil will need super-low to match that. Will Gordon, paired with Mickelson, played like a Will Gordon should. He made far too many mistakes (four bogies and a double) to counteract any number of birdies (five on the day) he could possibly attain. Gordon would have needed the nine birdies that Johnson and Todd each made, in order to remain relevant. The experience he took away from Saturday was valuable; what’s left for him is the same as what’s left for Phil. In Gordon’s case, a big check will mean a lot more.

3. Ancer not the answer

It’s not that Abraham Ancer played poorly on shortened Saturday. He was in position through nine holes, at four-under on the day. Then, the game left him, and he played the first four holes on the back in plus-two. Zoinks! Ancer recovered with two birdies coming home, but his 66 that should have been a 63 or 64, left him at 12-under par.

4. Two guys that proved me a bit right

Guess what a 60 gets you? A two-day pass. Mackenzie Hughes was less than brilliant again, but he held it together for best round in the final group and will tee off in the penultimate threesome with Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na. That ridiculous 60 that Hughes posted on Thursday was his ticket to contention on Sunday. On Saturday, Hughes was kinda like Nick Faldo in a British Open. He had 2 birdies and 16 pars. He’s not making mistakes, which leads me to believe that he just might pull it off on Sunday. If he finds the birdie machine on Sunday, the Maple Leaf might fly over Cromwell, Connecticut.

The other, fulfilled prediction was Bryson, as Most likely to paint the round for what it was.  One quote, making the rounds in golf journalism, involves his aspiration to be the house in gambling parlance. As we know, the house always wins. Whether it is his golf e.q. or his physics i.q., Bryson finds driving lines that no one else does, and he proceeds to hit them. Being 3o yards longer off the tee, thanks to being built like a brick house, compels him to move into a different echelon of thinker and planner. Will there be enough fairway for his line? If not, plan B.

Want more honesty from BD? Try this: Yeah, like today there was plenty of shots where I had these massive jumpers and I don’t understand them one bit. We don’t understand, they come out randomly, and those are things that kind of dumbfound me, and that’s golf. If I could figure that out, I’d be that much closer to figuring out the game. That will never happen.

One more for the road from BD: I’ve slowed down a little bit because I’m guiding it with the driver right now, not 100 percent confident with it, but I’m working hard to figure out what I had at Colonial and RBC. It’s not bad, obviously; it’s just not exactly where I want it where I can get up on the tee box and let it go and know it’s going straight.

5. Day four predictions

Most likely to win on Sunday: Kevin Na. Such an edgy competitor. Should have been picked by Tiger for Team USA at the President’s Cup last fall. I’m predicting a 62 for 21-under par. Hey-hey-hey … Goodbye!

Most likely to post best round from final trio: Kevin Streelman. He’ll be the forgotten one, for sure. He’ll post 64 and enter a playoff with Na, but will miss out by a hair.

Most likely to get a bad break: Bryson DeChambeau. Don’t know why and don’t know where, but it’s coming.

The numbers game: Time to go out on a limb and call it as I don’t see (because you know what happens when I soothsay!)

Todd: 71 for 17-under
Johnson: 68 for 18-under
Streelman: 64 for 21-under
DeChambeau: 67 for 16-under
Na: 62 for 21-under and the win in overtime
Hughes: 65 for 19-under

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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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5 things we learned: Thursday at the Rocket Mortgage Classic

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This week’s PGA Tour event caps the first month of professional golf’s return. The Rocket Mortgage Classic is in its second year, and offers a classic course in an urban setting. Detroit Golf Club is a quintessential, Donald Ross golf course. The holes bend gently this way and that, appointed by bunkers cuffed with manageable rings of rough. The greens vary in size and shape, but typically trick even the professional into attempting to delicate an approach. With only a one-year sample size, it’s hard to predict who will play well this week in Detroit. Put your money on golfers with history at a similar club, or success on traditional golf courses. That’s my primer for year two at the RMC, meaning it’s time for five things we learned on Thursday.

5. Doc Redman is at home at DGC

Redman was the second most surprising participant in last year’s event. The 2017 US Amateur champion posted 62 in last year’s Monday qualifier, and advanced to the tournament proper, where he finished solo 2nd. If not for Nate Lashley, who missed qualifying on Monday, received a sponsor’s exemption, then won the tournament, Redman would have been the story of the week. The former Clemson golfer began this year where he left off 2019, although no one saw it coming through ten holes. Remand paired one birdie with one bogey, holding steady at even par as he reached the 11th hole. From that point forward, it was 4th of July fireworks. Doc parred the 14th hole, missing an 11-feet birdie putt. Why focus on 14? It was his only par over the closing stretch. Three consecutive birdies from 11 through 13, and four more, from 15 to 18, brought him to 7 under on the day, into a tie for first at 7-under par. Redman has yet to shoot above 68 at DGC.

4. Stallings and Kisner join Redman at the top

Scott Stallings, like Redman, played the course in traditional order. Kisner, in turn, began on the inward half and finished at the par-three ninth. Both golfers closed with three birdies over their final four holes, to reach seven deep. Like Redman, Stallings had eight birdies and one bogey; Kisner was clean on the day, with seven birdies and eleven pars. Unlike Redman, neither Stalling nor Kisner had a particularly memorable, first go-round at Detroit in 2019. Each made the 36-hole cut, but neither finished inside the top 45.

3.  Seven golfers lie in wait

The Big Bang Theory, aka Bryson DeChambeau, reached minus-seven with one hole to play. He drove the ball in perfect position at 18, then inexplicably missed the green with wedge in hand, and dropped back to minus-six with a bogey. He is joined by Chase Seiffert, Peter Malnati, JJ Spaun, Emiliano Grillo, Chris Stroud and Matt Wallace. Beyond Bryson, Wallace is the most accomplished of the septuplets. He has 4 European Tour victories, and came within an eyelash of qualifying for the 2019 Ryder Cup team. Spaun led the field with nine birdies on the day, but he also had three bumbles along the way. Spaun tied for 13th in 2019, so his affection for the course is viable.

2. Mr. Rocket Mortgage is tied for 11th

Rickie Fowler, the PGA Tour pitchman for the tournament host, acquitted himself well with seven birdies for 67. His mid-round hiccough came at the 18th (his 9th), where he never saw the fairway, played chunk-and-run around the putting surface, and ultimately tapped in for 2 feet for double bogey. Fowler isn’t first on my list for Best Player To Never Win A Major, but he is the top guy for Should Win More With The Talent He has. In my mind, he’s an affable Sergio Garcia, save for the fact that Sergio has a major title on his record. This seems like the type of event that Ricky could win, but 2nd and 3rd-round lapses are his specialty. It will take 36 holes of solid play to keep him close to the top.

1. The predictions are in

Most likely to go from Triple A to the Majors: Chris Kirk. Two weeks ago, he won on the Korn Ferry tour. He sits at -5 after round one.

Least likely to have two golfers inside the top 50: Norway. Siri, search Kristoffer Ventura and Viktor Hovland.

Least likely Norwegian to be born in Puebla, Mexico: Ventura

Most likely to go low on Friday: Brendan Todd. Gassed away a win last week in the final round. Made double on a par five on Thursday. Watch out.

Most likely to move inside top five from way back: Tyrrell Hatton. This guy is freakishly good. Might be best on European Tour.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the Rocket Mortgage Classic

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GolfWRX is live from Detroit Golf Club for the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf!

And while COVID-19 restrictions mean we can’t bring you in-hand shots at present, we’re still doing our best to deliver tour equipment shots. And there were plenty of interesting things to be seen on the equipment front, including an iron and driver shaft switch from Rickie Fowler and some cool National Custom Works irons for lord of the golf hipsters, Zac Blair.

General galleries

Tuesday

Wednesday

Special galleries

Check out the discussion thread here!

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Morning 9: U.S. Open leaving Fox for NBC | Harris English positive for COVID-19 | Feinstein: Why the Ryder Cup must be postponed

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1. U.S. Open returning to NBC…this year.
In case you missed the news yesterday, here’s Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…“NBC is once again home to the U.S. Open and the USGA’s full slate of championships.”
  • “The USGA announced Monday that, effective immediately, the broadcast rights for its championships have transferred from Fox Sports to NBC.”
  • “Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but NBC will assume the remainder of the contract, through at least 2026.”
  • “NBC televised the U.S. Open from 1995 through 2014 before Fox won the rights with a 12-year deal that was reportedly worth about $1 billion.”
And the AP’s esteemed Doug Ferguson, who broke the story, writes…“One person said NBC would pay for just under half of the rights fee through the rest of the contract.”
  • “Two other people said the deal began to take shape this month, especially with the U.S. Open being moved to September during the opening month of the NFL.”
  • “One person said Fox was contemplating moving the U.S. Open to FS1, an idea that was rebuffed by Mike Davis, the CEO of the USGA. That led to deeper conversations about the contract and how it could be resolved.”
2. Harris English tests positive for COVID-19
Golfweek’s JuliaKate E. Culpepper…“A fifth PGA Tour player has tested positive for COVID-19.”
  • “The Tour announced Monday Harris English tested positive for the virus and has withdrawn from the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The 30-year-old did not compete during last week’s Travelers Championship.”
  • “Harris is the second player to test positive ahead of this week’s event at Detroit Golf Club. The Tour announced Sunday Dylan Frittelli also tested positive for the virus.”
3. Watney on coronavirus quarantine…
AP report…”Monday marked the 10th day of self-isolation for Nick Watney, the minimum required for PGA Tour players who test positive for the coronavirus.”
  • “He said he is feeling good except for some minor fatigue, perhaps brought on by a major case of boredom, and except for the distinction of becoming the first of what now is five players and two caddies who have tested positive since the PGA Tour returned amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • “I will say, it’s not the greatest feeling being the first to get it,” Watney said in his first interview since he was notified June 19 at the RBC Heritage of his positive test.
  • “Some things are so vague around this thing,” he said. “The symptoms … some people get this, some get that. I haven’t had a fever or cough the whole time, no shortness of breath. Maybe that’s the reason it’s so scary. I still don’t know how or where I got it.”
4. Feinstein on postponing the Ryder Cup
John Feinstein for Golf Digest…“You can play any event in golf-including the four majors-without fans. You can’t do it at the Ryder Cup. Oh, sure, you might miss the roars coming down the stretch at Augusta, but the Masters will be fine come November if the green jackets decide they can’t allow their “patrons” on to the hallowed grounds. The same will be true for the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in August and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September.”
  • “If the last three weeks have proved nothing else, it’s that quality golf can be played without having to endure “get in the hole!” shouts when someone is teeing off on a 550-yard par 5. The absence of fans has also helped immeasurably with pace of play.”
  • “Don’t get me wrong: I want to see fans back on golf courses as soon as it’s safe, and I’ll be fascinated to see what will happen if the Memorial goes ahead with its plan to let 8,000 fans onto Muirfield Village next month. But the presence of fans-even when they go over the top at times with boorish behavior-is as much a part of the Ryder Cup as the 17-inch-high gold trophy.”
5. ICYMI: Special temporary membership for Will Gordon
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”A little more than a year ago, Gordon was playing for Vanderbilt, where he was once the SEC Player of the Year. But Sunday he was contending against the game’s best, making the most of a sponsor’s exemption at the Travelers Championship. Gordon played his way into the mix with a second-round 62, and he closed with a 64 that gave him a share of third place along with Mackenzie Hughes.”
  • “In addition to a six-figure payday, Gordon’s finish earned him special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. He had had some success in other spot starts this season, including a T-10 finish at the RSM Classic and a T-21 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open.”
  • “I knew something in the top five would maybe have a chance,” Gordon said. “I knew the higher the better, so I was watching the leaderboard coming in. I knew if I got up there, T-1, T-2 by the end of 18 holes, that I might finish in the top three.”
6. How courses can be more welcoming to LGBTQ community
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins offered a number of guidelines, including…”Train employees on inclusive terms and language”
“As a golf club, it’s important to educate your staff members, to make sure they know to be inclusive and nonjudgmental,” says LPGA Tour pro Mel Reid. “Educating and communicating with their members is another big thing.”
  • “Part of that education is in how players are greeted when they arrive at a course. For example, asking a woman if she’s going to be playing with her husband when she arrives at a course reveals the assumption that she is straight. Simple substitutions, like using the word “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife,” can make a big difference…”
  • “Put a Pride symbol at your course…Fitzgerald talked about this idea with us first at the Pride Open in 2019, and we spoke about it again for this story. “The LGBTQ community is finally feeling accepted in the golf industry, getting out and about and playing and practicing,” Fitzgerald says. “What’s really helping is feeling accepted and seeing there’s some show of invitation or acceptance from golf courses, public or private-things like a little sticker in the window or a Pride flag on their websites do wonders to make LGBTQ golfers feel welcome. We’ll be active and looking for those symbols at golf facilities.”
7. Tee sheets filling up in Ireland
Simon Lewis for the Irish Examiner…“Golf courses moved into the next phase of their roadmap out of pandemic with a leading club general manager talking optimistically of a strong future for the sport in Ireland.”
  • “Clubhouses reopened on Monday for the first time since courses, clubs, and driving ranges were shut down due to the Covid-19 outbreak on March 24. Though play did resume for members living within five kilometres of their clubs on May 18 under Phase 1 of the Irish Government’s lifting of restrictions, Monday marked the first day in which visitors were welcomed alongside members, travel restrictions within Ireland were lifted, and competition golf could resume.”
  • “The Golfing Union of Ireland and Irish Ladies Golf Union has also allowed a shorter interval for fourballs on timesheets, bringing the gap between tee-times down from 14 to 10 minutes and clubhouse restaurants and bars operating as restaurants are open under strict guidelines outline by Fáilte Ireland, all good news for golf club treasurers and general managers such as Cork GC’s Matt Sands.”
8. North & South Am 
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine...”Though many international players remain limited by travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, for those players in the U.S., a month-and-a-half-long stretch of elite amateur tournaments begins Tuesday at Pinehurst.”
  • “Think of it as amateur golf’s version of the FedExCup Playoffs, with four high-profile events setting the stage for the U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes in mid-August.”
  • “The North and South Amateur will feature two of the world’s top-10 players, Georgia’s Davis Thompson (4) and Texas’ Cole Hammer (7), as well as defending champion Cooper Dossey of Baylor and two semifinalists from last year’s U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, William Holcomb and Cohen Trolio.”
9. PGA Professional Championship scratched 
John Strege at Golf Digest…“The PGA of America announced on Monday that it has canceled the PGA Professional Championship, rescheduled for July 19-22 at the Omni Barton Creek” “Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas. Originally, it was to have been played April 26-29, though it was postponed on March 16.”
  • “Despite a deep desire to stage our signature Member Championship on behalf of its talented field, it became apparent after consultation with local health authorities in Austin last week that this could not be done responsibly,” the PGA wrote on its website.”
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