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Tour Rundown: 6 tournament edition

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Six tournaments in one week? Inconceivable. A major amateur championship and a major senior event simultaneously? Inconceivable. A remake of “The Princess Bride?” Inconceivable. Yet, here we are. Comebacks galore marked the second week of August 2o2o, in the world of competitive golf. A grand champion completed her comeback, while a youngster demonstrated determination and fortitude in capturing the grand chalice of amateur golf. Tour with us the week’s results as we revisit six events in this week’s Tour Rundown.

PGA Tour: Wyndham Championship

At the same time that we feel great empathy for Billy Horschel, we feel a ridiculous incredulity for Jim Herman. Take a seat and let us explain. The Horschel family has gone through the trials and tribulations of addiction and recovery, and their road to survival is worth of a PGA Tour victory. It did not come this week, it was agonizingly close, but it will happen again soon.

The Jim Herman story is, in a word, uncanny. Herman is a former assistant professional at Trump National in New Jersey. He was encouraged by no less than the POTUS himself to chase the dream, and chase it, he did. Herman recently teed it up with Mr. Trump, as he did prior to his Barbasol Championship (2109) and Houston Open (2016) wins. You guessed it…Herman wins, HERMAN WINS!

Let’s talk 15 birdies plus 1 eagle (against a solitary, lonely bogey) over the 48 weekend hours. That’s golf, folks. On a Donald Ross, Jr., golf course, against the best that the PGA Tour has to offer. Congratulations and job well done.

LPGA & Ladies European Tours: Scottish Open

There is no such thing as a lead in tournament golf, especially when an event lasts four days. Azahara Muñoz and Stacy Lewis understood this. They entered the fourth round of the 2020 Scottish Open in first and second spot, but gave those positions up nearly as soon as the first nine of day four began. Names like EK Pederson, Cheyenne Knight, and NK Madson began to supplant them at the top of the leader board, but these are veterans, and they understood the intricacies and vagaries of a national championship’s final round.

How did it shake out at the Renaissance Club? The smoldering one, Danielle Kang, nearly pulled off a third consecutive victory, finishing at 4 deep, one out of the playoff. Madsen finished there, too. Knight and Pedersen, hailing from the USA and Denmark, respectively, reached five-under par, and waited on Muñoz and Lewis to finish the day. The duo joined in at minus-five, and off the foursome went to overtime. Things ended quickly, where Muñoz and Pedersen missed the green and chances at birdie. Knight was at 15 feet for three, with Lewis at 20. The Arkansas Assassin drained her 20-feet putt for tre and watched as Knight missed. Like that, the mom, former number one, and winless since 2017, was winless no more. Victory number 15 was sealed with grit and spectacle.

European Tour: Celtic Classic

Connor Syme held the third round lead at the CC, but Connor Syme has never won on the European Tour. He has lifted silverware on the Challenge Tour, but that’s another level. Syme had two bogeys and two birdies on day four in Wales, and fell from first to T3 on Sunday.

Andrew “Beef” Johnston posted 68 on day four, and finished in a tie for third, with Syme. Johnston has been on a wayward patch of late, so a top-three total is cause for celebration. We have the beef is not yet in the top podium spot, but he’s gaining! Thomas Pieters, lean and tall Belgian, former Ryder Cupper, also finished at 15-red and matched with Johnston and Syme on Golfer.

Who remained? How about Thomas Detry, fellow Belgian of Pieters, and fellow U of Illinois alum on Pieters? He and Pieters won the 2018 World Cup of Golf, but Detry has yet to claim a solo win on the Euro Tour. He’s getting closer (this part is ironic; more to come.) He finished at -16, solo second and two shy of … Sam Horsfield. Horsfield held the 36-hole lead, but gave it generously to Syme. On Sunday, the Englishman was bogey-free for 67 and a two-shot margin of victory. This was his second Euro Tour win for career and season, and both have come at the expense of runner-up … Thomas Detry. Yikes!

Men’s Amateur: U.S. Amateur

Lightning doesn’t strike twice, they say. Lightning hasn’t met Tyler Strafaci. On Saturday, the Georgia Tech senior stood two up with three to play in his semifinal match. He proceeded to lose 16 and 17 to Aman Gupta, the highest-ranked seed left in the field. Undaunted, Strafaci made birdie on 18 to make his way to Sunday’s final match. Fast forward to late Sunday afternoon, and Strafaci found himself in a similar, uncomfortable position.

Charles “Ollie” Osborne had made consecutive birdies at 16 and 17 to whittle Strafaci’s 2-up lead to nothing. The SMU golfer had the Yellowjacket exactly where he wanted him. Trouble was, Strafaci had been there before. Just like Saturday, Strafaci dug deep and made birdie. Just like Saturday, three consecutive holes were too much for his opponent. Osborne made par, and the US Amateur title returned to Atlanta, where former teammate Andy Ogletree had brought the hardware in 2019, after his win at Pinehurst.

Easily as important as Strafaci’s win this week, was the showcase of American links golf at the Bandon Dunes resort. For far too long, USA golfers have been enamored of soft fairways, thick rough, and balls spinning backward (even if they only dream of the third part.) The fast and firm conditions at Bandon Dunes are much easier to maintain, cost less money, and are better for the environment. Tyler Strafaci and golf both emerged as champions this week.

Korn Ferry Tour: Boise Open

#NoLie I wanted Cameron Young to win. Two reasons: coached against him at NYS CHSAA champions at James Baird State Park AND he went to my alma mater, @wakeforest. Today wasn’t his day, now wasn’t his time. Soldier on.

With luck, Young paid attention to the guys in his pairing. Stephan Jaeger, he of the 58 at the 2016 Ellie Mae Classic, played the requisite golf (68) to claim a fifth Korn Ferry title. Dan McCarthy, the best golfer that Syracuse has ever produced, continued his comeback from wrist injuries and came second. McCarthy is to the USA on the Korn Ferry Tour what Taylor Pendrith is to Canada. Both of these guys are going to break out soon, and large! With seven events left on the 2020 schedule, the limb that I select is this: those two will win two of the remaining septuplets.

What about Jaeger? Made an early eagle, said, “come get me,” and played solid golf. Heck, it took at 64 from McCarthy for anyone to be within … oh, wait, Brandon Wu. Wu also finished on -2o, two back of Jaeger. Well, guess it was trickier than it looked. If Wu doesn’t bogey 11 and 13 on the inward half, it gets interesting. OK, not a Twilight Series installment. Jaeger wins, out.

PGA Tour Champions: Senior Players Championship

Jerry Kelly is THAT guy. Which guy? Hard to explain, Kind of an uncle, sort of a buddy, mistaken for a character played by Jack Nicholson (it’s the goatee.) Former hockey goalie, won one of the three #NikeBuffaloOpen ever played #MyHometown, and just a gritty, grinding guy. Sunday in Akron was no awakening for him. Bit of a rain delay, bit of a challenge from the chasers, let’s tough it out sort of day.

Jerry Kelly aced the 12th. Like Si Woo Kim yesterday at Wyndham, except Kelly won. He made double bogey at the 18th, and won by two. Scott Parel, his pursuer, made bogey at the last, after notching birdie at the penultimate hole. In words, it was an odd conclusion. It was not stellar golf. It was strange golf. There was Parel, thinking that 2nd would be a fine place to finish, until Kelly chunked his way to the green, then three-whacked for the six. Parel found the rough on his own, came up shy of the green, then missed for par.

The win was Kelly’s seventh on the PGA Tour Champions circuit. By my estimation, he should eclipse ten before his victory days are done. He is a solid player with a balanced approach to the game. Same goes for Parel, who currently sits on three PTC wins. He is due for a burst, any week now.

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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 (9/24/2020)

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My kid trying to convince me Pokemon is a kid in his school…

…best words start with F and end with K…if you wanna get creative add you or me to the end. Helps me daily.

Is it me or did Rory barely swing at that…

I’m bummed I have to leave a course I won and play at a course I dominate on. Classic TDub!

Who cares…ESPN isn’t ESPN anymore…hasn’t been in YEARS.

DM @johnny_wunder if you know what happened to ESPN

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Morning 9: The return of pro-ams | Akshay Bhatia | Has the game changed…or just for the pros? | Wunder’s love/hate

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1. Pro-ams and (some) fans returneth 
Golfweek’s JuliaKate E. Culpepper…“Spectators haven’t been allowed on site during PGA Tour events since the first round of the Players Championship over six months ago. After a 13-week break due to the coronavirus pandemic, there have been 16 tournaments without cheers, jeers or patron antics.”
  • “That’ll change slightly this week in the Dominican Republic.”
  • “The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, previously scheduled for March but rescheduled due to the pandemic, will allow a select number of patrons back on tournament grounds – socially distanced, of course – when the event tees off Thursday.”
  • “The final few holes at Corales Golf Club will have corporate VIP areas set up, allowing sponsors and a handful of other visitors to watch the live sporting event in person following necessary COVID screening precautions.”
2. First made cut earns Bhatia Puntacana berth
Adam Stanley for PGATour.com…“Bhatia turned professional in 2019 after becoming the youngest player to ever represent the United States in the Walker Cup. He made his pro debut on TOUR at the Sanderson Farms Championship last season. The debut came after he had reached No. 5 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.”
  • “But despite his success on the junior and amateur circuit, it hadn’t quite translated to the pro game until the Safeway Open. Bhatia finished T9 there and earned a spot in the field at this week’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. He was the youngest player to finish in the top 10 of a stroke-play event on the PGA TOUR since Justin Rose finished fourth at the 1998 Open Championship.”
  • “It’s always nice anytime you get a chance to play the PGA TOUR,” Bhatia said. “It’s a great way to enjoy things because this is the life I want to have and I have to get a taste of it. Earning my spot here was a different feeling for me and I’m just excited to get it going.”
  • “After putting a bow on an impressive junior golf career – he was on the winning Junior Presidents Cup team in 2017, the winning Junior Ryder Cup team in 2018 and the winning Walker Cup team last year – he hadn’t made a cut on the PGA TOUR until the Safeway Open.”

Full piece.

3. Bhatia’s WITB

DRIVER: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZURDUS “Hulk” Smoke Green 75 6.5 TX
3-WOOD: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (15 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZURDUS Hulk Smoke Green 85 6.5 TX
IRONS: Callaway Epic Forged (3), Callaway Apex MB 18 Raw (4-PW)
Shafts: KBS TG Hybrid Proto 95 X (3), KBS $-Taper Black 125 S+ (4-PW)
WEDGES: Callaway MD5 Jaws Raw (50S, 54S, 60C)
Shafts: KBS $-Taper 125S+
PUTTER: Odyssey SL Black Armlock 7
GRIPS: Iomic Sticky 2.3 Black
4. Scottish Open: Plan for spectators shelved in line with pause on pilot events
BBC report…“The decision to have spectators at the Scottish Open at Renaissance Club next month has been reversed.”
  • “The tournament in East Lothian had been chosen as a pilot for the return of fans, with 650 permitted on both Saturday and Sunday.”
  • “However, a rise in coronavirus cases has resulted in a pause on all sporting test events.”
5. Has the game changed…or just for the pros? 
GolfWRX’s resident “Wedge Guy,” Terry Koehler wonders post-Winged Foot what conclusions we can draw…
“I believe the first takeaway is that we play a totally different game than they do. Very few of us recreational golfers have the strength to continually muscle the ball out of even “normal” rough to put it in a position to successfully finish out the hole with a par or better. For most of us, I have no doubt that our best scores come when we hit the fewest shots from the rough. I challenge all of you to keep track of your “strokes lost” when your tee shot does not leave you in the fairway with a clean lie and open shot to the green.”
“Secondly, we do not have anything close to their skills around the greens. If you miss greens, you are more likely to make bogey or worse than to save par. Leaving the distance thing out of the equation, this is the largest chasm between the skills of tour player and regular amateurs. Day in and day out, these elite players get up and down more than 50% of the time, and very few amateurs approach 30% from my research. What’s the moral of that story? Spend more time practicing your creativity and execution on the shortest of shots…that is, IF you really want to lower your scores.”
“Finally, these guys are so darn good with the putter in their hands…It certainly doesn’t hurt that they putt on pool-table-perfect greens most of the time. Or that they have a great caddy to help them get an accurate read on most every putt. Or that they focus on positioning their approach shots and recoveries to give themselves the best look at the hole. But also realize that they practice incessantly on this part of the game.”
6. Johnny Wunder’s love/hate
I LOVE watching players mic’d up and having fun together. The conversations and smack talk is a blast to listen to. We also get an inside peek into a portion of what these players are really like. In a normal event? No. Maybe a caddie or two but not the players-I wouldn’t want to be mic’d up at work-not that anyone cares what I say anyway. Just facts. To be honest, Tiger without a JT or Phil to prod him along isn’t exactly gonna peel your hair back in good times. The guy is a born assassin, they don’t talk all that much besides the impromptu “thanks” or  “F$$K!”
I HATE that we have “the one best this and best that” culture in golf equipment. It’s such a big game with so many variables. Can’t we just accept the fact that it’s all REALLY good and have fun exploring what’s best for us individually? I mean, we even do it with tour players-there is no singular “best.” We have had like four of them over the last 100 years. Undisputed 5-plus year stallions that nobody disputed. “Best” defined as it relates to the PGA Tour is Tiger Woods 1999-2009…that’s the best. Anything short of that is a disservice to the players and a mind circus for us.
7. The new queen of LPGA driving distance
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“A rookie currently leads the LPGA in driving distance with a 287.462 yard average. Unlike Bryson DeChambeau, Bianca Pagdanganan didn’t seek out extra yardage. In fact, she can’t really even explain where her power comes from.”
“Her mantra, repeated throughout a recent phone conversation, is “I try not to force anything.”
“Pagdanganan’s coach at Arizona, Laura Ianello, points to “insanely” fast hips and use of the ground as key to her power. She’s 4 yards longer than Maria Fassi on the LPGA stats list and 5 yards ahead of Anne van Dam.”
8. Tiger officially in for Zozo
ESPN’s Bob Harig…“Tiger Woods announced his commitment to next month’s Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club, where he will be the defending champion of an event that has moved from Japan to Thousand Oaks, California, this year amid to the coronavirus pandemic.”
  • “Woods, 44, won the event over Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama last year at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club outside of Tokyo. The victory was the 82nd of his career and tied him with Sam Snead for the top spot on the PGA Tour’s victory list.”

 

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M9: Shane Ryan on Bryson: Nobody else is trying hard enough | Mike Davis moving on | Rory loves Domino’s

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1. Mike Davis leaving USGA in 2021
Scapegoat? Villian? Whatever your impression of the man, Mike Davis is moving on… Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”The USGA on Tuesday announced that Davis is stepping down as its chief executive officer, effective at the end of 2021, to embark on a career in golf course design and construction. Davis plans to team up with Tom Fazio II to create a new golf course architecture company, Fazio & Davis Golf Design.”
  • “I’ve absolutely loved the USGA, and I hate the idea of leaving,” said Davis, 55, who became the USGA’s seventh executive director in 2011, succeeding David Fay, a role that segued into that of CEO in 2016. “I’ve grown up around here. I mean, it will have been 32 years by the time I leave, and my work in championships and governance and so on is just … in some ways, I never thought I’d leave.
  • “But at the heart of this, I have always loved golf course design. I loved learning, seeing, playing, studying golf courses. I’m closer to 60 than I am 50, and there was almost a sense that if I don’t do this, I’m going to regret it.”
2. Replacement search underway 
Shedloski again…”The process of finding a successor to USGA CEO Mike Davis, who announced Tuesday he will leave the association at the end of 2021, commenced about a year ago with the help of a search firm. So it is, according to USGA president Stu Francis, that the association already has taken meaningful steps toward an eventual leadership transition.”
  • “Francis would not divulge how many candidates might have been identified, be they inside the halls of Golf House in Liberty Corner, N.J., or outside them.”
3. More meditations on the Bryson Effect
Shane Ryan, as can be gleaned from his headline, thinks the Bryson DeChambeau Effect is going the change the game of golf…and I for one think his points are superb…
“For a moment, let’s forget the specifics. Let’s forget the weight and distance gain, the muscle activation fitness regimen, the protein shakes, the single iron length, the putting lasers, and a thousand other things that fall under the umbrella of “science.” Forget it all and think broadly. We need some distance to understand Bryson DeChambeau’s win at the U.S. Open-the most consequential result for golf since Tiger Woods won the Masters in 1997-and to internalize the only conclusion that really matters: On an intellectual level, nobody else is trying hard enough.”
“If that sounds like an insult to a group of professionals who have dedicated their lives to becoming elite practitioners of the sport, so be it. DeChambeau is putting them to shame simply because he has the courage not just to seek out innovative ideas, but to pursue them with monomaniacal energy. His commitment is so rigorous, so fanatical, that everyone else comes off looking like a dilettante.”
“This makes people uncomfortable, fans and players alike, but the ultimate legacy of his astonishing win at Winged Foot-a course that was supposed to be the antithesis to and kryptonite for the DeChambeau Style-is that we can no longer dismiss him as a pretentious pseudoscientist. That comfort is gone, and now we reckon with a reality that forces from the mouths of the doubters the three most painful words imaginable.
“He was right.”
4. …and even more…this on Bryson’s putting
Mike Purkey for the Morning Read…“DeChambeau also uses a device that measures putts in miles per hour. Yes, you read that correctly. So, he knows how far to swing his arm-lock putter to produce a particular speed, therefore a precise distance. Then, he takes slope and break into account, using the same device.”
  • “It’s not pretty like Ben Crenshaw putted, but DeChambeau thinks that’s the best way for him to putt. And you can’t argue results. He tied for 11th at Winged Foot in putts per round, at 28.75.”
  • “You see me out there on the greens with the device trying to control my speed,” he said. “It’s just something that allows me and gives me comfort to know that on this green, or these speeds of greens, it’s going to be repeatable. It’s going to be comfort in knowing how far I can take it back and go through.”
5. Danny Lee offers an apology after six-putt horrorshow 
Golfweek’s Julie Williams…“Danny Lee made an early exit from the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club on Saturday evening – one culminating with a six-putt from 4 feet on the 18th green for a quadruple-bogey 8. After that, Lee withdrew from the championship, citing a wrist injury, and left the property.”
  • …”In the Tweet, Lee pledged to think about his actions and use it to get better.”
  • “I apologize for my poor actions at (the) U.S. Open at week. It was very unprofessional and foolish. Obviously hurts lots of my fans and followers and my sponsors out there,” Lee wrote in part. “My frustration took over me and combined with injury I had to fight with it all week. … I shouldn’t have left it like that.”
6. Watch out for Will Zalatoris 
Adam Stanley for PGATour.com…“Zalatoris’ play on the Korn Ferry Tour has been, in a word, impressive. He has finished in the top 20 in his last 11 starts, the longest streak in that circuit’s history. He’s hitting 81% of greens this season, which is on pace to be the most in KFT history, as well.”
  • “He’s also first in Scoring Average and Ball Striking.”
  • “He might be the best ball striker out there,” said Josh Gregory, a performance golf coach based out of Maridoe. Zalatoris credits a lot of his recent success to his work with Gregory along with Troy Denton, who is the head golf professional at the club.
  • “Denton calls Zalatoris a “freak ball-striker.”
  • “Gregory works with 11 golfers across the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR, and has been with Zalatoris for the last 18 months. He said Zalatoris was the “perfect candidate” for his way of teaching – mostly wrapped in games and drills and repetition.”
7. JT, TW win Payne’s Valley Cup…
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas edged Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose in the first-ever Payne’s Valley Cup, played at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri to mark the opening of Woods’ first-ever public course design.”
  • “Woods and Thomas teamed in a Ryder Cup-style match against a pair of former world No. 1s from Europe, with the match divided into three sections. The first six-hole segment, won by McIlroy and Rose, was played using best-ball format. Nos. 7-12 featured alternate shot and saw the Americans strike back to tie the match at one point apiece, setting up a singles’ showdown across the home stretch.”
  • “Woods faced off against Rose in a singles match, while Thomas went against McIlroy. Those two points were also halved, with Rose beating Woods, 1 up, and Thomas beating McIlroy, 2 up. Both matches ended on the picturesque 123-yard, par-3 19th hole at Payne’s Valley, and with the match tied 2-2 Woods and Thomas got the win by virtue of a closest-to-the-pin tiebreaker after Thomas hit his final shot inside 9 feet.”
 
8. Tiger on Payne’s Valley…
Derek Duncan for Golf Digest…“My goal when starting TGR Design was to create courses that are fun and playable for golfers of all abilities,” Woods told Golf Digest. “This was particularly important at Payne’s Valley, my first public golf course.”
“Woods has always been at his best on the biggest stages, and Payne’s Valley, named for the late Payne Stewart, who grew up in nearby Springfield, is unquestionably big. The course plays atop a broad, starburst arrangement of low bluffs in the southwest Missouri Ozarks, where ancient peaks and ridgetops have been scrubbed and worn by time. (Parts of the property were formerly nine holes of the defunct Murder Rock golf course; the other nine became parts of Ozarks National, Golf Digest’s Best New Public Course in 2019.) Yet Payne’s Valley manages to effect an impression of height by pushing the holes, particularly on the first nine, out to the edges of the extended fingers of land that tumble down into wooded ravines, giving rise to cross-valley vistas. “While shaping the golf course, we spent a lot of time thinking about the views that we wanted to capture from various greens, fairways and tee boxes,” Woods says.”
“To this point, he and Johnny Morris, founder of Big Cedar Lodge and Bass Pro Shops retailers, made several in-the-field adjustments to maximize the down-valley sightlines, including reconceptualizing two of the closing holes into the downhill par-3 16th and the par-4 17th, a classic Bottle hole with a strand of bunkers breaking high and low sections of fairway. (Fitting a drive into the upper fairway is more risky, but it provides a straight look into the angled green.) Woods and Beau Welling, senior design consultant for TGR Design, filled the bare, blufftop panoramas with vast wall-to-wall fairways (the course has a considerable 116 acres of maintained turf), sprawling bunkers and expansive greens with false edges that slip off into smooth, low-cut chipping zones. Zeon zoysia green collars and approaches, which can be cut lower than other zoysia grasses, encourage shots along the ground.”
9. Rory loves…Domino’s pizza…?
Our Gianni Magliocco…“The Payne’s Valley Cup on Tuesday provided plenty of entertaining moments, but one thing golf fans perhaps weren’t bargaining on hearing was a Rory McIlroy deep dive into his current favorite pizza joint.”
“While his partner Rose was preparing to putt, McIlroy revealed that he was on a ‘big Domino’s kick’ at the moment, and it elicited a pretty hilarious reaction from Justin Thomas.”
“The Ulsterman justified his choice by claiming that when you don’t know the good local spots, then Domino’s Pizza is ‘solid’. When asked by JT what toppings he goes for, McIlroy responded that his go-to order is the ‘Deluxe’, which according to google consists of ‘green peppers, black olives, and meats like pepperoni, ham, and Italian sausage.”

 

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