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Morning 9: DJ: POY | “Let Winged Foot be Winged Foot” | Branden Grace’s COVID-19 saga

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1. DJ: PGA Tour POY
PGATour.com staff report…“The PGA TOUR announced today that Dustin Johnson has been named the 2020 PGA TOUR Player of the Year as voted by the TOUR’s membership for the 2019-20 season. Scottie Scheffler was voted 2020 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year.”
  • “PGA TOUR members who played at least 10 official FedExCup events during the 2019-20 season were eligible to vote.”
  • “Johnson, 36, of Jupiter, Florida, won the FedExCup for the first time in his career, winning twice in the FedExCup Playoffs and three times on the season. The three victories, which came at the Travelers Championship, THE NORTHERN TRUST and the TOUR Championship, tied Johnson with Justin Thomas for the most on TOUR and marked his fourth season with at least three wins. Johnson moved to 27th on the all-time wins list with 23 career PGA TOUR victories and extended his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to start his career to 13, becoming the fourth player to reach that mark (others: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods).”
2. Hoggard: Let Winged Foot be Winged Foot 
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“Every major championship in recent years has felt like an unflinching staring contest between the game’s best players and the rules makers who appear to be growing increasingly weary of ever-increasing driving distances.”
  • “Winged Foot is a major championship blue blood and a chance for the USGA to subdue the distance debate by keeping the game’s best and brightest on their toes and somewhere around par.”
  • …”When it comes to set up, for the USGA, less should be more. If Winged Foot is simply allowed to be Winged Foot, with no tricks or gimmicks, it’s a product that more often than not challenges the world’s best while simultaneously evoking begrudging respect.”
3. COVID-19 a double-edged sword for Branden Grace
Golf Channel’s resident grinder, Rex Hoggard, again…”Branden Grace lost a chance at a U.S. Open spot because of a positive COVID-19 test result and eventually got into the field because of the same thing.”
  • “On Aug. 1, Grace was forced to withdraw from the Barracuda Championship after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. He was tied for second place after two days and rounding into shape just in time for the PGA Championship.”
  • “I was really disappointed with the way things happened,” Grace said on Monday at Winged Foot. “In Reno, I was playing well and then pretty much costing me the spot to get into [the U.S. Open]. I couldn’t compete the next week at the PGA, missing that one I was really bummed … [and] this is my favorite major, the U.S. Open.”
  • “On Sunday following a closing 68 at the Safeway Open, the “circle [went] around a little bit,” Grace explained when the USGA informed him he’d moved from first alternate and into the field at Winged Foot when Scottie Scheffler withdrew because of a positive COVID-19 test.”
4. Nichols: A wall around a compelling finish 
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols weighs in on the wall…“Yet the wall created unnecessary controversy. It wasn’t easy to accept an obstruction on an island green even with seats there for important guests. But we did because someone has the pay the bills, and on the LPGA title sponsors are vital at the majors.”
  • “Take out the seats and the guests though, and it simply didn’t make sense.”
  • …”Tune in for the big finish! Nelly Korda! Brooke Henderson! Lexi Thompson!”
  • “Fans who don’t normally watch the LPGA might have flipped over to Golf Channel for the conclusion, only to become instantly perplexed by the presence of a wall.”
  • “The LPGA can make it right in 2021, by taking the finishing hole back to its roots as an island green and eliminate the grandstands. At the very least, move them as far out of play as possible and downsize. Make the closing par 5 a true championship test, one that puts risk back into the equation.”
5. Horsfield positive for COVID-19
BBC report…”England’s Sam Horsfield will miss this week’s US Open at Winged Foot, after testing positive for Covid-19.”
  • “The 24-year-old returned a negative test last week, but tested positive after arriving in New York for what will be the second men’s major of 2020.”
  • “Horsfield qualified for the US Open by winning two of the six events that made up the European Tour’s UK series.”
  • “American Scottie Scheffler, 24, has also withdrawn from the tournament after a positive test.”
6. Little John wins
David Song for Golfweek…“Former PGA champion John Daly may not be out of the woods yet when it comes to his illness, but at least he has something to cheer about.”
  • “John Daly II, otherwise known as “Little John,” is Daly’s 16-year old son. He is also the newly-crowned winner of the International Junior Golf Tour’s Fall Kickoff event, which took place Sunday at Bishops Gate Golf Academy in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.”
  • “Daly II held off the charge of Filip Jakubcik, birdieing his last hole to finish 12 under. His final-round 4-under 68 kept him one shot ahead of Jakubcik for the win.”
7. Federal prison for Masters schemer
AP Report…”A Georgia man was sentenced Monday to more than two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a scheme that used stolen identities to obtain tickets to the Masters golf tournament.”
  • “Federal prosecutors say Stephen Michael Freeman, 42, of Athens, and three family members in Texas sold those tickets for a profit.”
  • “U.S. District Court Judge Randall Hall in the tournament’s hometown of Augusta sentenced Freeman to 28 months in prison. More than a year had passed since Freeman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. His parents and a sister also entered guilty pleas last year and were sentenced to three years on probation.”
8. Mickelson battling driver difficulties as he returns to Winged Foot
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…“As Phil Mickelson prepares to return to the site of one of his biggest heartbreaks, he admits that there is work to do.”
  • “Mickelson broke par in all four rounds at the Safeway Open, finishing the week at 10 under and at one point playing 48 straight holes without a bogey. But that score still left him in a tie for 44th in Napa, 11 shots behind winner Stewart Cink, and came after a week during which Mickelson struggled off the tee. He hit only 12 of 56 fairways, a stat that’s in part due to the tight confines at Silverado Resort & Spa but also ominous given what lies ahead next week.”
  • “I’ve got some things to work on, but it’s not far off,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got to drive the ball well, my short game needs to be sharp, putting needs to get sharper on faster greens. Lag putting, that’s going to be key. All those things.”
9. Tour Truck Report
Johnny Wunder is calling on all his sources for the inside scoops from the tour trucks at Winged Foot ahead of the U.S. Open.
Pull up a seat at the table for a full plate of equipment info.
From the Ping tour truck
  • Louis Oosthuizen had some fresh Glide 2.0 “Stealth” wedges built (50-SS, 54-SS) with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts
  • University of Texas standout Cole Hammer tested some new Anser style putters
  • Eddie Pepperell added a whole set of Glide Forged wedges (52, 56, 60) (KBS Tour 130X shafts)
  • Joaquin Niemann is testing a G410 7-wood (20.5 degrees). Graphite Design AD DI 80 X shaft as well as an i210 (3-iron) with a Graphite Design AD DI 85X Hybrid. He’s looking for a 240-yard club.
  • Cam Champ is testing a G410 hybrid (19 degrees) with a Fujikura Ventus Blue 10 X shaft.
From the Titleist tour truck
  • Jimmy Walker is testing a new TSi 5-wood (18 degrees @17.5). Fujikura Ventus Black 9 X shaft.
  • Charlie Howell is now in the TSi3 driver, 3-wood, 7-wood. The driver has MCA Tensei White AV Raw 65 TX, 3-wood has a Fujikura Atmos Black 7 X, and 7-wood 8X.

 

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  1. JThunder

    Sep 15, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    It’s funny how a guy goes to jail for 2 1/2 years for Masters ticket scheme… whereas billionaires who deliberately defraud citizens for their life savings and tank the entire economy see no jail time.

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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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