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5 things we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open

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Although there were no Hale Irwin nor Geoff Ogilvy sightings on course (well, there was a virtual one of the later, thanks to Mike Tirico and air pods), the Winged Foot West Course that showed off on Friday was identical to the one that ruined psyches in 1974 and 2006. Say what you will about traditional U.S. Open set-ups—they are bad with a capital “B” for the game, because they convince members that thick rough, uber-fast greens, and tucked hole locations are something for everyday play.

Three golfers broke par on day two, and they were a combined 4 under. 62 golfers survived the cut at 6 over, placing all survivors within 10 strokes of the leader. This day was less a celebration and more a reckoning. We learned way more than five things on this day, but we’ll hold our tongue and keep it to the standard quintet. Make way, then, for the five things we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open.

1. Par wins the U.S. Open

After a few years of enjoyable national championships, the USGA saw fit to make its field suffer like none in recent years. Even the 2015 shoot out at Chambers Bay offered recovery options. Winged Foot, like so many golden-age courses in the northeast, depends on rough that tickles your armpits as a defense. The greens are super-cool in their circumferences, which bear no similarity to any shape you saw in geometry. They possess rolls, splines, and acclivities galore, to compel anyone outside of ten feet to scrutinize every angle of the remaining expanse. This is the witches’ brew that the tournament committee whipped up for the occasion of preserving par in 2020. Seconds, anyone?

2. Patrick Reed is your leader

Each time that Reed recovered from an impossible situation, I almost leapt from my chair to cheer. Each time that he ripped a driver into an unhittable fairway, an iron into a guarded green, I nearly exploded with a guttural yawp. Then I remembered, he’s not Captain America anymore. He’s more Annakin Skywalker, and he has some ‘splaining to do.

If you don’t think as I do (and I’ll confess that I inhabit a yurt of madness) you applauded the Texan as he found a way to shoot par—while the other first-round leaders went four, five, even six strokes over par. Through two rounds, Reed looks as good as any other. Fact is, he has the major title that many of his challengers lack, and that will prove valuable as the weekend beckons.

3. Bryson’s time is now

No one has prepared for this event as Bryson has. #BigBangTheory has tweaked both body and equipment. The result through two rounds is the second spot, one behind Reed. Punctuated by a silly eagle at his 36th hole, where Bryson tamed the par-5 9th with driver, 9-iron, DeChambeau’s 68 was low round of day two. Toss out all his victories at this point. Saturday’s duel with Reed will be the great test of the single-length shafts, the bionic putting set-up, and the formulae and hypotheses swirling in his subconscious. On his side is this fact: only golfer to shoot under par both rounds. If string theory shoots 140 over the weekend, I predict that he wins.

4. Trending…Surviving…Surprising

Hideki dropped two shots, and Bubba dropped three. They are the other two lads to break par in round the second. Korn Ferry Tour regular Stephan Jaeger went from 71 to 70. He would be the ultimate surprise winner, amiright? Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and Matthew Wolfe—all were given the opportunity to blow up to an 80, but each found a deep, gritty gear and remained inside the top ten after two. Remember point #1? That grit defines this year’s U.S. Open.  Brendon Todd and Jason Kokrak are two golfers no one would have picked to be in the mix at this point, but they are precisely the type of golfer that appears at this point in each U.S. Open. The negative for them is, they don’t necessarily know what to do next, and their kind usually doesn’t hang around. The positive for them is, they’ve found something that works and they have nothing to lose.

5. Joaquin might steal the show

Jack Lemmon once said of John Daly that he had the guts of a burglar. There is the slightest chance that Joaquin Niemann might possess that attribute as well. The delegate from the world’s thinnest country continues to play himself into contention. He has a PGA Tour win to his credit, on a course not dissimilar to Winged Foot West. Will the heat of major Saturday be too much? Methinks it won’t be, and that Niemann will still be in the top 10, with an outside chance of winning on Sunday.

Five Things is still hot on Xander Schauffele to win…and mourns the passing of a doughty supreme court justice.

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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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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2020 Zozo Championship

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GolfWRX is live from the 2020 Zozo Championship, which takes place at Sherwood CC this year following the cancellation of the tour’s Asia swing.

With a loaded field that features Tiger Woods, there is plenty of WITB intrigue, as well as a number of Japanese players, whose setups are always worth taking a look at.

Check out our 12 general galleries and a selection of special collections below, including plenty of Woods, Mickelson, and McIlroy photos.

General galleries

Special galleries

See what GolfWRXers are saying in the forums.

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Morning 9: Could Phil be the greatest senior golfer ever? | Tiger’s best statistical performances | Morikawa’s interesting Masters plans

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1. Could Phil Mickelson be the greatest senior golfer ever?
While he acknowledges Phil won’t actually turn to the senior circuit full time, Shane Ryan’s thought experiment considering what it would be like if he did is an excellent read.
“…If Phil did turn 100 percent of his energies to the PGA Tour Champions, just imagine what he could accomplish! The G.O.A.T.s right now are Hale Irwin, with his record 45 wins, and Bernhard Langer, with his record 11 majors. And sure, Mickelson has a very long way to go, with his two victories and zero majors. But! If he started now, how long would it take him to get 10 wins? Five majors? In a non-pandemic year, there are just shy of 30 events on the PGA Tour Champions calendar and five majors. Within three years, on his current form, I’d put Mickelson conservatively at 15 wins and six majors. That’s one win every six events, and while that would be a ridiculous pace on the PGA Tour, it doesn’t seem all that radical for Phil among the AARPers.”
“There’s a chance that this is coming off as an insult to Mickelson’s new old peers. That’s not my intention; I know the level of play is extremely high. I know that just because Phil has gone 2-for-2 so far, it doesn’t mean he’d continue at anywhere near that same rate. The fact remains, though, that he has an age advantage on his competitors, and an uncommonly strong game for a 50-year-old … as you can tell by the lack of other 50-year-olds who are still competitive enough to finish second in a World Golf Championships events after their golden birthday (Mickelson did just that at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude in August). Plus, he seems to be in the best shape of his life, he’s hitting the ball a mile and though he’s sustained a couple of down years on the greens, he’s at worst an average putter by PGA Tour standards. In other words, the man still has his touch.”
2. The best statistical performances from Tiger’s 82 wins
Justin Ray, writing for PGATour.com, breaks down Tiger Woods’ best statistical performances in a fascinating article.
“Off the Tee: 2009 Memorial Tournament…Woods’ performance at the 2009 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide was a statistical masterpiece off the tee. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee, but didn’t do it how you may think. Woods hit 87.5% of his fairways, tying his highest percentage as a professional in a PGA TOUR event. That included a run of 18 straight fairways hit to conclude a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk.”
  • “Non-ShotLink division: 1997 Masters: To this day, partly because of the course changes that came after Woods’ 12-shot win, a 21-year-old Woods holds the Masters Tournament single-week average driving distance record, at 323.1 yards. Woods’ advantage over the field average that week was an incomprehensible 46 yards per drive (277.1). For perspective, Bryson DeChambeau averaged 322.1 yards off the tee in 2019-2020, 25.7 yards further than the TOUR average for the season.”
  • “Woods also hit 47 fairways for the week, one fewer than he hit two years prior as an amateur. Since statistical tracking began about 40 years ago, there are two instances where a player averaged 310 or more yards and hit 45 or more fairways in a Masters. Both were Woods (1995 and 1997).”
3. Bob Mathers!
Golfweek’s Julie Williams…“Bob Mathers is the only player in the Golfweek Sandestin Amateur field marking his Titleist 6 with his grandkid’s initials. The event at Sandestin’s Raven Golf Club drew in a field of mostly college players looking for tournament starts in a fall season marred by COVID.”
  • “Mathers lives 20 miles up the road in Niceville, Florida. He retired on Sept. 1 after 32 years as a pilot for Delta Airlines. When a friend told him about the event, he assumed it was only for college teams. He googled it and determined he was eligible.”
  • “There’s at least a 40-year age difference between Mathers and most of the other players in the field, but he lands squarely in the middle of the pack – T-24 in a field off 55 players after opening rounds of 75-73.”
4. “The attention of the entire golf industry” 
Geoff Shackelford writes…“Lauren Ohnesorge’s of the Triangle Business Journal takes a look at the USGA’s testing center move to Pinehurst and it’s certainly exciting to see the potential development of talent, turfgrass and museum exposure to more eyeballs. “
  • “But the notion of a manufacturing center remains very odd in Ohnesorge’s characterization.
  • “As N.C. Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland outlined in an August letter supporting the project, made available through a public records request, officials envisioned a golf cluster in North Carolina.”
  • “Having the Test Center in Pinehurst will focus the attention of the entire golf industry on North Carolina and will very likely attract many golf equipment manufacturers and suppliers to not only Moore County but also the region so they can be in close proximity to the Test Center,” Copeland wrote.”
GolfWRX Recommends 
 
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5. Great question…
“National Club Golfer staff…“Golf consistently ranks in the top ten of the most popular sports on the planet. And its numbers are growing. The game has an overall reach (play, watch or read about it) of approximately 108 million in the United States, which equates to 1 in 3 Americans over the age of six. In 2019, 34.2 Americans played golf. And it’s not declining either, with 2.5 new players last year alone (it was 1.5 million in 2011).”
  • “So what makes golf so popular? What’s the sport’s secret? As a from-the-cradle golfing nut I’d argue that it’s just blatantly obvious, but the real answer is of course a little more nuanced.”
6. Morikawa’s Masters plan
Geoff Shackelford writes…“Perhaps it’s familiarity with the course through television. Or maybe a change in how players view local knowledge. Plenty have been burned by not seeing the course in tournament week conditions, which get pushed Wednesday evening after the practice round. So it was not a huge shock to see Collin Morikawa plan to take a modest approach to his first Masters.”
  • “From today’s ZOZO Championship press conference, the first event for Morikawa in his native southern California since winning the PGA Championship in August”
  • “I don’t want to put any of these things in my head where I’m going to have to show up and, man, this is going to be so much harder to prep for than another event. I think I’ve done a really good job every course I’ve gone to for the first time in figuring it out and I feel like I’m very prepared. I never feel on a Thursday like, oh, man, I wish I had one more practice round. I don’t think that’s going to be the case at Augusta. Yes, I’m going to want to be out there a little more just to figure out some greens, figure out the slopes, but I’m not going to just go out there at 8:00a.m. in the morning and leave at 6:00p.m. just because it’s Augusta National. I’m going to spend my time-wisely and really get my rest because at the end of the day you want to feel as prepped and pressure fresh by Thursday.”
7. New Donald Trump golf course cleared for development in Scotland
AP report…”Authorities in Scotland have approved plans by President Donald Trump’s family business to build a second golf course in Aberdeenshire, despite campaigning from environmental activists.
  • “The Aberdeen council published documents Friday showing it gave full planning permission for the development, subject to some conditions such as measures to minimize the flooding risk at the site, located on Scotland’s northeast coast.”
8. Rockstar Billionaire founder makes “Monster” real estate deal, on property linked to Tiger Woods
Darrell Hofheinz, Palm Beach Daily News …“Weiner sold the oceanfront house for a recorded $41.77 million and the smaller house for a recorded $6.42 million, the records suggest. He bought and sold the properties as trustee of a revocable trust in his name.  Weiner is the creator of Rockstar Energy Drink, which he sold to PepsiCo last spring in a deal reported at $3.85 billion. Weiner has an estimated net worth of $3.7 billion, according to Forbes.”
9. LPGA’s “Drive on for the future” 
Cool stuff. From the LPGA Communications team…“The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Foundation announced today the “Drive On for the Future” Virtual Scramble, a two-person scramble fundraiser with the goal of bringing the golf community together to empower and inspire more girls through the game of golf.”
  • “The tournament was inspired by the recent success of the Virtual Pro-Am and Virtual Scramble hosted by the LPGA Professionals and LPGA Amateurs, respectively. From Aug. 28 to Sept. 13, over 1,100 players and 191 teams raised $56,185 for the LPGA Renee Powell Grant, the LPGA Amateurs Women on Par Scholarship and the LPGA Professionals COVID-Relief Fund.”

 

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Morning 9: Match 3 details announced | The New York Yankee who nearly won the Masters | Good news for golf card collectors

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By Ben Alberstadt
October 20, 2020 
 
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.

 

1. The Match 3 details announced

PGATour.com staff report…“Turner Sports will present Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Change, a premier golf event with the World Golf Hall of Famer and crossover legends competing – Phil Mickelson, Charles Barkley, Stephen Curry and Peyton Manning. TNT will exclusively televise the event, to be held Friday, Nov. 27, at 3 p.m. ET at Stone Canyon Golf Club in Oro Valley, Ariz. Bleacher Report will also provide exclusive live content leading up to and during the event on the B/R app.”
  • “Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Change will uniquely contribute toward and highlight diversity, equality and inclusion through donations to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), while raising awareness and spotlighting opportunities for diversity and equality in sports. All four players have previously supported diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout their careers, which has led to them teaming up for this event. Additional information on these elements, among others, will be announced at a later date.”

2. DJ out of ZOZO
ESPN’s Bob Harig…“Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from this week’s Zozo Championship at Sherwood after missing last week’s CJ Cup due to a positive COVID-19 test.”
  • “Johnson, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, was eligible to return Thursday because he would have been 10 days past the onset of symptoms.”
  • “Unfortunately, Dustin just made the decision to withdraw from Zozo,” said David Winkle, Johnson’s agent, in a text “While he is feeling much better, he is still a bit low on energy and feels it would be best to wait and resume his schedule in Houston. “
3. Hero World Challenge canceled
PGATour.com staff report…“Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and associated travel restrictions, Tiger Woods’ TGR Foundation announced on social channels today the cancellation of this season’s Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas.”
  • “The unofficial 18-player event was to have taken place Dec. 3-6.”
  • …”Here is the statement…Given the current global restrictions and ongoing developments resulting from COVID-19, the 2020 Hero World Challenge will not be played this year. This decision was made with the health and well-being of all tournament constituents and the Albany community in mind. We look forward to hosting 18 of the top players in the world and welcoming tournament guests to Albany, Bahamas next year.”
4. Solheim Cup: 2023 event to take place in mid-September in Spain
BBC Sport report…“The 2023 Solheim Cup in Spain will take place from 18-24 September.”
  • “Andalucia’s Finca Cortesin was already confirmed as host of the event – the first time Spain has staged the match between Europe and the United States.”
  • “Spain will be the sixth European nation to host the biggest team event in women’s golf.”

Full piece. 

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We think a quarterly journal is the best complement to a website that publishes dozens of articles daily. And while that might not make sense to you now, it certainly will once you subscribe to The Golfer’s Journal and dive into some of the best golf writing and photography around. If you haven’t subscribed, do.
 
GolfWRX may earn a commission on sales of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
5. Good news for golf card collectors
Adam Woodard for Golfweek…”Come next spring, a new set of trading cards will be available for golf fans thanks to Upper Deck. The sports and entertainment collectibles company announced a new set of cards that will feature golf’s current stars like Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Matthew Wolff, Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson alongside legends like Arnold Palmer and Annika Sorenstam.”
  • “Collectors have been begging us to bring golf cards back for years,” said Upper Deck’s Sports Brand Manager, Paul Zickler”
  • ….”The release will be Upper Deck’s first golf cards since 2014 and feature a 50-card base set, a 30-card rookie set, a multi-major winners subset and rare signed memorabilia cards.”
6. Barkley guarantees victory in “Match”
We’ll see, Chuck…
Adam Schupak for Golfweek…“The competition format will be modified alternate-shot match play with five-time major winner Mickelson teaming with Barkley, a Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer, in facing Curry, a three-time NBA Champion and near scratch golfer, and two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning, who played a pivotal role in his team winning the last edition of Capital One’s The Match.”
  • “I’m excited to return for the third edition of Capital One’s The Match and get out on the course with these three legendary athletes,” Mickelson said. “While we may need a handicap for Chuck, I’m looking forward to playing with Peyton and Stephen and to help raise money for another important cause. It’s also going to give fans and viewers an up-close look at Stone Canyon Golf Club, a place that I’m extremely proud of and excited to show how special it is.”
  • …”Barkley added: “Capital One’s The Match has been a lot of fun to be a part of over the past few years and I’m excited to finally show off my skills on the course. Phil and I got this, I GUARR-AAAN-TEEEE!!!”
7. The New York Yankee who nearly won the Masters 
Ashamed to say this is first I’ve heard of Sammy Byrd. Excellent stuff from John Fischer for the Morning Read…”it earned him much more than that: an invitation to play in the 1940 Masters. The Masters, which debuted in 1934, originally was known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, and the name change, beginning in 1939 and over club co-founder Jones’ initial objection, didn’t alter the “invitation” aspect. All players were invited by Jones to participate. There were no automatic entries based on prize money or other measurements of standing in the golf world.”
  • “It didn’t hurt that Byrd had played golf with Jones in 1933 and impressed him with his ball-striking ability, nor did it hurt that Byrd’s boss, Dudley, was the head professional at Augusta National Golf Club during the winter. In his first Masters, Byrd finished a respectable 14th, but the best was yet to come.”
  • “The next year, Byrd finished third at the Masters with a score of 3-under 285, behind Craig Wood’s winning 280 and runner-up Byron Nelson’s 283. Byrd finished one stroke ahead of Ben Hogan and four ahead of Sam Snead. Byrd was right in the mix of a major golf tournament.”
  • “In 1942, Byrd started the Masters with back-to-back rounds of 68, putting him one stroke behind the leader, Nelson. Byrd’s last two rounds of 75 and 74 put him at 285 and in fourth place, behind Nelson, the winner in a playoff with Hogan, and third-place Paul Runyan.”
8. How Kokrak got it done
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…“For the first time in his career, Kokrak led the field in stroke gained/putting, gaining 2.573 strokes on the field. He made a little more than 401 feet of putts. A putter switch, to a club with a longer, stiffer shaft, that he made late last season has made a huge difference for a guy who ranked 151st in strokes gained/putting in the just completed campaign.”
  • “Experience on the tricky greens didn’t hurt. And reliance on his caddie, former tour player David Robinson, to help read those greens was another ace in the hole, so to speak.”
  • “Jason Kokrak praised his caddie, former tour pro David Robinson, for his assistance throughout Sunday’s closing 64.”
  • “I would characterize it more D-Rob’s work,” Kokrak said, magnanimously. “I mean, he reads them pretty dang good. I did a good job of hitting the spots where we were trying to putt it to. Very happy with how I’ve been putting and kind of paying off with all the work I’ve been putting in.”

 

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