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Brian Smock WITB 2016

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Equipment is accurate of the Farmers Insurance Open (1/28/16).

Driver: TaylorMade M1 460 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage XT 70TX

3 Wood: TaylorMade M1 (14 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage XT 70TX

Hybrid: TaylorMade AeroBurner TP (19 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue Tour Silver Hybrid 85TX

Irons: TaylorMade RSi TP (3-PW)
Shaft: Project X PXi 6.5

Wedges: TaylorMade Tour Preferred EF (52 ATV, 58 ATV)
Shaft: Project X PXi 6.5

Putter: TaylorMade Daddy Long Legs+
Grip: SuperStroke 2.0XL

WITB Notes: Smock was photographed testing two hybrids, including an Adams Red (18 degrees) with a Matrix Ozik HX4 White Tie X-Flex shaft. 

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See what GolfWRX Members are saying about Smock’s clubs in our forum.

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CGOTY? It’s X at The Open at Royal Troon

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If golfers weren’t as humble as they are, they’d come up with trendy acronyms like G.O.A.T. and E.G.O.T #CGOTY would then stand for Champion Golf of the Year, the appellation that the Royal and Ancient confers upon its Open champion. As written, we are a humble lot, so there’s no need for such acronyms.

The Champion Golfer of the Year for 2024 is Xander Schauffele. He won his second major title of the year, having claimed the PGA Championship in May. The Open Championship is his third career win in a major, as Schauffele won the 2016 gold medal at the Brasil Olympic games.

Over on TwitterX, I’ve made the claim that Royal Troon identifies one-off major champions better than any other course in the Open Championship rotation. Of its ten previous winners, seven never claimed a second major title. I suggested that Thirston Lawrence, Billy Horschel, and Russell Henley were as likely to win the jug as the other pursuers. Lowry, Schauffele, Rose, and others already held major trophies aloft. For most of the day, it looked as if another first-timer would join the ranks.

Before we get to that news, let’s chip away at some of the sub-headings.

The Silver Medalist

Eponymy’s Calum Scott (of Scotland) will recall the third week of July, 2024, with a special fondness. The Texas Tech (same school as Ludvig Aberg) earned a silver medal as the low amateur (LAGOTY?) at Royal Troon. Scott finished on eight over par, tied for overall 43rd place.

Spain’s Luis Masaveu came fourth among the wageless, posting +18 on the week. Tied for 2nd among the paupers were Amateur champion Jacob Skov Olesen of Denmark, and Tommy Morrison of the USA. Morrison had the day’s low round among the quartet, posting a 73.

There were plenty of highly-ranked amateurs at Royal Troon when the week began. One by one, they fell away. A tip of the cap to the winner of the silver medal.

The Weather

Essentially, it was a non-factor on day four. There was wind, but there’s always wind. There was zero rain, and after the first two hours in the early morning, the warmth arrived.

The Postage Stamp

Here’s the rub: if you’re playing well and with confidence, it’s a non-issue. It’s a wonderful little hole and, at 100 yards, it gave enough pause to consider going for the stick. Where the hole was on Sunday, there was no sense. Flight the shot between Coffin bunker and the hole, and take your chance with the flat stick. On day four, only Billy Horschel among the top six made bogey. Rose and Lowry had birdie, and the others made par. For Horschel, the four was just enough to throw him off his game, and even his closing burst would not prove to be enough.

The Chasers

Hats off to Justin Rose and Billy Horschel. They posted five birdies over their combined closing three. Rose found birdie at 16 and 18, to keep the pressure on his partner. Horschel closed with even more fire, reclaiming three shots for a career-best, runner-up in a major.

At day’s start, either one might have taken the 67 (Rose) or 68 (Horschel) and said that shall be enough to win. Horschel etched the same number of birdies (six) onto his card as did the winner, but he had those three crucial bogeys, at three, eight, and ten, to delay his progress just enough. As for Rose, he hoped to add a silver jug to his silver medal from 1998, as well as become the first qualifier to claim the crown in some time. Rose posted five birdies against one bogey, and could not have played much better golf. Trouble was, he ran into all that is formidable in his playing companion.

And there were others with admirable Sunday performances. Ryan Fox had 67, to move inside the top 25. Thriston Lawrence took the lead at the turn, held steady with 68, and earned a solo 4th finish for his labor. With the exception of Scottie Scheffler (72) all inside the top ten posted scores under par. On this day, it took 65 to stand out from the crowd.

The Champion

That 65 mentioned above, well, it belonged to the CGOTY.

Who knows when the switch flips? Ever more, who knows how to do it? When Xander Schauffele claimed Olympic Gold in 2021, it was anticipated that another major title would follow soon after. 2022 and 2023 went by with no such result. At Valhalla in May, Schauffele found something and went from best to never win a major to won a major. Now he has two. Here’s how he got there.

Eerily similar was the tally: six under par. The only difference between May and July, was the bogey at the par-five tenth in Kentucky. Schauffele rebounded with three birdies coming home, including one at the last, to hold off Bryson DeChambeau by a single stroke. At Royal Troon, Schauffele was flawless. He posted six birdies against zero bogeys on day four. He drove the ball long and true, and putted for birdie on 16 of 18 holes. The California native was able to avoid the many sand pits that freckle the Royal Troon championship layout, ensuring that a pair of chip shots would be the only concerning moments.

With his second major of the year, Schauffele enters the conversation for golfer of the year. Scheffler has six wins on the year, including a major. If Xander can medal in Paris, and win once or twice on the PGA Tour, he just might add that recognition to today’s laurel.

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5 Things We Learned: Day 3 at The Open Championship

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It’s like being a parent. You know what will happen, but you still need to let the circumstances play out. Once the idea of rain coming into the picture for Saturday afternoon was established, posit after posit came out. Get out early and post a number was the most popular and logical one. No matter how well the leaders start, the coming home will be merciless was a less-common one, but no less accurate.

Shane Lowry made birdie at the 4th hole to reach eight-under par. At that point, he had a three-shot advantage over his playing companion. He would get no farther. A tugged tee ball at eight led to a double bogey, and five more bogeys came his way. The most gutting came at number 18, a hole that he had played in six shots through two rounds. You might think that 77 on day three of a major championship would be a death knell, but Lowry is just three shots behind the leader. He’ll have a legitimate shot on Sunday, as will 13 other golfers.

Fourteen golfers are within five shots of Billy Horschel, the third-round leader. He’s at four-under par, despite weathering the worst of the weather. At least one of those fourteen will post a 65 on Sunday. It may not be enough. The 2024 major tournament season will end on Sunday, and should feature high drama. With that in mind, let’s sumarize Saturday in, oh, five things that we learned. How does that sound?

1. No one went away

As I alluded in the intro, no one in contention at the start of the day has gone adrift. Seven-under par had the lead after 36 holes, and four-deep (also alluded) is the new standard. I’ve been conservative in suggesting that five shots out is the most to be overcome. Circumstances dictate that someone six or seven back, with the correct mergin of fate and execution, could hoist the Claret Jug come Sunday evening, even if he has to play from the opposite side of the ball.

2. Billy Ho says Yo!

Why not Billy Ho? Why not, indeed! Horschel is a fit, focused, and talented golfer. He grabbed four shots from par on the outward nine, turning in 32. He shed grit and gravel coming home, finding a way to manage the inward side in 37 shots. Horschel has never held the solo lead in a professional major championship on the eve of decision day, so he’ll sleep differently tonight. Ultimately, how he and Micah Fugitt (his caddy) come to termsn with the reckoning, will decide his fate in the tournament.

3. Can Sugar Shane Lowry rebound?

2019 was a different set of circumstances for the 36-hole leader. He held a large lead through 54 holes, and he managed to claim a six-shot win over Tommy Fleetwood. Tonight, there might be some doubts. More likely, there will be frustration, followed by gratitude. Frustration at the shots that got away, most importantly the tee shot at Postage Stamp. That’s where the sweater began to unravel, as a visit to Coffin bunker led to his inglorious double bogey. Gratitude should follow, that he is but three in arrears, with a spot in the fifth-last game, paired with the affable Adam Scott. Look for Lowry to figure in the outcome.

4. This guy is due for a run

Justin Thomas has lit the front nine better than any other golfer this week. Wait, scratch that. He made five birdies heading away on both Thursday and Saturday. Friday was a different story, where he played the opening half as you or I would. What makes the difference? Who could possibly know. Will Justin Thomas make a run on Sunday afternoon? No, but Jason Day will. The Malbon Man will turn in six-under par 30. His problem is that he is eight shots back of Horschel, and has zero chance on Sunday. What his score will paint, however, is a picture of what might be, and that will serve to inspire those behind him.

5. How do you pick just one?

You don’t. Sam Burns and Thriston Lawrence posted 65 on day three, to move to three-under par. Russell Henley wasn’t far behind on the day, posting 66 to also reach 210 after 54 holes. Justin Rose and Daniel Brown had 73s but, like Lowry, they are still in the running. Xander Schauffele, the first-time major champion at the 2024 PGA Championship, is at three-deep as well. Oh, and the Masters champion, he of the fancy footwork, is but two off the lead. This is as deep and talented a group of challengers as we’ve seen in more than a minute. I won’t pick a winner today (I made my choice yesterday) but I do promise you that you will see more than one person’s share of fun shots like this one.

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5 Things we Learned: Day 2 at The Open Championship

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36 holes are in the rearview mirror at Royal Troon, and the course that James Braid rebuilt in 1923 shows little interest in easing up on the field. A benign day one was followed by a windy second half to day two. Day three promises wind and rain, so by day four, we shall have no idea who will be around to battle for the Claret Jug. That’s what makes the Open Championship so enjoyable; it’s a well-written novel whose denouement is unpredictable until it reveals itself.

Royal Troon has a way of humbling the game’s great players. The threesome of Ludvig Aberg, Tom Kim, and Bryson DeChambeau posted +29 combined and all three players missed the cut. No other, high-profile trio struggled as much, althought a few of them dispatched two-thirds of their roster to the great beyond. I’ve combed the odds, read the tea leaves, and spoken with Melisandre, and can predict that Billy Horschel will hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday. With that certainty out of the way, let’s move along to five things that I culled from holes 19 to 36 of the 152nd Open Championship.

1. Down the road again

Down the road again
I just can’t believe I’m down the road again
The life I love is making cuts with my friends
So I’m so sad to be down the road again

Willie Nelson’s joy to be on the road again, is the golfer’s angst at missing a cut, especially in a major. This paragraph is never fun to write, as the dreams and hopes of half the competitors have been shredded and smashed. The cut line moved from +5 to +6 late in the day, thanks to the uptick of the Ayrshire zephyrs. A dozen players benefitted from the misfortunes of others, none quite like Max Homa above. Farewell to Tiger, Roars, Luddy, Captain Keegan, Fairway Jesus, Vik, Tony, and many more. We’ll carry on, but it won’t be the same. Let’s try to remember the good times.

2. Daniel Brown will shower in ice water tomorrow

Brown’s playing partners for the past 48 hours were the intimidating Denwit David Boriboonsub and Matthew Dodd-Berry. Nothing scares a golfer like a hyphen, after all. Neither of Brown’s mates survived to the weekend. Brown, on the other hand, will tee off in the final game of day three, with none other than 2019 champion golfer of the year Shane Lowry as his accomplice.

It cannot be easy to play at a high level, when those in your group have the struggles. On Friday, Brown bent, but he did not break. He stood plus-two on the day when he drained a putt for birdie at the 10th, He followed that with another at the 16th. to get back to six under, but made a four at the short 17th to immediately return the collected shot.

Saturday will be a cauldron unlike any he has faced before. It’s part and parcel of elevating to a new tier of competitor, and you can bet that the tranquil Brown will be all-in on the venture.

3. Shane Lowry owns 18

I’m not intimating that he doesn’t feel a certain affection for the other 17 holes of the club’s championship course. When you close a round with birdie, each of the first two days, the home hole lifts you up. Lowry has played the 447-yard closer to perfection over the opening rounds. Six brief strokes were the only ones necessary. If the Irish champion can keep up that pattern, no matter what happens the rest of the way round, he’ll be off to the practice range in the proper state of mind.

4. 3 under was the day’s best

Five golfers posted 68 on Friday. After 65 won the card race on Thursday, no one approached that number on day two. Four of those scorecards moved into the top ten and contention, while the fifth made the cut on the number.

It wasn’t a great day for scoring at Royal Troon, and Saturday afternoon promises to be even more selfish. The final five groups, if the weather moves in, will contend with conditions not known by the earlier games. If someone around two or three over par can produce a 65 early Saturday, he’ll find himself in the final three pairings for round four.

As for Justin Rose, Billy Horschel, Jason Day, and Patrick Cantlay, their hard work and day-two grit saw them to the day’s medal. Their reward is a much later tee time on Saturday, but a chance to position for Sunday’s shootout.

5. The amateurs

Fling your hats for the four non-professionals who made the cut this week. Leading the quartet’s way is Scotland’s eponymous representative, Callum Scott. After opening with 71, he posted 75 on day two to lead in the chase for the silver medal. On his heels at +5 is Denmark’s Jacob Skov Olesen, the reigning Amateur champion. Sneaking in on the cut line are Spain’s Luis Masaveu and Tommy Morrison from the USA.

If you’re after storylines, Olesen posted 18 pars in round two. Morrison finished birdie-par-par to reach the weekend. Scott made but one birdie on Friday, but it came at the 16th hole, when the cut line looked to be lower than it ended. As for Masaveu, if you want to watch raw human emotion, follow him when you can. As his tee ball to the Postage Stamp disappeared into the rightside pit of sand, the Iberian covered his face with his hands for a good ten to fifteen seconds. It was as if his dog had run away and his romantic interest had bid farewell in the same instant.

Here’s to a battle equal to the US Open at Pinehurst, when Neal Shipley held off Luke Clanton by two to capture the low amateur medal.

 

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