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GolfWRX Morning 9: Ryder Cup assistants still atoning | Euro Tour sticking with Saudi event | Meditate for better golf?



1. Dropped the ball?
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”I dropped the ball on two or three things that could have helped, and I apologized to Jim,” Love said. “I should have seen some of those things coming.”
  • “Some of the “things” Love referenced appear to focus on the emotions that spilled out of the team room surrounding Patrick Reed’s split with Jordan Spieth. Love, who successfully paired Reed and Spieth as captain in 2016, was reportedly tasked with telling Reed that he would have a new partner in France.”
  • “We didn’t see (Reed and Spieth not playing together) as an issue while we were there,” said vice captain Steve Stricker, who is expected to lead the U.S. team at Whistling Straits in 2020. “It’s unfortunate it came out the way it did.”
I mean, way to take the bullet, but does DL3 really have anything to apologize for?
2. Wise beyond his years
(Sorry for the obligatory pun)
Golfweek’s Brentley Romine...”Aaron Wise, the 22-year-old University of Oregon product who won the 2016 NCAA individual title and then picked up his first career PGA Tour victory last season, was announced Tuesday as the 2017-18 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.”
  • Wise won the AT&T Byron Nelson last May, beating Marc Leishman by three shots at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas….”It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said of his win. “… To walk up 18 knowing I kind of had it locked up was pretty cool. I don’t think many people get to do that their first win. Truly special for me.”
  • “Wise was one of just three rookies to win last season on Tour, joining Austin Cook and Satoshi Kodaira, and became just the second player, following Mackenzie Hughes, to win on the Mackenzie Tour, Tour and PGA Tour.”
3. Ariya POY lock
Ryan Herrington writes…”There is still plenty to play for during the final three events of the 2018 LPGA season. Just not the tour’s Player of the Year award. LPGA officials announced on Tuesday that Ariya Jutanugarn has wrapped up that honor with a lead in the season-long points race that can’t be erased.”
  • “During a year in which 24 different players have claimed titles in 29 LPGA events, the 22-year-old native of Thailand has been the closest to a consistent force, winning three times and posting 15 top-10 finishes in 25 starts. Her performances gave her 219 points in the Rolex POY standings, 83 more than Sung Hyun Park. A win earns you 30 points, but with Park not playing at this week’s TOTO Japan Classic, Jutanugarn is a mathematical lock for the title.”
4. Topgolf charges on. IPO ahead?
Geoff Shackelford writes…”Topgolf Executive Chair Erik Anderson was the featured interview at the Octagon Sports Marketing Symposium Tuesday and said the company hopes to be in 50 markets by year’s end with aggressive plans to expand stand-alone and other off-shoot versions of Topgolf.”
  • Quoting Eric Fisher from SportsBusinessDaily…:
  • “Roughly half of Topgolf clientele were not initially active golfers, though play at their facilities has translated to some increases in play at traditional courses. Roughly half are aged 18-34, a highly coveted demo by every other sports property. “The big idea for us was take out a lot of the barriers of golf, such as around time, cost and skill, and make it about fun and community,” Anderson said.”
  • And this on a possible looming IPO is of note:
  • “Anderson said Topgolf is considering an IPO for the company, but did not provide specifics around the likelihood of that or a potential timetable for a decision. “We are a candidate to go public for sure. It would be silly to say otherwise. … We’re probably an interesting public company, like Starbucks was given how people connect with us.”
5. European Tour sticking with Saudi Arabia event
AP Report…”The European Tour is pressing ahead with staging a golf event in Saudi Arabia for the first time next year despite the kingdom facing mounting criticism for its involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
  • “The Saudi International, to be played from Jan. 31-Feb. 3, was in the 2019 schedule announced by the tour on Monday….There was no mention of the tournament in the press release published by the tour, despite it being new and featuring Dustin Johnson and Masters champion Patrick Reed in the field.”
6. …and adding an event in Kenya
From the European Tour…”The European Tour continues to extend its global reach with Kenya Open Golf Limited (KOGL) confirming the Kenya Open Golf Championship will join the International Schedule as a new event next year.”
  • “Following the tournament’s continued success on the European Challenge Tour for the past 25 years, the Kenya Open will see an elevated prize purse of €1.1 million and a full-field event to be held at the Karen Country Club from March 14-17, 2019.”
  • “Before joining the Challenge Tour schedule in 1991, the Kenya Open witnessed some memorable winners, including the late, great Seve Ballesteros and fellow Masters Tournament winner Ian Woosnam.”
7. Meditation makes you a better golfer…eventually
A morsel from Sam Weinman’s excellent look at the potential benefits of navel gazing for golfers.
  • “…Among Pollard’s central arguments is that for all our technological progress, the human body has remained virtually unchanged from man’s earliest days fending off regular physical threats, which is why we process stress the same whether it’s an unpleasant email or a bear attack. This disconnect between how we live now, and the biological constraints of our bodies and brains, can explain why we often feel scattered so much of the time, and why even the mundane stresses of everyday life can elicit profound physical reactions.”
  • “This is the little glitch in our system,” Pollard said. “We are entrenched in a dysfunctional state of defensive living because the way we’re living now is so far removed from how we’ve biologically evolved.”
  • “What does this have to do with our ability to hit a drive in the fairway? Plenty, actually, because the same forces that leave us feeling frequently disjointed also factor into our performance on the course.”
8. Paddy has a point…
Credit to GolfMagic for this Harrington (presumptive captain of the 2020 European Ryder Cup team) quote…
  • “Thankfully whoever is the captain next time around is playing at Whistling Straits, which is a European style golf course,” said Harrington, who is a red-hot favourite to take the European reigns at the Wisconsin layout.
  • “Let’s face it, if we were going to Riviera [Country Club], that would be so hard for the Europeans to win on that style of golf course, just US to the bone there…There’s so many golf courses that they could go to in the States. They should just turn up in Hazeltine every year, their cup of tea and gives such an advantage.”
  • “Hazeltine, the US just knew. A stats guy came in and said, look, we make more birdies than them so if we make this into a birdie fest, we should win…We knew going into France, make par be very precious, and Europe will have an advantage, and it proved that way.”
9. Getting started on the right foot
From the Fried Egg’s excellent newsletter (get off my lawn!)…”Jordan Spieth makes his first appearance since the Ryder Cup at a venue that he has never played. In fact, this is Spieth’s first time playing a fall series event since 2015. After missing the minimum number of tournaments last season, it is assumed that Spieth is making these fall season starts as a sort of reparations for his misbehavior.”


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Hello, Hideki! Japan receives its second Augusta champion in eight days



Hideki Matsuyama expressed great respect for the victory achieved last week by his countrywoman, Tsubasa Kajitani. Matsuyama understands well the bright-hot spotlight under which golfers from their country operate, and he has both benefitted from its warmth and felt its burn. Unlike Kajitani, Matsuyama entered the final round of this week’s Masters with a sizable lead, every reason to win and every opportunity to lose. Although he lost three of his four shots of advantage, Matsuyama held on to the one that mattered and became the first male major champion from Japan.

He did five things very well on Sunday, and we’re going to run them down for you in this summary of Masters Sunday, golf’s high holy day.

1. From Z to Z: In the beginning and the end, there was Zalatoris

By the time Hideki teed off, he had lost half of his lead. By the time he tapped in for bogey on the first green, he had given back one more shot. Young Will Zalatoris, Dallas native and former Wake Forest golfer, had started day four with a pair of birdies and had reached nine deep. Matsuyama addressed his ball on the second tee, knowing that momentum usually chose the chasers. He fearlessly ripped driver down the left-center of the fairway, giving him a look at the green in two. His approach was shy, in the sand, but his recovery was exquisite, and he converted the putt for a momentum-altering birdie. Zalatoris would play wise beyond his years, as he had all week, and would compel Matsuyama to make bogey at the last to preserve his margin of victory.

2. Make early birdies—and bounce back

Matsuyama followed his birdie at the second with a pair at eight and nine. He turned in 2 under par and opened up a needed gap as Zalatoris stabilized, and no others gave chase. Jon Rahm was making a move, and would ultimately shoot 66 to tie for fifth position. It wasn’t until he reached Golden Bell, the beguiling par-3 12th hole, that Matsuyama made another mistake. Fooled by the wind, he airmailed the green, landing in the rear bunker on the fly. He wisely played to the fringe, rather than risk a shot into Rae’s Creek. He took two putts for bogey but diverted the big number from his scorecard.

As he had done at the second, Matsuyama made a bounce-back birdie at the 13th. His drive was a bit right, and his approach went safely long and left. His surgical precision with a wedge brought his recovery pitch to a stop 18 inches from the hole. The birdie steadied his nerves, and he narrowly missed another birdie at the 14th. Although he would bogey three of his final four holes, double bogey or worse was never a possibility.

3. Hit greens and make putts—and avoid the sand

Over the course of four days, Hideki Matsuyama hit 13, 14, 12, and 11 greens in regulation. He saved his best putting for the weekend. averaging under 1.5 putts per green from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. When he missed a green, Matsuyama found a way to get the ball close for a saving putt, unless he found the sand. On the week, he was three of seven for sand saves. Granted, the miss at the 72nd hole wasn’t critical, but that still made him 50 percent. Given the size of Augusta National’s bunkers, and their placement, had he found more sand, Matsuyama might not be responsible for planning a dinner menu next April.

4. Ignore your playing partner (or, from X to X)

Did you think that Zalatoris was the only, late-alphabet challenger to Matsuyama? Playing partner Xander Schauffele made the day’s strongest run at the overnight leader. After moving from 7 under to 8 under at the second, the new X-Man imploded with bogey-bogey-double from the third to the fifth. As attention turned to other challengers, Schauffele regrouped and made birdies at seven and eight to re-enter the top 10.

As the back nine dawned for the final group, the Californian still wasn’t in the mix, until he chopped four more strokes off his score. Birdies at 12 through 15 brought him to 10-under par. Had he stayed there, he would have joined Matsuyama in a playoff. Alas, the winds of Berckman’s farm surged at the worst possible time, and Schaufele’s tee ball at the 16th ended up in Jones’ pond. Triple bogey ensued, and Schauffele finished in a tie for the third spot.

While the Xander firework show took place, Matsuyama persevered. In a hilarious video with Tiger, Jason Day, and Rory, teacher Hideki comments that “Japan is a modest culture, showing emotion and celebrating is not common.” Neither, it seems, is losing your cool and choking. Hideki simply didn’t choke.

5. When it’s your week, seize it

Unlike Justin Rose, who opened with 65 and never again broke par at the 2021 Masters, Matsuyama played his first three rounds under par, culminating with a pure 65 of his own. His third round was the only bogey-free round of the tournament until Jon Rahm matched him on Sunday. Matsuyama was on pace to join Zalatoris as the only golfers with four rounds under par until his late-round struggles resigned him to a closing 73.

What does all of that mean? It means that Hideki Matsuyama arrived in Georgia playing well. He parlayed his experience and his current form into a shot at the title, and then he simply out-played and out-witted the competition. Augusta National rarely reveals why a certain player won and a certain player did not. The results are what the history book says, so when your chance arrives, seize it. Like Tsubasa Kajitani had done eight days before, Hideki Matsuyama did on the second Sunday of April.

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5 things we learned Saturday at the Masters



With the field reduced to 54, the question on most interested minds was, which Augusta National Golf Club would feature on Saturday? Would it be the frugal layout that gave fits to competitors on day one, or would the generous version from day two make a return appearance? If you asked Hideki Matsuyama, it was the latter. Pose the same question to Adam Scott or Cameron Champ, and the answer would differ markedly.

On Saturday, there was a bit of movement from the chasers, and a sense of protect what you have from the leaders. We learned a few things about the tournament, the course, and the competitors on day three, and we’re happy to share them with you here.

1. Billy Horschel backs down from nothing

Literally and figuratively. The Florida man ripped a 5-iron into Rae’s Creek on the 13th hole, but rather than take a penalty drop, Horschel doffed his shoes and socks, rolled up his Saturday whites, and waded on in. Well, sort of. First, he slid down the slope, and then he waded in. His recovery was clean and left him with a run at birdie. Despite the new splotch of Augusta green on his trousers, Horschel made bogey at the 14th, but closed with three birdies over his final five holes, to finish at 4 over. Horschel won’t win the tournament this year, but we’ll remember his plus-fours for quite some time.

2. Hideki pulled a Justin

No sense in waiting until point number five, to discuss the round of the day. Hideki Matsuyama has often been mentioned with Jumbo Ozaki, Ryo Ishikawa, Isao Aoki, and Shingo Katayama as a prime Japanese candidate to break that country’s male major championship winless streak. Matsuyama began day three at 4 under, three shots behind leader Justin Rose. Matsuyama drew on two memories on Saturday to move rapidly up the leader board on the inward half. His low amateur prize of 2011 reminded him of his previous success at Augusta National. More recently, countrywoman Tsubasa Kajitani raised the champion’s trophy last week at the same course, after winning the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Matsuyama began his march toward the top spot with a birdie at the seventh hole. Despite his length, he was unable to make four at either of the front nine par-5 holes. On the inward half, Matsuyama posted birdies at 11, 12, 16 and 17, and put the icing on the 65 cake with eagle at the 15th. Thanks to his 65, Matsuyama will play in the final group on Sunday with Xander Schauffele, who closed quickly as well. Will he bring a major title of his own to the Pacific island nation? This time tomorrow, we will know.

3. Xander and Conners post 68s to move into top six

If you took Corey Conners front nine, and paired it with Xander Schauffele’s back nine, you’d have a Hideki. Conners began play at 2 under par, and moved to minus six after the day’s fourth birdie on the 9th hole. The young Canadian dropped back with bogey at 10 and 14 but rebounded quickly with birdies at 15 and 17 to return to six-under. It might be premature to cast Conners as a dark horse for Sunday, but should his penchant for dropping birdies check in on day four, a Maple Leaf might don a green jacket for the second time in the storied event’s history.

Xander Schauffele finds himself exactly where he wants to be. The California native backs down from no competition, and thanks to a strong inward half, he arranged a final-group pairing with Matsuyama. Schauffele began the day at 3 under and improved by one shot by the end of the first nine. The 2017 Tour Championship winner feasted on the long holes coming home with birdie at 13 and an eagle of his own at 15.

4. Zalatoris and Rose stay in contention

The hardest task in championship golf is to build a lead into a bigger lead. Tiger Woods spoiled many of us with his ability to do that. The second-most difficult thing to achieve is to preserve your position, with all the distractions and pressure. Justin Rose and Will Zalatoris began day three at 7 and 6 under par, respectively. Rose began the day with determination, making birdie at the first two holes. He gave those shots back at four and five, and played a bit of back-and-forth over the next 13 holes. He ended the day at even-par 72, to remain in the chase at 7 under. Was it disappointing? For a player of Rose’s stature and record, yes. Can he bookend his Thursday 65 with another on Sunday? Probably not.

Will Zalatoris came into the final pairing on Saturday in a decidedly different position from Rose. Zalatoris made his name on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 and has made the jump to the PGA Tour with unexpected success. The young Texan began the day at 6 under and improved by one stroke by day’s end. Zalatoris had four birdies against three bogeys and once again avoided the big number that derails so many dreams. The former Wake Forest golfer will tee off with Conners in the third-last pairing on Sunday. Being a bit out of the limelight might serve him well, and don’t be surprised if he becomes the first Masters rookie since Fuzzy Zoeller to wear green on Sunday.

5. And the winner will be…

If you haven’t realized it by now, we don’t pick winners well. We tapped Brian Harman after round two, and the Georgia Bulldog shot 2 over par on day three. We have abandoned the lefty, and are going with a player we haven’t mentioned yet. He’s tall, dark, and Australian, and the word on all the tours is that Marc Leishman is so much better than his record indicates. We think that the real Marc Leishman stands tall on Sunday and moves past Matsuyama and all the rest to become the first Aussie since Adam Scott to win the title.

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5 things we learned Friday at the Masters



36 marvelous holes of a crunchy, tasty, firm, diabolical Masters tournament are in the books. 54 golfers survived the cut, and 15 of them sit within five shots of the lead, currently 7 under.

If you want excitement, watch Viktor Hovland this weekend. We don’t mention him below, but he deserves a tip of the cap for not going away. He was outside the cut line until he made birdie at 13 and eagle at 15. He’s six back, and if he can get rid of the crazies and the loonies, he might shoot 62 on Saturday or Sunday.

It’s time to learn the five things that we picked up today and position yourself for a glorious weekend. Let’s gooooo!

1. “Part humor, part roses, part thorns.” Justin Rose posts even par on Friday

Perhaps there lies a hidden connection between the lead singer of the 80s hair band Poison and the champion golfer, perhaps not. The internet attributes the quote “My life has been part humor, part roses, part thorns” to Bret Michaels, and Justin Rose certainly would agree that round the second at the 2021 Masters offered a bit of each. Rose began with bogey for a second consecutive day, and despite a birdie at the second, turned in 3 over par. Like Thursday, he found his way back to safety on the inward half, with birdies at the 13th, 14th, and 16th.

If there is a secret to winning the Masters, it is to make your mistakes early and your birdies and eagles late. Rose has played the back nine in 30 and 33 strokes over the first two days. If he can find a way to play the outward half in par on Saturday and Sunday, well, he’ll have a second major championship to go with his 2013 U.S. Open trophy.

2. Is The Bermuda Triangle too obvious?

If 11 through 13 represents a corner, then holes 4, 5, and 6 geometrically stand out as a three-sided polygon. Through the first two days, that three-hole sequence stands out as a place where Augusta dreams meet an early reckoning. Many golfers reached the fourth tee on the heels of two or even three birdies, only to run headfirst into a sea of mighty discontent. The trio ranked first, second, and fifth most difficult on day two, and featured the longest par 3 and the toughest par 4. A case could be made that five plays longer than 11, despite measuring 10 yards less.

There’s no telling how the ghost of Herbert Warren Wind would christen the 915-yard stretch of fairway in today’s era. Wind summoned a hymn in the middle of the previous century when he famously baptized the early part of the back nine as Amen Corner. In an era of technological onslaught, the tournament directors seem to have solved part of the puzzle by creating a second implausible stretch of golf on their wondrous course. If anyone should happen to play four through six at even par or better on the weekend, expect their names to take up residence on the first page of the leaderboard.

3. Farewell until May or next April

Sadly, there was a cut on Friday afternoon, and it came at +3 after much deliberation. The briefly-defending champion, Dustin Johnson, had a rare day of poor driving, and it cost him. Bogey at 15 and 17 put him over the limit by one slim stroke. His former workout buddy, Brooks Koepka, made every effort at a Tiger-esque recovery from recent knee surgery, but the bionic man could not make enough putts to reach the weekend. Joining DJ and BK on the sideline were the perplexing Rory McIlroy, the peripatetic Bernhard Langer, and Green Jacket-bearers Danny Willett, Mike Weir, and Sergio Garcia. Representing the geezers on the weekend is two-time Masters winner and second-low Basque, José-María Olazabal, who touched down at +2.

4. Tyrannosaurus Zalatoris is quite the story

We don’t expect the nickname to stick, but it beats Lavoris, a 1970s-era mouthwash. The young lion bided his time on the front nine, playing even-par golf until the 9th, where he went right-right and bogey. On the inward half, the rights became centers, and Zalatoris notched five birdies and four bogeys for 31 coming home and a Saturday pairing with the leader, the aforementioned Mr. Rose.

Ironic is the failure to birdie either par-5 hole on the second nine. Neither tee ball was what one might call ideal, and the Zed resisted any temptation to go for the green in two. He laid up safely, took his medicine, and made par at both holes. Anytime you shoot 68 or better at Augusta National, you’ve made your share of just about everything. Win, lose, or draw this weekend, the experience of teeing off in the last group on Saturday is a huge step for the Young Turk.

5. And our pick for the win is…

Not Justin Rose. He is a viable candidate for a suitcoat fitting, but the confidence that borders on arrogance is just not there. Not Will Zalatoris. We’d love to see the “not since Fuzzy” thing about first-year players not becoming first-time champions go away, but it isn’t happening in 2021. Not Jordan Spieth, who reached 5 under with late heroics, nor Marc Leishman, who reached 5 under with early, mid, and late-round heroics. Our prediction for the win is a bald man of Woosnam-esque stature, who swings from the side favored by Phil Mickelson, and Mike Weir, both Masters champions. He is (drumroll, please)…

Brian Harman. It’s simply his time.

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