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Morning 9: Casey leads suspended round 1 at soft ANGC | Tiger’s roaring start | Xander | What’s really in the Augusta sand

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]; and find me on Twitter and Instagram.
November 13, 2020
Good Masters Friday morning, golf fans. Just a PSA that this is a Friday the 13th. Be warned (or don’t)!

1. Casey leads suspended round 1 at soft Augusta National

The dean of Hawaiian-shirted golf writers, Doug Ferguson at the AP…”Paul Casey still had no problem finding enough energy from the sheer mystique of the Masters on Thursday in an opening round that was delayed seven months by a pandemic and then nearly three hours by thunderstorms.”
  • “It carried him to a 7-under 65, matching his lowest score at Augusta National and giving him a two-shot lead among those fortunate enough to get in 18 holes before it was too dark to continue.”
  • “So many people like myself are just excited to play this,” Casey said. “This is a treat. It always has been and always will be a real treat.”

2. Tiger starts strong

John Steinbreder for Masters.com…”Of all the things Tiger Woods has done well at Augusta National, starting strong is not one of them.”
  • “He is a finisher, to be sure, having recorded nearly 30 under-par, weekend rounds in 22 Masters on his way to amassing five wins and a dozen top-5 finishes. But the 68 he shot on Thursday marked only the second time he has broken 70 to open the Tournament.”
  • “Woods said it was easy to account for his success.”
  • “I did everything well,” he said after signing for his 4-under. “I drove it well. I hit my irons well. And I putted well. The only bad shot I hit today was on 8. I had a perfect number with a 60-degree sand wedge and hit it on the wrong shelf. Other than that, I did everything well.”

3. Xander ready to figure again

Brian Mull for Golfweek…”On a day when conditions allowed low scoring at Augusta National, last year’s runner-up knew he could ill afford to fall too far behind.”
  • “His late charge to a 5-under-par 67 began in Amen Corner following a perfect drive on the 505-yard, par-4 11th that left him 184 yards to a hole location tucked behind the pond in the back left portion of the green. On a typical Masters day, that’s a dangerous flag to attack but greens softened by morning rain gave Schauffele the confidence to take dead aim and fire. His approach finished slightly left of the cup, six feet away and he drained the putt, the first of four birdies in his final eight holes.”

4. Bryson opens with 70

Hank Haney tweeted Bryson DeChambeau was one poor shot from his stated goal of making Augusta National a par 68. He’s not wrong.
Our Ron Montesano writes this…”After pars at his first three holes, DeChambeau hit his drive on 13 into Phil Mickelson’s back yard. Unlike Lefty, BBT maneuvered his approach into some topiary behind the green. One penalty drop and two chips later, he faced a brief attempt at bogey, which never threatened to invoke gravity. AND THEN, he began to play some golf. Bryson counted birdies at 15, 16, and 2 to reach red figures on the day. He fell to even par at the 7th, but coaxed birdie putts into the 8th and 9th cups, to finish at 70 on the day. The round was reminiscent of Tiger Woods in 1997; Bryson had every excuse to shoot himself out of the tournament, but he refused. 5 back on day one is nothing. No one will shoot 20-under at Augusta National this week, so our biggest, bangingest theory is in prime position to make a Friday move.”

5. New outlook pays dividends for Webb

Mercer Baggs for Golf Channel…”Webb Simpson spoke Thursday afternoon about giving Augusta National the respect it deserves. This was after Simpson posted a 5-under 67, the result of such an appreciative and respectful approach.”
“In eight previous Masters starts, Simpson has two top-20 finishes, both coming in his recent two appearances. His T-5 last year is his best finish in any major since he won the 2012 U.S. Open.”
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6. Plenty of firsts

Cameron Morfit for PGATour.com…”The rain was falling softly in the semi-darkness as Tiger Woods stood on the practice putting green awaiting his 7:55 a.m. tee time, while legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were on the nearby first tee preparing to hit their ceremonial first tee shots.”
  • “Woods sensed something flying over his head. He looked up.”
  • “There was a drone flying over the putting green,” he said…
  • “Yes, CBS has added drones to the coverage. It was, all in all, a new kind of experience in the first round of the pandemic-delayed Masters at Augusta National. No patrons. No flowers. Strange plot twists.”

7. The special ingredient of those brilliant white sand traps at the Masters

ICYWW, check out this LA Times report…”For five decades, Augusta National Golf Club has filled its 44 bunkers with the brilliant white grains produced near the three-stoplight town of Spruce Pine, a four-hour drive to the north. The dramatic contrast of those immaculate bunkers, the bleached-white teeth of the course, and the verdant grass is a hallmark of the Masters golf tournament.

8. Schupak: Why the 2020 Masters could be the turning point in golf’s distance debate

A portion of an excellent piece by Golfweek’s Adam Schupak…”in many ways the Masters this week can serve as Exhibit A for why action is needed sooner rather than later.”
  • “It is central to the debate as the one major championship that returns to the same venue each year, where even the most casual golf fan knows that the 10th tee calls for a draw and that since the days of Ben Hogan the safe play at No. 11 always has been right of the green and don’t even think of aiming at the Sunday pin at No. 12. Nothing would serve as a greater wake-up call to the governing bodies more than seeing DeChambeau or one of the game’s other younger bombers turn 7,475-yard Augusta National into a par 68.”
  • “We have options, as I said, we can make changes, but not every golf course can. Having said that, it’s a balance because the next question is, obviously, or should be, well, you don’t want to make the game harder,” Ridley said. “On one hand, we want to say we want to grow the game, and on the other hand, we’re saying we’re worried about distance. I think everybody just has got to get their head together and figure it out.”

9. Golf clubs thriving amid the pandemic

Anecdotes to complement the abundance of data…National Club Golfer’s Steve Carroll: “…to celebrate success, to claim you’re actually thriving in the midst of so much misery, is awkward. Yet many golf clubs are doing well. As the sport experienced that unlikely boom after restrictions eased first time around, there are plenty much better equipped to handle what’s thrown at them now then they were back in March. “We’re in a stronger position than we were last time,” says Alan Key, director of Burstwick Country Golf in Hull. They gained scores of members in the summer and saw visitor revenues soar – up some 50 per cent year-on-year over a three-month period.”
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Morning 9: Bezuidenhout wins Alfred Dunhill | Casey’s Saudi about-face | Jon Rahm a father-to-be

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]; and find me on Twitter and Instagram.
November 30, 2020
Good Monday morning, golf fans. Happy to be back with all of you, and I hope Thanksgiving was filled with both good food and gratitude.
1. Bezuidenhout wins at Leopard Creek
EuropeanTour.com report…”Christiaan Bezuidenhout claimed his second European Tour title as a brilliantly composed bogey-free back nine of 34 handed him a four shot victory at the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship.”
  • “The home favourite entered the final day at Leopard Creek Country Club three shots off the lead and despite making a double and a bogey on the front nine to turn in 35, he had trimmed that gap to one at the turn.”
  • “As the rest of the leading contenders fought for their maiden victories, Bezuidenhout then used all of his experience to card three birdies on the way home in a 69 to finish at 14 under, clear of England’s Richard Bland, American Sean Crocker, Pole Adrian Meronk and South African Jayden Schaper.”
2. Rahms expecting
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Jon Rahm had a little extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.”
  • “Sure, the 26-year-old won twice and reached No. 1 in the world for the first time, but that wasn’t why. Instead, Rahm revealed Friday via social media that he and his wife, Kelley, are expecting their first child.”
  • “Feeling extra grateful this year, Happy Thanksgiving from us and our growing family!” said Rahm, who didn’t disclose any other details.
3. Casey’s about-face on Saudi Arabia
Golfweek’s Tim Schmitt…”Paul Casey responded to those attacking him for hypocrisy after he previously stood strong against playing in Saudi Arabia — and now has agreed to play there in 2021.”
  • …“This is not a decision I’ve taken lightly. I wasn’t comfortable going in the past, but I have always been open-minded and willing to learn. I believe sport has the power to affect change. I’ve listened to the Saudi’s commitment to this and their vision for the future,” Casey said in a statement released to Golfweek a few other select members of the media.
  • “They have successfully hosted two professional ladies tournaments which shows that Golf Saudi have big plans not only for professional golf, but more so for grassroots and the next generation.”
4. Pedersen’s treble
Golfweek’s JuliaKate E. Culpepper…”It’s been a good November for Emily Kristine Pedersen.”
  • “Following rounds of 68-71-68, Denmark’s Pedersen shot a final-round 66 to win the Ladies European Tour’s Andalucia Open De Espana Sunday at 15 under — her third straight win.”
  • “Pedersen, 24, was coming off a pair of wins at The Saudi Ladies Team International at Royal Greens Golf & Country in Saudi Arabia.”
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Great gift for the holidays!
GolfWRX may earn a commission on sales of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
5. Are Masters, U.S. Open ratings concerning?
Tim Schmitt at Golfweek with explanations for the…incredibly modest…ratings for the majors in general.
  • “The jumbled schedule didn’t help…The schedule we’ve all come to know and expect is the schedule for a reason. April is the perfect time to kick off the golf season and the Masters sees little competition in its familiar time slot. The U.S. Open has similarly enjoyed success due to its traditional Father’s Day placement and a fairly free spot on the sports calendar…”
  • “Football is still king…When it was announced that times for the Masters would be moved up to ensure there was little or no overlap with major college football games and the late NFL matchups, some golf purists were miffed…”
  • “More platforms, more splintering…Although CBS’ numbers for the PGA Championship were down, ESPN’s early coverage of the event saw a 35 percent increase in viewership and the largest average on cable since 2010.”
6. McGinley on PGA Tour/Euro alliance
Paul McGinley, who is looking quite impressive in his SkySports headshot, writes…”I think it’s the right partnership for the European Tour and I think it’s the right partnership for golf. There’s a long way to go, but I really do believe this is the beginning of something that’s the right thing for our sport.”
  • “The view that most people within the game would have is that there are too many governing bodies within the sport. This is the first real big step in tying everything together, which I think is something that golf needs.”
  • …”Three of the four major championships are played in America every year and a lot of the World Golf Championships have migrated back to the USA. I think the players can eventually expect, hopefully from a European point of view, a more international flavour to the world’s best events.”
7. Why Charles Barkley thought Phil was a bartender
Nick Piastowski for Golf.com…”Barkley had just been traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Phoenix Suns. Mickelson had just turned pro. And Mickelson’s then-girlfriend-now-wife, Amy, was a Suns cheerleader who wanted the two to meet.”
  • …”She says to me, ‘Will you play golf with my boyfriend, Phil?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, OK.’”
  • “She says, ‘You going to play golf with my boyfriend, Phil?’” Barkley said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll play golf with your boyfriend, Phil.’”
  • “Three months go by. Still nothing.”
  • “She says, ‘Are you ever going to play golf with my boyfriend, Phil?’” Barkleys said. “I’m like, ‘OK, Amy, I like you. What’s the deal? What’s his name?’ She said, ‘Phil Mickelson.’
  • “I said, ‘What? You going out with Phil Mickelson?’ I said, ‘Amy in the future, you start out with my boyfriend, Phil Mickelson. I thought you were going out with Phil the bartender. I would have canceled everything I was doing to go play golf with the great Phil Mickelson. But she started out with, ‘My boyfriend, Phil.’ How the hell am I supposed to know his last name is Mickelson.”
8. Bezuidenhout’s winning WITB
Driver: Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana DF 60 TX
3-wood: Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana DF 70 TX
Hybrid: Callaway Mavrik Pro (19 degrees)
Irons: Callaway X Forged ’18 (4-PW)
Shaft: KBS Tour 125 S+
Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy Forged (50, 54, 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400
Putter: Odyssey Works Big T #5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
9. End-of-2020 call for submissions at GolfWRX
A new call for submissions at GolfWRX: Have your voice heard on the largest golf news website that publishes reader contributions!
Learn about the Featured Writer program in general, what we’re looking for with this call in particular, and how to easily submit your writing for publication.
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Ed Murray, brother of Bill, and patriarch of the Murray golf family passes away

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As first reported on the Willian Murray Golf Instagram page, Ed Murray, the eldest of the famous Murray brother, and the inspiration for Caddyshack has passed away at the age of 76.

As per the statement

“Ed was the recipient of the Evans Scholarship back in 1963, while attending Northwestern University—a scholarship awarded to golf caddies—a family storyline which served as inspiration for the Danny Noonan character in ‘Caddyshack’ when Brian Doyle-Murray co-wrote that iconic screenplay.

Ed and all five Murray brothers are members of the Caddie Hall of Fame, as well—something all the boys take pride in, as this game helped shape their lives.”

 

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Morning 9: Mickelson dials up pre-Match chatter | Korda sisters land GD cover | Augenstein on going pro

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]; and find me on Twitter and Instagram.
November 24, 2020
Good Monday morning, golf fans. May you enjoy your Thursday feasting and giving of thanks and Friday shopping! I will see you all next Monday.
1. Augenstein energized
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Augenstein went on to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur that summer. He later signed with the Commodores and made an instant impact as a freshman, winning two extra-hole matches to lead Vanderbilt to its first SEC title in 2017. The one they call “Flash” – or, as this writer has coined, “Johnny Golf” – continued to establish himself as one of the preeminent match-play competitors in amateur golf, going 8-1 in the format between conference and nationals while also finishing runner-up at the 2019 U.S. Amateur and scoring the winning point for last year’s U.S. Walker Cup team at Royal Liverpool. Last spring as a senior, he was named SEC Player of the Year and an All-American for the fourth time.
  • “In other words, Augenstein left quite the mark on the Vanderbilt program. From “best player here” to one of Vanderbilt’s best ever.”
  • “As a coach, you dream of being able to coach guys like John Augenstein,” said Limbaugh, who on Monday had to say so long to his superstar.
  • “After four and a half seasons in Nashville, Augenstein announced that he has decided to forego the final semester of his extra year of eligibility and turn professional.”
2. “Chuck tees”
Golfweek’s Todd Kelly with some remarks from Lefty amid his usual pre-Match pot-stirring…”Mickelson will likely have to carry plenty of the weight on Friday. Curry is a talented player, and Manning has shown he can swing the stick a little bit himself. As for Barkley, well, we’ve all seen that swing.
  • “At Stone Canyon, we actually have Chuck tees,” Mickelson said. “They’re a little bit further up.”
  • …”Mickelson then described part of the strategy that he and Barkley plan to deploy later this week.”
  • “If I can hit the green, and let him putt, that’s our strategy on that. Same thing on the drivable par 4s. We saw what happened in Match II where we were really getting beat up pretty good and then Tom and I, on 11, I drive the green and he rolls the putt in for eagle and it just turns the whole match the other way.”
3 Korda sisters land Golf Digest cover
…and Keely Levins landed the Q&A…Good background on the pair which could eventually be written in the history books best golfing sister duo ever.
How do you balance being sisters and competitors?
Nelly: You’re always competing against the golf course, my parents always said.
Jess: People like to put us against each other all the time to see if they can spark a rivalry or something. But we just keep disappointing everybody.
Nelly: We have little side bets here and there. At the end of the day, we want the best for each other, even though we want to beat each other as well. You go into every tournament wanting to win.
4. WMPO organizers cautiously optimistic for 2021
Nick Piecoro for the Arizona Republic…”The annual event at TPC Scottsdale is known for its raucous, jam-packed crowds. It can feel like a tailgate party, rock concert, beer festival and sporting event rolled into one. It is a defining event on the Valley’s social calendar, an excuse even for non-golf fans to head to the course and bask in the sunshine.”
  • “But no one knows what elements of Phoenix Opens past will be visible the first week of February, when the tournament is scheduled to take place.”
  • “For now, organizers expect to go forward with the event. They say it will be scaled down in every respect. Gone will be many of the temporary structures that ran parallel to the course. Organizers hope to have fans, albeit nothing close to the 200,000-plus who typically turn out on Fridays and Saturdays.”
GolfWRX Recommends
One for the Memory Banks is part Final Rounds, part Dewsweepers, part To the Linksland, and part Rick Reilly—and 100% one of the best golf books you’ll ever read! This hilarious and heartfelt travelogue features stories of golf and friendship. If you’ve played golf in the UK, One for the Memory Banks will connect with you on so many levels—if you haven’t, this book will have you calling your travel agent!
Great gift for the holidays!
GolfWRX may earn a commission on sales of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
5. England’s courses reopen
Elliott Heath for Golf Monthly…”Golf courses in England will be allowed to re-open on 2nd December as the country exits its second lockdown.”
  • “UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that the rule of six will once again apply so it looks like fourballs will also be back.”
  • “The country is going back to its Tier system, with each region set to find out on Thursday…More regions will fall into higher tiers than previously, Boris Johnson said.”
6. Course whisperer readying the Ocean Course
The Post and Courier’s Jeff Hartsell…”The man known as the PGA Championship’s “course whisperer,” Kerry Haigh, is keeping an eye on those ever-increasing distances as he prepares the Ocean Course for its next turn on the golf world’s main stage.  The Ocean Course, designed by the late, great Pete Dye, has hosted the famed “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup of 1991 and the 2012 PGA Championship, where McIlroy dusted the field by eight shots.”
  • “But with the PGA moved from August to May on the golf calendar, and with long hitters such as Bryson DeChambeau leading the distance evolution in the game, the Ocean Course will face a new challenge next year. The PGA Championship, set for May 20-23, will be the second major on golf’s 2021 calendar, following The Masters in April.  Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA of America, is responsible for the operation and course set up for the PGA Championships. He visited the Ocean Course last week to check on preparations. His goal, he said, is to not be the subject of any post-PGA analysis, good or bad.”
7. Pro-Am golf: Reifers captures TaylorMade Pebble Beach Tournament title
John Devine of the Monterey Herald…”Sitting five strokes off the pace after Thursday’s opening round, Reifers inched closer each day before producing the lowest score on Sunday to capture the 49th TaylorMade Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament.   Reifers overcame fast and firm conditions at Pebble Beach Golf Course to finish 4-under-par, erasing a one stroke deficit to win the tournament by three strokes over Kirk Triplett, a four-time winner of various tournaments at Pebble Beach.  Finishing a combined 13-under, Reifers used a pair of eagles on the second and third holes at Pebble Beach to grab his first lead of the four-day event, which was played at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay over the first three days.”
8. h/t Geoff Shackelford: CBS Moneywatch on golf participation
Another item for the “golf is booming” cornucopia…Via Geoff Shackelford…”CBS Moneywatch’s Megan Cerullo doesn’t tell us much we haven’t already read about golf in the pandemic. Still, after years of stories about the decline of the sport’s participation numbers, it’s worth noting pieces like this one, if nothing else to highlight that a resurgence in the game had nothing to do with the opportunity to spend $600 for ten more yards off the tee.”
  • “In August, consumers spent a record $331 million on clubs, balls, gloves and other gear — that was up 32% over the year-ago period and topped the previous sales record for that month in 2006, according to Golf Datatech.”
  • “For the first 10 months of 2020, golf equipment sales were up nearly 30% compared to the same period last year, Matt Powell, an analyst with market research firm NPD Group, told CBS MoneyWatch. Training tools, such as hitting screens, swing aids and putting matts are up 75% as enthusiasts practice their technique away from the golf course.”
9. Streb’s winning WITB
Driver: Titleist TSi2 (10 degrees)
Shaft: Project X EvenFlow RipTide 60 6.5
3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees, B2 Surefit)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana S+ 80 TX
Hybrid: Titleist TS3 (21 degrees, B2 Surefit)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black Hy 95X
Irons: Titleist TMB (4), Titleist 620CB (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S300
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (46-10F, 52-08F, 56-08M, 60-04L)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S300
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Prototype
Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet
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