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Morning 9: Wallace, Villegas lead RSM | Team Woods coming to PNC Father-Son | Players longing for Masters as usual

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]; and find me on Twitter and Instagram.
November 20, 2020
Good Friday morning, golf fans.

1. Wallace, Villegas in front 

AP report…”Moving on from a devastating summer of losing his child, Camilo Villegas made a 10-foot birdie putt on his final hole Thursday for a 6-under 64 and a share of the lead with Matt Wallace in The RSM Classic.”
  • “Villegas and Wallace each finished on the Seaside course at Sea Island with big putts. Villegas capped off a bogey-free round on the ninth hole for his lowest score on the PGA TOUR in four years. Wallace hit into a hazard on the 18th and saved par with a 30-foot putt.”
  • “They were a shot ahead of eight players, a group that included Sea Island resident Patton Kizzire and Robert Streb, who won his only PGA TOUR title at Sea Island five years ago. They each had 5-under 67 on the Plantation course, which played about three-quarters of a shot harder.”

2. Popov leading Pelican 

AP report…”Women’s Open champion Sophia Popov left top-ranked playing competitor Jin Young Ko and everyone else behind Thursday in the Pelican Women’s Championship.”
  • “Popov shot a 6-under 64 in windy conditions to take a two-stroke lead over Ashleigh Buhai, with Ko eight shots behind after a 72 in her first LPGA Tour start of the year.”
  • “Popov was the surprise winner at Royal Troon in August.”
  • “I think I’m playing with a different confidence level,” Popov said. “You know, the shots are there. I always had them I felt like. I think mentally I’ve never felt as freed up as I do now. I don’t know if that’s from winning the tournament or just overall just having more fun out here. Having obviously an exemption for the next couple years just frees up the swing a little bit, my mindset, I can be a little bit more aggressive, and I think I just took advantage of that.”

3. Charlie Woods’ TV debut

Our Gianni Magliocco…“Tiger Woods’ season isn’t quite yet finished, as on Thursday the PNC Championship announced that the 15-time major champ would team up with 11-year-old son Charlie for the father-son event.
  • “The PNC Championship is a tournament that began in 1995 which pairs major champions with their sons and will take place from Dec. 19-20 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando in central Florida.”
  • “The Associated Press first reported the news, and speaking on pairing up with Charlie for the event, Tiger said”
  • “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be playing with Charlie in our first official tournament together. It’s been great watching him progress as a junior golfer, and it will be incredible playing as a team together in the PNC Championship.

4. Players longing for the inverse of November Masters

Martin Dempster at The Scotsman…”What little bit of golf I saw after the rain was like throwing darts,” observed six-time winner Jack Nicklaus of the opening circuit in a post on Twitter.
  • …”It’s just not the same, though, when it’s playing more like courses do week in, week out on the PGA Tour and it spoke volumes hearing some players yearning for it to be back to, well, normal in April.”
  • “I feel like there’s a lot of shots I hit this week where I hit my number and it would spin back off a green or it just wouldn’t do what you expect it to do,” said Rory McIlroy…
  • “Echoing that view, Jon Rahm said: “I hope they make it as firm as possible, the complete opposite of what we saw this week. I was joking with Patrick Reed walking down the last few holes saying, ‘it’s like you almost have to hit the delete button from what you learned this week because it’s never, ever going to play the same way again’. So I kind of hope we see a more challenging Masters in April.”

5. ‘I’m just going to follow along and try to keep throwing kerosene on the fire’

Golfweek’s Adam Schupak on the decision to enlist the services of Gary McCord for the Match 3…”The producers of Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Change deserve a raise for plucking Gary McCord out of retirement to serve as one of the on-course commentators for the upcoming made-for-TV match pitting Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley against Peyton Manning and Steph Curry…”
  • “This is right up my alley. The format is four guys trying to get it in the hole while bitch-slapping each other verbally. That’s fun,” he said. “Those four guys will do it. If we can get them going, which shouldn’t be hard to do, it will be quite entertaining. You know that Phil will find something and just like a scab he’ll start picking at it until he can get somebody to come back with something. He’s probably the best guy out there with the biggest needle.
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6. Stewart Cink hires son, Reagan, as permanent caddie ahead of RSM Classic

Golfweek’s Adam Schupak quoting Cink…“He’s not just a guest caddie, he’s not just a family member out there carrying the bag. He understands golf really well and he understands me and he’s been a real asset to me in maybe like a little bit of an intangible kind of way,” Stewart said. “I just feel really calm out there with him. I know that when he’s standing across with the bag and after we’ve made our decision, I know that he has like full trust and 100 percent confidence that I’m going to be able to do what we just talked about doing.

7. Ogletree turns pro

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…Andy Ogletree has competed for the final time as an amateur.”
  • “The Georgia Tech graduate, who last Sunday earned a trip to Butler Cabin as the low amateur of the 84th Masters, announced Thursday that he has turned professional.”
  • “My amateur golf career was an absolute blast and last week at the Masters is the perfect way for it to end,” said Ogletree, who fired three rounds of par or better to tie for 34th at Augusta National. “I’ve had so much fun, met so many great people and have so many incredible memories, but it’s time for me to test my game at the next level, against the best of the best.”

8. “Golfers are driving farther by swinging faster. But only Bryson DeChambeau combines hard hitting with a lofty trajectory”

So writes the Economist staff in the presentation of this fascinating graphic.
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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2021 Palmetto Championship at Congaree

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GolfWRX is live from Congaree Golf Club for the Palmetto Championship. This one-time replacement for the RBC Canadian Open is the third PGA Tour event contested in South Carolina this season.

Palmetto State native Dustin Johnson headlines the field (and has been doing plenty of putter testing). Brooks Koepka and Jason Dufner will be teeing it up as well. John Pak and Davis Thompson will both be making their professional debuts.

General galleries

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Tour News

John Pak, college golf’s top player, signs with TaylorMade

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Editor’s note: We filed this piece for PGATour.com’s Equipment Report.

With a buddy on the bag and fresh off receiving the Jack Nicklaus Award in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday, celebrated amateur and Florida State standout John Pak is making his professional debut at this week’s Palmetto Championship at Congaree — and he’ll do so as a TaylorMade staffer, the company announced today.

College golf’s top player, Pak has played TaylorMade gear and a Titleist ball since his amateur days. And as we found out from Ryan Ressa, TaylorMade’s player development manager, who has worked with Pak since he was in his early teens, it’s not surprising Pak will continue with the same bag setup and ball combination as he joins the professional ranks.

The Scotch Plains, New Jersey, native is an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of guy when it comes to his equipment, which is a trait Ressa sees among many of the game’s best. (Another TaylorMade staffer Tiger Woods, for one, comes to mind).

Ressa and TaylorMade have had a relationship with Pak for nearly a decade, and it’s Ressa’s job to not only make sure Pak is in the right equipment for his game but is also navigating the matrix of amateur competitions, college, and the decision to turn pro successfully.

According to Ressa, Pak, and other junior standouts, need new equipment, or at least a fitting, roughly every six months as their bodies and swings change.

Even so, while he’s transitioned into new fairway wood models as they’ve become available, the DNA of Pak’s bag has stayed largely the same.

“Jon is a very simple guy when it comes to equipment, and he doesn’t do a lot of tinkering outside of driver shafts,” Ressa said. “Deep down, he’s a great competitor. He just loves to compete and is focused on getting the ball in the hole. He’s stayed really, really consistent with the look of his irons, the loft of his wedges, and his bag setup. He’s been easy to work with and only needs one or two visits per year to get squared away.”

Read the full piece here.

Check out the full WITB here. 

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Morning 9: Fowler’s U.S. Open qualifying bid | Qualifying scores | Bryson: Rivalries good for golf

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Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Fowler’s U.S. Open qualifying bid
AP report…”Already facing a long day, Rickie Fowler found the road even tougher Monday in 36-hole qualifying as he tried to avoid missing the U.S. Open for the first time in 11 years.”
  • “Fowler was among 685 players seeking 54 spots in nine qualifiers across eight states to fill the field for the U.S. Open, which starts June 17 at Torrey Pines in San Diego.”
  • “He played his opening round at Brookside in 1-over 73, which was halted for three hours because of heavy rain and thunder, meaning he likely would need at least a 65 at The Lakes to have any chance.”
  • “Fowler wasn’t going down without a fight. He was 4 under for his round — 3 under for the qualifier — through 13 holes when it was too dark to continue because of the rain delay.”
Full scores, qualifiers here...other notables include Patrick Rodgers, Branden Grace, Bo Hoag, Troy Merritt, John Huh, Sam Ryder, and Akshay Bhatia
2. Premier Golf League slated for 2023?
The BBC’s Ian Carter with the report on the UK-based upstart’s plants to, well, start up…”Detailed plans for a £250m Premier Golf League aimed at revolutionising the professional game are to be revealed later this week.”
  • “BBC Sport has learned that the Formula 1 style global competition is scheduled to begin in January 2023 and would include 18 tournaments targeting the top 48 male players in the world.”
  • “A dozen of those events would be staged in the United States with the others “chasing the sun” around the world. Each competition would be worth $20m (£14m) with $4m going to the winner and last place picking up $150,000.”
  • “By way of comparison, the biggest purse on the PGA Tour for a single event is $2.7m from a $15m prize fund at the Players Championship.”
3. Bryson: Rivalries good for golf
Carlos Monarrez reporting from Rocket Mortgage Classic media day for the Detroit Free Press…”Bryson DeChambeau, at the center of the golf world because of his white-hot rivalry with Brooks Koepka, didn’t want to spend too much time discussing that rivalry Monday when he returned to speak about defending his title at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, July 1-4, at Detroit Golf Club.”
  • “DeChambeau, who will defend his U.S. Open title next week at Torrey Pines in San Diego, said the feud is good for the sport.”
  • “I think a good jesting rivalry is good for the game of golf, nothing too extreme,” he told reporters on media day at Detroit Golf Club. “But at the same point and time that’s all outside of the spectrum of what we’re here for today, and I think the most important thing is to be talking about what Rocket Mortgage is doing for the 313 area and I think the change the course initiative is something that’s bigger than the game of golf, compared to a rivalry.”
4. Armitage!
EuropeanTour.com report…”An emotional Marcus Armitage claimed his maiden European Tour title at the Porsche European Open after a sensational final round at Green Eagle Golf Courses.”
  • “The 33-year-old from England made six birdies and an eagle to race to eight under for the day and nine under for the week.”
  • “At that stage Armitage was four shots clear but he bogeyed the 16th after a misjudged putt from over 100 feet and needed a remarkable chip to save par on the 17th following an overly cautious tee shot”
GolfWRX may earn a commission of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
5. Costly
Rob Oller voices his opinion for the Columbus Dispatch…”If Rahm had been vaccinated ASAP after his home state of Arizona opened eligibility to all adults on March 24, the 26-year-old Spaniard almost certainly would have avoided testing positive for COVID-19 Saturday at the Memorial Tournament.”
  • “And had he not tested positive, he would not have withdrawn from the Memorial, which he led by six shots with 18 left to play.”
  • “And if he had not withdrawn, Rahm stood a strong chance of leaving Muirfield Village Golf Club with a crystal trophy and $1.675 million.”
  • “It does not take a Fortune 500 company accountant to connect those dots. Get a tiny prick in the arm, avoid the huge hole in the pocket that allowed a cool million-and-a-half to slip through.”
6. Big things ahead for Megha Ganne after impressive U.S. Open showing
Emilia Migliaccio for Golf Channel…”A true class act. Ganne didn’t get frustrated for shooting a higher score than she wanted. She knew the course was bound to get her like it did everyone, but she was composed and motivated to fight the entire day for some birdies, which she finally got on the par-5 17th. She also knew that regardless of the final round results, it would be the week of a lifetime.”
  • “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life. It’s everything I’ve wanted since I was little, so it’s just the best feeling.”
  • “…I can’t thank all these fans enough. They’ve made my week so much better than it could have been. I just felt like there was so much love and so much support, and all of them are really excited to be out here, which is so great to see because I feel like in a small way, I’m making an impact on the game, which is really cool.”
7. The first major champion from the Philippines
Kent Paisley for Golf Digest…”It was 8 a.m. local time on Monday in the Philippines when Saso won the playoff to claim the title, her first LPGA Tour victory. You can rightfully say that Saso raised a new dawn for the game of golf in her home country. “I’m just thankful that there’s so many people in the Philippines cheering for me,” Saso said. “I don’t know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone.”
  • “Interestingly, too, San Francisco has one of the largest Filipina populations of any city in the U.S., with Saso attracting an impressive following during her week at Olympic Club.”
  • “Pagdanganan wasn’t in the field at Olympic Club but is playing in next week’s LPGA stop in San Francisco and arrived at Olympic Club on Sunday to watch Saso starting on the fifth hole.”
  • “I think it’s not only good for her, but I think it’s good for the Philippines,” Pagdanganan said. “She put us on the radar. What she did was absolutely a great thing, not only for golf but for our country.”
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