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Morning 9: Changes to rules of amateur status | Madelene Sagstrom’s story | Kostis talks distance

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.
February 23, 2021
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. If you know me, you know I’m a tremendous admirer of Ben Hogan. I’d be delighted if you’d share your favorite Hogan anecdote or point me in the direction of any off-the-beaten-path resources for a project I am working on.
1. Changes to rules of amateur status
From a USGA press release…“The USGA and The R&A have announced proposals for significant changes to the Rules of Amateur Status that govern the game worldwide. These proposals result from a modernization initiative that has identified a clear need to bring the Rules up to date to reflect today’s global amateur game and ensure that the Rules are easier to understand and apply.”
“As part of the modernization effort, it is proposed that the new Rules will identify only three acts that will result in a golfer losing their amateur status”
  • Accepting a prize in excess of the prize limit.
  • Accepting payment for giving instruction.
  • Accepting employment as a golf club professional or membership of an association of professional golfers.
“To achieve this simplified approach, the following key changes are proposed:
Eliminating the distinction between cash prizes and other prizes.”
  • “Using the prize limit as the only way an amateur can lose amateur status through their play (meaning that entering or playing a competition as a professional would not, of itself, result in the loss of amateur status).”
  • “Removing restrictions from the Rules surrounding competitions such as long-drive events, putting competitions and skills competitions that are not played as part of a tee-to-hole competition; and”
  • “Eliminating all sponsorship restrictions.”
2. “If I touch one life, it will all be worth it”
Madelene Sagstrom, writing for LPGA.com, with a brave, impactful account of the worst moment of her life…“When I was 7 years old, something horrible happened to me. It was an event that scared me and shaped my self-esteem for far too long. The best decision I ever made was to share my secret with my mentor and friend, Robert Karlsson, in that hotel room. And then to keep telling the people around me.”
  • “The day I shared my secret, all my walls broke down.”
  • “It was the start of a new chapter in my life, of me feeling okay just being me. The day I shared my secret, all my walls broke down. Everything I had built up for so many years fell to the ground.
  • “For so long, I never thought I’d tell anyone. It was going to be my secret forever. I’m so happy it’s not.”
  • “Finding my voice and courage to share my experience has taken time. Survivorship is a continuous process. As a professional athlete, I have the visibility to make a difference and connect with others who may have experienced sexual abuse. If I touch one life by telling my story, it will all be worth it.”
3. The state of Spieth
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”For three-plus years, it’s been a relentless focus on what has gone wrong, and Spieth’s numbers were there for all to see. A guy who was No. 1 in the world for the better part of 2015 and into 2016 and was still No. 2 at the end of 2017 kept falling and falling. When he missed the cut at Torrey Pines last month, he was 92nd. That he even made a run at getting into the top 50 to qualify for the WGC is commendable. He is now 61st.”
  • “That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. Spieth’s magical putting from the 2015-17 timeframe that dropped outside of the top 185 in strokes gained in 2018 has seemingly returned — sometimes. There are still far too many short misses to feel good about.”
  • “His iron play — really the strength of his game when he was at his best — has returned to top levels. But his driving remains a work in progress; too often, Spieth puts himself in a bad position off the tee, a place from which it is very difficult to have success. With a chance to win a week ago at Pebble Beach, Spieth hit just six of 14 fairways in the final round.”
4. Farwell, Big Blue
Larry Bohannon, syndicated in Golfweek…”You remember the Big Blue Wall. If you remember the 2020 ANA Inspiration was played in September after a postponement from April and played with no spectators under COVID-19 restrictions, then you remember the Big Blue Wall.”
  • “Built to replicate a wall at the front of a hospitality tent traditionally on the back and left of the island green on the par-5 18th hole of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club, the Big Blue Wall kind of took the concept of the traditional backstop and went over the top with it. It was big, it was blue and the critics of the wall were numerous and loud.”
  • “We know now the 2021 ANA Inspiration in April will again be played with no spectators and no need for the 18th hole hospitality tent. But this time, the LPGA major will be played without the Big Blue Wall.”
5. Kostis on distance argument
Plenty of interesting sentiments from the former CBS-ite in an exclusive for Golfweek, including this…”But a huge reason why golf courses got longer in the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, which rarely gets discussed, is the rise of “player architects.” During the golden age, designers made courses to challenge amateur players like themselves and members of local clubs. When big-name players and former pros started designing courses, they typically prefer to build things that challenge the world’s best players. In their minds, that means the course has to be stretched to “championship length”. All of this happened while we were using Persimmon woods and balata golf balls.”
  • “For years, I’ve said that if you want golfers to learn how to hit the ball farther, put them on bigger courses. They’ll learn, they’ll figure it out. That’s precisely what happened. As courses got longer, players started to emphasize length more than shot shaping and accuracy. Like Formula One race teams that modify their cars to suit that specific week’s track, golfers developed swings and manufacturers made equipment that launched the ball higher and made it spin less, maximizing distance to attack long straight holes.”
6. Walker Cup woe
Alistair Tait…“Hard to believe Sam Burns nearly overcame a stellar field to win the Genesis Invitational yesterday yet wasn’t considered good enough for the US Walker Cup team.”
  • “….Assuming the R&A and USGA ignores my plea to delay the match to give Great Britain & Ireland adequate time to prepare for this year’s May meeting at Seminole Golf Club (Why would they? They haven’t listened to me for years.) then we’re getting close to the selection of both teams. Wonder who’ll suffer Burns’s fate this year.”
  • “Burns was an All-American during his time at Louisiana State University, a Jack Nicklaus Award winner. He qualified for the 2016 US Open and helped the US win the 2017 Palmer Cup. He was considered a lock for the 2017 US team for uber-snooty Los Angeles Country Club. Yet he didn’t make the 10-man side. “
7. Finau into automatic position
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Tony Finau might not have ended his win drought Sunday at Riviera, but his playoff loss and runner-up showing at the Genesis Invitational was good enough to move him into automatic position in the U.S. Ryder Cup point standings.”
  • “Finau, who made his Ryder Cup debut back in 2018, jumped from No. 11 in No. 6 while bumping Collin Morikawa from the top six. While Finau has not won since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, he does have 10 runner-up finishes worldwide since that victory, including in each of his last three consecutive events.”
8. Feinstein on Burns, Finau
Learning experiences, sure, but what did Misters Burns and Finau learn in defeat at Riviera?
  • John Feinstein, writing for Golf Digest…”let’s say Burns might have learned something playing in the heat coming down the stretch. He played phenomenally for two days, leading by five shots after 36 holes. After the weather-delayed third round wrapped up, he still led by two. He hung in for nine holes in the final round Sunday, shooting a four-under-par 31. The course was still playing firm and fast, but there were birdies out there compared to the wind-swept Saturday and others were also going low.”
  • “But Burns failed to birdie the short par-4 10th or the par-5 11th. Then, on 12, the proverbial wheels began to fall off. He bogeyed three of the next four holes. A birdie at 17 and a par at 18 left him one shot out of the playoff.”
  • “The third-place finish was the best of Burns’ young career and there’s reason to hope that the next time he gets in contention—or leads for 63 holes—he’ll handle the pressure better. Here’s the thing, though: Everyone who plays a sport knows how to lose. The lesson that needs to be learned is how to win.”
9. Putter adjustment for Tiger
Our Gianni Magliocco…”On Sunday, Tiger Woods spoke to Jim Nantz regarding his recovery from his 5th back surgery, but the 45-year-old also revealed that he has made an adjustment to his Scotty Cameron GSS Newport 2.”
  • “Asked what he had done as far as golf since his latest surgery, Woods told Nantz that he had lengthened his putter so he doesn’t have to “bend over as far”, adding that his putter is now the same length as his sand wedge.”
  • “I’ve lengthened my putter. I don’t have to bend over as far. I’ve gone to the same length as my sand wedge. I do a lot of putting drills hitting the equator (of the ball) with my sand wedge, and I figured I might as well just lengthen my putter to the same length. So I did and it helped.”
  • “Per our sources, Tiger’s sand wedge is 35.5 inches in length which means Woods has lengthened his putter, which previously measured 35.25 inches, by a quarter of an inch.”
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Morning 9: McIlroy, Conners on top at Bay Hill | Nelly surging again | Digging into the Golf Channel allegations

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.
March 5, 2021
Good Friday morning, golf fans. I’ve gotten a handful of requests for a physical version of the coffee mug in the header graphic above. Should we make a Morning 9 coffee mug available for purchase?
1 McIlroy, Conners ahead at Bay Hill
The AP’s Doug Ferguson…”Bay Hill was bustling Thursday, just like golf before the pandemic. The fans were limited in numbers, but they all wanted the same dose of entertainment provided by Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau.”
  • “First it was McIlroy, slowly feeling better about his game, and with good reason. Starting with a 55-foot putt on the par-3 second hole, he ran off five straight birdies for a share of the lead with Corey Conners in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at 6-under 66.”
2. Nelly!
AP report…”Nelly Korda didn’t miss a beat four days after her first LPGA Tour title on U.S. soil, outplaying her sister and the world’s No. 1 player for a 5-under 67 to share the lead at the Drive On Championship.”
  • “Former NCAA champion Jennifer Kupcho managed a 67 despite playing most of the back nine with a migraine that blurs her vision. Austin Ernst also had a 67 at Golden Ocala.”
3. Sheriff: No probable cause for search warrant for Woods’ blood work
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Villanueva, who said last week that deputies determined Woods wasn’t impaired during the time of the accident, was also asked about a USA Today report that deputies did not seek a warrant for samples of Woods’ blood to determine if he had any drugs or alcohol in his system.”
  • “In order to seek a search warrant, you have to have evidence of impairment. Absent the evidence of impairment, you’re not going to get a search warrant, period. It’s not going to get signed by the judge,” Villanueva said. “Investigators will determine what is needed to determine the cause of the collision. The first step in obtaining a search warrant is you have to have evidence of impairment to continue going down that vein. Without that you just don’t get the search warrant. You have to establish probable cause for that.”
4. Are the Kordas the LPGA Tour’s best sibling duo ever?
Tony Jesselli for WomensGolf.com…”Jessica and Nelly Korda became the third sister act to both win on the LPGA when Nelly won in October of 2018. Nelly’s victory this past week was her fourth on the LPGA, while her sister Jessica has won six times. They have become the only sister act where both players have won more than once.”
  • “Why do I think the Korda sisters are the greatest golf sister act ever? The answer to that in my opinion is easy. While Annika Sorenstam is a World Golf Hall of Famer, her sister only won once. That brings us to the Jutanugarns. Ariya is only 25 years old and is a ten time winner, but she has not won since 2018 covering over 50 starts. Can she win again? Sure she can, but she is not trending in the right direction. Sister Moriya has just one victory in well over 200 LPGA starts. Ariya, a former No.1, has fallen to No.23 in the Rolex World Rankings, while her sister is No. 43.”
5. Digging into the Golf Channel sexual harassment, sexism allegations
Ben Strauss dives into reports of sexual harassment and sexist behavior at for the Washington Post…”In interviews with The Washington Post, 16 former and two current employees echoed Cornwell’s concerns, describing sexism, misogyny and harassment they have endured at the network.”
  • “Golf Channel disputed Cornwell’s claims in a response to the EEOC. An NBC spokesman, Greg Hughes, said in an email that the network is “vigorously defending this matter.”
  • “Presented with a list of allegations made by other women, Hughes disputed many of their claims and said “the vast majority” had been investigated and that “appropriate action was taken.” Others, he said, the network was only now hearing of and would investigate “promptly and thoroughly.” The network declined to make any employees available for interviews.”
  • “Many of the women spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of breaking the nondisclosure agreements they signed in exchange for severance…”
  • “Golf Channel is committed to providing a workplace where all employees are treated equitably and respectfully, and regularly conducts training to support that goal,” Hughes said.
  • “Former employees agreed that many of the men they made complaints about did eventually leave the network. But the culture, they said, remained.”
6. Study: Golf fans are the angriest fans of social media
Our Gianni Magliocco…”Hop on to social media during a live sporting event, and emotions are spilling over, but when it comes to golf, the prominent feeling is often anger and frustration.”
  • “That is down to gambling, and according to a new study from OnlineGambling.Ca, golf supporters are the angriest on social media, with 42% of all tweets about the sport being classified as an angry comment.”
  • “The study also found that cricket and ice hockey fans show the most love for their team, with 38% of their social media posts being filled with love. Basketball fans seem to be the saddest with their teams’ results, with 38% of reactions being unhappy.”
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Morning 9: Search warrant executed for black box in Tiger crash | Man makes 3 aces in 5 days

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.
March 4, 2021
Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. Sheriff’s department seeking “black box” from Woods’ SUV
  • ESPN staff…”The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant Monday to get data from the so-called black box in the SUV that Tiger Woods was driving when he was seriously injured in a crash last week.”
  • “To get a warrant, probable cause that a crime was involved has to be determined, even if it’s just a misdemeanor. A sheriff’s deputy downplayed the warrant as routine to USA Today Sports on Tuesday, saying he considered it due diligence.”
  • “We’re trying to determine if a crime was committed,” Sheriff’s Deputy John Schloegl said. “If somebody is involved in a traffic collision, we’ve got to reconstruct the traffic collision, if there was any reckless driving, if somebody was on their cellphone or something like that. We determine if there was a crime. If there was no crime, we close out the case, and it was a regular traffic collision.”
2. Status update on “Operation Drive the 6th”
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”For those wanting to see Bryson DeChambeau drive the sixth green this week at Bay Hill, his two water balls Wednesday probably didn’t inspire much confidence. But the weather forecast does provide a glimmer of hope.”
  • “While there was about a 15-mph wind humming in off the right and slightly into him, DeChambeau came up well short on both attempts during his practice round for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.”
  • “The par-5 sixth is listed at 555 yards, but from the back tee box it requires about a 350-yard carry to safely clear the water. On Wednesday, DeChambeau teed his ball up at the very front of the back tee box, about 10 yards in front of the markers.”
3. C.T. Pan saw COVID-19 on the horizon
Dave Shedloski for Golf Digest…“But, again, they [C.T. Pan and his wife] had been exercising extraordinary caution for more than a month.”
  • “Obviously, with family at home in Taiwan, my wife and I have a better idea of what goes on in Asia,” Pan, 29, explained. “Taiwan is only about 80 miles away from China, so from our family and from the Taiwan government we heard about this unknown virus that could be very deadly and spreads fast, and while we didn’t know that much about it, we knew in January that people could be asymptomatic but still have it and might spread it.”
  • “We were being really careful. The last time we were in the restaurant dining was in San Diego [during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines], but after we started getting the news about this virus we didn’t go in any more restaurants. We really tried to not go anywhere except for golf. Unfortunately, the rumors were true.”
4. How everything changed for Tiger
ESPN’s Bob Harig and Ramona Shelburne frame the Feb. 23 Tiger Woods crash in compelling fashion…”RIVIERA COUNTRY CLUB in Pacific Palisades, California, is a special place for Tiger Woods — even if it is the venue he has played the most without a victory on tour.”
  • “It is the PGA Tour stop — known back then as the L.A. Open — closest to Woods’ boyhood home in Cypress, California. It is where he made his debut in a professional tournament, playing as an amateur in 1992 at age 16. And it is where, in 2017, his TGR Foundation became the beneficiary of tournament proceeds, with Woods as tournament host.”
  • “That’s why he traveled by private jet from Stuart Aviation near his home in Jupiter, Florida, to Los Angeles on Feb. 19.”
  • “Woods wasn’t playing in the event. He was just eight weeks removed from his fifth back surgery in seven years. There was still plenty for him to do, though: meet and greet tournament sponsors, converse with foundation employees, catch up with other players and preside over the trophy presentation.”
5. Three aces in five days
Wild stuff! Viva Jim Wolklin! Greg Hardwig, Naples Daily News…”Golf has been pretty wild for Wolklin since he got back into the game in the 1980s. The three holes-in-one at Heritage Bay gave him a total of 11.”
  • “When you least expect them, they go in the hole,” said Wolklin, 68. “It’s when you’re not thinking about it, and you’re just trying to make par.”
  • “Wolklin’s wild stretch started on Feb. 12 on No. 13 on the Cypress Course, holing out with an 8-iron from 144 yards with Gary Bradbury, Brad Kroll and Randy Johnson witnessing. Three days later, Wolklin made his second on the 148-yard No. 21 Oak with a 7-iron, with David Foltz, Anthony Nizzardo and Michael McCarthy witnessing. The third was the next day, with his wife Cheryl, Steve Kosek and Mary Kosek witnessing the 9-iron from 130 yards on No. 26 on the Oak Course.”
  • “It’s regular rounds playing with friends,” Wolklin said. “I hit a good shot and then it’s one or two bounces right in the hole.”
6. Your top-ranked golfer in the API field? Tyrrell Hatton
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…“Asked on Wednesday how that all feels, Hatton replied: “Standing at 5’8, I wish I could walk onto the range a little taller (laughing), but sadly that’s out of my control.”
  • “Hatton, who boasts six worldwide top-5s (including two wins) since last year’s API triumph, the continued.”
  • “No, I mean, I feel confident when I go to a tournament if I know that my swing’s in a good place and I can kind of, if I manage my emotions well throughout the week then, sure, I’ll give myself a chance,” said Hatton, who is coming off of a T-22 at the WGC-Workday last week. “I felt last week that I was, I didn’t feel like I was swinging it that good and I was getting a bit frustrated and my golf got a little bit better each day. I actually played really good on Sunday … so I take confidence from that, that my swing kind of feels like it’s getting into a good place again and I guess we’ll see exactly tomorrow how it is.”
7. Tiger’s best shots at Bay Hill—and the clubs he used
Our Gianni Magliocco—for PGATour.com—rounded up Tiger Woods’ best shots from his incomprehensible career at Bay Hill…”5. 2012 (final round): Approach to No. 8”
  • “At the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Tiger was looking to end a two-and-a-half-year winless streak, on what was a windy Sunday with greens and pins that Woods would afterwards describe as the most difficult he had ever experienced at this event.”
  • “On the treacherous eighth hole, Woods held a two-stroke lead. Sitting in the middle of the fairway with the pin on the left side guarded by the pond in front of the green, Woods, who would often lean on his cut shot during his time working with Sean Foley, struck a high draw. The ball landed softly on the front portion of the green and rolled to within 5 feet of the cup.”
  • “The bold shot paid off and gave Woods a three-stroke advantage, and he would go on to secure his 72nd PGA TOUR win and begin his ascension back to World No. 1.”
  • Club Used: Nike VR Pro Blade 8-iron with a True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shaft.
8. Why Claude Harmon III was dismissed
Our Gianni Magliocco…”Brooks Koepka and Claude Harmon III’s split was a surprise when it was announced in January, and the swing coach has given his view on the break up this week on The Filthy Lipout Golf Podcast.”
  • “On the podcast, Harmon III stated that he believed that Brooks “wanted to hear something different”, bringing an end to their highly successful 8-year spell.”
  • “I just got fired by Brooks Koepka. I was with Brooks for eight years. You know, I think you get players that say ‘Listen, I’m just tired of hearing the same thing’ and I’ve always been one that would say, ‘Well listen, I’m not gonna make stuff up, I can try and tell you something different but we kind of know what you do as a player and if you’ve had success.’”
9. Arnold Palmer Invitational Tour Truck Report: Rickie’s iron experiments continue, MMT train rolls on, Rose tests a ton
Yours truly took a stab at the Tour Truck Report…”The fleet of tour trucks arrived southwest of Orlando this week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.”
“It’s an appropriate place to be digging into the nuances of pro golfers’ gear, given the club building, tinkering, and general gear junkie-hood of the tournament’s namesake, Arnold Palmer, whose 10,000 club-filled workshop is gear nut’s cave of wonders.”
  • “Let’s dig into the tweaks and wholesale switches we’re hearing about at the King’s place.”
  • “Byeong Hun An plugged a Mitsubishi MMT Utility 125 TX shaft in his Titleist U500 2-iron.”
  • “Bernd Wiesberger is testing a Graphite Design Tour AD DI 9 TX shaft (tipped 1.5 inches) in his TSi2 3-wood as he searches for more of a consistent cut ball flight. His current gamer features a Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 8 TX shaft with the same tipping.”
  • “Denny McCarthy, Robert Streb, and Byeong Hun An are all testing new Project X EvenFlow RipTide shafts (which began tour seeding in late January)”.
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“We know exactly the optimal launch and spin you should be chasing” Ping’s Marty Jertson – On Spec podcast

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On this week’s episode of the “On Spec” podcast presented on the GolfWRX radio network, host Ryan Barath had the opportunity to speak with Ping Golf’s VP of Fitting and Performance Marty Jertson about their new virtual fitting platform along with a whole bunch of other topics related to club fitting and beyond.

One of the key point made by Marty on the topic of optimization was

“…we now have the ability to pass information to the golfer on what exactly the optimal launch and spin you should be chasing “

You can listen to the full show below, the above quote starts at 17:30

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