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Morning 9: Bryson bests Bay Hill | Ernst wins Drive On | Koepka out of Players with knee injury

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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 8, 2021
Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. Bryson bombards Bay Hill
AP report…”The long ball helped Bryson DeChambeau outlast Lee Westwood on Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, only the key shots were as much with his putter as his driver.”
  • “DeChambeau holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the front nine and a 50-foot par putt early on the back nine. He closed it out with a nervy 5-foot par putt for a 1-under 71 and a one-shot victory over the 47-year-old Westwood.”
  • “It matched the low score of the day, one of only three rounds under par in the toughest final round at Bay Hill in 41 years.”
2. Ernst dominates at Drive On
AP report…”Austin Ernst won the Drive On Championship on Sunday for her third LPGA Tour title, pulling away to beat fellow former NCAA champion Jennifer Kupcho by five strokes at Golden Ocala.”
  • “Tied for the lead with Kupcho after each of the first two rounds and a stroke ahead entering the day, Ernst closed with a 2-under 70 to finish at 15-under 273.”
3. Brooks out of Players with knee injury
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from next week’s Players Championship with a knee injury.”
  • “This time it’s his right knee.”
  • “Brooks strained his right knee and he is scheduled to further consult with doctors this week to receive a more extensive evaluation and outlook,” Koepka’s manager, Blake Smith, said in a statement. “We will be able to provide additional updates and information as we learn more.”
  • “Koepka battled a left knee injury for much of the past two years, including receiving multiple stem-cell treatments.”
4. “The most compelling golfer since Tiger Woods”
Our Gianni Magliocco with some extremely high praise for Bryson DeChambeau…”Jordan Spieth is one of the most popular golfers on the planet and did everything in his power to steal the show on Saturday at Bay Hill.”
  • “An ace, bunker hole-out, 130-feet of putts holed? By anyone’s standards, that’s outrageous and headline-worthy. Yet Spieth’s magic was upstaged by the one-man show that is Bryson DeChambeau.”
  • “A friend of mine hadn’t watched a round of live golf since the Masters in November. On Saturday, he made sure to check in on Bryson on the 6th hole, having read during the week that he might try and drive the par 5 hole. DeChambeau didn’t disappoint.”
  • “The result? He was glued to the broadcast until Corey Conners tapped in his par putt on 18.”
  • “That’s star power, rock star appeal, the sort of magnetic attraction that only Tiger Woods has provided in recent times. That’s Bryson DeChambeau.”
  • “In fact, the last time there was so much anticipation and attention over a single drive was back in 2010 when Tiger returned to the course at Augusta National following the now infamous 2009 Thanksgiving Day soap opera.”
5. A grim anniversary 
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”On that evening — almost a year ago, March 12 — there were just a few hundred known cases of COVID-19 in the United States and no recorded deaths. How different that tally will look when the Tour returns to TPC Sawgrass: more than 28 million infections and north of 500,000 Americans dead.”
  • “The cost of this pandemic — in lives lost, mostly, but also in jobs, families, businesses and economies sundered — makes for an awfully somber accounting. Amid such wreckage, it’s human nature to cling to whatever semblance of normalcy one can find. For many of us, that familiarity was found in golf. One year on, and still far from normal life as we once understood it, the PGA Tour is as much therapy as entertainment.”
  • “At the final event before the ’20 Players, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, it was business as usual, with only a smattering of small talk about the looming pandemic. There was no social distancing in effect nor masks evident on the range.”
  • “But there was awareness and wariness if you were looking closely.”
6. Questions of sleep, Ambien in Woods crash
Past behavior, available information merit the question, writes Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today…”Sheriff Alex Villanueva said there was no evidence of Woods being impaired. The sheriff’s department therefore didn’t request blood evidence to check for drug use, prompting another question surrounding the incident: Was this latest crash another case of Woods driving on Ambien?”
  • “Experts say the evidence supports that suspicion, including the way they say his vehicle left the road as if he had been asleep at the wheel.”
  • “Then there’s his history. After another single-car crash in Florida in 2009, Woods was found unconscious in his SUV and snoring, according to a witness statement in a police report. Woods later acknowledged he used Ambien but didn’t directly answer when asked at a news conference if Ambien played a role in that crash.”
  • “The experts contacted by USA TODAY Sports cautioned that they couldn’t draw conclusions yet and that there could be other explanations for what happened, such as other medicines or a medical emergency.”
7. Captain Stricker hoping Tiger can be part of U.S. Ryder Cup team
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”Steve Stricker wore red and black in honor of Tiger Woods on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and said he hopes to have his longtime friend at the Ryder Cup this fall “in one way, shape or form.”
  • “But the U.S. Ryder Cup captain would not go so far as to say this early that Woods would be a vice captain when the United States Ryder Cup team takes on Europe at Whistling Straits in September.”
  • “I’m not going to go down that road now,” Stricker said. “Obviously we’re all pulling for him. We’re thankful that he’s alive. I don’t know who said it, but that his kids continue to have a father. Something even more tragic could have come from that.
  • “I’d love to have him around [at the Ryder Cup]. I’m hoping in one way, shape or form. But it’s too early to kind of commit to anything.”
8. Tiger texted Bryson
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Tiger Woods, who is still recovering from serious injuries sustained in a car accident less than two weeks ago in Los Angeles, messaged DeChambeau some words of encouragement.”
  • “Out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting anything,” DeChambeau said. “When I got that text, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he’s in his tough times that he’s going through right now.’”
  • “During the text exchange, Woods apparently told DeChambeau to “keep fighting” and “play boldly like Mr. Palmer.”
9. Bryson DeChambeau WITB
Driver: Cobra King LTD Pro (7.5 degrees)
Shaft: LA Golf Tour AXS Blue 6 X
3-wood: Cobra King Prototype B (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: LA Golf BAD Prototype 70 TX (43″)
3-wood: Cobra King SZ Tour (14.5 degrees @13.5)
Shaft: LA Golf BAD Prototype 80 TX (41″)
Irons: Cobra King One Length Utility (4, 5), Cobra King Forged Tour One Length (6-PW)
Shafts: LA Golf Rebar Proto (37.5″)
Wedges: Artisan Prototype (50 @47, 55 @52, 60 @58)
Shafts: LA Golf Rebar Proto
Putter: SIK Pro C-Series Armlock
Ball: Bridgestone Tour B X
Grips: Jumbo Max Light XL
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Morning 9: Smith reels in first-round lead | Ko going low again | IOC won’t require vaccs

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Good Friday morning, golf fans.

1 Career-low 62, first-round lead for Cam Smith

AP report…”Cameron Smith birdied the difficult 17th and 18th holes at Harbour Town to shoot a 9-under 62, his career low on the PGA TOUR, and take a one-shot lead over Stewart Cink at the RBC Heritage on Thursday.”

  • “Cink finished his 63 around lunchtime and no one appeared likely to beat that score in overcast, breezier afternoon conditions. Yet Smith played his best down the challenging stretch.”
  • “The Australian chipped in for birdie on the par-3 17th, then stuck his approach to the lighthouse finishing hole within 5 feet to take the lead. Smith surpassed his previous low of 63, accomplished three times on TOUR.”

Full piece. 

2. Lotte Championship: Another low one from Ko

AP report…”Lydia Ko went low again, shooting a 9-under 63 at Kapolei Golf Club on Thursday to take a 3-stroke lead midway through the second round at the Lotte Championship.”

  • “Ko, a two-time major champion who’s seeking her first win since 2018, is 24 under par her last three rounds. She nearly caught Patty Tavatanakit with a final-round 62 last week at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration.”

Full piece. 

3. Austrian Open: Canizares ahead

AP report…”Alejandro Canizares defied chilly and windy conditions to shoot a 5-under 67 Thursday for a one-stroke lead after the opening day of the Austrian Open.”

  • “The Spaniard carded an eagle and four birdies to sit in front of a quartet of players, which included former No. 1 Martin Kaymer and John Catlin, a two-time winner in 2020.”

Full piece. 

4. Hideki’s first interview since Masters win

Cameron Morfit for PGATour.com…“In his first interview since winning the Masters and returning home to Japan, Hideki Matsuyama said becoming the first from his country to win the coveted Green Jacket…was almost too overwhelming to think about as he navigated the course Sunday.”

  • “I was filled with nerves from the first hole to the last…I never felt there was a time for me to let up even a little bit and relax.”
  • “…Matsuyama, who spoke Sunday of inspiring kids back home, said in his press conference in Japan that he hopes his daughter will be among them…”
  • “Now comes the question of what’s next. More history? Perhaps. Asked about capturing the remaining three major titles, he said he’ll have to draw up some new goals…”

Full piece. 

5. “Fried” Zalatoris marches on

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Coming off his runner-up showing at the Masters Tournament, the 24-year-old Zalatoris got right back on the saddle Thursday for his first round of the RBC Heritage. He carded five birdies as part of an opening 3-under 68, which had him five shots off the early lead set by Stewart Cink.”

  • “I thought I did a nice job today of kind of staying patient knowing that I probably wasn’t going to be as mentally fresh,” said Zalatoris, who despite his world ranking (27) and dream showing at Augusta National remains a special temporary member on the PGA Tour, with only a victory qualifying him for this year’s FedEx Cup Playoffs.”

Full piece. 

6. IOC won’t require vaccinations

Tom Schad for USA Today…”The International Olympic Committee has said it will not require athletes to be vaccinated prior to competing this summer, though IOC president Thomas Bach has strongly encouraged athletes to take them.”

  • “(We’ve) made it clear from the very beginning that we would not impose any obligation for vaccination,” Bach said last month. “And we have also from the very beginning stated that we will work with the (national Olympic committees) to get as many as possible of the participants being vaccinated – but always within the relevant national guidelines.”

Full piece.

7. $600 million win?

Our Gianni Magliocco…”Hideki Matsuyama’s victory at Augusta National has taken the golf world by storm, and it could pave the way for monstrous endorsement deals for the 29-year-old, according to a Sports Marketing Expert.”

  • “Speaking to Sportico.com, Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising, revealed that the win could earn Matsuyama up to $20 million a year in endorsements over the next 30 years, thanks to the longevity in careers golfers enjoy.”
  • “Barring any career-ending injury or scandal, I’d say a Masters win is easily worth $600 million for Matsuyama. He’ll be an icon in his golf-mad country.”

Full piece. 

8. Cam Smith WITB

A look inside the bag of the RBC Heritage leader.

Driver: Titleist TSi3 (10 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Yellow 60 6.5 TX

3-wood: Titleist TSi2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: UST Mamiya Elements Platinum 8F5 X

7-wood: Titleist TSi2 (21 degrees)
Shaft: UST Elements Red 8F5 (X)

Irons: Titleist U500 (4), Titleist T100 Black (5-9)
Shaft: KBS Tour 130 Custom Matte Black X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (46-10F, 52-08F, 56-08M), WedgeWorks 60T
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 Custom Matte Black (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue Onyx X100 52, 56, 60 degrees)

Putter: Scotty Cameron 009M Prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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Tour Photo Galleries

Interesting photos from the RBC Heritage – Part 3

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The first round of the RBC Heritage gets underway today and with that, we have an unprecedented part 3 of our most interesting pictures from the event. As a refresher, the field of 134 is battleing on the tight treeline Pete Dye designed course, for the $7.1 million purse with $1.28 million going to the winner.

In part one of this week’s “most interesting photos”, we covered putters, for part two we covered some of the action around the course, and for part 3 we have a little bit of both.

Don’t forget you can check out all our image galleries in the GolfWRX Tour Equipment forum.

Snedeker with that “new driver” look

The 2012 FedEx Cup champ is quietly one of the biggest driver testers on tour, and he was looking thirsty at a couple of TaylorMade SIM2 drivers on the range. Also noted his Miura CB-301 irons.

Build your own training aid

Path board – check, digital level – check, alignment rod – check, extra club – check. Why spend all kinds of money when you can just build your own simple training aid?

Its armlock – but backward

Matt Kuchar brought the arm-lock style to the PGA Tour and it looks like he might be changing course again since he was spotted testing a “reverse” arm-lock Bettinardi on the practice green of Harbour Town links. This is a reverse style because the grip rests against the trailing arm versus the lead one.

Maybe graphite is the new steel

We’re not sure whose caddie this is, but the interesting thing in this photo is the graphite shaft in the putter. Although Bryson wasn’t the first, he certainly has opened the door for more players testing and putting ultra-stiff graphite shafts into their putters for stability.

Si Woo, and Charles Howell talking putters

Everyone knows Charles Howell loves to talk gear, and here he is chatting with Si Woo Kim about a couple of putters—just imagine the nerd level conversation being had.

Na continues to test the new Callaway Epic

Kevin Na is one of the last holdouts on tour with an original Epic driver in the bag, and again this week we spotted him testing one of the new Epic Speed drivers. Considering his chances this week based on the course length, it will be interesting to see if he officially made the switch.

 Maverick’s unique Toulon

Maverick McNealy’s slant-neck San Diego has a very different shape from the retail version and looks to be both longer heel to toe and also shallower—it reminds this writer of the classic Ping Anser 4.

Davis Love III has a full bag of familiar sticks

Davis Love has won the RBC Heritage 5 times (yes, 5) and this past champion has a full bag of Titleist gear including 718 AP2s and SM8 Vokey wedges. You can get all his full WITB here: Davis Love III WITB RBC Heritage

Who has 2 thumbs and loves to test putter? Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace was working with a number of Toulon putters Tuesday, and although they all had something a little different to offer, the one thing that stayed the same is his preferred 2-Thumb grip.

The grind doesn’t stop for Furyk

Did you know Jim Furyk is 3rd all-time on the PGA Tour career money list with over 71 million buckeroos banked. Crazy right? So imagine the drive it takes to continue to work your butt off week in and week out on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour to find every edge.

Speaking of edge, Jim was seen on the range working with Callaway tour reps on a Callaway Epic Speed triple diamond to hopefully gain a few mph of ball speed. Gotta respect the grind.

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Morning 9: Sports book cometh to TPC Scottsdale | Zalatoris’ unique position

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Good Thursday morning, golf fans. A smattering of odds and ends this morning as the golf mediaverse nurses its collective Masters hangover.

1. A sports book is coming to TPC Scottsdale

David Purdum at ESPN…“The PGA Tour is putting a retail sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale, one of golf’s most raucous environments.”

  • “The PGA Tour announced Wednesday that DraftKings will operate the first-of-its-kind sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale and become the exclusive sports betting partner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.”
  • “Three locations at TPC Scottsdale are being discussed for the “19th hole” sportsbook, which will be open year-round and include in-person betting windows. The goal is to open the sportsbook by the Super Bowl in 2023.”

Full piece. 

2. Zalatoris’ unique position

Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio…“Despite all the heady stuff going on in his world, Zalatoris remains level-headed. His meteoric rise – he was ranked 1,514th in the Official World Golf Ranking in April of 2019, was 483rd in April of 2020 and now rests at 27th after nearly becoming the first rookie to win the Masters in 42 years – hasn’t changed his good nature and calm demeanor.”

  • “He’s still the same guy who was Monday qualifying for Korn Ferry Tour events two years ago, the same guy who won his lone pro title at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes on the Korn Ferry Tour last July.”
  • “Then again, he’s not the same guy inside the ropes and he might just be on the USA Ryder Cup team. Since winning in Colorado, he’s made 22 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour and finished in the top-10 10 times and the top-25 18 times. He tied for sixth in the U.S. Open and fell one shot shy of Hideki Matsuyama in the Masters – the only two majors he’s played as a pro.”

Full piece. 

3. More thoughts on the possible coming surge in golf, equipment sales in Japan

Mike Stachura for Golf Digest…“Because as challenging as closing the deal on becoming the first Japanese-born male golfer to win a major championship clearly was during Sunday’s frenetic finish, now the shy, workman-like Matsuyama stands at the forefront of what one long-time Japanese golf business observer called “an epoch-making event.” Japan may comfortably stand as the world’s second largest golf market, accounting for a fifth of the global golf business all by itself, but it is long removed from the country’s golf boom of the late 1980s and ’90s. With the last decade seeing flat revenues and declining play and players, Matsuyama’s win is an opportunity to inject new life in a nation that has been waiting for a golf moment like this for more than half a century.

  • …”Over the last 25 years, the number of golfers has decreased by nearly half, from more than 12 million to now around 6.5 million. The country’s 2,500 golf courses of a generation ago, while likely overbuilt, have seen several hundred shuttered. Sales of golf gear in Japan still account for well more than $2 billion annually, but those numbers have largely been unchanged for the last decade. According to the World Golf Report, a joint research project of the global golf business produced by Golf Datatech and the Yano Research Institute in Japan, Japan accounts for 22 percent of the world’s golf economy, second to the U.S. at 45 percent. Still, golf equipment sales, which rebounded somewhat in the second half of 2020, finished the year down 5 percent, and over the last five years, they are down 1 percent while worldwide sales were up 11 percent.”

Full piece. 

4. Boo’s comeback bid

Brian Wacker for Golf Digest…”Boo Weekley hit a small bucket of balls on a driving range last week, yellow ones to be precise. He was wearing a mesh trucker’s cap, wrinkled tan shorts and a faded, loose-fitting gray t-shirt with the image of a large deer head and a tree screened on the back between the words “Save a tree, Harvest a buck…”

  • “In January, Weekley underwent surgery to have his left hip replaced after it was discovered that the cartilage that serves as a cushion between the hip socket and the femur, or thigh bone, had worn out, leaving the two bones in excruciating contact with one another. Had it been a decade ago, it would have been career over for the former three-time PGA Tour winner. Advances in modern medicine being what they are, the man born Thomas Brent and nicknamed after a fictional character (Yogi Bear’s sidekick Boo-Boo) instead has a chance to author one final chapter in a career that most would find hard to believe.”

Full piece. 

5. LPGA hoodie

Brittany Romano for Golf Digest…“Piggybacking off the WNBA’s wildly popular logo hoodie launched last fall, Michelle Wie has teamed up with the LPGA to release a golf version that is expected to create a lot of buzz. The tie-dye hoodie officially launches next week, but we got a sneak peek of the LPGA logo sweatshirt when Warriors guard Damion Lee was seen wearing it while traveling. The image was tweeted by the LPGA Twitter account and the hoodie almost instantly sold out on the LPGA merchandise site. The hoodie is expected to be restocked over the weekend”

Full piece. 

6. Matsuyama’s pre-Masters putter change

Our piece for PGATour.com…”As Hideki Matsuyama brushed in his winning putt at Augusta National on Sunday evening, the setting Georgia sun glistened off his 2012 Scotty Cameron Newport 2 Tour Prototype as he carried the wand with him off the famed Georgia course’s 18th green.”

  • “While most viewers who have seen the Masters champion in action over the past two years likely assumed from the finish and shaping it was the same flatstick Matsuyama has been stroking putts with all season, Japan’s first men’s major winner actually only put this particular putter in play at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play two weeks ago.”
  • “Matsuyama consulted with Scotty Cameron TOUR rep Drew Page and had a Lamkin Deep-Etched Cord Full Cord installed as well as a stepped putter shaft.”
  • “And while Hideki’s exact specs are under lock and key, Page and company dialed in the same loft, lie, and head weight as the Newport 2 GSS Timeless Matsuyama has played since the 2020 BMW Championship.”

Full piece. 

7. Simpson’s strengths

Justin Ray of the 15th Club writing for PGATour.com…“While Simpson has flashed strong approach play consistently over the last several seasons, it’s far from the only reason he is among the best players in the world. Simpson essentially does everything well.”

  • “Let’s look at the top 20 players in Strokes Gained: Total from last season on the PGA TOUR. As you might expect, many players see their biggest advantages come from one, or two, particular sets of skills. For example, Collin Morikawa ranked 14th on the PGA TOUR last season in Strokes Gained: Total. Seventy-two percent of his strokes gained came from approach shots alone. Matsuyama, who ranked 17th in Strokes Gained: Total, also made more than 70% of his gains with his approach play.”
  • “On the flipside, Matt Fitzpatrick, who ranked 16th in Strokes Gained: Total, gained 76.5% of his strokes on putts and shots around the green. Patrick Reed followed a similar trend, gaining 70.7% of his strokes in the same manner.”
  • “That brings us back to Simpson, and the balance within his game. Of those top 20 players in Strokes Gained: Total in 2019-2020, only one player gained more than 40% or more of his strokes on approach shots – and 40% of more of his strokes on putts and shots around the green combined: Simpson.”

Full piece. 

8. Billy’s apology for returning club to bag with great authority.

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