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Left miss troubling Rickie with the driver?

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Making any swing change is hard, especially when you have built a career on consistent week-to-week play at the highest level.

Rickie Fowler’s recent form has been the topic of much discussion, and if he wants to keep his major championship starts made streak alive he is going to really have to turn things around before the Masters next month.

Hitting a driver at the best of times can be difficult but when you are just slightly off, misses get exaggerated and so far in round 1 of The Players we are seeing that a left driver miss from Rickie has led to some big numbers

Hole 10 ( First hole of the day )

15th Hole

18th Hole

1st hole

Whether this trend continues for the rest of the tournament is yet to be seen, but if there is any course that requires absolute precision off the tee, TPC Sawgrass will quickly expose any misses.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

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Tour Rundown: Cink runs away with Heritage | Ko breaks three-year drought

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A week after a major championship can have a bit of a hangover feel to it. When one ends with the welcoming of a first-time major winner, as we have had the past two weeks, it’s a double blessing. Patty Tavatanakit claimed the ANA Inspiration by two with her distance and consistency, while Hideki Matsuyama captured our attention with stellar execution and respectful dignity. In other words, this week had a lot to live up to, and it did precisely that.

Let’s roll up and run down the tour action that we saw the third week of April.

PGA Tour: Cink runs away with Heritage

Stewart Cink has made a habit of winning now and then for the past 24 years. He has a major title on his resume, and has represented the USA nine times in international team matches. In his third year on tour, Cink won on Hilton Head Island for the first time. He repeated in 2004, then waited 17 years to claim a third Heritage title, by four shots over Harold Varner III and Emiliano Grillo.

Despite a height of six feet four inches, Cink has never been a long hitter. As a result, a course like Harbor Town suits his game more than does a 7500-yard track. After 11 years away from the winner’s circle, Cink claimed the Safeway Open last fall by two strokes. That win, over Harry Higgs, was not an easy one. In complete contrast, this week in South Carolina was complete dominance by Cink.

The Georgia Tech Bulldog opened with a pair of 63s, to move past first-round leader Cameron Smith, who opened with 62. Scores in the low 60s went away on the weekend, and Cink was able to close with 69-70, and embrace victory. Collin Morikawa stood second to Cink after 54 holes, but showed surprising weakness on Sunday. the 2020 PGA titleist and 2021 WGC-Workday winner ran out of birdies on day four, and limped home with 72 for T-7.

LPGA Tour: Ko breaks three-year drought with seven-shot margin

There was a time when Lydia Ko did the things she did this week, on the regular. Three wins in 2014, followed by five in 2015 and four the next season, gave us a sense of what might be generational dominance. As she reached age eighteen, the wins vanished. Ko went two years without a victory, but claimed a playoff triumph in 2018. Throughout 2021, traces of the old/young Ko returned, and it became a matter of time until she won again. Two weeks ago, she chased Patty Tavatanakit to the 72nd green at ANA Inspiration, and settled for a runner-up finish.

After this week’s resurgence, the principal question is: how far back has Lydia Ko returned? A seven-shot, runaway victory over the tour’s top talent is more than just a comeback; it’s a statement. Nelly Korda, Inbee Park, and Sei Young Kim tied with Leona Maguire for second, a touchdown and extra point behind. They played well, but mull these numbers turned in by Ko on the week: one bogey in 72 holes (hole eleven on Thursday); three bogey-free round; 29 birdies in 72 holes, with no fewer than six on any of her four scorecards. Yup, that’s a statement. Should be a fun 2021, if Lydia Ko finds the road all the way back.

European Tour: Catlin wins Austrian Open playoff over Kieffer

Talk about a buried lede. While it’s true what the headline says, it’s barely the story. There was a playoff, but we’ll get to that. John Catlin had two previous wins on the European Tour, while Max Kieffer came close in 2013, losing a playoff for the Spain Open. In regulation time, Kieffer staked an early advantage, playing the first seven holes in six-under, highlighted by an eagle at the 4th. Bogey at 9 and 11 slowed his roll, but he rebounded with birdie at 13 and 15, to reach minus-fourteen on the week. Catlin was flawless over his 18 holes, pairing seven birdies with eleven pars, for day-low honors and his own place at the 14-deep table. Both surged past third-round leaders Martin Kaymer (70 for solo third) and Alejandro Cañizares (74 for t-seventh) and gained a spot in a playoff. That’s when the fun began.

The 18th hole at the Diamond Country Club, near Vienna, is a par three over water, with a solitary bunker on the right edge of the green. Catlin and Kieffer reached the green in regulation the first three (yup, there were more) turns through. Par and par were followed by birdie, and back to the tee they went for a fourth time. On the fourth occasion, Catlin found the sand, but went up and down for par. Kieffer once again found the putting surface, but was unable to coax his putt for two into the hole. On tour the fifth, Catlin once again found sand, but Kieffer did him one better. In this case, it was three worse.

Kieffer’s tee ball came up short of the fronting wall, and found water. His pitch from the drop zone landed pin high, and spun back into the water. His second pitch, his fifth shot, landed twenty feet beyond the flag, then spun even harder, once again back into the drink. Exasperated, Kieffer took the juice off his third pitch, landed on the green, then made the putt for an inglorious eight. Dumbfounded by his good fortune, Catlin pitched out of the sand, took two putts for bogey, and claimed his third European Tour title.

Korn Ferry Tour: Uihlein claims second stateside win at MGM Resorts

Peter Uihlein might qualify as one of the top professional golf stories of the last decade. After a decorated amateur career, in which he won the US Amateur and shined for the USA side at the 2009 Merion Walker Cup matches, Uihlein landed in Europe, where he played the Challenge and Main tours for seven years. Uihlein won twice in the old country, then returned to the USA for the 2017-2018 season. He has remained in his home country ever since, amassing a number of top-twenty finishes on the PGA and Korn Ferry tours, including a win at the 2017 Nationwide Children’s Hospital championship.

This week, the 31-year old returned to the winner’s circle in Las Vegas, claiming the title by four strokes over a former European Tour rival from the states, David Lipsky, and Jamie Lovemark. Uihlein opened with 68, and stood two shots out of the first-round lead. He improved a stroke on day two, but lost a shot to the lead, as Adam Svensson jumped up with 64. The Canadian struggled on the weekend, finishing with 72-78 for a 22nd-place finish. Uihlein established himself on day three with another 68, one shot ahead of Jamie Lovemark, a fellow US Amateur champion. The two would match wits on day four, and the front nine would write the story.

Uihlein was clean through nine, posting four birdies and five pars. Lovemark had three birdies of his own, but stumbled with four bogeys on four other holes. As Lovemark faded, Lipsky arrived. The 2010 Big Ten champion, an amateur contemporary of Uihlein, gained a stroke on the eventual winner on the outward half. He was all pars from 10 through 14, then gained two more strokes at 15 and 16. After a fifth birdie at the 11th, Uihlein’s played the final seven holes in plus-two, bringing the final margin to four shots and making the final result closer than it appeared.

Champions Tour: Stricker secures sixth senior title at Chubb

Steven Charles Stricker can be forgiven for a dearth of Champions Tour titles over the past 24 months. As captain of the 2021 (nee 2020) USA Ryder Cup side, Stricker has played a majority of weeks on the regular tour, scouting the talent. When Covid-19 pushed the team matches a year, Stricker was compelled to extend his stay with the young-uns a bit longer. This week, the Wisconsin native logged in to the west-coast Florida stop on the experienced tour, and came away with a one-shot victory.

Fred Couples led the show for two rounds, posting 63-69. He continued his downward trend on Sunday with 71, and dropped five slots, to a tie for sixth position. Fellow super-senior Bernhard Langer started strong, with 65-68, but experienced day the last struggles of his own, and tied Couples for sixth after a 70 of his own. Sweden’s Robert Karlsson stood equal with Couples after 36 holes, and provided Stricker’s most formidable challenge on the final day.

On Sunday, Stricker found his finest form, posting five birdies against zero bogies for 67. Karlsson also signed for a quintet of birdies on Sunday, but stumbled with a pair of bogies, at the 7th and 14th holes. Those missteps flipped the two golfers’ positions, and the Mayor of Madison escaped with a one-shot win.

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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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