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5 things we learned Thursday at the Masters

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While we all needed a November Masters in 2019, we missed the April rendition that features the Augusta National Golf Club golf course in peak condition. Firm, speedy greens, preceded by similar fairways and exquisite bunkers, were in evidence on day one of the 2021 competition. Mr. Lee Elder joined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter, then chairman Fred Ridley proclaimed the tournament underway. The golf that followed was excellent, and the day’s events provided many lessons to the faithful. We’ve distilled them down to five, and are pleased to open Masters week with five things that we learned on Thursday at ANGC.

1. “The margins are tiny” (Some big names played poorly)

We are always caught unaware when one of the game’s grand names turns in a poor first round at the Masters. Perhaps poorly is too strong a word; as Scott Verplank noted in the online coverage of the 15th and 16th holes—the margins for error are tiny.

This year was no different, as Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Lee Westwood each turned in a round above 75. This wasn’t horrible when the leader stood at 69, but when that number dropped late in the day, recovery became daunting. Will a mid-60s round on day two, bring them back into the thick of things? Absolutely. In fact, we’d be surprised if at least one of them doesn’t turn in a 66 or better on Friday.

2. Some smaller names played well

No names, outside of the amateur invitees, are of the smallish variety. They arrive via Washington Avenue as top 50-ranked players, or PGA Tour winners, or with some other laurel to create their stature. That said, some of the names are newer to us, and Christian Bezuidenhout, Will Zalatoris, and Brian Harman ended the day inside the top five. The first is a young lion from South Africa, with a game seasoned on the European Tour. The second is a young Demon Deacon from Dallas, who took the Korn Ferry Tour by storm in 2019, and has not let up. The third is the most recognizable name, but with two wins to his credit, Harman wants to trade the “journeyman pro” nametag for one that reads “major champion.” He has challenged in majors before, which should stand him well over the next 54 holes. For Bezuidenhout and Zalatoris, the task will be a bit more arduous.

3. There was a little bit of crazy on Thursday at the Masters

We’re not talking about Vijay Singh holing a long putt at 15 for an ocho moments after he hit the same putt into the pond with his sixth shot (although that did happen.) We’re not talking about Justin Rose’s afternoon round (that one gets its own number further along). We’re talking about Viktor Hovland tossing a triple bogey on the first hole, posting five birdies as a rebound, but adding three more bogeys to shoot one over par. We’re talking about Sungjae Im making a nine at the 15th after clearing the water in two. Hovland is still in site of the leader at +1, but Im followed the big number with a bogey at 16, and signed for 77, twelve back of the lead. Other than Rose (number five, but don’t jump ahead) there were no low numbers on the board. Patience was the order of the day, and Hovland trumped Im in that category.

4. If you go long on 15, stay long

We usually speak about golfers in “Five Things we Learned,” but today, we recall the inspiration for Bobby Jones’ Augusta National: the Old Course at St. Andrews. At the home of golf, strategy at times dictates a play beyond the hole, and even beyond the green. It asks you to play to flat areas for your approach, rather than claim distance and an awkward lie. Nowhere was this more evident than beyond the 15th green. Im and Singh notwithstanding, it was all right to play long on the par 5 as long as you didn’t try to gain too much back with your third. Should the course remain firm this week, players will take a page, nay, a chapter, from the books of Jones and Hogan, and figure out where best to miss.

5. The Rose Series: Justin Rose from the 8th tee on

Do you remember when Sergio Garcia won his green jacket in 2017? He overcame Justin Rose (at that time, the recent Olympic champion and not-too-distant U.S. Open winner) for his first and only major. That loss must still smart, because Rose came out with desire in his eyes this morning. Problem was, he stood at plus-two as he walked off the seventh green, looking anything like a contender.

Over the next 11 holes, Rose posted one eagle and seven birdies, to jet past the clubhouse leaders.

Rose’s drive at the eighth split the fairway, and his metal approach caromed off the left mounds (better lucky than good, unless you’re both) to 15 feet. He drained the putt for eagle, returned to even par, and pressed the accelerator to the floor. After birdies at nine and 10, he played a gutsy recovery from the left pine straw. Landing no more than eight yards from the left pond, Rose reached the green and two-putted for par. He conquered Amen Corner with birdies at 12 and 13 to reach four under, then added a trio of chirpies at 15, 16, and 17, to post 65 on the day.

Rose’s number is all the more impressive when you consider that he was the only golfer toward an afternoon tee time to shoot anything near the 60s. If he can take advantage of an earlier tee time on Friday, his four-shot advantage might grow considerably by the weekend.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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  1. Zach

    Apr 9, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    November Masters was in 2020 not 2019

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Morning 9: Aus. Opens canceled | More Phil on 46-inch rule | RIP Renton Laidlaw

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
October 14, 2021
Good Thursday morning, golf fans. If Titleist wants to mill me a set of 805.OS.BA irons…
1. Australian Opens canceled
AAP report…”The 2021 Australian Open and the 2022 Women’s Australian Open have been cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play havoc with international travel plans.”
  • “Golf Australia announced the tough decision on Thursday, saying it would begin planning for a return of the two Opens in the 2022-23 summer of golf.”
  • “It’s the second straight year Australia’s flagship golf tournaments have been cancelled because of coronavirus.”
2. More from Mickelson
Via the Golf Channel Digital team…”Mickelson fired off yet another tweet on Wednesday morning, this time accusing the PGA Tour of adopting a model local rule, which limits the length of driver shafts to 46 inches, through the media and without representation from the Tour’s members.”
  • “It is extremely disappointing to find out that the PGA Tour adopted the new USGA rule through the media,” Mickelson wrote. “I don’t know of any player who had any say or any kind of representation in this matter. I do know many are wondering if there’s a better way.”
  • “Mickelson’s argument, though, appears to be missing context.”
  • “The Tour, which has said it will adopt the rule when it goes into effect on Jan. 1, had already come out with a statement on Tuesday that explained that it had surveyed the usage of clubs on its three main tours and that its Player Advisory Council recently reviewed the subject and concluded that Tour would go ahead with implementing the rule.”
3. J.R.’s debut done
AP report…”The 36-year-old two-time NBA champion was literally stung by hornets while completing his round Tuesday for North Carolina A&T on the second day of Elon’s Phoenix Invitational.”
  • “To get stung on the basketball court or in an arena, never happens,” said Smith, now a freshman walk-on. “That’s one of the very few things you don’t have to worry about (in basketball) – other animals. When I got stung, I was like ‘No way.’”
  • “The hornets just added to the sting of Smith’s birdie-less round of 8-over-par 79 on the Donald Ross-designed layout. Combined with his two rounds Monday, he finished at 29 over 240 – in 81st place out 84 entries.”
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4. Dusek: Non-bifurfaction bifurcation?
Golfweek’s David Dusek…”Perhaps the USGA and R&A tipped their hand with Tuesday’s announcement and gave us a clue. The answer could be semantics. You simply don’t call it bifurcation and instead create tools to produce different playing environments for varying levels of players.”
  • “Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance, confirmed to Golfweek that the new Model Local Rule governing club length would be in place in June at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. It will be in place at all of the USGA’s championship events, and the folks in Far Hills, New Jersey, and St. Andrews, Scotland, must love that the PGA Tour and LPGA will adopt it, too. Pagel said the USGA will go to events to educate players about the Model Local Rule and answer questions well before the USGA hosts its national championships.”
  • “However, the USGA and R&A stated that the Model Local Rule is intended to be used only at elite events. You will still be allowed to use a 47-inch driver at your local member-guest or club championship next summer. It’s bifurcation by another name.”
5. LPGA to follow 48-inch rule (bad for Brooke)
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”The LPGA told Golfweek that it also plans to implement the Model Local Rule sometime after the 2021 season, noting that officials have already talked to the small number of players affected by the change.”
  • “Brooke Henderson has used a longer driver for her entire professional career. The 10-time winner might be the only player on tour who uses a 48-inch driver, though Chief Tour Operations Officer Heather Daly-Donofrio said there may be one or two other players.”
  • “Canada’s Henderson has gripped down on her clubs, including her driver, since she started playing the game at 3 or 4 years old. Earlier this year, Henderson said she tried to “grip like a normal person” a couple of years ago and it didn’t go well.”
6. Dried out and ready
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”It’s hard to call last season a disappointment for Xander Schauffele. He won an Olympic gold medal. He played a key role for the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits. He notched seven top-5 finishes.”
  • “However, he also didn’t win an official tournament.”
  • “It’s an interesting feeling,” Schauffele said Tuesday at the CJ Cup, where he’s making his 2021-22 season debut. “I feel like I’ve had success, but then again, I missed out on a lot of things that I wanted to accomplish on the PGA Tour, so weird space that I’m in mentally. But overall, I think celebrating the Ryder Cup win with my teammates sort of got me over the edge of feeling like I failed this season.”
7. RIP, Renton Laidlaw
Via the Golf Channel Digital Team…”Renton Laidlaw, owner of one of golf’s most distinguished, trusted and recognizable voices has died at age 82. He was admitted to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Scotland on Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Scotsman.”
  • “Laidlaw covered golf for nearly 60 years as a writer, reporter and broadcaster, beginning in 1957 at the Edinburgh Evening News. He later became the “Voice of the European Tour” as the lead host for tour coverage on Golf Channel. Laidlaw’s talents reached a broader, American audience as the fledgling channel showcased European Tour events upon its inception in 1995.”
8. 57!
Our Andy Lack…”59s don’t come along too often, only 11 have been recorded in PGA Tour history. 58s are even more rare. 57s are practically unheard, but that’s what Macy Pate, a Reagan High School sophomore, recorded in the Central Piedmont 4-A Conference championships on Tuesday.”
  • “Pate’s tournament winning and record breaking performance occurred at Bermuda Run Country Club in North Carolina. Pate came out of the gates firing, with a front nine 27. Knowing she needed to shoot one-under par over her final three holes to record a 59, Pate birdied all three.”
9. When a centenarian hits into you…
Our Andy Lack…”There’s nothing worse in golf than the group ahead playing at a snail’s pace. With that being said, we do not condone hitting into them as an acceptable solution.”
  • “We may be willing to make an exception however for Hugh Brown, a 99-year-old Australian golfer, and instant hero.”
  • “On the 145-meter par 3 fifth hole of the blue nine at Indooroopilly Golf Club in Queensland, Australia, with a driver in hand, Brown recorded hole-in-one number two of his golfing career.:
  • “The shot was met with yelling from the group ahead, but it was hard to stay mad at Brown for long given that his tee-ball found the bottom of the cup”
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Tour Photo Galleries

Interesting photos from the 2021 CJ Cup (plus links to all WITB galleries)

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GolfWRX has an assortment of photos from the 2021 CJ Cup at the Summit Club, including in-hand photos of equipment, shots from the range, exclusive looks at new shafts, 19 WITBs, and more.

With the 2022 season on the horizon, players are happy to experiment — and equipment reps are happy to assist. Perhaps, most notably, we spotted Justin Thomas with prototype 621.JT and Adam Scott with proto 681.AS irons in the bag.

You can check out links to the galleries, below, before with dig into a curation of some of the most interesting shots from Summit.

GENERAL GALLERIES

WITB

SPECIAL GALLERIES

Tommy Fleetwood – WITB (more photos here)

Jucie Wedges & Irons (more photos here)

Cam Smith – WITB (more photos here)

Matt Jones – WITB (more photos here)

Gary Woodland — new putter (more photos here)

Check out all the galleries and discussion in the forums

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CJ Cup at Summit DraftKings Picks

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The PGA Tour stays in Las Vegas, Nevada, this week for the CJ Cup. This tournament was played for the first time in October 2017 at the Nine Bridges Golf Club in Jeju Island, South Korea. In 2020, the event was moved to Shadow Creek Golf Club in Las Vegas, Nevada, due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.

This year, the CJ Cup will remain in Las Vegas, albeit at a different venue, the Summit Club. The CJ Cup only features a field of 78 players, but what the event lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, as 23 of the world’s top 30 players will be in attendance this week.

Sitting in the Summerlin suburb of Las Vegas, the Summit Club is a beautiful and lush parkland layout masquerading as a desert course. The club was designed in 2017 by Tom Fazio and commissioned by the Discovery Land Company. The Summit Club plays as a stock par 72, measuring 7,459 yards on the scorecard. It draws an obvious comparison to last year’s venue, Shadow Creek. A few weeks ago at the BMW Championship, we were in a similar position. Both Caves Valley and the Summit Club are Tom Fazio courses that had previously never seen PGA Tour competition.

With that being said, we can still develop an understanding of this course based on some images and what we already know about Tom Fazio as a designer. Fazio’s PGA Tour body of work also includes Congaree, Quail Hollow (re-design), Kasumigaseki, Conway Farms, and Shadow Creek. Fazio is known for intricate bunkering and large elevated greens.

His courses tend to favor long and accurate drivers of the ball, and it is no coincidence that players such as Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, and Jason Day have experienced success on his layouts. For this reason, I will be homing in on dominant off-the-tee players and those who are comfortable in easy scoring conditions.

Let’s dig into my DraftKings picks.

$10,000 range 

Dustin Johnson, $11,300 (16.32%)

I was hoping to bet Dustin Johnson outright, but 12/1 is far too hefty of a price to pay, even for the 24-time PGA Tour winner. I’ll gladly settle for exposure to him in DraftKings. At $11,300, Johnson is the most expensive golfer on the DraftKings slate as well, but this is clearly reflected in his ownership. I have no problem paying up for Johnson as a clear pivot from Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, and Justin Thomas, who are all garnering more ownership. Lastly, I find the $6K range to be abnormally strong this week, giving us some more wiggle room at the top.

$9,000 range

Brooks Koepka, $9,700 (7.36%)

I understand that Brooks Koepka is a risky play given that he has a tendency to mentally eject from tournaments if he is not in contention, but I am expecting a massive week from the four-time major champion. For cash games, I have no problem pivoting to Louis Oosthuizen, who provides a far more reliable floor, but I will gladly take my chances on a sub-eight percent Brooks Koepka in large-scale GPP contests.

$8,000 range

Adam Scott, $8,100 (5.63%)

Adam Scott and Paul Casey sit right next to each other on the DraftKings slate, yet Casey is garnering over three times the ownership of Scott. I have no issue with Paul Casey this week, in fact, I think he is a suitable play in cash games, but is he three times more likely to outscore Adam Scott this week? That’s where I have to draw the line. While the Australian has certainly experienced his fair share of ups and downs last season, it finally feels like his game is rounding into form. The 14-time PGA Tour winner has gained over 4.5 strokes on approach in two of his last three starts. The Summit Club is also extremely forgiving off the tee, which should mask some of his recent struggles with the driver.

$7,000 range 

Sergio Garcia, $7,500 (9.11%)

There are loads of excellent pivots in the $7,000 range. I could have easily written up a 4% Justin Rose, but let’s roll with Sergio Garcia this week. The Spaniard boasts an impressive resume on Fazio designs, with a fourth and a 16th at Quail Hollow, a sixth at Caves Valley, and a 21st at Shadow Creek. As one of the best drivers of the ball in the world who also pounds greens in regulation, Garcia possesses the prototypical Fazio skill-set.

$6,000 range 

Hudson Swafford, $6,000 (1.22%)

Hudson Swafford is one of the most appealing minimum-priced players in recent memory. Over his last 36 rounds, the two-time PGA Tour winner ranks above average in opportunities gained, greens in regulation gained, driving distance, birdies or better gained, strokes gained off the tee, and sand saves. While the University of Georgia product is most certainly a poor-man’s version of some of the players I have mentioned above (Johnson, Koepka, Garcia), he does the exact same things well. It does not come as a surprise that his last two Fazio appearances have resulted in a runner-up and 17th-place finish. Swafford is an excellent salary filler that will allow fantasy managers to splurge on elite talent at the top.

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