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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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Tour Rundown: ‘Team Mullet’ triumphs in playoff | Henderson’s 10th

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The last full week of April saw events played from the Big Easy to Hollywood, from a Spanish island in the Atlantic to central Texas. The PGA Tour fellows teamed up in Louisiana, while the LPGA tackled a classic course built by Macbeth. The Korn Ferry Tour made a swing through the Lone Star state, where it encountered a bit of a weather delay. The European Tour moved from the mountains of Austria to the southern tip of Gran Canaria, off the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Twisting the words of Sugar Ray, All around the world putts tumble for me. Five winners stood tall in these four events (don’t forget the partner one) so let’s race around and find out what we can.

PGA Tour: Zurich Classic Decided in Playoff

The beauty of two formats in an event is simply that one competitor (or team) can excel on one given day then founder then next—and vice-versa, my friends! Look no further than the team of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, Australia’s finest. They played the final six holes of the Zurich Classic in two over par, with three bogeys, and still won the tournament. Their last bogey, at the par-three 17th, dropped them to 20 under par on the week. Fortunately for them, the South African besties (Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel) also made four at that hole, which dropped them to the same figure. When neither team made birdie at the par-5 closing hole, it was off to a playoff.

On that solitary playoff hole, the unbelievably reliable Louis Louis bailed on his swing and flared a tee ball into the water. His baby draw betrayed him, and the hole was wide open for Cameron Smith, who ensured a dry landing with a drive tugged left, into a fairway bunker. From that point on, it was up to the Smith-Leishman duo to make par, and Smith did so with a seven-foot putt. Third place went to Richy Werenski and Peter Uihlein, whose 67 surge was tied only by one team on day four.

LPGA Tour: Los Angeles Open is Henderson’s 10th Title

Not many were better than Brooke Henderson on Saturday. Just five golfers bested her final-round 67, and they did it by just one stroke. Victory number 10 on tour seemed out of reach for the Ontario native, as four strokes separated her from leader Jessica Korda. Korda had owned the front nine at Wilshire Country Club all week, playing it 2 under, 3 under, and 4 under with zero bogeys on the card. When her fourth-round card saw plus 2 at the end of nine, however, the game was on and Brooke was in it.

Who knows what vexes golfers, and equally so, what vindicates them? Why did Korda lose her grip on the LA Open after holding firm for 54 holes? What did Henderson find on Saturday, that so eluded her on Friday? Lots of questions, aye? The facts show that Henderson made six birdies against two bogeys over the final 18 holes, while Korda was able to summon just two birdies on the day, with one coming at the 18th, where she needed an ace to tie.

Henderson’s first title in two seasons certainly returned a fair amount of confidence to a game that shouldn’t need it and to a psyche that did. Korda was hoping to add a second win in 2021 to her résumé but came up short on birdies when she thought she’d never run out.

Korn Ferry Tour: Veritex Bank Championship to Coach’s Son

Two types of stories tend to stoke the adrenaline fires for the Korn Ferry Tour aficionados: young triumphs and veteran victories. The recent successes of Will Zalatoris fit in the former category. Allow Mr. Tyson Alexander to occupy the latter on this delightful Sunday evening. Alexander was a stalwart member of the UFlorida Gators team a dozen or so years back. Since then, he has honed the tools of the professional trade, learning how to win. Having a golf-successful father (his former college coach and U.S. Amateur champion, Buddy Alexander) had to be equal parts benefit and burden.

This week in Arlington, Alexander opened with 67, then improved to 65, then another 65, and finally, a 64 on Sunday. They say that if you continue to improve, good things come your way. Well, Alexander improved all the way to 23-under par, a pretty impressive tally. Over the course of the first three days, Theo Humphrey was the man in command. Much like Korda above, he appeared to have the tournament under control. Like Korda, Humphrey’s troubles began on the outward nine. Twice he followed birdie (1 and 5) with bogey; at 8 and 9, he reversed that trend, and turned in even par. In Arlington, that amounted to a two of three-shot deficit.

Birdies at 10 and 11 gave the third-round leader hope, but bogey at the 12th ended that run. Desperately needing one more birdie to join Alexander, Humphrey was all pars over the final six holes, and came second by one shot. It was two more shots to the third-place pair, Taylor Moore and Brett Drewitt.

European Tour: Gran Canaria Open Sees Fireworks and an Unlikely Winner

Three golfers posted 61s in round two at the Gran Canaria Open, yet none figured in the top three at week’s end. Last week’s runner-up was this week’s runner-up, despite opening with 63 and closing with 62. If you weren’t five under par on Friday evening, you weren’t playing on the weekend. Golf on Gran Canaria was serious business, as the Meloneras Golf layout let players know early on that birdies were the week’s currency.

Garrick Higgo was never far from the lead all week, but he somehow flew under the radar, even after opening 65-64. Attention was on Connor Syme, who improved ten shots from his opening 71, or on Thorbjorn Olesen, who stood at 126 through two rounds, or on Sam Horsfield, who also signed for 61 on day two. On day three, Syme nearly matched his 61 with 62, and he moved quite high into contention. The problem was, Higgo kept getting better. He dropped another shot with 63, and overtook Olesen on the top rung.

On Sunday, Higgo made eagle at the fourth hole for the second consecutive day, framed it with five more birdies against zero bogies, and reached a massive 25-under par. Charging hard was last week’s hard-luck, playoff-losing Max Kieffer. The German amassed seven birdies and a hole-out eagle at the 10th, but simply ran out of holes against the young South African, who gained a second European Tour title in the Canary Islands.

Hard Pan

A new feature of Tour Rundown: We take a no-holds-barred look at something that happened this week in the world of golf.

Today, we target that photo of King Tiger and his faithful hound, Bugs. Are we so golf-starved or hero-starved that we immediately begin tweeting and gramming and tiking about #TigerWoods2022MastersChampion? Have we so quickly forgotten that he might have had a little responsibility in this? Dude was on the shelf from back surgery for 2021’s playing as it was, so the shattering of the lower right leg certainly added to the list of boxes to check. Lots of other stories in golf to tout, so let’s leave Eldrick the Only to his rehab and focus our enthusiasm on other elements.

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Zurich Classic Truck Report: Hovland testing Ping i59 Prototype irons, Xander’s Epic Speed Triple Diamond 5W

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What testing is done and what equipment adjustments are made during a team event on the PGA Tour? Well, in the long view, what we’ll see on the range at the Zurich Classic likely isn’t that much different than the goings-on of a standard week on the PGA Tour. But this week in New Orleans, our sources indicate there’s a ton of shaft testing taking place as well as some significant toolbox adjustment.

What is else is happening on the equipment front in the Big Easy? Open the Tour Truck Report folder to find out.

Ping

We spotted Viktor Hovland with prototype i59 Ping irons. While Ping is mum on the details of the new line, Ryan Barath offered some speculation here.

Kris Ventura (non-staff) is putting an i210/Blueprint combo set in play.

Scottie Scheffler (non-staff), who has been in the Ping G400 LST, is 50-50 on playing G425 this week, according to a source.

Callaway

Xander Schauffele is testing a prototype Epic Speed Triple Diamond fairway wood. Resident equipment expert Ryan Barath sees this as a possible smaller, deeper-faced, Sub Zero-esque Epic Speed variety, as he wrote here. Xander has his usual Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X (Black) shaft in the new tool.

Dylan Frittelli had an Epic Speed Max LS Triple Diamond built for testing with a 46-inch Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 60 TX shaft.

Photo via Callaway’s Johnny Wunder

Titleist

Mark Anderson tested a TSi2 15-degree fairway. Loved the easy launch, carry distance, and ball flight from both the turf and tee, according to a source.

Free-agent Jhonattan Vegas tested a TSi2 15-degree fairway.

TaylorMade

TaylorMade is calling this “wedge week” and with that in mind, a number of staffers are using some very cool custom “RAW” staff bags, highlighting the unfinished wedge options across their line. Staffers will wear “RAW” hats as well, as showcased in the second photo below.

Photo via TaylorMade

PXG

We still don’t have an official comment from PXG, the existence of “prototype” Gen4 0311 ST irons can’t be denied based on some more images we captured from the range this week.

Free agents

Rocco Mediate was spotted with a DeChambeau-esque SIK putter and LA Golf Shaft combo.

See all our photos from the Zurich Classic here.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Most interesting photos from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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This week, the PGA Tour is at the TPC Louisiana for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans—which is the one and only team event that takes place during the season. GolfWRX was on-site Tuesday to spy a glimpse into the bags of some of the world’s top golfers where the field of 160 (80 two-man teams) is getting ready to battle starting Thursday for the $7.4 million purse, with winning golfers each taking home just over $1 million dollars.

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

Rafa Campos loves contrast

Rafa’s irons and wedges couldn’t be more contrasting. A shiny set of Mizuno’s alongside some of the most perfectly patina’d raw Vokey SM8s you will ever see.

No mistake about who this putter belongs to

Doug Ghim has one heck of a really nice Scotty Cameron 009 – in fact it’s so nice the team at Scotty Cameron stamped it the same way I write my kid’s name into her shoes that she takes to daycare.

 TaylorMade players getting a RAW deal this week

I kid. The only RAW deal going on is the fact that TaylorMade is calling this “wedge week” and with that in mind, a number of staffers are using some very cool custom staff bags.

You gotta test the product

Every week it seems like more and more players on the PGA Tour are using technology-packed putter shafts to help improve consistency. This week at the Zurich, we spotted a Scotty Cameron outfitted with an LA golf Shafts TPZ putter shaft and the tour rep was giving it a little test for feel.

Holmes is rolling with a Bettinardi

JB Holmes was spotted on the practice green as the TPC of Louisiana working on his putting with a Bettinardi mallet. Considering the event features an alternate shot format, it’s likely he was working on his pace. Nobody wants to leave their partner a long tester for par.

Something old and something new for Henrik

Henrik Stenson is mixing it up. He continues to use his tried and true Legacy black forged irons while also working with some of the newest putters from Odyssey like the below 2-ball Ten.

Kisner still working with an armlock

Although he was carrying both a conventional and armlock style putter this week, it looks like Kisner is starting to fully commit to the popular putting technique.

Hovland’s aim is on point

Little slopes make a big difference, which is why Viktor Hovland was seen working hard on his Aim-point technique using an around-the-hole drill and a digital level.

Woody Austin sure knows how to strike it

Although it has been years since he was a regular on the PGA Tour, Woody Austin still knows how to strike it! Just look at the wear pattern on his irons, and more specifically, his wedges.

Charl is looking for a flatstick

“Listen I got to go, I’m working on my putting”

Mr. Schwartzel sure knows how to swing a golf club, but on the greens is where he has recently struggled, and in New Orleans this week we spotted him testing a number of putters on the practice green.

We should note, he still has some raw Nike wedges in the bag too.

Keegan is hard at work on the putting green

The 2011 PGA Champion was on the green as using a laser alignment for what looked to be a face contact and putting path drill.

Rocco’s looking SIK

Rocca Mediate absolutely loves to tinker, and it also looks like Mr. DeChambeau is rubbing off on him based on his putter choice this week. He was spotted working with a custom SIK putter fitted with an LA Golf Shafts graphite shaft.

New Ping irons for Hovland

Viktor Hovland is bringing “gear junkie” heat this week to New Orleans. We spotted the Ping staffer with new i59 irons, along with some Glide Pro wedges that we first spotted a couple of weeks ago in Austin at the WGC.

Pop it and arm lock it

We continue to see more and more pros working on an armlock putting technique—it is certainly something that is picking up steam on tour.

PXG 0311 Gen4 ST sticking around

Although we still don’t have an official comment from PXG, the existence of “prototype” Gen 0311 ST irons can’t be denied based on some more images we captured this week.

Great bags for great causes

Both Scott Stallings and Greg Chalmers are using their biggest billboards—their staff bags, to promote great causes on tour.

For Greg, that means Maximum Chances, an organization that helps children with autism and their family’s connect to resources including financial aid, and for Scott Stallings, it’s to share the “Kids play free” program which he helped to found with the Tennessee Golf Foundation.

Billy Horschel’s got a new long iron

We spotted a new Titleist 620 CB 3-iron in the bag of Billy Horschel this week, which means there is once again fewer players than ever still using a blade 3-iron on the PGA Tour. Are blade long irons close to extinction?

 

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