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Morning 9: Tiger talks injury rehab | Spieth, Sergio surge at Colonial | COVID-19 vaccines at Muirfield Village

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Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. Woods: Injury rehab “more painful than anything I have ever experienced”
Our Gianni Magliocco… “in an exclusive interview with Golf Digest, Woods went into detail on his injury and recovery, as well as the outpouring of support he has received in the wake of his accident.”
  • “Speaking on his post-accident injuries, Woods told the publication”
  • “This has been an entirely different animal. I understand more of the rehab processes because of my past injuries, but this was more painful than anything I have ever experienced.
  • “My physical therapy has been keeping me busy. I do my routines every day and am focused on my No.1 goal right now: walking on my own. Taking it one step at a time.”
2. Spieth recalibrates putting stroke
Sean Martin for PGATour.com…”Few could find fault with Jordan Spieth’s putting stroke, but the former FedExCup champion said a “somewhat significant” change was needed before this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge.”
  • “It worked. Spieth was impeccable with the putter en route to a bogey-free 63 that gave him a two-shot lead after Thursday’s morning wave at Colonial Country Club.”
  • “I just needed to do a bit of adjustment in my stroke feel on some bad tendencies I got into,” Spieth said. “Cameron (McCormick, Spieth’s instructor) … was able to really pinpoint a way to get a stroke feel that left me just a little more comfortable over it.”
3. …and is tied for the lead
Golf Channel’s Mercer Baggs…“Jordan Spieth is making his ninth appearance in the Charles Schwab Challenge. He’s won once (2016), never missed the cut and only three times in 32 previous rounds shot over par.”
  • “Meanwhile, he’s shot 65 on seven occasions and 64 once. And, now, he has a 63 to his credit.”
  • “Spieth made seven birdies and no bogeys on Thursday at par-70 Colonial Country Club to take the early lead in Ft. Worth, Texas.”
4. Sergio surges
Golf Channel’s Mercer Baggs…”Garcia matched the closing 63 he had at Colonial when he got the first of his 11 PGA Tour wins 20 years ago at age 21. He was 5 under on the four-hole stretch right in the middle of the round. He birdied hole Nos. 8-10 before an eagle at the 620-yard 11th, where he blasted out of a greenside bunker on the course’s longest hole.”
  • “It was quite breezy. It was gusty, so it wasn’t easy to pull some of the clubs,” Garcia said. “There were some tough holes out there, but I was able to hit really good shots on those holes, and a couple up-and-downs when I needed them.”
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5. Memorial Tournament to offer COVID vaccines
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”As tournament officials inch closer to full capacity on the PGA Tour, the Memorial has taken the unprecedented step of offering COVID-19 vaccinations next week at Muirfield Village.”
  • “The Memorial, which plans to have somewhere between 50 and 100 percent of full capacity, will offer fans Johnson & Johnson vaccines, June 4-6, to fans on-site at Muirfield Village.”
6. NCAA
Todd Kelly for Golfweek….”Chiara Tamburlini earned her first point of the week for Ole Miss on Wednesday in the final of the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship against Oklahoma State.”
  • “It opened the floodgates to a national championship, the first women’s title in school history. Tamburlini’s 6 and 5 win was the largest margin of victory in the women’s final.
7. Best friend showdown ahead
LPGA report…”With a win apiece on Thursday’s Day Two of group play at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play Hosted by Shadow Creek, best friends and Solheim Cup teammates Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas will face off on Friday for a berth in the Round of 16.”
  • “Kang never trailed en route to a 2-and-1 victory over Madelene Sagstrom, a hard-fought win that saw Kang lose a 3-up lead through 13 holes. Sagstrom birdied Nos. 14 and 16 to pull within one, but Kang finished with par on the difficult par-3 17th to win the match.”
  • “I think we were trying to minimize as much mistakes as possible. We were making a lot of mistakes out there from beginning to end,” said Kang. “She made some good birdies coming in and all I kind of tried to do was keep it steady as much as I can, but there was just so many bogeys out there for us and so many mistakes.”
8. Brooks-Bryson novelty markets
Our Gianni Magliocco…”The Brooks-Bryson rivalry looks like something you’d expect more from YouTube personalities rather than professional athletes, and one bookmaker is certainly hoping it escalates into even more.”
“BetUS.com sees the feud between the two getting even wilder and has created several novelty markets, with Brooks favored to beat Bryson if the two ended up in a ring together.”
Check out the odds for some of the wacky markets below.
WHO WINS A BOXING MATCH?
Brooks Koepka        -150
Bryson DeChambeau   +110
WHO WINS ENDURANCE RACE?
Brooks Koepka        -120
Bryson DeChambeau   -120
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Tour Rundown: Higgo crosses pond to claim initial PGA Tour title, Castren latest to claim first LPGA win

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This particular weekend was unique, sandwiched between two U.S. Open championships, and it was filled with events. There was much newness across the tournament board as the PGA Tour visited a new venue in South Carolina. The European Tour matched women and men in one event in Sweden, and the Forme Tour held its final qualifying school in anticipation of its season opener in two weeks.

June is a popular month for weddings, so the something new is, well, nothing new. On those notes, let’s track down what we know and what we learned in this week’s Tour Rundown on GolfWRX.

PGA Tour: Higgo crosses pond to claim initial Tour title

Last week, we watched helplessly as Lexi Thompson gave up a lead in her stretch run at the U.S. Women’s Open. This week, we had more of the same at the inaugural Palmetto Championship. Chesson Hadley came back in the morning for two shots in his delayed third round but took three. After hitting a marvelous approach into the last, he missed a wee birdie attempt and signed for par. Ominous? Sure, if you believe in portends and things of that ilk.

Hadley began the fourth round with a four-shot advantage, but the day’s play was never consistent for him. Two bogeys and a birdie had him out in plus one, and another bogey at 10 took him higher. He rebounded two holes later with birdie at twelve and, had he remained at that figure, would have won his first Tour event since 2014. Instead, golf scratched at him slowly and painfully. Hadley approached poorly to each of the final three greens, missed them all, and recovered not once. His three lost strokes brought him back to minus-10, tied with five others for second position.

In the winner’s circle, courtesy of a closing 68, was 22-year-old Garrick Higgo of South Africa. His score wasn’t the lowest on the day; that number came from Ryan Armour and Will Gordon, both shooting 64 to shoot into the top 15. What Higgo did was hold the rudder steady. He, Doc Redman, and Tyrrell Hatton were the only leaders to not make a bogey down the stretch. Fortunately for Higgo, he had one more stroke to spare at the end and emerged victorious. Countryman Wilco Nienaber might have garnered attention early on with his prodigious drives, but in the end, it was Higgo. How unlikely? No media footage on the PGA Tour Twitter feed of the lad!

European Tour: Caldwell edges Otaegui and Hewson in Sweden 

The hands-down winner for best format goes to the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik and Annika. There may have been an ampersand in there, but we didn’t want to risk it. The two Swedish greats teamed up to host a creative event that pitted women and men at the Vallda Club in Gothenburg. Sam Horsfield of England and Christine Wolf of Austria jumped out to the opening-round lead at 64, intimating that players from both tours would contend in the event. Unfortunately for Sam and Christine, it would not be them. Wolf went 72-73-74 for a t37 finish, while Horsfield followed his 64 with 74-72-71 for a t25 placing.

On day four, Australia’s Jason Scrivener jumped up to the lead, then closed with a bogey and two doubles in his final eight holes, for a T7 result. Adrian Otaegui of Spain was excruciatingly close all day, until bogey at the last dropped him out of the lead. He finished at -16, in solo second. Alice Hewson began day four in a tie for first, but rode a front-nine 3-3-3 of pars-bogies-birdies out of the top spot. She snapped around and closed with a back-nine 33 to finish at -15, two shots out of a playoff, in third alone.

The week’s honors went to Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell. The 37-year old stood eight-under on the day, in first spot, through 14 holes. Deciding to add to the day’s drama, he finished bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie, with his three at the last gaining two shots on Otaegui, propelling him to a career-first win on the European Tour. Prior to this week, the lad from Bangor had not finished higher than fifth in his career.

LPGA: Castren latest to claim first title

Celine Boutier posted an early 64 on Sunday at Lake Merced, and jumped up 34 spots in the standings as a result. Her electric performance served notice that mid-60s rounds were available to those who dared to risk all. Matilda Castren of Finland took notice, and torched the front nine in 30 strokes, thanks to four birdies and an eagle. When it seemed that the young Fin would run away from pursuers, she settled into an eight-par stretch, allowing overnight leader Min Lee an opportunity to give chase.

Lee had turned in one-under 35, but birdies at 10 and 15 brought her within one slice of Castren. On the 17th hole, a tricky par three, Lee faltered with bogey. Although she made birdie at the last to post 69, Castren was able to match that score at 18, and finish off a stellar 65. The win moved Castren inside the top 25 in the Race to CME Globe season-long chase. A bit down the money list, but of no less importance, Lydia Ko assumed the top spot in the season-long race for the first time in five seasons. With her win, Castren became the #FirstFinLPGA champion in history.

Korn Ferry Tour: Pereira by four at the BMW Charity Pro-Am

Interstate 85 runs past Greer, South Carolina, home to BMW in the USA. There’s no test track on site at the plant, but if you listen closely, you hear engines roar down 85, past Greenville. On Sunday, a Chilean import driving a Pereira raced past 54-hole leader Justin Lower, on his way to a four-shot victory.

Pereira tallied nine birdies on the day, enough to offset his two bogies. Lower was stuck somewhere between neutral and park, and did well to count even-par 71 on Sunday. That number was enough to keep him in solo second position, but he was helpless to stop the South American’s acceleration. The 64 wasn’t even the low round of the week for the man from the thin land, as he signed for 63 on Friday. As they (or I) say, a 64 on Sunday is equal to a 60 on Thursday. Doesn’t account for Friday, but who cares?

The victory was Pereira’s second in a row (shades of Cameron Young!) and will vault the 26-year old into the top spot of The 25, if only for a time. Why? BMW was his third victory of the 2020-2021 extended season, and triggered an instant promotion to the PGA Tour.

 

PGA Champions: Kelly storms back to edge Jiménez

The unfortunate part of senior tours is the window of winning opportunities. We grow accustomed to names atop the leader board, but Father Time eventually catches them all. For two days this week, Miguel Angel Jiménez shouldered the lead at the American Family Insurance Championship. On day three, homestate hero Jerry Kelly rode a horse called 66 into town, and galloped off with the sheriff’s badge.

Jiménez played fine golf on Sunday in Madison. His card was clean, with three birdies for 69. His problem was the 11-hole string of par, from seven through seventeen. Birdie at the last elevated him from a tie for third, to a tie for second with Fred Couples, but did no more to add to his Rioja cellar. The day belonged to Kelly, although the first hole might disagree.

The lad from Madison, began with bogey at the first, courtesy of never seeing the fairway between tee and green. He settled in to seven birdies over the next seventeen holes, with the final one arriving at the 16th hole. By then, he had eased past the Spaniard into first place. Pars at the final two holes ensured his seventh win on Tour Champions. Couples had a putt at the last to force extra holes, but it stayed on the high side.

 

Forme Tour: Davison by two over Du Toit in final Q-School

We might jump the gun with this one, but it’s worth alerting readers to the imminent arrival of the Forme Tour. Billed as the stateside counterpart to the Mackenzie Tour, the Forme Tour will serve as competition ground for PGA Tour Canada players who are unable to cross the USA-Canada border, currently closed to non-essential workers. Seven qualifying schools were held at eastern and western USA sites. Eight events will be held from June through September, culminating in a tour championship in New Jersey.

This week, at The Home Course near Tacoma, Washington, Callum Davison and Jared Du Toit battled throughout the entire, 72-hole event. Each golfer birdied hole 70, and Davison followed up with another at hole 71, to reach 13-under par. Du Toit stumbled with a bogey to drop back to minus-eleven. Both made par at the final hole, with Davison claiming medalist honors. Both golfers will compete in two weeks in Georgia, at the Forme Tour’s first official event.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2021 Palmetto Championship at Congaree

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GolfWRX is live from Congaree Golf Club for the Palmetto Championship. This one-time replacement for the RBC Canadian Open is the third PGA Tour event contested in South Carolina this season.

Palmetto State native Dustin Johnson headlines the field (and has been doing plenty of putter testing). Brooks Koepka and Jason Dufner will be teeing it up as well. John Pak and Davis Thompson will both be making their professional debuts.

General galleries

Tuesday

Wednesday

Special galleries

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Tour News

John Pak, college golf’s top player, signs with TaylorMade

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Editor’s note: We filed this piece for PGATour.com’s Equipment Report.

With a buddy on the bag and fresh off receiving the Jack Nicklaus Award in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday, celebrated amateur and Florida State standout John Pak is making his professional debut at this week’s Palmetto Championship at Congaree — and he’ll do so as a TaylorMade staffer, the company announced today.

College golf’s top player, Pak has played TaylorMade gear and a Titleist ball since his amateur days. And as we found out from Ryan Ressa, TaylorMade’s player development manager, who has worked with Pak since he was in his early teens, it’s not surprising Pak will continue with the same bag setup and ball combination as he joins the professional ranks.

The Scotch Plains, New Jersey, native is an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of guy when it comes to his equipment, which is a trait Ressa sees among many of the game’s best. (Another TaylorMade staffer Tiger Woods, for one, comes to mind).

Ressa and TaylorMade have had a relationship with Pak for nearly a decade, and it’s Ressa’s job to not only make sure Pak is in the right equipment for his game but is also navigating the matrix of amateur competitions, college, and the decision to turn pro successfully.

According to Ressa, Pak, and other junior standouts, need new equipment, or at least a fitting, roughly every six months as their bodies and swings change.

Even so, while he’s transitioned into new fairway wood models as they’ve become available, the DNA of Pak’s bag has stayed largely the same.

“Jon is a very simple guy when it comes to equipment, and he doesn’t do a lot of tinkering outside of driver shafts,” Ressa said. “Deep down, he’s a great competitor. He just loves to compete and is focused on getting the ball in the hole. He’s stayed really, really consistent with the look of his irons, the loft of his wedges, and his bag setup. He’s been easy to work with and only needs one or two visits per year to get squared away.”

Read the full piece here.

Check out the full WITB here. 

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