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Morning 9: True test ahead at Olympic Club | speaking of rough: Thick stuff aplenty at Muirfield Village | Bubba talks mental health

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Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. True test ahead at Olympic Club
Emilia Migliaccio for Golf Channel…”Drop a ball in the rough and crouch to eye level … the ball disappears. Players flood the short game area to practice their rough finesse, but and shot longer than chip from this stuff and there’s little to no chance to reach the green. Get ready for lots of punch-outs to those narrow fairways as this week harkens back to U.S. Opens of old.”
  • “…It’s hard. I love it. Small greens, high rough. Yeah, it’s going to be difficult, but I’m super excited about it,” said Jessica Korda. Her sister, Nelly, gave a similar analysis: “Tight fairways, high roughs, small greens. It’s going to be a shot-making golf course, and I can’t wait to get started on Thursday.”
2. …speaking of rough: Thick stuff aplenty at Muirfield Village
Steve DiMeglio for Golfweek…”one feature of the course felt all too familiar.”
  • “The rough.”
  • “I felt bad for the (amateurs) today,” 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed said Wednesday. “When they got in the rough, they just kind of looked down and the first reaction was to look at me and ask what do I do. And I’m like, ‘Guys, it’s a hack out.’ It’s take a wedge, hit it sideways for them.”
  • “…I haven’t seen rough like this really ever,” Reed said. “My first practice round I played I just played the front nine on Monday and I missed the fairway by maybe a yard on hole 6 to the right and Kessler (Karain, his caddie) and I spent at least five to seven minutes searching. We couldn’t find the golf ball. And it is that brutal, that thick, that nasty.
3. Heck’s wild ride continues
Beth Ann Nichols for Golfweek…”Rachel Heck’s incredible streak of strong play could only be stopped by one thing: a positive COVID-19 test. At least that’s what it seemed for a scary 24-hour period during which the Stanford freshman called her mother in the middle of the night in Memphis with the news.”
  • “She went into a quarantine dorm for a brief spell but ended up being cleared before she had to spend the night. (There’d been an entire batch of false positives.)”
  • “Heck came to The Olympic Club in the midst of final exams. Her stuff is packed up in boxes and sitting in an empty dorm room, ready to be shipped back to Tennessee. She has a paper due in a political science class that she told herself she’d write on Monday, but then didn’t start it until Tuesday and it’s due on Friday.”
  • “That’s the plan, to finish it today,” she said. “Will it happen? No. But that’s the plan.”
4. JT bankrolling Visacki
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill…”The world No. 2 felt compelled to help Visacki in any way he could. That included reaching out to play practice rounds and also to help financially. The latter was not meant to be public, but a video surfaced at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge where the two interacted after a check for an undisclosed sum was handed over.”
  • “I was a little irritated that it got out. I didn’t really want it to. That wasn’t the intention of it. I just saw the video of Mike calling his dad after he Monday’ed in Valspar, and in a day and age where it seems like only anything in the media is negative…, I just felt it was so refreshing and great to see and how genuine his excitement and emotions were,” Thomas said ahead of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
  • “It was great because I haven’t been in a great place, both mentally and on the golf course…, and I felt joy out of seeing his joy and it just kind of totally made me forget about what’s going on in my golfing life and sometimes puts things in perspective that obviously we’re all out here to play golf and we’re all out here to try to win a lot of golf tournaments, but changing people’s lives and helping people who are less fortunate than you is sometimes, you know, more important than that.”
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5. Bubba on mental health, Osaka
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”In what has become a surprisingly polarizing issue, Watson is one of a very few who can truly understand what motivated Osaka to skip her media obligations this week at Roland-Garros and then withdraw from the Grand Slam event.”
  • “Osaka spoke of dealing with depression and anxiety and how interactions with the media created unwanted doubt. She spoke of being vulnerable and not a “natural public speaker.” She skipped her post-round interview following her first-round victory and was fined $15,000 before announcing her withdrawal.”
  • “…Watson could sympathize as he settled into his virtual press conference Wednesday at the Memorial.”
  • “I can sit here and draw up a whole story for you. I’m sitting in a room right now with cameras looking at me,” Watson said. “I don’t like enclosed places. I don’t like elevators. I don’t like heights. I mean, there’s a lot of things that trigger a lot of my mental issues.”
6. Canadian Women’s Open canceled
AP report…”The LPGA Tour’s CP Women’s Open was canceled Wednesday because of logistical challenges and border restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • “The event was scheduled for Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club on Aug. 26-29. Golf Canada and Canadian Pacific said Shaughnessy will host the 2023 event and that CP has its extended title sponsorship an additional year through 2024.”
7. Brooke looking for USO breakthrough
Emilia Migliaccio for Golf Channel…”The U.S. Women’s Open holds a special place in Brooke Henderson’s heart because at 15 years old, it was the first cut she made on the LPGA Tour and then at 17, she finished T-10 and placed low amateur.”
  • “I got to be on the 18th green when Michelle Wie was awarded her trophy [in 2014], which is a pretty incredible feeling,” said Henderson on Wednesday who is making her ninth appearance at the U.S. Women’s Open and looking to win her first this week at The Olympic Club.
  • “…It gives me a lot of confidence [to be a major champion] because sometimes you wonder how you’re ever going to be able to finish four rounds or be able to play well on golf courses this challenging. Mentally, I’ve made a lot of gains as of recently, and physically I’m always working hard to improve every day.”
8. Kokrak’s putter switch pays dividends
Our item for the PGA Tour’s Equipment Report…”Jason Kokrak made more than 200 PGA TOUR starts before earning his first victory. Now he has won twice in a matter of months, after staring down local favorite Jordan Spieth at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge.”
  • “The 36-year-old ranks fifth in this season’s FedExCup standings thanks to wins at Colonial and the CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK in October. He has finished in the top 25 in nearly half his starts this season and sits fifth in the FedExCup standings.”
  • “Adjustments made in late 2020 to Kokrak’s Bettinardi Studio Stock 38 putter are bearing serious fruit. It was Kokrak’s caddie, David Robinson (no, not that David Robinson), who recommended that his boss move to a longer putter. The 6-foot-4 Kokrak now uses a 36-inch shaft in his putter, which improves his grip on the putter.”
9. Tour Truck Report
Not a ton going on at Muirfield Village this week! The most notable nugget we’ve heard from sources so far is Rory McIlroy, continuing his return to what’s worked in the past, is making a return to his Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS driver shaft. While we don’t yet have word on weight and flex, it’s presumably the same 70 X model he used in 2019-2020.
  • A morsel not as tasty as a Muirfield Village milkshake, admittedly, but Hideki Matsuyama is testing the prototype Piretti putter pictured below. No stranger to kicking tires on a couple (or a dozen) of putters prior to a tournament and ultimately returning to his gamer, Hideki is anything but confirmed to be putting this beauty in play, but it’s ours to admire, nevertheless.
  • Rory McIlroy is expected to put a Kuro Kage XTS shaft in play in a SIM2 Max head.
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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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