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Morning 9: Fowler’s U.S. Open qualifying bid | Qualifying scores | Bryson: Rivalries good for golf

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Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Fowler’s U.S. Open qualifying bid
AP report…”Already facing a long day, Rickie Fowler found the road even tougher Monday in 36-hole qualifying as he tried to avoid missing the U.S. Open for the first time in 11 years.”
  • “Fowler was among 685 players seeking 54 spots in nine qualifiers across eight states to fill the field for the U.S. Open, which starts June 17 at Torrey Pines in San Diego.”
  • “He played his opening round at Brookside in 1-over 73, which was halted for three hours because of heavy rain and thunder, meaning he likely would need at least a 65 at The Lakes to have any chance.”
  • “Fowler wasn’t going down without a fight. He was 4 under for his round — 3 under for the qualifier — through 13 holes when it was too dark to continue because of the rain delay.”
Full scores, qualifiers here...other notables include Patrick Rodgers, Branden Grace, Bo Hoag, Troy Merritt, John Huh, Sam Ryder, and Akshay Bhatia
2. Premier Golf League slated for 2023?
The BBC’s Ian Carter with the report on the UK-based upstart’s plants to, well, start up…”Detailed plans for a £250m Premier Golf League aimed at revolutionising the professional game are to be revealed later this week.”
  • “BBC Sport has learned that the Formula 1 style global competition is scheduled to begin in January 2023 and would include 18 tournaments targeting the top 48 male players in the world.”
  • “A dozen of those events would be staged in the United States with the others “chasing the sun” around the world. Each competition would be worth $20m (£14m) with $4m going to the winner and last place picking up $150,000.”
  • “By way of comparison, the biggest purse on the PGA Tour for a single event is $2.7m from a $15m prize fund at the Players Championship.”
3. Bryson: Rivalries good for golf
Carlos Monarrez reporting from Rocket Mortgage Classic media day for the Detroit Free Press…”Bryson DeChambeau, at the center of the golf world because of his white-hot rivalry with Brooks Koepka, didn’t want to spend too much time discussing that rivalry Monday when he returned to speak about defending his title at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, July 1-4, at Detroit Golf Club.”
  • “DeChambeau, who will defend his U.S. Open title next week at Torrey Pines in San Diego, said the feud is good for the sport.”
  • “I think a good jesting rivalry is good for the game of golf, nothing too extreme,” he told reporters on media day at Detroit Golf Club. “But at the same point and time that’s all outside of the spectrum of what we’re here for today, and I think the most important thing is to be talking about what Rocket Mortgage is doing for the 313 area and I think the change the course initiative is something that’s bigger than the game of golf, compared to a rivalry.”
4. Armitage!
EuropeanTour.com report…”An emotional Marcus Armitage claimed his maiden European Tour title at the Porsche European Open after a sensational final round at Green Eagle Golf Courses.”
  • “The 33-year-old from England made six birdies and an eagle to race to eight under for the day and nine under for the week.”
  • “At that stage Armitage was four shots clear but he bogeyed the 16th after a misjudged putt from over 100 feet and needed a remarkable chip to save par on the 17th following an overly cautious tee shot”
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5. Costly
Rob Oller voices his opinion for the Columbus Dispatch…”If Rahm had been vaccinated ASAP after his home state of Arizona opened eligibility to all adults on March 24, the 26-year-old Spaniard almost certainly would have avoided testing positive for COVID-19 Saturday at the Memorial Tournament.”
  • “And had he not tested positive, he would not have withdrawn from the Memorial, which he led by six shots with 18 left to play.”
  • “And if he had not withdrawn, Rahm stood a strong chance of leaving Muirfield Village Golf Club with a crystal trophy and $1.675 million.”
  • “It does not take a Fortune 500 company accountant to connect those dots. Get a tiny prick in the arm, avoid the huge hole in the pocket that allowed a cool million-and-a-half to slip through.”
6. Big things ahead for Megha Ganne after impressive U.S. Open showing
Emilia Migliaccio for Golf Channel…”A true class act. Ganne didn’t get frustrated for shooting a higher score than she wanted. She knew the course was bound to get her like it did everyone, but she was composed and motivated to fight the entire day for some birdies, which she finally got on the par-5 17th. She also knew that regardless of the final round results, it would be the week of a lifetime.”
  • “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life. It’s everything I’ve wanted since I was little, so it’s just the best feeling.”
  • “…I can’t thank all these fans enough. They’ve made my week so much better than it could have been. I just felt like there was so much love and so much support, and all of them are really excited to be out here, which is so great to see because I feel like in a small way, I’m making an impact on the game, which is really cool.”
7. The first major champion from the Philippines
Kent Paisley for Golf Digest…”It was 8 a.m. local time on Monday in the Philippines when Saso won the playoff to claim the title, her first LPGA Tour victory. You can rightfully say that Saso raised a new dawn for the game of golf in her home country. “I’m just thankful that there’s so many people in the Philippines cheering for me,” Saso said. “I don’t know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone.”
  • “Interestingly, too, San Francisco has one of the largest Filipina populations of any city in the U.S., with Saso attracting an impressive following during her week at Olympic Club.”
  • “Pagdanganan wasn’t in the field at Olympic Club but is playing in next week’s LPGA stop in San Francisco and arrived at Olympic Club on Sunday to watch Saso starting on the fifth hole.”
  • “I think it’s not only good for her, but I think it’s good for the Philippines,” Pagdanganan said. “She put us on the radar. What she did was absolutely a great thing, not only for golf but for our country.”
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5 things we learned Thursday at the U.S. Open

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Should we have anticipated a fog delay at Torrey Pines? Yes. That’s the kind of thing that happens along the California coast. Should we have anticipated a scorecard like the one that Matthew Wolff turned in? Not in our wildest, sleep-deprived hallucinations. Our guy had five pars out of 18 holes and shot 70. Two of those pars came on his final pair of holes, so through 16 greens, Wolff had eight birdies, three bogey, two doubles … and three pars. There were other odd rounds on the day, but none that ended as well as did that of George Gankas’ star pupil. 36 players were stranded on course overnight and will finish in the morning. Have a look at the five things we learned on Thursday at Torrey Pines.

1. Guys we absolutely should have seen in contention after day one

Start with Koepka. Two-time winner of the U.S. Open, plus mental and physical giant, plus eternal chip on his shoulder, adds up to constant challenge in major events. Brooks reached 4 under par through 11 holes, after his birdie at the second hole. Along with Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas, the Tallahassee Titan began his day on the inward half. Torrey Pines bit him on the very next hole, and again at the seventh, and he finished his day at 2 under.

Xander Schauffele is one of those guys who would have won a major title (say I) had 2020 been a normal sort of year. He was on a roll, and the venues suited his game quite well. Two bogeys and four pars on the day gave him 69 on the day, even with Koepka. Most important takeaway from today? All of his birdies came on the inward half. Comfort on the back nine during Sunday’s home stretch would be everyone’s first request.

Tyrrell Hatton is entertaining. His clench-jawed, self-immolating method of conquering a golf course is not one that I recommend that you emulate, yet I can’t help smile each time he directs a debilitating comment at his own visage. He seems to possess that essence that might take him to the top of a major one day. Dude is thick and plays without fear. He had four birdies on the day and waits in the shadows for his opportunity.

2. Guys we absolutely did not expect to be in contention after day one

The law firm of Molinari and Molinari. If hit with the question Which Molinari has a USGA title? at trivia tonight…or tomorrow…or Saturday, go with Edoardo. Two years ago, we would have expected Francesco to be in the thick of things. Now, not so much. Francesco notched five birdies on the day and escaped with a pair of bogeys in his 68. Brother Edoardo, the 2005 U.S. Amateur titleist at Merion, eclipsed younger brother Francesco in the birdie department (six on the day) but had a rough patch of plus-4 from holes 2-6 at the beginning of his round. When you can do this, however, you can erase bogey!

One actual co-leader, Russell Henley, is one of the tour’s most accurate putters. On Thursday, he toured Torrey in 27 putts, which will win the day quite often. Henley hit 8 of 14 driving fairways but found his way onto 13 greens in regulation. That approach won’t play all week, unless the putter remains white hot.

The other actual co-leader, Louis Oosthuizen, gave chase to Phil Mickelson last month at the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island. Did we anticipate a return challenge from the 2010 Open Champion at St. Andrews? Absolutely not. That, dear reader, is precisely why he is challenging. Oosthuizen’s stature demands that he play a straight-arrow game, and Torrey Pines rewards that approach this week.

3. Guys whose rotten play blew our minds on day one

Webb Simpson was 6 over par when he reached the 10th tee. Then, things got worse. He added a bogey and a double before marking down the day’s only birdie, at 18. Unless there’s a mid-60s round in the offing, Webb’s stay in San Diego will be brief.

Kevin Na might be the best player in history to have absolutely no game for major championships. Na has two token top-10 finishes in 40 career biggie starts. Other than a seventh-place finish at Oakmont in 2016, his U.S. Open record is forgettable. After an opening 77, add 2021 to the flop list.

Justin Rose won the 2019 Farmers at Torrey Pines. What that tells us: he has a nice track record when the course plays like a PGA Tour event. What that does not tell us: how he fares when the USGA takes control of cut lines, green firmness, and putting surface speeds. As far as weird rounds go, have a look at his: par par par bogey bogey bogey par par par bogey bogey bogey par par par. In hindsight, do you think he would eschew the money he was paid in 2014 to jump ship to bad clubs, after his seminal U.S. Open win? Yup. Yup. Yup.

4. Guys we are THRILLED to have in contention

Rafael Cabrera Bello, aka the beautiful goatherd, has long been one of those golfers who should have more wins than his record belies. RCB might have had the day’s only clean card. Birdie at the 2nd, eagle at the 18th, see you on Friday! The Canariano finished top-25 at Winged Foot last September, and perhaps looks to add an even better finish in 2021, thanks to an opening 68.

Keep it Spanish with El Vasco, Jon Rahm. A victim of Covid two weeks ago at The Memorial, Rahm is in town with unfinished business. Knowing well that he cannot bull his way around a U.S. Open track, Rahm has chosen a more elegant method, and it is paying dividends. After a helter-skelter front nine of birdies, bogeys, and just two pars, Rahmbo settled down on the inward half and finished his round at -2.

5. Guys we see hoisting the trophy on Sunday

Unlike Winged Foot last fall, there are no angles that allow for bomb and wedge play at Torrey Pines. Ultimately, the new prototype for a U.S. Open course will be more Torrey than Golden Age. Length doesn’t matter this year. What wins on Sunday is the golf equivalent of the decathalete. Blend all the skill sets for 96 hours, and you depart with the art. With that image seared into your mind, here are three chaps with a chance.

Hideki

Matsuyama showed us in April that he has the major disposition. If the putter stays warm, the pride of Japan will be halfway to a 2021 grand slam with his second major title.

Matt

Fitzpatrick won a U.S. Amateur the same year that Rose won the Open at Merion. Fitzy is trending upward the last few weeks, and Father’s Day might be the one for him to honor his pops with a major professional title.

Lee

As much as we love a rising-star story, we long for a fading-star comeback. Westy was oh-so-close in 2008, the year of the broken tiger. He has zero major professional titles on his family crest, so does he break through in 2021? I’m not the one to say no.

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Report: PGA Tour set to ban green-reading books

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The PGA Tour is on the verge of banning green reading books as early as this year, according to a report from GolfWeek’s Eamon Lynch.

Per the report, the Players Advisory Committee voted “overwhelmingly” to ban the books at a meeting during the Memorial Tournament a fortnight ago. The onus is now on the PGA Tour Board, who will vote on whether to ban the aid or not.

Green reading books are one of the most popular aids on tour, with the vast majority of tour pros using them on the greens. However, critics of the aid have often commented that the books take the art and skill of putting away, with others believing they lead to slow play.

Augusta National Golf Club is currently the only club that bans the books, which is brought up each time the club hosts the Masters.

Per the report, The Players Advisory Council met at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio on Tuesday, June 1 where they voted overwhelmingly to ban the books. The PAC is currently chaired by Rory McIlroy and includes Justin Thomas, Billy Horschel and Zach Johnson.

One player who was at the meeting is firmly in favor of the ban and told Lynch: “It was overwhelming. It wasn’t close. The books should be banned. Green reading is a skill to be learned.”

Before this week’s U.S. Open, Rory Mcilroy told media at Torrey Pines:

“Everything that’s talked about in those meetings is somewhat confidential, but what I can say, I think — I use a greens book, and I’d like to get rid of them.

I think everyone is in the same boat, most guys on tour are in the same boat, that if it’s going to be available to us and it helps us, people are going to use it, but I think for the greater good of the game, I’d like to see them be outlawed and for them not to be used anymore.”

Should the PGA Tour vote to outlaw the books, the ban should come into effect at the beginning of the 2021/22 PGA Tour season later this year.

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Equipment

U.S. Open Tour Truck Report: #7woodSZN, mini drivers, fresh grooves, and tinkering

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A nearly 7,700-yard, par-71 track featuring penal rough off the fairway and green, Torrey Pines’ South Course presents a difficult, demanding examination for players at this week’s U.S. Open. From every television, computer, and mobile device screen this truth is being conveyed to the point that, as is often the case in the leadup to U.S. Opens, a certain fatigue sets in.

However, it’s worth pointing to the obvious in order to highlight the fact that some players are making changes to their setups to accommodate the long approaches into par-4s and the need to maximize descent angle into — what are expected to be — thoroughly baked out greens.

Additionally, we’re hearing a ton of players are putting 7-woods in play primarily for the purpose of advancing the ball from the rough — not exactly “a get out of jail free” card, but hopefully a key to slip out of one’s cell.

Let’s get into the specifics.

Titleist

Jordan Spieth is testing a 21-degree TSi2 fairway wood, which is a game-time decision to add to the lineup in place of his 818 H2 hybrid.

Both Lanto Griffin and Matt Jones are adding TSi2 (21-degree) fairway woods in place of their utility irons.

Adam Scott is going with four woods this week. He’s adding a 13.5-degree TSi2 fairway wood. The Australian is also putting a Vokey 60A wedge in play (switching from a 60-06K). With four degrees of bounce, the wedge works well on tight lies.

Titleist Tour Rep J.J. Van Wezenbeeck: “The rough is really, really difficult this week. And the greens are starting to firm up. So we have a lot of players evaluating TSi fairway wood options. The TSi 21-degree 7-wood has been very popular. Players are really liking what it does out of the rough and then into the greens – really high launch angle and landing very softly has been really effective.”

Max Homa put a new Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5, which is a similar profile to the 11.5 model he played earlier in the year. Homa likes the feel, forgiveness, and ease of alignment in the smaller profile.

Vokey

Not surprisingly, the majority of players asking for fresh grooves this week.

Vokey Tour Rep Aaron Dill on wedges this week: “This golf course is a beast. As you would imagine, rough is long and thick, but it’s a really cool different style of golf course where you’ve got a couple different types of grasses and just the way they put it together, it makes it extremely challenging. Because of this rough, because of the fairways, because of the greens, you would think that you’d want a little bit more bounce because of just how juicy and thick and healthy this rough is. But the reality is the more bounce you get, the slower it moves through that tall grass.”

“And so we see a lot of guys gravitate to something with less bounce: T grinds, A Grinds, L Grinds, Low-bounce K’s. Adam Scott switched to a 60A this week. He dabbled a little bit with it at Augusta National this year, but this is that week where it really fits the conditions. He wants that speed. He wants that comfort. He wants to be aggressive, so it’s great fit for him. Guys like Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth are bringing in fresh 60’s this week. So these guys are prepared. They’re ready to go. But again, very difficult golf course. You’ve got to have fresh grooves and you’ve got to have a little bit less bounced to maneuver through this tall grass.”

(Photo via Titleist)

Callaway

Phil Mickelson was spotted with a TaylorMade 300 Mini Driver (Fujikura Ventus Black shaft) in practice rounds. He’s also reportedly testing a 5-wood with a Fujikura Ventus Red 9 X shaft.

Akshay Bhatia is testing a Fujikura Ventus Black 7 X shaft in an Epic Max LS driver.

Patrick Rodgers is testing a Callaway Epic Speed 7-wood (Graphite Design Tour AD DI 9 TX).

Henrik Stenson has new Jaws MD5 Slate wedges in the bag (52-10S, 58-08C).

(Photo via Callaway’s Johnny Wunder)

TaylorMade

Dustin Johnson looks to be returning to a TaylorMade TP Bandon putter (now outfitted with an LA Golf shaft) after rolling it with his Spider IB Limited at the Palmetto Championship. He’s sticking with the prototype LA Golf shaft in his driver, which makes sense, considering he now owns part of the company.

Ping

Reportedly “half of the tour staff” are putting 7-woods in play, according to our source at Ping. Bubba Watson and Mackenzie Hughes included.

Watson’s 7-wood specs: Ping G425 Max (23.5 degrees). 40.5-inch Fujikura Black 9 X shaft in custom pink (tipped 2 inches, D2+).

Cole Hammer is testing a Graphite Design Tour AD HD 7 TX shaft in his driver.

Others, free agents

Hideki Matsuyama is testing a Graphite Design Tour AD UB 9 X shaft in a SIM2 Max 3-wood.

Rikuya Hoshino is testing Graphite Design Tour AD UB 9 X in a Srixon ZX5 driver.

Shane Lowry has a new Cleveland RTX Full-Face 58-degree wedge in play.

Zack Sucher is putting a 16-degree Srixon ZX hybrid in play.

The king of stout shafts, Jhonny Vegas is testing a Fujikura Ventus Black 100 X shaft in his 5-wood.

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