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5 things we learned Friday at the U.S. Open

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Some golfers played 24 holes on Friday to ensure that the woodsman’s axe would fall and the 36-hole cut would take place on schedule. Louis Oosthuizen closed out his opening 67 with three pars, joining Russell Henley atop the leaderboard. Sebastian Muñoz wasn’t so fortunate. He made double at the par-5 ninth to drop to even on the round then ballooned to a 77 to miss the cut by two. So cruel, this game. For every Muñoz, however, there is an Akshay Bhatia. Let’s enjoy his clutch performance at the last, and count the five things that we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open.

1. Bland on the run

Check my Twitter feed. At 2:10 pm, EST on this Friday of U.S. Open 2021, I indicated to @acaseofthegolf1 that I would utilize Bland on the run rather than the trite Anything but bland, in honor of Sir Paul McCartney’s recent birthday. There you go. What’s that? Who is Richard Bland? He’s an English bloke, a man who amassed seven birdies against three bogeys on day two and jumped to 6 under par for a time. He made bogey at his penultimate hole, else he would be at minus 6 on the week. Bland won his first European Tour event last month after years of attempts. He came close in 2002 at the Irish Open, where he lost in a playoff. Since then, it’s been grind, grind, grind. He cannot possibly win this thing, given that better Brits like Monty, Poulty, Westy, Casey, and Lukey have not. Rosey did win it, however, so maybe Blandy can do so, after all. What’s he got to lose?

2. Speaking of guys we haven’t seen in a minute…

That two-time Masters champion, Bubba Watson, matched Bland’s 67  with an eagle at the 18th. He moved into fourth place, two behind Bland. That Louis Oosthuizen got up early (see lede) to finish round one, struggled a bit through round two, but rallied through the hangover, and birdied two holes down the stretch to finish at even on the day, one back of Bland. That Jon Rahm played more solid, post-COVID-19 golf, posting 70 for minus 3. Rahm lowered his bogey total from three to two on day two, and that’s the key to winning U.S. Open championships. And one more? How about first-round, co-leader Russell Henley, also known as second-round co-leader Russell Henley? He followed his 67 with 70, led for his own minute, and will tee off in the final pairing with Richard Bland.

3. Calling mid-60s round

Six rounds of 67 have been posted, followed by five more at 68. Yes, this is the U.S. Open, but these are the world’s best golfers, on a course that they know very well. Someone will find a way to reach 65 today, mark my words. That 6-under round will do someone a lot of good, but it won’t win the tournament. Nothing wins the tournament on Saturday.

What will allow that magical round to happen? In the first place, the golfer will drive the ball in play on all three long holes, and will not err laterally with his second. Birdies or better on all three par-5 holes will be necessary to offset the occasional bogey on Torrey Pines’ long-for-your-and-me par 4s. By shooting that number on Saturday, the lead pack after 54 holes will know that it can be done, and will chase the same number down on Sunday.

4. Right brain, meet left brain

I cannot move farther without recognizing the two sides of Matthew Wolff. On Thursday, the young Californian painted his scorecard like a creative kindergartner. He amassed eight birdies and countered them with three bogeys and two doubles. On Friday, Wolff played nothing like that foundling. His game was controlled, his numbers were almost boring, but he improved by two shots to 68 and a tie for third, at 4 under par. The Oklahoma State product isn’t driving the ball that well, but he is finding his way to the putting surface. A 43 percent fairways-hit statistic is countered by a nearly incomprehensible 75 percent greens in regulation that ranks him first. The only way to explain his rise is that blend of confidence and arrogance that successful golfers have. Wolff tees off in the penultimate grouping with the resurgent Oosthuizen, who looks to improve upon last year’s T3 at Winged Foot, and last month’s T2 at Kiawah.

5. Saturday’s fun pairing

I cannot resist the third-last pairing of Bubba Watson and Jon Rahm. Gerry Lester Watson tied for 18th at the 2009 U.S. Open, his best career finish in this event. Since then, even as he won two Masters and established himself in the upper echelon of the game’s talent, the US Open became an enigma. Not hard to imagine why; the long lefthander adds a mercurial temperament that doesn’t square with a USGA set-up. Torrey is different, and Watson has a long-ago triumph here, over Phil Mickelson of all golfers, in his memory bank. Watson makes birdies, including five in his final seven holes on Friday. He’ll need to churn out another half-dozen on Saturday and Sunday each, to take a run at a coveted, second unique major title. No one knows what goes on in Bubba’s mind, least of all Bubba. That’s when he plays his best.

Paired with him is the game’s great in waiting, Jon Rahm. Much has been written of his unfortunate disqualification from the Memorial, and in truth, a parkland course in middle America has no bearing on the next 48 hours. Rahm has shed the mentors and is his own man. What type of champion will he become? El gran Vasco has eight birdies and five bogies over the first 36 holes, and has kept the ball mostly in play through the green. His long-game numbers are fine, but it’s the way he rolls the ball that has kept him in the game. Is that a great recipe for a brush with immortality? Probably not, unless he keeps it up. Saturday will show us the depth of Rahm’s mental fortitude.

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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. Steve Hjortness

    Jun 19, 2021 at 11:45 am

    Extraordinarily well written article. Well done Ron.

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Photos from the 2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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GolfWRX is live this week from the Monterey Peninsula in Pebble Beach, California, for the 2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the most scenic and celebrity-filled event on the PGA Tour.

Pebble Beach Golf Links sits atop cliffs that overlook Carmel Bay, producing both breathtaking views and an imposing threat. The multi-course event is also played on Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course.

A unique inclusion in this week’s photos: celebrity WITBs from a few of the amateurs in the field (including Darius Rucker, SchoolboyQ, and Macklemore). We also have a number of WITBs from the professional contingent and a look at Buffalo Bills’ QB Josh Allen’s sticks. Also: A look at some iconic Arnold Palmer clubs (pictured in the featured image).

Check out links to all our photos below, and when you’re done, join the discussion in the forums.

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Morning 9: ANWA field | Bryson’s surgery | DP World Tour pro roasts Reed

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]

February 2, 2023

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am gets underway.

1. ANWA field announced

From the official release…”Invitations to compete in the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur were sent in January and 70 players to date have been confirmed for the Championship, which will be held March 29-April 1 in Augusta, Ga.”

  • “Each of the top 45 eligible amateurs in the final World Amateur Golf Ranking of 2022 have accepted invitations to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, including the last two champions, Tsubasa Kajitani and Anna Davis, along with top-ranked amateur Rose Zhang.”
  • “Beginning the week prior to the 87th Masters Tournament, the international field will compete across 54 holes of stroke play, with a cut to 30 players and ties taking place after 36 holes. The first two rounds will take place on the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat Golf Club on Wednesday, March 29 and Thursday, March 30. The entire field will then play Augusta National for an official practice round on Friday, March 31. The final round will take place at Augusta National on Saturday, April 1 and will feature the competitors who made the cut.”
  • “New in 2023, the first and second rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur will be broadcast live on Golf Channel (1:30-3:30 p.m. ET) from Champions Retreat Golf Club. NBC Sports will produce and broadcast three hours (Noon-3 p.m. ET) of live final-round coverage of the event at Augusta National.”
  • Full field details at the link.
Full piece.

2. Bryson’s vertigo surgery

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”Bryson DeChambeau underwent surgery last month to alleviate an issue that has caused vertigo over the past few years.”

  • “DeChambeau, making his first start of the year at the Asian Tour’s Saudi International, said in a story on LIV Golf’s website that he had surgery Dec. 15 to remove a retention cyst in one of his maxillary sinuses. That cyst had restricted one of his nasal passages, leading to dizzy spells and bouts of vertigo that have plagued him since the 2020 Masters.”
  • “To get that fixed, it’s been the greatest decision of my life,” DeChambeau told the website. “My energy level is so much better. My clarity of thought is way better. I don’t know if you can tell, but my speech is a lot more fluent and I’m not stopping as much or pitching as much like I used to last year and before. I feel like I’m back to 2018 me.”
Full piece.

3. DP World Tour pro roasts Reed

(language warning!)

4. LPGA Blue Bay canceled

Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…”PGA officials announced on Tuesday that the Blue Bay LPGA has been cancelled again due to “ongoing COVID-19 related matters” in China. The tournament was originally scheduled to be played March 9-12 on Hainan Island and feature a $2.1 million purse. The last time it was played was in the fall of 2018, where Gaby Lopez won. The last time the LPGA hosted any tournament in China was October 2019.”

  • “The LPGA started its 2023 season two weeks ago in Florida with the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, won by Brooke Henderson. The next event, however, isn’t until the end of February when the tour was scheduled to begin a three-event swing in Asia. The Blue Bay LPGA was slotted as the final event of the swing, after stops in Thailand and Singapore. The first two stops are still moving forward as planned.”
Full piece.

5. Sign me up!

Dave Shedloski for Golf Digest…“It was only logical after the PGA Tour announced the WM Phoenix Open was raising its purse to $20 million, that Feb. 6, 2023 would become one of the most anticipated days in professional golf for a certain subset of players.”

  • “Monday qualifiers, the 18-hole tournaments that provide an entry into tour events, tend to be competitive shootouts that draw, on average, 60-80 players of various standing who can’t otherwise get in a field. But this coming Monday at McCormick Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., the qualifier for the WMPO at TPC Scottsdale could draw close to twice that number.”
  • “As of Tuesday, 80 players were registered to compete for the three spots available in the year’s first “designated” full-field event. That is a “significant number” compared to this juncture in previous years, according to Bill Ibrahim, chief operating officer of the Southwest PGA, which conducts the qualifier on behalf of the PGA Tour. Last year, 89 players entered the WM qualifier—in line with previous years—but only 69 teed it up and 61 posted a score.”
Full piece.

6. Justin Suh’s journey

Excellent profile from Kevin Prise at PGATour.com…”When Suh clinched his TOUR card with a runner-up finish at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank in early August, the Korn Ferry Tour social content team asked who he’d like to call first. He immediately tried his older sister Hannah.”

  • “It was an obvious choice. Suh emulated Hannah as a kid; she was also an accomplished junior golfer, and his first golf goal was flying to compete in a tournament like Hannah did. She’d take lessons, then teach Justin what she had learned. He describes her as a “vibrant soul and a magnet to people.” They remain close, taking regular trips like a recent hike at Yosemite.”
  • “An older sibling doesn’t usually want a younger sibling to be with them, but she invited me to everything,” Suh said. “I got to experience life with her, saw how she treated people, how people treated her back. It was enlightening to me, to see how far kindness goes.”
  • “In that moment of delivering the #TOURBound message, though, Suh couldn’t reach Hannah. He tried calling once, twice, a third time. No luck.”
  • “During that phone call, she was camping somewhere,” Suh said. “And I gave her a hard time, because I was like, ‘Hey, you made me look bad, because you didn’t answer the phone call when I got my PGA TOUR card.’ She was just laughing.”
Full Piece.

7. Key to Pebble? Hitting tiny targets

Ben Everill for PGATour.com…”At an average of just 3,500 square feet at the host course Pebble Beach, a premium on Greens In Regulation percentages and proximity to holes stats is evident. It’s one thing to hit the small targets, and another thing to be close enough to convert more chances than others on the poa putting surfaces.”

  • “Over the last 11 seasons, the winner at Pebble Beach has ranked inside the top 10 for GIR. It’s seemingly non-negotiable.”
  • “A year ago, Tom Hoge held off Jordan Spieth and others to claim his first win. He was fifth in the field in the final round in proximity of approach shots at 25 feet, 10 inches. The year prior champion Daniel Berger was also dynamite at Pebble in the final round as he led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach (+3.53) and proximity (20 feet, 8 inches). Berger averaged 10 feet; 7 inches-inches closer than the field in proximity on Sunday.”
  • “So, it makes sense to quickly home in on these metrics. If we look at the current season stats for players in the field this week who rank highly in GIR we see U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick (seventh on TOUR) as the high watermark. Hoge (16th) is next with Kevin Yu (24th) and Nick Hardy (25th) the only other two inside the top 25 on TOUR this season.”
Full Piece.

8. More Mickelsonia

More from S.I.’s Bob Harig’s Q&A with Phil…”What do you make of the TV deal with the CW Network?”

  • “PM: I think it’s favorable. It’s very difficult to have a relationship with a network that had a commitment to other sports and priorities. CW has a chance to cover all 14 of our events, putting us first. They have a younger demographic, which we want. They wanted to get into sports and now they have a shot at live golf. It’s a two-year deal. The first deal is not going to be a blockbuster. It’s short enough time to where we can prove ourselves and then get a much stronger and more lucrative deal. If it were a longer deal, it might be better for them and investing in our product. But having it two years sets us up for a bigger deal.”
  • “SI: Any sense on what might happen with LIV Golf getting OWGR points?”
  • “PM: There will probably be another ranking system that is a more credible system as it includes all golfers in the world. This one has lost any credibility. I wouldn’t be surprised if tournaments stopped using it as a criteria for qualifying. I think it is ultimately hurting the tournaments more than the players. If you’re a major championship and you’re using it as a qualifying factor and you’re taking a system that is not getting all the best players in the field, it hurts the tournament more. That’s why you might see tournaments go away from it as qualifying criteria. Or have a new ranking system.”
Full Piece.

9. AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am photos

  • Check out our galleries from this week’s tour stop!
Full Piece.
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Morning 9: More from Phil | Josh Allen missing Pro Bowl to play golf | Bubba on Masters dinner

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]

February 1, 2023

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, and a happy February.

For me, Ben Hogan remains the standard of golf professionalism and respect for/dedication to the game of golf. And in his retirement from playing professionally, I respect the specificity of his focus — making golf equipment of the highest quality — rather than engaging in a broad-reaching licensing and branding business (and when he did, it was to substantive things like a development tour). Just my opinion, of course, and I welcome your rebuttals in favor of Arnie, Bobby, Byron, or Jack!

1. PGA Tour to ban non-members for a year if they play ‘unauthorized’ events

Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”The PGA Tour has moved to stem the flow of players to LIV Golf even beyond its own membership with a new regulation that comes with a one-year ban.”

  • “According to the regulation, which began with the 2022-23 season, “any player who has participated in an unauthorized tournament is ineligible to compete in any event sanctioned by the PGA Tour for a period of one year.”
  • An “unauthorized tournament” is defined in the player handbook as “any golf event for which the commissioner has denied or has indicated he would deny all conflicting event releases and/or media releases or not eligible for releases because it is to be held in North America.”
Full piece.

2. Bubba on Masters dinner

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Scottie Scheffler has joked that he’ll have a “separate table” for Bubba Watson at this year’s Masters Champions Dinner.”

  • “Even if that was true, Watson says he’d have no issue.”
  • “Hey, as long as I’m in the Champions Dinner, I’m fine,” Watson said Tuesday in his pre-tournament press conference at the Saudi International. “I’ll sit wherever he tells me. It’s fine. As long as I’m allowed back, I’ll sit wherever he wants me to. I’ll sit outside and just stare in the window.”
Full piece.

3. Phil on the road ahead

A bit from (the now more restrained) Lefty’s Q&A with S.I.’s Bob Harig…

  • “SI: Do you wonder about the possibility of never playing in another PGA Tour event?”
  • “PM: If I were never to play another PGA Tour event, I’m totally at peace with it. But I believe by next year I’ll have the opportunity if I want [due to the pending litigation]. I don’t know if I’ll have the time. I’m playing 19 events and don’t know how much more. I’d actually rather scale down the number of tournaments, because I’m also in the four majors. That’s a lot of golf.”
  • “But I’m motivated and excited to get started. All of these things create new energy. Having teammates to push each other. I’m motivated, but I don’t see the benefit to playing more. The tournaments where you are going to leave a mark are the majors. That creates a life memory. If I win another Tour event, who cares? It’s not like it’s going to do anything for how I look at my career. Another major would be a unique, special moment. That’s really where I want to thrive. And sure, it would mean a lot to win some LIV events because of the role I’ve played as it’s been created.”
Full piece.

4. Rising LPGA star Linn Grant likely to miss first major of season due to U.S. vaccine travel restrictions

Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“Linn Grant will begin her 2023 season in Morocco next week on the Ladies European Tour. One of the most promising young players in the game, Grant was forced to play a limited LPGA schedule last year because U.S. travel restrictions won’t let her in the country as she is not vaccinated against COVID-19.”

  • “Grant, who is currently No. 28 in the Rolex Rankings, will be able to compete in the LPGA’s upcoming Asian swing, but her agent, Pelle Krüger said they’re not optimistic that she’ll be able to compete in the year’s first major, the Chevron Championship.”
Full piece.

5. Fitzpatrick joins TGL

Reuters report…”U.S. Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick has agreed to participate in the tech-focused golf league that is being launched next year by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s TMRW Sports in conjunction with the PGA Tour, the company said on Tuesday.”

  • “World number 10 Fitzpatrick is the seventh player to commit to competing in TGL’s inaugural season along with fellow major winners Woods, McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott and Collin Morikawa.”
Full piece.

6. Homa celebrates Farmers win by cleaning up at Papago Skins

7. Why Josh Allen is missing the Pro Bowl

Nick Wojton for Bills Wire…“Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is hitting the links at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament rather than playing in the National Football League’s Pro Bowl.”

  • “The Bills QB was announced as one of the guests invited to the PGA Tour event this week. It will take place from Feb. 2-5 in California.”
  • “Allen is no stranger to the event, having taken part in it in 2022.”
Full Piece.

8. Cam Smith on OWGR situation

Elliott Heath for Golf Monthly…”Cameron Smith makes his first start of 2023 at the Asian Tour’s flagship event in Saudi Arabia this week, with the 150th Open champion entering the tournament as World No.4.”

  • Asked about how he feels about his OWGR slide, Smith said it “hurts” and also claimed the rankings were becoming more “obsolete.”
  • “I mean, I’ve tried to take it not that badly, to be honest,” he said at this week’s Saudi International. “I think when you rock up to a tournament, you know who you have to beat, whether there’s a World Ranking or not. There’s generally seven or eight guys that are in that field that you know are going to put up a pretty good fight.
  • “For sure it hurts. I feel as though I was really close to getting to No.1, and that was definitely something I wanted to tick off, but kind of the longer that this stuff goes on, I think the more obsolete those rankings become.
  • “That’s just the long and short of it, I think. Do we need them? It would be nice, but like I said, you know who you’ve got to beat when you get on the golf course.”
Full Piece.

9. AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am photos

  • Check out our galleries from this week’s tour stop!
Full Piece.
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