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Morning 9: Bryson’s no-win situation | U.S. Am: Reeves ahead play suspended | Olympic ratings

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
August 11, 2021
Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Bryson’s no-win situation
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”For the past year he’s been riding a tidal wave of controversy, and he has weathered those storms – the vaccine misinformation, the “fore!” calls, the equipment gripe, the caddie split, the rules disputes, the image protection – with varying degrees of success. At least they’ve all passed. But there is one topic that’s unabating, and unfortunately for him it’s the one largely out of his control: the Koepka Kerfuffle.”
  • “When the “Brooksy!” calls first began, at the PGA Championship and then the Memorial, DeChambeau laughed them off. Called them “flattering,” actually.”
  • “…In hindsight, what other recourse did he have?”
  • “If he admitted publicly that it bothered him, fans would sense that weakness and exploit it.”
  • “It was a no-win situation.”
2. U.S. Am: Reeves ahead play suspended
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Nearly four hours of weather delay ensured that stroke play would continue into Wednesday at the 121st U.S. Amateur.”
  • “Half of the 312-player field will have to return to Oakmont Country Club and Longue Vue Club to complete their rounds and solidify the 64-player match-play bracket. Brad Reeves, however, will be able to sit back and watch.”
  • “The Arizona grad, playing in his first USGA championship, backed up a 5-under 65 Monday at Longue Vue with a wild even-par 70 Tuesday at Oakmont. Reeves carded six birdies and six bogeys, and he made just two pars on the back nine, to get into the clubhouse at 5 under, best of anyone finished.”
3. Mack the APGA king
Via ESPN…”Willie Mack III ran off three early birdies to pull away and closed with an 8-under 64 on Tuesday for a 6-shot victory in the Mastercard APGA Tour Championship.”
  • “The victory was worth $27,500 to Mack. He earned $10,000 for the victory at the TPC Sugarloaf, along with $17,500 for winning the Lexus Cup Points title and player of the year.”
  • “It capped a memorable seven months for Mack, who received sponsor exemptions to two PGA Tour events on the West Coast swing, and then made the cut in his past two PGA Tour starts at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and John Deere Classic.”
Surprised to see a quarterly print publication advertised in a daily email newsletter? Don’t be.
The idea behind the Morning 9 is a roundup of the day’s most significant storylines presented in an easy-to-digest format. The Golfer’s Journal occupies the other end of the spectrum: long-form, photo rich essays from some of the best writers in golf discussing all elements of this beautiful, maddening game.
More a collection of essays than a magazine. More a coffee table book of first-rate photos than a glossy, ad-filled monthly — GJ is a must-have for true lovers of golf.
GolfWRX may earn a commission of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
4. Bling
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…“I know a lot of tough golf courses scare a lot of people,” Bling said, “and to me, I see it as a challenge and accept it.”
  • “Bling stepped into the ring Tuesday morning at Oakmont after a 1-under 69 Monday at Longue Vue Club, which yielded a 63 to first-round leader Jacob Bridgeman. With the match-play cut likely to land within a shot or two of 3 over, Bling had a cushion, but not much; Oakmont played an average of more than seven shots over par on the first day of stroke-playing qualifying.”
  • “In other words, Bling had to be on his toes.”
  • “Oakmont landed the first strike, a bogey on the opening hole, but Bling quickly settled in. He birdied Nos. 3 and 4, and later turned in a tidy even-par 35. No damage done. After trading shots with a birdie at No. 12 and bogey at No. 14, Bling delivered the first uppercut.”
5. Reed WDs
Golf Channel report…”After competing in Minnesota, Japan and Tennessee in the last three weeks, Patrick Reed has decided to take a break ahead of the FedExCup playoffs.”
  • “Reed withdrew on Tuesday from this week’s Wyndham Championship, the PGA Tour’s final regular-season event. The three-tournament playoffs begin next week, with The Northern Trust at Liberty National. No official reason was given for Reed’s withdrawal.”
6. Olympic golf ratings
Via Geoff Shackelford…Ratings were up big! But the men’s Olympic golf was down about 8 million American viewers compared to 2016’s final round picked up by NBC. So there’s that.
  • “From Golf Channel PR: Coverage of the down-to-the-wire final round of men’s golf on Saturday, July 31 delivered the best late night viewership in GOLF Channel history (878,000 viewers, Midnight-3:30 am ET), and ranked second among all networks in that time period (behind only NBC’s “Prime Plus” Olympics show).”
  • “Where, incidentally, the golf was not deemed good enough to show on NBC Prime Plus.”
7. Webb
Our Andy Lack…”Ahead of this week’s Wyndham Championship, Webb Simpson joined Michael Breed on a “New Breed of Golf” on Sirius XM PGA Tour radio to discuss the recent heckling drama surrounding Bryson DeChambeau.”
  • “Referring to unruly fans, Simpson condemned the recent behavior of fans at events, saying: “We don’t like it. They yell this stuff. You will never see players or caddies laughing. We get annoyed by it because we’re out there trying to work. We’re not coming into an office meeting in their office and yelling at them.”
Seriously — check out the spread above. Subscribe to the Golfer’s Journal (or give it as a gift to the golf aficionados in your life!).
8. On Harry Higgs
Excellent stuff from Ben Everill on the lovable Mr. Higgs…”Popularity has its pros and cons. Higgs is constantly being asked by fans to put on a show. But he’s not a trained seal. All his highlights have been natural emotions in the moment.”
  • “I never thought I would have to manage just being myself, but with more attention and more eyeballs comes maybe more expectation,” Higgs says. “And the silly things people yell at you can obviously distract from the reason you’re really there.”
  • “When form starts to dip, like it has again this season, it becomes even harder to always be smiling. Higgs enters this week’s Wyndham Championship at 88th in the FedExCup.”
  • “The early runner-up and the T4 in his major debut at Kiawah Island have already helped secure passage to another season but in the six starts since the PGA, Higgs has five missed cuts and finished 68th at the Memorial Tournament.”
9. $1 million for what? 
Via the Golf Channel Digital Team…”The winner of the Wyndham Championship isn’t the only player who will take home a $1 million prize.”
  • “Also being decided this week is the winner of the AON Risk Reward Challenge, a season-long competition that determines which player averages the best score on a designed hole (one that usually requires a strategic decision). A player’s two best scores on that hole each week count toward the season-long total.”
  • “Matthew Wolff leads the competition heading into the final regular-season event of the season, averaging more than a stroke under par (-1.105) on the designated holes. Wolff needs to play the first two rounds of the Wyndham to reach the 40-round minimum.”
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Ryder Cup Rundown: Sunday Singles

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2021 signified a seminal switch in many ways for both sides of the Ryder Cup exhibition matches. Farewell was bid to a number of golfers who had represented their colors over the years, and welcome was offered to others who donned team kits for the first or second time.

Whistling Straits was an appropriate venue for this upgrade to Ryder Cup 3.0. In appearance, it is a blend of both competing units. It looks for all the world to be an Irish or Scottish links, and yet it lies along the shore of Lake Michigan, well within the continental United States.

Sunday’s singles matches began with Europe in a 5-11 deficit needing nine points in 12 matches to retain possession of the cherished chalice. There was a prior blueprint for such a comeback, and it was written in 2012, also on midwestern U.S. soil. At Medinah Country Club near Chicago, the Euros erased a 6-10 deficit in singles. They would need to go one point better to hold bragging rights until 2023 when the matches are played in Italy for the first time.

Match One: McIlroy vs. Schauffele

Rory McIlroy arrived on the 11:04 flight to Haven, Wisconsin. He looked none the worse for wear. Still, the local authorities have been alerted to apprehend the imposter who somehow maneuvered into partner matches over the past two days and lost a passel of points to the American side. Inserted into the leadoff spot on Sunday, McIlroy took down American strongman Xander Schauffele with relative ease. The Northern Irishman played 3-under golf through the 16th green, and claimed a 3 & 2 victory over the 2020 Olympic gold medalist in golf. Schauffele managed to win a pair of holes on the day, but his two-over effort would only have been victorious in a hurricane. Would McIlroy’s headlamp heroics charge up his teammates? If not today, maybe tomorrow. In his words: “I love my teammates so much. I should have done more for them this week.”

Match Two: Lowry vs. Cantlay

Ever wonder why nicknames are never self-awarded? Now you do. Patty Ice wanted no part of an Emerald Isle double victory to begin Sunday at the Straits. For those who follow golf intimately, Cantlay should have been a generational talent since 2012 or so, but life brutally inserted itself into the equation. Bowed but not broken, bent but not laid flat, Cantlay re-emerged and at age 29, has reclaimed his lofty position in the world of golf. On Sunday, a stretch of three birdies and a par erased Lowry’s early, 1-up lead, and placed the Californian in a dominant position. Lowry, always a fighter, chipped two holes from the margin as the home stretch beckoned. In true Ice fashion, Cantlay won three consecutive holes from 14 on and claimed the first of 3.5 needed points for a Team USA victory.

Match Three: Rahm vs. Scheffler

If the man formerly known as Captain America wants to claim he should have replaced someone on this year’s USA side, it won’t be fellow Texan Scottie Scheffler. Opponent Jon Rahm played the opening quartet of holes in even par — and found himself a quick 4 down to the Ryder Cup rookie. If you’ve played Whistling Straits, you know that those four holes aren’t so easy to par, much less birdie. Rahm won a hole back at the fifth but gained no momentum over the next five holes, which were halved in pars. Spain’s Atlas was exhausted after carrying the team on his shoulders for two days and simply could not mount a charge against Team USA’s other raging rookie. In the end, it was Scheffler by 4 & 3, and a point number two of 3.5 for the home squad.

Match Four: García vs. DeChambeau

The Ryder Cup may never again see a start like this one: 345-yard drive to green, 41-foot putt for eagle, DeChambeau by one. The #BigBangTheory had the good fortune to face Sergio García who, like the aforementioned Atlas Rahm, had carried the continent for 48 hours. García won four holes on the day, but he also lost seven. You cannot lose seven holes and hope to win, unless astronomical odds are in your favor. After the first-hole fireworks, DeChambeau claimed the second and fourth holes with García winning three and five. There was no quit in either dog, but #CaptainPhysics claimed another pair as the front nine closed, to claim a 3-up lead heading into the second side. The pair exchanged four consecutive holes midway home, and BDC ended it with par at the 16th. Half a point to go for Team USA.

Match Five: Hovland vs. Morikawa

14 of 18 holes were won outright in this tilt. Hovland won two, then Morikawa won four, then they traded, then Hovland won three and Morikawa one, then they traded the last two holes. The match was halved, and it provided Team USA with the half-point it needed to claim the Cup. It also marked what might be a great rivalry for future cups. Morikawa (California) and Hovland (Oklahoma State) came out together, and although Morikawa has two majors to Hovie’s none, there’s a sense that Hovland has what it takes to be a major champion. Let’s raise a glass to the potential of these two as Ryder Cup standard-bearers for a few decades.

Match Six: Casey vs. Johnson

Grampa Dustin, tell us again how you went 5-and-oh in 2021! I’ll pull up a cushion and listen. Reality check number one came when DJ was identified as the old man on Team USA for this playing of the Ryder Cup matches. Reality check number two came when we remembered how great he can be. DJ coached Collin Morikawa into Ryder Cup comfort over the first two days while simultaneously adding to his legacy. DJ might have had a few spirits to cast off in Haven (remember that PGA Championship b.s.?) and he sent them packing. Casey was a solid opponent on day three, but despite owning the forearms that Tiger envied, the Englishman came up just a bit short against South Carolina’s tallest icon.

Match Seven: Wiesberger vs. Koepka

There stands a very good chance that Bernd Wiesberger will make the European side for next year’s matches. In the interim, the Austrian should go and get a full-chest tattoo of some fierce and mythical creature, like a Krampus. I don’t know that there is anything about him that strikes fear into Team USA, and I suspect that he’ll need it in 363 days or so. The match was even through fifteen holes, true. Koepka seemed to toy with the super collider until the moment he chose to strike. I may be spitballing here, but that’s how it looks from this bluff. Perhaps that was Harrington’s bluff as well: pit someone so non-controversial against Koepka to lull the Florida Man into a malaise. Hey, it almost worked. Brilliant!

Match Eight: Poulter vs. Finau

Ian Poulter added a 2021 Finau Roadster to his massive collection of unique sports cars. Experts say it is a one-of-a-kind model, improved over the 1.0 edition, and worth the price Poulter paid. The Englishman seems to embody the spirit of the Ryder Cup better than any other European golfer. He hasn’t claimed a major championship like Danny Willett, and he doesn’t have loads of tour wins like Westwood and Casey, but every two years, Poulter comes alive. Sad to say that 2021 might have been his last. Poulty doesn’t have the length to compete in partner events, but he is crafty enough to post 4  under in singles and let the other guy make mistakes. That’s precisely what he did with Utah’s favorite son, and it resulted in a second win for Team Blue during Sunday singles play.

Match Nine: Hatton vs. Thomas

Between us, Tyrrell Hatton is tightly wound. Perhaps it’s the three sets of double consonants in his name, but there needs to be a loosening from this vantage point. Tension simply doesn’t get the job done in Ryder Cup, and that might explain the Englishman’s half-point-in-three-matches performance. Facing Justin Thomas is no small task, even if the Kentuckian’s beer tolerance currently stands at one foamy light beer (intel arriving soon). When it takes 14 holes for your opponent to make a birdie, unless it’s the third flight at your local muni, you’re in a good position. Thus it was for Thomas, and thus did another point go up in the RWB column.

Match Ten: Westwood vs. English

The best meme from Sunday is Harris English’s putter grip. The man has how much money and that’s his putter wrap? Other than that, it’s great to see the other old man, Lee Westwood, win a singles match in what might be his swan song in Ryder Cup play. We’ve seen Westy for three decades, it seems, and he’s always given us cause and pause for enthusiasm. On day three, Westy stood two down to Harris English with four to play … and won three of those holes to take the match. Isn’t that what the Ryder Cup is about? Cheers to you, Lee, on competing in 47 matches over the years, more than any other player.

Match Eleven: Fleetwood vs. Spieth

It can’t be called anything beyond disappointing for Fleetwood, and mildly disappointing for Spieth. Both came into this Ryder Cup with high expectations for leading their teams to victory. Fleetwood never found the partner that he had in Molinari, and Spieth was the victim of bad luck and great play by opponents. It’s fitting that their Sunday match should end in a tie. Spieth was two up after six, but Fleet won the next two to square the match. From that point on, it was a match of pawns. Each won two more holes, but could never put the opponent away.

Match Twelve: Berger vs. Fitzpatrick

If I told you that Matt Fitzpatrick won four holes in a five-hole span on the back nine, you probably could not fathom that he somehow lost the match. Well, he did. By the 11th hole, Daniel Berger had a two-up lead. Fitzy won 11 and 12 to square the match, then lost the 13th. He rebounded to win 14 and 15, and stood tall with three to go. That’s when Berger played one-under golf to the end, winning the 16th and 18th holes. The 18th is miserable and unforgiving, and anything less than your best, results in bogey. Both hit cracker drives, and then Fitzpatrick the 16-handicap golfer showed up. Chunk into the stream and away went hopes for … anything. Berger landed safely on the frog hair and two putts later, had another hole won and another RWB point on the board.

Closing Arguments

The final tally was 19 USA and 9 Europe. That’s a lot of wound-licking for one side and much chest-thumping for the other. If the two worst moments were Brooks swearing and American fans bloated with beer, we did all right.

It will be interesting to see how Rome 2023 shapes up. Molinari should be back in form, and perhaps Renato Paratore or Guido Migliozzi will enhance their stature and join Moli on the team.

Golf is enjoyed in Italy but is not the country’s passion. Perhaps something will change over the next 24 months.

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Ryder Cup Rundown: Saturday Afternoon Fourballs

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Evidently, either clubs or apparel, or perhaps the entire Team Europe Europe plane, were delayed en route to Sheboygan; one, some, or all finally cleared customs on Saturday afternoon. Better late than never, goes the saying. That’s one way to look at the fourballs that finished in the gloaming along Lake Michigan’s Wisconsin side. The other is to say that Team USA broke even, and preserved its six-point advantage, ahead of Singles Sunday.

Attempting to figure out which interpretation is proper, is akin to determining how this putt by Jordan Spieth failed to fall.

Match 13: Rahm/Garcia vs. Koepka/Spieth

The oversized-in-every-way Koepka lost twice to Spain’s modern armada on Saturday, and he did so with two different partners. He and Jordan Spieth fell to Europe’s dominant 2021 partnership by 2 & 1. They played well enough to tie, for sure, and if luck had fallen their way, well enough to win. Sometimes it’s more about luck and rub of the green, than it is about skill. Saturday’s second match sure felt that way.

That’s not to take much away from Rahm and García. Rahm’s two late birdies brought Team Europe from even to two holes up, and García put the finishing touch on the masterpiece with a gritty par on the diabolical 17th. The pair was four-under on the day. That number normally doesn’t win fourball matches, but when you are finishing a second-consecutive, 36-hole day, and you’ve carried your side, it’s good enough. Do Rahm and García have enough in the tank to win singles points on Sunday? They have no alternative. Europe needs both points to have a shot at a comeback.

Match 14: Lowry/Hatton vs. Finau/English

The coronation of the firm of Finau and English was put on hold by Shane Lowry’s earth-shaking putt for par. After sitting out foursomes both days, Finau and English faced Lowry once again, albeit with a different partner. After licking his wounds from a 4 & 3 spanking the day before, the 2019 Open champion returned with renewed vigor. The golf wasn’t the greatest in match 14, and one hole was unbelievable halved in bogey. Hey! It’s the Ryder Cup, and the pressure is torrid. Team Europe won two holes in this match, and none after the 11th. Team USA won just one hole, and it came at number 13. Bizarre? You bet, but just one more unequalled tale to emerge from the world’s greatest team golf event.

Match 15: Hovland/Fleetwood vs. Scheffler/DeChambeau

There’s currently a two-man race to determine the most-maligned European team member. If you’ll pardon our forthright opinion, it’s Rory McIlroy. He has proven to either be star-crossed or unpartnerable, depending on how you look at things. McIlroy appears to have a case of Tiger-itis, when it comes to international team events. He’s lost three matches thus far, in the company of Ian Poulter (twice) and Shane Lowry (once.) Is that germane to this match? Only in that it take the spotlight off Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood. This pair tied a match on Friday afternoon, and Hovland lost twice in foursomes. He’s a rookie, though, and not expected to carry the weight of a Union, as is McIlroy. As for Fleetwood, has he jumped the shark? He has no individual major yet, and his regular-event winning has waned.

Now that we’ve done our best to take credit away from the American duo, let’s return what is rightly theirs. Scheffler and DeChambeau each made birdie on two holes of a four-hole stretch (14-17) while their counterparts made none, turning a one-hole deficit into a 3 & 1 victory. That was some play by Team Texas, and they might have made folks forget about that other Texan (Patrick Reed) who was not named to this year’s side. Lots of talent in that Lone Star state, it seems.

Match 16: Poulter/McIlroy vs. Johnson/Morikawa

It seems that everyone wants to play against Poulter and McIlroy, who have yet to find form. Likewise, no one wishes to draw Johnson and Morikawa, who have yet to lose it. The outclassed visitors won a single hole in this match, the awkward fifth hole. Neither made birdie at the short, two-shot sixth, making putts for birdie (Johnson) and eagle (Morikawa) unnecessary. Poulter has never looked more appropriate for the Champions Tour, and McIroy has never appeared more uninspired. It’s unlikely that either will find form in time for Sunday’s singles matches, as no roborant awaits, and that’s a shame. It would be exquisite to have day three matter, but at this juncture, its appearance is more a formality.

 

 

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Ryder Cup Rundown: Saturday Morning Foursomes

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A funny thing happened between 2018 and 2021: Europe forgot completely how to play foursomes golf. The format that gave the Old World its greatest triumphs has seemingly slipped away from its consciousness. For the second consecutive day, Team USA won three morning matches where each player hit half his normal complement of shots. This wouldn’t matter if the European squad had countered in fourball matches, but they didn’t, or haven’t yet. They’ve one afternoon left to turn the tide, or their flight home will be about one bottle of ketchup lighter — the official weight listed for the trophy on the @RyderCup website.

Here’s our rundown of the third band of matches at Whistling Straits.

Match Nine: Rahm/García vs. Koepka/Berger

Sporting of the Spaniards to spot the Seminoles the morning’s first three holes, wouldn’t you say? For an hour, fans of Team USA seemed certain that the powerful Iberian pairing had finally met its match. Wins on holes 1 through 3 and 5, countered only by a lost-hole 4, gave the RWB a three-up lead. What had happened overnight, many wondered. Wonder no longer. Serigo and Jon countered with thrusts of Toledo steel, winning seven of the next twelve holes, to dispatch the hopeful Floridians. Papa Padraig has to wonder why his other pairings cannot match their intensity and efficiency. Unlike Friday, when he split them up in the afternoon matches, Harrington decided to keep el duo together for afternoon fourballs.

Match Ten: Casey/Hatton vs. Johnson/Morikawa

And the band played on. The match that we all want to see, but won’t, is Johnson and Morikawa (or Johnson and anyone, really) against the Spaniards. If only the English pair had played like the English fought against the Spanish armada, it might have won against the invincible Americans. Each of the first eight holes were won: six by the American and two by the Europeans. That 4-up lead didn’t last, however, as Casey and Hatton countered. They won three holes to reduce the lead to one, including the sublime hole-out by Casey from the wastesands. In the end, the Americans parried with a 15th-hole birdie and two more pars, and held on for a 2 & 1 victory.

Match Eleven: Hovland/Wiesberger vs. Thomas/Spieth

This may have been the oddest pairing of the morning, one that punters everywhere would have avoided like ranch dressing on chicken wings. Match rookies Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger against the featured American team? It almost worked. After six holes, Team Blue had a three-up lead, but then gave it all back. By the eleventh tee, Team Red had leveled the match. The Blues grabbed the eleventh to reclaim the lead, but ran out of gas in the home stretch. The final five holes were won, one by the Euros and four by the Yanks. After struggling on Friday morning, Thomas and Spieth appear to have found their stride and caught a second wind.

Match Twelve:  Westwood/Fitzpatrick vs. Cantlay/Schauffele

The fourth match of morning the second featured much less exchange of won/lost holes. Only 10 of the 18 were claimed by either team. The Europeans led by one after six, but the Americans won four of the next five to gain a three-hole advantage. Back came the Englishmen, with wins at 12 and 16. Trouble was, the Californians also won hole 15, and the match was finished at the 17th green. Ryder Cups are won by hot putters, and no one is putting better than Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.

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