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Jim ‘Bones’ MacKay returning to the bag as new full-time caddie for Justin Thomas

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Announced early on Thursday morning by Golf Channel, Jim “Bones” MacKay will be returning to the bag as the new full-time caddie for world number six, Justin Thomas.

MacKay spent 25 years as Phil Mickelson’s caddie before he left the six-time major winner’s bag for an on-course reporter gig at NBC Sports and Golf Channel in 2017.

“It came out of left field very recently. I have just tremendous respect for [Thomas] as a person and a player. It was an incredible phone call to get and I said yes,” MacKay told Golf Channel.

MacKay has filled in on Thomas’ bag before, once at the 2018 Sony Open, and multiple times again in 2020. MacKay was on the bag for Thomas’ three-stroke victory at the 2020 WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Thomas’ prior caddie, Jimmy Johnson, had been on his bag since his 2015 rookie season on Tour.

On the departure of Johnson, JT posted this statement to his Instagram:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by GolfWRX (@golfwrx)

MacKay will continue his work as an on-course reporter for NBC Sports and Golf Channel when Thomas’ schedule allows, but this was an opportunity he could not pass up.

“I love to caddie and I loved my role with NBC/Golf Channel,” MacKay commented, “but it’s Justin Thomas.”

The 14-time PGA Tour winner is coming off a season where he won the Players Championship in March, and finished fourth in the FedEx Cup. Thomas has yet to officially commit to any events in the fall swing.

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Morning 9: Rory responds to Gooch | The Match draws record low viewership | AK on joining LIV

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the Cognizant Classic gets underway.

1. McIlroy on Gooch’s “asterisk” remark

Golf Channel report…”The latest chapters of the saga came Wednesday, when McIlroy said he wanted to give LIV player Talor Gooch “the benefit of the doubt” over comments he made saying if the world’s No. 2-ranked player wins the Masters to complete the career Grand Slam the accomplishment should come with an asterisk because some players who have signed with Saudi-funded LIV cannot play at Augusta National since they have fallen out of the top 50 in the world rankings.”

  • “The Masters is an invitational and they’ll invite whoever they think warrants an invite,” said McIlroy, who’ll play in the Cognizant Classic that starts Thursday at PGA National — the site of what used to be called the Honda Classic. “I think to be fair to Talor, if you read the entire … the question and then the answer, it’s not as if he just came out with that. I feel like whoever did the interview led him down that path to say that, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt there a little bit. He just agreed with what the interviewer asked.”
Full piece.

2. Villegas named PGA Tour Advisory Board chair

Field Level Media report…”Camilo Villegas was named the new chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council on Wednesday.”

  • The 42-year-old from Colombia will serve in that role for the remainder of 2024. The council advises and consults with the PGA Tour policy board and commissioner Jay Monahan on issues affecting the tour.
Full piece.

3. AK on joining LIV

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…“What has been rumored for weeks finally became official Wednesday with the announcement from the Saudi-backed league that Kim, 38, who hasn’t played competitively since 2012, will join LIV as a wildcard player for the remainder of the 2024 season…”

  • “After stepping away from the game years ago due to injury, I’m happy to officially announce my return to the world of professional golf,” Kim said in a LIV press release. “It’s been a long time coming, and I’m very grateful for all the highs, lows and lessons learned from the first part of my career.
  • “I want to compete with the best players in the world, and I’m on a mission to prove to myself that I can win again. The next step on that journey starts now, and I’m excited to give everything I’ve got this season on the LIV Golf League.”
Full piece.

4. A peek into the Tour’s private-equity plan

Matthew Rudy for Golf Digest…”The new entity—PGA Tour Enterprises—built an equity distribution plan that looks similar to something tech companies use to protect themselves from losing their most valuable contributors to deep-pocketed competitors. “The whole idea behind restricted stock units [RSUs] is to motivate employees to stay and create more value for the business,” says Matt Erley, who before founding golf start-up fund Old Tom Ventures was the head of growth at beverage-delivery startup Drizly when it was acquired by Uber. “You’re acting like an owner.”

  • “In broad terms, RSUs work in two phases: how they’re allocated and triggered, and how and when they vest. At a tech start-up backed by a venture capital firm, the leadership team will usually assign a certain amount of equity to be distributed each year to contributors for a variety of reasons—from simply being a member of the team to achieving a performance milestone. The rules about how and when contributors get access to the equity they’ve been awarded are set with strategic goals in mind.”
  • “Confirmed details about the PGA Tour’s new equity plan are still murky, but we know there will be four broad categories of players earning equity stakes in this initial round: A handful of superstars like Tiger Woods will share $750 million. A second group of 64 players will share $75 million based on their past three years of performance. The third group—mostly the remaining fully-exempt current players—will share $30 million, and a group of 36 designated “founding” players will share $75 million for their historical contributions. Another $600 million will be distributed in the future through recurring grants based on factors like on-course performance and Player Impact Program finish.”
Full piece.

5. Worse for the Tour rank and file?

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…It’s an immediate ripple effect of sweeping changes made by the PGA Tour for this season, most notably the transformation of several events into limited-field, highly lucrative signature stops that was expected to shrink the total number of playing opportunities by about 10%. A select group of guys, however, are the ones taking the brunt of this initial wave.

  • “Those top-50 guys, they’re playing fields that we can’t get into, and then fields that we can get into, they’re playing those, too,” a Korn Ferry Tour graduate, who wished to remain anonymous, argued. “And it’s not their fault; I would do it if I were them. But it does make it kind of tough. I don’t know what to do. Do you play Korn Ferry? Do you try and go get a DP World start? Do you try and keep writing for these f—ing sponsor invites? I’m tired of writing for sponsor invites.
  • “… They’re going to tell you to play better, and I hear ya, I do. But you can’t play better if you’re not in the field.”
  • Scott Gutschewski is 47 years old and has 140 career PGA Tour starts under his belt. He’s familiar with this reorder territory, having played out of similar categories for much of his career, though he notes this year has been uniquely challenging – “The Tour gives you the access summaries from previous years, and you can just throw that thing away. It’s completely meaningless.” When he finished No. 28 in Korn Ferry Tour points last year, Gutschewski planned a family vacation to Hawaii that would culminate with his season debut at the Sony Open.
Full piece.

6. Record low audience for The Match

7. Schmelzel leads in Singapore

AP report…” Sarah Schmelzel birdied two of of her final three holes Thursday for a 4-under 68 to take a 1-stroke lead over three players, including fellow American Lilia Vu, at the LPGA tournament in Singapore.”

  • “Also tied for second with Vu at the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club were Linn Grant and Esther Henseleit.”
Full Piece.

8. 2024 Cognizant Classic photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s event!
Full Piece.
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Morning 9: Gooch: Masters deserves asterisk | LIV’s new streaming deal | Mosquito mayhem

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as the PGA Tour moves over to the Florida swing, while Anthony Kim looks set to make his stunning return in Jeddah.

1. Gooch: Majors sans LIV golfers deserve asterisk

Brad Clifton and Rohan Clarke for Australian Golf Digest…In an ominous portent to Augusta National, Gooch said: “If Rory McIlroy goes and completes his [Career] Grand Slam without some of the best players in the world, there’s just going to be an asterisk. It’s just the reality. I think everybody wins whenever the majors figure out a way to get the best players in the world there.”

Full piece.

2. “The Match is good again”

Brody Miller’s take for the Athleltic…”Monday night’s version offered a potential vision for this to stay around. Here’s how.”

  • “For starters, the mixed-gender format works. It is a chance to watch golf with a perspective we’re not used to. Women’s golf is booming. The women’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach was a huge moment for the game, seeing these elite women play a historic course we’ve known for decades. And getting to watch these four play a skins game against one another provides context, and context makes golf better.”
  • “Second, the people. The Match needs to be about highlighting certain personalities. Otherwise, it’s just watching mostly forgettable golf with awkward pauses in between as they get from hole to hole. Homa was put on Earth to be in settings like this. His witty digs and dry narrations made this all flow. He made me legitimately laugh out loud multiple times. He constantly needled McIlroy and playfully pretended to flex on Zhang when he tied her on a hole. On one shot out of a bunker, he jumped in the air and confusedly yelled, “I don’t know, fore? Fore?” Multiple times he begged and pleaded for his competitors to give him short putts so he didn’t have to embarrass himself.”
Full piece.

3. $10 million question

James Corrigan for The Telegraph…”He might well be re-emerging as a freak show this week, who could be taking a $10 million insurance gamble to rejoin the circus, but be sure his return would have been big news whether there was a Saudi-funded breakaway league or not.”

  • “Indeed, the myth of Anthony Kim has continued to build with so much fascination over the last decade that any tournament promoter worthy of their publicity department would crave his presence.”
  • “When he burst through those country club gates, Kim – or “AK” as he soon became known – was America’s ‘can’t miss kid’, the country’s first since Tiger Woods. At the time, there was no Dustin Johnson, or Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler or Justin Thomas, or, of course, the next generation led by Collin Morikawa.”
  • “When Kim played in the Texas Open in 2006, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Adam Scott had largely been seen off by the monstrous domination of Woods. Although there was a young Ulsterman by the name of Rory McIlroy threatening to storm the hegemony, here was a 20-year-old with the skill and swagger to at least promise a vibrant future.”
Full piece.

4. Nicklaus, pros keen on PGA National decision

Tom D’Angelo for the Palm Beach Post…”Steve Rintoul, the Tour’s vice president for rules and officiating and the chief referee for the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches, believes that stretch from the fourth hole to No. 17 without a par 5 was as grinding as any on Tour. So he contacted the man who re-designed the course in 2000 and asked what he thought of converting the 10th hole from a par 4 to a par 5.”

  • “And Jack Nicklaus agreed with the move.”
  • “His reply was, ‘I always thought it was a better par 5 than a par 4,’ ” Rintoul said. “Now we got his blessing.”
  • “Then, after talking with several Tour pros who have either won Cognizant or played the event regularly, the move became official.”
  • “Nobody said, ‘Well, that’s a bad idea,’ ” Rintoul said. “It was an easy sell.”
  • “Now, for the first time since the event moved to PGA National in 2007, it will have three par 5s and become a par 71. The 10th will be lengthened by about 25 yards, playing at 530 yards, and the fairway line will be shifted a bit to the left by about eight yards at the dogleg.”
Full piece.

5. Mosquito mayhem

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…“There could be a record amount of mosquito repellant used on the Korn Ferry Tour this week in Argentina.”

  • “The city of Buenos Aires and its surrounding areas have been dealing with multiple mosquito invasions since the start of the new year, according to the Buenos Aires Times. The most recent swarm hit less than a week ago following another bout of flooding, and multiple videos online show hordes of the flying insects invading city streets, structures, subway stations and more. One video showed what looked like a dark cloud of mosquitoes flying over a road.”
  • “Olivos Golf Club, where the 117 Visa Argentina Open will begin on Thursday, is located about 25 miles north of the capital’s center. Some players who have arrived in Buenos Aires have already reported run-ins with the mosquitoes. Another, Thomas Walsh, posted a video of himself hitting a shot on the range while wearing protective netting over his head and upper body.”
Full piece.

6. Pettersen adds Reid as vice captain

Sky Sports report…”European Solheim Cup skipper Suzann Pettersen has added Mel Reid as a fourth vice-captain for this year’s contest against Team USA in Virginia.”

  • “Englishwoman Reid – a vice-captain to Catriona Matthew in 2019 – will join Dame Laura Davies, Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Martens as deputies when Europe look to retain the trophy in Gainesville between September 13-15, live on Sky Sports.”
Full Piece.

7. LIV’s new streaming deal

Golf Monthly’s Jonny Leighfield…”The LIV Golf League has announced a new broadcast deal with streaming platform, Caffeine to show its live Friday action.”

  • “As well as opening-day coverage being available on the LIV YouTube channel, LIV Golf Plus, and the CW app, fans of the 54-hole competition will now have another option to watch Jon Rahm and co. battle it out.”
Full Piece.

8. ICYMI…Overton set for Cognizant start

Tom D’Angelo for Palm Beach Post…”It’s been a long road back for former U.S. Ryder Cup member Jeff Overton, but the Palm Beach Gardens resident will have a short drive this week to continue that journey.”

  • “Overton was one of three players to earn a spot in this week’s Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches when the 40-year-old Monday qualified with a 6-under 66 at the Tesoro Club.”
  • “It feels great, but it will feel even greater if I can continue this thing,” said Overton, who was sidelined from the game for five years with a serious infection after back surgery in 2017.
Full Piece.

9. 2024 Cognizant Classic photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s event!
Full Piece.
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Morning 9: Rory wins Match | Return of the Kim | Rahm hasn’t heard from Tiger

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as the PGA Tour moves over to the Florida swing, while Anthony Kim looks set to make his stunning return in Jeddah.

1. Return of the Kim (presumably)

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach…”Anthony Kim, who last played in a professional golf tournament nearly a dozen years ago, will apparently return to competition at this week’s LIV Golf League event in Saudi Arabia.”

  • “Kim, 38, is expected to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah tournament, scheduled to start Friday at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City. Kim is expected to play as a wildcard, meaning he will compete in the individual competition, but his scores won’t count in the team event.”
  • “LIV Golf League CEO and commissioner Greg Norman teased Kim’s comeback in a post to X on Monday, in which he shared a video from LIV Golf’s account that appeared to feature Kim walking down a fairway.”
Full piece.

2. Rory comes out on top in The Match

ESPN staff…”The Match IX introduced a mixed-gender format that saw Rory McIlroy and Max Homa represent the PGA, while Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang represented the LPGA.”

  • “McIlroy came out on top in his second appearance at the made-for-TV charity golf event, winning 10 skins between 12 holes and the sudden-death closest-to-the-pin competition to earn $2.4 million for charity.”
  • “I’ve played pretty well tonight and hit some pretty good shots,” McIlroy said. “Hopefully that carries over into the next few days as well.”
  • “Thompson finished second with two skins that secured $200,000 for charity. Homa and Zhang did not win a skin.”
Full piece.

3. Supermarket delivery driver wins ‘life-changing’ sum with T2 finish at Kenya Open

BBC report…”Joe Dean, the world number 2,930 and part-time delivery driver, has won a “life-changing” prize of £170,000 by finishing runner-up at the Kenya Open.”

  • “The Englishman, who scraped on to the DP World Tour through qualifying, finished joint second behind Darius van Driel in Nairobi.”
  • “Dean, who works a delivery driver for Morrisons supermarket, carded a closing four-under-par 67 to finish 12 under.”
  • “It’s got to be [life changing]. It’s what people dream of,” said Dean.
Full piece.

4. Why Sami didn’t get a drop

Brentley Romine for NBC Sports…”The two shots happened three days apart, but some people watching the Mexico Open couldn’t help but notice the commonalities between Sami Valimaki’s wayward drive on the 72nd hole that ended up nestled against a metal boundary fence and a provisional drive by S.H. Kim on the same hole Thursday that settled in a similar lie.”

  • “However, while Kim received a free drop, Valimaki did not…
  • “Here is the explanation from the PGA Tour rules committee:
  • “In Sami’s case, it was clearly unreasonable for him to play a stroke. The exception to Rule 16.1 applies.”
  • Here’s that verbiage: There is no relief under Rule 16.1 when playing the ball as it lies would be clearly unreasonable because of something from which the player is not allowed to take free relief (such as when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush), or when interference exists only because a player chooses a club, type of stance or swing or direction of play that is clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.
Full piece.

5. Rahm: Tiger hasn’t talked to me since I joined LIV

Our Matt Vincenzi…”When Jon Rahm joined LIV golf, it sent shockwaves throughout the world of professional golf and changed the landscape of the game as we know it.”

  • “The reigning Masters champion took a large sum of money to start his own team on LIV, “Legion XIII”.
  • “While speaking with ESPN’s Marty Smith, the Spaniard revealed that he reached out to arguably the two biggest names in golf after his decision, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.”
  • “Rory was supportive of Rahm and has even said he wants to make sure Rahm can continue to play on the European Ryder Cup team as well.”
  • …”When Rahm was asked if he’d heard from Tiger, he shared that he had not.
  • “Tiger? No, not really, I mean, Tiger, I texted him and the people that try to reach out, you know, the process, when I signed and I just let him know, ‘Hey, you know, this is a personal decision.’ I think he’s [too] busy enough to be talking to me.”
Full piece.

6. Who our betting expert is tipping this week

Check out the full piece to see who else should be on your card, but Matt Vincenzi likes Cameron Young this week at 22-1…”Cameron Young has yet to break out with a PGA Tour win, but PGA National is a good course for the former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year to showcase his elite driving ability. In his past 24 rounds, Young ranks 1st in Total Driving.”

  • “PGA National isn’t the longest course, but with water lurking everywhere, it helps to hit approach shots with higher lofted clubs. Bombers such as Rory McIlroy, Keith Mitchell, and Brooks Koepka have thrived at the course in the recent years, and Young could look to replicate their play style here.”
  • “Young has had a strong start to his 2024 season, finishing in a tie for 8th at TPC Scottsdale and a tie for 16th at Riviera. In those two starts, he gained significant strokes on the field both off the tee and on approach. He also finished 16th in his debut at the Honda Classic in 2022. With two additional top-13 finishes at Bay Hill, the 26-year-old has shown he likes playing in Florida.”
  • “With the fields in 2024 weaker than in recent seasons, Young is one of the best players teeing it up this week and has the talent to come out on top.”
Full Piece.

7. 2024 Cognizant Classic photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s event!
Full Piece.
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