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Golf pioneer Lee Elder passes away at age 87

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One of the pioneers against segregation in golf, Lee Elder, who will be mostly remembered for his appearance as the first black golfer to take part in The Masters, was reported to have died on Sunday, aged 87.

Having moved to Los Angeles at a young age, Elder took jobs at local golf courses before being encouraged and tutored by Joe Louis and Ted Rhodes before making his mark in the United Golf Association Tour for African-American players, at one stage winning 18 of 22 tournaments.

He reached the PGA Tour in 1968, losing a play-off to Jack Nicklaus at Firestone but always faced an uphill battle against the prejudice that existed.

Per Golf Channel’s report, during a tournament in Memphis one of his opponents, Terry Dill, saw a spectator pick his ball up and discard it, only for him to receive death threats at his hotel.

Further to that and similar episodes, at the 1968 Monsanto Open, Pensacola, Elder was amongst many black players forced to change in the car park as members would not allow non-white players in their clubhouse.

Six years later, Elder was to win in Pensacola, paving his way to that first initiation to The Masters, and whilst he received “up to 100 death threats” he confirmed some 40 years later that, “Every green I walked up on, the applause was just tremendous, I mean every one of the people shouted, ‘Go, Lee! Good luck, Lee!’”

In 1979, Elder became the first black player to qualify for the Ryder Cup and became a crusader and spokesman for injustice against racism at golf clubs, as well as speaking out against social discrimination and forming the Lee Elder Scholarship Fund, aiding low-income families seeking a place at college.

Elder eventually became a member of the PGA Champions Tour winning six of his first 22 starts and a total of nine tournaments.
As Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters, Elder was on hand to witness the cheers. “You would have thought I was winning the golf tournament,” Golf Channel report Elder to have said. “To be there, to see what Tiger did, that meant the world to me.”

Indeed, Tiger himself stated that “I wasn’t the pioneer. Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder and Teddy Rhodes paved the way,” said Woods. “I was thinking about them and what they’ve done for me as I was coming up the 18th fairway. I said a little prayer and a thanks to those guys. They are the ones who did it for me.”

Last April Elder was appointed an honorary starter (alongside Nicklaus and Gary Player) for the 85th Masters declaring that it was ”one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever witnessed or been involved in…..it is certainly something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Masters chairman Fred Ridley gave Elder the ceremonial first-tee honours while adding that Elder will “make history once more, not with a drive, but with his presence, strength and character.”

Lee Elder is survived by his wife, Sharon, and will surely go down in history as one of the most influential players to break down racial barriers within the sport.

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Forum Giveaway: TaylorMade P7CB “Proto” irons

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GolfWRX and TaylorMade Golf have teamed up for one of the most exciting giveaways in recent memory. We are giving away one (1) set (3-PW) of the P7CB “Proto” irons, built to order for one lucky forum member! These yet-to-be-released irons have recently made it into the bag for both Tommy Fleetwood and Collin Morikawa.

Collin Morikawa’s TaylorMade “proto” 4-iron

Do we really need to say more? Head over to the forum and enter now for your chance to win a set of irons that truly are 1 of 1.

Read more about the P7CB “Proto” irons

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CGOTY? It’s X at The Open at Royal Troon

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If golfers weren’t as humble as they are, they’d come up with trendy acronyms like G.O.A.T. and E.G.O.T #CGOTY would then stand for Champion Golf of the Year, the appellation that the Royal and Ancient confers upon its Open champion. As written, we are a humble lot, so there’s no need for such acronyms.

The Champion Golfer of the Year for 2024 is Xander Schauffele. He won his second major title of the year, having claimed the PGA Championship in May. The Open Championship is his third career win in a major, as Schauffele won the 2021 gold medal at the Olympics in Japan.

Over on TwitterX, I’ve made the claim that Royal Troon identifies one-off major champions better than any other course in the Open Championship rotation. Of its ten previous winners, seven never claimed a second major title. I suggested that Thirston Lawrence, Billy Horschel, and Russell Henley were as likely to win the jug as the other pursuers. Lowry, Schauffele, Rose, and others already held major trophies aloft. For most of the day, it looked as if another first-timer would join the ranks.

Before we get to that news, let’s chip away at some of the sub-headings.

The Silver Medalist

Eponymy’s Calum Scott (of Scotland) will recall the third week of July, 2024, with a special fondness. The Texas Tech (same school as Ludvig Aberg) earned a silver medal as the low amateur (LAGOTY?) at Royal Troon. Scott finished on eight over par, tied for overall 43rd place.

Spain’s Luis Masaveu came fourth among the wageless, posting +18 on the week. Tied for 2nd among the paupers were Amateur champion Jacob Skov Olesen of Denmark, and Tommy Morrison of the USA. Morrison had the day’s low round among the quartet, posting a 73.

There were plenty of highly-ranked amateurs at Royal Troon when the week began. One by one, they fell away. A tip of the cap to the winner of the silver medal.

The Weather

Essentially, it was a non-factor on day four. There was wind, but there’s always wind. There was zero rain, and after the first two hours in the early morning, the warmth arrived.

The Postage Stamp

Here’s the rub: if you’re playing well and with confidence, it’s a non-issue. It’s a wonderful little hole and, at 100 yards, it gave enough pause to consider going for the stick. Where the hole was on Sunday, there was no sense. Flight the shot between Coffin bunker and the hole, and take your chance with the flat stick. On day four, only Billy Horschel among the top six made bogey. Rose and Lowry had birdie, and the others made par. For Horschel, the four was just enough to throw him off his game, and even his closing burst would not prove to be enough.

The Chasers

Hats off to Justin Rose and Billy Horschel. They posted five birdies over their combined closing three. Rose found birdie at 16 and 18, to keep the pressure on his partner. Horschel closed with even more fire, reclaiming three shots for a career-best, runner-up in a major.

At day’s start, either one might have taken the 67 (Rose) or 68 (Horschel) and said that shall be enough to win. Horschel etched the same number of birdies (six) onto his card as did the winner, but he had those three crucial bogeys, at three, eight, and ten, to delay his progress just enough. As for Rose, he hoped to add a silver jug to his silver medal from 1998, as well as become the first qualifier to claim the crown in some time. Rose posted five birdies against one bogey, and could not have played much better golf. Trouble was, he ran into all that is formidable in his playing companion.

And there were others with admirable Sunday performances. Ryan Fox had 67, to move inside the top 25. Thriston Lawrence took the lead at the turn, held steady with 68, and earned a solo 4th finish for his labor. With the exception of Scottie Scheffler (72) all inside the top ten posted scores under par. On this day, it took 65 to stand out from the crowd.

The Champion

That 65 mentioned above, well, it belonged to the CGOTY.

Who knows when the switch flips? Ever more, who knows how to do it? When Xander Schauffele claimed Olympic Gold in 2021, it was anticipated that another major title would follow soon after. 2022 and 2023 went by with no such result. At Valhalla in May, Schauffele found something and went from best to never win a major to won a major. Now he has two. Here’s how he got there.

Eerily similar was the tally: six under par. The only difference between May and July, was the bogey at the par-five tenth in Kentucky. Schauffele rebounded with three birdies coming home, including one at the last, to hold off Bryson DeChambeau by a single stroke. At Royal Troon, Schauffele was flawless. He posted six birdies against zero bogeys on day four. He drove the ball long and true, and putted for birdie on 16 of 18 holes. The California native was able to avoid the many sand pits that freckle the Royal Troon championship layout, ensuring that a pair of chip shots would be the only concerning moments.

With his second major of the year, Schauffele enters the conversation for golfer of the year. Scheffler has six wins on the year, including a major. If Xander can medal in Paris, and win once or twice on the PGA Tour, he just might add that recognition to today’s laurel.

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5 Things We Learned: Day 3 at The Open Championship

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It’s like being a parent. You know what will happen, but you still need to let the circumstances play out. Once the idea of rain coming into the picture for Saturday afternoon was established, posit after posit came out. Get out early and post a number was the most popular and logical one. No matter how well the leaders start, the coming home will be merciless was a less-common one, but no less accurate.

Shane Lowry made birdie at the 4th hole to reach eight-under par. At that point, he had a three-shot advantage over his playing companion. He would get no farther. A tugged tee ball at eight led to a double bogey, and five more bogeys came his way. The most gutting came at number 18, a hole that he had played in six shots through two rounds. You might think that 77 on day three of a major championship would be a death knell, but Lowry is just three shots behind the leader. He’ll have a legitimate shot on Sunday, as will 13 other golfers.

Fourteen golfers are within five shots of Billy Horschel, the third-round leader. He’s at four-under par, despite weathering the worst of the weather. At least one of those fourteen will post a 65 on Sunday. It may not be enough. The 2024 major tournament season will end on Sunday, and should feature high drama. With that in mind, let’s sumarize Saturday in, oh, five things that we learned. How does that sound?

1. No one went away

As I alluded in the intro, no one in contention at the start of the day has gone adrift. Seven-under par had the lead after 36 holes, and four-deep (also alluded) is the new standard. I’ve been conservative in suggesting that five shots out is the most to be overcome. Circumstances dictate that someone six or seven back, with the correct mergin of fate and execution, could hoist the Claret Jug come Sunday evening, even if he has to play from the opposite side of the ball.

2. Billy Ho says Yo!

Why not Billy Ho? Why not, indeed! Horschel is a fit, focused, and talented golfer. He grabbed four shots from par on the outward nine, turning in 32. He shed grit and gravel coming home, finding a way to manage the inward side in 37 shots. Horschel has never held the solo lead in a professional major championship on the eve of decision day, so he’ll sleep differently tonight. Ultimately, how he and Micah Fugitt (his caddy) come to termsn with the reckoning, will decide his fate in the tournament.

3. Can Sugar Shane Lowry rebound?

2019 was a different set of circumstances for the 36-hole leader. He held a large lead through 54 holes, and he managed to claim a six-shot win over Tommy Fleetwood. Tonight, there might be some doubts. More likely, there will be frustration, followed by gratitude. Frustration at the shots that got away, most importantly the tee shot at Postage Stamp. That’s where the sweater began to unravel, as a visit to Coffin bunker led to his inglorious double bogey. Gratitude should follow, that he is but three in arrears, with a spot in the fifth-last game, paired with the affable Adam Scott. Look for Lowry to figure in the outcome.

4. This guy is due for a run

Justin Thomas has lit the front nine better than any other golfer this week. Wait, scratch that. He made five birdies heading away on both Thursday and Saturday. Friday was a different story, where he played the opening half as you or I would. What makes the difference? Who could possibly know. Will Justin Thomas make a run on Sunday afternoon? No, but Jason Day will. The Malbon Man will turn in six-under par 30. His problem is that he is eight shots back of Horschel, and has zero chance on Sunday. What his score will paint, however, is a picture of what might be, and that will serve to inspire those behind him.

5. How do you pick just one?

You don’t. Sam Burns and Thriston Lawrence posted 65 on day three, to move to three-under par. Russell Henley wasn’t far behind on the day, posting 66 to also reach 210 after 54 holes. Justin Rose and Daniel Brown had 73s but, like Lowry, they are still in the running. Xander Schauffele, the first-time major champion at the 2024 PGA Championship, is at three-deep as well. Oh, and the Masters champion, he of the fancy footwork, is but two off the lead. This is as deep and talented a group of challengers as we’ve seen in more than a minute. I won’t pick a winner today (I made my choice yesterday) but I do promise you that you will see more than one person’s share of fun shots like this one.

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