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19th Hole

‘Everyone has a price’ – Rickie Fowler not ruling out Saudi-backed LIV Golf option



Five-time PGA Tour winner (six if counting the Hero World Challenge) Rickie Fowler this week confirmed he has not ruled out a move to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.

At the end of a week that has seen the organisers of the ‘rebel’ series publicly declare the participants at the first event, to be held at the Centurion Club in London, speculation is still rife which current PGA and DP World Tour players will make the switch in the coming months.

Despite an aggressive defence by both major tours, former world number ones Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood have gone ahead with their commitment to play next week, an event that coincides with the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour and has resulted in the sponsoring company ceasing its relationship with both Johnson and Graeme McDowell.

So what about Fowler, a name that has long been linked to the league?

This week the three-time major runner-up re-iterated that, “I’ve been in talks with them (LIV Golf) for a long time. It’s something to definitely look at. At this point, it wasn’t the right move or decision for us, but I’m not saying I’m for sure here or I’m going to go there. I’m going to just kind of leaving my options open and see how things play out.”

On the recent Full Send podcast he again said, “I haven’t ruled it out,” before adding, “I don’t know what it would take to commit.”

The 33-year-old also revealed that interest in the LIV Golf series is not all about money but that it’s “not, not about money” stating that “everyone has a price.”

Referring to the rights for players to own their own NIL (name, image and likeness) Fowler hinted that was the main issue playing with his loyalty to the tour.

“I still believe the PGA Tour is the best place to play,” he said in the podcast. “And I would love to see it continue, but I do think there’s there’s stuff that could change or evolve.”

“Basically, they own all our names and likeness. And that kind of goes back to, are we independent contractors or employees?”

He concluded, “I’m not sure how that’s going to really play out.”

In 12 starts in 2022, Fowler has five missed-cuts and a best finish of T21 at the Wells Fargo Championship. He opened with a two-under 70 at The Memorial Championship this week before fading over the remaining three days to finish on eight-over and outside of the top-60.

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19th Hole

Major champ suggests ‘collaboration on course set-up’ after yet another home Ryder Cup ‘beatdown’



Winning a Ryder Cup on the road has become one of the most difficult tasks in sports. The home team has won the event five consecutive times, and the United States hasn’t won a Ryder Cup on European soil since 1993.

Graeme McDowell, who’s now writing for The Telegraph, believes that the home team dominance is a problem, and one that should be fixed going forward.

“It is now over 10 years since we had a really close Ryder Cup. And over 30 years since the US won in Europe. As much as that fact is something to be proud of, it is also a concern.

“In 2014 at Gleneagles it was a beatdown, 2016 at Hazeltine was a beatdown, 2018 in Paris was a beatdown, 2021 at Whistling Straits was a beatdown. And now Rome. Rory said in his press conference that winning away in the Ryder Cup had now become the biggest test in golf. But is that a good thing?”

At this year’s Ryder Cup, the broadcast team was sure to point out how Luke Donald used analytics for the course setup and made sure to have approach shots coming from the distances that favored the European players. McDowell opines that the evolution of analytics in golf is part of what’s leading to the one-sided Ryder Cup affairs.

“Yes these guys are the best players in the world and should be able to adapt to anything you throw at them,” he wrote. “But with the analytics we now have at our disposal we know exactly where our strengths lie versus our opponents.

“Over the course of a weekend, with thousands of shots hit, the sample size is such that it does make a difference. That is why in Paris we saw such narrow fairways, and green speeds of 10.5-11 max on the Stimpmeter, because that is what we are used to growing up.

“Here again the fairways were cut narrow. We had the drivable par-fours, but otherwise the par-fours were super-long and we tried to keep wedges out of American hands because our stats told us that was what they were better at. The stats were right.”

The Irishman believes having the two teams working together to set up the course could be a way forward.

“Potentially, they could go one step further and collaborate on course set-up right from the start of the two-year process. Set it up together and then say: ‘May the best team win.’ The home team would still have the crowd but that might make it closer?”

McDowell has appeared in four Ryder Cups, and hopes he can be involved in future Ryder Cups, despite joining LIV Golf.

“I hope one day I will be back in some sort of capacity. Anything to represent that shade of blue again.”

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s Sanderson Farms Championship betting preview: Eric Cole ready to show his class in Jackson



After a dominant performance by Europe at the Ryder Cup, the PGA TOUR heads to Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson.

The course is a 7,461-yard par 72 with fast Bermudagrass greens. The tournament had been an alternate-field event up until the 2019-20 season, when it was upgraded to a standalone event.

The field is largely as expected for a swing-season event, but there are some talented players teeing it up in Jackson this week looking to play their way into next season’s singature events. Some notable golfers in the 156-man field this week include Ludvig Aberg, Eric Cole, Keithy Mitchell and Emiliano Grillo.

Past Winners at Country Club of Jackson

  • 2022: Mackenzie Hughes (-17)
  • 2021: Sam Burns (-22)
  • 2020: Sergio Garcia (-19)
  • 2019: Sebastian Munoz (-18)
  • 2018: Cameron Champ (-21) 
  • 2017: Ryan Armour (-19)
  • 2016: Cody Gribble (-20)

Let’s take a look at several key metrics for the Country Club of Jackson to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

SG: Approach will be important this week as the club was renovated in 2008 and tried to imitate some classic Donald Ross course features. This means the greens will be relatively small, and finding the right level on approach shots will be crucial. 

The course will generate plenty of low scores, so it’s important that players give themselves plenty of birdie looks. Sergio Garcia gained 7.0 strokes on the field in his victory three seasons ago, which was third in the field. Sam Burns gained 8.3 in 2021, which was good for second. 

Last season, Mackenzie Hughes gained 5.3 strokes on approach in his victory.

Total strokes gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Chez Reavie (+26.8)
  2. Alex Smalley (+23.7)
  3. Sam Ryder (+23.1)
  4. Kevin Streelman (+18.1)
  5. Eric Cole (+17.5)

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Placing an emphasis on who the best drivers of the golf ball is a smart strategy. This stat has driving accuracy built into it, and though the fairways are relatively easy to hit at the Country Club of Jackson, long and straight is always a big advantage.  

I am looking for golfers who are going to have the shortest approach shots and are coming in from the fairway. In 2020 and 2021, respective winners Sergio Garcia and Sam Burns led the field (+5.5) and (+6.1) in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. In 2023, Mackenzie Hughes was roughly average off the tee, but that seems to be an outlier when examining the winners in totality. 

Total strokes gained: Off the Tee in past 24 rounds:

  1. Brent Grant (+27.0)
  2. Ludvig Aberg (+26.8) 
  3. M.J. Daffue (+17.5)
  4. Kevin Yu (+17.1) 
  5. Trevor Cone (+16.8) 

Driving Distance

With the rough not being a major problem this week, the bomb-and-gauge approach should be very successful.

Driving Distance gained over past 24 rounds:

  1. Peter Kuest (+20.9)
  2. Brandon Matthews (+20.3)
  3. M.J. Daffue (+17.2)
  4. Garrick Higgo (+17.2)
  5. Kyle Westmoreland (+15.1)

Strokes Gained: Par 5

Three of the four par 5s on the course should be reachable by the longer hitters, with the longest par 5 hole measuring 587 yards. Finding eagle and birdie opportunities on the Par 5s this week may be the difference in determining a winner.

Total Strokes Gained: Par 5 in past 24 rounds:

  1. Stephen Thompson (+19.3)
  2. Scott Harrington (+14.1) 
  3. Stephan Jaeger (+14.0)
  4. Grayson Murray (+13.8) 
  5. Jason Dufner (+12.4)

SG: Putting (Bermudagrass Greens Fast or Lightning)

Historically, SG: Putting at the Sanderson Farms Championship has weighed as the most indicative score of the tournament winner. While this isn’t necessarily rare in PGA TOUR tournaments, it was 10% more important at Country Club of Jackson than the average course on TOUR. 

The greens have been either “fast” or “lightning” in every round the tournament has been played. Whoever wins this week will need to catch a hot putter, so the best putters on Bermuda should have the best chance to do that.

Total Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda+Fast or Lightning) past 24 rounds:

  1. Martin Trainer (+25.0)
  2. Chad Ramey (+24.3) 
  3. Brian Gay (+22.3)
  4. Alex Noren (+19.8)
  5. Ben Taylor (+16.2)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: APP (25%) SG: OTT: (25%), Driving Distance (18%), SG: Par 5 (18%), SG: Putting (Bermuda) 14%.

  1. Peter Kuest (+8000)
  2. Stephan Jaeger (+2500)
  3. Kevin Yu (+6500)
  4. Trevor Cone (+20000)
  5. Callum Tarren (+6000)
  6. Chad Ramey (+9000)
  7. Scott Harrington (+30000)
  8. Luke List (+5500)
  9. Matthias Schmid (+10000)
  10. Joseph Bramlett (+20000)

Sanderson Farms Championship Picks

Eric Cole +2000 (DraftKings)

With the PGA Tour’s new fall format, there are a few very talented players that will be looking to parlay a strong fall into an invitation to all of the big money signature events come the beginning of 2024. Eric Cole, who’s looked excellent since his emergence on the PGA Tour, is among the players who has the skill and motivation to challenge for one of the spots up for grabs.

The Florida native is extremely comfortable playing on fast Bermudagrass greens. In the field, he ranks 14th in Strokes Gained: Putting on similar surfaces and has some strong results on Bermuda tracks to back up the statistics. Cole missed the cut at the Country Club of Jackson last year, but he’s a much different player now.

In his most recent start at the Fortinet Championship, Cole finished 4th and gained 12.4 strokes from tee to green, which led the field. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach.

Cole was among the most impressive performers in the fall swing’s first event. Now, he’ll have a much weaker field to grapple with and will benefit from Sahith Theegala, Max Homa and Justin Thomas not being in the field.

S.H. Kim +3300 (BetRivers)

S.H. Kim had one of the most impressive ball striking displays at the first event of the fall series. Kim finished 2nd at the Fortinet Championship and gained 11.0 strokes from tee to green, which was good for second in the field. He also gained 6.0 strokes on approach and 3.2 strokes off the tee.

If his strong performance at Silverado wasn’t enough, he also has an encouraging history at the Country Club of Jackson. Kim finished 13th at the course last season and should be much more comfortable in contention this year with some strong PGA Tour finishes under his belt.

Kim has had two runner-up finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour, both of which came on Bermudagrass greens. If he can build off the best ball striking performance of his career, he will be difficult to beat this week in Mississippi.

Sam Ryder +5000 (BetMGM)

I followed Ryder closely during the Fortinet Championship and he put on a ball striking clinic, which has been the case consistently since July. He finished 14th at Silverado and gained 6.4 strokes on approach, which was good for 2nd in the field. Over his last 24 rounds, Ryder ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach. 

The 33-year-old didn’t have his best putting week in his most recent start (-2.6 strokes), which makes some sense considering the putting splits he’s shown us throughout his career. He typically putts field average on POA greens but he’s statistically a positive putter on Bermudagrass throughout his career. The fast Bermuda greens should be a welcome change for Ryder this week, who grew up playing in Florida.

Ryder’s history at the Country Club of Jackson isn’t spectacular by any means, but he’s yet to play the course when he’s in the type of form he’s in at the moment. If he continues his superb ball striking, he should have a good chance to contend this week in Mississippi.

Ben Griffin +5500 (PointsBet)

Ben Griffin is a player who loves playing on Bermudagrass greens. He has top-5 finishes in his career at the Wyndham Championship and the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. After playing in the final few groups over the weekend, I believe he’ll feel much more confident when he finds himself in that position again. 

In his past 24 rounds, Griffin ranks 20th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 15th in Strokes Gained: Putting on fast Bermuda greens. Griffin is one of the better putters on Tour and can get hot in a hurry on the greens. Last year, we saw a shorter hitting good putter win this event, so the bombers can be beaten at the Country Club of Jackson, despite having an advantage.

Griffin played this event last year. He finished 24th in his first trip to the course and gained 6.2 strokes on approach, so the course layout seems to fit his eye. After making the FedEx Cup playoffs last year, the 27-year-old is ready to take the next step in his development on the PGA Tour.

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19th Hole

Father of Ryder Cup star sensationally claims his son was almost removed from team due to contractual dispute



The dust is beginning to settle on an engrossing Ryder Cup event, but the fallout from a feisty encounter appears to be just underway.

Speaking to The Times, Xander Schauffele’s father, Stefan, has sensationally claimed that his son’s spot in the side was in jeopardy up until just a few weeks ago.

Before the biennial contest, players sign a player participation agreement. However, per Schauffele’s father, both Xander and Patrick Cantlay had requested amendments made to the contract drawn up by the PGA of America.

Amongst these amendments requested was denying a Netflix camera crew entry into the US locker room (which players would not directly benefit from financially.)

Per the report, the issue was eventually put to a vote by Zach Johnson, and the players voted unanimously in favour of denying Netflix access to their team room.

Speaking to The Times, Xander Schauffele’s father sounded off on the PGA of America, saying:

“The PGA of America were not willing to even talk to us about [the three amendments]. It was very late in the schedule right before the team came here [to Rome] to practice because they had moved the deadline and they said, ‘If you don’t sign it by then, you’re off the team’, but they never gave us the contact information of their legal counsel.

“Saturday morning of Labour Day weekend [September 2], finally, the head of the PGA of America got wind of this, because it was not him that was blocking it, and put our lawyers in contact with the PGA of America’s general counsel, and then it took a few hours to hash it out and it was fine. Then I received a message that Xander was back on the team. That you can quote. That’s the extent of this and I think it’s shameful.”

In addition, Schauffele’s father also suggested, while stressing he was not speaking on behalf of his son, that the report regarding Patrick Cantlay being responsible for a “fractured” team dressing room at the Ryder Cup may have been an “ink-smear” due to Cantlay formerly requesting amendments to the player participation and benefit agreement contract.

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