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19th Hole

Golfer suspected of cheating in wild disqualification incident at Q-School

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‘You come to a fire pit to hear a story, or tell one. This Fire Pit collects them.’

So say Monday Q-school king, Ryan French and his band of associates, the respected bunch including Matt Ginella and Alan Shipnuck, the journalist that broke the golfing internet with that Phil Mickelson story.

While he had been doing the minor job for a while, French launched himself into golfing superstardom during lockdown 2020, covering the likes of the Cactus and Outlaw mini-tours. His stream of stories include players living off tin cans whilst sleeping in virtual wrecks and working in stores immediately after playing for hours on end, but he’s topped the lot with the story posted on Monday.

As he says himself, “On Friday I had walked off the plane upon returning home from a trip to San Diego. I was looking forward to a quiet night with my family when I got a DM. “You aren’t going to believe this,” it read. I get a lot of those DMs, and often the story turns out not to be a big deal.

The tale is long and complicated, so I’ll try to summarise enough that you pop over to the site to read the full, unedited version.

The story takes place at the final round of a pre-qualifier for Q-School, held at Quarry Oaks, a 7,200-yard par-71 course in Ashland, Nebraska.

Five people are involved here: players Matt Moroz, Andrew Ni and Grant Haefner, as well as caddies Andy Smith for Moroz and Clayton Kucera, looping for Ni.

All three were on the cut line, needing something positive to progress their individual dreams, but, after rumors of foul play the day before, Nebraska PGA officials planned to keep a close eye on the group, particularly on Moroz, who had often been spotted walking well ahead of his two playing partners.

Ryan writes, “For four holes during the final round, nothing unusual happened. Things changed on the 5th hole, a 375-yard par-4. “

Having found himself in the rough off the tee, and facing a tough second, Moroz played his approach and commented to Smith that, “I skullfucked it.”

True to the whispers, player and caddie walked ahead of the rest of the group towards a hidden green. As Ni and Haefner approached the putting surface, they found Moroz walking towards them, “pumping his fists and yelling, ‘It’s in the hole!'”

Neither player had seen Moroz retrieve the ball from the hole, but the report states that, “Haefner reasoned with himself, “We have all seen crazy bounces in golf.” Haefner and Ni both recall Moroz saying something like: “Maybe it bounced off the turkeys.” It was a reference to a flock of turkeys that were loitering in the rough. Moroz denied saying that, adding, “Maybe my caddie, Andy, did it as a joke.”

It gets crazier. In discussion, well after the event, Moroz states he has a video of the ball in the hole, a video nobody mentioned at the time!

Firepit quote Smith as saying, “I wouldn’t normally video a shot, but we were excited. It got us from 4 to 6 under.”

Make of it what you will, but two holes later they reach the 458-yard par-4 7th.

Haefner hits the short stuff, but Ni goes into the left penalty area and lefty Moroz pulls one into the same trouble, but right.

The course has a spotter for the Q-School and the wayward drives were not unusual. What followed certainly was.

“The spotter stuck a red flag in the ground where Moroz’s ball had entered the hazard and headed across the fairway to look for Ni’s ball. Haefner, Ni, his caddie, the spotter and a rules official who had rolled up to the group began searching for Ni’s ball, which they found.”

Neither Moroz nor Smith helped locate Ni’s ball, but as all three made their way to the green,

“Haefner, having grown increasingly skeptical, asked Moroz what he was putting for. ‘Birdie,’ he replied.”

From dense, almost unplayable rough in a penalty area, Moroz had 15 feet for bird. Fire Pit report that the player “explained that Smith had found his ball just outside the penalty area, nearly 30 yards ahead (and around a corner of the wooded area) of where the ball entered.”

It was becoming a bit much for the other two, and the experienced Kucera reported his suspicions to a rules official, who returned to the spot they believed Moroz had hit his previous drive. Rumor was becoming a fact.

In what surely is one of the most unbelievable of stories, French continues his chronicle.

“The 8th hole would bring even more drama as Moroz fell to the ground in apparent back pain. This scene played out so often over the next 10 holes that Kucera would say on a tee after Moroz had fallen yet again, “get up and get out of the way.” As the group walked down the fairway, Smith told Kucera, “When a guy is hurt, don’t tell him to get out of the way.” To the caddie and other other players, it felt as if Moroz was faking the injury in an attempt to gain sympathy.”

Suspected cheats may not prosper but “on the par-5 18th, he [Moroz] hit two good shots to reach the front bunker but skulled his third over the green. Then he holed a 15-yard downhill chip shot for birdie. As a result, he moved the cut line, knocking out a couple of young pros trying to launch their careers.”

Of course, the round finished with plenty of speculation and, after some discussion, a PGA Tour rules official was waiting to interview the five members of the group.

The report then shows some variety in the evidence given.

“He [Moroz] said he hit a 9-iron into the green [on the 7th]. Kucera spoke up, saying Moroz couldn’t have reached the green with a 9-iron, considering it was an uphill 450-yard hole that was playing into the wind. On Saturday, Moroz told me he had hit 8-iron. “Andy told me I hit 8,” he said. “I thought I hit 9, but Andy told me he gave me 8. I can usually tell by looking at the loft, but…” (His voice trailed off, and he didn’t finish the sentence.)”

The official, Tom Hearn, also showed Moroz what he believed to be the ball ‘lost’ in the rough of the 7th hole.

“According to Haefner, Moroz denied it was his ball before acknowledging it was. Hearn explained the ball had been found on the 7th hole at precisely the spot where the official had placed the flag. Moroz quickly transitioned, saying although it was one of his balls, he had hit a ball there the previous day and two others during his practice round, reasoning it must have been a ball he never found from those rounds.”

They returned to the course to show the landing areas of these suspicious drives, and after much discussion, Moroz was predictably disqualified.

French spoke to the player and was told,

“Why? I don’t understand how I can be DQ’d. I was pissed. I paid a lot of money ($3500) to play in this tournament, and I didn’t like seeing my caddie upset because they accused him of dropping the ball.”

French, who posts as @acaseofthegolf1 on Twitter, delves deeper into the history of Matt Moroz, finding out that of all the hole-in-ones he claims to have made (including at par-4s), “none of the people I spoke with saw the ball go in the hole.”

Amazingly that wasn’t all, and on Tuesday, French reported that Vincent Bachteler, the tournament director for the section, and Brett Renner, the digital media director, visited two of the holes in question, and found deep in the woods balls containing markings attributed to Moroz in areas his balls were suspected to have ended up during the event.

When reached for a comment on Tuesday, Moroz told the Fire Pit: “No comment.” 

You can read the full tale on the FirePit site, and make sure to check out the accompanying podcasts on the wildest DQ story possibly ever heard. Perhaps it’s best summed up best by Ryan himself,

“After spending two days learning about the enigmatic Moroz and his unusual antics, the author of that DM was right: I still can’t believe it.”

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19th Hole

Cam Smith: Joining LIV Golf one of the best decisions I’ve ever made

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While speaking with The Daily Mail prior to his start at LIV Las Vegas, Cam Smith called joining LIV “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

“I’m so happy… 14 events out here, four majors, a couple of events at home where I can give back to the fans there, and that’s me. I feel like there’s a lot of time there to become a better golfer.”

With the PGA Tour recently striking a deal with the Strategic Sports Group, the golf world is wondering will LIV golfers ever be welcome back on the PGA Tour. Cam, however, has no interest in playing any more tournaments and didn’t think much of the deal.

‘I definitely don’t want to play anymore tournaments. I didn’t really have much of a reaction, to be honest… I haven’t really kept an eye on that side. All of us here, we’re just trying to make this tour the best that we can.”

The Australian also talked about the fact that he was able to spend plenty of time at home in the lead up to the 2024 LIV Golf season, which is a rarity for a professional golfer.

“I don’t think I’ve done that since I’ve been a professional,” he told The Daily Mail.

The former Champion Golfer of the Year is a simple man, and really enjoys spending time with friends in Australia.

“Oh, mate, just hanging out with friends and family, going down to the pub, having a couple of beers is really all that makes me happy”.

“Playing golf with even some old members at the golf club that I grew up at, seeing the course – all that stuff, it just puts a smile to my face.”

“Sit around, fire up the grill, have some sausages on bread, and have a beer”.

“I probably had seven or eight weeks off really competitive golf,’ he says. Normally? ‘You almost feel guilty putting the clubs down for a week.”

Despite the more relaxed schedule, Cam still thinks he can contend for major championships.

“The majors are obviously a really big priority,’ Smith says. ‘And I feel like I’m still a good enough golfer to tick a couple of those off.”

Smith will tee it up alongside Dustin Johnson and Tyrrell Hatton for the first round of LIV Golf Las Vegas, which is set to kick off on Thursday.

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19th Hole

Phil Mickelson makes career hole-in-one claim that far exceeds Tiger Woods’ total

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In this week’s LIV Golf media guide, golf legend Phil Mickelson shared that he has a whopping 47 (!) hole-in-one’s in his life.

 

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A post shared by Golf Digest (@golfdigest)

Mickelson has 45 PGA Tour wins and six major championships on his resume, so it is quite believable that he could rack up such a large number of hole-in-one experiences.

To put that number into some perspective though, it is 27 more than the total that Tiger Woods is said to have made.

Of the 47, five of them have been in professional tournaments, which is five shy of Hal Sutton and Robert Allenby according to Golf Digest.

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19th Hole

Tyrrell Hatton reveals why he needed to rescue LIV teammate during hotel check-in for this week’s event

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The LIV Golf series moves onto Las Vegas this week for its second event of the year, and apparently Caleb Suratt had a tricky time checking into his hotel room.

The youngest player on LIV was playing at the University of Tennessee as a Freshman this year, and suddenly found himself as the newest teammate of Jon Rahm on his new team, Legion XIII. Tyrrell Hatton, who also joined Legion XIII recently, told the story of when he saw Suratt trying to check into the hotel in Las Vegas this week, telling media:

“Checking in yesterday, I kind of kept looking over to Caleb, and he was looking over at me quite nervous, so once I finished checking in, I sort of wandered over to make sure that he was OK, and as I got there, the lady checking him in said that he needed someone over 21 to be on the reservation to allow him to stay in the room. I had to hand over my driver’s license to make sure he had a bed for the night.”

Last week, Legion XIII went on to win the team competition, and Suratt contributed enormously, shooting -4 on Sunday when all four team scores were counted towards the total.

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