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Morning 9: Jason Day on LIV | Tips from The Match | LPGA pro inspired by World Cup run

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]. On Twitter: @benalberstadt

December 14, 2022

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as the PNC Championship takes center stage over the coming days

1. Jason Day to LIV? Definitely no.

Tom D’Angelo, Palm Beach Post…“Jason Day doesn’t mind golfers leaving the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf. And he remains close with fellow Aussie Cameron Smith, the highest-ranked golfer to make the jump.”

  • “But would Day join Smith on the tour financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund?  “I definitely would say no,” Day told the Palm Beach Post during the QBE Shootout. “I wouldn’t go as of now.”
  • “But does that close the door forever?”
  • “Who knows in a year’s time, you might think differently,” he said.
Full piece.

2. Inspired by Morocco’s World Cup run

BBC report…“Morocco’s Ines Laklalech has become the first golfer from North Africa to qualify for the LPGA tour, having been inspired by the coach behind her country’s World Cup run in Qatar.”

  • “Laklalech, 25, earned a spot on the premier tour in women’s golf despite shooting her worst round on the final day of the qualifying event in the United States.”
  • “The Casablanca resident fired a one-over par 73 in the final round at Highland Oaks in Dothan, Alabama on Sunday.”
  • “Yet she finished on 19 under par at the end of the eight-round tournament and shared 12th place – good enough to claim a much sought-after spot on next season’s tour.”
  • “I’m a big fan of the Moroccan national team so I’m super, super happy,” Laklalech said. “It definitely gave me an extra boost on the course.”
Full piece.

3. A look back at one of the big golf stories of 2022…

Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski remembers the Du Pont delegation…”It isn’t known how far along the PGA Tour had progressed towards its initiative to counter the LIV Golf Series with an expanded program of “elevated” high-dollar tournaments prior to the Aug. 16 players-only meeting in Wilmington, Del. But with four months’ worth of hindsight, it appears the gathering of nearly two dozen high-profile tour pros at the Hotel Du Pont can be viewed as a turning point for the tour in its ongoing fight with the Saudi-backed upstart. Just eight days later at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Commissioner Jay Monahan laid out the tour’s plans to which top players had given their blessing—if not insisted be put in place—thus shoring up its base of big names and assuaging fears that more LIV defections were coming.”

  • “That Tiger Woods flew in from his home in Florida to lead the meeting, along with Rory McIlroy, underscores the gravity and importance of that moment. And whatever was said that day—players in attendance have been tight-lipped about specifics—was embraced by those in attendance, which then apparently gave Monahan the green light to proceed with the plan to designate 13 tournaments for increased purses ranging from $15 million for the Sentry Tournament of Champions to $25 million for its flagship event, the Players Championship. Additional moves to retain talent, including up-front stipends for true tour rookies and fast-track access for top college golfers, also might have come out of the Delaware gathering.”
Full piece.

4. Newsmakers: OWGR

Shedloski again…”Since its inception in 1986, the Official World Golf Ranking has had its share of critics provide a healthy dose of skepticism, even as it came to be an accepted measure of talent in men’s professional golf—tracking the long reigns at the top of Tiger Woods (683 weeks) and Greg Norman (331 weeks)—and embraced by the major championships as a useful qualifying determinant. But the legitimacy of the OWGR has never been more scrutinized and attacked than it was in 2022 with the emergence of the LIV Golf Series. Because LIV has failed to meet at least a half-dozen metrics for OWGR inclusion, its golfers can’t collect OWGR points. Subsequently, their rankings have plummeted; just to cite the fall of two prominent players, Sergio Garcia is outside the top 100 for the first time in more than two decades and Brooks Koepka will end the year out of the top 50 for the first time since 2014. Norman, who is CEO of LIV Golf, and his players have sought fast-track acceptance to no avail.

  • “The OWGR, overseen by the majors and established tours like the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, has a schedule for validating each new tour, generally two to three years, and it isn’t budging. That’s logical when you consider as it represents a competitive firewall of sorts for the legacy tours against the deep-pocketed Saudi-backed newcomer. Naturally, the LIV faction increasingly questions the validity of the OWGR without LIV players in the equation. What OWGR leaders probably didn’t anticipate was catching flak from their right flank. In recent weeks, Woods, World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler and No. 5 Jon Rahm all have referred to the OWGR as “flawed,” this after its points distribution structure was tweaked yet again in August. The OWGR is a fundamental tenet to professional golf. Now it’s at the center of the upheaval occurring in the game. Can it survive? Should it survive? What form might it take next year and beyond? Will the majors, which make primary use of the rankings to help determine its fields, abandon it in favor of their own respective qualifying formulas? No “small” issue seems bigger in golf’s ongoing squabble.”
Full piece.

5. Golf tips from The Match

A few items from Golf Digest’s Luke Kerr Dineen…

  • ”Tiger’s draw bunker tip…On the second-to-last hole of The Match, JT found himself in the opposite situation of Spieth: His ball was in a bunker, but was on an upslope. So JT said he enlisted a shot that Tiger taught him: the “draw” bunker shot. It’s a great shot when the ball is on the upslope, he explained, because it prevents the club from digging (which it can do easily from this lie).”
  • “I stand a little wider, a little further from the ball, and choke down a bit,” JT explains.
  • “Lift your heel for more power…On the 10th and final hole, JT said he was going to get after one. He targeted 180 mph ball speed (he touched 179 mph in the end). How did he squeeze that extra power out of his swing? By lifting his lead heel off the ground, a move he said he’s been practicing for these occasions.”
Full piece.

6. Stats of the year

Justin Ray for PGATour.com…

  • “For 40 years, nobody had opened a tournament with triple bogey or worse and won on the PGA TOUR. Then it happened twice in the same month…The PGA TOUR has been keeping hole-by-hole data for the last 40 seasons. From 1983 through July 2022, in more than 1,700 official stroke-play events contested, there was not a single instance of a player starting a tournament with triple bogey or worse and going on to win. Then, in August, it happened twice!”
  • “At the Wyndham Championship, Tom Kim began his week with quadruple bogey. Incredibly, he went on to win by five shots after a leaderboard climb that featured a front-nine 27 on Sunday. Three weeks later at the TOUR Championship, Rory McIlroy, who was already ceding six “Starting Strokes” to Scottie Scheffler, opened his tournament with triple bogey and still won.”
  • “For the first time since the inception of the Masters in 1934, all four majors were won by players younger than 30….The value in the No. 1 statistic of the year is just how unthinkable it is that we have never seen it before. For the first time in the four-major era of men’s golf, all four winners in a calendar year were 29 or younger. Fifteen times in the modern era, three majors had been won by players in their 20s – but never all four.
  • It also makes it six different major winners in a row – all under the age of 30 – the first time the men’s game has experienced that since the inaugural Masters Tournament.”
Full piece.

7. Shocking retirement!

8. Inbee to have first child

Brentley Romine for Golf Channel…“Inbee Park is already a seven-time major champion, Olympic gold medalist and LPGA Hall of Famer.

  • She’ll soon be able to add mom to that list.”
  • Park, 34, took to Instagram on Tuesday morning to announce that she and husband, Gi Hyeob Nam, are expecting their first child.
  • “We are thrilled to announce that we will be welcoming new member of our family,” Park wrote. “Thank you all for so much support and love.”
Full piece.

9. Improving The Match?

Kyle Porter for CBSSports…

  • More unique formats…”The one-club challenge on Saturday only worked because all four of the competitors are professional (I don’t need Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers playing a 450-yard hole exclusively with a 4-iron), but it was so incredibly compelling that you could make the entire event a one-club challenge; I would absolutely be more interested than if guys were playing with all 14 sticks.”
  • “There are myriad variations of this you could run — make the losing team of each hole take a club out, three-club challenge, driver only on one hole and so on — but the crux is the same regardless: Make pros show us how talented they are by playing holes with one club better than the rest of us could with all of them.”
  • Title belt…”This is not an original idea to me, and in fact it’s not even original to Shane Bacon (who tweeted about it on Monday). Rick Gehman brought this up on the First Cut Podcast last week, and I think it’s brilliant. Make The Match a title belt. The options this gives you are as limitless as they are obvious. If J.T. and Spieth are the current belt holders, a different twosome can be pitted against them to try and win the belt away from them.”
  • “Eschew those The Match bracelets the duo won on Saturday and go full 1860s Open Championship by handing out belts. You wouldn’t even need to pit two golfers against them as long as you implemented handicaps. This would provide a bit of an edge to something that, at times, perhaps lacks it.”
Full Piece.
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5 Things We Learned: Thursday at the U.S. Open

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I’ve posted on social media that I’m not convinced that the viewing public is ready for three U.S. Open tournaments at Pinehurst #2, over a twelve-year span. I like the course and I love the sandhills, but the deuce is not a visually-stunning course. The topography, with the exception of holes four and five, is flattish. Flattish not in an Old Course way. Flattish in a where’s-the-movement way. I have erred in judgment, and it is possible that the television audiences will take to Donald Ross’ masterpiece in a manner that I did not anticipate.

This much I do know: many players took to the course with great affection on Thursday, aka Day One. Scores got as low as 65, and twenty golfers finished day one under par. This was not an easy day for scoring, either. With the exception of holes nine and ten, no other hole location could be labeled center of green. Competitors were forced to play to safe sides of putting surfaces, and encourage the putter to make a statement. Certainly, the USGA could make the targets even more precise, but chances are, they won’t.

What to expect? Hard to say, but five things that we do know, are elaborated below. Welcome to mid-June, and another US Open championship at Pinehurst. Welcome to five things we learned on day one of the 2024 US Open.

1. Is Patty Ice chillin’ again?

It’s hard to fathom that Patrick Cantlay has not won since August of 2022. In 2023, his performance for Team USA’s Ryder Cup side was decent, but not glowing nor glorious. With the rise of new talents, Captain America 2.0 has been relegated to an afterthought. It used to be When will he win a major and now it’s Will he win again. This week at Pinehurst, Cantlay might answer both questions with vigorous affirmation.

Cantlay was nearly flawless across the gem of Moore county. His 7:40 tee time was a boon, as the course was soft, windless, and untrampled. His only bogey came at the 15th hole, where his tee ball found sand and he was unable to get up and down for the sandy. His six birdies came at the first and last holes of the day, along with the fifth, sixth, eighth, and eleventh holes.

Solid Quote:  “I got the ball up and down on 7, made a bunch of putts inside, eight feet. I think around this golf course, you’re going to leave yourself putts inside eight feet. That four- to eight-foot range. It important that you hole out. I did that well today.”

2. The Oh-Bear stakes his claim

After we all mispronounced his name for the first six months of his professional career, we go to know the Oh-Bear when he won on tour and then earned statement victories at the 2023 Ryder Cup in Italy. On Thursday at number two, Ludvig Aberg signed for a 66 and reminded us all that he is a strengthening force in the world of golf. Aberg won last September on the DP World Tour, then again in November on the PGA Tour. In April, the Swedish lad posted a brilliant, runner-up finish at Augusta National, in the year’s first major championship.

Thursday saw a sextet of birdies wander onto Ludvig’s symphony. Like Cantlay, he made birdie at the first and the last. Holes five, nine, eleven, and twelve also surrendered stroke-savers. His hiccoughs came on the par-three sixth and the par-four fourteenth, where he made bogey. Aberg never appears to lose control nor confidence, and that system will serve him well over the next three days. Like Cantlay, Aberg will tee off in the afternoon wave on Friday. Both will see different course conditions, and their ability to adapt will serve them quite well.

Solid Quote: “Yeah, I think staying very disciplined is important. There’s a lot of pins where you don’t really think about going for. So me and Joe, my caddie, we have a lot of good conversations about certain areas that you try to hit it on.”

3. Peacock rides two eagles to three-under 67

Matthieu Pavon’s last name might translate as peacock from French, but eagles were his bird of choice on day one at Pinehurst. The first-time winner on the PGA Tour made but one birdie on the day, on the par-four eighth hole. He had twice as many bogeys, but that’s not his story. His day was made on the 5th and 10th holes, the two long holes at Pinehurst number two.

In his words, Pavon made his four best swings on the par five holes. He converted both eagle putts to save four more strokes, and ended his day at three-under par. Pavon transitioned from the courses of Europe to the layouts of the USA this season, and his learning curve has softened with each week. Pinehurst will provide as much challenge as any peacock needs, but this bird is already playing with house money.

Solid Quote: “It’s more about seeing breaks because when it’s slower, when you have less break, the ball doesn’t move as much as here. Here it’s really — it’s steep, it’s fast, it’s grainy, so the ball moves quite a lot. You have a lot of curves on the green.”

4. Rory roars to top

Can you say Clean card? Rory McIlroy went 18 holes at Pinehurst #2 without a bogey. He drove the ball supremely well, and putted with surgical precision. We all know the good news that came out of his personal world this week, so we can put Rory the person on the back burner, and focus entirely on Rory the golfer.

McIlroy was in the featured, afternoon triumvirate, with the two most recent major champions. Do you think he had something to prove? Aye. While the Masters champion managed a 71, and the PGA champion posted 70, Rory was the class of the 1:14 tee time. His birdies at four and five gave him early confidence, and his work on the inward half boosted him into his tie at the top. A birdie at ten restarted the momentum, and the Northern Irishman closed with two more birdies over the final three holes.

Solid Quote: “You’ve got to get lucky. I had a lot of really good numbers today where I could just go ahead and hit full shots. Whenever you’re hitting full shots into these greens, the ball is going to stop a little quicker than if you have to take something off or hit little three-quarter shots.”

5. Bryson stays the course and stays top five

The 2020 US Open champion, despite a well-publicized defection to a rival league, has been the most successful, non-PGA Tour golfer of late in majors. DeChambeau has done everything but win, finding top-seven finishes in each of this season’s grand slam events.

DeChambeau began his day on the second nine, where five of the top seven golfers opened their round. Birdies at 13 and 18 brought him through the turn at minus-two. Two more stroke-savers at three and five elevated him to within a shot of the lead. Even though he stumbled with bogey five at the seventh, DeChambeau finished the day at minus-three. Bryson will tee off at 7:40 on Friday, and much like Rory, will have a chance to post a number early and position himself for a weekend charge.

Solid Quote: “That putt on 6 today was crucial from 80 feet. I could have easily putted off the green as well as No. 9. Really making sure my speed control is good, starting lines are good. I did accomplish for the most part what I was trying to do today besides 7.”

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Morning 9: Tiger gets Bob Jones Award | Record U.S. Open purse | PGA Tour-PIF announcement next week?

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the U.S. Open gets underway!

1. Tiger accepts USGA’s Bob Jones Award

Ron Driscoll for the USGA…”Tiger Woods began competing in USGA championships at age 14, which is the same age that Bob Jones was when he competed in his first U.S. Amateur. It’s far from the only characteristic that Woods shares with the namesake of the USGA’s highest honor, which Woods received on Tuesday evening before the 2024 U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club…”

  • “…In accepting the award, Woods called Jones “the greatest amateur who ever lived. All the attributes that we all try to aspire to in this great game of golf, that is what Bob Jones exuded.”
  • “Woods went on to honor his mother, Kultida, but not before joking that the first USGA event she attended was his final U.S. Amateur in 1996. Having won five straight USGA events, he said the pressure was enormous. “There she was in a Stanford sweatshirt; imagine if I had lost? But who did I hug first after I won, right, Mommy?”
  • “My mom doesn’t get enough credit,” Woods said. “It was Dad and I on the road, but my mom has been there my entire life, has always been there through thick and thin. I accept this award with humbleness and in unbelievable regard for the past recipients, but I also accept it for my mom, too. She allowed me to get here, to do these things, to chase my dreams, with support and love. I didn’t do this alone, I had the greatest rock that any child could possibly have. Thank you, Mommy.”
Full piece.

2. U.S. Open purse now stands at $21.5 million

Golf Channel staff…”This week’s U.S. Open offers a $21.5 million purse with the winner earning $4.3 million. That’s up from $20 million ($4 million to winner) a year ago.”

  • “It’s the largest purse among the four men’s majors, with The Players Championship paying $25 million.”
Full piece.

3. Pathway for top LIV players into future U.S. Opens?

Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”For three years, the major championship bodies – Augusta National, USGA, PGA of America and R&A – have been reluctant to give players who joined LIV Golf a pathway into their events. But on Wednesday at Pinehurst, USGA CEO Mike Whan offered those players hope.”

  • “We’re going to talk about it this offseason, whether or not there needs to be a path to somebody or somebodies that are performing really well on LIV that can get a chance to play in that way,” Whan said. “I think we are serious about that. Exactly what that looks like and how that’ll curtail, I’m not just being coy, we haven’t done that yet.”
Full piece.

4. USGA looking at drivers?

Mike Stachura for Golf Digest…??”When the USGA and R&A announced in December that there would be a change in the way golf balls were tested that would make most models nonconforming, resulting in an estimated distance loss of as much as 15 yards at the elite level, it was seen as a way to penalize the fastest swingers in all of golf (top men professionals) while offering lesser and potentially inconsequential penalties at the recreational golfer level. While a similar rollback for the driver was contemplated in the early days of the ruling bodies’ research, that interest eventually waned, said Mike Whan, USGA CEO.”

  • “Yet during his U.S. Open-week press conference on Wednesday at Pinehurst No. 2, Whan talked about the distance deliberations and conversations with R&A CEO Martin Slumbers and indicated that the driver is still in the rollback crosshairs.”
  • “I would say comfortably speaking for both Martin and I, we had and have a real interest in figuring out a way to provide a difference as it relates to the driver, as well,” Whan said. “To date, we didn’t really come up with something that wouldn’t have a much more negative effect on the recreational game. What we did on the golf ball is going to have much more of an impact at [the elite] level than at the average level. When we started talking about changes in the driver or driving equipment, it was just the opposite. Much more significant impact across the board than just at the elite level.”
Full piece.

5. Last chance for Olympic spots

Nick Zaccardi for NBC Sports…”The U.S. Open is also a scramble for the last Olympic men’s golf spots in Paris.”

  • “After Sunday’s final round, the 60-player Olympic men’s field will be determined based on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). The women’s field will be drawn from the Rolex Rankings after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week.
  • “A nation can qualify up to four golfers per gender if they are all ranked in the top 15 in the world. A nation can qualify up to two golfers if any are ranked outside the top 15.
Full Piece.

6. Nelly’s proudest moment of 2024

Beth Ann Nichols for Golfweek…”Nelly Korda, a six-time winner on tour this season, says she was never more proud of herself this season than the U.S. Women’s Open. That might sound strange, given that she made a 10 on a par 3 and didn’t play the weekend.”

  • “But Korda is wise enough to see past the score.
  • “I’m not going to say that I was happy with the way I played,” she said. “I was happy with the way I fought. I fought really, really, hard to make the cut.”
Full Piece.

7. Bettors loving Scheffler

Doug Greenberg for ESPN…”The central betting story going into the U.S. Open is the same as it was before the Masters and the PGA Championship: Scottie Scheffler is an overwhelming favorite and is seeing some of the shortest odds for a major since prime Tiger Woods.

  • “The 27-year-old opened the week at +300 at ESPN BET and has been bet down to +290; across the marketplace, he’s as short as +250. It’s the shortest odds for any golfer to win the U.S. Open since Woods in 2007 (+250).”
  • “Despite the extremely short odds, Scheffler is still attracting a very healthy number of tickets and even more handle.”
Full Piece.

8. PGA Tour-PIF announcement next week?

9. U.S. Open photos

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

Spotted: Phil Mickelson testing Callaway’s mini driver

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There is some serious equipment testing going on at Pinehurst’s legendary No. 2 course before the 2024 U.S. Open starts! We spotted renowned club tinkerer Phil Mickelson on the range with a new setup. He was testing out the new Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Ti 340 Mini Driver with a new Mitsubishi Diamana BB (Blue Board) shaft.

Phil has long been a mini driver/2-wood/strong 3-wood guy, as he was the inspiration for the Callaway “Phranken Wood” about 10 years ago. For many pros, adding a strong 3-wood or mini driver allows them to turn it over easier and add a more consistent draw to their bag off the tee without losing too much distance.

Mitsubishi’s Diamana BB is the newest mid-launch shaft in the Diamana line. The “BB” on the shaft of course references the iconic Blue Board shafts from 20 years ago and this model will have a similar smooth feel.

 

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