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Morning 9: Rahm leads | Rory’s Tiger-inspired driver switch | Bay Hill photos

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

March 3, 2023

Good Friday morning, golf fans, as day one of the Arnold Palmer Invitational saw Jon Rahm continue his dominant streak to forge ahead early at Bay Hill.

1. Rahm leads at Bay Hill

AP Report…”Jon Rahm started his round strong and ended it even better Thursday, closing eagle-birdie-birdie for a 7-under 65 and a 2-shot lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

  • Not even the brute test of Bay Hill was a match for golf’s hottest player.
  • “Amazing round of golf,” he said. “I wish all of them were as enjoyable as this one.”
Full piece.

2. Szokol ahead at HSBC Womens

AP report…”Elizabeth Szokol shot an 8-under-64 for a three-stroke lead after the first round of the Women’s World Championship on Thursday.”

  • “Yuka Saso of Japan was second after a bogey-free 67, and a pack of six, including Nelly Korda and former No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn, carded 68s at Sentosa Golf Club.”
  • “Szokol shot 6 under on the front nine, including four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth. Her only bogey came on the 10th hole but she birdied 14, 16 and 18.”
Full piece.

3. Counterclaim complications

Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…The PIF and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, have argued that they are nothing more than investors in LIV Golf, which filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Tour last year. Lawyers for the Tour claim the Fund and Al-Rumayyan are deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of LIV and, therefore, must submit to U.S. jurisdiction. A judge agreed with the Tour’s assessment and granted a motion to add PIF, which owns 93 percent of LIV Golf, and Al-Rumayyan as defendants in the counterclaim, making them both subject to discovery.

  • Lawyers representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia argued in a brief filed Tuesday that PIF and Al-Rumayyan are immune from U.S. jurisdiction and that forcing a government official, like Al-Rumayyan, to be deposed violates Saudi law.
  • According to the brief, Al-Rumayyan is one of six PIF board members who are also members of the Council of Ministers and subordinate only to the king. Lawyers for the Kingdom also pointed out that disclosure of council deliberations is a violation of Saudi law and punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine that could reach $266,000.
Full piece.

4. Rory’s Tiger-inspired driver switch

Our Andrew Tursky’s item for PGATour.com…”in his next start, at The Genesis Invitational, McIlroy made the rare mid-tournament equipment switch. After using the Stealth Plus driver in the opening round at The Riviera Country Club, McIlroy played the rest of week with a Stealth 2 Plus. He still had the Stealth 2 Plus in the bag when he arrived in Orlando, Florida, for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.”

  • “Why did McIlroy make a mid-event audible with his driver at The Genesis?”
  • “I was sick of Tiger outdriving me,” he said with a laugh in his Wednesday press conference from Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge.”
  • “McIlroy leads the PGA TOUR in Driving Distance this season (328.7 yards) so it’s easy to think he was joking. But a closer look at the stats reveals a different story. McIlroy’s driving distance average at the Genesis Invitational was 305.0 yards, compared to Woods’ 306.3-yard average on the week.”
  • “I played the (WM Phoenix Open) and noticed that my spin numbers on my driver were a little low,” McIlroy added Wednesday. “So then I went to L.A. and I put my driver up a click in loft. But I’m so particular about face angle when it comes to drivers that when I went up a click in loft, obviously I can see a little more face, it looks a little further left to me. And I didn’t hit one drive out of the middle of the face the first day at Riv. I needed to go and try something else.”
  • “I feel like this Stealth 2 head for me has just got a little more spin on it, but at a more neutral or what I perceive to be a more neutral face angle. I think if other people saw it they would probably see that it sits slightly open, but to my eye it sits square. To me it was all about face angle. …I hit balls on Thursday night at Riv. Started middling that and started to get way more consistent spin numbers, sort of in the range that I like. Then I just went with it from there. Actually felt like I drove it pretty good for the final three days at Riv, and it’s been pretty good in practice over the past week.”
Full piece.

5. Player perspective on Designated Event changes

Evin Priest for Golf Digest…“Adam Scott says there has to be a “give and take” from players on the changes made by the PGA Tour.”

  • “These are not overnight decisions made by the board,” Scott told Golf Digest on Wednesday at Bay Hill. “A lot of things are taken into consideration. There are a lot of positive steps being made on the PGA Tour. You’ve also got to look at the big picture, not just what happens next year. What’s best for the product for the next decade, as it moves beyond this TV contract and, and sponsorship period, and into the next one?”
  • “…Kevin Chappell, a one-time PGA Tour winner in 271 starts who currently ranks 191st in the current FedEx Cup standings, tweeted, “The (carrot) sure has gotten bigger, but it seems to have been moved further away from the majority of those playing professional golf. I believe this could lead to shorter but more lucrative careers like tennis.”
  • “Chappell, who has made $16.7 million on the PGA Tour, also tweeted, “If your LIV, it becomes easier recruit players. Look for players 51-70 on FedEx list to leave and go take the guarantee elsewhere.”
Full piece.

6. …and the scribes debate

Shane Ryan: “The more you learn about tour history, the more you learn about the push-and-pull between benefiting the best and most famous players (a “rich get richer” system) and having a very democratic, merit-based tour with plenty of opportunity for the rank-and-file (dirty, dirty socialism … to some). And, right now, that balance tipped to the better players because there is a really lucrative alternative for the world’s best golfers. So, no, there aren’t enough spots, but I also completely get why the tour is doing this and why it feels like it has to do this—it satisfies the elites while strengthening the fields of the non-designated events … and it does that while maintaining some drama for the guys trying to fight their way into the top level.”

  • Stephen Hennesey: “I understand Max Homa’s and Patrick Cantlay’s points that the new changes don’t alter the schedule from 2023 for the players ranked outside the top 70, but the point they’re ignoring is that 2023 was already such a gigantic change from previous years. Now the rank-and-file players are being alienated even further. Kevin Chappell, a Presidents Cup player not too long ago, said on Twitter, “Look for players 51-70 on FedEx list to leave and go take the guarantee elsewhere. If you’re LIV it becomes easier to recruit players.” That, to me, sums up why this is not a good thing for the majority of PGA Tour players.”
Full piece.

7. Meanwhile, at this week’s Champions Tour stop…

8. Major champ playing Epson Tour opener

Beth Ann Nichols for Golfweek…”Brittany Lincicome was hoping to slide under the radar at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. But it’s hard for a two-time major winner to blend in at an Epson Tour event.”

  • “Before Lincicome begins her 2023 season on the LPGA later this month in Arizona, the mother of two thought she’d try to regain some confidence at the season-opening event that’s about 90 minutes, without traffic, from her St. Petersburg home.”
  • “It’s her first time playing on the official qualifying tour. The 37-year-old went straight to the LPGA from high school and was a rookie in 2005.”
Full piece.

9. Bay Hill photos

  • Check out our galleries from Bay Hill this week!
Full pie
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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bob

    Mar 6, 2023 at 7:29 am

    TW out driving Rory? Hope the tour is still testing the CT on drivers. Would not be surprised if the serial cheater has a hot driver.

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Courses

Open Championship courses you can play (and when the best time to book is)

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The final major of 2024 is nearly here as the top golfers head to Scotland’s southwestern coast to battle for the claret jug at Royal Troon. Golf’s original major dates all the way back to 1860 and has been played at 14 different courses throughout the United Kingdom (yes, this includes Northern Ireland) providing countless memories including celebrations, heartbreak, and unique moments that will never be forgotten (looking at you Jordan Spieth).

With The Open teeing off less than a week from now, we wanted to highlight some of The Open Championship’s finest links courses that should play when you make the journey to golf’s homeland:

Old Course at St. Andrews 

Do we even need to say anything else? The “Home of Golf”, host of 30 Open Championships, the most coveted tee time in the WORLD, there are a million reasons to have St. Andrews on your links golf bucket list. From the double greens, to the tee shot over the Old Course Hotel, to the walk up 18th fairway with the town buildings framing a picturesque scene (especially at dusk), every golfer should make the voyage to St Andrews at least once in their life.

Carnoustie 

Carnoustie – Championship Course

Roughly 25 miles north of St. Andrews lies the devious links of Carnoustie, often recognized by the large white Carnoustie Golf Hotel as the backdrop of the 18th green. While the course has only hosted The Open 8 times, it is considered to be one of the hardest layouts in The Open rota (just ask Jean Van de Velde) although not that long, playing just under 7000 yards from the tips. 

Muirfield 

Located right next to this week’s host of Scottish Open (The Renaissance Club), this fantastic links layout has hosted the prestigious Championship 16 times since 1892. The narrow fairways and penal rough requires precise shots off the tee while avoiding the devious pot bunkers is a must. The course is set away from the coastline so you won’t get the sweeping ocean views, but a round at Muirfield is one the premier tee times in all of Scotland (so make sure you book early – 12-18 months at least).

Royal Portrush 

A view of the new 572 yards par 5, seventh hole designed by Martin Ebert on the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club the host club for the 2019 Open Championship in Portrush, Northern Ireland. © 2018 Rob Durston

Our next stop brings us across the Irish Sea to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and the popular Royal Portrush. Having hosted The Open only twice in its illustrious history, Royal Portrush is a golfer’s dream with 36 holes of pure links golf set against a gorgeous backdrop of the ocean and cliffs. The Open Championship will return to Portrush in 2025 and YOU CAN BE THERE to watch it all in person! 

Royal Troon 

TROON – JULY 26: General view of the ‘Postage Stamp’ par 3, 8th hole taken during a photoshoot held on July 26, 2003 at the Royal Troon Golf Club, venue for the 2004 Open Championships, in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The host of this year’s Open Championship, Royal Troon is home to one of the best par-3 holes in all of golf, “The Postage Stamp.” A downhill 125-yard tee shot to a minuscule green surrounded by bunkers on all sides makes it one of the more challenging holes. Another hole that adds to the challenge is the 601-yard par 5 that used to be the longest golf hole in Open Championship history. This year will be the 10th Open Championship held at Royal Troon, the first since 2016 when Mickelson and Stenson had a battle for the ages in the final round.

Royal Birkdale 

For the next course on the list, we have to head down to the northwest coast of England just outside of Liverpool. Consistently ranked in the Top 10 courses in all the UK, this 10-time host of The Open has hosted many other prestigious events such as Ryder Cups, Women’s Opens, and more! The course is laid out with fairways running through flat-bottomed valleys surrounded by high dunes which provide many blind shots throughout the course. The Open returns to Royal Birkdale in 2026 so it won’t be long before it is back in the spotlight.

Royal St. George’s 

For the final course on our list, we are staying in England, but heading across to the southeastern side of the country to Kent. Royal St. George’s is 4th on the list of most Open Championships hosted with 15 (1 behind Muirfield) the most recent being Collin Morikawa’s victory in 2021. RSG is the only active course on The Open rota in this part of the UK, but two former hosts (Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports) are within 3 miles of the property. The expansive course is laid out with holes separated by dunes with heavy rough, undulating fairways, and deep pot bunkers to challenge your game. While it may not be mentioned in the discussions of St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and the like, Royal St. George’s is still a Championship layout that is worth the trip across the pond.


With these big-name courses in such high demand, it is important to note that if you want to play them, you need to start planning your trip early. Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR, the world’s #1 rated golf tour operator, suggests planning and booking your trip at least 12-18 months in advance in order to secure a tee time at the courses you want. The UK & Ireland specialists at Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR have the knowledge to help tailor the perfect golf trip for your group so you can play big-name courses and hidden gems you might not have heard of. If you’re ready to start planning your bucket list trip across the pond, make life easier and go with Golfbreaks by PGA TOUR.

Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with Golfbreaks. When you make a purchase through links in this article, GolfWRX may earn an affiliate commission.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 ISCO Championship

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GolfWRX is staying stateside, traveling to Kentucky for the ISCO Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

WITBs and custom putters are here for the viewing, including some very cool looks into the bags of some players whose setups we haven’t had the pleasure of shooting so far in 2024.

Check out all our photos from the Bluegrass State below!

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying about the photos in the forums.

While you’re here, check out BK’s breakdown of the WITB of Davis Thompson, last week’s winner.

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News

Morning 9: Bradley new Ryder Cup captain | Luke Clanton’s hot streak

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as we gear up for the Scottish Open.

1. Keegan Bradley to be named U.S. Ryder Cup captain

SI’s Bob Harig…”Tiger Woods has turned down the U.S. Ryder Cup captaincy, leading the PGA of America to go off recent protocol with a unique choice to take the job next year at Bethpage Black: Keegan Bradley.”

  • “The PGA of America confirmed Monday afternoon what Sports Illustrated first reported earlier in the day: that Bradley, who was bypassed by captain Zach Johnson for an at-large pick last year, will succeed him as captain.”
Full piece.

2. Luke Clanton’s hot streak

Kevin Prise for PGATour.com…”Luke Clanton authored a piece of modern-era history Sunday at the John Deere Classic, where he followed a T10 at the previous week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic with a runner-up at TPC Deere Run, punctuated by a 25-foot birdie on the 72nd hole in the Quad Cities.”

  • “It was a fitting conclusion to a sparkling week at the John Deere, as the rising Florida State junior proved that his recent performances were no fluke. Clanton made the cut at last month’s U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst Resort, finishing T41, and he has continued to improve upon his finishes as he finds continued comfort at the game’s highest level – as a 20-year-old college kid.”
Full piece.

3. Smylie: Rory’s caddie should have stepped in

Our Matt Vincenzi…”It’s been almost a month since the U.S. Open, but the disappointing finish for Rory McIlroy is still fresh on the minds of plenty of people in the golf world.”

  • “Amongst the people analyzing Rory’s performance on that Sunday at Pinehurst is golf analyst Smylie Kaufman. While appearing on Golf’s Subpar podcast, the former pro said he believes McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond, should have done more to help Rory.”
  • “I felt like (caddie) Harry Diamond really should have stepped in on the 15th hole.”
  • “He did not have the right club in his hands. And I felt like Rory could have taken control of the championship on 15 if he just hits it in the middle of the green. And he hit a good shot. But it just was the wrong club.”
  • “And never, never was a 7-iron for Rory. Especially with a right flag. If the wind was down off the right, it’s not exactly a flag and a wind condition and the heat to be able to land it in a hula hoop, where you got to hit this kind of soft, spinny, fade 7-iron. It was an 8-iron all day, hit it in the middle of the green.”
Full piece.

4. LIV pro’s airline, clubs fiasco

Our Matt Vincenzi…”Over the weekend, a handful of LIV golfers found themselves in contention at the International Series Morocco.”

  • “Amongst those players was the Iron Heads’ Scott Vincent. Incredibly, the Zimbabwean played well despite almost missing his tee time after the airline misplaced his clubs.”
  • “Vincent’s tee time was 12:30 and he arrived at 12:34, which led to him narrowly escaping a disqualification. He did, however, receive a two-stroke penalty for being late. He then had to use a set of borrowed clubs for his first round of the important event.”
  • “Despite the penalty and the unfamiliar clubs, the 32-year-old was able to fire a 5-under 68, which left him just two shots off of the first-round lead.”
  • “After the round, Vincent spoke about his clubs and how he was able to adapt to the unique situation.”
  • “A lot of people had clubs, bits and pieces, but obviously it is hard to make up a full set when you do not have anything, so we have a bit of a mixed bag here.
  • “I have talked a lot to myself about adapting, no matter what, whatever the situation might be. And so just being able to go out there with none of my stuff, even golf shoes, I am taking in the moment, and we will just take it as it comes.”
Full piece.

5. Poulter on why he skipped Open qualifying

Out Matt Vincenzi…”Among the players who aren’t exempt into majors is Ian Poulter. The 48-year-old could have chosen to attempt to play a qualifier to get in like Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood did, but he chose to skip it.”

  • While speaking to talkSPORT, the Englishman gave his explanation.
  • “My world ranking is not high enough to get into The Open Championship.
  • “I had the ability go and qualify and I didn’t.
  • “I was on holiday with the family in Switzerland instead.
  • “That is what LIV Golf has given me, a bit more family time.
  • “I still have got a busy schedule with LIV playing 14 tournaments.”
Full Piece.
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