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Five Things We Learned: Friday at the US Open

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Like death and taxes, the halfway cut at a major championship is a certainty. There is no avoiding its blade, and stories abound about who coulda and shoulda, who didn’t, and who did. Layered on top of the close calls are the runaways, the golfers who made or missed by a mile. Los Angeles Country Club’s North course welcomed 65 golfers to the weekend, and sent the remaining 91 home.

The cut fell at two-over par 142, one shot lower than the 143 of 2022, at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. 17 competitors made the cut on the number, including three of the four surviving amateurs. Among that group were three former major winners. Missing by one shot were 14 more golfers, including Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson. France’s Paul Barjon gave back nine shots overnight (67 to 76) to miss by one, while Sam Stevens (75 to 67) and Sahith Theegala (74 to 66) improved the most, to sneak inside the cut and reserve a seat at Saturday’s table.

A quintet of elements stood out most on day two at LA North, and it’s time to share that quantum with you.

1. A US Open test reveals itself by the numbers

As a savvy tournament committee knows, you don’t display all your attributes on day one. Los Angeles North may have seemed like an unworthy admission to the US Open canon of courses after Thursday’s low numbers. Upon completion of play on Friday, those complaints and heckles went away with the cut line. The committee moved the tee blocks as far back as possible, pushing the real yardage to the scorecard figures. Combined with a morning Marine layer and some all-day breezes, the enhanced yardage added club numbers to approach shots, and changed strategy from the tee deck. The results were statistically telling: a 71.38 average score on Thursday climbed to 72.22 on Friday.

37 players signed a scorecard under the par of 70 on day one. Only 10 of those golfers followed up with another round in the 60s. We’ll look at those 10 golfers as we continue our trek, and determine which has the greatest chance of hoisting Victoria, aka the trophy without a name, on Sunday. The winged goddess of victory stands atop the silver chalice, so that’s as good a name as any.

With no more yardage left to add, anticipate a movement toward psychological warfare on the putting surfaces. Hole locations will move toward fingers and corners of greens, and slide toward transitional shelves on the frog hair.

2. Members of an exclusive club

Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark will shake hands on Saturday afternoon. Gone are the split tees of 1 and 10, as well as the threesomes. Their 3:40 tee time west coast tee time is the final one of the day, and will finish up well past 11 on the other coast. Their tribute comes later; there are eight other golfers who joined them in the Double 60s club, and we shall look at that octet herein.

Rory Mcilroy (65-67), Harris English (67-66), Min Woo Lee (69-65), Sam Bennett (67-68), Scottie Scheffler (67-68), Cameron Smith (69-67), Tony Finau (68-69) and Justin Suh (69-69) are the other eight players in possession of under-par scorecards from both days of competition. They are joined by others in the top eighteen, but their achievements merit some attention. History suggests that McIlroy should be watched closely, but history also suggests that a nine-year gap in major-championship victories is hard to overcome. Scheffler and Smith each won a major in 2022, and each would like to establish a yearly tradition of at least one major title on the resume.

The other five golfers are complete unknowns in the major arena, yet each adds a tantalizing spice that screams, in the words of Donkey, pick me, pick me! Our thinking is that the 2023 champion is likely to come from this group of 10 golfers, as a weekend comeback is a difficult thing at a US Open.

3. The amateurs

We saw the aforementioned Sam Bennett make quite a statement (16th-place tie) as an amateur at The Masters in April. He is now a professional, but a quartet of his former compatriots in the non-professional company stood tall through 36 holes at the North course. Leading the way is Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent, the newly-minted world number one among the amateurs, and the owner of what may be the world’s quickest hip rotation through the ball. Anchor Down followed an opening 69 with 71, to sit in a tie for 30th at even par. Joining Sargent on the weekend are Ben Carr and Maxwell Moldovan of the USA, and Aldrich Potgieter of South Africa. That triumvirate sneaked across the cut line on the number, at the two-over par figure of 142. The presence of Bobby Jones returns each year at the majors, and the four-time champion of this event, as an amateur, suggests that we pay attention to his golf descendants.

Of the foursome, Sargent should perform the best over the final 36 holes. He is among the collegiate elite who lack only seasoning on their way to join the list of professional winners. As for the others, the USGA medals that will come their way on Sunday are prize enough.

4. Wyndham Clark caught our attention

The Colorado native has the sort of name that suggests he has been around the tours for decades. Maybe that’s just us. Clark played four years at Oklahoma State, then transferred to Oregon for his final collegiate season. He moved from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA Tour in 2018, and has remained a fixture. In April, Clark won his first tour title at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. On Thursday, Clark joined the birdie fest with a round of 64. He overcame three bogeys that day, with eight mighty birdies. On Friday, a more patient Clark counted half that many birdies on his card, but he sliced two bogeys off his round’s tally. Alongside Clark as a great unknown, is how difficult Los Angeles North will play over the next 48 hours.

Clark’s driving distance average dropped nearly 40 yards from round one to round two. Did he play conservatively off the tee on Friday? If so, that’s a good thing. Clark hit nearly 70% of fairways and greens both days, which placed him right around 50th spot in the field. What he did best, was make putts. His putting average of 1.25 putts per green is best in the field. When it comes to rolling the ball, he has no equal this week. That statistic needs to continue, for Clark to find success on Saturday, and glory on Sunday.

5. Rickie Fowler has his chance

The mid 2010s were the period when we thought that we would see the California native surpass his renown as Dick Fowler, Private Eye in commercials, and seize a major title. He came close (top-five finishes in all four 2014 majors) but never crossed the finish line. Would he be the most popular major champion in quite some time? Absolutely. Fowler extracted 18 birdies from George Thomas’ masterpiece over the first two days. If he does the same over the weekend, he will win. Fowler’s driving has always been his Achilles’ Heel; if he keeps the ball in the fairway, off the tee, he will do just fine. Remember that firm greens also mean firm fairways, so drive won’t be necessary off the majority of tees. Fowler has been the world’s most confident putter since his amateur days. If the flat stick cooperates, his chance at finally claiming a major trophy increases.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Morning 9: Rory: I’m not joining LIV | Masters ratings | Nelly: We just need a stage

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as we gear up to this week’s RBC Heritage.

1. Rory: I’m not going to LIV

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach…McIlroy said neither he nor his agents have ever discussed a potential deal to lure him to the LIV Golf League, which is being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

  • “I honestly don’t know how these things get started,” McIlroy told Golf Channel while on the practice range at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the site of this week’s RBC Heritage. “I’ve never been offered a number from LIV, and I’ve never contemplated going to LIV. Again, I think I’ve made it clear over the past two years that I don’t think it’s something for me.
  • “It doesn’t mean that I judge people who have went and played over there. I think one of the things that I have realized over the past two years is that people can make their own decisions for whatever they think is best for themselves, and who are we to judge them for that? But personally, for me, my future is here on the PGA Tour, and it’s never been any different.”
Full piece.

2. Masters ratings down

Yahoo’s Jay Busbee…”Ratings for the full Masters week are now out, and 2024’s version ranks as the lowest since the COVID-impacted years of 2020 and 2021. There was a brief moment when four players shared the lead at the 2024 Masters, but Scottie Scheffler took care of business quickly enough and strolled to what qualifies as an “easy” Masters victory — a four-stroke triumph that wasn’t in doubt for most of the second nine.”

  • “Perhaps as a result, Sunday’s final round averaged 9.59 million viewers on CBS, according to Sports Media Watch, a 22.8% decline from last year’s 12.06 million. Scheffler’s win two years ago averaged 10.17 million viewers. Worth noting: Sunday’s final round was down 20 percent against last year’s victory by Jon Rahm, but last year’s final round fell on Easter Sunday, which created a significantly higher out-of-home percentage of viewers — 21 percent in 2023, as opposed to 9 percent this year.”
Full piece.

3. Chevron gets purse boost

Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“Chevron’s commitment to the LPGA went a step higher on Tuesday with the announcement of a purse increase to $7.9 million in 2024. The move brings the tour’s first major in line with the purses of other championships. The U.S. Women’s Open purse of $12 million paces the tour, with the KPMG Women’s PGA second at $10 million. The AIG Women’s British Open purse checks in at $9 million while Amundi Evian is $6.5 million.”

  • “Chevron, which moved the event away from Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, to Texas, last year, has increased the purse by $4.8 million since assuming title sponsorship in 2022. The company has committed to title sponsor the event through 2029.”
Full piece.

4. Shipley on “notegate”

Alex Myers for Golf Digest…”So what was up with “notegate”? During his hilarious spot with McAfee, Shipley reiterated there was no note from Woods, and that he was only looking at the moderator because he was so confused where the question was coming from:

  • “I looked over at the moderator like ‘Who the hell is this guy?'” Shipley says in the clip. “Because it just didn’t happen. I was so confused and so shocked in the moment.”
Full piece.

5. Nelly: We just need a stage

Iain Carter for the BBC…”Korda is the first American to win four consecutive tournaments on the LPGA since Lopez won five straight 46 years ago. This astonishing streak made the then rookie front page material for Sports Illustrated.

  • “Korda’s feats have yet to transcend the golfing village, and perhaps that suits her as she “tries to stay in my bubble”. But the American Solheim Cup player does recognise that more could be done to tell the increasingly compelling story of women’s golf.”
  • “I feel like we just need a stage,” she told reporters here at Carlton Woods just north of Houston. “We need to be put on TV.
  • “I feel like when it’s tape delay, or anything like that, that hurts our game. Women’s sports just needs a stage. If we have a stage we can show up and perform and show people what we’re all about.”
Full piece.

6. Photos from the 2024 RBC Heritage

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s event!
Full piece.
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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 RBC Heritage

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GolfWRX is on site this week at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island for the RBC Heritage. Plenty of golfers who competed in the Masters last week will be making the quick turnaround in the Lowcountry of South Carolina as the Heritage is again one of the Tour’s Signature Events.

We have general albums for you to check out, as well as plenty of WITBs — including Justin Thomas and Justin Rose.

We’ll continue to update as more photos flow in from SC.

Check out links to all our photos, below.

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying and join the discussion in the forums.

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Morning 9: Aberg: I want to be No. 1 | Rory’s management blasts ‘fake news’ reports

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as we look back at the Masters while looking ahead to this week’s RBC Heritage.

1. Shane Ryan: Appreciate Scottie’s greatness

Golf Digest’s Shane Ryan…”This is what’s called generational talent, and we haven’t seen it in almost 20 years. Steve Stricker read the tea leaves when he picked Scheffler for the 2021 Ryder Cup—a decision that was richly rewarded—and starting in 2022, he was off to the races. The only hiccup was a few putting woes last year, but even that only served to highlight how remarkable his ball-striking had become—instead of winning, he was finishing third. When he fixed the putting, with help from a new coach and a bit of equipment advice from Rory McIlroy, he soared yet again to the top of the game, but this time he seemed more indomitable, more inevitable, more brilliant.”

  • “The sustained success of the last three years has officially made him the best professional golfer since Tiger Woods, a conclusion supported by analytics, the eye test, and every other metric you could dream up. With fewer majors, he has nevertheless leaped past Spieth, McIlroy, and Koepka in terms of pure ability. He doesn’t have their legacy, yet, but if we’re talking about peak performance, he’s already surpassed them.”
  • “He’s so much better than everyone else, which is a sentiment that is both commonplace—I saw it on Twitter over and over again—and revelatory. It’s the thing you say because there is nothing else to say. You’re left with the wild truth, which words can describe but never capture.”
Full piece.

2. Aberg: I want to be No. 1

The AFP’s Simon Evans…”The 24-year-old finished second, four strokes behind winner Scottie Scheffler, after carding a final round 69 but he certainly won many admirers among the patrons at Augusta National and beyond.”

  • “And his performance has filled Aberg with self-belief.”
  • “Everyone in my position, they are going to want to be major champions. They are going to want to be world number one, and it’s the same for me, that’s nothing different,” he said.
  • “It has been that way ever since I picked up a golf club, and that hasn’t changed. So I think this week solidifies a lot of those things are there, and we just need to keep doing those things and put ourselves in positions to win tournaments, ” he said.
Full piece.

3. Homa’s honest answer on double bogey

Golf Channel staff report…”But Homa’s tee shot at No. 12 bounded off the putting surface and into a bush. After a healthy search, Homa found his ball and had to take an unplayable lie. He made double bogey, effectively ending his bid at a maiden major title.”

  • “Homa tied for third, seven shots back of Scheffler. Asked about what happened on the fateful 9-iron, Homa offered two replies.”
  • “The honest answer is, it didn’t feel fair. I hit a really good golf shot, and it didn’t feel fair. I’ve seen far worse just roll back down the hill,” he said.
  • “The professional answer is, these things happen.”
Full piece.

4. Harbour Town ahead

RBC Heritage field notes, via Adam Stanley of PGATour.com…”Scottie Scheffler is, for now, set to tee it up at the RBC Heritage. He was clear to say that if his wife, Meredith, would go into labor during the Masters, he would head home to be with her, so it’s safe to assume that same rule will stand at Harbour Town. Scheffler has not shot an over-par round all season and has three victories (and one runner-up). He made his debut at Harbour Town last year and finished T11… Matt Fitzpatrick looks to become the first golfer to go back-to-back at the RBC Heritage since Boo Weekley in 2007-08. Fitzpatrick, a playoff victor last year, has two top-10 finishes this season. He has just one missed cut at Harbour Town over the last six years and he finished fourth in 2021 to go along with two more top-15 results in a three-year span (T14 in 2018 and 2020)…”

  • “Jordan Spieth is hoping to continue his run of fine play at Harbour Town after a playoff loss last season and a playoff win the season prior. Spieth has five top-25 finishes at the RBC Heritage in seven starts… Justin Thomas earned a spot in the field after remaining in the top 30 (he’s No. 30) in the Official World Golf Ranking despite a missed cut at the Masters. Thomas, who finished T25 last season at Harbour Town, has two top 10s on the season… Ludvig Åberg, who is tops in the Aon Next 10, will head to Hilton Head for the first time. Åberg has had a fabulous 2024 campaign thus far with four top 10s (including two runner-up results) and is knocking on the door for a victory… Hideki Matsuyama was the only eligible player who did not commit to the RBC Heritage, while Viktor Hovland – after a missed cut at the Masters – withdrew from the field on Saturday.”
Full piece.

5. Reed’s caddie’s needle

Our Matt Vincenzi…”After a particularly bad drive during his third round on Saturday, Reed’s caddie, Kessler Karain, also his brother-in-law, made a snide but factual comment to Patrick.”

  • “Your driving has cost us a lot this week,” Karain remarked.
  • “Reed didn’t disagree and told reporters after the round that there was nothing good about his round…
  • “A reporter then asked: “It’s a good thing he’s a family member, right?”
  • “Yeah, exactly. I’d probably be dragging him up that last hole,” Reed said. “I swear.Just what you want to hear as you’re looking at the ball in the tree, and he goes, ‘You need to drive it better.’ Thanks, Kessler. I appreciate it. Great words of wisdom. Drive it better.”
  • “This may be the last major for Reed for a while, as the 33-year-old has not been invited nor qualified for next month’s PGA Championship.”
Full piece.

6. LIV wants Hovland next?

Ewan Murray for the Guardian…”Rising speculation that Viktor Hovland will be the next high-profile golfer to be coaxed to the LIV tour will increase the need for Ryder Cup Europe to apply a simple qualification process for golfers on the Saudi Arabian-backed circuit.”

  • “LIV is forging ahead with plans for 2025, which include new events and the recruitment of more players from the PGA and DP World Tours. The rate of turnover is likely to be increased by the number of golfers who had three-year contracts when joining LIV, which will expire at the end of 2024.”
  • “Chatter on the range at the LIV event in Miami this month and again at the Masters largely surrounded Hovland, the world No 6 who starred for Europe in the defeat of the United States in Rome last year. Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, who also played in that team, have subsequently joined LIV. Hovland missed the cut at the Masters and promptly withdrew from the PGA Tour’s $20m stop in Hilton Head this week.”
Full piece.

7. Rory’s management: LIV reports are ‘fake news’

Brian Keogh for the Irish Independent…”A report that Rory McIlroy was on the verge of an $850million move to LIV Golf has been slammed as “fake news” by his management.

“Fake news. Zero truth,” McIlroy’s manager Sean O’Flaherty said in an email.

London financial paper “City AM” reported today that sources have told them that McIlroy “could” join LIV Golf

The paper reported that “two separate sources have told City AM that they believe a deal is close. It is claimed that LIV Golf chiefs have offered world No2 McIlroy an eye-watering $850m to join, plus around two per cent equity in the competition.”

Full piece.
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