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Morning 9: Wie West’s last hurrah | Garcia fails to qualify for Open | Block clarifies Rory comments

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the John Deere Classic gets underway.

1. Wie West officially retiring at  Pebble

Golf Channel’s Mercer Baggs…”This is it. The last one, according to the 33-year-old. “I’m going to put my clubs in the darkest corner of my garage,” she said.”

  • “She’s been eyeing this event for some time now. Pine Needles, site of last year’s championship, would have been the perfect place to go out, so near to Pinehurst where she won her lone major.”
  • “But a Pebble Beach Open is the ultimate. And, for Wie West, this will be her ultimate event…”
  • “I really, really wanted to play longer. I really wanted to – especially after having Makenna and her being a girl, I really wanted to play longer,” Wie West said. “In an ideal world I wish I was still out on Tour and playing.
  • “Unfortunately, it’s just I had to make a hard decision with my body. It is hard. It is hard to be a mom out here. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. I just had to make a hard, medical body decision and also a personal decision.”
Full piece.

2. Sergio misses out on Open qualifying

An ESPN report…”Sergio Garcia’s quest to play in his 25th straight Open Championship ended Tuesday when he failed to qualify for the season’s fourth major.”

  • “Playing in a qualifier at West Lancashire Golf Club, Garcia shot a 5-under 67 in the morning round of the 36-hole competition. But after taking the lead at 8 under following three birdies in the first six holes of the second round, Garcia couldn’t keep up the pace.”
  • “Garcia, 43, hit his drive into the rough on the par-4 seventh hole and he wound up with a bogey on his way to a 71 and a cumulative 6-under par.”
  • “He finished tied for sixth after 36 holes, with only the top five finishers qualifying for The Open, which begins July 20 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Merseyside, England.”
Full piece.

3. Cam Smith likes lighter schedule, says “team golf is here to say”

Cameron Jourdan for Golfweek…”Last year, LIV had eight events and moved to 14 this year. In addition to the reported signing-bonus money and boosted purses, a lighter schedule is why numerous pros said they left the Tour for LIV.”

  • “Smith agrees. He’s a fan of a lighter schedule.”
  • “Exactly like it is this year would be perfect for me, 14 and four majors, I’d take that for the rest of my career,” Smith said.
  • “Then Smith was asked about comments Nick Faldo made last week about whether LIV would survive in the future and remain part of the golf ecosystem. Safe to say he’s confident in the future of the league.”
  • “I really can’t see LIV Golf going away. I think team golf is here to stay, and if you asked every one of us out here, all the 48 guys, I think everyone has such a good time and everyone enjoys what they’re doing out here, they love the competition. That team element really brings three or four guys really close that perhaps weren’t before.
Full piece.

4. Block on McIlroy comments

Ben Fleming for Golf Monthly…”However, speaking exclusively to Golf Monthly at Dundonald Links this week ahead of Open Final Qualifying, Block was keen to clarify what he actually meant.”

  • “It was totally misconstrued, misconceived, the whole thing. I really feel like if you’re a real golfer, you kind of understood what I had meant,” he said.
  • “That was an incomprehensible thing where yeah, if I gained 60 yards, if I had a gap wedge into every green rather than a four iron into every green, would I be better? I’d be a whole hell of a lot better.
  • “Would I be better than Roy McIlroy? Absolutely not. Rory is an absolute stud and at no point, in any shape or form, was I ever trying to say anything about Rory or the tour professionals.
  • “I was just one hundred per cent saying, if I had an extra 60 yards off of every tee, every day of my life, would I be on tour? Probably. Guaranteed? Absolutely not.
  • “I know I can’t say I don’t care what people say or think – of course I do – but, at the same time, I understand what I meant, and I know for a fact, I didn’t mean to hurt anybody or say anything that would.
  • “It was taken completely out of context but is also my fault, I guess. I said it the wrong way. I did a couple of thousand interviews [after the tournament] but I guess I did say one thing wrong but it’s okay.”
Full piece.

5. Butch: Rickie’s win means the most

Our Matt Vincenzi…”Legendary swing coach Butch Harmon has coached Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson during the peaks of their careers, but none of their wins have meant more to him than Rickie Fowler’s win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week.”

  • “While appearing on PGA Tour Radio’s “Gravy and the Sleeze,” hosted by Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz, on Monday, Harmon reflected on the moment.”
  • “It was spectacular. I think my anxiety was probably the same level as his was when he was playing, just because I wanted it for him so bad,” Harmon said. “To come from 185th in the world all the way to 23rd in eight months is an incredible journey that he’s taken.”
  • “And guys I’ll be honest with ya,” Harmon continued. “I think this one meant more to me personally than a lot of the majors that I’ve won with different guys, just ’cause I know how far down Rickie was, and to watch him come back, it was a joy to watch.”
Full piece.

6. Migliaccio reporter-player at USWO

Golf Channel’s Mercer Baggs…”Migliaccio is not only competing this week, she’s working as an on-course reporter.”

  • “Tuesday, Lexi Thompson was part of her practice foursome. Thursday, she’ll be part of Migliaccio’s featured group coverage on Peacock.”
  • “Migliaccio will be on the course for Thompson, Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko for their 8:50 a.m. PT start on the 10th hole.”
  • “She won’t be able to wrap up the group, however, as she tees off alongside Alice Hewson and Kana Mikashima at 1:18 p.m. off the first.”
  • “They’ll let me leave when I feel comfortable doing so and I’ll have a cart, so hopefully won’t have to walk too much. But it should be great,” she said. “I’m really excited to get to see, you know, three of the best players in the world play golf and just seeing how it’s playing for them, then getting to go out in the afternoon and getting to try to replicate that.”
Full Piece.

7. Tim Tucker back on Bryson’s bag for the week

Cameron Jourdan for Golfweek…”Two years ago this week, Tim Tucker quit working for his boss, Bryson DeChambeau, the night before the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic, a tournament where DeChambeau was the defending champion.”

  • However, the tandem is back together this week.
  • Tucker is back on the bag for DeChambeau at this week’s LIV Golf event in London at Centurion Club, DeChambeau’s agent, Brett Falkoff, confirmed to Golfweek. Tucker caddied for DeChambeau in all eight of his PGA Tour victories and was on the bag for Kurt Kitayama’s first Tour win this spring at the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
  • DeChambeau’s caddie, Greg Bodine, is attending to a personal matter this week, which is why Tucker and DeChambeau are back together. No Laying Up first reported the pair joining up in London.
Full Piece.

8. Zach hints at Ryder Cup inclusion for LIV pros

John Turnbull for Bunkered…”US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson has hinted that he will select LIV golfers for his team this September.”

  • “Before the PGA Championship, the 47-year-old admitted that the prospect of those players featuring in Rome was “not even a discussion item.””
  • “But Johnson has now acknowledged that LIV golfers are eligible to make his team of 12 for the biennial battle with Europe.”
  • “He said: “These guys that left the PGA TOUR that had status and left to play on that other tour, the LIV Tour, they’re still members of the PGA of America, so they are still able to garner points.”
  • “They’re able to play in the PGA Championship as a result, because that’s what the PGA of America runs.”
  • “(They) obviously, technically, can still be a part of Team USA.”
Full Piece.

9. John Deere Classic photos

  • Check out all of our photos from this week’s event!
Full Piece.
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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. LL

    Jul 6, 2023 at 5:50 pm

    Wie West = Hyphenated trash.

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5 Things We Learned: Saturday at the Masters

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Just as the honorary starters broke our hearts with the reality of ageing, so too, did Saturday, with the revelation that third-round Tiger Woods is not yet (if ever) what he once was. The great champion struggled mightily to an 82, tied with three others for high round of the day. Among the top ten, the worst score posted was DeChambeau’s 75, but the large Californian remains in the hunt. Day four will see 2022 champion Scottie Scheffler pair with Collin Morikawa in the final game. In front of them will be Max Homa and Ludwig Åberg. The antipenultimate pairing will feature DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele.

If you look at the one-off major winners, most took advantage of their only chance at grand slam glory. For golfers like Homa, Schauffele, and others, Sunday the 14th might represent their best and only chance at claiming a major title. For Scheffler, Morikawa, and DeChambeau, the ability to join the two-time and three-time, major winners club holds great appeal. Finally, a young’un like Åberg seeks to jump-start a more-than-tour-winner career with a major title. Many of the greats won them early, and the Swede from Texas Tech would love nothing more than a chance to join that company.

Sunday at Augusta, as always, will be riveting. It will provide hope throughout the first nine holes, then gut many a competitor’s heart coming home, rewarding just one with a new item for the wardrobe. Plan your menu and choose your outfit. Masters 2024 is about to conclude. Until then, let’s reveal five things that we learned on day three of the year’s first men’s major.

1. The three most critical holes on the first nine are …

numbers four through six. You might make some birdies at the first and last trios of holes, but the middle triumvirate of fairways and greens determines your day. Play them even par or better, and you’ll lose zero shots to the field. Get on a downward spiral of slightly-wayward shots, and recovery will be nigh impossible. Anyone who makes three at the fifth, as Tiger Woods did on Saturday, will get giddy.

2. The three most important holes on the second nine are …

ten through twelve. We realize that we commit heresy by omitting one of Herbert Warren Wind’s Amen Corner traces, but par or better is critical at 10. Dry landings at 11 and 12 set the competitor up for two par fives in three holes, sandwiched around a straightforward, par-four hole. Remember when Ben Crenshaw began his march to glory in 1995? It all started with birdie at the 10th.

3. The most interesting and efficient round of day three came from …

Collin Morikawa. Birdies at the first three holes, followed by bogey-birdie at six and eight, then ten consecutive pars to finish off the second-low round of the day. Morikawa has improved each day, from 71 to 70 to 69. He has won majors in England and California. He has the temperment for this sort of day, but will certainly be in the hottest of all cauldrons around 3 pm on Sunday.

4. The guy who lost the most ground on day three was …

Nikolai Hojgaard. The dude failed to make par from the seventh green to the 16th. After three consecutive birdies around the turn (8 through 10), the Great Dane tumbled to earth with five consecutive bogeys. 11 and 12, we understand, but 13 and 15 are par-five holes, for goodness sake! No matter where he finds himself on day four’s back nine, it will be hard to put that stretch of golf out of his mind.

5. Our pick for the green jacket is …

impossible to nail. We suspect that certain players should and could perform on Sunday. We remember when Retief Goosen, a great US Open winner until round four of 2005, lost his mojo. We recall days when Rich Beam and Y.E. Yang pulled major titles away from Tiger Woods. Things go wrong on Sunday, and they go wrong super-quick at Augusta.

We’ve decided to ascend Mount Olympus for our Sunday selection. Who better than the 2021 Olympic champion to add a long-awaited, first major title. It’s Professor X for us: Xander Schauffele.

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5 Things We Learned: Friday at the Masters

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You don’t see leaves on the ground at Augusta National. The grounds crew and superintendent’s staff take care of those sorts of things, so that both course appearance and consistency of play are preserved at the top tier. We saw leaves on the ground today and, given the force and perseverance of the wind, we’re lucky that we didn’t see tree trunks along the fairways. We did see higher scores than secured in round one, and some of the three- and four-hole stretches were downright inconceivable. The cut after 36 holes came at six over par, and five dozen golfers reached the weekend of play. Numbers always define the story of a tournament, and we’ll let them define the five things we learned on day two of the 2024 Masters tournament.

One: 60 + 10

Sixty golfers posted scores of 148 or better through 36 holes, to reach weekend play. Ten more golfers posted 149 and missed the cut by a single stroke. The ones who missed the cut by a stroke included former champions Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, and Sergio Garcia. Also among the brood were current US Open champion Wyndham Clark, and Nick Dunlap, who won on the PGA Tour as an amateur in January, and subsequently turned professional. Of the ones who survived by the slimmest of margins, surviving to the weekend were former champions Jose Maria Olazabal, Hideki Matsuyama, and Adam Scott, along with Rickie Fowler and Tom Kim. Golf’s cut is a cruel and unconcerned blade, and each Masters tournament reminds us of this fact.

Two: One

The number of amateurs to make the cut in the 2024 Masters is solitary. His name is Neil Shipley, and most folks love him. He wears his hair to the shoulder, and appears to have the proper balance of intensity and chill. Shipley opened with 71, then held on for 76 on day two. He made the cut by three shots, and will collect his share of hardware on Sunday. It’s safe to say that Shipley will turn his attention to learning the course, as well as his own self under pressure.

Three: 23

For most sorts fans, 23 recalls the greatest NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan. For Justin Thomas, it’s a number that will haunt him for a long time. Thomas reached tee number fifteen on Friday at even par. The two-time PGA Champion played the subsequent, four-hole stretch in 23 shots, missing the cut by a shot. On fifteen, he went for the green in two, in some sort of halfhearted manner. He got wet with shot number two, went long with his pitch, and three-putted from the fringe. On sixteen, he played away from safety and found elevated sand. His blast went down the hill, and he missed his approach putt in the wrong place. On seventeen, he missed his drive right and his approach long, and lost another shot to par. The coup de grace took place on the home hole: drive so horribly left that he had to pitch out to the fairway and hit three metal into the green. His third double bogey in four holes dropped him all the way to 151 and plus seven. Among the many questions, the foremost one was why he dropped his longtime caddy on the eve of a major championship. Surely Bones would have saved him one of those shots, and perhaps more.

Four: Forty-Nine divided by five or six

Tiger Woods cannot possibly win title number six at Augusta in his 49th year, can he? Not on this broken body, and not from seven strokes behind, right? Not with so few competitive rounds over the most recent months, and not one year removed from a third-round withdrawal from this very tournament. Well, if he cannnot possibly win, allow us to dream and hope a bit, and hold on to a fantasy.

Five: 3 that we like

We like Scottie Scheffler, of course. He seems to have a sense of Augusta National, and he was able to hold on in 2023 for the championship. We like Nikolai Hojgaard, because he might have just the proper combination of naivete and experience for a first-time winner. Finally, we like Collin Morikawa, a winner of two separate major titles. Winning at Augusta National requires a certain amount of length, unless you putt lights out. Morikawa might be embedded in one of those putting weeks.

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5 things we learned: Thursday at the Masters

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The rains came early at Augusta, just as they did in Buffalo. The distinguishing factor was, they had a tournament to start in Augusta. Folks in Buffalo simply went to work, and paid attention to the clouds in north Georgia. By ten o’clock, the skies had cleared enough to begin play. Honorary tee shots were hit, and competitive play began. The delay assured that some of the afternoon groups would not sign scorecards on Thursday evening. Instead, they would rise early for completion of play, then turn right back around and go out for round two.

Round one was filled with the usual characteristics of major championship golf. A pair of golfers shot low rounds, with no guarantee that either would be able to preserve the blistering pace. Others gave shots inexplicably away, on the most confounding of holes, to push themselves away from the dream of the green jacket. Others played solid if unspectacular golf, to maintain the top of the board in sight. Finally, some held to a preserver for dear life, finding a way to stay within shouting distance of the leaders.

With that little bit of tease to lead us in, let’s get straight to the five things that we learned on Thursday at the Masters.

One: Can a horse be a horse for a course, for more than one round?

Both Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler have plenty of successful memories ’round the Augusta National course. Scheffle owns the ultimate prize, the 2022 green jacket, while DeChambeau was low amateur in 2016. That’s where the similarities end, however. DeChambeau has never finished higher than that low-am T21, while Scheffler has never finished outside the top 20 in four starts. DeChambeau has had fits of brilliance over the MacKenzie hills, but Scheffler is the one with four-round history.

While it seems unlikely the DeChambeau will miss the cut for a third consecutive time, the question of his ability to put rounds together remains. On Thursday, DeChambeau notched eight birdies on the day, and stumbled for bogey just once, at the ninth hole. For much of the day, he held a multi-shot lead over former champion Danny Willett, until Scheffler finished fast, with birdies at 12, 13, 15, and 16. His 66 brought him within one shot of the leader. Scheffler went without a bogey on the day, and ensured that DeChambeau would have much to consider over the night’s sleep.

Two: Find a way to hang around

Rory McIlroy never looked like he had his best stuff on Thursday. Three bogeys on the day, including one at the gettable second hole, had him steaming. Unlike prior years, when his not-best stuff led to mid-70s numbers, Roars was able to four birdies along the way. His 71 won’t win any crystal, but it will keep him in the tournament. Does he need a 67 on Friday? Absolutely.

Will Zalatoris plays Augusta National as well as anyone. Eagles and birdies are always on the table for the young Texan. He reached four-under par at the 15th, but closed with two bogies for 70. Without the shot that you see below, he may never have found the mojo needed to reach minus-four. Moral of the story: find a way to get in the house with a number.

Three: When you do things like this, find a way to keep it together!

The leaders’ board was filled with golfers like Ryan Fox (five-under through 12, inexplicable bogey at 13, finished minus-three), Erik Van Rooyen (minus-four through 13, only to close with three bogeys to finish one deep) Viktor Hovland (four below through nine, double at ten, one below at day’s end) and Matt Fitzpatrick (four deep through 13, three bogeys coming home.) What keeps these golfers from going deeper under par, or at least preserving their successful stature? It’s usually greed or the razor’s edge. There are too-safe places on the greens of Augusta, but there are always properly-safe areas, from where a two-putt is a probablility. In the case of most of these golfers, they either went at flags and short-sided themselves (leading to bogey) or tried to preserve their position, and landed in the three-putt zone.

Four: How could you do this?

Rickie Fowler  at 76, alongside Hideki Matsuyama. Guys, there were plenty of birdies out there! How could you manage to avoid them, and instead, stockpile the bogeys? Well, at least Hideki has a green jacket already, and at least Rickie has some crystal from Wednesday. Odds are that one of them will post 68 on Friday and make the cut.

Five: Which golfers do we hope to see finish strong?

With plenty of round-one action left for Friday morning, we’ve scanned the board and determined that Nicolai Højgaard looks pretty good at five-under through fifteen. We’ll take three pars. We expect one birdie. We’d love to see two or three birdies coming home. Yup, we’re greedy!

Max Homa bounced back from bogey at 12 with birdie at 13, to get back to four under par. We have the same expectations for the California kid: lots of birdies coming home. We have our eyes on a couple of guys at minus-one, and then there’s Tyrrell Hatton at three-deep, along with Ludvig Åberg at minus-two. Plenty of golf left for first-round positioning. Set your alarm for early and don’t miss a single shot!

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