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Morning 9: Cantlay hat deal runs out | Ryder Cup pros defend Zach | Stats of the year

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as we approach Thanksgiving Day.

1. Pat’s hat

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”According to DealBook, Goldman Sachs opted not to renew its contract with Cantlay, the world’s fifth-ranked golfer, who it signed to a three-year deal in 2020. Cantlay initially repped Goldman’s online consumer banking platform, Marcus, on his headwear but more recently has featured just the Goldman name.”

  • “…This, of course, isn’t the first news about Pat’s hat. Cantlay made headlines a couple months ago when rumors swirled that he was refusing to wear a hat at the Ryder Cup out of protest for not being paid to compete in the international team competition. Cantlay denied the claims, instead saying that he wasn’t donning a hat because the team’s headwear didn’t fit well.”
  • “Cantlay also was supposed to play the Hero World Challenge in two weeks in the Bahamas, but he was taken off the final commitment list along with friend Xander Schauffele.”
Full piece.

2. LPGA stats of the year

Kent Paisley for Golf Digest…

  • “83,962…Approximate total mileage between all 35 LPGA events this season, including the Hanwha LifePlus International Crown in San Francisco and the Solheim Cup in Spain. For a frame of reference, that dizzying amount is three trips around the earth’s circumference (or almost six times as far as Forest Gump ran during his five-time trip across the United States).”
  • “25.95…The average age, in years, of winners on the LPGA in 2023, down from 27.32 in 2022. Only two players 30 or older won this year, with Ashleigh Buhai (34.08) at the ShopRite LPGA Classic alongside Yang (34.31). The youngest winner was Alexa Pano, who turned 19 the day she claimed the title at the ISPS Handa World Invitational in August. Pano was one of two teens to win in 2023, joining Chanetee Wanassean at the Cambia Portland Classic.”
Full piece.

3. Smith’s Olympic hopes

Evin Priest for Golf Digest…”Cameron Smith has conceded he may have to travel to the far corners of Asia in 2024 to keep his dreams of playing golf in next summer’s Olympics in Paris alive.”

  • “One of the consequences of Smith’s 2022 defection to LIV Golf—which had its application to receive Official World Golf Rankings points for its no-cut, 54-hole events denied in October—has been his plummet down the OWGR. The problem is, the Olympics uses the OWGR as a basis to determine who qualifies to compete in its event.”
  • “When Australian star Smith joined LIV in the fall of 2022, he was ranked No. 2 in the World and the reigning Open champion with six-time PGA Tour winner to his credit. Now, he’s 18th—and only after a runner-up the previous week in the Asian Tour’s Hong Kong Open.”
Full piece.

4. Hubbard sets mark for most starts in a season

Golf Digest’s Tod Leonard…”As strange as it is to consider, the PGA Tour campaign that ended on Sunday at the RSM Classic stretched all the way back to the first round of the Fortinet Championship on Sept. 15, 2022. Over that entire period, there were 51 weeks in which tour events were staged, sometimes with two being held per week.”

  • “That is an incredibly long “season,” one that was necessitated by the tour tweaking its schedule in ways big and small, and ultimately going back to a calendar-year schedule that begins in 2024.”
  • “…That all fed straight into the insatiable desire to play and travel for tour veteran Mark Hubbard. So much so, that the 34-year-old set a PGA Tour record for the most events played in one season as Hubbard racked up a whopping 39 starts over 15 months.”
Full piece.

5. PGA Tour stats of the year

Justin Ray for PGATour.com…

  • “Rahm’s improved approach play…”Through the first several months of 2023, there was nobody playing better golf than Jon Rahm. At The Sentry, Rahm put together the biggest final-round comeback to win of the season, starting that Sunday seven shots off the lead. When Rahm won his third tournament of the season at The Genesis Invitational, it was the fastest in a calendar year that a player had won three times since Johnny Miller in 1975.”
  • “Rahm brought that incredible form with him to Georgia in April for the year’s first major championship. With his victory there, Rahm became the first European player to win both the U.S. Open and the Masters. Not that the week got off to the best start – the Spaniard made double-bogey on the opening hole of the tournament, becoming the first player to do that the week of a Masters win since Sam Snead in 1952. It helped to have one of the best ball striking performances in the history of the Tournament: Rahm hit 85 percent of his fairways and 72 percent of his greens in regulation, benchmarks not dually reached by a Masters winner since Ben Crenshaw in 1995.”
Full Piece.

6. Rory, Shane, Luke and MJ

AP report…”The Ryder Cup celebration didn’t end in Rome, at least not for Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy.”

  • “In the second part of an interview with The Irish Independent, they talk about their flight home to South Florida and then McIlroy inviting Lowry over for lunch the next day. A bottle of wine was opened. And then another. And lunch turned into dinner.”
  • “Captain Luke Donald soon joined them, as did Michael Jordan.”
  • “Rory and Luke started texting him, and the next thing we’re sitting there drinking with Michael Jordan, just the four of us,” Lowry said. “He’s very much a pro-USA guy. I think it was the first Ryder Cup he hadn’t been to in 25 years, so we gave him a good slagging.”
  • “McIlroy said Jordan stayed from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Among the topics: Pay for play, of course.”
  • “He told a story about the U.S. basketball team, the Dream Team at the Olympics in ’92. ‘Do you not think I could have got paid to play in the Olympics?’” he said. ”‘These people are missing the point of what it means.’
  • “He saw the long-term value of winning an Olympics, and said he ended up doing way better than if he had taken money there and then.”
Full Piece.

7. Ryder Cup pros jump to defense of Zach

Tom D’Angelo for Palm Beach Post…”Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele spoke to The Palm Beach Post last Friday about the disappointing week at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. Europe dominated the U.S., winning 16.5-11.5.”

  • “The three players were attending the opening of Panther National, a course co-designed by Thomas and Jack Nicklaus.”
  • “The No. 1 regret he should have is we should have played better,” Thomas said. “We all told him that, ‘Zach, it’s easy to look back after a week where they just played monumentally better and we did not play well. It’s easy to say you should have changed things.’
  • “We just should have played better for him.”
  • “Fowler said he had no complaints about how Johnson handled the team.”
Full Piece.
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Tour Photo Galleries

Wedge Stamping Caviar: Gold Medal Edition

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Pop open a tin of the finest beluga, GolfWRXers…But really, it’s less jelly-like substance, more richness of intrigue than salt-cured roe at Wedge Stamping Caviar as we present to you some of the finest instances of hammer-and-stamp work on the PGA Tour we spotted this week at the WM Phoenix Open.

Grab your mother-of-pearl spoon and dig in — with restraint, please. And be sure to check out the rest of our photos from the WM Phoenix Open when you’re done.

Michael Phelps, the most-decorated athlete in Olympic history, has 28 medals stamped on his 54-degree wedge, including his record 23 golds. Legendary achievement. Legendary wedge stamping. 

Former Alabama coach Nick Saban has an entirely appropriate stamping on his Ping Glide 4.o wedge. 

Left-hander Nicolo Galleti looks to be firing himself up with his “C’mon” stamping on his Ping Glide Forged Pro wedge. Orange paintfill on the initials is a nice touch as well!

“The other Tiger” S.H. Kim has continued the tradition of stamping his wedges — now new Vokey SM10’s — with his nickname. 

Classic stamping, traditional white paintfill for Matt Wallace. If it ain’t broke…

“The Classic,” this time on a Callaway wedge with a little extra sauce in the paintfill for Mr. de Chassert. 

With all due respect to the Vokeys pictured, it’s Nico Echavarria’s PXG wedge that grabs the attention, owing to his Colombian flag-colored paintfill and “ECH” stamping. 

When you have a last name that’s only a handful of letters, it’s an easy decision to have it stamped on your wedge, as Grayson Sigg has done here with on his Fourteen RM4. 

Akron, Ohio, native Justin Lower is nothing if not loyal to the franchise that drafted the “kid from Akron.” 

“The Classic” with a little extra sauce here as Billy Horschel has the bent loft (62 degrees) of his wedge stamped near his initials. 

Check out the rest of our photos from the WM Phoenix Open.

 

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Tour Photo Galleries

Putters Aplenty: Flatsticks in focus at the WM Phoenix Open

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This week was a great week for putters. Heck, Michael Phelps and Zac Blair’s custom Camerons established that fact by themselves. But there were plenty of other interesting flatsticks on display.

You never know exactly what you are going to get with the equipment photos from a PGA Tour event. Depending on who is where when, field size, what’s happening in the product release calendar, where the event is in the season, and of course, the weather, there are numerous variables at play.

One thing that’s a relative constant, however, is WM Phoenix Open week is a good week for gear photos. And this year was no different. We’ve already rounded up all of our photos in a table of contents here and our Tour Reporter, Andrew Tursky has provided a curation of his favorite shots with context only he can deliver.

Hence, another edition of Putters Aplenty.

Ryo Hisatsune

According to our always-in-the-know tour photographer, Hisatsune purchased this putter off the Scotty Cameron Gallery website. One of us!

Ben Taylor

The LSU alum does his work on the greens with a Scotty Cameron T-11 Proto putter with a SuperStroke 3.0 XL grip.

Garrick Higgo

Left-hander Garrick Higgo utilizes the new L.A.B. Golf DF3 putter, a TPT putter shaft, a SuperStroke Pistol GT 1.0 grip.

Billy Horschel

Billy Ho is putting in Phoenix with a PLD Anser with tungsten plugs in the heel and toe of the putter for added stability.

Michael Phelps

A custom Cameron fit for the king of gold medals! Phelps told our Andrew Tursky that the flatstick was too beautiful to putt with and he wanted to hang it on a wall. Cameron told Phelps he better use it!

Lanto Griffin

Griffin continues to roll it with his Sik Flo C putter.

Zac Blair

Leader in the clubhouse for most interesting putter this week, Zac Blair, a certifiably Cameron crazy, arrived in Phoenix with this custom Circle L Cam with a Tiffany Blue paintfill. Our Brian Knudson wrote about the putter here.

Sungjae Im

Long-time Scotty Cameron user Sungjae Im has upgraded into a new T-5.5 putter with a single siteline.

Charley Hoffman

The WM sponsee remains loyal to his T-8 Prototype Cameron with unique alignment markings on an equally unique crown.

Adriene Dumont de Chassart

The Belgian represents the Odyssey contingent this week with his new Ai-One #7 putter.

Check out more in-hand photos of putters from the WM Phoenix Open in our galleries here.

 

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Morning 9: Tiger to play Genesis | ANWA field highlights | Caddie recovery zone

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the WM Phoenix Open gets underway.

1. Woods to play Genesis

ESPN report…”Tiger Woods has committed to next week’s Genesis Invitational for his first competitive rounds in 2024.”

  • “Woods announced on social media Wednesday that he would play in the tournament that he hosts and benefits his TGR Foundation.”
  • “Excited to be a playing host next week,” Woods wrote.
Full piece.

2. “Advisers could face 20 years in Saudi Arabia prison if they comply with U.S. investigation”

That’s the headline in Tim Schmitt’s Golfweek item…”the Kingdom has threatened to imprison not only bankers but also consultants it has worked with if they choose to cooperate with the United States government as it continues to investigate the agreement. Back in November, the PIF sued its advisers in Saudi court to block any submission of information to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.”

  • “Both the Department of Justice and U.S. Senate have held a keen interest in the talks between the Tour and PIF, the financial backers of LIV Golf, over the last seven months. On Feb. 6, the committee held a hearing in Washington, D.C., that featured PIF consultants Paul Keary (Teneo Strategy), Michael Klein (M. Klein & Co.), Rich Lesser (Boston Consulting Group) and Bob Sternfels (McKinsey).”
Full piece.

3. Cam Smith on LIV decision

Our Matt Vincenzi…”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.”
Full piece.

4. Rahm: “When they slap you with a large amount of money in your face, your feelings do change”

ESPN report…”But he now concedes that the money being offered was hard to turn down and the fact that he is guaranteed to be able to play in the Masters helped make up his mind.”

  • “Winning the Masters was a huge step towards maybe thinking about it,” Rahm told Golf.com’s Breakthrough. “Being exempt from majors, knowing that most likely you can play the Masters for life and the U.S. Open at least until 2031, you know, I’m set with two of those, right, so it was a big determining factor.”
  • Rahm reportedly received more than $300 million to join LIV Golf, and while he says he meant what he said in 2022 that he was already wealthy enough to enjoy a great lifestyle, the sums being offered eventually were too tempting.
  • “When I said that, I fully meant it and it was true. Now, when they slap you with a large amount of money in your face, your feelings do change,” Rahm said. “I try not to be a materialistic person, but I do owe it to my family as well to set them up for success the best I can, and having kids I think changed that quite a bit. So the money is a part of it, I’m not going to lie.”
Full piece.

5. Olazabal

James Corrigan for the Telegraph…”Jon Rahm has been told by fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal that “actions must have consequences”.  Olazabal has also speculated that if the two-time major winner is ineligible for the Ryder Cup then Europe could still be competitive.”

  • …”Yet Olazabal, the former captain, who Rahm admits has had an influence on his career, is not as certain. “I respect everyone who has gone to LIV Golf,” Olazabal told the Golf sin Etiquetas podcast. “The other part that bothers me is that if you make a decision, it must have consequences. You can’t expect to have the same rights as PGA Tour and DP World Tour players.”
  • “As for changing the rules for Ryder Cup Europe… I don’t know what to tell you. If you miss players like Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton, you could be left naked for one or two Ryder Cups. And? What if you suddenly get three Ludvig Abergs, the Hjogaard [twins]? Turns out we might be able to compete.”
Full piece.

6. ANWA field highlights

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”This year’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur is the strongest ever.”

  • “Each of the top 43 eligible amateurs in the final World Amateur Golf Ranking of 2023 have accepted invitations to compete in the fifth edition of the premier women’s amateur event, which will be played April 3-6 at both Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, and Champions Retreat Golf Club in nearby Evans, Georgia.”
  • “Among this year’s participants are two past champions, Tsubasa Kajitani (2021) and Anna Davis (2022), as well as world No. 1 amateur Ingrid Lindblad, who will be making her fourth career start after top-3 finishes in 2021 and 2022.”
Full Piece.

7. Colt Knost trading in mic for caddie gig at WMPO

Golfweek’s Adam Schupak…”Taylor Montgomery must like his gravy lumpy because he has chosen Colt Knost to be his caddie this week at the WM Phoenix Open.”

  • “Knost, known as The Big Gravy, was a tour pro of nearly 15 seasons before retiring and becoming one of the best TV foot soldiers for CBS and host of the popular podcast “Golf’s Subpar.” Asked whether he lost a bet, Knost texted, “Haha no. I’ve known Taylor since he was in college. Just trying to help the kid out.”
Full Piece.

8. Caddie recovery zone

Golf Digest’s Luke Kerr-Dineen…”The wear-and-tear that caddies go through isn’t something we think about often. But this week at the 2024 WM Phoenix Open, caddies will get something of a helping hand in the form of a caddie recovery zone. The designated recovery zone is a portion of the clubhouse decked out with a slate of Hyperice products, from Normatec Leg Compression boots to the Hypervolt Massage Gun. Those have become go-to products for the tour players they loop during their intensive post-round recovery routines.

Full Piece.

9. WMPO photos

GolfWRX is on site this week at the Greenest Show on Grass AKA the biggest party on the PGA Tour — the WM Phoenix Open.

  • General galleries, abundant WITBs, and, of course, limited-edition WMPO-inspired swag are all assembled for your viewing pleasure below.
Full Piece.
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