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Morning 9: POTY nominees | Tiger climbs rankings | Rahm rumors gather pace

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as a mixed event highlights this week’s golf action.

1. And the nominees are…

PGATour staff report…”The PGA TOUR announced nominees for the Jack Nicklaus Award (Player of the Year) and the Arnold Palmer Award (Rookie of the Year) for the 2022-23 season as finalized by the PGA TOUR Player Directors and members of the Player Advisory Council (PAC).”

  • “The five nominees for the Jack Nicklaus Award as the 2023 PGA TOUR Player of the Year are (alphabetically) Wyndham Clark, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler. The four nominees for the Arnold Palmer Award as the 2023 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year are Ludvig Åberg, Eric Cole, Nico Echavarria and Vincent Norrman.”
Full piece.

2. Reminder: First mixed-team, co-sanctioned event since 1999 this week

PGATour.com staff report…”The Grant Thornton Invitational marks the first mixed-team co-sanctioned event between the LPGA and PGA TOUR since John Daly and Laura Davies won the final JCPenney Classic in 1999.”

  • “There’s never been a more exciting time in professional golf to see some of the game’s best – men and women – tee it up together on a familiar venue.”
  • “Tiburón Golf Club, which hosts the LPGA season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, also hosted a previous iteration of this event, the QBE Shootout.”
  • “With a unique format on tap and 16 teams featuring global TOUR stars like Ludvig Åberg, Justin Rose, Ricker Fowler and Jason Day, plus some of the LPGA’s best like 2023 Player of the Year Lilia Vu, four-time 2023 winner Celine Boutier and rookie sensation Rose Zhang, it’s set to be a special week.”
Full piece.
3. Rahm rumors pick up steam

Our Matt Vincenzi…”Over the past week or so, the golf world has been captivated by rumors of the reigning Masters champion, Jon Rahm, potentially heading to LIV Golf in 2024.”

  • “The London Times has now reported that the figure for Rahm will be in the $600 million range, although it doesn’t specify whether team equity is included in the figure. The report states that the Spaniard is considering the offer.”
  • “What perhaps is most telling is the fact that neither Rahm nor his team has come out to deny any of the rumors, whereas in the past the Spaniard has been quick to squash the speculation.”
  • “With LIV Golf’s Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who governs the Saudi Public Investment Fund, set to meet with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on Friday, it seems likely that a Rahm announcement would come this week prior to the meeting.”
Full piece.

4. What’s next for Tiger?

Kevin Prise for PGATour.com…”For Woods, the Hero World Challenge wasn’t necessarily about contending or winning. He still believes he can win, as he clearly stated in his pre-tournament press conference, but the Hero marked his first start since undergoing ankle surgery in April. This week was about walking 72 holes without the type of severe pain that forced a WD midway through the third round of this year’s Masters. He was sore afterward and his face looked worn – “I feel like my game’s not that far off, but I need to get in better shape,” he said Sunday – but that’s the reality for the current version of Woods. The bone pain he felt at Augusta National has gone away, hence optimism for a return to official TOUR competition.”

  • “Woods, who turns 48 on Dec. 30, knows a full PGA TOUR schedule will never be in the cards. His oft-reconstructed body won’t allow it. But can he play an event per month, as he referenced this week? He’ll team with son Charlie at next week’s PNC Championship – Team Woods’ fourth straight appearance at the PNC, which allows carts. Then, barring setbacks, he’ll prepare for a regular schedule cadence in 2024.”
  • “I think that if you asked me right now, I’m a little bit sore,” Woods said after signing his card Sunday at Albany, cracking a grin. “Once a month seems reasonable, and it gives me a couple weeks to recover and a week to tune up. Maybe I can get into a rhythm or something like that; that’s what the plan was going into next year, and I don’t see why that would change.”
Full piece.

5. Eamon Lynch on Rahm departure

Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”For two years, we’ve seen skirmishes claimed as decisive victories. The moves by Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka to leave the PGA Tour for LIV were no more conclusive than the decisions of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to remain. A jump to LIV by Jon Rahm – the subject of intense speculation – will be no different, whatever the banner-wavers and pearl-clutchers on either side say. But it would represent something significant, beyond being an example of what happens to a man of supposed character who remains in the mephitic orbit of people like Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia.”

  • “A Rahm departure would be more impactful mostly by dint of timing, hastening a reckoning for the competing agendas that have all but paralyzed the PGA Tour’s Policy Board.”
  • “Among players on the board, there’s a faction opposed to involving the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund in the future of the Tour, preferring to partner with one of several interested private investors. Their motivations are varied, whether it’s patriotism, a desire to see LIV continue for leverage or simple aversion to a Framework Agreement foisted upon them without consultation. Jay Monahan, however, is adamant that the Saudis be included, presumably because he’d rather not have a free-spending rival approaching apostate members who promise fealty only until the offer swells sufficiently.”
Full Piece.

6. Ben Hogan brand back again

From a press release…”Ben Hogan, the golf equipment brand that was founded by one of the most legendary figures in the history of the modern game, and is responsible for some of the sport’s most iconic golf clubs, is set to make a welcome return to the golfing world after being brought out of retirement by Las Vegas-based Golf Brands Inc.“

  • “For more than 70 years, Ben Hogan golf has been synonymous with making the finest golf clubs and Ben Hogan’s latest range has made a triumphant return after Golf Brands struck a licensing deal to resurrect the company that first introduced the Edge and Apex irons and has more recently launched a premium range of woods, irons, wedges, and putters, as well as a bespoke collection of golf bags and accessories.”
  • “Golf Brands Inc has a history of reviving the fortunes of iconic golf brands, having successfully resurrected MacGregor in the USA and Ram and Zebra worldwide, and the opportunity to bring Hogan back to life is something that the company just couldn’t pass up.“
Full Piece.

7. Chase Koepka out of LIV Promotions event

Jonny Leighfield for Golf Monthly…”Chase Koepka and former Team Europe Ryder Cup member Victor Dubuisson have withdrawn from the upcoming LIV Golf Promotions event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.”

  • “With only three places left in the LIV Golf League ahead of the 2024 campaign, this weekend’s 72-hole tournament in the United Arab Emirates represents a player’s final chance to earn a full card for the controversial start-up next year.”
  • “But in a recent announcement by LIV, the aforementioned pair – plus World No. 440, Lee Chieh-po – have pulled out and will no longer tee it up in the three-stage event between December 8-10.”
Full Piece.

8. Tiger rises 430 spots

Field Level Media report…”In what is sure to further rankle LIV Golf players, Tiger Woods vaulted 430 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking after finishing 18th out of 20 golfers in his invitational Hero World Challenge on Sunday.”

  • “Woods, who was making his first start since withdrawing from the Masters in April due to a foot injury, had fallen to a career-low 1,328th in the OWGR by last week. He made his return at the Bahamas, and while the 47-year-old surprised many with his solid play, Woods bested only two players in the field.”
  • “That didn’t prevent Woods from climbing to 898th in the OWGR, his highest since before withdrawing from the 2022 PGA Championship.”
Full Piece.

9. “Married to the game,” indeed

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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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Morning 9: Tiger’s Monday practice round | Brooks, Sergio switch putters | Masters eclipse glasses

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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 2024 Masters!

1. Tiger’s Monday practice round

Will Cheney for the Augusta Chronicle…”The early reports from Tiger Woods’ Monday practice round at Augusta National Golf Club were good.”

  • “The five-time Masters Tournament champion landed in Augusta on Sunday afternoon and played a Monday morning practice round with Will Zalatoris. Woods withdrew from the 2023 Masters after making the cut, due to a plantar fasciitis flare up.”
  • “He played great today,” Zalatoris said. “He outdrove me a couple times so there was some chirping going on. So, you know, he looks great. He’s moving as well as he can be. Again, with everything he’s gone through, it’s pretty amazing to see how good he’s swinging it.”
Full piece.

2. Langer delays Masters farewell

ESPN report…”Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer, whose hopes to play the major for a final time were cruelly dashed after suffering a torn Achilles in February, on Monday said that he’ll instead try to bid farewell as a participant at Augusta National in 2025.”

  • “Most likely,” Langer, 66, told Reuters when asked if the 2025 edition would be his final Masters start. “I hope so, but it all depends how the recovery is going.”
  • “The German player tore his Achilles while playing pickleball and is forced to miss significant time. He said his recovery is trending in the right direction and that he has not had any setbacks.”
Full piece.

3. Rahm: LIV events should be 72 holes

Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington…”It was to be a sticking point for Jon Rahm as he mulled whether to make the jump from the PGA Tour to the LIV Golf League late last year. In the end, the fact that LIV events were just 54 holes, and included shotgun starts, didn’t keep the Masters champion from making the move and signing a reported $350 million deal with the upstart circuit, but it’s something he hopes might still change in the future.”

  • “I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I definitely wouldn’t mind going back to 72 holes,” Rahm said in an interview with the BBC ahead of his title defense at Augusta National.
Full piece.

4. Sergio, Brooks make putter switches

Our Matt Vincenzi…“Brooks Koepka, who’s used a Scotty Cameron Teryllium Tour Newport 2 for the past handful of years, had what looked to be a Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5 in the bag this week at LIV Doral.”

  • “Koepka has been struggling on the greens this season, but it’s still a bit of a surprise to see him switch to a mallet-style putter so close to the season’s first major.”
  • “Koepka finished with -4.4 strokes gained with his new Phantom following a tough week in Miami.”
  • “With the poor performance on the greens at Doral, it’s worth monitoring whether or not he switches back to his traditional Scottie Cameron at Augusta.”
  • “Sergio Garcia, who lost out in a playoff at LIV Doral, also made a notable putter switch last week.”
  • “The Spaniard asked Scotty Cameron to refurbish the 1999 Scotty Cameron Del Mar Prototype he used as a rookie on the PGA Tour. Garcia used the putter when he went head-to-head with Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah as a 19-year-old. He also used the putter in his first Ryder Cup.”
Full piece.

5. Zalatoris returns to Masters a year after back surgery

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”Will Zalatoris’ mom sent him a text Monday morning to remind him how far he’s come over the past 12 months.”

  • “It was the one-year anniversary of when he underwent back surgery.”
  • “Another reminder came just a few hours later, when Zalatoris linked up with Tiger Woods to play the second nine at Augusta National.”
  • “Over the past several months they’ve been swapping war stories about the microdiscectomy procedures and their different recoveries. It’s been comforting to Zalatoris not just to know that he’s not alone, but to understand the value of patience and his own process.”
  • “It’s always special to be here,” he said, “but obviously given the last year that I’ve had this was a very special day.”
Full piece.

6. GolfWRX’s resident statistician on who can win the Masters

Our Rich Hunt…”Since 2013, I have created a filtering process to help determine the players who are most likely to win the green jacket based on criteria that have strongly predictive outcomes to success at Augusta. The list of players that can win at Augusta is usually filtered down to 20-24 players and in that time I have correctly shortlisted every Masters champion.”

  • “This includes last year’s winner, Jon Rahm. Even though Rahm essentially walked away with the green jack and did not make it very close, there were some close calls on top of the leaderboard as I had filtered out Phil Mickelson (t-2nd) and Patrick Reed (t-4th) as the LIV Tour is still behind on providing advanced analytics for their tour. Russell Henley was also filtered out and finished t-4th, five strokes from Rahm’s winning score of 276.”
  • “If you’re watching at home, the “critical holes” that will likely determine the top finishers will be holes No. 7, 8, 11 and 13. The 11th hole is projected to be the most critical of holes as over the past five Masters the top players have gained nearly a 1.5 strokes for the tournament on that hole alone.”
  • “Just like last year’s column I will get the LIV Tour players I’ve filtered out of the way. Since LIV Tour does not provide ShotLink or Trackman data, it’s more of a guessing game as to how certain LIV Tour golfers are playing. I did utilize recent performance as well as performance at Mayakoba and Doral as they were two former PGA Tour courses that have some semblance of crossover to playing Augusta.”
Full piece.

7. Fields: Listen to the course whisperers

Bill Fields for Masters.com…”Many years after making his debut in the Masters Tournament in 1959, Jack Nicklaus had a sharp recollection of the tutorial he received that spring at Augusta National….Difficult lessons, after all, often are the most memorable.”

  • “Nicklaus was a 19-year-old amateur on the ascent, on his way to becoming one of the best golfers – the best, if measured by his ultimate major-championship tally, highlighted by a record six victories in the Masters. Yet, 65 years ago, the learning curve was steep for him. Despite his credentials, he shot 76-74–150 to miss the cut by one stroke as defending champion Arnold Palmer led at the halfway point.”
  • “I played pretty well from tee to green,” Nicklaus once recalled of that first competitive experience at Augusta National. “I hit 31 of 36 greens. But I had eight three-putt greens in 36 holes and got done and found Arnold was leading the Tournament at 140. He had hit 19 greens in regulation. I said, ‘You’d better learn how to chip and putt and understand what happens on this golf course.’ That’s what I learned.”
  • “Nicklaus, of course, isn’t alone in receiving such an education. More than two decades after the Golden Bear first turned up in northeast Georgia, another promising young golfer experienced the school of hard putts. Bernhard Langer of Germany, 24, was a three-time winner on the European Tour when he played his first Masters in 1982.”
Full Piece.

8. LIV Golf officials invited to Masters

John Turnbull for Bunkered…”It appears that defending champion Jon Rahm and his colleagues will not be the only LIV Golf representatives at The Masters this week.

  • “Despite golf’s civil war rolling on, officials of the Saudi-backed circuit have been invited to The Masters, according to reports.”
  • “The Telegraph has reported that at least one high-ranking LIV official will attend the first major championship of the year.”
  • “LIV’s chief executive Greg Norman, who was a three-times runner-up at the tournament, is not expected to show face at The Masters.”
Full Piece.

9. Masters eclipse glasses

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7 PGA TOUR courses you need to play

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Golf is a unique sport in that you can play where the pros play and make golf history of your own. Nothing in golf can compare to playing a world-renowned course and following in the footsteps of the game’s best golfers. The feeling is incomparable, and it’s one we think more golfers should experience!

To get you started, here are our picks of the best PGA TOUR courses you can (and should!) play:

PGA Tour courses you can (and should) play

Pebble Beach Golf Links (AT&T Pro-Am, U.S. Open, PGA Championship)

Early morning light on the par-4 8th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Monterey Peninsula.

One of the most recognizable golf courses in the world, Pebble Beach Golf Links is the definition of a bucket golf course. Golfers will play iconic holes like the par-3 7th to the stunning par-5 18th. Enjoy great views of the Pacific Ocean as you play amongst the clifftop fairways and make memories that will last a lifetime when you play this PGA TOUR and major championship course.  

TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course (THE PLAYERS Championship)

The 17th hole of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL Photo by: Chris Condon/PGA TOUR (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA)

Home to arguably the most famous par 3 in golf, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is a top bucket-list course designed by Pete and Alice Dye. A challenging layout awaits that will test all facets of your game, especially shot shaping and course management. Subtle elevation changes, undulating greens, and unique bunkering add a degree of difficulty that stump even the best players in the world. Not to mention one of the best finishing stretches in golf with the long par-5 16th, the iconic 17th hole island green, and the testy par-4 18th. 

Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill  (Arnold Palmer Invitational)

A course fit for “The King” is what you will experience when you visit Orlando and play Bay Hill’s Championship Course. This classic Florida layout offers generous landing areas off the tee with few trees, but bunkers guard the greens and large ponds will make you rethink your shot choices. The course is only available for members and guests staying at The Lodge, so a stay is required to play this stunning course. But with year-round sunshine and pristine course conditions, it is never a bad time to visit Bay Hill! 

Torrey Pines – South  (Farmers Insurance Open, U.S. Open)

Another California clifftop course that should be on your bucket list is the South Course at Torrey Pines. Located just north of San Diego, this annual PGA TOUR stop has also hosted two U.S. Opens, which adds to the allure of the property. Narrow fairways and tall rough combined with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and the California coastline make for an unforgettable round of golf. Large bunkers and elevation changes add to the challenge of the course, but the moderately sized greens offer golfers some respite. Who would’ve thought that a municipal course could be so exciting?

Harbour Town (RBC Heritage)

Hole 18 Harbour Town

Most recognized by the famous red and white striped lighthouse behind the 18th green, Harbour Town is the brainchild of Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. While the course is relatively short for a PGA TOUR event, the challenging design offsets length for accuracy with the narrow fairways framed by overhanging trees making it a shot makers course. A majority of the course winds through the wooded and sandy terrain before looping back towards the coastline with the final two finishing holes playing along the water. 

PGA National – Champion Course (Honda Classic, Ryder Cup, PGA Championship)

With the prominent golf tournaments this course has held, it is hard to leave it off the list. A fantastic Jack Nicklaus design, the Champions Course at PGA National is also home to a famous stretch of golf holes called “The Bear Trap.” The fairways and greens are player-friendly while the bunkers and water hazards are the course’s biggest defense. You will enjoy a 5-star experience and feel like a professional when you visit PGA National’s Champion Course.

Innisbrook Resort – Copperhead Course (Valspar Championship)

At more than 7,200 yards the Copperhead Course is the most recognizable of Innisbrook’s four Tampa, Florida courses and plays host to the PGA TOUR’s Valspar Championship.

One of the more under-the-radar courses on Tour, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort still offers a challenge even to the pros. Designed by Lawrence Packard, the course, while not heavily wooded, requires accuracy with tight fairways, strategically placed bunkers, especially around the greens, and a decent amount of water hazards that come into play. As you head towards the clubhouse, you will encounter “The Snake Pit;” a collection of the most difficult finishing holes on the PGA TOUR.

There you have it, GolfWRXers. Have you played any of these PGA TOUR tracks? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments.

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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