Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson put on a great show in the WGC Dell Match Play final but it was hard not to notice the ways they were playing a game few can relate to.
Several times their ability to turn normal holes into drivable ones appeared to add intrigue, but they also rendered par-5s and several long par-4s into drive-wedge affairs that seemed to diminish the potential for Austin Country Club to interject risk-reward fun.
So for the purposes of asking and for some Morning Drive discussion tomorrow, I ask...
A golf course exists primarily for match play, which is a sport, as distinguished from stroke play, which more resembles rifle shooting than spot in that it lacks the joy of personal contact with the opponent. FREDDIE TAIT
Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson put on a great show in the WGC Dell Match Play final but it was hard not to notice the ways they were playing a game few can relate to.
I really love this final group of four in the 2017 WGC Dell Match Play and here's why:
-Dustin Johnson, the best player on the planet.
-Jon Rahm, Spaniard trending to become the best player faster than even his biggest cheerleaders expected.
-Bill Haas, immensely talented veteran who plays quickly, yet overcame Kevin Na's horrific pace and is also peaking in time for Augusta.
-Hideto Tanihara, hard-swinging Japan Golf Tour vet who puts the world in World Golf Championship. Oh, and he's going to the Masters now, Rex Hoggard notes for GolfChannel.com.
Doug Ferguson's AP game story has Johnson and Rahm trending toward the final based on their stunning dominance.
Ron Green Jr. for Global Golf Post delves deeper into the ways Johnson and Rahm have dominated.
Rahm has a chance to be the event's youngest winner, writes Ben Everill.
The 13th hole will figure prominently in Sunday's matches, but Dustin Johnson won't be driving it, writes Hoggard.
The 12th hole has proved pivotal again and it's one of the better holes Pete Dye has designed. I can't wait to see where the flag is placed on the double plateau-ish green Sunday. However, beware of bailing right, as I noted for Morning Drive in this short on-course segment.
In the ShackHouse bracket, Mike.E.Jensen takes a slim lead into Sunday. I'm at 168th with no hope after picking Spieth to win it all.
The quarterfinals highlights from PGA Tour Entertainment.
Paul Harral explains in detail what UT's new Dan Jenkins Medal For Excellence in Sportswriting means and talks to His Ownself about the honor.
Writing for The Fort Worth Business Press, Harral notes:
Jenkins is known from here to Baja Oklahoma as one of the best sports journalists to ever grace the pages of a newspaper or a magazine and both fiction and non-fiction books.
“I get a tie with Red Smith and Ring Lardner, who have awards for sportswriters,” Jenkins said. “In fact, I've received the Red Smith from the AP sports editors and I am receiving the Ring Lardner from the Union League of Chicago the week after the Masters. Usually, you don't get these things when you're still vertical.”
The event also exposed many of us non-Horns to the Stark Center, a stunning collection of sports memorablia and papers stored in a huge, impressive archive. Jenkins pledged during the evening to leave some of his papers at the same place Harvey Penick's Little Red Book is housed.
I discussed with Gary Williams what it was like to see the book and read some of its contents, and Tweeted a few pictures from the night:
Guy Yocom wonders if Mr. Secrets in the Dirt Ben Hogan would have embraced Trackman and what his numbers might have said about his swing.
Talking to top instructors like Chuck Cook, David Leadbetter, Sean Foley, Charlie Epps and Joe Mayo,
The near-universal belief that Hogan swung the club slightly to the left through impact requires that his clubface not be open relative to the target. An open clubface combined with a leftward path, is a lethal combination—slice city. Thus, the teachers who voted for a -1 path, all combined it with a clubface that was at 0—perfectly square to the target line. This indicates that Hogan was, above all, a “path fader.” The very slight left-to-right fade he imposed—again, we’re talking a few yards here—was the result of his path, not an open clubface. One teacher (Leadbetter) suggested that Hogan’s clubface could have been -1, or closed to the target line. But he combines it with a path that was possibly -2, making it a safe and reasonable opinion.
I think another fun question for the group: how much would Hogan have used a Trackman? Before and after every round, or just on occasion? Or not at all?
The ramifications could be significant for golf on television and its appeal to a broader audience, therefore the DraftKings push this spring will undoubtedly be watched closely. How successful it all becomes could even influence television negotiations, fan interest and the overall health of professional golf. (You may recall Golf Channel's Rich Lerner asking new PGA Tour Commish Jay Monahan about this in January and receiving a surprisingly open-minded response.)
Dustin Gouker at League Sports Report notes the pre-Masters push DraftKings is making to go all in to grow their audience via enhanced app and site, uh, games.
According to DraftKings, fantasy golf on its platform has “experienced a 23x growth and more than 15 million entries” since launch.
Gouker explained the difference in DraftKings and rival/future partner Fan Duel's approach to fantasy golf here.
The ad campaign is clever. Though how much of this is real, I don't know. But it's entertaining and of course, will lure many of us to make a donation to their cause!
In an open letter to fans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made clear he's looking for ways to speed up the game experience with clocks and eliminating a silly post-touchdown commercial break.
Goodell writes, according to Deadspin:
Regarding game timing, we’re going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and we’re considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown. We’re also going to standardize the starting of the clock after a runner goes out-of-bounds, and standardize halftime lengths in all games, so we return to the action as quickly as possible. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game.
This has Goodell joining Major League Baseball and the NBA seeking ways to expedite their proceedings. The PGA Tour and once-hot-to-trot European Tour, meanwhile have not budged in their stance on pace of play.
New European Tour Commissioner Keith Pelley had shown signs of taking action, but has gone quiet.
New PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has said he sees no need to expedite the pace of rounds.
Players, on the other hand, do not agree.
Check out the results from SI/Golf.com's player poll:
Is slow play a problem on the PGA Tour?
Loose lips: "It's not as big a deal as people make it out to be."
"Rookies are too slow because they overanalyze everything."
"One million percent YES."
"It's a small problem."
"Only a few guys cause a problem."
Regarding a shot clock, I'm not sure how it would work and I'm guessing most players don't either. But that didn't stop a surprising number from voting for one.
Should the PGA Tour institute a shot clock
No comment: 2%
Loose lips: "I'm not opposed."
"No, there are other ways without doing that."
"There have to be other solutions."
"I like the idea, but there has to be something better."
"How about we enforce the current rules instead?"
"No, we just need more common sense. It's silly when a guy takes forever from the middle of the fairway. There needs to be give and take."
"How about we enforce something sometime? And not on a 13-year-old kid at the Masters. What a joke!"
"There is no way that's going to happen."
"Yes, and we need to enforce penalties."
"No, but slow players need to penalized. They're hurting the field."
Society is changing, sport is changing and golf is holding its ground on the length of its already long proceedings. Mind-boggling.
After walking off at the seventh hole in his match against Pat Perez, Jason Day walked into the Austin Country Club clubhouse and requested to meet with media.
Through understandable tears for someone who lost his father to cancer, Day announced that he was withdrawing from the WGC Dell Match Play to be with his mother Dening Day. She is undergoing treament at Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital for lung cancer, with surgery scheduled Friday.
Here was Day making the announcement:
Here is a fun recent memory of Dening, who is no doubt going to fight hard.
Karen Crouse filed a superb story on Day and the role Dening played in raising him to be a champion golfer.
“With everything that went on, for me and my sisters to come out pretty normal on the other side, I think a lot of that has to do with our mom,” Day said.
Continue reading the main story
From his father, Day, 28, learned to play golf and fear failure. From his mother, he learned how to work as if failure were not an option.
On the eve of Australia Day in January, the tide of productivity had gone out in Day’s homeland, scattering workers to near and far vacation destinations. The national holiday fell on the last Tuesday of the month, and a sizable portion of the country’s work force opted to take a four-day weekend, leaving few hands on deck during Monday morning business hours at a shipping company in this port city.
**Jeff Babineau on Day's decision to return to his mom's side for Friday's surgery.
Costco Case Analysis: "A bold ask in the world of golf ball patents, especially where Acushnet is concerned."
Mike Stachura and Mike Johnson try to consider what Costco aims to achieve in filing a lawsuit against Acushnet over patents, especially since they note the effort is to invalidate the works of a company known to vigorously defend their patents.
Reading the reporting by Stachura and Johnson, it's hard not to wonder if the case was started in part as a publicity plot, especially with a new version of the ball likely coming soon. However, the risks and costs in such a legal battle would suggest such a move merely to sell some golf balls could backfire for Costco.
Acushnet was asked for comment in an analysts call an declined.
"You know based on past experience that we never comment on the competition, and as you would expect, we don't comment on any outstanding litigation," he answered to one analyst's specific question about the impact of the Kirkland Signature ball. "We do respect the fact that you're going to ask questions of a competitive nature and of a litigious nature and hopefully catch us at a weak moment, but we'll take a pass on both of those."
This analysis from a legal expert suggests Costco made a bold and shrewd move in the approach to its filing.
“It’s a problem for the alleged infringer if the patent holder doesn’t sue them, so this does two things,” said Rochelle C. Dreyfuss, the Pauline Newman Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. “It accelerates the lawsuit, which sometimes the alleged infringer wants, and it also gives the alleged infringer a choice of court.”
Johnson and Stachura draw this conclusion that I'd agree with, except for the buzz and store traffic likely increased by the Costco ball craze.
For all the media hype and the cult-like status afforded the Kirkland Signature ball, fact is its contribution to Costco’s bottom line is likely no more than an accounting rounding error due to its inability to produce more than limited quantities of the ball.
As always the SI/Golf.com players poll features a nice mix of fun and provocative questions, and while there several to chew on, the drumbeat of talk about a PGA Championship move to May is building.
The players are on board...until the check out the mid-May forecast for Rochester.
Should the Players Championship be moved to March and the PGA to May?
Don't know: 12%
Loose lips: "That would be a much better fit." "We have to, if we want to avoid competing with the NFL."
While much has been (rightfully) made of Jordan Spieth's desire to put the Masters behind him in hopes of putting the 2016 condolences to an end, I found his comments on match play to be of note.
Some background: on top of finding a lively spot in Austin with a strong sponsor, the WGC Dell Match Play is benefitting from a round robin format that has quieted most of the "vagaries" or "flukiness" of match play talk.
Still, some understandably miss the knock-out element while others simply will never think match play is a proper format. For both camps, Spieth's comments are worth reading and considering. Because instead of focusing on the potential of running into a buzzsaw, he sees those days as survival opportunities.
This tournament is difficult to win because you can't shoot 6-under seven times in a row. Nobody does it. So your days where you maybe shoot 1, 2-under, your off days need to be 1 or 2-under, for one thing. And when that happens you hope you meet an opponent who is around the same.
In order to win a match play event, which I've done going back to U.S. Juniors, you've got to squeak out one or two wins where that wasn't very pretty. And that's kind of how it works in this event. Guys aren't running away from it. And you don't get lucky with the guy across from you not playing his best. You meet a guy when he's playing great and you're playing great and you have to win that match. And then if you're off, if they're a little off, you have to find something in you that allows win it.
And he is very much a play the course and opponent type, as he laments here in thinking of his loss last year here to Louis Oosthuizen:
You're only playing against one other guy. Play off of him. Take chances where you need to, but back off where you need to.
And I maybe got a little bit too aggressive mentally against Louis. And he's a very difficult player to play match play, such a beautiful swing, a great driver of the golf ball, makes you think you have to do more than you really need to do.
Also Spieth suggested he would love to see a major decided at match play as the PGA once was. This Sky Sports story has the quotes.
And one last reminder, there's an Odyssey and pride involved in the ShackHouse WGC Dell Match Play bracketology. You have until 10:00 am ET Wednesday to enter!
It's not a law firm, I promise!
Only a jam-packed ShackHouse this week as Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Marc Leishman joins us to discuss the story behind his new (excellent-fitting) cardigan, his Masters preparation and his background with the Victorian Institute of Sport's Golf Program where he met longtime instructor Denis McDade.
Then, shifting toward the WGC Dell Match Play in Austin, we hit up multiple locals starting with Criquet's co-founders Billy Nachman and Hobson Brown. Besides making great clothes merging 70s aesthetics with modern sensibilities, they are also helping lead the fight to save Lions Municipal. Almost as important, they surprised us with a special 20% off for ShackHouse listeners using code SHACKHOUSE at their website.
To continue the great Ringer tradition of a podcast host calling his dad for a guest hit, we also talked Austin golf, UCLA basketball and the 2017 NCAA tournament with Lynn Shackelford, one of only four athletes to have started on three NCAA championship-winning basketball teams. This is the 50th anniversary of their first title, documented by Mike Lopestri at NCAA.com.
As always, you can subscribe on iTunes and or just refresh your device subscription page.
Same deal with Soundcloud for the show, and Episode 30 is here to listen to right now!
Now, with this week's match play here is the ShackHouse league where the winner of our WGC Dell Match Play bracketology will get the joy of (A) inevitably beating House and I, and (B) taking home a new Odyssey putter with Microhinge Technology as discussed in the show.
As always, ShackHouse is brought to you by Callaway, who debuted episodes of Callaway Live with Jim Furyk, Mike Tirico, Adam Hadwin and this week, Michelle Wie who will be supported by the golf architecture-loving, Hawaiian-born, Isla Vista-reared, California reggae masters Iration.
We're also sponsored by Callaway’s new Steelhead irons, so visit CallawayGolf.com to try the Iron Selector tool.
Don't forget to join the Callaway Community to get a sneak peak on shows and the chance to submit questions to guests, though that's the least of the reasons to join!
Hallelujah I guess, though how the 2020 Olympic golf venue ever got to be a venue when it banned women on Sundays is still beyond most everyone.
But now they will admit women, in theory and all will be forgotten. Maybe. Sadly, some damage was done given that there will be a women's competition and the club was nonetheless rewarded with Tokyo's Olympic golf.
From an AP report:
The vote came three days after IOC President Thomas Bach warned the club of consequences for upholding a ban on female members.
“Should gender equality not be respected, then we would look for another venue which would ensure non-discrimination,” Bach said last Friday at a news conference in South Korea.
Like Muirfield, which just voted to admit women, we shall see if the clubs actually follow through.
The random draw was held Monday night at the Hotel Van Zandt and aired live on Golf Channel.
Here are the brackets in list form and there are some intriguing matches to be played Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before we cut to sixteen players.
Golfweek's Brentley Romine targets ten players to watch, many I'm in full agreement on.
President Donald Trump's criticism of former president Barack Obama's Sunday golf rounds has been well-documented. So as the (now) sitting president hangs out at Trump International with regularity, his passion for the game has become of great interest to those who documented Obama's golf habit.
Press secretary Sean Spicer says the president is entitled to his privacy and therefore should not be accountable for his affinity to tee it up on the record, reports Politico's Kelsey Sutton.
“It’s the same reason he can have lunch or dinner with somebody,” Spicer told Yahoo White House correspondent Hunter Walker when asked why Trump had not provided more information about the details of the meetings conducted on the golf course. “The president is entitled to a bit of privacy at this point, which we’ve always agreed to. We bring the protective pool, but the president is entitled to a bit of privacy as well.”
Maybe it's shaving the goatee or just his overall upbeat glow for someone who has been off the grid, but while appearing on Good Morning America and promoting his 1997 Masters book Tiger Woods looked well. The positive appearance only adds to the mystery surrounding his latest absence due to back spasms.
Yes, he looks older without his hat and signature form-fitting golf shirts. But it's hard not to watch all of this and wonder what genuinely plagues him that he's still not able to go to his office: the golf course. But for his fans Woods offered a glimmer of hope. Steve DiMeglio reports after getting an exclusive sitdown for USA Today.
“I do have a chance,” to play, Woods told USA TODAY Sports in an exclusive interview. “I’m trying everything I possibly can to get to that point. I’m working, I’m working on my game. I just need to get to a point where I feel like I’m good enough, and I’m healthy enough to do it."
In the good news/bad news department, Woods is attending the Champions Dinner but essentially has left open the possibility for no decision on his playing status until the last minute.
DiMeglio filed a separate piece on the 1997 Masters book written with Lorne Rubenstein. Reading about this kind of detail sounds great:
Woods, who hopes to play in next month's Masters, explains how he used a persimmon driver to hone his swing the week before the 1997 Masters and made use of Golf Channel’s video library to study Augusta National’s treacherous greens. He tees up his thoughts about the changes made to the course to combat technological advances in the game.
In NYC, Alex Myers talked to the fans who waited a long time in line to get the book signed at Barnes and Noble.
The GMA segment featured a putting contest that made for good TV:
Nice work by David Dawsey at Golf-Patents.com to spot and analyze Kirkland golf ball-seller Costco's suit against Titleist-maker Acushnet.
Many thanks to all who sent various stories in, including the full pdf of the suit here.
Costco is seeking a declaratory judgment that it is not infringing any valid patent rights owned by Acushnet by its sale of its Kirkland Signature golf balls and that it has not engaged in false advertising regarding the golf balls. Why did they take such a provocative step? The complaint states “[t]he need for such relief exists because Acushnet has wrongfully accused Costco of patent infringement and false advertising.”
The paragraphs noted by Dawsey are worth checking out, but this seems to be the key point:
7. In response to the popularity of the KS golf ball, Acushnet sent Costco a threatening letter, wrongfully accusing Costco of infringing 11 Acushnet patents based on its sale of the KS golf ball and engaging in false advertising based on its Kirkland Signature guarantee that all Kirkland Signature products “meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.”
WSJ's Brian Costa reported the story for Journal readers with this measured take, while MyGolfSpy.com, which fueled interest in the ball with its review, reveled in the news, noting that the timing may be no coincidence:
The legal wrangling comes at a time when sources are telling us that Costco is ready to begin shipping K-Sig balls to its retail stores. Coupled with the lawsuit, the clear suggestion is that, letters be damned, Costco is going to sell its golf balls and make Acushnet fight publicly to stop it.
It remains to be seen if the new ball is the same as the old one, with the USGA conforming list suggesting that a new version of the ball has been approved.
Jaime Diaz does a nice job answering a question many have: who cares about the Sharp Parks, Goat Hills and Lions Muni's of the world?
I've heard the question asked and after reading Diaz's piece, the various governing bodies and other higher ups in golf might be a tad more ashamed that they've put so much money to lavish PSA's and First Tee funds instead of investing in these vital places that no longer can attract people to the game in their neglected state.
So when a muny, especially one with history in a big city, gets threatened, even the most escapist golfers can be roused. Instead of complaining about the greens and the drainage and range mats, they realize how much they’d miss the $30 green fee and all the camaraderie if it disappeared. They become attuned to how munys are about affordability and accessibility and diversity and being the best entry point for beginners and especially kids. Basically the spirit of St. Andrews. It’s a good exercise, especially if it translates to the kind of activism a beset muny needs to stay alive.
And this is a key point given what we've seen occurring on the local level:
Munys are vulnerable targets. City coffers are still recovering from the Great Recession, making the upkeep of golf courses seem less viable, especially when rounds are down. But because the golf lovers who are defending the munys know that if one falls, it could start a domino effect, they are fighting back with every asset at their disposal.
The best part about the PGA Tour Twitter account fiercely targeting the 4th grade demo?
Posting videos that actually expose an underlying tour cancer! Yay golf! 😍😎♨️💯
Of course I speak of the peculiar unwritten tour rule that says if you hit a short game shot near the hole and your ball might help a playing partner, you leave the ball down instead of marking. We've spoken to this on ShackHouse and State of the Game, but it's rare to get examples shared on social media.
I don't like picking on this one involving Zach Johnson at the API because the kneejerk reaction is to focus on the players in on case when this goes on daily. Here Ben An, whose ball provided the back board for Johnson, is providing a service that I struggling seeing Hale Irwin, Lanny Wadkins or Ray Floyd providing.
In this case, Johnson's ball in the bunker was plugged. He and An were stinking it up and apparently a little behind the group in front (imagine that!), so it's very possible this was all innocent.
What's more important: leave the names behind and focus on why the practice has to stop.
When players get to use their playing partners' ball as a backstop or bank board, fields are not protected. Integrity is thrown out the window. And most disconcerting of all, players who do not partake in such wink-wink behavior are said to be jerks by players and caddies.
Did I also mention is just feels dirty?
There is good news, however. The practice gets the week off at Austin's WGC Dell Match Play where you'll see players running to mark those balls near the hole!
Granted, The Masters pales in comparison to having a healthy family after Marc Leishman's wife nearly died two years ago. But given his previous play there in 2013 and newfound security thanks to a healthy family, Leishman will be Australia's strongest hope not named Day or Scott.
Jason Sobel at ESPN.com with the backstory on Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Leishman.
Two years ago this month, Leishman was at Augusta National, preparing for the upcoming Masters Tournament, when his wife, Audrey, started experiencing flu-like symptoms.
She went to an urgent care clinic. When her fever and vomiting progressed to shortness of breath and decreased blood pressure, she was rushed to a hospital. They hooked her up to a ventilator and other machines. The doctors struggled to pinpoint the problem.
Her conditioned worsened. She could barely stay awake, a side effect of the medications. Eventually, doctors determined she was suffering from toxic shock syndrome, a manifestation of multiple bacterial infections. She had fluid in her lungs. Her organs completely shut down.
Doctors induced Audrey into a coma. She was given a 5 percent chance to live.
Marc sat with her. He cared for their boys. He cried a lot; he stopped eating; he lost 10 pounds. He certainly didn't play any golf. He felt helpless.
Ryan Lavner for GolfChannel.com:
The traumatic experience gave Leishman a much-needed dose of perspective on a tour full of charmed existences.
“It makes golf less important,” he said. “It’s not life and death. We have been in that situation and it’s not fun.”
Leishman’s hard-earned victory was a fitting end to an emotional week that was always going to be about more than birdies and bogeys.
The winner's cardigan proved a great touch:
The final round highlights from PGA Tour Entertainment.