From Portrush To TPC Southwind: Don't Tell Memphis This Is A Bad Thing

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Mark Giannotto gets a very long column out of a harmless, and accurate Tweet from Kyle Porter about the jarring nature of the visual eye candy that was Portrush, and most of golf’s best turning up this week at TPC Southwind.

I get the sensitivity in Memphis but his comment was clearly directed at the beauty of Portrush and not a statement about the city, state, children’s hospital or anything else. Few people are looking forward to TPC Southwind after glorious Portrush. Make that, none are.

He at least blames the tour for this scheduling oddity, which will hopefully be remedied by a new date or putting this WGC out to pasture. The latter is an unlikely scenario.

Now it should be noted that Porter’s tweet did get at one notable issue this year. If you ignored that 46 of the world’s top 50 golfers will be here this week, it’s easy to see why a historic event for Memphis is being looked down upon by outsiders.

The PGA Tour deserves some blame for that.

FedEx used its leverage as the title sponsor of the Tour to get a world-class golf tournament in Memphis that still benefits St. Jude, a cause as worthy as any in professional sports. But then the Tour mucked it all up with its new, condensed schedule this season, effectively diminishing an event considered just a notch below a major by putting it immediately after a major.

From Tiger To Shane: Open Championship Overnights Down 42%

Big lead, no Tiger making his first run at a major in years and what do you get? A 2.9 for NBC and ratings decline for the 2019 Open Championship.

From SBD’s Austin Karp:


The Skins Game Is Back! Sort Of

Bob Harig reports news of a Woods-McIlroy-Day-Matsuyama Skins Game this fall the same week—mlitzvah!—of the new $9.75 million Zozo Championship in Japan.

The event appears to be part of Woods’ deal with GolfTV and probably seals the fate of a repeat of The Match, last fall’s day-after-Thanksgiving-AT&T synergy play.

While the dollar figures or format are not known, it’s great to see the once-successful format back. Harig writes:

How much this version of a skins game will resemble that is unclear, but this event is part of an agreement Woods has to provide content to GolfTV, an entity that does interviews and other features with Woods at international locations that at this time do not include the United States -- although there are negotiations to have the skins event televised in the U.S. market.

Could Lytham And Muirfield Be In A Holding Pattern After Portrush's Success?

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Martin Dempster of The Scotsman wonders if Lytham and Muirfield are on the endangered rota list after last week’s success on and off the course at Portrush.

Coupled with the R&A’s increased emphasis on ticket sales and fan energy, Muirfield’s membership matters and the modern gluten-free diet rendering Lytham helpless against today’s triathletes-turned-golfers, and it’s easy to envision a return to Northern Ireland before those two storied venues.

Dempster writes of the numbers:

Even before it produced one of the most popular winners ever, the Portrush event had attracted a sell-out attendance of 237,750 – the second biggest after St Andrews getting 239,000 in 2000. In comparison, the last visit to Muirfield in 2013 was just over 142,000 and, for the one before that in 2002, it was 161,000.

Is Portrush The Rota's Best (After St. Andrews) Venue?

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I say yes.

The combination of design quality, intrigue, variety and beauty, with logistical success puts this course above the non-Old Course layouts.

The players seem to agree, as Alistair Tait writes for Golfweek, with endorsements from Fuyrk, Casey, etc..

The Forecaddie tries to figure out how fast they can get back here and what needs to be done.

My wish list would be pretty short: maybe soften the back portion of the new 7th green, restore the burn currently piped under the par-5 12th green, lose a few ferns in the roughs and definitely lose the interior boundary lines at the 1st and 18th holes, along with the silly boundary line behind the fifth green.

Shane Lowry Wins The Open At Royal Portrush, Your Reactions

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A performance and scene that we’ll all remember capped off a magnificent week for Portrush, the R&A and Irish golf. Shane Lowry never displayed more than a brief ounce of feeling the immense pressure that was placed on the golfers who knew Portrush and mean so much to this part of the world. He won by six strokes.

We’ve got full coverage coming at Golfweek, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new Champion Golfer of the Year, the broadcasts, the course and anything else related to The Open’s triumphant return to Northern Ireland.

Poll: Who Looks Worst After Xander Schauffele's Driver Fails R&A's Random Testing?

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While you were sleeping, there has been some lively debate here at Portrush following Xander Schauffele’s revelation of a failed driver test earlier in the week.

For his part, Schauffele admitted to what happened in post-round questioning and as I write here for Golfweek, merely was upset at the idea that only 30 players are tested.

Most here seem conflicted about the news, particularly when it comes to blame and impression of what is the first known COR test failure at a major championship. Is the player ultimately responsible for making sure his equipment is on the up and up, or the manufacturer? And is the R&A or any other five family member in their right to be testing early in the week at a major?

So here’s a poll, if you don’t mind voting

Who looks worst after Xander Schauffele's driver exceeds COR test?
 
pollcode.com free polls

Stanley Doesn't Yell FORE! Caddie's Mum Struck, Playing Partners Let Him Have It

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Martin Dempster reports for The Scotsman on Kyle Stanley’s tee shot striking the mother of caddie Greg Milne, on the bag for Scotland’s Robert Macintyre, who opened 68-72.

She’s fine, but Macintyre was not pleased at Stanley forgetting to yell FORE! and leaving the task to others.

“It hit Greg’s mum. So I told him how it was. I said I wasn’t happy – and he didn’t really like my response. He’s the only one I’ve seen do that. It was straight into the crowd. It was into the crowd from the word go. And we’re expecting him to shout fore. She’s all right, I think, but it’s not what you want. “

Players on the PGA Tour have a habit of not shouting ‘Fore’ but MacIntyre did not mince his words as he confronted Stanley. “Aye, there were harsh words,” added the left-hander, who was pleased to make the cut on his Open debut. “It wasn’t too pleasant. But you’ve got to tell him it’s not right. He didn’t take it well at all.

“Shout ‘Fore’. That ball is going straight into the crowd, you know from the word go it’s going into the crowd. Just shout. We shouted, me and Beef [partner Andrew Johnston], as it was coming down.

Trying To Figure Out What Ails Tiger Isn't All That Complicated or Worrisome

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After Tiger’s 78-70 here at Royal Portrush, the inclination is to fret about what may be ailing Tiger Woods.

I really don’t think it’s that hard to see nor is it nearly as dire as so may suggest, as written here for Golfweek.

To put it another way, what ails him now is a far cry from anything we’ve seen in the past. Some rest and rejuvenation are in order.

.84: Open Rating Round One Best In Four Years, 55.1 Million Minutes Streamed

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Tiger playing late enough for the east and west coast to enjoy him certainly helped, but overall interest appears solid for the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush. So far at least.

For Immediate Release:

BEST OVERNIGHT RATING IN FOUR YEARS FOR

THURSDAY’S OPENING ROUND OF THE 148TH OPEN 

Opening Round Earns Highest One-Day Streaming Total for NBC Sports

at The Open, 55.1 Million Minutes (+48% YoY) Across All Platforms

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland, (July 19, 2019) – Thursday’s opening round coverage of The 148THOpen on GOLF Channel was the highest-rated opening round at The Open since 2015. Coverage averaged a .84 Overnight rating for the eight-hour telecast (8A-4P ET), up 6% vs. 2018, and it becomes the highest-rated opening round at The Open on GOLF Channel (2016-’19).

Opening round coverage peaked with a 1.0 rating from 11:15-11:45 a.m. ET. Early coverage of the opening round (1:30-8A ET) earned a .33 Overnight rating, +22% year-over-year (.27), and also becomes the best Overnight for early opening round coverage of The Open on GOLF Channel (2016-’19).

Golf Central Live From The Open (4-5P ET, .41) becomes the highest Overnight rating for any Thursday hour of Golf Central Live From (other than Thursday at the 2019 Masters) since Thursday at The Open in 2018 at Carnoustie. Thursday Total Day (6A-3A ET, .47) is GOLF Channel’s highest Total Day Overnight rating since Friday of The Open in 2018 at Carnoustie (7/20/18, 6A-3A, .51).

Opening round coverage also earned the highest one-day streaming total on record for NBC Sports at The Open (2016-’19). Thursday’s coverage saw 55.1 million minutes streamed across all platforms (+48% vs. 2018), including marquee groups, complementary feeds and on www.TheOpen.com (U.S.)

Golf’s original championship made its highly-anticipated return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years on Thursday at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Live second round coverage continues Friday on GOLF Channel until 4 p.m. ET. Early coverage of the third and final rounds will begin on GOLF Channel on Saturday-Sunday, before shifting to NBC for the majority of play, tracking those at the top of the leaderboard as they attempt to earn the distinction of “Champion Golfer of the Year”.

Woods After 77: "There are too many guys playing well and I'm just not one of them"

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Blunt assessment of Tiger Woods by Tiger Woods. From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek story on an opening 76 in The Open:

“I’m just not moving as well as I’d like,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, you’ve got to be able to move and, especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn’t do it. I didn’t shape the golf ball at all. Everything was left-to-right. And I wasn’t hitting it very solidly.”

So much for the draw he had on Sunday. And this…

“Playing at this elite level is a completely different deal,” Woods said. “You’ve got to be spot on. These guys are too good, there are too many guys that are playing well and I’m just not one of them.”

Predictably, Sadly And Absurdly, Portrush's Internal Out-Of-Bounds Claims The Biggest Victim Imaginable

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Here are the basics of Rory McIlroy’s opening 8, which so far is one of many balls to have landed OB at Royal Portrush’s 1st, along with video.

I wrote about the internal OB here for Golfweek here if you’re looking for some explanation as to why there is a boundary line left of the first and 18th holes where there is no boundary.

Bob Harig and Michael Collins looked at the OB yesterday:

And in case you don’t believe that members play it this way, a screen capture of a first hole flyover:

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R&A Chief On Distance Report's Completion, The Role Of Skill And So, So Much More

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The R&A kept their annual press conference short and mostly upbeat, with Championship Committee Clive Brown opening the live set with one song and a nice thank you for his services, followed by an upbeat set from always upbeat chief Martin Slumbers.

He confirmed completion of the Distance Insight Report’s findings and a release of those conclusions until this fall. I asked after the press conference what his views were and Slumbers focused on the question of skill erosion. From my Golfweek report on the comments:

“Golf should be a game of skill,” he said Wednesday. “It should not be a technology driven game. And where that balance is depends on how good you are. And that’s still my gut view. The data will guide us.”

Not surprisingly, it sounded as if the report will focus heavily on the question of some skills having been reduced or nullified by distance, just as the original Statement of Principles said 17 years ago.

In other news, Slumbers discussed the Open rota as remaining at 10 courses, including Trump Turnberry. But no Open’s were announced.

He also explained the R&A’s thinking on the future of the Women’s British Open, from name to style of course and to equal prize money. Alistair Tait with that report for Golfweek.com.

Regarding the growing purse structures in golf, I asked Slumbers whether there is a point the number begins to chip away at the R&A’s core mission, which he seems more passionate about than any of golf’s leaders.

Q. Given some of the things you've described that The R&A is working on, we've seen some significant increases in purses. Is there a point where you could see this sort of race to increase purses impacting your ability to carry out the mission that you're hoping to succeed with so many of these various ventures?

MARTIN SLUMBERS: Yeah, I look at the business in the round. So a lot of my responsibility is to balance out the revenues and expenses of our championships with our desire to invest 200 million pounds into the game in this decade. We're two years into this decade.

I think we have to keep growing The Open. This is our biggest event. And we need to keep growing it to keep it one of the greatest sporting events, with half an eye on how do we improve the difference in pay between The Open and the Women's British Open. You will all have seen that we increased the Women's British Open prize money for this year by 40 percent, and to do that in line with our investments into the game. And we have to juggle all three things.

I think that's what's really important about The R&A. What we really care about is a great championship out here but we really care about the game. We want the game to be here 50 years from now. We want it to be thriving. We want more people to be playing it, more families to be playing it. And try to balance all that out. That's part of my job.

On the financial front the championship has its second largest “attendance” ever. That’s UK parlance for ticket sales.

Odds, Picks And Who Will Get The Best Draw For The 2019 Open At Portrush

There is only so much we know about players and their feelings for (or against) Royal Portrush. And we don’t know whose wife yelled at them, whose caddie’s bad breath is wearing thin and whose chef just isn’t bringing it this week.

But we do have a weather forecast and so far it’s been pretty accurate this week. I tweeted the current Thursday/Friday weather forecast on Wednesday:

Given the tee times, the most significant chance for a disruptive wind event appears to be midday Thursday, potentially throwing a wrench in enthusiasm you might have for mid-morning and midday tee times by for names like Fowler, Matsuyama, McIlroy, Woodland, Casey, Molinari, DeChambeau and Scott.

You can monitor any and all winner odds here at OddsChecker.com.

There are also handy links her to other opportunities, such as a first round leader (a fun longshot option I enjoy), low English player, etc…

My top ten to watch heading into the event for Golfweek’s print edition got an update, with on Jon Rahm slid in over Tommy Fleetwood. Adam Scott might have made it too based on his recent major play and deep dive into Portrush, but I reserved him for…

Golfweek staff picks.

Dan Kilbridge looks at some interesting bets and prices, including some head-to-head options.

Golf.com’s picks and reasoning behind them.

Sleeper picks are a big part of this round up by the Golf team on site.

On that note, I’m off to William Hill to do my part for the local economy. My tastes have moved from betting each/way on the winner pre-tournament given the silly odds. Instead, first round leaders, some longshots and missed-cut bets based on weather will have me handing over some notes. Good luck!

Justin Rose Questions Playing Majors So Close Together

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I penned this explanation—delivered with his typical gentle forthrightness—here for Golfweek

I will say, in the FedExCup’s defense (which Rose rightfully says should not be dictating the major schedule)—that the real juggernaut is not necessarily the “playoffs” but the NFL and college football season golf is working around. 

Either way, however, the numbers are suggesting top players have played less in the calendar year portion due to the tighter schedule and that can’t make sponsors or television happy.

Video: Royal Portrush's Seventeeth And Eighteenth Holes

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And finally, the finishing holes which figure to provide more interest than most Open rota conclusions. At least, based on architecture and setup.

The 408-yard 17th plays from an elevated tee to a crowned landing area before the fairway falls down to the green abutted by the 13th green. With any helping wind, the firm ground and and open green front, there will be a temptation to drive it.

At 345 yards of the tee a new bunker has been added by Martin Ebert to add some zest to the decision should the conditions allow.

The finishing hole is a beautiful piece of work and where the influence of H.S. Colt is felt more than most links finishers, with classic strategy incorporated and a sense that features were used with an intelligent purpose in mind. A new tee to offset driving distances changes the angle a bit, with players driving toward an out of bounds line detailed here for Golfweek that could prove problematic (though historically consistent with the 1951 Open).

The players now drive directly out the out of bounds line. A sizeable carry is required to actually cross the stakes line, but downwind it’s very doable. To get a good look at the 42-pace deep green, players will want to see it and can only do so from the left side of the fairway.

Lay up right and the view is poor or completely obstructed. At 474 yards it’s a beast into the wind, but a case could be made that down wind breezes from the north make it play almost as tough.

As for the OB, it almost assuredly takes away aggressiveness unless a left-to-right wind is blowing. Expect to see plenty of three-woods here and irons with any helping wind. In other words, the risk/reward qualities may be nullified.

One final note: Luke Kerr-Dineen points out for Golf.com how we might see some intentional plays off of the grandstands. Grandstanding!

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