Justine Reed Reaches Out To Leadbetter To Get Her Husband Some Swing Help

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If you were watching Morning Drive Saturday you’d have witnessed the surreal scene of Patrick Reed taking a lesson from David Leadbetter after missing Friday’s Valspar Championship cut.

There was the current Masters champion in the middle of the range having the legendary swing guru discussing all elements of his action in what appeared to be a lively exchange of ideas. The two started working earlier in the week on Reed’s swing.

Turns out, reports Will Gray of GolfChannel.com, it was Reed’s wife Justine who reached out to Leadbetter.

Leadbetter is an area resident who was already in town, and he explained that it was Reed’s wife, Justine, who reached out to him via phone Thursday afternoon to see if he could meet for an impromptu lesson.

“I just got a call from his wife, from Justine, who said, ‘Hey, listen, would you be prepared to just have a little look at Patrick. He’s struggling at the moment, he’s sort of lost a little bit. Could you do that for us?’” Leadbetter said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m here, sure I’ll do it. Absolutely.’”

And there was this wavelength…

Asked about the decision to have his wife reach out to Leadbetter on his behalf, Reed explained that he has “full confidence” in any decision made by Justine, who caddied for her husband before getting pregnant with the first of the couple’s two children.

“The great thing is we’re basically on the same wavelength, her and I,” Reed said. “Because of that, before I even finished my [opening] round I didn’t even have to tell her that, hey, is there any way we can get someone in to just take a peek.”

USGA Names Jason Gore Senior Director Of Listening To Players Complain

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Congrats to the former Wave, Walker Cupper and all-around nice fellow Jason Gore on accepting the unenviable task of listening to pro golfers gripe about course setups and the rules they haven’t read.

For Immediate Release…

USGA Expands Player Relations Capabilities in Naming Longtime PGA Tour Player Jason Gore as Senior Director

Four-Time U.S. Open Competitor, 1997 Walker Cup Team Member Will Lead Player Relations Team, Engaging with Elite Amateur and Professional Players Across the Game

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (Mar. 22, 2019) – Following an extensive search, the USGA has appointed longtime PGA Tour player and four-time U.S. Open competitor Jason Gore as its first senior director, Player Relations.

The appointment launches a comprehensive program aimed at sharing information and strengthening engagement with players in areas of importance to the USGA. These include initiatives to grow and advance the game, research critical to the game’s health, and continuing to incorporate the players' perspective in its work to advance the sport.

Gore’s primary role will be to interact with professional and elite amateur players across the game, particularly focusing on competitors in the USGA’s Open and amateur championships. He will lead a team of full-time staff dedicated to player relations, including Liz Fradkin, who assumed her player relations role last fall. Previously the manager of the USGA’s Curtis Cup Team and a member of the U.S. Women’s Amateur staff, Fradkin has already been a fixture at several LPGA Tour events. 

They will be joined by Robert Zalzneck and Ali Kicklighter, who will manage USGA player services with an emphasis on onsite services at the USGA’s four Open championships. 

“Jason is a dynamic individual who has a great passion for the USGA and the game of golf and is widely recognized and respected by Tour players and staff, as well as industry influencers,” says John Bodenhamer, senior managing director, Championships. “Filling this role has been a strategic priority for the organization for some time and in Jason, we have someone who will bring us player insights and share our position on matters of importance to the game.” 

A Southern California native, Gore, his wife, Megan, and their two children, will relocate to New Jersey in the coming months. A brief bio is below:

 Jason Gore

  • Graduate, Pepperdine University (2000 – psychology); 1997 NCAA Division I team champions

  • Member of the 1997 Walker Cup Team

  • Competed in the U.S. Open in 1998, 2005, 2008 & 2010; final Sunday pairing with Retief Goosen at Pinehurst in 2005

  • Competed in the U.S. Amateur in 1992, 1993, 1995 & 1997

  • Competed in the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1990

  • Captured 12 professional wins: One PGA Tour win (84 Lumber Classic in 2005) among 16 top-10 finishes; all-time record seven Web.com Tour wins; four additional professional wins

  • Amateur wins: 1996 Sahalee Players Championship; 1997 Pacific Coast Amateur; 1997 California Amateur; 1997 California Open (as an amateur)

  • Competed in more than 500 events on the PGA Tour (291) and Web.com (233) tours

  • Served on the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council (PAC) nine times

“I have the utmost respect for the USGA and proudly tell everyone that my experience in the 1997 Walker Cup was the highlight of my golf career,” said Gore, 44, who won the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic in 2005 and played in Sunday’s final pairing of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. “I’m incredibly honored to have been invited to play this role and can’t wait to get started.”

Added Bodenhamer: “While we’ve often engaged with players on a variety of projects and enjoy many longstanding relationships, this is the first time we have dedicated a team of full-time staff members to serve as year-long ambassadors for the USGA, as well as a voice for players. We’re excited to see what has been a long-term priority coming to fruition.”

USGA Addresses Intent Question, Status Of Justin Thomas Peace Talks

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Andrew Both of Reuters talks to the USGA’s Thomas Pagel gives us an update on the broken club rule that inspired Justin Thomas’s Honda Classic outrage at 2019’s new rules. The spat spilled onto Twitter.

The new rule allows players to continue using a damaged club, even bending it back into shape if possible, but not to replace it during a round.

"You can just add that one to the list of rules that don't make any sense," Thomas told reporters.

"If you break or bend the club in play, I don't see where the harm is in replacing it."

Pagel disputes the new rule does not make sense.

"That rule used to be so complicated (determining) when a club was damaged, unfit," Pagel told Reuters in an interview.

"We said let's simplify it. You can start with up to 14 (clubs) and if one becomes damaged you’re not able to replace it.

"Justin and I have connected. I thought it was very positive conversation. I want to keep the nature of it private."

Michael Bamberger was also afforded phone time with Pagel for a Golf.com item on the new rules and notes this following Webb Simpson’s unfortunate freak Players penalty, prompting Pagel to remind why intent cannot drive the rules.

Pagel expressed sympathy for Simpson’s bad luck and then dutifully explained why the rulebook gives a player a one-shot penalty if you’re off the green and no penalty if you’re on it. The latter, the so-called Dustin Johnson Rule of 2016, allows for that fact that you might have already had your hand on a ball on the green, that greens are more closely mown, and that a random outside agency – most notably wind – can move a ball on a green more readily.

“As much as possible, the rulebook tries to keep the question of ‘intent’ out of the discussion, because intention is hard to define,” Pagel said.

One person, for instance, could claim an exemption from a penalty because of intention while another, in those same circumstances, might not. That’s not a level playing field.

World Ranking Points System Coming Under Increasing Scrutiny, Providing Unintended Comic Relief

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There’s actually much to laugh at in Doug Ferguson’s AP story on the world ranking points system coming under increased scrutiny of late. Comedy and the OWGR are not usually mutually exclusive, but this has to be one of better giggles you’ll get today:

Against a field as strong as some majors, Tommy Fleetwood shared the lead after 18 and 36 holes, played in the final group and was still in the mix at The Players Championship until a tee shot into the water on the 17th hole. His three-way tie for fifth was worth 16.53 ranking points.

Earlier that day, Guido Migliozzi won his first European Tour title at the Kenya Open, which until this year was a Challenge Tour event. The strength of its field was slightly weaker than the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on the Asian Development Tour in January.

Migliozzi received 24 ranking points, the minimum for the European Tour.

Of course this is no laughing matter given the reliance on the OWGR to determine major fields, including two weeks from now when the Masters invites the top 50 not already exempt.

PGA Tour Dreaming Of Capturing Every Player, Every Hole With Eye On International Viewers

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Evin Priest considers the plight of Australians who are trying to stream golf via GolfTV and watching their native sons.

While the technology is still a ways off, the continued goal of the PGA Tour and GolfTV is to “localise” broadcasts so that fans can watch top stars from their country.

Golf TV executives believe the new platform is performing well in its eight markets but acknowledged the need to localise broadcasts.

Australian fans are able to watch golf's major tours live on Fox Sports as well as on Golf TV through personal devices.

Oh to see those numbers…sorry, go on.

Golf TV's future plans are to capture every shot at PGA Tour events and have a bunker-style facility package of live footage for individual countries.

"The vision for us, which is a number of years away, is every shot, of every player, on every hole," Rick Anderson, the PGA Tour's chief media officer, said.

But with PGA Tour fields ranging from 30 to 156 players, how Golf TV will capture every shot is yet to be determined.

"I want to be clear here ... I can't put an exact timeline on it, but we have identified the need to localise the viewing experience," Kaplan said.

I suppose I could see how some golfers are like teams to a fan, but in an individual sport where only one player in the modern game elicits a desire from fans to see every shot he hits, I’m still having a hard time seeing how this is the best use of resources. But maybe international markets may be a different animal and the approach may sell.

2019 Valspar Another Beneficiary Of Strength Of Field Rule

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Gary Van Sickle at MorningRead.com explains how the Valspar Championship managed decent star power despite a tough post-Players date, with 37 top 100 players, including Dustin Johnson.

Johnson played only 20 tournaments in the 2017-18 season. So, he owed the PGA Tour an appearance at an event that he doesn’t regularly play. Johnson chose the Valspar Championship.

“I had a few to pick one, and this fit the best in my schedule,” Johnson said. “Of the courses I had to choose from, I like this [Copperhead Course] the best, if you’re playing well. The golf course is tough, but I feel like my game is in good form, so it’s a good course for me.”

Johnson nearly avoided the Valspar on a technicality. When he won in Mexico, it was the 20th victory of his career. Twenty is the threshold to become a PGA Tour life member, and the strength-of-field rule doesn’t apply to life members, or to players 45 or older.

The timing coincided nicely with Valspar announcing a sponsorship extension through 2025. Included is a better date next year.

Drive On: LPGA Rolls Out New Slogan To Promote Diversity, Remind Us They Are Not Living Under Par

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On a scale of Live Under Par to 10, I’d give the LPGA’s new campaign a 5. It feels a bit dark but understandably serious given the issues motivating the “Drive On” slogan. In the initial roll-out, Drive On is followed by “This is for every girl” in the first phase of the campaign.

I’m not sure how much an empty-sounding phrase needing another catch phrase to explain puts people in the seats, but that’s the view of players, notes GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell.

LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez wiped away tears watching, saying the campaign captured a message the tour has struggled to properly tell until now.

“We’re finally telling the story,” she said.

Stacy Lewis, who will be featured in a future spot, believes the campaign will help grow the LPGA’s following.

“I think if somebody that's a dancer can find inspiration in a golfer, we’ve found a new fan,” Lewis said. “That's what I see in the campaign, is pulling more fans in from other areas.”

The launch video and styling feel incredibly familiar, but I can’t quite place where I’ve seen this style of ad before other than to know we’ve all seen something like it before. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

View this post on Instagram

This is for every girl. #DriveOn

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Els Names Four More Cart Drivers, Looks To Analytics For Pairings

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Even though it’s in December, never too early to start fitting K.J. Choi, Mike Weir and Trevor Immelman for their Presidents Cup Club Car’s to tootle around Royal Melbourne. They join Geoff Ogilvy as captain Ernie Els’ assistant captains.

But Els said when naming them that he’s going to join the analytics wave, reports Dan Kilbridge:

“I’ve seen what other captains have done in the past,” Els said. “In this instance, I really wanted to try and start a new thinking process around the pairing system. I’m using a lot of data, a lot of science into what we’re going to be doing in December in Australia, and I wanted to get guys who have played a lot of Presidents Cups like myself.”

I believe the science has found that the International team has not won since 1998.

Akshay Bhatia (17) On Valspar Sponsor's Invite: "I’m here to win.”

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Current top ranked junior Akshay Bhatia is playing this week’s Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour. And despite a sponsor’s invite and his lack of experience in PGA Tour events, is setting lofty goals.

From Rodney Page’s Tampa Bay Times report:

“It’s another tournament to me,” said Bhatia, who received a sponsor’s exemption. “I’m not here to just show up and make the cut. I’m here to win.”

He also reiterated—with a little humor—his desire to turn pro instead of playing college golf.

“I’ve never liked school,” Bhatia said. “I’ve never been very smart. I have the worst attention span when it comes to it. I love being outside, playing golf and competing. So my dad just said, ‘Ya know what, let’s not go to college.’ I said ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ I’m in eighth grade, of course I’m going to say no to school.”

USGA Hiring A Tour Liaison?

That’s what Michael Bamberger reports for Golf.com in his weekly 7 Best Things column:

The USGA is in the final stages of making a hire for a new and senior employee who will oversee and seek to improve the USGA’s relationship with the PGA Tour and the LPGA. A guess is that if you are reading this you will know the person’s name when it is revealed, which should happen well before the Masters.

There is no such job listed at the USGA website but the idea is an interesting one given the state of affairs between pro golfers and the governing bodies. Communication was a big theme in Jay Monahan’s late-Players week comments to Global Golf Post’s John Hopkins, including this:

My concern is there is all this discussion about rules, when we have so many great things happening inside the ropes in our tournaments every single week…we don’t write the rules. We are a partner to the organizations that do but it ends up being a sizable distraction.”

2019 Players Ratings: 3.3, Down 21% From Tiger Contending Last May

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With only some conference title games and the NCAA Selection Show, the Players stood a good chance of matching last year’s stout ratings when Tiger Woods was in contention at the 2018 Players.

Didn’t happen.

According to Sports Media Watch with a full weekend sports numbers wrap up, the rating reverted to pre-Tiger for from a 4.2 to a 3.3, with Saturday’s 2.4 down 8%.

The Real Reason Nothing Is Done About Slow Play: Players, Executives Don't Ever Pay To Watch Pro Golf

Eamon Lynch explored the lack of movement on the slow play front even Rory McIlroy called it an epidemic last week. Furthermore, the 2019 Players was not able to get the field around Thursday and the broadcast ran 20 minutes long Friday to show the conclusion of a star group.

He writes:

Like a persistent rash, pace of play was again an irritant at the Players Championship. When the first round was called for darkness — despite daylight saving time — Anirban Lahiri still faced a short putt on the final hole. He had to return Friday morning to finish up. The Tour’s invariable stance is to insist there’s nothing to see and that everyone should just move along (at their own pace, of course).

“They don’t do anything about it. It’s become somewhat of an epidemic on Tour,” Rory McIlroy said after his second round, which took more than five hours to complete. “Look, it’s our livelihoods and people are going to take their time, and as the course dries up and gets firmer and gets tougher, guys are going to take their time. But the fact that someone didn’t finish yesterday … I mean, that’s unacceptable.”

“Honestly, I think they should just be a little tougher and start penalizing shots earlier, and that would be an easy way to fix it,” he added.

Even easier? Make executives and players pay to watch golf in person. They’d learn the art of standing around watching others stand around and other tedious acts like not-ready golf.

The conclusions they would reach are summed up in this Tweet from Steve Flesch, who attended last week’s Players:


Auctions! Jeff Ellis Puts Up Some Incredible Old Clubs; Another First Masters Program Also On The Market

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Renowned historian and collector Jeff Ellis has some amazing stuff up for auction at his site. The current gallery that includes some incredible early clubs.

And Roxanna Scott notes that bids can start at $5000 for a First Augusta National Invitational program, a fantastic publication that has been reproduced and even had a poster made by the Masters out of its cover.

Is Golf In Danger Because Intent Is Not Addressed In Every Rule?

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We have many rules where intent is now considered and many others that are not.

According to Webb Simpson, he was penalized because he moved the ball when it was off the green and only intent is considered on a ball accidentally moving on a green. The 2019 Players final round penalty cost him nearly $60,000.

“My ball’s on the fringe, and I was seeing if I was standing in the rough or if I was going to get both feet in the fringe or whatever and the end of my putter just got stuck on my shirt and it moved the ball about a quarter of an inch,” he said after the round. “I thought it might be a penalty, but we called anyways, and if it’s on the green it’s not a penalty. So this is where I’m going to be loud and clear, like we have to get intent into the rules. We have to. Because it’s killing our game when it comes to these kind of things.”

While I understand his point—seemingly arcane rule violations causing the game to look bad—I’m not sure this is one of them? Or close.

Roundup Of McIlroy's Players Win: “I needed to show a lot of character out there”

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The 2019 Players finale was a doozy, with the finishing holes magically weeding out a fascinating mix of characters, as Steve DiMeglio notes in his Golfweek game story.

McIlroy explained his Saturday range session that ironed out issues with his driving, explains GolfChannel.com’s Will Gray.

For the aficionados of more rough to offset distance advances, this was not a poster child week. McIlroy was 2nd in strokes gained driving even as he was T49 in accuracy, hitting just 33 of 56 fairways.

His putting stats were also a tad misleading, as McIlroy was 45th in Strokes Gained putting, yet was T3 in putts per green in regulation. He hit 58 of 72 greens.

McIlroy gave several post round interviews, though none was as compelling as his Live From appearance. Here is all 15 minutes of it if you missed the show:

TPC Sawgrass' 12th Hole Has Gone From Not Drivable To A Long Par-3

12th hole scatter chart in 2019

12th hole scatter chart in 2019

And that’s not a good thing.

Astoundingly, no double bogey was made the entire tournament. While that is definitely not a barometer for architectural merit, the lack of a big number suggests that the cooks, wait staff, busboys, hostesses and even valet parkers in Ponte Vedra have overcooked architect Steve Wenzloff’s effort to inject life into the back nine.

As I explain here for Golfweek, the fine line between drama and just playing as a long par-3 can be remedied with a simple grass tweak and better mixing up of tees. Please pass along to the locker room attendants at TPC Sawgrass, they may get a say too. Actually, they have a much more informed view than most.

BTW, how amazing is all of this data from ShotLink for the cooks to ponder? An impressive 76% of the field took a go at the green, with 23% successfully hitting the green. It was just a couple of years ago that players and caddies were declaring how no one would bother to go for it, much less keep their ball on the green.

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Butch Harmon Retiring From The Tour Life, Broadcasting

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Butch Harmon adapted to the times, watching his star pupils warm-up during all rounds in majors after so many years of being on a plane home by Wednesday night. But the instructor world has changed and now they are expected to hang around until the bitter end. But it seems the legendary instructor has finally seen enough, reducing his teaching work to home in Las Vegas, reports The Forecaddie.

So pros, if you want Butch, head to Vegas.

According to The Forecaddie, Harmon is also saying goodbye to Sky Sports broadcasting work at the 2019 Masters.

Harmon and brother Billy were sensational guests on Gary Williams’ 1 Up podcast recently, and in the show Butch does blurt out a mention of being “burned out” on tour life.

Video: Jon Rahm's Caddy Really, Really Tried To Talk His Boss Out Of A Blunder

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Adam Hayes tried, he really, really tried to talk Jon Rahm out of a 220-yard hooking 8-iron from the 11th hole fairway bunker.

It was a pretty startling moment in the 2019 Players final round picked up by NBC’s Emmy-winning audio team and would have to rank with the all-time great player-caddy discussions that will hopefully not haunt Rahm. Yet it’s tough to look at the circumstances, read Rahm’s post-round remarks in this Will Gray GolfChannel.com story, and easily visualize how Rahm’s substandard thinking will hurt his ability to win big events.

Kudos to the PGA Tour too for posting:

Brooks Koepka Losing Weight And Losing Distance...

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The winner of two majors last year admitted at The Players he is out of sorts after intensifying training and implementing diet restrictions, losing 22 pounds and with it, distance.

From Ryan Lavner’s GolfChannel.com report:

“When you go from 212 pounds to 190, there’s not as much weight going forward through the ball,” he said. “I don’t have as much feel. I just feel out of sorts.”

Koepka says the sacrifice has been worth it, that it’s “only four months of my career.”

Betterer Than Most? Vegas Sets New Mark For Longest 17th Hole Putt

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In the ShotLink era, Jonny Vegas’s absurd putt from the 17th hole’s lower front shelf to the back right location, helping him move to -14 in the 2019 Players, is easily the longest putter ever made there since stats have been kept (2003, Tiger’s better than most putt was in 2001).

Nice use of ShotLink by ShotLink and great reaction from Vegas…