If Fields Are Deeper Than Ever, Why Does An 18-Player Event Award More Points Than Some Prestigious Full Field Stops?

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The Hero World Challenge has been offering Official World Golf Ranking points since 2009 and the move has been questioned every year since. That’s pretty remarkable in an attention-deficit world where most controversies have short lifespans.

The chatter this year has been particularly lively given the lackadaisical impression some players exuded at this year’s Hero. This Tweet from Justin Ray did not help matters:

The events mentioned by Ray were all full field events except the CIMB, which still is three times as deep compared to the 18-player Hero World Challenge. Each of those events could be considered a prestigious title with generally deep (enough) fields to be very competitive.

Given the common modern-day refrain that there have never been more players capable of winning, logic would suggest there be a world ranking point divisor of some sort for field size.

As stacked with top players as the Hero World Challenge fields have been since they could pick up easy points, it’s still a tiny field at the end of the season when some are putting in less than their best effort.

The resulting sense of a rich-get-richer vibe is the greater issue here given that this is unlikely to impact the even more important ranking perks in the 40-60th slots. But the annual debate also takes away from the event and undercuts the Official World Golf Ranking’s credibility.

Tiger's Wipey Shot Saved By The Replay Rules

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It wasn’t a double hit, but one really long strike of the ball that Tiger Woods says he couldn’t feel.

Here’s the full video posted by the PGA Tour:

Mark Russell’s explanation covers the rule changes that leave HD situations like this up to the player since the long wipe could not be seen with the naked eye. The Decision, for a few weeks longer anyway, is 34-3/10, Limitations on Use of Video Evidence.

From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek story:

“Well, Tiger was under a bush and we did determine that he did make a stroke at it. He didn’t scrape or spoon or push the ball. And when he did that, Tiger said that he did not think he hit the ball twice. Looking at it in the regular speed on a high-definition television, you couldn’t tell that at all, but when you slowed it down to ultraslow motion high-definition television, you could see where the club [sic] did stay on the clubface quite a bit of time and it looked like he might have hit it twice, but there’s no way he could tell that.

Kilbridge also posted this blow-by-blow of the situation. He has the time to determine at over 20 minutes, Rex Hoggard had it at 25. That’s kind of a long time for a rule theoretically cut-and-dried.

Maybe they were working off a streaming replay.

Bob Harig notes here that Woods faced a similar rules issue at the 2013 BMW where he was penalized prior to this change in the rules.

If nothing else, the Hero World Challenge round 2 episode is another reminder of positive changes to the HD replay rule and that the 18th hole at Albany is his silly-season kryptonite. It’s also debatable that he took a backswing.

Champ's Fall Season Numbers Set Him Down Almost Uncharted Territory

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Golfweek’s David Dusek takes a fascinating look at Cameron Champ’s driving stats after a strong fall start to the 2018-19 PGA Tour season. Averaging 328.2 yards off the tee and 1.483 strokes gained off the tee, the numbers suggest he’s on course for an unprecedented blowout in the Strokes Gained Driving.

Granted, there is a long way to go but Dusek notes the last person dominating with the big stick like this was Bubba Watson in 2012.

When Watson finished 2012 with the highest season-ending strokes gained off the tee average ever, 1.485, his average swing speed that year was 124.69, his average ball speed was 184.98 mph and his driving accuracy percentage was 58.85.

So far this year, Champ leads the PGA Tour in average clubhead speed at 130.2 mph and average ball speed at 193.61 mph. He is also hitting 61.79 percent of the fairways.

Not to diminish Watson’s achievement in 2012, but in just six years the tour driving distance average has increased.

In 2012, 21 players averaged over 300 yards off the tee.

In 2018, that number jumped to 60 averaging over 300. With many of “average” drivers distance-wise having been replaced by longer hitters, and more players embracing the importance of mindfulness, oat milk and physical fitness, Champ’s separation from his new peers seems even more impressive.

Metro Is Back! A Quick Primer For The World Cup At Metropolitan

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The event has a magnificent history and the PGA Tour is to be commended for efforts to revive what was once a grand title in the game: the World Cup of Golf. We debated all-time World Cup teams on Golf Central and it really was a wealth of riches, though Palmer-Nicklaus is tough to beat!

Jim McCabe with a nice retrospective on Metro’s grand golf tournament history that dates to the Sarazen era!

Rob Bolton breaks down this year’s field.

Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith headline the field for the Aussies. Maybe not the biggest names Australia can muster, but undoubtedly their best two players over the last year. Mark Hayes with their outlook.

Golf Channel coverage starts at 8 pm ET Wednesday to Saturday, with the first and third rounds played at four-ball, and the second and final rounds alternate shot. Tee times and other particulars.

A Google Earth flyover should remind you that some prime Sandbelt golf is on the way:


Trophy Wrap: A Day Of Winner's Circle Returns As Howell, Willett, Thompson Win, Plus Molinari And Jutanagarn Cap Off Career Years

Charles Howell beat Patrick Rodgers for the RSM Classic, giving the veteran his third PGA Tour victory. Rodgers posted an astounding 61-62 on the weekend to force a playoff, while Howell overcame a bogey-double bogey start.

Sean Martin’s PGATour.com story on Howell’s remarkably consistent career ($35 million on course earnings!), multiple close calls (16 runner-up finishes!), but has fewer victories than the Oklahoma State grad hoped for 529 starts ago.

Danny Willett started showing signs earlier this year of regaining his Masters-winning form and now returns to the winner’s circle in grand fashion, winning the European Tour’s season ending DP World Tour Championship and with it the world’s most expensive doorway pull-up bar. Alistair Tait with all of the details.

Francesco Molinari takes home a Dubai high rise for his efforts as Europe’s best player in 2018.

Lexi Thompson finished off a forgettable year by her lofty standards on a high note, claiming the CME Group Tour Championship and a Diamond Resorts trip. Hopefully they are pet-friendly for Leo’s sake.

Beth Ann Nichols with more on Thompson’s win that included her brother on the bag.

Ariya Jutanangarn took home every trophy imaginable, but it’s the the cash and the broom she’ll like treasure most in winning the Race To The CME Globe along with millions and a major.

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@mayariya cleans up in 2018!!

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And finally: Abraham Ancer wins the historic Emirates Australian Open at The Lakes. Martin Blake’s assessment for Golf Australia.

"Here's why the 23-year-old rookie is the future of golf"

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Good feature on Cameron Champ here from Steve DiMeglio at USA Today, with this from longtime instructor Sean Foley on the 23-year-old contending yet again at the RSM Classic:

“I was blown away,” said Foley, who has worked with Champ the past six years. “I’m still blown away. He was 14 when he came to see me. He had big legs. So that day, he was hitting a 4-iron. He hit it and I said, ‘Oh (expletive).’ At that time, I’m watching Justin Rose and Tiger and I was hanging out on the range with Rory McIlroy and all the rest of them, so how was I going to be blown away by anyone? Well, I was blown away by a 14-year-old.”

And there was the 9-hole Monday practice round at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. Champ, who won just one tournament at Texas A&M, qualified for the national championship and then teed it up with McIlroy before tying for 32nd. And Champ outdrove McIlroy on every hole.

“Something happened to Cameron that day,” Foley said. “He saw he could play golf on an elite level.”

We May Have (Not) Watched Our Last PGA Tour Event In Malaysia For A While

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Nothing against the fine people of Malaysia and the CIMB Classic, but the limited-field, limited-soul course, limited-audience host to three fall PGA Tour events may be giving way to a new event in the Tokyo area, reports Andrew Both of Reuters.

A press conference will be held in Tokyo next Tuesday to release details of the event, which will be held Oct. 24-27 at a course in the Tokyo area, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Who Needs A Pro Jock? Vice Captain's Westwood, Kuchar Return To Winner's Circle

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It was a big weekend for 2018 Ryder Cup VC’s who put away their driving gloves and rode the classic Cup boost to victories. I’m not sure which is more meaningful—Lee Westwood at the Nedbank or Matt Kuchar at Mayakoba—both both pulled off their feats without full-time pro jocks.

Alistair Tait for Golfweek on Westwood’s win in a strange year for the Englishman. As for the effort of girlfriend Helen Storey...

“It was great to do it with Helen,” he said. “She’s caddied twice for me this year, and we lost in a playoff in Denmark and we’ve won here.”

The winning couple:

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Winning in style 💑🏆 #NC2018 #RolexSeries

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Meanwhile in Mexico, Matt Kuchar added the event late, gave regular bagman John Wood the week off due to his own schedule conflict, and won on the PGA Tour for the first time in over four years.

On the bag for Kuchar? Local looper “El Tucan.”

Josh Berhow with the story for Golf.com on the Kuchar mystery man who kept the bagstrap warm and the good reads coming in Wood’s place. Kuchar next tees up at the World Cup of Golf, presumably with his regular looper.

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Kuch and El Tucan, what a team. 🏆

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Commish Claims Improved Fall Fields About Players Trying To Not Fall Behind In FedExCup

Now, I’ve scanned Google News for players mentions of accruing FedExCup points as their motivation to play this fall and haven’t found one yet. Still, Commissioner Jay Monahan says the appearances by some big names this fall is all about FedExCup points positioning. From Rex Hoggard’s GolfChannel.com story:

“You are seeing right now at the first part of the season more top players playing and trying to get themselves in position as we flip the switch and get into the new year,” Monahan told GolfChannel.com. “It’s important not to be too far behind and to be in a solid position for the FedExCup.”

It’s important, but not nearly as important as getting into majors or winning them.

“Given where we are now with the significance of the FedExCup and now the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 and a shorter season with fewer at-bats in the playoffs, the significance of these fall events has grown. The support they get from the markets they play in and the sponsors has grown and they are as critical a part of the season as any,” Monahan said.

Hard sell alert!

Golf is still about the majors and for viewers, sponsors and players, January-July. So while the Wyndham Rewards could be the real reason Jordan Spieth is playing in Mexico this week, they likely are not given that he heard from his buddies what a great event the Mayakoba Classic is (as the story notes).

There is one disconcerting takeaway from Hoggard’s story: increased fall starts may be a response to the crowded 2019 schedule and the expected need to drop starts to deal with a compacted schedule.

Monahan concedes that the flow of the new schedule will likely create an extended learning curve for players who must now find places to take breaks in order to play their best when it matters the most at the majors. One of the likely ways players will do that is to add to their fall schedules.

So stars may subtract a stop or two during the bread and butter portion of the season when the most eyeballs are on the sport. Something to remember when the old Bob Hope Classic can’t get a sponsor or events like Bay Hill struggle to draw a star-studded field.

To put it another way, selling FedExCup sounds more important to the PGA Tour than the individual tournaments doing the heavy lifting and charitable contributions. Some events will benefit from the schedule change and shifting dynamics, but by touting the potential trimming of field quality in the prime winter/spring season to prop up the fall, the tour risks chipping away at the “product” presented when the most eyeballs are watching: the West Coast and Florida Swings.

ShotLink: Strokes Gained Says Bryson Won This Time (Really) Relying On Ballstriking

While his eagle putt from off the 16th green created the buzz (above), Bryson DeChambeau’s fifth PGA Tour win and fourth in the last five months was marked by an incredible ballstriking performance. Imagine how good he’ll be with a flagstick in the hole to help him make more putts.

From the ShotLink crew:

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It’s pretty unusual to see a putting performance that mediocre win a PGA Tour event.

Also note in his five wins how he’s improved in ballstriking versus the field in each victory:

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Poll: Will Leaving Flagsticks In The Cup Become A Thing In Pro Golf?

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I’m still fascinated by the Golf.com exclusive reporting that Bryson DeChambeau’s plans to start leaving the flagstick in for most putts when the 2019 Rules of Golf kick in.

Given that he just won his fourth tournament in five starts, DeChambeau’s methodology and madness is bound to have some copycats if he proves it to be a useful way to putt.

But some have predicted it will be a visual mess for pro golf, as Hank Haney did. He sees the USGA and R&A having to back off the rule, or face PGA Tour intervention of some kind in the form of a local rule.

I certainly can see where the sight of some players wanting the flag tended and others leaving it in could turn greens into a weird game of Twister as caddies navigate through lines and wait to hear from the player if they want the stick in or out.

There will also be others who test things out with regulation flags in the green and undoubtedly many opinions what works. The Forecaddie has info on the actual PGA Tour stock flagstick, in case you have COR testing to do.

The Golf.com gang batted around the flagstick matter too and scores some points worthy of consideration. This from Luke Kerr-Dineen was spot on:

Kerr-Dineen: If the anchor ban provides the precedent, we can deduce that golf’s rules are decided — at least in part — by how the powers that be want the game to look. It’s not something that’s specific to golf. The NFL is a classic example of legislating the game in a way that makes it more marketable. If the bosses upstairs see Bryson putting with the flagstick in and don’t love the look of it, don’t be surprised to see them “revisit” this rule.

Personally, I can’t comprehend the advantage being worth the visual distraction that is so different from what players are used to. But I also can’t fathom anchoring a putter

This trend could go a few ways and I’d would love to hear what you think. I voted for the top one. Especially if Dave Pelz or others do more testing with putts and see no harm in the practice.

What will happen in 2019 with flagsticks and putting?
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Shriners Field Reduced To 132 Players, 70 Break Par And They Still Can't Finish Before The Sun Sets!

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Just work with the idea that 70 players broke par, 51 broke 70 and 11 shot 66 or less led by first round leader Peter Uihlein.

Not many strokes being played, right? No high rough and crazy tough conditions to slow down the pace, correct?

No.

The Shriner’s Hospital For Children Open, already facing a reduction of 12 spots this year to help get the field around before dark (as reported by Rex Hoggard a few weeks ago), still could not finish the first round.

Why? Sure, today’s players are slow but more than the usual tedium, their prodigious driving distances mean the entire field is forced to wait for every par-5 green to clear and every short par-4 green to become available to their drives.

But as you know, nearly all players and their recent Commissioners have stated that slow play is not an issue, nor is distance in the game causing problems for getting a tournament field around.

Hopefully next year the Shriners shrinks to 120 players. Because maybe losing two-dozen “playing opportunities” will help the players and officials realize there are some very basic financial ramifications for chasing distance.

The Hope Is Looking For A Sponsor Again...

Larry Bohannan of the Desert Sun reports on the latest sponsor loss for the beleaguered PGA Tour stop in California. An ownership change to a private equity group at Careerbuilder led to the change.

Oddly though, the company is on the hook for this year’s purse but won’t have its name on the event.

CareerBuilder is still contractually obligated to fund the 2019 tournament, meaning the event will still have a $5.9 million purse, will still be broadcast on Golf Channel all four days and will be able to fund its charitable donations which reached $1 million from the 2018 event. But Sanders sees a chance to start the search for what he calls the right sponsor for 2020 earlier than if CareerBuilder was still involved through the 2019 tournament.

Well Won't 2019 Be Fun: Bryson Intends To Leave Flagstick In While Putting

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At least, until the first putt clanks off the fiberglass and he looks at the innocent synthetic material holding a flag in disgust. Thankfully, flagsticks don’t have feelings.

Nice exclusive here from Golf.com’s Dylan Dethier on Bryson DeChambeau revealing during a photo shoot that at all fiberglass flagstick events, he will be putting with the pin in the hole. The new Rules of Golf will allow for putting with flagsticks in the hole starting January 1, 2019. The change was designed to speed up the game. But the mad scientist has done the calculations and sees another rationale.

“It depends on the COR, the coefficient of restitution of the flagstick,” he said. “In U.S. Opens, I’ll take it out, and every other Tour event, when it’s fiberglass, I’ll leave it in and bounce that ball against the flagstick if I need to.”

It’s interesting that DeChambeau goes on to say he thinks this will make the hole play bigger and that his good, good friends at the USGA will ultimately backtrack on the rule.

I don’t see that, but I could envision a scenario where players start griping about strange things and airing odd grievances.

Or the USGA and R&A could announce a slight increase in the size of the golf ball, fueling conspiracy theories that the move was not to slow down distance but to mess with Bryson.

There will also be the inevitable re-airing of the flagstick vs. pin moniker. But wouldn’t it be fun if the science backs him up.

Champ Wins Even After His Driver Cracks, Dominates With Distance At Sanderson Farms

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Getting your first PGA Tour win is an incredible feat, but especially when you are known for you prodigious driving distances and the head cracks just 20 minutes before your tee time. That’s one Cameron Champ will be able to giggle about after battling to hang on and win the Sanderson Farms Championship at CC of Jackson.

Kevin Casey with the backstory on the driver break. Thankfully there was a backup. Given his clubhead speed (130) and ball speed (190ish) he probably should carry a backup collection!

As for Champ’s driving distance and its role in his win, Sean Martin at PGATour.com writes in his Sanderson roundup:

He dominated the Country Club of Jackson’s back nine, which features two par-5s (Nos. 11 and 13) and the drivable, par-4 15th hole. He was 16 under on the course’s inward half and didn’t make a bogey.

Champ’s trademark driving distance was key to his victory. He finished first in driving distance, averaging 308 yards on all holes and 334 yards on the measured holes. He was second in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, as well. Champ also finished second in Strokes Gained: Putting (+2.27 per round) and ninth in greens hit (55 of 72), despite hitting just 11 in the final round.

And check out these numbers from the ShotLink team. Look at that approach average distance number!

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Trophy Wrap: Schauffele Takes The HSBC, Champ Claims Sanderson, Nelly Nabs The Swing Skirts

Xander Schauffele is primed for a Ryder Cup berth after…oh wait, sorry. Presidents Cup! He’s in like Flynn! Your WGC HSBC winner…

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Some birthday week eh, @xanderschauffele?

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Cameron Champ has arrived, taking the Sanderson Farms and a fantastic bookend for his coffee table book collection.

Nelly Korda becomes an LPGA winner in Taiwan and has a fantastic glass plate to show for her effort.

Scott Parel won the Invesco QQQ and the member-guest crystal that goes with winning a Schwab Cup playoff event.

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Trophy No. 2 for @parelgolf. 🏆🏆

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Who Says He Doesn't Play Well With Others? Patrick Reed Offers A Helping (Backstop) Hand* (*Or Was It Justin Rose)

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*Those who stayed up to watch think Justin Rose was the kind helper. I will review tape Monday to confirm. Until then…my original snark that will happily be transferred to the former World No. 1 if he’s not protecting the field.

Maybe being on a Ryder Cup team bonded them, maybe he’s just lazy, maybe those grooves just really needed cleaning instead of protecting the field, or maybe Patrick Reed is just trying to be less of a maverick by leaving his ball next to the hole. Either way, he did it at the HSBC Champions so that Tony Finau could slow down his bunker shot just like we saw a year ago in Napa.

Yet another example of insidious behavior inside the ropes in the name of faster play when it’s could conveniently save someone strokes no different than turning a blind eye to someone improving their line. At least in a few months when the new rules of golf take hold, players won’t have to pretend to look the other way when a “ball mark” is repaired in their line. Tap away. Too bad the new rules find a way to address this nonsense.

Is "World No. 1" Status Enhanced Or Diminished By Recent Revolving Door?

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Brooks Koepka won the limited-field CJ Cup Sunday in Korea and while no one noticed in the United States due to interest in many other sports not named golf, I do wonder if Brooks Koepka’s move atop the Official World Golf Ranking is impacted by the recent changes at the top.

As Dan Kilbridge at Golfweek notes, Koepka is still very much grinding to bring his major championship consistency to regular PGA Tour events and is proud of the honor. But given that Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose (ever briefly but long enough to cash some bonuses), held the title of No. 1 in recent weeks, does that lessen the impact of the achievement or speak to unprecedented parity and therefore the difficulty of reaching the top ranking?

Trophy Wrap: Leishman Is CIMB Worthy, Pepperell Takes British Masters, Chun Claims The Hana, Langer Wins No. 38 In The SAS And Tennant Wins US Senior Women's Am

Marc Leishmann fended off—who else?—but Justin Thomas along with 54-hole co-leaders Gary Woodland and Shubhankar Sharma to take the CIMB Classic and the solar panel trophy for the winner.

Because it was just too bloody cold for anyone to go back outside, Eddie Pepperell posed inside Walton Heath’s clubhouse to celebrate his Sky Sports British Masters victory. Alistair Tait with details of the win for Golfweek.

In Gee Chun takes the turquoise jacket and a matching lamp base in the KEB Hana Bank:

Bernhard Langer won again on the PGA Tour Champions, his 38th title. This time it’s the SAS Championship and a piece of crystal he can pawn to buy a non-white belt with.

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Trophy No. 38 for @bernhard.langer. 👏🏆

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And it was a few days ago, but congrats to Lara Tennant for winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. The 51-year-old had her father on the bag! Scott Lipsky with the the story of Tennant’s 3&2 win over Sue Wooster.

PGA Tour Closing In On Alameda's Corica Park For Curry Tournament, Two-Week 2019 Off-Season

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I’m not sure what’s more eye-opening in Ron Kroichick’s update on plans for a 2019 PGA Tour stop in San Francisco and hosted by Steph Curry: that a true public course is likely to host, or that it would me just two weeks between the end of the Tour Championship and

First reported by Golf.com as the likely venue, Kroichick confirms and then notes where this likely new PGA Tour stop will fit:

Tour officials have not announced the dates of this potential tournament, but it’s tentatively slotted for Sept. 19-22, early in the 2019-20 season. The current 2018-19 “wraparound” schedule started last week in Napa, takes a break in December and ends with the regular-season finale Aug. 1-4. Then the FedEx Cup playoffs run for three weeks, ending Aug. 25 with the Tour Championship.

The tour is expected to take a two-week break before launching its season Sept. 12, 2019, at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Curry’s event would be next, followed by the Safeway Open in Napa, Sept. 26-29, one week earlier than in recent years.