Phil's 60 Comes At The "Easiest" Of The Desert Classic Courses

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I’m going to sound old here, but there was a time that La Quinta Country Club was where Bob Hope Desert Classic scores went to die. It was the hardest of the Hope rota courses and the ones players had to survive.

So I hiccuped when reading Ryan Lavner’s GolfChannel.com account of Phil Mickelson’s opening round, 12-under-par 60 at La Quinta CC in the 2019 Desert Classic.

Mickelson again played down his chances in his 2019 debut, but it clicked so well at La Quinta Country Club – the easiest of the three courses in the rotation at the Desert Classic – that he gave himself a chance to break 60 for the first time in his Tour career. He went out in 30. Then he birdied Nos. 10, 11, 13 and 14. Then came the birdie on 16, and all of a sudden, he realized that he needed to birdie each of the last two holes to finally shoot golf’s magic number. On 17, he tried to hook a sand wedge into a tight pin and left himself 18 feet. He missed low, but still finished with a flourish: With a chance to card the third 60 in his career, he spun a wedge to 10 feet and buried the putt.

I pulled out George Peper’s 1986 book, Golf Courses Of The PGA Tour to feel really old just to make sure my memory of La Quinta as the one non-pushover course. Peper writes:

At 6911 yards, La Quinta is the longest of the five Hope courses, and with lakes bordering seven of its fairways this tropical layout can be as difficult as it is beautiful.

The other rota courses: Indian Wells CC, Bermuda Dunes, Tamarisk and El Dorado. I swear doesn’t seem like that long ago!

Mickelson’s first round highlights:

This week on Golf Central, we discussed Mickelson’s chances of winning in his 50s (he’s 48) and his chances of being the oldest winner in PGA Tour history:

Kuch The Mooch: "Does This Constitute A Story?"

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That’s the question GolfDigest.com’s Joel Beall asks and does a nice job answering after a fellow golf pro called out what he saw as Matt Kuchar’s substandard pay to a caddie last fall.

Now, while the list of athletes indiscretions is long, being tightfisted spurs a special kind of fury. Ours is a culture that implores the rich to spread the love; those failing are branded. Michael Jordan, Scottie (“No Tippin”) Pippen, Pete Sampras and, yes, Tiger Woods are some of the alleged stars with alligator arms.

Kuchar's case, however, felt different, for it wasn’t a tip as it was wages owed. The optics alone—a veteran with $46 million in career earnings low-balling a man who makes less than $46,000 a year—were damning. That Gillis’ previous blast of Ben Crane over an unpaid bet to Daniel Berger proved accurate wasn’t helping, nor was Australian pro Cameron Percy’s reply of, “It’s not out of character if true.” 

The irony in this escapade like other recent episodes cited by Beall: this was started and fueled by one of Kuchar’s peers, not a media outlet.

As players have increasingly shunned media for social media to break news or tell their story, it’s fascinating how many examples we’ve already seen of players calling out fellow players on social media in ways more harsh and reputation-damaging than a traditional media outlet would dare.

After all, few in the golf press dared to touch the story until Kuchar had a chance to play his round, collect his thoughts and chat with press. Some of his peers were judging before he’d had a chance to comment. It’s a phenomenon worth nothing as players increasing view traditional journalism as “out to get them” even as, at least in Kuchar’s case, the damage was done before he even reached the media center.

Take That Phoenix: Pebble Beach The First To Exempt Internet Sensation Hosung Choi

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They tried to get him to the Waste Management Open but the shrewd folks at Pebble Beach took the very minor risk in welcoming Hosung Choi to his first PGA Tour event.

Ron Kroichick on the reports out of Korea that the zany World No. 200 has revealed he’s coming to Pebble this February. Choi’s amazing swing and varied follow-throughs provide a sight unlike anything modern pro golf has seen. While he won’t be as popular to watch as world 869 Vijay Singh, Choi figures to have a large following in a field often filled out by people you were surprised to learn are still active professional golfers.

Now maybe we can get him one more exemption in California while he’s in the land of the free? Say, the Genesis Open?

LA would love this! It never gets old!

Titleist Wins All Club Counts At Sony On The Back Of...Speed? TaylorMade?

There’s a little something for everyone in Jonathan Wall’s Golf.com story on Titleist winning the driver and every major club category at the 2019 Sony Open. It was Titleist’s first PGA Tour week win since 2000. These counts don’t mean much to everyday golfers but are of interest to hardcore club junkies and the golf business.

While Wall cautions this is just one week and it’s a long season ahead, the Darrell Survey results did allow Wall to explain a key factor in the surge of Titleist usage. With claims of more speed using the new TS3, players looking for more distance were understandably intrigued. But here’s why players were able to consider the club:

TaylorMade, which won every PGA Tour, World Golf Championship and major driver count during the 2017-18 season, is unlikely to repeat the feat this year due to the significantly reduced Tour-player staff the brand now employs — only five staffers are listed on its website.

TaylorMade’s decision to partly back out of the driver arms race helped Callaway and Ping pick up one “win” apiece during the fall portion of the season; TaylorMade still logged six wins.

Still, just five players?

Coupled with Nike getting out of the club business not too long ago and TaylorMade out of the everyday Tour player endorsement business, it seems there are more free agents than ever. At least when it comes to what’s in the (tour pro) bag.

Bad News Winning Pro Golfers: Fans Think Your Caddies Are 10 Percenters

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In light of Matt Kuchar possibly stiffing his celebrated caddie at last fall’s Mayakoba Classic, Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch posed the question of what constitutes proper payment for a winning bag week loop.

Impressively, 10% is dominating while the $3000 Kuchar possibly paid his man brings up the rear.

Eduardo: Leaving The Flagstick In Helps To A Point...

Will Adam Scott Start A New Trend Of Players Passing Up WGC's?

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Anyone who has looked at the new PGA Tour schedule sees weak spots on the list where top players will be tempted to stay home. Mexico City sits awkwardly before a busy run of Florida events, the Match Play still very close to the Masters and the WGC moving to Memphis after the major season and before the playoffs.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the WGC’s, field killers to so many longtime PGA Tour stops, were to start taking hits because of the schedule?

Adam Scott admitted in his Sony Open press conference that he’s focused on majors and WGC’s will be a casualty. From Dave Shedloski’s GolfDigest.com report:


As for the WGCs, Scott, ranked 41st in the world, might change his mind as the season progresses, but for now he seems set on there being no deviations from the plan.

"I feel like there are good tournaments right around them that are a preferred option," he said. "It is tricky. I thought that was interesting for my schedule change. I wouldn't have thought that was the case, but that is the case at the moment."

Lawsuit Behind Him, Vijay Happy To Get Back To Taking Up Spots In PGA Tour Fields

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The NDA’s are flying so we won’t know how many more forced social media posts we’ll have to endure as the irrelevant Vijay Singh takes up spots in PGA Tour fields, but he at least indicated to GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard what we all know. He settled more than amicably with the tour in his lawsuit over a deer antler spray suspension.

Although a confidentiality agreement prevented Singh from disclosing any terms of the settlement, he did seem pleased to move beyond the distraction of the lawsuit.

“I can get on and do my own stuff and not worry about anything anymore,” he said. “I think both sides are happy, although I might be just a little bit happier.”

Ahhhh…maybe one of the guys can ask him this week on the range how much Vijay’s win took out of the retirement accounts! That’ll liven up the range chatter.

As previously noted, Vijay has only made 11 cuts in his last 28 PGA Tour starts and hasn’t snipped a top 10 finish in that time.

Poll: New Drop Rule Absurd Or Something We'll Forget About In Six Weeks?

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On Monday’s Morning Drive we’ll be talking the new Rule of Golf drop procedure that has golfers letting go of the ball from knee height (8:30 am ET). I think the governing bodies need to revisit this one soon, spoken as someone who has no desire to stretch his hamstrings just to make a drop.

That’s because Bryson DeChambeau, a fit and flexible young lad, looked about as awkward as one can look in the first high-profile drop under the new rules. He called the procedure absurd after his round and most social media watchers agreed. Those with even less-limber hamstrings had to turn away.

Yet in assessing what he heard from players at the Sentry TOC, the USGA’s Thomas Pagel predicted to Golf World’s Dave Shedloski that concern over the awkward look and absurdity of a penalty for dropping at shoulder height (and subsequently playing a shot) will be forgotten in six weeks.

I think you know where I stand, but I’d love to hear what you think…the poll.

About that new knee-height drop...
 
pollcode.com free polls

Field Size Isn't Always To Blame: 33-Deep And Final Group Cannot Break Four Hours At Kapalua

Whenever PGA Tour slow play is discussed, field size is the go-to excuse for tepid pace in a world that has little patience for golf taking even longer.

Yet as Xander Schauffele was posting a magnificent 62 to Gary Woodland’s final round 68 at the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, pace seemed fine even as Rory McIlroy hit a few wayward drives. Yet the final tally of 4:13 time for the final twosome in a 33-player field, with no obvious slowpokes dragging the field down, might have been considered embarrassing at one time. Now over four hours for twosomes constitutes the new normal.

Even with some shuttle rides thrown in, light rough, marshals to look for your ball and amazing athletes who never have to stop for air, the pace at Kapalua wasn’t great. File it away the next time someone says the best players in the world, even making a ton of birdies, are only slow because of bloated field sizes.

Mid-Round Interviews Fail To Take Down Round One Of The Sentry TOC

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The PGA Tour’s request of players to consider on-course, mid-round interviews passed its round one test at the 2019 Sentry TOC, with Patton Kizzire, Dustin Johnson and Marc Leishman all reporting no major side effects from penetrating questioning.

Leishman did, however, hit a poor tee shot at 17 after a chat at 16, but as Ben Everill notes for PGATour.com, the Aussie was not blaming the loss of focus on having a microphone in the vicinity of his lips.

“Nah that was just me, that was just a crap shot,” Leishman joked after his 5-under 68 left him fifth.

“I do (those type of interviews) in Australia every year; I think it's cool as it gives good access for the fans.

“I'm certainly not blaming my bad shot on it as it was walking up to 16 green so it wasn't as though it was right before (that tee shot).

"No one is going to blame an interview if they go birdie, birdie, birdie.”

Oh never rule anything out, Leish!

Bryson "Maximizes His Potential" With The Flagstick In, Just Like He Predicted He Would

Bryson DeChambeau’s naysayers can point to his brief sidesaddle putting method and little else in the imaginative arsenal of ideas he’s brought to the PGA Tour. And right on cue, he backed up his claims of seeing benefits to putting with the flagstick in the hole by doing so at Kapalua where the revised Rules of Golf were in effect.

One of the examples from an opening 69 at the Plantation Course to kick off the 2019 campaign:

After the round, DeChambeau was bullish on the idea even though he had done very little practice with flagstick’s in the cup.

From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek report on the overall impact, with quotes from playing partner Dustin Johnson.

“I feel like I maximized my potential on that,” DeChambeau said. “Especially on 16 today, where it’s kind of blowing downwind, five percent slope, straight downhill, you want that pin in to help. So that’s what I kind of did and utilized it to my advantage. So I felt like for the most part I needed the pin to be in and it went in and it was a very nice help.”

He was playing with Dustin Johnson, who probably spent less time studying the modern rules than DeChambeau spent picking his shirt this morning. Johnson told him before the round he was cool with the whole flagstick thing and to have DeChambeau’s caddie Tim Tucker just handle the flag all day to avoid confusion.

“It’s definitely weird. Well, not weird, it’s just different watching someone putt with the flag in,” Johnson said. “It actually worked out where it wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t slow us down or anything.”

Brandel Chamblee said after the first round display that players will be compelled to research the concept and will find that they make more putts doing this:

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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