R.I.P. Dan Jenkins

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His Ownself has packed up his typewriter, closed out the Ancient Twitterer’s account and moved his brilliance to the Big 18 In The Sky.

The sports world will never be the same without the incomparable Dan Jenkins. His alma mater TCU confirmed the news to the Star-Telegram, just as Jim Tom Pinch of the Fort Worth Light And Shopper would have demanded. He turned 89 last December and last Tweeted February 4th about—who else?—his beloved foil Sergio Garcia.

In the coming weeks I’ll compile the tributes and highlights from Dan’s incredible career that began with typewriters banging out game stories and books, then finished his illustrious life with Tweets and yet more books. As most sportswriters will concur—and Dan would hate the cliche—but he was the gold standard who inspired so many to cover these silly games and sillier athletes. Jenkins artfully combined storytelling, a sense of history and his wicked wit.

Dan was magnificently succinct and seemingly ornery from afar. But it was mostly to keep “lacerating bores” from interrupting his newspaper reading or his country ham on the veranda or, in later years, because it was just too damn loud to hear in the bar. Sure, he played favorites and didn’t apologize for loving stars who’d dine now and then, and he definitely never rooted against a cinematic victory. That’s why we loved him and while I’ll miss walking over and asking him to tell me who “low nightmare” was on the current leaderboard.

When he turned up at the 1995 PGA at Riviera, I stalked him in media dining with a stack of his books to sign. He was having lunch with Dave Marr and Jerry Tarde and a couple of others. They were intrigued to hear I’d written a book on Riviera and told me to sit down, as they had a question they wanted me to settle for them.

“Have the earthquakes over the years changed the greens here?” Marr asked. I looked at Jenkins and got an inquisitive stare back. They were serious. I mumbled something about not being sure, got my books signed and still argued with Dan up to last year over why “Riviera before the flood” was in Hogan’s top 5. Dan just didn’t buy that Hogan had played it before 1938 and he was undoubtedly right, but Hogan knew how certain holes had once been designed. I couldn’t win that match. Dan knew his Hogan.

I have the first letter Dan ever sent me on display in my office and still remember the email from “Term Themes” that almost went to the delete bin. Somehow, Dan corresponded with me even after I asked what a term theme was. He probably tolerated me because I’d written an LA Times piece comparing old golf and new golf that included his name with Wind, Darwin, etc as part of the old great guard.

I mailed the piece—no Times hyperlinks to email 2000—because an editor had inserted someone named Billy Sixty amidst those great golf writers simply because it was an old friend. I almost cried when I saw it in print, as I’d worked so hard to decide who was on the Mount Rushmore of golf writers.

As much as Dan loathed bad editors and celebrated their mediocrity in the masterful You Gotta Play Hurt, he reveled in studying copy butchering by some drone. He genuinely enjoyed reminding me as late as last year that Billy Sixty, while indeed a real human-American, was primarily a bowling writer in his day.

As Dan said in his World Golf Hall of Fame address, “I knew this would happen”. Still, his passing royally sucks. Press rooms and media hotel bars will never be the same without the greatest ink-stained scribbler who ever wanted to be a sportswriter, and then went out and did it better than anyone before or since.

Sports Gambling: Day's Early Bay Hill Exit Highlights Looming Conundrum Over Injury Disclosure

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GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard filed a broader look at gambling in sports and the various issues that may arise for a sport that has always enjoyed a peculiar relationship with wagering.

Increasingly, a sport viewed as gambling friendly is beginning to anticipate issues, including one that arose at Bay Hill when Jason Day WD’d mid-first round. Turns out, he had an MRI last week on his back. As Hoggard notes in another item, this is information that bettors would love to have known. More problematic for the pro golf tours, it’s information that others on the inside might have known and capitalized on. Some players understand but may others, who don’t even want to talk about a swing change, do not like the possibility.

“It’s nobody’s business,” said Kevin Kisner, co-chairman of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council. “I mean, are we out here to gamble, or are we out here to play golf? I don’t really give a s*** about the DFS guys. You should have picked someone else. If he had shot 65 and he had a hurt back, those guys wouldn’t have said anything.”

Kisner’s blunt assessment likely reflects a majority of opinions on Tour. There are plenty of variables players must account for on a weekly basis just to keep their cards, let alone worry about the ones that impact gamblers who may never step foot on the course. But as sports gambling becomes more prevalent, the scrutiny surrounding player injury status will only increase.

As with so many grey areas in golf, injuries or illness certainly do make for an intriguing discussion. We all know you have to be wary of the sick golfer, and nagging things can be problematic.

But in the case of Day, an MRI would suggest something far more serious and will be information bettors will expect to know. Yet if the reaction of players is similar to that of Kisner’s—understandable given the independent contractor status of pro golfers—then Jay Monahan’s job has gotten a lot more difficult in the sports betting era.

Rory McIlroy Defends New Rules Of Golf, Governing Bodies

In between talking Abraham Lincoln and Arnold Palmer, Rory McIlroy took the high road on the beleaguered new rules of golf. And the people who worked over many years to simplify them.

Prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill:

“I think that the governing bodies are a very easy target right now in the game of golf and it’s very easy for people to jump on the bandwagon and sort of criticize,” McIlroy said at a pre-tournament press conference at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Wednesday. “But all these entities in golf, they’re not trying to do anything bad for the game, they’re trying to help the game in some way. So I think we all have to give them a bit of leeway here and say, yes, they probably made some mistakes, but we all do. And I’m sure they will get it right eventually.”

68: But Not Before Phil Being Phil Adds An Epic Chapter

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Phil Mickelson gave new hope to every golfer who has looked down the fairway only to see their ball having barely moved.

This ball from in bounds but behind a boundary fence—don’t try to figure it out— doesn’t get old after repeat viewings.

From an otherwise stellar opening round 68 in the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard.

And then there are those hamstrings…no 48-year-old is this flexible…

Southern Pines' Little Nine: "Fallow Ground & Fertile Memories"

The abandoned “LIttle Nine” is on the right

The abandoned “LIttle Nine” is on the right

Bill Fields takes an in-depth look at one of the more unusual battles over an abandoned golf course—the Little Nine of Southern Pines Golf Club, a still wonderful but defaced Donald Ross gem in greater Pinehurst run by the Elks Lodge. The course has sat dormant since 2004 with Ross ties and facing a possible sale by the Elks in the heart of Southern Pines.

But as Fields notes, a conservancy is trying to prevent redevelopment with an eye on green space or even golf returning some day. Given the quality of the land and the game’s popularity in the area, that shouldn’t be tough, right?

The Little Nine opened in time for the 1924 winter season, 18 years after the first holes were constructed at SPGC (then called Southern Pines Country Club) and a decade after Ross revamped the original 18 into the well-regarded layout that exists today. 

“I’m long on record on Golf Club Atlas saying the main 18 at the Elks occupies the best land in Moore County [for golf], and people parrot that back to me in agreement,” says Ran Morrissett, founder of the website for golf architecture aficionados, and a Southern Pines resident and Elks Club member since 2000. “The detail work, the bones of the Ross routing, the fact that you only see homes on a couple of holes — it’s such a compelling environment.”

The third nine, to accommodate a growing tourist business, was built south and east of the clubhouse. Before the 1920s were over, it had been joined by a fourth nine. In a 1930 promotional pamphlet, Ross noted 36 holes at Southern Pines. In accounts during the 1930s, local newspapers credited Ross’ engineer and draftsman, Walter Irving Johnson, with having drawn up the plans.

The Players Is Getting New Theme Music, For Some Reason

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Next week’s Players Championship marks a return to March and a tradition unlike any other: PGA Tour execs trying lots of new things instead of just letting a great tournament be a great tournament. So, we have a new trophy that appears to be an upgrade, but in a world where it’s hard to establish theme music, the stellar Players theme is out.

That music, a movie score hybrid from the excellent Man From Snowy River, as Jeremy Schilling discovered, did what you hoped: reminded you of The Players, didn’t annoy you and even added to the proceedings.

While the new theme or the reason behind it is not clear—tired of paying Bruce Rowland royalties?—it appears no expense was spared in documenting the recording of this important moment in golf history.

PGA Of America "Officials" Will Be Taking A Helicopter To Bethpage From New York City, And You Can Too For $4300!

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Thanks to reader John for this almost April 1-worthy PGA of America release proving more than ever that the officers and leadership are thinking of solutions for themselves.

The PGA membership?

If you can afford to stay in New York City, they’ve got a great way to commute to Bethpage State Park for this May’s PGA Championship. Maybe there will be post-PGA lessons included with Bethpage’s vast PGA-trained staff as well?

For Immediate Release…

PGA of America and Bell announces helicopter program for the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black

The PGA of America today announced, in collaboration with Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT) company, a new and innovative transportation solution to the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. The partnership between Bell and the 2019 PGA Championship will offer an unparalleled flight program that will transport key stakeholders - including C-Suite executives, corporate hospitality clients and PGA Officials – from multiple sites in Manhattan and surrounding New York Metro corporate centers to/from an on-site landing zone located at Bethpage State Park, just minutes from the PGA Championship.

Oh at the park, how charming! Can’t wait to hear that noise as we try to watch a major championship.

As part of the relationship, Bell will be the Official Helicopter Provider of the 2019 PGA Championship. This 2019 PGA Championship-specific flight program will utilize two types of aircraft, Bell’s class-leading 429 and Bell 407 models, both of which deliver a smooth ride, optimal comfort and unsurpassed visibility.

We want to make sure you can look down on the little people!

Bell will coordinate operations with their longtime customer, Zip Aviation and BLADE, the leading on-demand flight service in/around New York City.

 “The PGA is excited to be working with Bell in New York around the 101st PGA. Via this relationship, we’ll be providing an innovative transportation solution to the PGA Championship while also enhancing our corporate hospitality program,” said PGA of America Director of Championship Sales and Marketing John Handley. “To work with Bell, an industry leader in the aerospace sector, also aligns with our strategy of being a technological leader in the golf industry.”

When we think technology in golf, some might believe that means better helping all PGA of America professionals adapt to things like launch monitors and other tools of the trade, but really we’re about how to best move fat cats to and from our major. Handy though if an officer is battling a DUI!

“Bell is proud to provide aircraft to services like Zip Aviation and BLADE who give customers precious time back when traveling,” said Susan Griffin, executive vice president of Commercial Sales, Bell. “We are excited to offer customers attending the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black a one-of-a-kind experience and raise the bar for air travel in one of the world’s most popular corporate helicopters, the Bell 429.”

While tickets for the PGA are very much still available at $110 plus tax for each round, that looks like a bargain compared to the Zip Aviation-PGA costs.

Roundtrip tickets starting at $4276? But remember, you may get to sit next to a PGA official!

Note the locations as well.

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Monahan: Need To "Make Certain Our Players Give Us Constructive Feedback"

AP’s Doug Ferguson looks at the bad look all round for golf with players and governing bodies squabbling over the rules.

Though as he notes, the USGA’s mistaken Tweet trolling of Justin Thomas at least prompted PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan to finally intervene.

Monahan says USGA chief executive Mike Davis left him a message saying he would call Thomas to apologize. On Tuesday, the USGA corrected itself with another tweet - lacking an apology - saying that Thomas did not cancel any meeting or dodge any discussion and that it valued all the players' opinions.

So maybe the USGA deserves some credit. If not for the original tweet, odds are Monahan would not have sent the memo to players.

The message still needed to be delivered.

"It was important to remind the membership of the role we play, how important their voices are and to continue to make certain our players give us constructive feedback we need to have a proper discussion with the governing bodies," Monahan said Tuesday at Bay Hill.

We discussed the importance of Monahan’s memo on today’s Golf Central…

 


Players Texting With Tiger Say He's Just Being Cautious, Which Is A Nice Way Of Saying He Mostly Just Wants To Be Ready For The Masters

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Steve DiMeglio talked to a few players who have texted with Tiger Woods after his surprise Arnold Palmer Invitational WD.

McIlroy also said Woods was wearing KT Tape on his upper back.

“He’s just being careful,” McIlroy said.

That’s what Woods told two-time major champion Zach Johnson in text messages Tuesday morning.

“I know that guy well enough to know this is something he’s being overly cautious of, and he should be, because of what is on the table and what’s ahead of him,” Johnson said. “Rest will help, with the proper attention to go with that rest.”

As we discussed on Tuesday’s Alternate Shot, I hope and suspect Woods is just taking every precaution to ready maybe for next week’s Players, but most definitely with a goal of being 100% on April 11th and three other Thursday’s in 2019.

 


USGA Backtracks On Justin Thomas Twitter Trolling: "We realize he did not avoid a discussion"

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I can only imagine the email our late great friend Frank Hannigan might have sent reading about the USGA PR account trolling a top 5 player over cancelled meetings about new rules gripes, only to learn that the trolling was completely uncalled for. Screen captured here is the original Tweet before all of this sleeps with Luca Brazi:

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No apology of course, just egg on the face.

Back to our late friend Hannigan who’d be cooking up another Letter From Saugerties suggesting he never imagined it’d get worse than Walter Driver taking a private jet or Tom Meeks losing control of multiple U.S. Opens.

My first reply to the former Executive Director would inevitably have been about the reader replies to the USGA’s Tweet and how many expressed a total loss of faith in the organization. But I’m guessing his reply would have been something to do with the GIF’s about the Twitter walk back, which are pretty magnificent.

Ultimately, however, it’s hard to imagine how the USGA is able to recover from this with top players or insiders following this bickering online.

Certainly, any kind of effective regulation on distance will never happen now and it’s hard to imagine how players ever let up about anything course setup-related, even if the griping is unwarranted.

A sad day all round and arguably the darkest in USGA history, which is saying something given too many to chose from in the last decade.

"Tiger Woods raises old questions with new neck injury"

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Steve DiMeglio sees an unfortunate run-up to Augusta for Tiger Woods after a Tweeted WD from the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Now, instead of dialing in his swing and rhythm, Woods will be receiving treatment and trying to get ready for The Players. Without his tune-up at Bay Hill, Woods has only four events to play before the Masters – The Players, the Valspar Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, and the Valero Texas Open.

Woods has never played the week before the Masters, so Valero is likely out. He also rarely plays three events in succession, so, if he does play The Players, one of the other two would be out.

That’s not the schedule Woods was eying earlier this year in his runup to the Masters. In his mind, there was certain beat he wanted to follow. But a neck strain has sent him off key.

I would say it’s obviously not ideal, but Woods looked physically uncomfortable in Mexico City and in LA, appeared to be someone who is very confident in his ability to turn it on when he needs to. People will hate to hear this, but he’s about four weeks a year at this point in his life and the slightest physical annoyance will sideline him if it’s not one of those four weeks.

Ben Hogan got that way late in his career and no one had a problem with it. Tiger has different responsibilities but ultimately, the thing that draws people to him is his ability to peak at major championships. His time is limited to maximize his chances and he knows it.

Justin Rose: I Watch The Crowd For Amusement When Slow-Pokes Get Over The Ball

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Justin Rose has spoken to the UK Golf World about slow play and his comments are posted at JustinRose.com.

He notes the difference in twosomes vs. threesomes, which we saw a little of at the Honda last weekend (though the “two-balls” were still taking 4:30). But it’s the image he paints of watching the crowd that you can file as example 45,921 of why something should have been done long ago.

I love playing in two-balls, but we don’t really get that experience until we move away from the West Coast on the PGA Tour. It’s amazing the difference that makes. When you play your first two-ball of the year, it feels like you’re running round.

I tend to watch the crowd when certain players get over the ball and see their reaction to how long it takes them to hit a shot. It can be quite funny to see the reactions, looks of disbelief and sometimes chuckles in reaction to a guy taking so long. I try to use it as amusement and a diversion rather than letting it frustrate me.

And remember, this is coming from a player who plays at a nice enough pace, but by no means is a speed demon!

"Golf Channel Scores Most-Watched February"

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But streaming is the answer to all of golf’s prayers!

For Immediate Release:

GOLF CHANNEL SCORES MOST-WATCHED FEBRUARY 

26.3 Million Unique Viewers Tuned into Golf Coverage Across GOLF Channel and NBC in February, Doubling January 

GOLF Channel Returns as No. 1 Single-Sport Network in Total Day 

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 4, 2019) – NBC Sports Group’s golf coverage posted its most-watched February ever, averaging a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 142,000 viewers-per-minute in Total Day (24-hour period). GOLF Channel also returned as the No. 1 single-sport network in February, which became the most-watched month for GOLF since March 2018 (157,000 TAD). 26.3 million unique viewers tuned into golf coverage across NBC Sports in February, driven by PGA TOUR coverage on NBC delivering its most-watched February in 11 Years, according to data released by The Nielsen Company. 

“Following GOLF Channel’s most-watched year in 2018, February’s record viewership shows that the golf season is heating back up on GOLF Channel and NBC,” said Mike McCarley, president, GOLF, NBC Sports. “This momentum will continue as the sport’s new schedule builds with THE PLAYERS’ return to March – the first of six championship events over the next six straight months.”

Additional February highlights include:

  • PGA TOUR coverage on NBC in February posted 3.25 million viewers-per-minute (Waste Management Phoenix Open and the WGC-Mexico Championship).

  • Live coverage of the PGA TOUR in February on GOLF Channel drew 682,000 average viewers per minute.

  • GOLF Digital and PGA TOUR LIVE on NBC Sports Gold in February combined to account for nearly 108 million minutes streamed.

PGA Tour Commish Issues Memo To Reign In The Lunatic Fringe

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I was starting to wonder if PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan enjoyed seeing his players bash the governing bodies over the new rules given his public stance against the R&A and USGA over distance. A position which has added to the disharmony as it suggested to players that the governing bodies are looking to take your hard-earned distance and hard-earned endorsement dollars away.

Maybe he saw Charl Schwartzel unnecessarily berating a PGA Tour official at the Honda or read some of the absurd player comments directed at the new rules.

Maybe he read Eamon Lynch’s Golfweek column on what a bad look it is for the pros to be whining about rules that do not effect 99.9% of the population or rules that were enacted with good intentions to help the pro game. Sure, some things really stink like the drop rule, but as Lynch writes…

The problem is that Tour players seem less interested in providing insight than in shifting blame.

Maybe it was Justin Thomas’s Twitter exchange with the USGA.

Maybe Michael Bamberger’s admonishment of all involved did the trick.

Just ask yourself, before you open your mouth or Twitter account: Are you about to make the game better? Are you putting the game first, or yourself? Fowler failed on Thursday. The USGA failed on Saturday. It was all so inane it makes you want to scream.

Maybe the accountants finally delivered an updated estimate on Foster and Partner’s new PGA Tour HQ building and realized there’s nothing left to administer the rules, much less enforce them?

Maybe Monahan was touched by R&A Ambassador Padraig Harrington’s defense of his friends in the rules world or the comments of Thomas Bjorn, a Ryder Cup winning captain who knows everything after guiding Europe to victory.

Maybe he saw this fight among grown men in flip-flops at a South African course over cheating and realized it looks a little like his players squabbling with the governing bodies?

Or maybe he read the absolute gibberish being churned out by some of his players on Twitter.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, for instance:

I believe Matthew is saying PGA Tour referees are supposed to ignore the rules as written. What could go wrong!

And this exchange involving Patton Kizzire, followed up by some particularly odd logic from Andrew Landry, could have done the trick:

Yes, Patton not getting in the U.S. Open is exactly the reason to throw out the new rules! Brilliant!

Whatever it was, Monahan issued a memo to PGA Tour players reported on by GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard essentially telling the lunatics in the asylum to pipe down.

This should quiet things, assuming the players actually read the memo:

“[The Tour] put forward a lengthy list of recommendations to improve the rules in many ways, including the removal of numerous penalties, and virtually all our suggestions were incorporated,” the memo from Monahan read. “We also had the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed rules prior to implementation, which resulted in modifications for the final version.”

The full document Tweeted by Hoggard:

Trump Calls Aberdeen Links Perhaps The Greatest Course In The World And A Relationship Builder

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President Donald Trump retweeted a Martin Hawtree quote regarding the Trump International Links (that Hawtree designed and Trump developed).

Even after years of protests, legal battles, documentaries, financial losses and a huge shift in his popularity in Scotland since initial plans were announced, the President is still calling it a relationship builder of a project.

What exactly prompted the Sunday morning re-Tweet isn’t entirely clear, but it hasn’t gone over well with ethics experts. But I say, what about poor Trump Turnberry? I’m pretty sure it clobbers the Aberdeen design by Hawtree about 9&8.

JT Addresses The USGA Trolling Him On Twitter: “It is unfortunate. It just was — it really hurt me.”

Justin Thomas after the Honda Classic final round.

Justin Thomas after the Honda Classic final round.

By my math the two sides should be even. Justin Thomas isn’t so sure.

Even though JT has trolled the USGA on Twitter with a "growthegame” hashtag, the organization’s surprise call-out of the former Walker Cupper over his new rules comments appears to have taken him by surprise. And shock. And making a claim that the USGA Tweet was not accurate.

From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek report at the Honda:

“It was a little shocking. It was a little upsetting just because it was inaccurate,” Thomas said Sunday of the USGA’s claims. “I haven’t canceled anything, especially any meetings. But it is what it is, and all I want is the best for the game of golf and the best for the sport, and that’s what we’re going to continue to try to communicate with each other to get that.

“It is unfortunate. It just was — it really hurt me.”

The full video of Thomas’s post round comments.

The USGA’s John Bodenhammer talked to Morning Drive to clarify the organization’s concerns and unlike the Tweet, sounded more concerned about repairing damage and preventing a war of (social media) words.

“It’s very clear there is a certain level of discomfort with some Tour players, certainly not all, and we are working to address that with certain rules,” Bodenhamer said. “We know we have more work to do.

Players were buzzing about the USGA pushback, Randall Mell noted in quoting Jim Furyk:

On Golf Central, both Mark Rolfing and David Duval took issue with the USGA’s tactics though the outcome of more refined dialogue and maybe an end to some of the more excessive new rules commentary.

Average Age Of 2018-19 PGA Tour Winners (So Far): 32.3

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Vijay Singh nearly raised the average age of 2018-19 PGA Tour winners into the mid-30s with a Honda Classic run at age 56. But it was Keith Mitchell who prevailed over Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler to win the 2019 playing.

At 27, Mitchell lowered the 2018-19 average age winner on the PGA Tour to 32.3.

In 2019, the average age of winners through the Honda is 33.6.

So while the average age of PGA Tour players has been going down, winning still seems to be reserved largely for those with a bit more seasoning. It’s something to remember in the rush to push players into professional golf at younger ages or when some question why players under 30 why they didn’t win.

Brooks: "I feel I actually do have a voice and it will be heard.”

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Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge on Brooks Koepka admitting that he’s been holding back. But now, armed with three of the last seven majors, says he won’t be holding back.

“He wasn’t ever really looking for (attention),” caddie Ricky Elliot said. “It’s obviously come his way through his good play last year and he’s a regular guy. He’s going to answer a question honestly. He’s not out to get the attention. It’s coming his way now and he feels like he’s in a position where he has to take the game forward and voice his opinion because that’s what top players are supposed to do.”

Koepka was asked about it earlier this week and basically said we were getting a lot of Brooks Lite in previous media sessions. Now the back-to-back U.S. Open champ feels more comfortable bringing it in full.

“You’re actually probably getting the real me now,” Koepka said. “I think before I was just trying to be politically correct and not stir any bubbles, just kind of go on with things and be unnoticed. To be honest with you, I feel like now where I’ve put myself in the game, I’ve kind of established myself and I feel I actually do have a voice and it will be heard.”

JT, USGA Take Rules Squabbling To DM, Planned Meeting

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I was hoping for a Vietnam summit but it’ll be more like Justin Thomas and Mike Davis having coffee in the Seminole clubhouse before Monday’s pro-member.

Saturday’s back and forth after Thomas took to social media to voice concern about the revamped rules of golf and the most recent penalty, this one a retroactive two-shotter for Adam Schenk.

Ahhhhhhhhh…

Rules Mess: PGA Tour Pros Making The Case For Bifurcation With Each Passing Day

There are two columns from the Honda Classic worth noting as they ultimately have players ripping the revamped Rules of Golf for both selfish reasons and also somewhat logical ones.

Randall Mell took the occasion of Rickie Fowler’s deuce drop to highlight Justin Thomas’ complaints about the change in replacing a broken club, a very first world PGA Tour problem that would not impact most golfers.

“I think they’re terrible,” Justin Thomas said.

That’s what he told media the day before the Honda Classic began. His opinions only hardened in the first round, when he bent the shaft of his 9-iron, hitting a tree with a shot at the 10th hole. The new rules wouldn’t allow him to replace the club, the way the old rules would have.

Unable to repair the club, as new rules allow, he played the final eight holes with 13 clubs.

Thomas said he probably couldn’t have replaced the 9-iron in a timely fashion anyway, with his backup at his Jupiter home down the road, but it’s the principle.

“You can just add that one to the list of rules that don't make any sense,” Thomas said.

Again, a first world one but understandably important to professional golfers who play a different game for a lot of money than the rest of us.

There was also this from Mell:

Player frustrations over the new rules were a topic of conversation in a mandatory players’ meeting at PGA National this week. Tour commissioner Jay Monahan presided. Players fear other controversies may be lying in wait.

While incidents of player ignorance are not the fault of the mostly-excellent and streamlined rule modifications, there is no getting around the optics. By starting the year with major changes in the heart of the season and without significant field testing, the result has been mockery.

From Brian Wacker’s Golf World column of a similar theme to Mell’s:

“Golf is trying to appeal to a younger audience, get people into the game, want it to look cool,” Fowler said. “Well, I was sitting at home first couple weeks of the year and me and some buddies were making fun of the new drop rule. It looks terrible.”

The precious M’s aren’t always right nor should their views supercede all others, but the notion that players are hearing from friends how ridiculous they look will ultimately undermine the rules if not addressed. Which strikes at the ultimate issue here as it’s been for all too long: the governing bodies have always struggled with the notion of someone making a living playing the game. And heaven forbid, people like them more than the amateurs.

Billy Horschel:

“My buddies at home are making fun of these rules,” he said. “People in the greater word of golf are making fun of them. Some of [the changes] are good, some of them are bad.

“But I told the USGA you guys aren't the main influencer in the game of golf like you were 30, 40, 50 years ago. PGA Tour players are now the biggest influencer in the game of golf. What the golfer at home sees on TV, they're going to copy us.”

Which is why, ultimately, these rules needed more field testing and a gradual rollout to help educate all or work out kinks.

But given the difference in tournament golf today versus the everyday game, and the resulting taint which could offend new players to the sport, we are increasingly seeing why splitting the rules makes sense. Anyone for Golf Channel’s relaxed rules for the rest of us while the tournament golf world sorts all of this out?