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…

Post Quad: Could Tiger Have Dropped From The Island Green's Walkway?

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Just two back at the time, Tiger Woods made quadruple bogey at the par-3 17th and likely killed his chances of winning the 2019 Players.

ESPN’s Bob Harig on the first-ever two-water-ball day for Woods at 17 and the impact it made on Woods’ chances.

"Both shots I'm just trying to hit the ball into the slope [on the green] and just walk away with a 20-, 25-footer and move on about my business," Woods said after shooting 71 to finish at 141, 3 under par. "The second one I hit too flat and too hot. But the first one from the regular tee and was a good shot, it just flew a little bit too far."

But as the Live From crew noted last night, the yellow penalty area marking means there was an opportunity to possibly drop on the manicured walkway. The wording of the new rule also gives the player room to drop where a stance might be possible. Brandel Chamblee has since Tweeted suggesting his take was confirmed by a rules official.

Furyk Laughs Off Flagstick Putt Rejection, New Rule Appears Safer Than Ever

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The first big flagstick rejection of a putt has taken place, and as I write for Golfweek, Jim Furyk’s reaction suggests that players won’t be backing down off the dramatic change in how they do their (putting) business.

2:30 ET: Azinger, Faldo And Tirico Reuniting During Players Round 3

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NBC, CBS and Fox will have reps in the Players second round booth as Paul Azinger, Nick Faldo and Mike Tirico get the band back together from their old ABC golf days.

The Forecaddie explains how this happened and what made this trio such an entertaining broadcast team.

The three got together Wednesday night on Vantage Point for a roundtable chat, with Gary Koch joining in.

Phil Quickly Gets In Front Of "Operation Varsity Blues" Story

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He’s not been known of late for cutting stories off at the pass.

But as I noted here for Golfweek/USA Today, Phil Mickelson wisely put himself out front and also talked to writers after his opening 74. The Mickelson’s employed Rick Singer’s firm, which sits at the heart of the college admissions scandal.

Will Gray has a longer report for GolfChannel.com on Mickelson’s post round comments suggesting his children would disown him had he used any nefarious means to help them gain college admittance.

PGA Tour Is Not Going Into The Rulemaking Business Anytime Soon

While we had another bizarre rules moment Thursday at The Players, Harold Varner’s troubles had little to do with the new rules, just a complex and freakish run-in with an old rule related to club adjustability.

But it’s worth noting that even after a bizarre violation we are not seeing the usual outpouring of grief over the change. That’s a direct result of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan reiterating and expanding on a recent memo making clear the PGA Tour has no desire to make golf rules.

My Golfweek story on that, and the key kumbaya quote after a two hour five familes meeting.

“We have two fantastic professional governing bodies of the game,” he said Wednesday. “We have always played by their rules and we will continue to play by their rules. And we are not going to be playing by our own rules. We think that the game is best served with everybody playing by the same rules and the same standards. We think it’s a source of inspiration for the game.”

Tiger On Technology, Training, Distance

Before we go deep on the 2019 Players, I just wanted to highlight these comments from Tiger Woods earlier this week.

Nice to see him explaining for those not necessarily able to understand how much the weight of clubs and size of clubheads changes how people swing. Not that we would go back to heavier clubs, but the driver head size?

Q. And everyone was sort of talking about the longevity you can get that now that modern technology, training, etcetera. But do you have concerns for guys like Jason Day and others that have had injuries sort of popping up a bit more because of this force you talked of?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I would think that the younger kids now that are involved in the game that are coming into the game are -- put it this way, that are coming on to the TOUR now, by far hit it harder than what we did when we came on TOUR. And that's due to technology and that's also due to the training and also due to the fact that I -- in my opinion, the drivers have gotten so much bigger and you have so much more surface area to miss it and hit the ball well. When I beat Davis in that playoff in '96, he had a persimmon driver. You laugh, but that was -- they were still around. So you had to hit the ball absolutely dead flush, and the guys didn't really hit it that hard. But now you can.

These kids have been training. They're stronger, they're more physical. You look what the college programs are doing, how many times they're lifting, five, six times a week. They're so much stronger now and they're able to handle the force, but also they're generating a lot of force, so there's going to be a give and take.

It will be interesting to see. These kids are hitting it so much further now and it's cool to see. We thought that Dustin was long and Bubba was long, and then we have Cameron Champ out here. It just keeps propping up. I thought I was pretty long, and then John Daly would hit it by me.

Q. So I guess we'll know when they're 40, right, how that works over time?

TIGER WOODS: It's going to -- we're going to see how it goes over the next 15, 20 years, see how the sport evolves. When you're swinging clubs that are 15 ounces and things, what we used to, to where now it's like as light as a feather. I remember, I mean, geez, my driver shaft was 121, 122 grams. Now they're 60 and 50, 60, 70 grams. So, yeah, they're lighter, and hence you're hitting it further.

But these kids are swinging so much harder, but they're so much stronger, and we'll see how that evolves. There's no reason why you can't play longer with the way the training is. You also have to be lucky, too, not to have injuries. Some bodies just get more dinged up than others.