Hovland Sets New Mark: 19 Straight PGA Tour Rounds Under 70

Screen Shot 2019-10-17 at 10.29.27 PM.png

This Golfweek item was posted after the PGA Tour rookie posted a 69 to set the mark of 18 under-70 rounds in a row.

Viktor Hovland followed with a second round 69 in the CJ Cup to make it 19.

More astounding may be the sight of only one round over 71, as seen in this Tweet (again, before round two’s 69):


"Caracas Country Club: Where the 0.01% Await Socialism’s Collapse"

Screen Shot 2019-10-17 at 10.19.12 PM.png

Bloomberg’s Ethan Bronner takes us inside Venezuela’s Caracas Country Club, where the dress code standards have been slipping. But given what’s going on outside the club gates, it’s a minor issue for the historic club situated amidst a crumbling country.

It may seem remarkable, if not obscene, that a citadel like this exists, and thrives, in the middle of one of the world’s most violent and distressed cities, the capital of a country whose economy has collapsed and where malnutrition and disease rates are soaring. Millions have emigrated to escape the grind of finding enough to eat, of living without reliable electricity or tap water. And here, inside a gracious hacienda where chandeliers twinkle overhead, there is renewed focus on sartorial protocol.

Bronner’s piece goes on to consider the many striking and bizarre issues facing the country club set in a place of turmoil.

Brandel: Koepka Was "Disrespectful" Toward McIlroy

I was hoping for something less level-headed, but Brooks Koepka’s good buddy Brandel Chamblee makes a solid case in refuting the World No. 1’s recent remarks. Saying he’s added “fuel to a rivalry that definitely exists,” Chamblee convinced me that Koepka’s “he hasn’t won a major in five years” jab was, in fact, disrespectful when viewed through the context of golf greats.

The 2020 PGA Tour Off-Season Will Last All Of Seven Days...

Screen Shot 2019-10-17 at 5.06.49 PM.png

For those who grew restless during the expansive two-week off-season following the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, The Forecaddie has great news: this week’s Korn Ferry Tour schedule release has that tour’s playoffs going head-to-head with the PGA Tour Playoffs so that the two tours finish on the same weekend.

That’s to give the players a much needed one-week vacation before the 2020-21 season starts September 7th. Which is also the first week of the NFL season, traditionally.

So much for getting away from the start of football season.

Something Went Terribly Wrong With The Ryder Cup Ticket Sale, The PGA Of America Has No Explanation And Fans Have Turned Into Non-Fans

Screen Shot 2019-10-17 at 10.20.31 AM.png

Twitter gripes can be found any time tickets go on sale for an in-demand event. And while I have no scientific way of gauging the outrage over Wednesday’s “lottery” to purchase Ryder Cup tickets, it would appear unprecedented.

Worse for the enormous uptick in complaints and volume of scorned patrons has kicked off the 202 Ryder Cup countdown in nightmarish fashion.

But I bring some good news. More on that momentarily.

The primary issues involve the lack of a lottery sensibility detected by fans and a landslide of unsuccessful outcomes due to a combination of technical problems. The situation appears to have been worsened by immediate offers to the unsuccessful buyers for purchase of wildly marked-up prices on the PGA of America’s exchange partner, PrimeSport, with Sunday prices already starting at at $427.50 per ticket.  

The PGA of America, 2020 Ryder Cup hosts, had no further comment beyond a Tweet citing unprecedented demand. 

If you have the time, read the replies to that Tweet. The sheer volume and intensity of the complaints is pretty staggering given how many ticket buyers should have walked away with something for the highly anticipated event.

Despite the onslaught of unhappy replies covering the gamut of frustration to accusations of price fixing, the mood worsened when a second Tweet—receiving just as many angry replies—suggested to those unable to buy tickets from the PGA of America’s secondary market provider and purveyor of travel packages, PrimeSport.  A similarly disastrous post with equally vitriolic replies appeared on Instagram.

The notice to buy marked-up tickets greeted some waiting as long as three hours for the chance to buy Ryder Cup tickets. That’s a bit like being turned away from the nightclub and then being asked to pay for the privilege of sweeping the red carpet.

When combined with extensive reports of processing issues and “high volume” customer support messages, the reactions were extensive and ugly. The words “scam” and “fraud” and “class-action lawsuit” were widely bandied about, with fans questioning the year-long collection of email addresses only to sense there was little organization behind the lottery process.

I asked on Twitter about positive experiences and while some replied in the affirmative, the majority continued to reply about a terrible process, even when they did get through.

The entire affair is, if nothing else, a huge wake-up call for the PGA of America heading into the highly-anticipated affair. Demand to attend the matches appears unprecedented. This should have come as a surprise to no one given the passionate Wisconsin and worldwide Ryder Cup fan base.

Still, the inconsistency in wait times, experiences and overall satisfaction suggests the web technology was woefully unprepared for Wednesday’s sale. Even buyers who got through reported long waits, glitches and expressed gratitude after multiple click attempts helped finalized their purchase.

What this means for the on-site experience remains to be seen, but recent Ryder Cups have seen huge crowds despite only a few groups on the course at a time (Saturday and Sunday). Hazeltine National, host in 2016, worked well enough despite what appeared to be way more fans than the even could handle. But finding places to walk and sit at Hazeltine’s farmland-turned-golf course is a much different affair than Whistling Strait’s farmland-turned-rugged Pete Dye design.

I asked the PGA’s spokesperson for a ballpark on the number of daily tickets being sold was, but the PGA would not disclose. Needless to say, we also will never know how many tickets were guaranteed to the third party exchange beyond the pre-allotted travel packages.

So that good news I mentioned?

This year’s PGA Championship, aggressively priced and featuring huge ticket quantities scooped up by third party-exchanges, were sold at rock-bottom prices. While it’s hard to imagine $6 Ryder Cup tickets next September, do not be surprised to see another fire sale. Or maybe Captain Steve Stricker’s request will be realized, though given the difficulty of navigating Whistling Straits, be careful what you wish for:

What's More Bizarre, 58 Penalty Strokes Or Taking 23 Holes Before Anyone Noticed?

The Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick and all of its hideous catch basins produced no shortage of strange sights and stories. But none more bizarre than Lee Ann Walker’s 58 penalty strokes after 23 holes of her caddie lining her up. Walker’s playing partners realized she was violating the rules and explained so to the part-time golfer.

From Beth Ann Nichols’ Golfweek story:

Walker shot 127-90 in her Senior LPGA Championship debut at French Lick Resort.

“This may be my claim to fame,” said Walker, a 47-year-old who works in real estate in Southport, North Carolina. “Not exactly how I was looking to do it.”

Walker’s playing partners, Laura Baugh and Laura Shanahan-Rowe, brought the infraction to Walker’s attention on the 14th hole (her fifth) of the second round. Walker immediately called over a rules official to explain the situation.

Earlier this year, the USGA and R&A implemented a change that prohibited caddies from lining up a player on the putting surface under Rule 10.2b.

Walker went on to explain that this was her first competitive effort since 2011 and 2012. Ok. But playing partners? Caddies?

While I get that it’s touching she still signed for her 127-90 opening rounds, it’s pretty strange this many people were so blissfully ignorant of the rules.

Koepka Sees No McIlroy Rivalry Based On Major Performance; Credits CJ Cup With His Life-Altering Wyndham Rewards Win

Screen Shot 2019-10-16 at 8.39.31 PM.png

Daniel Hicks of AFP appeared to have an exclusive with world number one Brooks Koepka on Wednesday, who took assessed a rivalry with Rory McIlroy in comments that went viral.

"I've been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn't won a major since I've been on the PGA Tour. So I just don't view it as a rivalry," Koepka told AFP ahead of his defence of the CJ Cup in Jeju, South Korea which begins on Thursday.

While Koepka’s tone tends to make people believe this is a swipe or right hook to the jaw, it seems more like his matter-of-fact approach than anything else. And he’s not wrong about McIlroy’s recent major record.

Less matter of fact was this painful effort to appease sponsors and sensors in PVB. From the interview transcript at the CJ Cup:

NICK PARKER: And honestly, this last year, getting the win started here helped you win the Wyndham Rewards and then also you had two eagles for the Aon Risk-Reward Challenge for another (inaudible.) How big is that, getting the season started right with both those and helped you along the way?

BROOKS KOEPKA: You've got to get off to a good start. To get off to a good start here is big. If you look at the Wyndham, the Aon, the FedEx, none of that happens without winning here, so you've got to play good every week. That's the beauty of the PGA TOUR. Every round does mean something whether you believe that or not. Even if you're back in 30th, 40th place, there's always something to play for and that's why I think Aon and Wyndham have done an incredible job of making every round, every shot mean something. That's important and that's what as pros you should be doing anyways. But it makes it fun for us coming down the stretch never really knowing what's going to go on, we've always got something else to play for.

Koepka, as you may recall, passed on the Wyndham Championship, as did most other top players, winning the Wyndham Rewards without actually playing the final event.

Mickelson Concedes His Epic Cup Appearance Streak Is Coming To An End

Screen Shot 2019-10-16 at 8.58.29 AM.png

Of the many incredible “streaks” in golf history, few speak to a level of consistency over nearly 25 years than Phil Mickelson’s Cup run. Since 1994 he has played on every Presidents and Ryder Cup team.

Sean Martin reporting on Mickelson’s pre-CJ Cup press conference concession that a 2019 Presidents Cup Captain’s pick is unlikely and undeserved.

“There are much better options of players that have played consistently at a high level that deserve to be on the team,” Mickelson told reporters at the CJ Cup. “Even if I were to win, I have not done enough to warrant a pick.

In that time, Mickelson has won 21.5 Ryder Cup points and 32.5 Presidents Cup points.

He holds the record for most matches played in the Ryder Cup, most appearances and is just two points shy of Billy Casper’s all time American mark.

Guardian: LPGA, LET Takeover Talks On Again

Ewan Murray reporting for The Guardian says an LPGA Tour takeover of the Ladies European Tour may be in the works again. After meetings at the Solheim Cup.

The LPGA Tour had launched what is essentially a takeover bid more than a year ago, only to be rebuffed by the LET’s now outgoing chief executive, Mark Lichtenhein. Explaining that failed move to the Guardian in 2018, the LPGA’s commissioner, Mike Whan, said: “I think the idea of us running it, it becoming an LPGA Tour and their top players having a direct pass to the LPGA … they didn’t really love either of those things. I don’t necessarily understand those concerns but I respect them.”

Lichtenhein’s departure was announced in the immediate aftermath of Europe’s enthralling Solheim Cup victory at Gleneagles. Every member of that European team was an LPGA Tour member, a first in Solheim Cup history.

Why, Oh Why Files? Senior LPGA At Pete Dye's French Lick Mountaintop Mess

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 8.39.34 PM.png

Earlier this week Ron Sirak wrote for LPGA.com how the second of two senior women’s majors was vital to growing the game.

Any golfer who tuned in to the first two rounds of the Senior LPGA, they would have been treated to the silliness that is legends and other former LPGA greats trying to navigate a mountaintop mess in rural Indiana. On top of French Lick Resort’s “intense” Dye course, the overall look would make no one want to play this distance-fueled iteration of the game: a dearth of spectators, players taking carts kept on the paths, caddies sending them off with a couple of clubs (because who needs broken ankle?), and no shortage of ridiculous sidehill stances leading to drop-kick hybrids. There was even defending champion Laura Davies taking a tumble in round two (she’s ok, video below).

Here’s the worst part: the resort features a charming, lovingly restored Donald Ross course that would seem more fitting than the 8,102 yard (80.0 Course rating/148 Slope) Dye course that was built in hopes of attracting a modern-game major.

Why aren’t these LPGA greats playing the walkable Ross?

Why would anyone think any tournament should be played on a mountaintop where players are constantly at risk of broken pride or a broken ankle? (Especially two years in a row.)

Scale is everything in golf. We revere a walkable course that gets the most out of its acreage. We want to play those places and spectate on them. Tournament golf should not be an undertaking in survival. Mountain goats, we are not.

But hey, on that note, Juli Inkster leads after a second round 69 and Golf Channel has final round coverage starting at 3 pm ET.

Tiger Woods Joins The Tiger Woods Book Race, But When?

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 7.37.50 PM.png

With the announcement of a new autobiography on the heels of his 1997 Masters retrospective, Tiger Woods is pounding the keys in an apparent effort to close in on two other upcoming books. But without a publication date mentioned, it’s not clear when Back will be on shelves.

What is clear: Tiger seems determined to counteract what he sees as a lot of misinformation either existing or forthcoming. From the press release:

Woods said, “I’ve been in the spotlight for a long time, and because of that, there have been books and articles and TV shows about me, most filled with errors, speculative and wrong. This book is my definitive story. It’s in my words and expresses my thoughts. It describes how I feel and what’s happened in my life. I’ve been working at it steadily, and I’m looking forward to continuing the process and creating a book that people will want to read.”

Besides the recent Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict biography, a pair of books appear to be in the can, or appearing soon.

Noted author Curt Sampson’s Roaring Back is set for an October 29, 2019 release from Diversion Books.

The write-up sounds like a warts-and-all work similar to past Sampson books, so we won’t hold this write up from the publisher against him:

Sampson also places Woods’s defeats and triumphs in the context of historic comebacks by other notable golfers like Ben Hogan, Skip Alexander, Aaron Silton, and Charlie Beljan, finding the forty-three-year-old alone on the green for his trajectory of victory against all odds. As this enthralling book reveals, Tiger never doubted the perseverance of the winner in the mirror.

Skip Alexander? Aaron Silton? Charlie Beljan? I know I have a bad memory, but boy do I have some research to do on those historic comebacks.

Then there is Michael Bamberger’s book, slated for a late March, 2020 release date. From the publisher’s teaser:

Michael Bamberger has covered Tiger Woods since the golfer was a teenager and an amateur, and in The Second Life of Tiger Woods he draws upon his deep network of sources inside locker rooms, caddie yards, clubhouses, fitness trailers, and back offices to tell the true and inspiring story of the legend’s return. Packed with new information and graced by insight, Bamberger reveals how this iconic athlete clawed his way back to the top. The Second Life of Tiger Woods is the saga of an exceptional man, but it’s also a celebration of second chances. Being rich and famous had nothing to do with Woods’s return. Instead, readers will see the application of his intelligence, pride, dedication—and his enormous capacity for work—to the problems at hand. Bamberger’s bracingly honest book is about what Tiger Woods did, and about what any of us can do, when we face our demons head-on.

Heavy! I mean, it’s no Charlie Beljan comeback story, but what is.

Ultimately, it’s fantastic that Woods is working on a book and likely to share his story and views as he did with the 1997 book. It is curious that he has chosen to follow up his ‘97 Masters book already and, in theory, with a lot of great days ahead of him. But we’ll take what we can get.

Curse Of The Ryder Cup? Former Hosts Practically Left By The Wayside

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 8.08.37 PM.png

As the European Tour returns this week to Le Golf National a bit more than a year after the 2018 Ryder Cup, Iain Carter considers what has happened to past hosts of the European Tour’s breadmaker.

To put it bluntly: host a Ryder Cup, and they move on. Which normally should not mean much, except that the European Tour packages the event with normal tour stops.

Not that many fans or players are longing for more golf tournaments at most of the venues, which bought their way onto the international stage. But it’s still remarkable to see how quickly so many of the once-vaunted locales either no longer host events, or become lesser stops. In the case of this week’s French Open, once a Rolex Series event, the field’s headliners are Martin Kaymer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Donaldson.

But about those past venues, Carter writes:

The Belfry hosted the Ryder Cup on four occasions between 1985 and 2002 and whatever you think of the course, which does have its critics, the layout in the English midlands became a big part of the fabric of European golfing history.

But the Brabazon Course has not staged a Tour event since the 2008 British Masters. Celtic Manor in south Wales disappeared from the schedule in 2014, four years after its Ryder Cup.

The K Club, which hosted the 2006 match in County Kildare, was the continuous home of the European Open between 1995 and 2007. It then disappeared from the calendar other than in 2016 when it held the Irish Open.

Gleneagles staged the 2018 European Team Championships and this year's Solheim Cup but its deal to hold tour events expired the year before putting on the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Only Valderrama (1997 Ryder Cup) in southern Spain has remained a regular stop for the continent's leading players in the wake of holding one of the biennial jousts between Europe and the US.

A similar fate likely awaits Rome’s 2022 Ryder Cup venue, currently undergoing a renovation despite rumblings that a host role was in jeopardy.

Meanwhile at least the Old Course is hosting the 2023 Walker Cup!

Scandinavian: European Tour Unveils First Real "Mixed" Tournament With Henrik, Annika Hosting

A grand day for European Tour Chief Keith Pelley and friends bypassing the push to have a joint men’s and women’s event, or a mixed couples tourney. Instead, men and women will be in the same field, playing for the same purse. With ranking points and various “race” points on the line, the event has a legitimacy that others have lacked.

First, the press release:

The European Tour and Ladies European Tour today jointly announce Major Champions Henrik Stenson and Annika Sörenstam will host an innovative mixed event in Sweden next year with men and women going head-to-head for the first time on the same course competing for one prize fund and one trophy.

As part of the European Tour’s commitment to inclusivity in golf, the inaugural Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik & Annika will feature 78 men and 78 women at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club in Stockholm from June 11-14, 2020 and will be co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Ladies European Tour.

Hosted by Sweden’s most successful male and female golfers for the next three years and with a prize fund of €1,500,000 for the entire field, the tournament will offer Official World Ranking points for both Tours, plus Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points for European Tour members, and Order of Merit points for the Ladies European Tour.

Wow. Well done. Since those silly matters traditionally hold things up even though fans could care less.

The event will enter a new era next year with Ryder Cup star Stenson confirmed to play the next three years and ten-time Major winner Sörenstam, who retired from competitive golf in 2008, to play in the tournament pro-ams. Swedish golf fans will be able to watch a host of the world’s top male and female golfers in Stockholm next year before the tournament rotates venues in 2021 and 2022.

“I’m extremely excited to host the Scandinavian Mixed alongside Annika, one of the best golfers the world has seen, and to have men and women competing alongside one another showcases what is great about our game,” said Stenson, an 11-time European Tour winner.

“The European Tour has been leading the way in terms of innovative formats and I believe this is certainly one that can be part of the way golf is played in the future. Making our game accessible to everyone is something I am extremely passionate about having worked with Fanny Sunesson for a number of years hosting the Stenson Sunesson Junior Challenge, as well as promoting Paragolf in Sweden through the Henrik Stenson Foundation, so I am delighted to have this new event for both male and female professional golfers in Sweden.”

Sörenstam added: “I’m delighted to host the Scandinavian Mixed alongside Henrik in Sweden for the next three years. Bringing women and men together in a combined tournament is exciting for fans in Sweden and for the global game as we continue to showcase golf is a game for everyone.

“Since retiring from competitive golf in 2008, I have dedicated a lot of my time to the ANNIKA Foundation, which hosts seven global events for junior girls each year including the ANNIKA Invitational Europe.  This mixed tournament is another way to bring our game to the younger generation in Sweden and for those watching around the world.” 

Keith Pelley, Chief Executive Officer of the European Tour, said: “Inclusivity and innovation are two of our key pillars and we are delighted to have global stars in Henrik and Annika leading the way as hosts of the Scandinavian Mixed in their home country of Sweden as we continue to drive golf further.

Nice “drive golf further” brand refresh incorporation from the Chief Executive. That’s some serious living under par.

“We have been in close collaboration with the women’s game in recent years, not only on the European Tour, but also across the European Challenge Tour and Staysure Tour with events held in Northern Ireland and Jordan. This tournament is the next step for male and female golfers to compete together on one course, for one prize fund, and one trophy.”

Alexandra Armas, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Ladies European Tour, added: “This is a pivotal moment for European golf. This new tournament in Sweden will be an innovative and inclusive new offering which will elevate our sport to the next level and advance gender balance, ultimately showing that golf is a game for all. Sweden has always produced a wealth of world class golfers and we look forward to having a strong field featuring the best Swedish women including major winners and those whom featured in Europe’s sensational Solheim Cup victory last month.”

Björn Örås, Founder of Bro Hof Slott Golf Club, said: “We are thrilled Bro Hof Slott Golf Club will host the inaugural Scandinavian Mixed tournament in 2020. Henrik and Annika have done so much over the years promoting golf in Sweden, and they will yet again use our game to bring men and women together on the world stage. We are excited to see some of the stars of the European Tour and Ladies European Tour tee it up at Bro Hof Slott next year.”

One of the major successes on the European Tour has been the continuation of women professionals in the format for GolfSixes and the concept of men and women competing together remains prominent with the announcement of the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik & Annika, inspired by the vision in Swedish golf and emphasis on equal opportunities.

In addition to GolfSixes Cascais, men and women professionals will play together at the Trophée Hassan II tournament in Morocco in June, as well as at the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia in February.

And while those are nice events, the idea of everyone playing for the same purse and trophy should prove intriguing.

Alistair Tait at Golfweek says this is a long overdue innovation from the innovative team in Europe looking to interest new fans:

About time, too, say I and many more like me who want to see the increasingly moribund professional game shaken up. The game’s authorities need to do everything they can to attract new players, especially younger players. England alone lost approximately 300,000 club members in a 10-year period between 2007-2017. While the proportion of women and juniors has not really moved in all the years I’ve been reporting on golf.

Hopefully this helps the PGA Tour execs long looking for ways to restore some form of mixed events, though it’s hard to picture their constituents accepting an event like this. A better shot is still with a joint Tournament of Champions or mixed team event. Or, should the Presidents Cup be another slaughter this year, perhaps incorporation of women into that to breathe life into a team match that can’t likely survive another lopsided affair.

Follow The Money: Investors Flock To Golf...In Modernized Range And Putt-Putt Settings

Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 7.38.34 PM.png

Every time you hear someone wax on about how the game does not have a slow play problem, just look where the money is going.

Every time someone bellows on about how an expanding golf course footprint has not been damaging the sport, point them to Topgolf’s growth.

And every time someone mocks the two greatest ever to play the game saying distance is getting out of hand, look where Tiger Woods is investing his efforts.

The surprise “Popstroke” news last week revealed Woods’ support of a modernized miniature golf concept, serving as another reminder that elements of our sport remainl attractive to potential customers and investors. The communal and easy-to-understand components to golf (hit a driver, wack a putt) seem attractive enough that capital continues to go toward settings offering food, live sports-viewing and a putt-putt concept with Woods’ backing.

Why is something similar not happening with golf courses?

It’s tough to name a major name in golf wanting to get in the golf course operations business because there haven’t been any in recent times.

Why isn’t anyone pondering how to finally convince municipalities to pump some much needed money into upgrading the amazing green spaces in their cities?

The narrative with existing golf courses tends to be about a fight-for-survival, as big money and increasingly larger audiences turn to things like Topgolf and Popstroke. The sport sits back and hopes those concepts will be gateways to becoming serious golfers. Dream on as long as the normal golf experience seems like something stuck in a time warp: five hours with so-so service and little respect for our time.

Golf has an issue when these two entities promise something a regular golf experience can’t overcome: reduced time, effort and cost required while still delivering a communal, fun experience. Because of their physical scale, these concepts have the advantage of installing modern elements like television screens for sports viewing and food operations that bring in some just for a good meal. The golf component is not excessively taxing or time consuming. The maintenance budget is a fraction of what it costs to keep a golf course going.

So follow the money. It’s going to concepts that take less time and require less space, in modernized environments that welcome a big audience. When it’s Tiger Woods signing on, maybe the decision-makers who keep deferring on the distance issue will take notice that he’s bullish on a future version of the sport requiring less time and way fewer resources.

Should The Masters Reconsider Invitations To Nearly All PGA Tour Event Winners?

As a longtime proponent of the Masters bequeathing invitation status on most PGA Tour events—excluding opposite field weeks—the brief and controversial change in this policy during Hootie Johnson’s tenure seems a thing of the distant past.

When Chairman Billy Payne restored this grand perk of a PGA Tour victory, the logic was solid and the support unanimous. But with the new schedule dynamics and several fall European Tour events crushing the PGA Tour stops in field quality, the Masters should reconsider the automatic and coveted invitation.

The most obvious reason: golf is an international game and the founders of the Masters made special efforts to include foreign-born players. But the more glaring purpose: huge disparities in field strength.

In recent weeks, the BMW PGA Championship, Alfred Dunhill Links and Italian Open all enjoyed decisively superior fields to competing PGA Tour stops:

BMW PGA (416) vs. Sanderson Farms (106)
Alfred Dunhill Links (323) vs. Safeway Open (289)
Italian Open (248) vs. Houston Open (73)

Last week’s Houston Open featured no top 30 players, two from the world top 50 and was the weakest non-opposite week field in nearly five years. The winner, Lanto Griffin, will receive a Masters invitation while the winner of this week’s much stronger Italian Open will likely have to get in off of his world ranking status (Bernd Wieberger also won the Scottish Open

The obvious solution: set a strength of field mark to determine invitations to the Masters. Here’s guessing, however, that the Augusta National Golf Club likely has no desire to get involved in field strength, world ranking and other political dynamics from such a move.

An easier solution? Invite winners of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events. In a worst case scenario, that might expand the Masters field by eight. This is highly unlikely given rankings points and field quality. This year’s Rolex Series winners are all in the 2020 Masters or very likely to be due to their world top 50 status.

While the Official World Golf Ranking is not perfect and top 50 status is given too much power, the system is good enough to determine major fields. And this fall the numbers have not lied: not every PGA Tour event is worthy of helping give out a Masters invitation.

Na Opens Up On His Marital Saga, Post-Vegas Win Emotions

Kevin Na’s emotional comments in Korean following his playoff win last week had more meaning that realized, writes Alan Shipnuck.

In an exclusive interview, Na explains why the win conjured up especially strong feeling: a broken engagement to a native Korean woman. It’s a terrific read, that further highlights the intrigue in a late-Na charge to make the Presidents Cup team, so here’s the teaser:

At the heart of Na’s emotional public statement in Vegas is the lingering fallout from the broken engagement with a native Korean woman whose last name is Chung; her identity is a secret in the Korean press and Na declined to provide her first name, saying, “It’s part of what’s unfair about this situation — I’m a public figure and get no privacy while she gets to hide her identity. But I don’t want to reveal it because that would feel like a low blow.” They met in the spring of 2013 through a matchmaker and were engaged before year’s end. They were to be married in November 2014 but the relationship ended a month before the wedding.

In Korean culture, calling off a wedding is a big deal. In October 2014, Na was in Seoul to compete in the Korean Open. The families agreed to meet. It was supposed to be just the formerly-betrothed and their parents but the Chung family brought along a man described as an uncle who turned out to be their attorney, Sukhwa Lee. In Na’s mind the gathering was a respectful way to formally end the engagement and gain closure, but in his telling the Chung family was still trying to salvage the union by any means necessary. Says Na, “Her dad told me, If you don’t change your mind and marry my daughter I’m coming after you.”

Shipnuck discussed the story on Morning Drive:


Popstroke: Tiger Announces Partnership With The Topgolf Of Putt-Putt

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 10.10.29 AM.png

Today’s announcement was the first time I’ve ever heard of Popstroke, which already has one Port St. Lucie, Florida location. But by all appearances the concept is pretty simple: a modernized version of putt-putt courses, apparently minus the bad sound systems, windmills and pirate themes.

Essentially, a Topgolf vibe, only with a fun putting course, better food and TV’s to watch sports. Pricing seems reasonable, assuming the technology works and it’s fun.

Given how much Topgolf is thriving, the concept seems pretty smart. Tiger’s backing can’t hurt.

Adam Schupak with some of the details for Golfweek, including the basic structure of the venture and this related to the experience:

The PopStroke experience is enhanced with a technology platform consisting of the soon-to-be released electronic scorekeeping golf ball, the “iPutt” ball. The ball transmits scores electronically to the custom PopStroke app, which can be downloaded in the Apple and Android App stores. Players will be able to compete against each other in a tournament environment while earning “Pop Bucks” through the PopStroke loyalty rewards app program.

Pricing seems reasonable, assuming the technology works and it’s fun.

Schupak also notes that the company board’s initial makeup includes PopStroke founder Greg Bartoli and Pete Bevacqua, former CEO of the PGA of America and president of NBC Sports.

Compared to Topgolf, the footprint needed for one of these appears quite small. From Google Earth:

Memorial Park Redo Earns Raves, But Will It Draw A Decent Field?

It’s been swell to read all of the positive reviews this week of Tom Doak and Brooks Koepka’s renovation of Memorial Park, host to next year’s Houston Open.

But as Brentley Romine writes, a fall date on the PGA Tour is not an easy sell to players. Will the rejuvenation of a muni make a difference next year?

In a world where many pro events are contested on private or expensive courses, the addition of Memorial Park to the Tour equation in Houston is a breath of fresh air.

“One week out of the year the PGA Tour is going to play an amazing golf course that was actually built for them, built with them in mind, but with the different teeing areas, for the other 51 weeks out of the year, the citizens of Houston are going to be able to play a world-class golf course for a reasonable amount of money,” Harmon said.

“… The city is going to love it. Everybody’s going to want to play there.”

But will the Tour’s stars? This year’s Houston Open field marks the weakest non-opposite-field event in nearly five years, according to the Official World Golf Ranking, which rates the strength of field a 73.

Either way, the story of a public course rejuvenation is always more important to golf than the coming and goings of PGA Tour players who, uh, come and go like ships in the night. So either way, 2020 at Memorial Park should be special.

Butch Harmon posted some nice images of next year’s venue on Instagram:

Stenson Finally Retires His Trusty, Famous And Terribly Outdated Diablo Three-Wood

Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 8.02.10 PM.png

There aren’t many clubs of decade-old vintages in professional bags, especially with the history of Henrik Stenson’s Callaway Diablo Octane Tour 3-wood. The club was vital to a silver medal, a FedExCup win, a Race to Dubai victory and most famous of all, Stenson’s stunning Open win over Phil Mickelson.

PGATour.com’s Andrew Tursky with the story of how many Diablo’s Stenson went through before a caved face has him ready to move to 2019 technology.

“It’s always sad when one of the trusties has to retire,” Stenson told PGATOUR.COM on Tuesday at the Country Club of Houston.

Stenson’s Callaway Diablo Octane Tour 3-wood, initially released to the public in 2011, was famously equipped with a Grafalloy Blue shaft that came out in 2003  -- and  Stenson hit rockets with it.

Having dropped to 207th in the world at the end of 2011 after a difficult year, Stenson regained the kind of form he previously showed in winning the 2009 PLAYERS Championship. By the end of 2013, he was world No. 3.

In 2016, he was forced to change into a backup version of the club due to wear and tear. He then had to give up that backup in 2017 for the same reason but stuck with the same model.