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

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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):

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

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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.

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.

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:

New Look Houston Open Off To Rough Start: No Top 30 Players, No Defending Champion

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Ian Poulter’s signature 2018 Houston Open victory wasn’t enough to draw him away from the European Tour, nor is the move to fall’s more appealing weather attracting any top players to the new-look Houston Open.

Will Gray on Poulter’s decision:

But Poulter's allegiance to Europe also plays a role in his decision. The Italian Open is a lucrative Rolex Series event, bringing with it an increased purse ($7 million versus the $7.5 million up for grabs in Houston) and offering qualification points toward making the 2020 Ryder Cup team. This event was also the site of Poulter's first career Euro Tour win back in 2000, and he also won it in 2002 - the last time that Olgiata Golf Club, this year's venue, hosted the event.

As for the field, headliners put into Featured Groups includes no World Top 30 players, yet its winner earns 500 FedExCup points and a likely invitation to the Masters. (OWGR strength of field numbers have not been posted).

Check this out:

A “weak” 24 level event puts the Houston event in the John Deere Classic, Sanderson Farms, opposite field camp and highlights how, even with a huge golf supporter and friend of the game Jim Crane attempting to maintain a PGA Tour presence in America’s fourth largest (golf loving) city accessible from anywhere in the United States within three hours.

Furthermore, there may be too much “content” when players outside the world top 2000 are getting in on some sort of Tour status. Among the tournament alternates are retirees and volunteer assistant golf coaches.

The tournament director is not hiding his frustration with the field quality, reports Golf.com’s Art Stricklin.

“I’ve been doing this for 13 months and I know I’ve looked a lot of players in the eye who said they were coming and they are not here,” tournament director Colby Callaway told GOLF.com. “So, I’m a little surprised, but it is what it is.”

Meanwhile the European Tour’s Italian Open field also includes Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Francesco Molinari and the Champion Golfer of the Year, Shane Lowry.

Every Shot, Live On-Demand To Debut At 2020 Players

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The PGA Tour says in today’s release that the newly-announced every shot, “live on-demand” is the eventual goal for all golf coverage. Bold!

In conjunction with NBC Sports Gold, the tour will roll out the first attempt at the 2020 Players, just weeks prior to the Masters, where a slightly tape-delayed on-demand debuted in 2019 with mostly great success (things were rough at the start and some shots never were captured).

The technology and concept is undoubtedly exciting, but it does the raise the question": how people will watch golf going forward. Given the length of a round, the number of variables involved and the slow nature of the sport, the act of sitting down to watch one or two groups go about their round, minus announcing and other storytelling elements, seems like a big ask. Perhaps those who have fantasy pool or waging implications at stake will pay for the privilege, as will family and friends of players.

The technology seems far more compelling in the Presidents Cup or WGC Dell Match Play, where such formats make you want to follow the mini-dramas within a match. But even then, you need announcing and other production elements to make for compelling viewing.

Anyway, For Immediate Release:

PGA TOUR, and NBC Sports Group announce live streaming of every shot during THE PLAYERS Championship in 2020

Marks the first time ever fans can follow every shot by every player live 

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – For the first time ever in golf, every shot by every player will be live-streamed from a full-field tournament when THE PLAYERS Championship returns to TPC Sawgrass, March 12-15, allowing fans to follow any player in the elite field, all four rounds.  All of this revolutionary coverage will be available to PGA TOUR LIVE subscribers on either NBC Sports Gold or Amazon Prime Video Channels.

“The PGA TOUR is the most content-rich sport on the planet and we have been focused on expanding the amount of content we bring to our fans from our competitions,” said Rick Anderson, Chief Media Officer for the TOUR.  “Our vision is to bring every shot in every PGA TOUR golf tournament live and on-demand to our fans, and this is the first step to making that happen.”

PGA TOUR Entertainment and NBC Sports Group will accomplish the monumental task of showcasing more than 32,000 shots over 72 holes from a starting field of 144 – live – by utilizing nearly 120 cameras positioned throughout THE PLAYERS Stadium Course, with each group having its own dedicated stream.

“Every shot of THE PLAYERS on PGA TOUR LIVE is a natural next step in the innovative partnership between NBC Sports and the PGA TOUR that spans nearly 60 years,” said Mike McCarley, president, GOLF, NBC Sports Group. “Super-serving golf fans with more comprehensive coverage of THE PLAYERS is emblematic of our commitment to elevating this championship and builds upon our success in adding enhancements to PGA TOUR LIVE on NBC Sports Gold.” 

PGA TOUR LIVE already has expanded its coverage for the 2019-20 PGA TOUR Season by adding early round featured groups coverage from seven events between September and December. This includes, for the first time ever, live streaming of “featured matches” all four days of competition from the upcoming Presidents Cup at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia (December 12-15, 2019).

All told, approximately 140 hours of additional live content is available, bringing more than 1,100 total hours to subscribers and extending live content across each month of the calendar year. With NBC Sports Gold and Prime Video Channels being available on dozens of connected devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast, connected device consumption has spiked to about one-third of total minutes in 2019.

Further, the PGA TOUR will be launching an all-new TOURCast product that will allow fans to follow every shot from each group with a beautiful 3D rendering of the golf course and shot trails.  The new TOURCast platform will also include deep access to the PGA TOUR’s ShotLink powered by CDW data, as well as video clips of every single shot available for fans to see, on demand.  The launch of TOURCast at THE PLAYERS will mark the start of every event in the PGA TOUR Season through the FedExCup Playoffs being offered on the platform. TOURCast will be available on the PGA TOUR’s mobile apps and website.  

“Since the launch of PGA TOUR LIVE four years ago, fans have consistently asked when they would be able to watch every shot of every player's round live as it happens.  We are thrilled to be able to do this for the first time at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2020,” said Luis Goicouria, the TOUR’s Senior Vice President of Media.  “THE PLAYERS Championship has long been the tournament where the TOUR debuts the newest technology, including LIVE@ 17, our first Virtual Reality experience, and the PGA TOUR Augmented Reality iPhone app, just to name a few.”

TOURCast, which originally launched in 2003 as a state-of-the-art graphical scoring platform that provided unprecedented tournament coverage, won an Emmy in 2005. “We’re very excited to bring back a greatly enhanced version of it to a new generation of fans, utilizing the latest technology and data,” Goicouria added.

From the historic competition to an iconic golf course with an unparalleled fan experience, THE PLAYERS is uncompromising in its pursuit to deliver the best. The 144-player field represents the strongest collection of players assembled each season, competing on Pete Dye’s masterpiece, THE PLAYERS Stadium Course, that favors no single style of play and demands excellence in every facet of the game.

THE PLAYERS also was the first tournament conceived with the fan as its focal point. From the original design incorporating viewing mounds, to embracing change to deliver the best experience in the modern game, THE PLAYERS provides the highest expression of hospitality and entertainment. Morgan Stanley, Grant Thornton LLP and Optum are the exclusive Proud Partners of THE PLAYERS.

"Skins game reminds us that money can't buy meaningful rivalries on Tour"

Good stuff from Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch on the upcoming Skins game match-up reminding us that a combination of changing economics and the continued elevation of majors translates to little buzz. Especially when the attempts to create interest fall flat (below).

The Challenge was touted in coordinated social media posts and press releases that exhibited all the spontaneity of a North Korean military parade. “There has always been some friendly banter between us, and that will continue until we get to the first tee,” Woods said with the kind of passion money can’t buy.

“There are so many fun elements to The Challenge that will have me wanting to take home that title,” McIlroy pitched in gamely.

In fairness, the bar is low for this year’s “The Challenge” to outperform last year’s “The Match,” when Woods and Phil Mickelson asked viewers to pay $20 for awkward trash talking that was less amusing than what you’d hear from a couple of over-served middle managers jostling on a crowded commuter train home.

Bryson Heads To Denver To Ensure His Neurological Threshold Meets His Mechanical Threshold

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I just copy and paste, remember. Though I do wonder how this will help get him up-and-down around Royal Melbourne’s greens, or any greens. From Ben Everill’s PGATour.com report on Bryson DeChambeau shutting things down for six weeks to work on his conditioning. Excuse me, muscle activation techniques.

He instead uses muscle activation techniques with Greg Roskoph, an important member of his team.

He will start his program on Monday and will include some intense stints in Denver with Roskoph as well.

“We make sure the neurological threshold is just as high as the mechanical threshold,” DeChambeau said.

“In layman's terms, pretty much whatever muscle potentially you have, how big and the muscle spindles you have, you can recruit every single one of them to their full potential throughout the whole range and training the whole range of motion.”

DeChambeau finished T4 in the Shriner’s Hospital For Children Open as its defending champion.

Na Makes Things Interesting (Surprise!), Sets New Putts-Made Mark

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Never dull-Kevin Na triple-bogeyed TPC Summerlin’s 10th hole in bizarre fashion before recovering to force a playoff with Patrick Cantlay.

He sank a 4-footer on the second hole to win the Shriner’s Hospital For Children Open and set a new mark for most feet of putts made since the wondrous ShotLink system has been tracking such things.

From Steve DiMeglio’s Golfweek game story:

Na, who made 202 feet of putts in his second-round 62 and 117 feet of putts in his third-round 61, set the record for most feet of putts made in a 72-hole tournament since the PGA Tour started tracking statistics with ShotLink in 2003. He finished his 72nd hole with 558 feet, 11 inches of putts. That bested the record set by Ben Martin, who made 551 feet, 2 inches of putts in the 2015 Dean and DeLuca Invitational.

Na’s 191 total also set the 54-hole tournament scoring record.

The final round highlights…

Putting For Dough: Na Makes 379 Feet Of Putts In Rounds Of 62-61

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Kevin Na holds the lead heading into Sunday’s Shriner’s Hospital For Children Open on the back of an astounding putting performance.

It’s not often you see a player back up a 62 with a 61. From Steve DiMeglio’s Golfweek report:

A day after making 202 feet of putts en route to firing a 9-under-par 62, the Las Vegas resident made 177 feet of putts Saturday on his way to a 61 and the outright lead through 54 holes of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.

Two other notes from the PGA Tour Communications staff:

  • Made 445’ 7’’ of putts through 54 holes; Ben Martin holds the record (in the ShotLink era) for most feet of putts made at a PGA TOUR event through 72 holes with 551’ 2” at the 2015 Charles Schwab Challenge

  • Leads the field in Strokes Gained: Putting through 54 holes (11.905)

Koepka Details Stem Cell Treatment, Clever Rationalization For Losing Player Of The Year Vote

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Steve DiMeglio reporting from the Shriner’s on World No. 1 Brooks Koepka’s return to PGA Tour action and specifically, treatment on his knee.

And this regarding his bizarre loss to Rory McIlroy in a player of the year vote by his peers, despite being only the fourth player in history to finish top 4 in all four majors.

“I don’t play for awards,” he said. “I just play to win, win trophies, win tournaments. It would’ve been great, but I think everybody in this room knows. I mean, LeBron has only won four MVPs and I’m pretty sure he’s been the best player for more than just four years.”

"Kinks" Still Getting Worked Out In The PGA Tour Driver Testing

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Nick Menta files a lengthy piece from Las Vegas where this summer’s driver test consternation continues: the testing is flawed and privacy has not been protected.

So, as Menta reports, the PGA Tour and USGA testers are still working through elements as the manufacturers believe the testing is targeting clubs differently, depending on make.

From Menta’s report:

A second player expressed similar concern to GolfChannel.com, wondering why the USGA was testing parts of the face that would make for poor contact and thus a poorer result, regardless of Characteristic Time.

“That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Thompson said, “because, as golfers, we’re trying to hit the center of the clubface. So why not test the center of the clubface?

“So I think that was a big issue with a lot of the manufacturers, because they weren’t told that going into this year of testing. … They were told how it was going to be done, and the manufacturer’s testing is done to replicate what the USGA is going to do. And I was under the impression that last week [the test] was not done the way they said it was going to be done.”

Of course, if they just made the ball a little bigger and the driver head a little smaller for professionals, no one would care about Characteristic Time.

Random Testing Finds Multiple Non-Conforming Drivers From Multiple Manufacturers

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Andrew Both reports for Reuters on multiple drivers failing the 30-driver random testing that began with the PGA Tour’s 2019-20 season. As promised, the tour would not comment on the failed tests or makers of the clubs, but Both says at least five belonged to players using a variety of clubs.

The non-conforming drivers are from across the manufacturing spectrum, including major brands such as Titleist, TaylorMade and Cobra, two insiders with knowledge of the matter said.

It is believed that Corey Conners, Robert Streb, Jason Dufner, Michael Thompson and Mark Hubbard were among those whose drivers did not pass the test.

That nearly twenty percent of the clubs tested failed has to be a shock to the system. Then again, it’s late in the hear and the “creep” factor that likely led to Xander Schauffele’s now-infamous failed test at the 2019 Open may be heightened near year’s end. Many players are likely to be soon switching to 2020’s latest-and-greatest drivers.

Still, the sheer number speaks to how close to the line manufacturers are taking the clubs and why the testing is both necessary, and likely to generate plenty of attention in spite of efforts to keep the results private.