63: Padraig On Father Time, Knowing How To Get Around A Links

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After an opening 63 and Lahinch course record, Padraig Harrington spoke at length to reporters at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

From Phillip Reid’s Irish Times game story on what could be, with more stellar play, one of the more fan-friendly wins in a long time:

Links golf is in his DNA and Harrington showcased it with a round that brought back old glories, but aware that it was only one step in the right direction on a journey that doesn’t reach its destination until Sunday. But playing on links again has reinvigorated him. “I know how to work my way around this golf course, links courses, clubbing and things like that, picking the right shot at the right time, what to go for, where to play shots. You know, that’s how you get around. That’s my specialty.

“I just was keen to not waste these three weeks (Irish, Scottish and British Opens) and be thinking, ‘oh, well, I always have next year’. I was kind of thinking, ‘well, maybe I don’t, maybe the Ryder Cup will be in the way next year’. That’s part of it. I’ve said I feel I’ll play this year and have a bit of time out next year (with the captaincy), but I’d better go play.”

If there is any doubt about his popularity in Ireland, Harrington had an audience everywhere he went. Well, almost everywhere.


(Mid-Round) Interview: Rahm On Ireland Golf, How Blind Holes Can Simplify Things

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Tim Barter’s mid-round interviews for Sky Sports always remind that players respond well to good questions and that they are capable of sharing wisdom mid-round without threat to world peace or rankings points.

Jon Rahm’s comments about links golf and blind holes added to the immensely enjoyable day one proceedings from the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Rahm’s comment that blind holes simplifying things for the player could be the best reverse thinking and positivity I’ve ever heard from an elite player. Really neat:


Nate Lashley Leads In Detroit: Some Six-Stroke Leads Are Much More Compelling Than Others

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You might see a six-stroke lead by the world no. 353 and pass on the Rocket Mortgage Classic final round, where Nate Lashley is 23-under-par after his second 63 of the week. (Full coverage times here.)

But anyone remotely familiar with his story—or those with a pulse—will be pulling for the 36-year-old who tried to Monday qualify for this event, only to get in on his status. Though as Bob Narang’s story and interview with Lashley from three years ago details, it’s been an understandably complicated journey for the former All-American since losing his parents and girlfriend in a plane crash.

His youthful appearance belies some of the hardships Lashley has endured since his parents died. Competing in tournaments where the majority of the competitors are younger than him, Lashley said he's learned many lessons along the way.

"It puts some perspective on life because you never know what's going to happen," Lashley said. "It makes golf a little easier from looking at the perspective that golf isn't such a big deal.

"That never seems to be the case. It never seems to get easier. I try not to let it daily affect my life and be as difficult, but you have to fight through it. It happens to a lot of people. You have to keep fighting."

Matt Wallace Berates Caddy, Does Not Earn Plaudits For His Performance

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Actually, the rising star from Europe’s on-course temper and behavior has quietly been a thing that surfaced in new ways at the BMW International last weekend.

Whether this is a trend or just the product of better on-course sound, I’m not sure.

Dylan Dethier does a nice job compiling comments and Tweets from this and Matt Wallace’s erratic actions at Pebble Beach.

There was this:

The behavior was the second time in as many weeks that Wallace has run hot on the golf course. Despite a strong T12 finish at last week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Wallace was captured in several moments of frustration, tossing a putter on one occasion, turning his hat backwards on another. The behavior drew pointed criticism from SkySports analyst Rich Beem. “I’m sorry but I just don’t enjoy watching that,” he said. “I know you’re intense, but get over yourself.”

The Munich moment:


Jason Day Is Officially In Stevie Williams Boot Camp

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Veteran bagman Steve Williams is bringing some discipline and drive to Jason Day’s preparation as the former PGA Champion looks to save his season. And hey, why not?

Day, from Brian Wacker’s GolfDigest.com story:

“We've definitely been a lot more disciplined about going to the range and putting green, chipping green after the round and making sure we're staying on top of it, especially with our feels,” Day said, sounding an awful lot like Williams’ most successful employer with that word choice.

“I've got a lot of work [to do],” Day said. “[Steve] is very black and white.”

He followed it up with a 63. Stevie!

As David Dusek notes, the Stevie-takes-charge method started at Pebble Beach and has continued to Connecticut. There have also been attempts to refine his equipment.

Wie: "I’m not entirely sure how much more I have left in me"

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Attempting to play on a bum wrist, things did not go well for Michelle Wie in the KPMG LPGA Championship first round (84) and after she suggested her career may have hit a wall.

From Beth Ann Nichols’ Golfweek story on Wie’s comments and player reaction to the possible career ending appearance:

“It’s just one of those situations where I’m not, you know, I’m not entirely sure how much more I have left in me,” said Wie, “so even on the bad days I’m just like trying to take time to enjoy it. But it’s tough.”

Like many I was surprised to see her turn up at Hazeltine after she signaled likely taking the summer off, so kudos to Wie for trying to play.

Will Matthew Wolff's Game Prove Disruptive?

That’s certainly an underlying question as you read Sean Martin’s introductory piece for PGATour.com on Matthew Wolff, one of four college stars debuting this week who are getting the John, Paul, George and Ringo treatment, writes Ryan Herrington. All four—Viktor Hovland, Wolff, Colin Morikawa and Justin Suh are playing on sponsor’s invites.

The product of instructor George Gankas, Martin says Wolff’s distance and approach to golf courses is backed by the numbers, but his college coach says he’s ultimately more than just a long hitter.

Oklahoma State head coach Alan Bratton points to two shots from the NCAA Championship to illustrate Wolff’s shotmaking versatility. In the same round, Wolff used an 8-iron to hit approach shots from 150 and 208 yards.

“Everyone talks about his driver, but his biggest asset is his iron play and putting,” Bratton said.

Length has always been an asset. Mark Broadie’s Strokes Gained statistics helped quantify the advantage, though. Players can ride a hot putter to victory one week, but long hitters have an advantage week-in and week-out. The scoring advantage of having a 120-yard approach versus a 140-yarder may be small, but those incremental advantages add up over the course of weeks, months and years.

As for Hovland, coming off a record scoring performance by an amateur in the U.S. Open, he debuts having signed with Ping. David Dusek reports for Golfweek.

Brooks: I Care That People Said I Could Care Less

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Having shown little interest in regular PGA Tour events, Brooks Koepka enters this week’s Travelers Championship with his major championship mindset.

But he’s also using the media as motivation, suggesting his comment about about not caring where he finished in Canada was run with by media and not to be believed.

Nick Menta at the Travelers writes for GolfChannel.com:

Speaking with the media ahead of the Travelers Championship, Koepka was asked about his level of focus this week. The preamble to that question included a reference to comments Koepka made two weeks ago, prior the RBC Canadian Open, when he said he “could care less what happens” in his tune-up start for the U.S. Open.

“Let me set the record straight,” Koepka said Wednesday at TPC River Highlands. “It's not that I don't care about the event. … Some people took that and ran with it. … Can't believe everything you read.”

Pssst…it’s on video too.

The "Team" Approach Files: Greller Takes A Strange Bullet From Spieth, Rickie Explains Why "We" Are Growing A Mullet

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With so many swing coaches, physios, agents, assistant agents, dieticians, physicists, psychics, baristas, sous chefs and children’s tennis coaches hovering around players, the tendency to talk about the we approach to golf seeps into the lingo more at majors.

Take first round 66-shooter Xander Schauffele’s reference to his major preparation:

Just the mentality changes, a little more focused coming into the week, extra preparation. You just kind of dive a little bit deeper into the properties. And I feel like the team and I have done a decent job of doing that.

Then there is Rickie Fowler explaining his mullet:

We're doing it for the PGA in May. We're calling it Mullet May. And we weren't doing it to, you know, get any extra attention or anything like that. It was for fun. And obviously we're not trying to look a good with it, it's just a fun thing. And I just thought it was a good way to, when asked about it, talk about our foundations.

It was Spieth’s outburst, however, that got the most round one attention and suggests the benefits of team membership aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Spieth, understandably fuming after his 4-iron lay-up at the 8th ran through the fairway into the water, was heard barking out, “Two perfect shots, Michael. You got me in the water on one and over the green on the other.”

Spieth explained the comments after an opening 72:

“We were talking about potentially one less [club on the third shot], and I said, ‘But isn’t it playing about 60 with a fade?’ And then he said yes,” Spieth said. “So we both agreed on that. It was clearly a 4-iron off the tee. At the same time, when you hit a couple of shots exactly where you want to, and the first one is in the water and the next one is dead over the green, I’m going to be frustrated that as a team we didn’t figure out how to make sure that didn’t happen.”

We meaning, you Michael…

Brooks Koepka: From 156 To 80 To Maybe 35, And Pressure Is Going To Get To Some Of 35...

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Brooks Koepka did the math on how he sees a field and, well, you can see why he’s a regular contender these days in majors. The man is confident, as Dan Kilbridge notes for Golfweek in writing about the defending champion.

Here is the actual 2019 PGA Championship press conference transcript outlining his view of a major field:

Q. We've heard you say several times majors are the easiest to win; yet that seems too simple for complicated minds. What has led you to internalize this approach which clearly seems to be a winning approach?

BROOKS KOEPKA: The easiest way I can break it down is there's -- what is there, 140 --

JON DEVER: 156 in the field.

BROOKS KOEPKA: 156 in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I'm just going to beat. From there, the other -- you figure about half of them won't play well from there, so you're down to about maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just -- pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you've just got to beat those guys.

If you just hang around -- I think one of the big things that I've learned over the last few years is you don't need to win it, you don't have to try to go win it. Just hang around. If you hang around, good things are going to happen.

So I think that's what's kind of caused me an issue in the regular PGA TOUR events. I've gone out on Saturday and tried to build a cushion, maybe pressed a little bit too hard and gotten ahead of myself, where in the majors I just stay in the moment. I never think one hole ahead. I'm not thinking about tomorrow. I'm not thinking about the next shot. I'm just thinking about what I've got to do right then and there. And I kind of dummy it down and make it very simple, and I think that's what helps me.

Koepka Explains Why He Escalated Chamblee Manspat; Admits To No Photoshop Skills

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Golf.com’s Dylan Dethier talks to Brooks Koepka about why the top golfer took to Twitter to post a photo of Brandel Chamblee sporting a clown’s nose after the Golf Channel commentator’s latest criticism of the three-time major winner.

During the Masters, Chamblee ripped Koepka for his recent weight loss by suggesting that the 29-year-old lost the weight for vanity reasons. It has been rumored that Koepka lost the weight ahead of an appearance in ESPN‘s The Body Issue later this year.

“He’s done it a lot, he’s always got an opinion on something,” Koepka said. “And I don’t really respond too much. I know he said a bunch of things at Augusta and I never responded, that’s not really my style.

“But there comes a point where you just don’t care, and like I said, a picture’s worth more than a thousand words.”

Koepka does admit the image came from a buddy in a group text exchange. I smell an opening for Brandel!

Meanwhile, the saga has generated debate about who can discuss and critically analyze careers and we discussed today on Morning Drive:

He Wins Majors, Photoshops Too: Brooks Koepka Ups Manspat With Chamblee

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You know Brooks Koepka is annoyed when he takes back control of his Twitter account from sponsors to post this jab at Brandel Chamblee, Golf Channel analyst and recent critic of the three-time major winner.

In the latest installment of Chamblee’s views of Koepka, he tells Jaime Diaz on their podcast that there are “likely two” players who can “hang” with the revitalized Tiger Woods. From Dylan Dethier’s Golf.com account:

“In the aggregate, you’d have Dustin and Rory who are the likely two who could hang with him,” he said. “Jon Rahm’s still got a lot to learn. His iron play’s not as sharp as it needs to be to be the best player in the world, and it forces him to have to pitch the ball…his pitching, generally speaking, is not as good as it needs to be. And Spieth’s game has fallen off. So it’s really only two players who could challenge him. 

“Irrespective of the world rankings, I think all of us know what we need to know without the world rankings telling us, and it’s Rory and it’s Dustin Johnson and it’s Tiger Woods, but Tiger’s simply not going to play enough to get the points that he needs to get.”

Koepka has won three majors over the previous two seasons and was in contention at the Masters again this year, finishing T2, one back of Woods.

In reply, Koepka posted this image of Chamblee with a retweet:

We will be discussing this and other weighty issues on Monday’s Morning Drive.

Though I will say for now that I think a few more layers taking some shine off the nose and adding a bit more dimensionality would suggest Koepka needs to quit his day job.

Bubba Breaks The CBD Barrier In Golf Despite Recent PGA Tour Warning About Such Products

Todd Kelly reports for Golfweek on Bubba Watson signing with cbdMD to push cannabidiol-based products to deal with a variety of issues. .

“I was taking the product, I love the product and for me, you know, it’s all about safety,” Watson said in an interview with The Street. “So for me, on a performance level, I got to have safety, I’ve got to [take] drug tests, I’ve got to do all these things and to protect myself and be able to play competitive golf.”

The news comes as the vaunted MarijuanaMoment.net reported a recent warning by the PGA Tour that CBD products containing THC will put players in violation of their policies and that some CBD products may contain levels putting the player in risk of suspension.

Full coverage from TheStreet.com on Watson’s announcement on the floor of the New York Stock Excxhange where the two-time Masters champion wore his best hoodie to announce the partnership.

Golf's Latest Embarrassing Association With Saudi Arabia...

The European Tour’s awful association with the Crown Prince and ensuing cash grab seemed like the worst possible partnership in modern professional sports. Particularly after other sports backed away from events in Saudi Arabia, or if you read about last week’s Saudi government led series of beheadings, including 16 and 17-year-old boys, yet another violation of international law and similar to recent atrocities green lit by the tour’s partner.

Continuing golf’s tone-deaf ways, struggling Ladies European Tour professional Carly Booth briefly launched an endorsement campaign for Saudi Arabia’s “different” place, to which she said she was honored (the posts have since been taken down after a brutal reaction).

Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch scolds Booth but highlights the even greater concern: what kind of representative would subject their player to this kind of endorsement and feel it’s the right move to make?

One can mount a defense for Booth, but it’s unflattering: devotion to her craft leaves little time to study geopolitics and human rights; women golfers, and particularly those in Europe, subsist on vapors so deals aren’t easily rejected, no matter how morally questionable the source.

But no exculpatory defense exists for the fatuous pillocks on her management team, who devised the deal, who displayed a mesmerizing disregard for the risk to her reputation, who presumably helped author the social posts, who thoroughly failed at their most basic function: they left their client looking like both a fool and a jerk.

Too often players are put in odd positions by those taking 10%, but this one takes the cake for bad advice topped off by terrible timing.

Did Brooks Koepka Slim Down For A Magazine Shoot?

It’s a question on inquiring minds given that he won two majors last year: why did Brooks Koepka go on a diet? When first mentioned, it sounded like a health matter. But as Eamon Lynch notes in this wrap up of Koepka’s Masters press conference where Koepka revealed the recent end to a 1800-calorie-a-day diet, blood-testing and no gym time has his energy levels coming back.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year attributes that to some minor health issues that began at the Players last month. “Just had a bunch of blood work and trying to figure out what was going on.  The diet I was on was probably not the best,” Koepka admitted. “I was like 1,800 calories a day.  I mean, you’re not going to be in the best physical shape at that point. You look at somebody like Michael Phelps or somebody like that eating 6,000 or 7,000 calories by lunch time. But I wanted to do it and try to lose some weight, and maybe went about it a little too aggressively for just a long period of time and the intensity of what I was doing.”

One possible reason for Koepka’s intense effort to get lean: according to reports, the famously buff golfer will appear in the buff in ESPN’s Body Issue, which will be released later this summer.

Golfers know the history of the sport has seen players transform their bodies in short time with poor results, but as Brandel Chamblee notes last night on Live From, this one may be unprecedented in sports history given Koepka’s recent form.

Details Emerge From Golf's Equivalent To The Camp David Accords: Kuchar, El Tucan Clear Air Over Orange Juice

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Michael Bamberger scored the exclusive details of last month’s secret reunion between Matt Kuchar and his Mayakoba Classic-winning fill-in caddie El Tucan to settle any misunderstanding over Moochgate.

Not only has he been paid, Ortiz and Kuchar met in a clubhouse dining room in late February, when the Tour went to Mexico City for a World Golf Championship event. Over a 40-minute glass of morning orange juice on Feb. 23, the Saturday of the tournament, each apologized to the other, Ortiz said in a recent phone interview and through an interpreter.

“Matt said, ‘Hey, David, how are you?’” Ortiz said. “I apologized for the [difficulty] the situation created. I told him it was never my intention to embarrass him, but I felt eventually I had to tell the truth. Matt also offered an apology. He said it was all a misunderstanding. He asked me how my family was. He showed me a picture of his family and a video of a hole-in-one made by one of his sons.”

Ortiz said there were four people at the breakfast table, including a sports psychologist “who is very close to Matt.”

And a good time was had by all!

Ticket On The Teaching Titanic? David Leadbetter Officially Signs On To Join Team Patrick Reed

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How long before Ricky Bobby grows bored with David Leadbetter’s ideas remains to be seen, but the legendary instructor has officially signed up for Team Patrick Reed just two weeks shy of the 2018 Masters champion’s title defense.

Tim Rosaforte Tweeted the news and received word from Reed spokesman, CEO and spouse, Justine Reed: “We are very proud to announce that Mr. David Leadbetter will be joining our team and we all look forward to working with him.”

This may be a Leadbetter first: reporting to the wife of the player he’s coaching.

Rosaforte’s Tweets:


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.”

14-Year-Old Tied For Symetra Tour Lead With One Round To Go...

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Alexa Pano, 14, is tied for the lead at -8 heading into the Symetra Tour’s SKYiGOLF Championship’s final round Sunday.

Pano is in the field for the upcoming Augusta National Women’s Amateur and has played one LPGA event when she was 11 and in other Symetra events. Still…a 14-year-old with a chance to win on the AAA circuit for Women’s golf?

For Immediate Release:

ALEXA PANO, 14, CHASING HISTORY AT SKYiGOLF Championship

NORTH PORT, Fla. (March 9, 2019) – Asked if she ever expected to be tied for the lead in a professional golf tournament with only 18 holes left to play, 14-year-old amateur Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla., didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Yes, sir,” she politely told a reporter. “That’s why I played in the tournament.”

At the inaugural $250,000 SKYiGOLF Championship, Pano is on the brink of history, trying to become the youngest player ever to win a Symetra Tour event. Hannah O’Sullivan, who now plays college golf at Duke, was 16 years old when she won the 2015 Gateway Classic in Arizona.

The “youngest” thing is something that the uber-talented Pano has grown accustomed to hearing, though on Saturday at Charlotte Harbor National she said she hadn’t heard it in a while.

“It’s something I’m kind of used to it. Playing up in events a lot, I’d hear ‘youngest person ever’ so often,” she said. “It’s actually kind of gone away from me. Now that I’m 14, I’m kind of ‘old’ and can’t win the ‘youngest’ thing. But here we are again.”