R.I.P. Brian Barnes

Alistair Tait files an excellent and very personal remembrance of a player he enjoyed covering, Brian Barnes. The English-born Scot, European Tour great, two-time Senior British champion and wild dresser passed away at 74 and is best known for his Ryder Cup career and two wins in 1975 over Jack Nicklaus in one event—in Nicklaus’ prime.

Tait covers the ups and downs of Barnes’ life but there is this gem from the week he will always be remembered for:

Barnes’s famous Nicklaus double was part of an Arnold Palmer set up. U.S. captain Palmer approached Great Britain & Ireland counterpart Bernard Hunt and asked him to name his best player to play Jack Nicklaus in singles. Hunt picked Barnes and the two captains arranged for the pair to play in the final morning singles match. Barnes ran out a 4&2 winner.

The Ryder Cup featured two singles sessions in those days. Barnes was surprised to find himself out against Nicklaus in the final afternoon singles match. He shouldn’t have been. Nicklaus wanted revenge, and had made sure Palmer fixed the draw so he could play the Scotsman again.

Barnes walked onto the first tee and Nicklaus said: “Well done this morning, Barnesy, but there ain’t no way you’re going to beat me this afternoon.”

Nicklaus birdied the first two holes, but Barnes fought back to win 2&1 in what would turn out to be the greatest day of his career.

Nicklaus hasn’t posted anything on social media yet but when he does I’ll include here.

This is a fun Golfing World piece on Barnes from a few years ago:

Brooks Fires Back At His Body Shaming Critics: "They don't have the balls to do it"

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Arnold Palmer surely lashed out at his critics when he wore an extra tight shirt for a Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year spread.

No, we’re in uncharted territory here.

This week’s Team Koepka bulletin board apparently consisted of Tweets and Instagram comments responding to Brooks baring all. Wait until Brooks hears where Matt Kuchar’s mind went. (If you don’t want to know, let’s just say he’s seen some of the leaked Vonn image portfolio.)

From JuliaKate Culpepper’s Golfweek story:

“It’s one of those things where all these people that talk crap and whatever on social media, they don’t have the balls to do it, and they wouldn’t look that good,” 

No argument there! Was anyone arguing it? Anyway…

“It was something I enjoyed,” Koepka said of the shoot. “I was looking forward to it for months. It’s something I definitely don’t regret doing. It’s been enjoyable to see the pictures over the last couple of months and see, I guess, all the hard work I put into it and see the results.”

On newstands now! Oh wait, they don’t print it anymore. But you can read this Kevin Van Valkenburg story with Brooks and there is this video below where there is no holding back on the nudity front. Well, except the part Kuchar mentioned.

Brooks Koepka Body Issue Pic Surfaces: Countdown Begins On The, Uh, Homages

The camera adds ten pounds and the ESPN Body Shoot calls for losing thirty. Or so the old saying goes.

Forget that Brooks Koepka posted an image from his long-rumored shoot that prompted him to go on a strange, golf-game affecting diet. Which then set up his first of several manspats with Brandel Chamblee, who called it “reckless self-sabotage.”

More important than manspats on a global stage though: who will be the first to shed thirty pounds for a photo shoot, get waxed and then emerge from a light spritzing to post a spoof version of this? (Which will then inspire Brooks Koepka to win three majors next year.)

Dufner? Mickelson? Caliendo?

Anyway, I’m glad he’s eating cheeseburgers again. And giving good press conference, as he did this year at East Lake after not even getting invited in last year. Eamon Lynch of Golfweek dissects the deadpan jabs delivered in Koepka’s lastest sitdown with the scribblers and content creators.

RIP: The Stevie-Jason Day Experiment

It lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed—because who would drink up this pairing?—but Steve Williams has paced off his last yardage for Jason Day. The duo started working together at the 2019 U.S. Open and wrapped up things after last week’s Northern Trust.

Evin Priest on the merciful, inevitable end to this experiment.

"It was a disconnect of old school and new school," said Day.

Meanwhile in Europe, Matt Wallace has canned the guy who berated, then said was vital to his success after public outcry, says The Forecaddie.

"Why isn't the medicine working?"

Thanks to reader BB for passing along Paul Johnson’s Queensland Times report on Briony Lyle’s emotional interview on the one-year anniversary of Jarrod’s passing from acute myeloid leukemia.

In case you were thinking you had it rough…

Perhaps the hardest part of the story was hearing Briony recount how their daughters Lusi and Jemma were by his side until his death. 

"We made the decision to start palliative care and drove home early that morning and had to wait till Lusi woke up and I had to say to her that the medicine is not working and that daddy is going to die," Briony Lyle told Bickmore. 

"It was immediate sadness for her, which I had never seen before. 

"She walked into his hospital room which she had been into so many times before and just walked over and held his hand. 

"In the corner of his room there is a little whiteboard and there is a section that said do you have any questions for the doctor? And she wrote 'why isn't the medicine working'?" 

So far Amazon is just offering this edition of the forthcoming book that will help support the family. If I get a link with more than two copies I’ll pass along here or Twitter.

Leadbetter Calls Out "Unbelievable Ignorance" Of Lydia Ko's Parents

The sad decline of former No. 1 Lydia Ko continues with missed cuts in back to back majors (granted, in back to back weeks…).

She’s fired caddies and coaches galore and one of those former’s has been critical. Still, it’s jarring to hear David Leadbetter continue to call out Ko’s parents. Roxanna Scott reports on an interview recently given by Leadbetter.

“I hope she gets it back but restoring confidence is never the easiest thing to do. Her parents have a lot to answer for – a case of unbelievable ignorance,” Leadbetter said in a Radio Sport interview, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Ko responded on her Instagram story with this:



"Brandie played the game the way it was meant to be played."

It’s been such a joy in recent years for listeners of The Open Radio broadcast also heard on Sirius/XM, in part thanks to Gordon Brand Jr.

The former Ryder Cupper, current senior golfer and broadcaster passed away suddenly at 60.

Alistair Tait remembers the Scot for Golfweek, including this.

Yet while he was one of the most affable and approachable players I dealt with during my career, he didn’t suffer fools gladly. Brandie wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when something was amiss, like the Spanish tournament when he took a popular local pro to task for being, shall we say, a little lax with the rules. Said player was disqualified after Brand reported him, and local galleries booed the Scot for the final two rounds as a result.

“Was it worth it?” I once asked him.

“Absolutely,” he said. “You’ve got to play the game the way it’s meant to be played, otherwise why play?”

Spieth: "There were times that I just went to sleep...knowing that the next day was going to be a struggle on the greens"

Pretty astounding admission from Jordan Spieth after opening the Wyndham with 23 putts en route to 64.

From Will Gray’s GolfChannel.com story on Spieth’s strongsuit returning.

“That’s a pretty massive turnaround, and I needed it,” Spieth said. “I mean, there were times that I just went to sleep not having any idea what was going on with the putter, knowing that the next day was going to be a struggle on the greens no matter what, just that kind of stuff.”

All of the great putters have had lulls, but that’s still amazing to think someone who was that good on the greens reached those depths. The effect on the rest of the game was seen and probably will be for a while as he regains his groove on the greens.

Check out this astounding round one stat from Sean Martin:

Sergio's Star Power Protecting Him From A Much-Needed Suspension For On Course Antics?

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That’s what Golfweek’s Alistair Tait alleges of the kid-glove treatment for the pouting, golf course vandalizing Spaniard and possible future Ryder Cup captain following his latest pitiful on-course display.

Truth is, he can do almost anything he wants and not get a two-week ban. No way the European or PGA Tours are going to take serious action, especially the European Tour. The Euro circuit won’t want to alienate one of its biggest stars.

If true, that’s an amazing statement about where we are in the game: stars can behave badly before our eyes because they are star.

Then again, in February he vandalized greens mid-tournament and only got disqualified, so after that boondoggle, it’s no small wonder he continues to get a pass from the European Tour and PGA Tour for bad behavior.

Stunner! Sergio Continues To Conduct Himself In Unbecoming Ways

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You may recall from February how European Tour Chief Keith Pelley swept Sergio Garcia’s Saudia Arabia on-course vandalism and tantrums under the rug and felt no suspension was warranted, the bow on a terrible week for the ET.

Since then Mt. Garcia has blown a few more times, though no word on whether any of the five families have taken disciplinary action. Sadly, it may take bodily injury to occur before he’s told to take a break from the game via a suspension. Mercifully though, anyone injured by his tantrums will have ample evidence of negligence by the various tours who have not acted.

The first came at The Open:

And now this from the WGC FedEx St. Jude where most players were humbled by meeting patients at the St. Jude hospital

Tom Watson Bids Farewell To One Of The Very Best Links Careers

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James Corrigan said it would be “like Luciano Pavarotti signing off at La Scala” and Michael Bamberger called his style “primal” in a wonderful send off, but no matter how you look at it, Tom Watson signed off on an epic links career. He is in the same league as the very best links golfers of all time—Old and Young Tom, the Parks, Jones, Thomson, etc)—and enjoyed the added benefit of competing in the Senior Open Championship.

 Bamberger wrote:

This is all a round-about way of saying that this farewell from Watson is significant, because here you have a golfer who played a sort of primal golf in ways nobody else ever did, including everybody.

Watson did not issue a press release announcing his goodbye or anything like that. He just answered a question from Lewis with characteristic candor.

In explaining his decision to call it a day on the two of the most prized senior events, Watson said, “The why is pretty simple, I can’t compete against these guys anymore. I don’t hit the ball far enough, and when you can’t compete, there’s no sense. I’m a realist. I understand how to play the game. And I just don’t have enough tools in the tool box to compete against these guys out here.”

Some nice social posts of the farewell 73 at Royal Lytham and St Annes:

 
 

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…