Molinari: "It started going the other way and it has been hard to stop it."

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Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail looks at the rise and flatlining of Francesco Molinari, 2018 Open champion who was in contention to win the 2019 Masters.

‘People told me it would be hard to beat last year, nearly impossible in fact, but until that day at the Masters I picked it up where I left off, and then it stopped,’ said Molinari. ‘Confidence plays a big part in any sport but particularly in golf.

‘I was feeling good coming to Augusta, everything was going my way. After that, it became many little things that I didn’t do quite as well. My ball striking wasn’t as good and I didn’t putt as well. For over a year, it felt like I was pushing a boulder going upwards but then it started going the other way and it has been hard to stop it.’

Video: Hosung Choi Wins, Hasn't Lost His Gift For Entertaining Post-Impact Dance Moves

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Korean golfer Hosung Choi posted a bogey-free 67 on Sunday to edge Shugo Imihara for the Japan Golf Tour’s Heiwa PGM Championship.

Here is a fantastic 7 minute compilation of his final round shots and you have to admire not only the reactions (even the self-beatings), but also the variety, even if a few of those dances on greens are hard to look at (he’s not wearing spikes at least).

Enjoy…

Add Rickie Fowler To The Elite Walking Wounded Brigade

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If what the newlywed contracted on his honeymoon is even half as bad as it sounds, then don’t count on Rickie Fowler rushing back to the golf course soon.

Steve DiMeglio on Fowler’s bacterial infection that knocks him out of next week’s Mayacoba Classic and possibly, Presidents Cup consideration if a spot opens up.

In a text message to Golfweek, Fowler said at the tail end of his honeymoon – he got married the first week of October – he came down with Campylobacter jejuni, which is among the most common bacterial infections and leads to cramps, fever, pain and diarrhea.

Fowler said he started feeling the effects of the intestinal bacterial infection Oct. 26 and didn’t started getting back to normal until Nov. 7.

“It was not a fun stretch,” Fowler wrote. He added he is taking medicine to combat the last stages of the infection and just didn’t have enough time to properly prepare for the Mayakoba Golf Classic, where he’s finished second and in a tie for 16th the past two years.

Turkey: Pepperell Does His Best Roy McAvoy Impersonation, Positions Himself Ably For Next European Tour Social Stunt

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Just days after raving about player hospitality and it’s chef, Eddie Pepperell took himself out of the Turkish Airlines Open by doing his best Roy McAvoy impersonation at the fourth hole. After depositing at least four balls into a lake, Pepperell told playing partner Martin Kaymer he was done. It doesn’t sound like Kaymer entirely bought in.

From an unbylined BBC report:

He had several more attempts, losing "four or five balls" according to Martin Kaymer, who said the incident was like a scene from the film Tin Cup.

"I have never seen anything like that before," said Kaymer.

"I only watched it on television, in 'Tin Cup'. This is the first time I have seen it live."

Recently emerging as the European Tour’s top acting talent in their social media videos, Pepperell has positioned himself to headline a new campaign on only carrying a couple of sleeves of balls. Lucky us!

Bum Knees Unite: Tiger Understands If Brooks Has To Bow Out Of Presidents Cup

The buried lede in Tiger’s comments from Japan: world No. 1 Brooks Koepka is weighing a possible surgery to repair the knee he re-injured last week in the CJ Cup.

The main headline, for now, is Woods leaving things up to Koepka to decide if he’s Presidents Cup worthy, depending on “what his protocols are going forward,” Tiger said.

From Steve DiMeglio’s Golfweek story quoting Tiger on news of Koepka’s injury:

“As of right now, we’re just waiting on what the surgeon says and what Brooks is going to do,” Woods added. “He is getting other opinions on what are his options. You want to go through as many different opinions as you possibly can before you decide what you are going to do.

“I told him to take his time. No hurry. You’re part of the team. You earned your way in the top eight spots. You’re on the team. You have to figure out what is best for your career and your knee and if you decide you can’t play, great. I totally understand. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”

Tripp Isenhour and I discussed this run of left knees going back today on Golf Central:

"Braggadocious Brooks stands out for reasons that are obvious."

Nice work by Eamon Lynch to explain for Golfweek readers why some are so offended by Brooks Koepka’s blunt ways:

Boastfulness isn’t much embraced in professional golf. A sport that prides itself on being a gentleman’s game is predisposed to treat bombast as vulgarity. Through that muted lens, Walter Hagen was viewed as more carnival barker than confident champion. Greg Norman held his ego largely in check until he moved wholly into business, at which point it was a brand asset. Even at his peak, Tiger Woods lets his clubs speak for him, though that didn’t stop the sniping about his aloofness and fist-pumping being unbecoming.

Golf has long lionized stars who conduct themselves as though inhabited by the ghost of Byron Nelson: courteous throwbacks to a time when sportsmen were free of profanity, scandal and indictments. Blandness over bluster. Against that colorless standard, Braggadocious Brooks stands out for reasons that are obvious.

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):


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

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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.

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:


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

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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.

Whitworth Still Golf's Easiest Interview

Kathy Whitworth, the 88-time LPGA winner and certified all-time great recently turned 80. As Beth Ann Nichols writes for Golfweek, a luncheon at last week’s Volunteers of America Classic reminds that she’s one of golf’s great characters.

Just a sampling of the anecdotes shared:

That lesson came from Penick, who told a 17-year-old Whitworth to take the club back like she was getting paid by the hour and not the job.

When Whitworth tells the story, she wrinkles up her brow and pauses: “I’d never had a job before. What’s he talking about?”

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.

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.”

Brooks: "I have an athlete’s mentality, a true athlete, and if that rubs people the wrong way, tough."

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The world No. 1 returns to action this week in Las Vegas, and Brooks Koepka is profiled by Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio.

He’s still brutally honest, though I’m not entirely clear what being a true athlete means…

“I’m not going to be someone else just to be more popular,” Koepka said. “I’m not your typical golfer, definitely not a golf nerd. I have an athlete’s mentality, a true athlete, and if that rubs people the wrong way, tough.

“I’m just going to say what I feel, I’m going to be honest and I’m not going to hold back. That’s who I am.”

Cameron Champ Returns To Scene Of His Breakthrough Win Humbled, Healthy Again

Cameron Champ

Cameron Champ

A year ago the longest driver in professional won the Sanderson Farms and returns this week having struggled most of the time since due to back issues and a balky short game.

GolfDigest.com’s Brian Wacker profiles Cameron Champ, who has plenty of interesting things to say about his experience since being the breakout player of fall 2018.

Rarely is the road so smooth for seasoned players used to navigating it, never mind a rookie suddenly thrust into the spotlight while still trying to learn new courses each week not to mention the rigors of treating a game like the job it had become. Over his next 19 starts after a T-11 at the limited-field event Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, Champ missed the cut 10 times and withdrew once.

“Expectations,” Champ says when asked as he gets set to defend his title this week in Mississippi what the most difficult thing was for him in his first year. “Whether you realize it or not, they’re always going to be there.

“Once you get to a certain point—and Matt and Collin are going through this now—it’s all new. You’re suddenly playing in featured groups, have a lot of people following you, you’re dealing with crowds and comments. It’s not anything I ever played in.”

17-Year-Old Akshay Bhatia To Test Boundaries Of Pro Golf's Youth Movement

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While he has picked the third weakest PGA Tour field of 2019 with only four world top 50 players and no one inside the top 40, Akshay Bhatia is still moving into bold territory leaping from junior golf to professional play.

The 17-year-old turns up fresh off a Walker Cup appearance to debut in the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms. He’s got a new Callaway deal, new woods, maybe a new putter and high expectations for a player jumping from the junior circuit to a PGA Tour event.

“Akshay is one of the most prolific amateurs the golf world has seen in a long time, and we’re thrilled to have him join our Professional TOUR Staff,” said Tim Reed, Senior Vice President of Global Sports Marketing at Callaway Golf, in a press release.

Bhatia has one previous appearance in a Tour event and one Korn Ferry Tour cut made as an amateur, but has long targeted a pro debut in lieu of college golf.

Bhatia generates plenty of speed:

I would agree with Morning Drive’s Damon Hack that too many cautionary tales are getting lost in the rush to push players into cashing checks at a young age.

Club Pro Guy Shows How You Can Improve Your Fairway Bunker Lies, Just Like Matt Kuchar

Finally, answers to solving the dreaded fairway bunker shot, thanks to Matt Kuchar’s liberal interpretation of the golf’s revised Rules. (Thanks reader Stephen for the head’s up.)

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.