12/9/19

Say it wasn’t you

Honestly, not much happened; you might as well skip this one

by

Good morning, golf fans! Anything fun happen over the weekend? Go to the beach? Move some sand around? Improve a lie?

Nice to have the content machine going strong this late in the season, isn’t it?

Impact just sounds different… 

With his fourth straight round in the 60s, the 43-year-old Henrik Stenson emerged from a six-man race on Saturday to earn a one-shot victory at the Hero World Challenge. Leaderboard

While still a top-50 player, Stenson has been quiet the past two seasons. Still probably the best iron player on tour, he was 163rd in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee last year, losing an average of 0.293 shots to the field. It was the first year since 2011 that he lost strokes off the tee. While Stenson can almost always keep himself in the mix with elite approach play, he’ll need to make some gains with the driver to stay relevant long term.

Mr. Sandman

Maybe unfair, but true: few will recall that Henrik Stenson won the 2019 Hero World Challenge. They will, however, remember that on Friday, during the third round, cameras caught Patrick Reed in a waste area repeatedly using the flange of his wedge to sweep away sand behind his ball. This action cleared a path to the back of his ball, substantially improving his lie. While you can ground your club in waste areas, you can’t improve your lie anywhere. It’s one of the most basic rules of the game.

PGA Tour officials pulled Reed aside after his round and penalized him two strokes. (Ultimately, he finished two back of Henrik Stenson.) In a sweaty interview that brought to mind “40 pizzas in 30 days,” Reed blamed it all on a bad camera angle—an excuse that anyone with even a little experience in golf should recognize as baloney.

At this point, players and fans have little reason to give the 2018 Masters champion the benefit of the doubt. Reed has had a reputation for cheating since his college days. Back in 2016, Peter Kostis reportedly called out Reed on air for improving his lie by grounding his club. Friday wasn’t even the first time cameras have shown him at the Hero World Challenge moving sand from behind his ball. 

Just as notable as Reed’s behavior was Slugger White’s eagerness in the aftermath to do damage control on the player’s behalf. Increasingly, Tour officials, especially Slugger, are behaving more like PR consultants than neutral enforcers of the rules of golf. The PGA Tour is a player-run organization. Often it makes hay on the classy integrity of most of its players (remember Russell Henley calling a one-ball rule violation on himself at the Mayakoba?), but when push comes to shove, the Tour is less willing to punish cheating than other sports leagues are. Sammy Sosa got eight games for a corked bat; Tom Brady got four for a set of deflated balls. Patrick Reed? Two shots and a reputational pedicure.

Other Hero notes

  • No player has been hotter than Jon Rahm over the last six months. Rahm’s runner-up at the Hero is his third straight top-two finish. Check out Rahm’s results since the U.S. Open: T-3, T-2, Win, T-11, 7th, T-3, T-5, T-13, 2nd, MC, Win, Win, 2nd. 
  • Tiger looks good. He was leading the event early on the back nine on Saturday before cooling off and finishing four shots back. Still, he seems to have solid form heading into the Presidents Cup and the 2020 season.

You’ll Never Catch Mr. Jones

Aussie Matt Jones held on for his second Australian Open title this weekend. Jones appeared to be clear of the field on the back nine on Sunday, but Louis Oostuizen decided to make things interesting. The Mattress King eagled the 72nd hole to get within one of Jones, who had to knock in a nervy four-footer for his first victory in four years. The win puts the 39 year-old on the verge of cracking the OWGR top 100 for the first time since 2015. Leaderboard

Takumi Kanaya, the world’s top-ranked amateur, placed T-3 in Australia. Jones, Kanaya, and Aaron Pike earned spots in the Open Championship next summer with their finishes.

Quick hooks

For his win on the Staysure Tour (the European senior tour), Pete Fowler earned the honor of holding the most ass-inine trophy we have ever seen. Photo

Tiger Woods wrote up a special first-tee announcement for his playing partner Justin Thomas this weekend. A little light-hearted fun on the PGA Tour! Crazy.

Rasmus Hojgaard won a three-man playoff to capture the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open on the European Tour. Leaderboard

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

Soule Park Golf Course (Ojai, California)

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Soule Park shows how excellent architecture can coexist with a cheap green fee and a casual atmosphere. After a catastrophic flood in 2005, Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner resurrected and reimagined (without rerouting) this Billy Bell Jr. design on a small budget. They kept it simple and got the important things right: cleverly contoured greens with varied pin positions, and artfully shaped bunkers in places that force golfers to make decisions. It’s an example of doing a lot with not much, and a model that many local courses could follow.

Insider tip: In the winter, Ojai not only has better weather than pretty much anywhere else but also frequent natural light shows on the mountains surrounding the town. -Garrett Morrison

Check out our feature article on Soule Park HERE.

Photo credit: Cameron Hurdus

The Latest

Shotgun Start: A Gentleman and a Cheater, Prez Cup trash talk, the Father-Son purse

This episode of the Shotgun Start goes off the usual path for a Monday, pushing results from the weekend to the end to take on the subject of Patrick Reed’s Bahamian excavation. Brendan and Andy first replay the act from Friday’s round at the Hero World Challenge, focusing on Reed’s apparent history of doing this. The punishment for the action is then addressed and both wonder about the slippery slope of a measly two-shot penalty and some public shaming as the only reckoning for such flagrant cheating. Andy proposes a much stronger penalty lasting into the 2020 season. Then the responses from various parties are dissected, from Reed himself to Slugger White covering for his “gentlemanly” character to the American Presidents Cup team reportedly acting like it didn’t happen on a plane ride to some Aussies using the “c word” and clamoring for the International fans to give it to Reed this week. After the lengthy Reed discussion, they get to a segment on results, which includes a breakthrough win on the Minor League Golf Tour and a rant about the purse of the PNC Father Son Challenge. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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