1/15/20

Beakers, Brooks, and Bryson

The big tours make big noise about pace of play, Brooks is back, and we preview two desert events

by

It’s a beautiful day for a newsletter, isn’t it? We’re going to write them regardless, but just know we want you to have a nice day.

In today’s newsletter…

  • Is slow-play reform actually coming to professional golf?
  • Brooks Koepka returns to the battlefield, lab coat and all!
  • Tommy Gainey uses both gloves to hold onto the 54-hole lead on the Korn Ferry Tour.

The Storylines

Tick, tock…

Change is coming to professional golf this year! Well, at least on paper. Probably not in reality.

The next stage of the European Tour’s plan to combat slow play starts at this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Any player who receives two bad times during the same tournament will automatically get a one-stroke penalty. Announced back in August, this step in the Euros’ plan is easy to understand. And it’s pretty intriguing, given that the lightning rod of slow-play criticism, Mr. Bryson DeChambeau, is in the Abu Dhabi field.

Back in the states, the PGA Tour released the full details of its slow-play policy for the upcoming season. Using Shotlink data, the Tour will keep an “observation list” of players who consistently record poor times. Those on the list will be subject to a 60-second maximum and can be timed individually. There will also be more severe fines for “Excessive Shot Times”—that is, shots that take more than 120 seconds. The observation list will not, however, be made public, a move typical of today’s player-subservient Tour.

While both tours appear to be taking the positive steps, we’re more bullish on the European Tour’s follow-through. The PGA Tour has neglected to enforce its own pace-of-play policy in the past, and the new rules seem to leave the same amount of room for Slugger White to disregard them.

He’s back

Three months have passed since Brooks Koepka last played a professional tournament. After knee surgery in the fall, the world’s No. 1 ranked player will return to action in Abu Dhabi. During a press conference on Tuesday, he admitted that his left knee still isn’t as strong as his right.

We’ve missed Brooks. Not only has he been electric in important tournaments over the past three seasons, but Koepka has become an entertaining character off the course. We need him out there speaking his mind, wisely or not. It’s been so long since he said something outrageously cocky or called out Bryson.

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The Roundup

The American Express (PGA Tour)

  • TV coverage:
    • Thursday-Sunday, 3-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel)
  • Tee Times
  • Adam Long was last year’s unlikely champion in the desert.
  • The man Long beat last year, Phil Mickelson, will serve as tournament host. The Phil Mickelson Foundation stepped up to run the event and announced that all proceeds will go to local charities.

Need some fantasy advice for The American Express? Paulie has your back! Check out Paulie’s picks for DraftKings and one-and-done leagues.

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (European Tour)

  • TV coverage:
    • Thursday, midnight-3:30 a.m. ET and 6-8 a.m. ET (Golf Channel)
    • Friday, 3-8 a.m. ET (Golf Channel)
    • Saturday-Sunday, 3:30-8 a.m. ET (Golf Channel)
  • Tee Times
  • The week’s strongest men’s field includes not only Koepka but also defending champion Shane Lowry, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood, and Bryson DeChambeau.
  • As is customary in Abu Dhabi, the star players dressed up for some pre-tournament shenanigans

The LPGA Tour kicks off its 2020 schedule tomorrow with the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Tee Times

Tommy Gainey, apparently doing fine after his arrest a month ago, holds the 54-hole lead at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic. Leaderboard

The Palm Beach Post reports on the PGA of America’s effort to reopen West Palm Beach’s languishing municipal course. It appears that a fight is brewing between golf and real estate development.

Bryson DeChambeau continues to say fascinatingly daffy (or perhaps brilliantly satirical?) things every time he opens his mouth.

The Latest from The Fried Egg

A Mom-and-Pop Classic: Eagle Springs – Golf is a family-friendly game, but it’s not often you find a family-run course these days. Mike Bolan’s family has owned and operated Eagle Springs Golf Resort since 1893. Not only is Eagle Springs’ history remarkable, but so is its architecture, especially on the volcano 2nd hole.

Listen to our podcast discussion with Mike Bolan about the history of Eagle Springs on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher! Presented by Visit Milwaukee

Shotgun Start: Bryson frozen out of PAC but not Lab Coat crew and Tour’s slow play “enhancements”

This Wednesday episode begins with a lengthy digression on Topgolf and what may or may not be considered proper Topgolf etiquette and behavior. Then Brendan and Andy get to the schedule for the week but not before another disagreement over the Solicitor General being allowed to play and potentially win on the Korn Ferry Tour. The featured groups for The American Express are examined, including a specific quartet of singles hitters. In Abu Dhabi, the dress-up session in lab coats amuses. Bryson DeChambeau’s comments on how slow play times won’t be an issue anymore because of how far he is hitting it is put under the microscope. Also, they discuss the Tour’s Player Advisory Council passing on Bryson despite his lobbying for a third straight year. How would a PAC meeting proceed with Bryson at the table and who from the current group should get the boot? The Tour’s new slow play “enhancements” are compared to the Euro Tour’s more fleshed-out actions. They close with a comparison of the Astros discipline to the punishment of Patrick Reed and then finally some alarming detail about the CT numbers for a new 3-wood. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

For an introduction to this ongoing list, check out its home on our website.

Bandon Dunes (Bandon, Oregon)

$$$$

Oddly, the first Bandon Dunes course may be the most underrated. Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, Old Macdonald, and Sheep Ranch are more radical than David McLay Kidd’s sturdy 1999 design, but only Pacific has a decidedly stronger collection of holes, and none has better topography. The quality of Bandon Dunes’ land is especially evident on two bunkerless holes that get less attention than they deserve: Nos. 7 and 13. On both, Kidd lets the rumpled terrain speak for itself, offering advantages to those who can find the rare flat spots or, if worse comes to worst, cope with uneven lies. Above all, though, playing over this kind of ground—the kooky, unpredictable kind—is just fun.

Insider tip: The 7th hole (pictured below), along with the clifftop 5th and 6th, were not in Kidd’s original routing plan—because the land they sit on did not belong to Mike Keiser. But, according to Stephen Goodwin’s Dream Golf, the owner of the property went bankrupt just before construction started, and the course came together. -Garrett Morrison

Photo credit: Garrett Morrison

Pro Shop

The bunker left of the 16th hole at PGA West is one of the deepest in the world. You might as well tie a rope to the top of the hill and scale down. Speaking of ropes, we have some on our hats! The Fried Egg retro rope hat looks stylish both on and off the golf course. Get yours today!