The English are coming!

An Englishman and an English lead at the Honda, the coronavirus rattles the golf world, the API uses a sponsor exemption beautifully


Happy fun-fact-Friday, folks! Did you know the only letter not to appear in the name of a state is Q? (Arizona has Z covered while New Mexico and Texas take care of X.) Wild stuff!

In today’s newsletter… 

  • In Oman, two Italian golfers are quarantined and tested for the coronavirus.
  • The Arnold Palmer Invitational shows how to use a sponsor invite properly.
  • Tom Lewis and Harris English thrive in tough conditions at a tough PGA National.

The Storylines

A spreading issue

On Wednesday, Italian pros Edoardo Molinari and Lorenzo Gagli were removed from the European Tour’s Oman Open and quarantined over concerns about the coronavirus. Thankfully, both players tested negative for the disease and were reinstated in time for Thursday’s first round.

The coronavirus has caused the LPGA to cancel its Asian swing and the PGA Tour China to shorten its season. Now it’s having an impact on the European Tour. No doubt professional golf will continue to feel the effects of the epidemic, and with the Tokyo Olympics approaching, players will have some interesting travel decisions to make—assuming the games happen. In 2016, several of the world’s best golfers skipped the Rio Olympics, citing (somewhat spurious) concerns about the Zika virus. Perhaps we’ll see more of the same in 2020.

Sponsor Invites 101

Next week at Bay Hill, Brandon Matthews will make his first PGA Tour start after receiving an exemption from the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This invite has a lovely backstory. Last November, during a playoff at the PGA Tour Latinoamérica’s Visa Open de Argentina, Matthews faced an eight-foot putt to force a fourth extra hole. In his backstroke, a fan with Down Syndrome accidentally shouted. Matthews missed the putt and and lost the tournament. A victory would have earned him an Open Championship berth.

Afterwards, when the tournament director explained to Matthews what had happened, he immediately asked to meet the fan. He offered a hug, a signed glove, and some kind words. “I didn’t want anyone to be mad at him,” Matthews said. “I didn’t want him to be mad at himself. I wanted to make sure he knew that I wasn’t mad.” It was a heartwarming story that brought attention to a young golfer of true character.

So kudos to the API for giving Matthews this recognition. We’ll be rooting for him to earn one of the three Open Championship spots available at Bay Hill.

The Roundup

Honda Classic (PGA Tour)

  • Leaderboard
  • Tom Lewis and Harris English sit atop the Honda leaderboard after first-round 66s. Lewis earned his PGA Tour membership after winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship last September, his only KFT start in 2019. Lewis is from England and Harris English is…  well, you get it. The queen is proud.
  • Zach Johnson, J.T. Poston, Cameron Tringale, Brian Stuard, and Lee Westwood (BOOM TIMES ON WESTY ISLAND!) are one shot back.

Italian Guido Migliozzi shot a first-round 66 to set the pace at the Oman Open. Just-out-of-quarantine Dodo Molinari and Lorenzo Gagli shot 70 and 69, respectively. Not bad! Leaderboard

Brian Richey leads Mark Hensby by one shot at the Korn Ferry Tour’s El Bosque Mexico Championship. Leaderboard

The USGA announced on Thursday that the 2026 U.S. Women’s Amateur and 2031 U.S. Amateur will be held at the Honors Course outside of Chattanooga. If you’re a fan of chaos, keep an eye out for these events.

Per Jonathan Wall, Billy Horschel has been discharged from the PXG “Troops.” Make of that what you will.

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

For an introduction to this ongoing list, check out its home on our website. Also, @chockfullofthat on Twitter has continued to maintain this handy map of our picks so far. Many thanks to him!

Streamsong Black (Bowling Green, Florida)


The most recent addition to this Central Florida golf resort required the most architectural inventiveness. About half of the site for the Black Course is sandy and the other half is a flat swamp, so Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner had to manufacture interest on much of the course. They did so through audaciously contoured greens, which can rub some golfers the wrong way. But if you can get over the shock and realize that it’s okay for the challenge to come at the greens, you will find more to like with every loop. Each green at Streamsong Black is distinct from the others, and most provide multiple avenues to the same spots. Often the best routes to the pin involve aiming away from your ultimate target. Check out our video featuring the course’s greens and Lawson Klotz’s article on the 2nd hole.

Insider tip: If time permits, take advantage of the replay rate on the Black. The contours make more and more sense each time around. -Andy Johnson

Photo credit: Andy Johnson

The Latest from The Fried Egg

The Fried Egg Podcast: Superintendent Series – Episode 5: Roger Null

Renowned golf course superintendent and architect Roger Null joins Andy for the latest installment in our Superintendent Series, brought to you by The Toro Company. Roger has nearly a half century of experience in the golf business, serving as a superintendent at Cedar Rapids CC and Old Warson CC, a design consultant at many courses in the Midwest, and even a general manager at Boone Valley GC. He is also an accomplished amateur player, with three GCSAA National Championships to his name (though Andy suspects the actual number is higher). Roger and Andy talk about how Roger got his start as a greenskeeper, what has changed in course maintenance in the past few decades, the difficulty of growing grass in St. Louis, how his work as an architect influenced his approach as a superintendent, and many other topics. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

The Shotgun Start: Which Tour pros drive Hondas? Fan Philosophies for majors, and the legend of Jarmo

This Friday episode wanders around a bit at the beginning trying to get loose discussing weekend plans, Comcast outages, and the official new Shotgun Start coffee blend from our friends at Bixby Coffee. Eventually, on golf, we discuss Lee Westwood’s opening salvo at the Honda Classic and how it all sets up for the care-free paunchy Englishman. We discuss the PXG mutiny among the #troops, starting with Bill Horschel’s discharge. Then there’s a guessing game on which pros might actually drive a Honda vehicle. In news, we review Martin Sleeps’s comments that the R&A is looking for venues that can accommodate 200k fans, potentially leaving Turnberry and Muirfield out in the cold. We contrast that with news that the USGA has agreed to lower ticket availability for Winged Foot after membership concerns about damage to the East Course following 2006. Also in news, we discover and bathe in the navel-gazing vanity of this “Greg Norman’s Biggest Fan” contest being run by… Greg Norman. Flashback Friday focuses on Cologuard Monday qualifier Jarmo Sandelin and his wild history of carrying an obscenely long driver, nearly coming to blows with Phil Mickelson over machine-gun mimicry celebrations, cheating accusations against him and at Mark O’ Meara, and playing the villain at the 1999 Ryder Cup. A second Flashback for this leap-year weekend hits on Camilo Villegas’s 2010 Honda win and what has happened to “Spiderman” since that title. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

You really have to hold on to your hat around PGA National, both figuratively and literally. If you’re going to subject yourself to that unpleasantness, you might as well look good. Grab our classic Fried Egg hat in white or navy!