Did you know that cotton candy was invented by a dentist? That guy literally created business for himself.

Keeping up with Koepka

The leaderboard at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is an eclectic mix of young guys like Sam Burns, veterans like Mark Hubbard and Steve Stricker, highly ranked players like Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler, and a few who are battling slumps, like Michael Kim, Jordan Spieth, and Brooks Koepka. Hubbard and Matthew NeSmith lead the way after first-round 63s. Leaderboard

No offense to the others, but we’re most interested in Brooks Koepka this week. After three dominant seasons (at least in the majors) from 2017 to 2019, Koepka hasn’t quite been himself. He’s suffered multiple injuries, rehabbed his knee, left longtime swing coach Claude Harmon III, and struggled to find his former consistency on the big stages. He arrived at TPC Scottsdale on the back of three missed cuts, a first in his PGA Tour career. While Koepka wasn’t perfect on Thursday, his seven birdies en route to a 68 have him well within striking distance.

Pro golf is better when Brooks Koepka is strutting around, talking and playing like an alpha dog. So let’s hope he’s healthy enough to turn a corner this week in Arizona.

Beyond the headlines

Ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Saudi International, many players were asked their thoughts on the USGA and R&A’s new “areas of interest” in an ongoing study of distance gains in golf. Predictably, the pros were critical of the development.

Just as predictably, it was Rory McIlroy’s rant commentary that received the most attention. McIlroy called the USGA and R&A’s effort a “huge waste of time and huge waste of money” and added, “99.9% of the people who play this game play for enjoyment, for entertainment. They don’t need to be told what ball or clubs to use.” Important to note: McIlroy is still open to bifurcation, but you wouldn’t know that if you read just the headlines in major publications.

Rory McIlroy is one of the most articulate and well-informed players on the PGA Tour, but his criticism of the governing bodies’ distance study struck an odd chord. If he read last year’s Distance Insights Report, it’s hard to imagine how he came to the conclusion that the USGA and R&A are “looking at golf through a tiny, narrow little lens.” Unlike most parties to this debate, the governing bodies are working to analyze the distance issue from as many different angles as possible.

With a flash of good humor, McIlroy acknowledged he had woken up “in a mood.” Still, it’s too bad he took it out on the Distance Insights Project, which is one of the few good things to come out of the rollback wars. In general, as the future of equipment regulation becomes clearer, we hope golfers don’t just read the headlines but instead take the time to absorb and understand the governing bodies’ research. Oh, and always remember that PGA Tour players get paychecks from the very companies that are most opposed to change.

Quick Hooks

David Horsey, Stephen Gallacher, Bernd Wiesberger, Thomas Pieters, and Bryson DeChambeau are among the leaders at the Saudi International on the European Tour. Leaderboard

Now No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Xander Schauffele hasn’t finished worse than T-25 since last June. He shot 66 on Thursday at TPC Scottsdale and sits T-6 through one round.

Fifty-three-year-old Steve Stricker is just two shots off the lead at the WMPO after a Thursday 65. Stricker’s last PGA Tour victory came in early 2012. Does he have one more week of magic?

The PGA Tour informed Rory McIlroy that a volunteer said he or she accidentally stepped on McIlroy’s ball on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines last Saturday, confirming that Rory took proper relief for an embedded ball. So at least we know that one of the two embedded-ball drops from last weekend was legitimate. No need to YELL about it any longer.

The Latest from The Fried Egg

We Can Handle the Truth – It appears that PGA Tour pros are willing to open up more to fans, but tour policies restrict them. Will Knights thinks it’s time for players to be freed up.

Shotgun Start: Stevie vs. Sunny, Rocket and the BetCast, the “selfish” and “time-wasting” USGA

This Friday episode begins with an admission from Andy that he might be turning into a “Florida man,” which prompts an interrogation from Brendan on why he wasn’t at the historic moment when a new all-time wins leader was crowned in the MLGT this week. Then they get into the Saudi event, namely some informed guesses on appearance fee totals, if this course is ever played outside of this week, and how such a new venue already has an obsolete range. The Phoenix Open chatter focuses on some amusements and nicknames from PGA Tour Live, Big Jay perhaps delivering the news personally to Rory that a volunteer stepped on his ball, and the BetCast experiment. At one point, the invasiveness of gambling promotion is compared to the heyday of marketing cigarettes to kids. There is a new sponsor for Flashback Friday, which is a lengthy dive into one of Phil’s Phoenix Open conquests and a look back at a changing of the guard in American golf. An extended news segment goes into more distance report chatter, specifically on the asinine comments from Justin Thomas and the meandering words from Rory McIlroy. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

Those of us in the Midwest who are settling in for a deep freeze are rather jealous of the warm Scottsdale temperatures. Good thing Shotgun Start coffee was just added to our pro shop! Stay warm with the Original SGS Blend.