Monday, April 29

Graeme McDowell: 'There's Just No Way to Speed the Game Up'

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GRAEME MCDOWELL WAS RESPONDING to Edoardo Molinari, who tweeted about the glacial times on the European Tour.

McDowell called Molinari a nice kid, but said the Italian was flogging a pretty dead horse.

"Listen, golf courses are long, golf courses are hard, we're playing for a lot of money, it's a big business, it is what it is," McDowell said according to Golf Channel. "There’s just no way to speed the game up really. You can try these small percentiles, but at the end of the day it's very hard to get around a 7,600-yard golf course with tucked pins with a three-ball in less than 4:45, 5 hours. You can't do it."

Read the whole story.

Friday, April 26

Golf Swing Friday: Stella Walters (Age 6)

THIS IS STELLA WALTERS a month ago at Craigielaw Golf Club in East Lothian, Scotland.

Stella, who is 6, lists golf and skiing in her Twitter bio. If she skis like she hits irons, WATCH OUT.

Thursday, April 25

USGA: Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell highlight champions exempt for 119th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

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LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (April 25, 2019) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) has accepted a total of 9,125 entries for the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. The U.S. Open will be held at the fabled course for the sixth time on June 13-16, 2019.

More than 9,000 U.S. Open entries were received for the eighth consecutive year and the 11th time overall. The USGA accepted entries for the 2019 U.S. Open from golfers in all 50 states, including 1,286 from California, as well as the District of Columbia and 77 foreign countries.

Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted the U.S. Open in five consecutive decades and the 119th edition will be the 12th USGA championship to be conducted at the resort. In 1972, Jack Nicklaus won the third of his record-tying four U.S. Opens. Tom Watson and Tom Kite each holed celebrated final-round birdie chip-ins en route to winning their lone U.S. Open titles in 1982 and 1992, respectively. In 2000, Tiger Woods won the first of his three U.S. Opens with a historic 15-stroke triumph, and Graeme McDowell became the first European in 40 years to win the U.S. Open in 2010. Woods, who also won the 2002 and 2008 U.S. Opens, and McDowell are exempt into the 2019 championship.

Brooks Koepka, who became only the seventh player to win consecutive U.S. Opens with his victories in 2017 and 2018, leads the list of 50 players who are fully exempt into the field (see list below). Koepka will seek to become just the second man to win three consecutive U.S. Opens, joining Willie Anderson, who claimed the 1903, 1904 and 1905 championships.

The USGA has also awarded a special exemption into the 119th U.S. Open to two-time champion Ernie Els, of South Africa. Els, 49, won the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club and the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, in Bethesda, Md. Els, who also received a special exemption last year, is one of 19 players to win multiple U.S. Opens and was the first international player to accomplish the feat since Alex Smith in 1910.

Joining Koepka, Woods, McDowell and Els are seven other U.S. Open champions who are fully exempt from having to qualify: Lucas Glover (2009), Dustin Johnson (2016), Martin Kaymer (2014), Rory McIlroy (2011), Justin Rose (2013), Webb Simpson (2012) and Jordan Spieth (2015).
To be eligible, a player must have a Handicap Index® not exceeding 1.4, or be a professional. Local qualifying, which will be played over 18 holes at 109 sites in the United States and one in Canada, will take place between April 29-May 13.

Sectional qualifying, played over 36 holes, will be conducted at eight U.S. sites in the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Washington on Monday, June 3, and one site in Texas on Monday, May 20. For the 15th consecutive year, Japan and England will host international sectional qualifying, scheduled for May 27 and June 3, respectively. A sectional qualifier will be contested for the first time in Canada on June 3.

The number of fully exempt players will increase with the inclusion of the top 60 point leaders and ties from the Official World Golf Ranking®, as of May 20 and June 10. The winner of the PGA Championship (May 16-19) and any multiple winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship will also earn exemptions.

The list of the 50 golfers who are fully exempt into the 2019 U.S. Open (as of April 24):

Daniel BergerZach JohnsonJustin Rose
a-Devon BlingMartin KaymerXander Schauffele
Keegan BradleySi Woo KimWebb Simpson
Patrick CantlayPatton KizzireCameron Smith
Paul CaseyBrooks KoepkaJordan Spieth
Jason DayMatt KucharKyle Stanley
Bryson DeChambeauMarc LeishmanHenrik Stenson
Ernie ElsHideki MatsuyamaJustin Thomas
Tony FinauGraeme McDowella-Michael Thorbjornsen
Tommy FleetwoodRory McIlroyDavid Toms
Rickie FowlerPhil MickelsonJimmy Walker
Sergio GarciaFrancesco MolinariBubba Watson
Lucas GloverKevin NaDanny Willett
Tyrrell Hattona-Kevin O'ConnellAaron Wise
Billy HorschelJon RahmGary Woodland
a-Viktor Hovlanda-Jevon RebulaTiger Woods
Dustin JohnsonPatrick Reed
BOLD - U.S. Open champion

Tuesday, April 23

Goat Caddies Expand at Silvies Valley Ranch in Eastern Oregon

via The Golf Wire

SILVIES VALLEY RANCH, a 140,000 acre eco-resort featuring four stand-alone award-winning golf experiences will open for its second full golf season on May 1. Recognized by Golfweek, Golf Digest, GOLF Magazine and Golf Inc. for its creative approach to the golf experience, The Links at Silvies Valley Ranch intertwines amazing golf opportunities with the natural vegetation and expansive views of Frontier, Oregon.

The resort's 18-hole designs, Craddock and Hankins, which were named among the top four best new golf courses to open in 2018 by Golf Digest, have matured over the last year and are in prime condition to host avid and novice golfers alike.

New this year, the world famous Silvies Valley Ranch goat caddies will be available to assist players on both short courses at the property – McVeigh's Gauntlet, the 7-hole challenge course, named Best New Golf Experience by GOLF Magazine in 2018, and Chief Egan, the 9-hole par-3 course.

"The four courses at Silvies are shaping up nicely for our second full season of golf," said Sean Hoolehan, golf course superintendent.

"I'm grateful to work with an owner who respects the land and provides the opportunity to care for these award-winning courses in an ecological and sustainable way. We're looking forward to welcoming players from across the country to Silvies Valley Ranch this season."

Friday, April 19

2019 Golf Industry Report: Rounds Decline But Participation Base Stable

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By National Golf Foundation

(JUPITER, Fla.) – The National Golf Foundation (NGF), the only trade organization that works with every sector within the golf industry, has released its 2019 Golf Industry Report, a comprehensive state-of-the-industry overview.

The Golf Industry Report (GIR) compiles many of the game's key data points in a single publication and is intended to provide the most holistic view of the business of golf and the health of the game within the U.S. to stakeholders and the media. The GIR includes the latest NGF data on golf participation, engagement, rounds-played, latent demand, golf course supply and development, retail supply, golf equipment sales, and golf’s reach.

Golf's participation base remains stable, with an estimated 24.2 million people (ages 6+) who played golf on a course in 2018 — a slight increase from 23.8 million a year earlier.

Almost as many people play off-course forms of the game, with 23 million hitting golf balls with clubs at golf-entertainment facilities like Topgolf and Drive Shack, indoor simulators and driving ranges. With 9.3 million people exclusively playing golf off-course, the game's overall participant pool has increased 4% to 33.5 million.

There were 434 million rounds of golf played in 2018, a 4.8% year-over-year decline attributable in part to the third-wettest year on record nationally dating back to 1895 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association).

Despite the negative weather impact on the nation's top outdoor, pay-to-play participation sport, there are 14.7 million people who didn't play golf last year but say they are "very interested" in playing golf on a course. This untapped demand helped contribute to the 2.6 million beginners who picked up the game in 2018.

The total U.S. golf course supply declined by 1.2%, with the opening of 12.5 new 18-hole equivalent golf courses and 198.5 course closures. Closures have outweighed new openings nationwide since 2006, an ongoing correction of supply and demand within the market that followed an unsustainable 20-year building boom during which more than 4,000 courses opened, boosting the U.S. supply by 44%. The U.S. remains the best-supplied golf market in the world with 14,613 facilities and 16,693 courses – more than 75% of which are open to all players, the highest public-to-private ratio in history.

Other 2018 highlights from the Golf Industry Report:

• Golf's total reach of about 107 million people in the U.S. is comprised of 33.5M total golf participants plus approximately 74M who watched and/or read about golf, but didn't play on or off course. This represents more than one-third of the U.S. population (age 6+) and is a 10% increase from 2017.

• Juniors (6-17) and young adults (18-34) comprise approximately 35% of all on-course golfers, with 2.5 million junior participants and 6.1 million young adults.

• There are 5.7 million women who played golf on a course in 2018. Women account for 23% of the on-course golfer base and 44% of off-course only play.

• Newcomers to golf are increasingly diverse: 31% are female, 26% are non-Caucasian and 62% are under the age of 35.

• The number of golfers age 65-and-over increased almost 17% to 4.2 million in 2018. This number should continue to increase as the balance of Baby Boomers cross this milestone.

• There are more than 20 million committed golfers who account for approximately 95% of all rounds-played and spending.

• Golfers played an average of 17.9 rounds in 2018.

• The average price paid for an 18-hole round at public golf facilities is $35.

Picture This With LPGA's Azahara Munoz

2018 LOTTE CHAMPIONSHIP RUNNER-UP Azahara Munoz tells about her native country of Spain.

The 2019 LOTTE Championship is being played at Ko Olina Golf Club in Oahu, Hawaii. Eun-Hee Ji is the 36-hole leader at 15 under. Coverage is on Golf Channel at 7 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, April 17

Golf Swing Wednesday: Tim Burke in World Long Drive Competition

THIS IS TIM BURKE COMPETING in the Open Division of the "Smash in the Sun" at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club.

Tuesday, April 16

From Pain to Joy: Reflections on Tiger Woods' 15th Major Victory

I WAS DRIVING EASTBOUND ON I-64 during the final round of the 2019 Masters. I had attended my aunt's funeral in southern Indiana. Now my wife and I were heading home to Virginia after a difficult and emotional week for our family.

Somewhere east of Louisville my cousin called.

"Hey, are you watching the Masters?"

My wife and I laughed. Yes, we are.

I had the live stream on my phone perched between us on the console. I could easily listen to Jim Nantz and others describe the action as the contenders navigated Amen Corner and the finishing holes. But it was hard to watch the Masters while I drove the interstate. I tried, though, stealing glances at a putt, a tee shot, a pitch. My wife kept telling me to watch the road. I am, I am, I said.

As Tiger Woods later said in Butler Cabin, the leaderboard flipped at the tricky par-3 12th hole when four of five players, including Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari, hit their tee shots into the water. Through patience and experience, Tiger jumped to the top of the leaderboard and went on to win his fifth Masters and 15th major championship.

For the first time Woods won a major by coming from behind, and his fifth Green Jacket represented the longest victory gap in Masters history. Tiger's comeback has astonished nearly everyone, including himself.

While I was eating a late lunch in Lexington, Kentucky, my brother-in-law phoned from Seattle. He expressed condolences and then mentioned the Masters. Yes, I knew what happened. Now the Internet is going to blow up, I joked.

Late that afternoon, after checking into a hotel, I was able to watch the last two hours of the encore broadcast of the final round. I saw the historic drama unfold shot by shot.

The images that stood out for me were at the finish, when Tiger tapped in on 18 and raised his arms and soon after beamed in Butler Cabin. His face said it all, covered with expressions of pure joy and an unabashed smile that reminded me of that 21-year-old kid who shook this same glorious ground in 1997.

Tiger has been carrying a lot of pain for a long time, and not only in his back or his knee or his Achilles tendon. Just like he was lauded like no other when he was on top of the world, he was kicked like no other when he was down.

Maybe Tiger will win more majors. Maybe he'll catch and pass Jack Nicklaus, who has 18.

Whatever happens, it's hard for me to imagine a more important and redemptive victory for Tiger Woods. Nearly everyone is cheering once again. The pain has turned to sheer joy.

Thursday, April 11

INFOGRAPHIC: 2019 Masters Tournament

I'VE BEEN ABSENT FOR AWHILE, away from home and taking a break from this blog. But now I'm back, and perhaps like you, I'm keeping an eye on the Masters.

Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are the first-round leaders at 6-under 66. Phil Mickelson is one shot back after a scrambling 67. Scoring was impressive on a good weather day at Augusta National. 

Following is a Masters infographic courtesy of WalletHub.

Source: WalletHub