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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
US Open latest major to fall victim to coronavirus pandemic
Mar 31, 2020 8:43 AM
Tags: US Open   New York   News   Winged Foot   Coronavirus   pga tour  
 
One by one, professional golf’s highest profile events continue to fall victim to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The Players Championship was the first to go, abandoned after just 18-holes. Swiftly thereafter, the PGA Tour announced the cancellation of the Valspar Championship in Tampa, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town in South Carolina, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, and the Byron Nelson in Dallas. Separately, Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, confirmed that for the first time since 1945, the Masters will not take place in the second week of April. The USGA followed suit, confirming that the US PGA Championship, which had been scheduled to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from 11-17 May, will be rearranged for later in the year. Exclusive: US Open is being pushed back https://t.co/mMwbikG6br— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) March 27, 2020 Even September’s Ryder Cup is in doubt, with the Daily Telegraph newspaper reporting a fortnight ago that organisers are exploring the possibility of postponing the tournament until 2021. It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that the U.S. Open, scheduled for June 18-21 at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York, will be the third men’s major tournament postponed to avoid contributing to the spread of the coronavirus, according to the New York Post. The USGA senior director of championship communications, Beth Major stated last week that "We are working collaboratively with other golf organizations to determine how to proceed with the 2020 calendar of events." He added: "We’re all certainly looking forward to returning to golf, but only when it has been determined safe to do so. The top priority for each of us remains the safety and well-being with everyone involved with our championships and tournaments." USA Today even reported that Oakmont Country Club and Pinehurst No. 2 had been contacted with a view to filling in for Winged Foot to ensure that the tournament could go ahead as scheduled in June. Ultimately, all such efforts at ensuring scheduling continuity appear to have proven futile. Winged Foot was shut down on Sunday evening when New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to close non-essential business went into effect. All construction in advance of the U.S. Open came to a halt a week ago. Only the protective bases that provide support for major infrastructure are in place. Now the New York Post is reporting that the tournament will take place a Winged Foot, but in the late summer or even September. Given the current state of affairs in New York, a late summer US Open would be a very positive outcome. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tommy Fleetwood says Ryder Cup can act as an ‘amazing torch’
Mar 30, 2020 3:05 PM
Tags: Golf   Ryder Cup   Tiger Woods   Tommy Fleetwood   News   Coronavirus  
 
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has essentially exploded the global sporting calendar. From Formula 1 motor racing and athletics, to elite-level tennis, cricket and soccer, no major professional sport has been left unscathed. With nine PGA Tour events cancelled and two majors postponed in the space of just three weeks, golf is no exception to this broader trend and grave uncertainty lingers over the events that remain scheduled from 1 June – the date on which the PGA Tour optimistically plans to resume regular season play. Perhaps most significant of these outstanding events is the Ryder Cup, currently scheduled to take place at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin on 22-27 September. The Daily Telegraph’s golf correspondent, James Corrigan last week provoked widespread concern when he reported that the event is set to be pushed back until 2021, an extraordinary measure last adopted in response to the September 2001 terror attacks. Both the official US Ryder Cup Twitter account and the European captain, Padraig Harrington have since denied these reports, averring emphatically that there are not presently any plans to delay the sport’s flagship event. Now the European Tour star, Tommy Fleetwood has added his voice to a growing body of opinion that the Ryder Cup should go ahead as scheduled in the late autumn. Thank you to our real heroes. Stay safe everyone. pic.twitter.com/cuSpew8yqc— Tommy Fleetwood (@TommyFleetwood1) March 28, 2020 “I think there are certain events that would be an amazing torch for a turn in how the world is getting on and the Ryder Cup would be one of them that is like a shining light at the end of the tunnel”, Fleetwood told BBC 5 Live. “It is obviously a very interesting one in terms of that qualification. For me I am fine if it stayed as it is at the moment so I don’t mind either way if it was to be played. But it should take its full course. The Ryder Cup is an event people dream about and sometimes it can only happen once.” On how the schedule may look, Fleetwood added: “I think there are five events really, the majors and the Ryder Cup — whatever happens it is going to work around those events I would guess. “And however that works I have no idea. Those are the ones that everybody will be keen to get going and we will see how that goes and how people plan that out. “They are in constant conversations every day to see what the options are. Whatever happens I think those will be the ones that get put front in line. “It will be interesting for events like the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai because they haven’t had a year-long order of merit so it will be interesting to see how those pan out. The truth is I have no idea.” Fleetwood’s calls for the Ryder Cup to go ahead as planned can by no means be considered a decisive contribution to this debate; however, it does reflect the esteem in which the event continues to be held among the sport’s elite players. When it comes to determining what get played and what gets cut in the final six months of the season, golfing administrators will not be deaf to the perspectives expressed by the sport’s highest profile practitioners. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
5 ways golfers can stay on top of their game while trapped indoors
Mar 26, 2020 9:49 AM
Tags: Masters   News   Golf tips    yoga   Coronavirus  
 
The outbreak of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused massive global social and economic disruption. From work, exercise and study, to transport, shopping and business, no aspect of life has been left unaffected. With nine PGA Tour events cancelled and two majors postponed in the space of just two weeks, golf is no exception to this broader trend. But while much media attention has been paid to the disruptive effects of the pandemic on the professional game, far less attention has been focused on its impact on regular club golfers, many of whom have been confined to their homes as a consequence of state-wide lockdowns. This article offers five practical, cheap and easy tips for golfers looking to keep on top of their game while the pandemic prevents them from getting to a local course or driving range. 1. Putting practice Putting is unquestionably the technical aspect of golf most amenable to indoor practice. While there are many relatively low-cost accoutrements available online that can help you to refine your putting stroke from the comfort of your home, one frequently overlooked mechanism many have access to is a tiled floor. Simply set your putter flush against a tile, and set your body lines parallel to it, and practice arcing your stroke off the line, but making sure the putterface returns to square at impact. A horizontal-turned coffee mug or even a shoe can act as an ideal target. 2. Mind training ‘Golf’, as Bobby Jones reflected famously, ‘is played mainly on a six-inch course; the space between your ears’. There has developed, consequently, a large body of psychological theory dedicated to enabling golfers refine their mental approach to the game. But one of the most straightforward means through which players of any level can ensure they arrive on the course in the right state of mind is simply by practicing regular meditation and mindfulness. Gladly, the meditation and mindfulness app, Headspace, is offering free meditations, sleep, and movement exercisesduring this time of global crisis. If you want to utilize their full offering, you can also sign up for a free two-week trial. Good idea - Staying at home and giving the NHS a chance to do it’s thing #HOMETEAM Bad idea - Hitting golf balls indoors @adidas pic.twitter.com/VZ6FpTqYig— Ellis Jenkins (@EllisJenkins_) March 25, 2020 3. Planking The plank is one of the best exercises for core conditioning, which is essential to generating power and maintaining balance through your swing. Gladly, planking is also one of the best core exercises you can do at home, requiring little more than some exercise clothes and flat, stable surface. ‘Tone and Tighten’ have made a challenging but highly effective introduction to planking free on their YouTube channel during the pandemic. Now is as good a time as any to incorporate core conditioning workouts into your regular golf practice routine. 4. Yoga Yoga can work wonders for one’s golf game, as many pros attest. For in addition to helping to improve concentration-levels and clarity of thought, it can enhance flexibility, help to guard against injuries and build-up strength in the core and back. Gladly, Yoga with Adriene have produced a free, 20-minute introductory video designed specifically for golfers. Use your time at home productively to diversify and improve your approach to refining your golf game. 5. Club care When it comes to club care, every amateur is filled with good intentions. But with busy lives from Monday to Friday, we often struggle to fit in the cleaning, polishing and regripping required to ensure your clubs add an extra 5-10% to your game come the weekend. Housebound, the pandemic provides you with an ideal window to catch-up on all that mechanical admin you had put on the backburner. Golf Monthly have produced an excellent introductory guide to club maintenance and cleaning. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Olympics postponement provides welcome reprieve for crowded golfing calendar
Mar 25, 2020 9:14 AM
 
To observe that the professional golfing calendar is in turmoil at present would be an understatement. So far, nine PGA Tour events have been cancelled. The Players Championship, of course, was the first to go – abandoned after just 18-holes. PGA Tour administrators have since announced the cancellation of the Valspar Championship in Tampa, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town in South Carolina, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, and the Byron Nelson in Dallas. Add to the above the postponement of the Masters and US PGA Championship, slated originally for early-April and mid-May respectively, and it seems safe to say the schedule for the second-half of the year is up in the air. For even if regular Tour play is able to resume in June – and that is by no means a certainty – the PGA would be looking at playing four major championships, three FedEx Cup playoff events, two WGCs and the Ryder Cup in the space of a little over three-months. In this context confirmation on Tuesday morning that the Tokyo Olympic Games have been postponed formally until 2021 came as a welcome reprieve to golfing administrators. The Olympic Flame will remain lit in Japan and serve as a symbol of hope for the world.#TokyoOlympics @Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/LTfGzTcXeL— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) March 25, 2020 For although the prospect of competing at the 2020 Games was greeted with a far more sympathetic response from the PGA Tour elite than was the case for the Zika virus-riven Rio Olympics four years ago, the event already sat uncomfortably in a congested calendar – two weeks following The Open and two weeks prior to the FedEx Cup playoffs – and would have been rendered unplayable in the context of the present scheduling backlog. Even before the current pandemic took hold in the United States, former world No.1, Dustin Johnson announced he would be skipping the Games if he qualified because of where it sat in an overcrowded schedule. Brooks Koepka was similarly non-committal when quizzed on his enthusiasm for the Olympics, hinting at fears of physical burnout by adding another far-flung event into a busy summer period dominated by the majors. Even without onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, other leading players would surely have followed Johnson and Koepkain sacrificing the Tokyo Games in order to maximise their mental and physical preparedness for majors this summer. Thus, although the postponement of the Tokyo Games is sure to wreak scheduling havoc in those sports for which the Olympics represents the pinnacle of competitive achievement, it has provided golfing administrators with a welcome reprieve at a time of unprecedented tumult. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Could Harrington and Stricker have to make 12 Ryder Cup picks?
Mar 23, 2020 10:43 AM
 
Golf, no less than any other major professional sport, has been impacted profoundly by the coronavirus epidemic. A fortnight ago, the Players Championship was abandoned after 18-holes, and PGA Tour administrators announced the cancellation of the Valspar Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Valero Texas Open. Less than 24-hours later, Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, confirmed that for the first time since 1945, the Masters will not take place in the second week of April. The USGA have since followed suit, confirming that the US PGA Championship, which had been scheduled to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from 11-17 May, will be rearranged for later in the year. Even September’s Ryder Cup is in doubt, with the Daily Telegraph newspaper reporting last week that organisers are exploring the possibility of postponing the tournament until 2021. European captain, Padraig Harrington has since denied these reports, averring emphatically on Irish radio that there are not presently any plans to delay the sport’s flagship event. But even if the PGA and European Tours do figure out a way to stage the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits this autumn, there are several significant structural disruptions effected by the virus that the organisers will need to sort out, even aside from the question of whether fans will be admitted to the course. Ryder Cup set to be postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus crisis | @jcorrigangolf https://t.co/JeaTkC6N6y — Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) March 17, 2020 Foremost among these is issue the issue of qualifying. As anyone reading this blog is likely well aware, the vast majority of both the US and European Ryder Cup squads are determined by a points race calculated over the course of two seasons. In the case of the 2021 event, the European team was to be composed of the first four players from the European Points List, followed by the leading five players from the World Points List, and three wild-card selections. The US squad, meantime, was to consist of the top-eight players on the world points list and four wild-cards. If the qualification race was declared complete owing to the outbreak of the pandemic, September’s event would pit Tommy Fleetwood, John Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Victor Perez, Tyrrell Hatton, Danny Willett, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Lee Westwood and Bernd Wiesberger (and three wild-cards) against Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods (and four wild-cards). The above by no means represents a ‘B-list’ of transatlantic golf; however, there are several significant high-profile absentees on both sides, and while such deficiencies could arguably be remedied through wild-card selections, it is still debatable whether it is fair to determine squads on the basis of a significantly curtailed qualification period. For instance, less than a point separates Wiesberger in the ninth and final European qualification spot from Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, Austria’s Matthias Schwab, England’s Paul Waring and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello are all within striking distance of securing an automatic spot. Is it fair that they are denied their hard-earned chance at qualifying just so the tournament to go ahead as scheduled? Similarly, in an American context, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay sit within half-a-point of Woods in the final automatic qualification spot, and players of the calibre of Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner and Jordan Spieth all remain in contention for a place on Steve Stricker’s team. In light of such complexity, the fairest solution may simply be to scrap the qualifying process altogether and allow Harrington and Stricker each to select a 12-man squad? It is an imperfect remedy to the qualification quandary; however, exceptional circumstances demand exceptional measures. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Response Premier Golf League proposals crystallises generational shift on PGA Tour
Mar 23, 2020 7:29 AM
 
Recent moves to establish a breakaway international golf tour have the potential to effect the most fundamental restructuring of the professional game since the institutionalisation of the PGA Tour in 1929. Funded principally by Saudi investors, the Premier Golf League (PGL) hoped to coax the sport’s biggest stars away from the PGA and European tours with eye-watering sums of guaranteed cash and a model akin to Formula One. Plans included 18 tournaments per year, of 54 holes, and a team element. Discussion over the proposal dominated the start of the golfing year. Five-time major winner, Phil Mickelson called the idea “intriguing” and met with the PGL’s key figures at the Saudi International in January. 15-time major winner, Tiger Woods confirmed he had been approached and conceded, "We're still looking at it", while the former world No.1, Justin Rose admitted coyly that: "There are a lot of incentives for the guys to be interested." It is surely no coincidence that Woods and Rose share an agent, Marc Steinberg. We should have known better than to challenge @TigerWoods to a shot shaping challenge... pic.twitter.com/PzF2zWJGS9 — GOLFTV (@GOLFTV) March 17, 2020 One by one, it seemed, golf’s biggest personalities were being drawn away from the sport’s traditional competitions, or were at least willing to use the PGL as what Mickelson referred to crudely “leverage,” in negotiations with the PGA and European tours. Then in mid-February, Rory McIlroy delivered a body-blow to the project, stating conclusively that he has no interest taking part. “The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it,” the world No 1 reflected. “Money is cheap, money is the easy part. It shouldn’t be the driving factor. Look, for some people it is and we’re professional golfers and we’re out here playing golf to make a living, but at the end of the day I value my freedom and my autonomy over everything else.” Two weeks later, he introduced a moral dimension to the debate, highlighting both his personal sense of obligation to the PGA Tour and reservations regarding the funding sources behind the PGL. “I’d like to think I’m quite a loyal person”, McIlroy said. “I think the PGA has given me a platform to showcase my skills, build my brand and turn me into this golfer and athlete…[Also,] I didn’t really like where the money was coming from either and I wanted to be the first one to speak out against it.” McIlroy’s emphatic rejection of the PGL precipitated a sea change in the tenor of public discourse surrounding the proposals. Shortly after discussing the project with McIlroy, world No.2 Brooks Koepka stated: “I am out of the PGL. I’m going with the PGA Tour. I have a hard time believing golf should be about just 48 players.” World No.3, Jon Rahm struck a similar note the following week, saying: “I think what I’m going to do is focus on just the PGA Tour. At the end of the day I’m a competitor, I’m a PGA Tour member and I’m going to stay that way.” Conspicuous in all this is the fact that where Mickelson, Woods and Rose are all aged 40 or over, none of McIlroy, Koepka or Rahm is older than 30. Clearly, all three of the younger players remain convinced their long-term professional fortunes are best served on the PGA Tour. Woods and Mickelson did more than anyone to transform the PGA Tour into the commercial behemoth that it is today. It is arguable, therefore, they are perfectly entitled to walk away from the cash-cow they helped to create to pursue even greater riches on a breakaway tour. However, golf, perhaps more than any other sport, derives its identify and competitive shape from a strong collective memory of the game’s history and traditions. This is particularly the case with respect to the majors which function as a timeless benchmark of success, enabling us to accurately weight and measure the achievements of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer against those of Woods and McIlroy, and so on. It would be great shame, therefore, if the parting contribution of Woods and Mickelson is to weaken the patiently woven intergenerational fabric from which professional golf derives its culture and identity. When McIlroy said he didn’t want to be on “the wrong side of history” when the dust settles on the PGL proposals, he demonstrated a moral insight and integrity that appears sadly to be lacking in some of the foremost golfers of the preceding generation. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Paul Casey concedes all rescheduling possible following coronavirus postponements
Mar 22, 2020 12:53 PM
Tags: Masters   Paul Casey   Ryder Cup   News   Padraig Harrington  
 
To observe that international sporting administrators have been having a busy time of late is an understatement. From soccer and athletics, to Formula 1 and cricket, Covid-19 has decimated the global sporting calendar. Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League have all suspended regular season play, while National Football League teams have put back travel arrangements and cancelled face-to-face meetings with draft prospects. Golf, of course, has been no less profoundly impacted by this global shock. A fortnight ago, the Players Championship was abandoned after 18-holes, and PGA Tour administrators announced the postponement of the Valspar Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Valero Texas Open. Less than 24-hours later, Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, confirmed that for the first time since 1945, the Masters will not take place in the second week of April. The USGA have since followed suit, confirming that the US PGA Championship, which had been scheduled to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from 11-17 May, will be rearranged for later in the year. Paul Casey supports fall majors, possible Ryder Cup postponement https://t.co/6UZvkzSycv— USASport24 (@USport24) March 21, 2020 Even September’s Ryder Cup is in doubt, with the Daily Telegraph newspaper reporting last week that organisers are exploring the possibility of postponing the tournament until 2021. While European captain, Padraig Harrington denied these reports on Irish radio, there has been no official confirmation that the event will still take place in the autumn. Indeed, it is difficult to see how the Ryder Cup can go ahead in September if at least two of the season’s four majors will need to be rescheduled for after the summer. Speaking to reporters on a Friday conference call, Paul Casey said that he's open to any scheduling options that would still allow for four major trophies to be lifted this year. "As long as we're not putting anybody at risk trying to put these events on, and let's assume that we get to a position where that's feasible, then let's try to play as many of them as we possibly can," Casey said. "I don't care if they're shoehorned in, if we end up playing three of them in a small amount of time. I'm fine with that. I'll suck it up, I'll get on with it. I'm excited to do it. I want to win one, so why not? Maybe it's a great opportunity to win one. I don't know." Furthermore, the Englishman hinted that the Ryder Cup may have to be sacrificed in order to ensure that all four majors are contested in 2020. "I'm never a fan of postponing stuff, but it's been postponed before. So why can't it happen again?" Casey said. "As disappointing as that would be, you want it to be as good as possible. You want it to be as spectacular as possible. If you're going to put lives at risk, then we have to. Then it's obvious. Yeah, I think there's a really strong possibility. Would I support it being postponed? If it has to, then yes, I would." Harrington may well be required to row back on the unequivocal refutation of the Telegraph story he proffered on Irish radio last week. In a circumstance as unprecedented and unpredictable as a global pandemic, nothing can be asserted with surety. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Hatton in strong Ryder Cup position as Coronavirus wreaks havoc on schedule
Mar 20, 2020 8:02 AM
 
Say what you like about Tyrrell Hatton, but don’t say he doesn’t know how to enjoy a victory. The 28-year-old exhibited admirable honesty upon conceding in the build-up to last week’s circumscribed Players Championship that he was still feeling the after-effects of the celebrations that followed his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. "I'm still feeling quite tired, to be honest," said Hatton at his pre-tournament press conference at Sawgrass. "Sunday night's celebration, there was a lot of red wine and then unfortunately I think the finisher was the drinking the vodka and tequila out of the bottle, which never ends well. And I fell victim to that, definitely." European captain, Padraig Harrington will certainly be hoping Hatton recovers to full sobriety by the time the Ryder Cup rolls around in late September. Speaking on Irish radio on Wednesday, the three-time major winner contradicted reports in the The Telegraph which indicated the Ryder Cup is expected to be postponed to 2021. Ryder Cup set to be postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus crisis | @jcorrigangolf https://t.co/JeaTkC6N6y— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) March 17, 2020 “There’s no change to the situation at all at this stage”, Harrington said. I know there’s been some rumors and things like that; they had to put out a statement that there’s no change, but there is definitely no change. For one, I’m on the inside of these things. … Now that I’m on the inside you go, Wow, it really is made up stuff. Nothing has changed.” These comments were backed up subsequently by the official US Ryder Cup Twitter account which avowed: “Reports today that the 2020 @RyderCup is expected to be postponed are inaccurate.” Precisely how the array of suspensions and postponements arising out of the coronavirus pandemic are going to effect the qualifying race remains to be seen; however, the curtailment of the PGA and European Tour seasons surely stands to benefit those players who already occupying automatic qualification spots. Hatton, significantly, is one of those players and he is consequently possessed of a golden opportunity to substantiate his claim to be considered a bona fide member of the European golfing elite. The Englishman endured almost two full winless seasons after claiming his third European Tour title in a two-year space at the Italian Open in October 2017. However, he returned to the winners’ circle in spectacular circumstances at the Turkish Airlines Open late last year and capped his resurgence courtesy of a single-stroke victory over Marc Leishman at Bay Hill last month. Hatton has long been regarded as a player lacking in the temperament to match his undoubted technical quality; 2020 provides him with an ideal opportunity to refute such perceptions by playing a senior role for the European Ryder Cup squad at Whistling Straits in the autumn. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rory McIlroy puts golf's Coronavirus-enforced holiday in perspective
Mar 19, 2020 5:53 AM
 
Rory McIlroy can be regarded accurately as one of the most thoughtful and interesting personalities in elite-level sport. From human rights and climate change, to Trump and Brexit, the Northern Irishman stands out as a rare sportsman willing to proffer an opinion on politically contentious issues. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that he was a voice of reason last week when golf officials abandoned the Players Championship after 18-holes before issuing a slate of high-profile tournament postponements, including the Masters and US PGA Championship. "It's the right decision, of course it's the right decision," said McIlroy, who fired an opening 72 at Sawgrass before calling for all players and caddies to be tested for coronavirus. "I stood here yesterday after playing and felt what they did was a step in the right direction. What water? @McIlroyRory (probably)#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/cQTMQYPOub— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 8, 2020 "But they were saying they were taking it hour by hour and seeing how it would all play out, and yeah, here we are. "I'll probably just spend some time at home, evaluate the situation, and see where we go. It's so uncertain, you're obviously going to still keep playing golf, but you're going out there practising not knowing what you're practising for. I don't know." McIlroy’s magnanimous, measured response is all the more praiseworthy owing to the fact that, in purely competitive terms, he stands to lose out far more than most of his colleagues from the suspension of the PGA Tour. The 30-year-old arrived at Sawgrass as the form player in world golf. He opened his 2020 campaign with four consecutive top-five finishes and, in 14 starts since missing the cut in spectacular circumstances at The Open Championship last July, he has recorded 12 top-10s, including two tournament victories. To observe that McIlroy was finding form at the right time leading into the Masters would be an understatement; it is unsurprising, therefore, that he is guaranteed to remain world No. 1 during golf’s competitive hiatus. Asked when he would feel comfortable returning to a tour event, McIlroy said, "Whenever the powers that be say it's safe to do so. All you can do is, again, follow the guidelines... from the people that really know about this thing, and that's when I'd be comfortable is when they say it's okay to do so." The 30-year-old's latest stint as golf's voice of reason came just days after he stepped up to personally dismiss plans for a Premier Golf League. “I didn’t really like where the money was coming from either," McIlroy told The Golf Channel, "and I wanted to be the first one to speak out against it, and I’m glad that I have." In these trying circumstances, golf fans and officials can feel grateful that the sport is possessed of such a dignified figurehead. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Spieth may benefit from virus-enforced Masters delay
Mar 16, 2020 11:35 AM
Tags: Masters   Rory McIlroy   News   Coronavirus   pga tour   Jordan Spieth  
 
It was a conspicuous if understandably overlooked news item amidst the drama that followed the abandonment of Players Championship last week; however, Jordan Spieth was one of the few pros who publicly articulated his wish that the Masters would go ahead in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, even if it was to be played behind closed doors. “It would be very unusual without hearing the roars echoing through the valley,” said the 2015 Green Jacket winner reflected. “You can feed off a crowd anywhere and it can also a add a bit of pressure as well, in certain situations. This isn’t ideal for anyone but I think if you polled the players we would rather have the Masters go on without spectators than not go on at all. I think you would probably get a unanimous vote on that one. But it’s a shame.” Ultimately, Spieth’s wish was of little consequence; the rapid spread of the virus across Europe and North America over the weekend obliged Augusta National to postpone its showpiece event and it remains highly uncertain if, or when, the Masters will be played at all in 2020. Justin Thomas dishes on pros, cons of playing with pals Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler https://t.co/aIAo0acc9u— colearygolf (@colearygolf) March 11, 2020 While the postponement of the Masters is clearly trivial in the context of an unprecedented global public health crisis, this blog is dedicated to the welcome distraction of golf, and, in purely sporting terms, the delayed major calendar may end up suiting Spieth. For those who have not been paying attention, the Texan is winless in two full seasons since claiming his third major championship title at The Open at Royal Birkdale in July 2017; he registered just a single top-three finish (at the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in June) in 25 starts across all Tours in 2019, missing three cuts; and has only managed one finish higher than T55 in five starts in 2020 (a T9 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am). Put simply, Spieth looks a shadow of the player who stormed to consecutive Masters and US Open titles as a 21-year-old in 2015; this decline is reflected vividly in his precipitous slump down the Official World Golf Rankings. The 11-time PGA Tour winner teed-off for the 2017 season ranked No.2 in the world; 24-months later, he began the 2020 campaign at No.44 and has since fallen outside of the top-50 for the first time since 2013. Spieth’s game is presently characterised by a fascinating and bewildering series of disjunctures: just as his strong opening 36-hole performance stats are undermined by weak closing 36-hole performance stats, his exceptional putting performance is nullified by weak ball-striking and approach play. The major positive to emerge from Spieth’s 2019 campaign was his apparent success in remedying the putting woes that hampered him during the previous season. He jumped from 123rd (-0.23) to 2nd (+0.86) in Strokes Gained: Putting, the largest leap of any golfer on the PGA Tour in 2019. However, this improvement was matched by the biggest drop on Tour in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (from +0.27 to -0.45) and the fourth-largest drop in Strokes Gained: Approaching the Green (from +0.48 to -0.15). As significant as the 26-year-old’s weak tee-to-green play is his incapacity to sustain a high-level of performance across 72-holes consecutively. For where the three-time major winner ranked 18th and 2nd respectively for first and second-round scoring on the PGA Tour in 2019; he ranked 149th in third-round scoring average and 195th for Sunday scoring. Until Spieth is able to restore a sense of balance and consistency across his game, it is difficult to envisage him contending consistently for trophies at the highest level of the sport. Such a radical transformation in form was never realistically achievable before 9 April; Spieth, therefore, stands to benefit from the virus-enforced delay of the Masters. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Autumn Masters beckons as Coronavirus wreaks havoc on sporting calendar
Mar 14, 2020 12:54 PM
 
One by one the world’s largest sporting institutions fell into line as media and sponsorship interests began the painful process of reconciliation with a radically transformed political and economic landscape. From major club and international soccer, to Formula 1 and cricket, Covid-19 has decimated the global sporting calendar. In North America, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League have temporarily restricted locker room access to players and "essential staff". National Football League teams, meantime, have put back travel arrangements and cancelled face-to-face meetings with draft prospects. Golf, of course, has been no less profoundly impacted by this global shock. On Friday morning, PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan announced the abandonment of the Players Championship after just 18-holes, and the cancellation of the next three events on the PGA Tour schedule: the Valspar Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Valero Texas Open. BREAKING: Augusta National has announced the Masters Tournament has been postponed. pic.twitter.com/aiEQ5eViHx— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) March 13, 2020 Less than 24-hours later, Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, confirmed that for the first time since 1945, the Masters will not take place in the second week of April. There had been a tentative suggestion floated on Friday evening that the Masters might go ahead without spectators; indeed, the 2015 champion, Jordan Spieth professed his hope that the inaugural major of the season would be played behind closed doors. Ultimately, organiser’s decision was far more foresighted. “Unfortunately, the ever-increasing risks associated with the widespread coronavirus Covid-19 have led us to a decision that undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident is appropriate under these unique circumstances,” said Ridley. “Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals. “Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.” World No.1, Rory McIlroy was among the first to praise Augusta’s prudence. "It's the right decision, of course it's the right decision,'' McIlroy said Friday morning at the TPC-Sawgrass, where he was gathering his belongings before heading home to an uncertain golf future. "I stood up there yesterday after playing and was like, doing what they did was a step in the right direction. "But they were saying they were taking it hour-by-hour and seeing how it would all play out, and here we are.'' It is difficult to overstate the significance of these announcements in the context of an unprecedented and rapidly evolving global public health crisis; indeed, it is extremely problematic to identify a possible date at which the Masters might be played in 2020. September or October have initially been mooted as potential alternative slots but the crowded golfing calendar, including a Ryder Cup this year, render any such switch highly complicated. The summer climate in Georgia rules that period out completely. Ultimately, the postponement of the Masters is but a trivial matter in the overall context of the Coronavirus crisis; however, the fact that the tournament has been displaced for the first time since the Second World War illustrates vividly the historical significance and severity of the events that are unfolding globally. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Cantlay seeking to lay down 2020 marker at Players Championship
Mar 13, 2020 4:50 AM
 
It is in many respects entirely logical that build-up to this week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass has focused overwhelmingly on Rory McIlroy’s title defence. After all, the world No.1 travels to Ponte Verde Beach off the back of a sensational run of seven consecutive top-five finishes dating back as far as the Zozo Championship last October and, as this blog reflected on Wednesday, it is only a matter of time before he claims his first victory of the calendar year. Beyond the headlines, however, one intriguing storyline set to emerge from Sawgrass pertains to the professional fortunes of Patrick Cantlay. PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan provides an update on THE PLAYERS Championship and beyond. https://t.co/PmWDICHvuG— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 12, 2020 2019 was a banner season for Cantlay, who has belatedly begun to fulfil the expectations generated by his accomplishment in winning the Haskins Award and acceding to the summit of the Amateur World Rankings while at UCLA. In addition to claiming a long overdue second PGA Tour title at the Memorial Tournament, he had two top-10s in the majors – T-9 at the Masters and T-3 at the PGA Championship -- and acceded to a career-high No.6 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Significantly, the California native easily extended that strong form into the new season, following up a second-place finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, with a fourth at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, an 11th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and a 17th at the Genesis Open. A deviated septum caused Cantlay to miss out on the WGC-Mexico and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in recent weeks, however, he returns to the course at Sawgrass with a strong incentive to rediscover his top-form leading into the Masters, an event which he came within a hair’s breadth of winning 12-months ago. There is good reason to feel optimistic regarding Cantlay’s chances of contending at Sawgrass. The UCLA graduate owns two top-25s from three previous starts at the Players Championship and he ranks second on Tour in greens in regulation (75 percent), third in birdie average (4.65 per round) and sixth in strokes gained tee-to-green. These attributes render him well suited to thrive on a Pete Dye-designed track that paces a far greater premium on shot-making intelligence and ball-striking than on distance off the tee. Indeed, Cantlay is ranked second in all-around stats on the PGA Tour over the last two seasons. Since the beginning of 2018, he has made 43 of 48 cuts. He has been under par in 12 of his 16 rounds in the 2019-20 season, and sits second and third respectively in Greens in Regulation percentage and birdie average on the PGA Tour. It is a matter of time before Cantlay makes a breakthrough at major championship level; Sawgrass could prove an ideal springboard. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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