After months of nothing there is all of a sudden a lot happening in the world of sports. And while fall is usually a quiet time for golf, it is currently anything but. Let’s take a look at what’s happening around the game.
The Ping Success Train Rolls On Six of the top 12 finishers at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas were playing Ping equipment, and 5 of those 6 were gaming the new G425 driver. Battling jet lag after a 20 hour commute from his win at the BMW Championship in England, Ping staffer Tyrrell Hatton finished 3rd at Shadow Creek. In total, 9 drivers, 14 fairways, and 2 hybrids by Ping were in the bags of players at the CJ Cup. The new G425 line launches at retail in January.
Hero World Challenge Cancelled Just when we thought things in the world of golf were getting back to somewhat normal, disappointment strikes again. Tiger Woods’ annual Hero World Challenge that takes place every December has been cancelled due to the coronavirus. It was set to be played once again at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas. Tiger’s camp said there was thought to move the event to Florida but it was more about the Hero Motorcorp executives travelling over from their HQ in India. While the Hero is not an official event it does garner world golf ranking points. Opposite the Hero, the PGA Tour’s Mayakoba Classic is still scheduled to take place the first week of December.
Bring the noise A limited number of spectators will be allowed to attend the Houston Open November 5-8. 2,000 tickets will be available per day. Cost is $79 for the first round and $109 per day for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Price includes food options and all attendees are required to wear masks. This is the first golf event to allow fans since the Players Championship in March. The Houston Open will serve as the regular tune-up for the Masters which is not permitting fans to attend.
Lefty Goes 2 for 2 on Champions Circuit The PGA Tour Champions is becoming Phil Mickelson’s personal ATM machine. Whenever he feels he needs a quick six-figure injection, which should be never, he can just tee it up with the over age 50 crowd and collect. He’s now won both starts on the Champions Tour with a Sunday 65 to beat fellow lefty Mike Weir by 3 strokes. Yes compared to the regular tour the courses are a tad shorter, but they aren’t chip-n-putts. The Country Club of Richmond played just under 7100 yards but yes, all par 5’s were easily reachable in 2. Phil won exactly $300,000 for his victory, just a little less than Jason Kokrak’s winning share of $1.8 mil at the CJ Cup. He won with a bag full of Callaway sticks like normal. However, what’s not normal is his combo iron set. 4 different models make up his set. Let’s take a look inside Philly’s bag.
WITB: Phil Mickelson
Driver: Callaway MAVRIK Sub Zero – 9°, Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green 60 grams 6.5 x-stiff
Fairway wood: Callaway MAVRIK Sub Zero – 13.5°, KBS TD 80 grams C5 tour stiff
Irons: Callaway X Forged Utility #2 18°, Callaway Epic Forged 4-6, Callaway Apex Pro 7, Callaway Apex MB 8-PW, KBS Tour V 125 S+
Wedges: Callaway PM Grind ’19 Raw, 54-14, 60-12, 64-10, same shafts as irons
Putter: Odyssey WHXG Blade by Phil Mickelson. It’s a special model he helped design with a White Hot insert.
Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X with Triple Track
Krak’d the Code In his 233rd career PGA Tour start Jason Kokrak finally did what a lot of people knew he would eventually do…win a PGA Tour event. Jay and I have known each other since high school. He is 3 years younger than me but we found ourselves in the same fields of many junior tournaments growing up. We attended different high schools as he went to JFK, a private catholic school across town where he would help the boys’ golf team win 2 state titles. In 2011 we spent a lot of time together and played golf as I was the asst. golf professional at Trumbull CC in Warren, Ohio where he was a member and also held the course record. He had a couple local instructors that helped him along the way, but our head pro JD was kind of his putting guru. We would play when he was home between Korn Ferry Tour (then the Web.com Tour) stops. A year before that Jason became the winningest mini tour player in history having eclipsed 6 figures in earnings on the egolf.com Tour.
He probably has no recollection but I remember the last round we played together at Trumbull. It was actually my last day working there. Perhaps he does remember, because Jason is a good, down to earth guy, a man’s man. A great dude to play a round with and an even better dude to have a drink with and watch the Browns or Ohio State. We played an 18-hole match with Jay and I on a team vs JD and one of our bag room guys Vinny who is near scratch. A few highlights are Jason hitting it pin high with a 2 iron on #9 which is a dogleg left 330 yard par 4, and yours’ truly holing out for eagle from 70 yards on #7. We won the match and later that month our lives headed different directions. Mine went to Kentucky for my wife’s career where I was a head golf professional for 7 years, and his headed to the winner’s circle on the Korn Ferry Tour…twice. Jay won the Boise Open in September and the Miccosukee Championship in October. Those 2 victories shot him up the money list and assured him of a PGA Tour card for 2012. And he’s never looked back.
Kokrak had put together a wonderful, respectful last 9 years on tour, earning 3 runner-up finishes and 28 career top-10’s. With that consistent and steady play comes keeping your card and qualifying almost every year for the FedEx Cup playoffs. What also comes with it is your name in the conversation of “the best player without a win.” Now personally I have seen few hit the ball like Jason Kokrak, and seen nobody hit it longer. Few do because every year he is in the top-10 in driving distance on tour. His iron play has improved every year, his distance control is as good as any, and his short game is strong. All it would take would be his streaky putter to get hot to go along with his ball striking. And last week in Vegas, it happened.
With MGM as a sponsor, Jay has played Shadow Creek probably 20 times. He knew he could contend this week if he rolled the rock well…and roll it did he ever. On Sunday he entered the final round 3 shots back, so getting off to a quick start was imperative. Well he came out blazing with a 5 under 31 on the front, but he couldn’t quite separate himself from Xander Schauffele. But down the stretch, Xander faultered with a bogey and Kokrak did the exact opposite. He flourished and as good as he swung, he putted even better. He stood on the 18th tee with a one-shot lead and confidently and calmly hit a 345 yard bomb down the fairway. That set up a pitching wedge and a 2-putt on the par 5 finisher to force Russell Henley to albatross behind him. Even in Vegas nobody likes those odds. Jay cashed in $1.8 mil and is now ranked 26th in the official world golf rankings and 4th in the FedEx Cup race. He was already exempt for this upcoming Masters in November but will now also play in the April 2021 installment. If I see My man put on the green jacket one day I’ll weep like a baby, and I’ll bet money that the 6”4” big guy will too.
WITB: Jason Kokrak
Driver: Taylormade SIM – 9°, Accra TZ5 shaft x-stiff
Fairway wood: Taylormade M5 – 15°, Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green 6.5
Irons: PXG 0311 Gen2 3-PW, True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM8 – 52°, 56°, 60°, True Temper Dynamic Gold S400
Putter: Bettinardi Studio Stock 38 Prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Fantasy picks Last week in Vegas was a no-cut event but one of my picks certainly would have missed it. Matthew Wolff opened with an 80 and was never a factor. Harris English had a nice week and finished 8th while John Rahm snagged me a top-20. Now we head to Cali and Sherwood, not for Robin Hood but for the normally Japan based ZoZo Championship. Tiger is the defender and this was his 82nd win. Winner Tiger Woods Like Bay Hill and Firestone, this is his home away from home. He has won his Hero World Challenge there 5 times. Maybe a pick with the heart and not the brain, but it makes sense for number 83. Will contend Xander Schauffele Good course for him and he has 6 runner-ups since his last win. Sleeper Joaquin Neimann Maybe not a no-name sleeper by any means but for someone who seems like he’s always in contention he sure flies under the radar.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Written by Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional
Design and Published by Craig Walton