In today’s PGW roundup it’s all U.S. Open. We have Kevin Na backtracking on his viral video; the USGA is trying to help its officials avoid another rules disaster; DJ’s new son has a name; Rory is raring to go with no limitations; and while Phil might not be in Wisconsin, his caddy is still hard at work.
Rory Is Ready To Go With No Limitations
Rory McIlroy, the four-time major winner, has missed significant time in 2017 with a rib injury that he suffered while testing equipment in the offseason. He missed a month earlier this year, and then re-aggravated the injury at THE PLAYERS Championship.
He has not played since the PGA’s flagship event one month ago, withdrawing from both the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship and the PGA’s Memorial Tournament.
On Tuesday at the U.S. Open, McIlroy told the media that he is 100% and that he has “no limitations whatsoever” for this week.
- McIlroy has been limited to just five PGA events in 2017, finishing in the top 10 in three of them, including a T7 at The Masters.
- McIlroy said that there are no limitations in his swing right now, and that he is not worried about injuring himself further. He said that is likely to hit fewer balls that usual in practice, but that it has more to do with managing repetitions rather than not being able to hit more.
- Erin Hills is a very long course, even by U.S. Open standards. McIlroy is one of the longest hitters on Tour, and if his rib doesn’t flare up, it is a significant advantage for him.
- McIlroy ranked 9th on the PGA Tour in driving distance in 2016, averaging 306.8 yards per drive. In a more limited sample size, he has that number up to 308.5 in 2017.
“I wasn’t crying when I saw that rain last night and this morning. It’s a long golf course, and it’s only going to play longer. That benefits a few guys, and luckily I’m one of them.”
Going Above and Beyond: ‘Bones’ Scouting Erin Hills
As each day has passed, it has looked increasingly less likely that six-time U.S. Open runner-up Phil Mickelson will get the inclement weather he needs to get from Carlsbad, California, the site of his oldest daughter’s high school graduation, to Erin, Wisconsin, the site of this year’s U.S. Open.
The chances as we write this are easily in single-digits, if not close to zero, but that has not stopped his caddy, Jim ‘Bones’ MacKay, from doing his job.
MacKay has been at Erin Hills the past two days, scouting the first-time major course, and looking for any ways he can give his boss an advantage.
UPDATE: As of around 8:30a this morning, Phil Mickelson has officially withdrawn from the U.S. Open. Roberto Diaz will get his spot.
- The relationship between Phil Mickelson and Jim ‘Bones’ MacKay has been one of the most documented and revered partnerships in golf history. MacKay has worked as Mickelson’s caddy since the five-time major winner turned pro in 1992. Mickelson is expected to miss his first U.S. Open since that year, but Bones has still been at Erin Hills the past few days, trying to learn the course as intimately as he can.
- Among other things, MacKay spent a significant amount of time on Wednesday following 23-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth, who MacKay chose because of his tireless work ethic, and his pre-tournament tendency to hit many shots, from many different places.
- MacKay is putting in the work even though Mickelson is very unlikely to actually play in the U.S. Open. Mickelson will be attending his daughter’s high school graduation, which takes place at 12:00p Central Time in California. Mickelson has said that he will need at least a four-hour weather delay to make his 2:20p tee-time.
- MacKay believes that after the graduation, Mickelson will at least get on a private plane, but is likely to turn around once he officially gives up hope of making his tee time.
“I’m sorry, I don’t sign—I’m just a caddie.”
–Jim ‘Bones’ MacKay to autograph seekers at Erin Hills
Defending Champion Announces Son’s Name
Defending U.S. Open Champion and world #1 Dustin Johnson has been rather distracted while preparing for his title defense at Erin Hills. His fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, gave birth to their second son on Monday.
Photos have been circulating around the depths of the internet for the past three days, but a name had not been officially announced. That changed on Wednesday: the baby boy, blessed with some of the most incredible athletic genes, is named River Jones Johnson.
- Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky, one of the most famous couples in sports, had their second child on Monday, days before Dustin defends his 2016 U.S. Open title. It is their second child, both boys, with the older being named Tatum.
- Paulina delivered the new baby boy on Monday by C-Section, which prevented the birth from occurring while Dustin was in Wisconsin.
- Johnson announced the name of the new baby boy at his Wednesday press conference: River Jones Johnson.
- It is believed that the middle name “Jones” is named after Paulina’s mother, whose maiden name is Jones. Paulina’s father is legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky.
- Johnson said that his practice time for the U.S. Open has not suffered, as he got an early start on his preparations.
“The last 48 hours have been awesome. Having a new son has been fantastic. Everybody is healthy. It’s been great.”
-the always laconic Dustin Johnson
Na Disrespect Intended: Kevin Elaborates on Viral Video
Early this week, Kevin Na became golf’s newest viral sensation when he posted a video to his instagram account, a video which showed his ball getting lost in the deep fescue just paces off the fairway at Erin Hills.
Na used a stern, aggravated tone in the video, but is now saying that his tone was misinterpreted and the video was meant as a joke.
- Kevin Na’s video highlighting the severity of Erin Hills’ now-famous fescue has led to an increase in criticism to the already-maligned USGA, the host of the U.S. Open. The USGA has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years, both for controversial decisions and for their tendency to make the tournament exceedingly difficult.
- Na now says that he was being facetious in the video, and that it was intended to be funny. Other players, most notably Pat Perez and Lee Westwood have posted humorous videos of their own poking fun at the exceptionally deep rough.
- On Tuesday, the fescue was trimmed on four holes: 4, 12, 14, and 18. Mike Davis of the USGA said that the decision to trim had nothing to do with Na’s video. Davis says the decision was made during a maintenance meeting on Monday afternoon and was a response to unexpectedly wet conditions.
- The 33-year-old Na, who is 68th in the world rankings, qualified for this year’s U.S. Open by finishing solo-seventh in last year’s Open at Oakmont, his best finish in seven U.S. Open attempts. Na has three top 10s on the season, with a high finish of T4 at the Genesis Open, although he has only made the cut in two of his last seven events.
“I think people overreacted with the video. It was meant to be funny. I was just trying to show the fans the rough, and what we have inside the ropes, because people don’t get to see that close up. And I think it just blew up. … I think if I had laughed about it during the video instead of making it more like the news, I think people would have got a better kick out of it, maybe.”
USGA Takes New Measures To Avoid Controversy
Centralized replay has been a big improvement in both the NFL and NBA, and at least for the U.S. Open, the USGA has instituted something similar.
Hoping to avoid the kind of rules controversy that marred last year’s U.S. Open, the USGA has put two new policies into place to help rules officials, with one of those policies making the USGA Senior Director of Rules a “chief referee”.
- In response to recent criticism over rules questions, the USGA announced two new measures, hoping to make this year’s U.S. Open less controversial.
- The USGA created four on-course video review stations. The idea is for rules officials to be able to collaborate easier, engendering quicker and more comprehensive decisions going to the players. There will also be a “chief referee” to oversee and accelerate the process.
- Each rules official will also be given a tablet where they can review video.
- The USGA has also decided to have referees stand in place, each being in charge of several holes, instead of the traditional model (at least for the USGA) of having referees walking with the groups.
“Our intention is to act as quickly as possible while being thorough in the consideration of all the facts and also being thoughtful in communicating with the player in an expedited and decisive way.”
–John Bodenhamer, USGA Senior Managing Director of Championships and Governance