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Weekly Briefing: All over the world

To be blunt, I don’t have a whole lot to say about the Valero Texas Open. It falls in a weird spot on the calendar in the nadir between the post-Masters malaise and pre-Players momentum. Compounding matters, the course just never shows well on tv and is regularly derided by players. In 2019 this tournament moves to the week before the Masters. That transition will be an interesting one rife with agronomic uncertainty since it will be tougher to create conditions at TPC San Antonio that allow players to prep for Augusta like they’ve been able to at Golf Club of Houston in recent years.

More on the Valero in the odds and ends, but first let’s go around the world:

Wilshire

Primetime coverage of the LPGA stop at Wilshire Country Club is what I’ll be watching this weekend. Here’s LA resident Geoff Shackelford offered up some cool nuggets on the history of the club and a scouting report on the layout.

The LPGA should be applauded for seizing on the inability/unwillingness of the mens game to visit classic courses. The PGA Tour’s logical preference of hosting events at TPC properties, the unchecked distance gains seen on tour, and the logistical and member headaches a club must commit to when hosting have rendered most classic courses either unwilling or unable to host PGA Tour events. This week’s stop at Wilshire and next week’s event at Lake Merced (though some of that venue’s more classic elements were muted during a mid-nineties “Reestoration”) offer up a thoughtful viewing experience that’s a nice change of pace from the typical resort and newer country club courses we mostly see on the pro circuits.

Some might throw this bit in the “golf hipster” category and move on, and that’s fine. But I can tune in any given week and watch golf on a cookie cutter 7,500 yard course. This is interesting and unique and a change of pace, all of which is invigorating.

From a competitive perspective, the venue is offering up a quality leaderboard midway through the second day, with recent world number 1 So-yeon Ryu and a resurgent Inbee Park chasing 27 year old Vanderbilt alum Marina Alex.

Web Tour Debuts in Mississippi

Over the past few years several scheduling challenges arose on the Web.com Tour. Among them:

– A one week gap separated the two events in the Bahamas last year, which made things difficult for players and caddies on the budget/logistics front.

– Only one domestic event in each of March, April and May. This meant players would return home from the Caribbean/Latin American swing and struggle to keep their games sharp before the tour set off on a stretch from June to September that saw fourteen events in a row.

– The absence of tournaments in golf-rich states like Georgia (lost the Athens event in ’13 and the Valdosta event in ’14), Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, and only one event in Florida, the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship down the street from the Killhouse here in the Jacksonville beaches area.

The Tour made progress on each of these points for the 2018 schedule, eliminating the week between the Bahamas events, streamlining the May schedule to feature three events in a row, and killing two birds with one stone on the last two points by adding April events on Faz courses (Tom and Jim, respectively) in  Savannah and Oxford, despite not having title sponsors lined up. This shows a genuine determination to heed players’ feedback and make the requisite changes, despite the challenges inherent with funding these events. Add to that the whispers about additional new events in the Colorado and Florida, and the Web.com Tour is starting to buck its head a little bit.

The leaderboard after a round and a half has promising Aussie Cam Davis tied for the lead, with Dru Love one shot behind. I’ll receive a lot of flak if Love keeps this up, but I’m rooting for him despite what I feel are too many exemptions received (which is the fault of tournament directors – I don’t begrudge him for taking the spots). He three-putted his final hole of second stage Q-school to miss advancing to the finals by a single shot. He’s played in four events on the PGA Tour this season, making one cut. This week is his ’18 Web.com Tour debut.

Desert Golf

The awkward part of the European Tour schedule plods onward this week in Morocco. Through two rounds Alvaro Quiros leads. The distance-blessed Spaniard rose as high as 21st in the world rankings in 2011 but has seen a rough go of it the past few years, falling as low as 703rd midway through last year. Good to see him back bouncing around.

Some interesting names are giving chase, namely 21 year old Canadian Austin Connelly, the fiery Frenchman Alex Levy, and NLU favorite “Uncle” Joost Luiten. The action from Morocco should make for interesting morning viewing this weekend. Plus, Golf Channel is spreading resources around this week:

Odds and Ends

– Tough to dig too deep on the Valero Texas Open. Strange course, the goat mascot, and the spot on the schedule all adds up to it just not being my tempo. The players always rave about the experience, though, so they’re doing something right. It’s also refreshing to see a huge variance in scores and a ton of ejections. The leader currently sits at -10, while the cut is pegged at +1. High winds have produced tough conditions thus far and are slated to continue into the weekend, which will certainly improve the viewing experience (carnage is welcome!

– In the wake of Kevin Sutherland’s controversial victory in the “season-long” Schwab Cup it seems the Champions Tour “talked to Chuck” and has a solid plan in place moving forward to make the regular season actually count for something this time.

– Rough week for Skechers – I promise my hands are clean!

– Apropos of nothing, Paul Dunne’s had a strong stretch here of late playing a diverse schedule. He’s likely trunk slamming it in Morocco (not even sure if that’s the proper nomenclature on the European Tour, since they can’t drive from event to event), but three top tens in a row in distinctly different locales is worth highlighting. Dunne is an intriguing player moving into the meat of major season.

– Just an FYI we’ll probably be light on the written content for the first half of next week with a trip out to the Pacific Northwest for an NLU golf getaway/retreat. Will have plenty to offer up on social channels and will likely be firing up a reinvigorated and reimagined iteration of the TrapDraw podcast. Stay tuned!

About the Author

Tron Carter - NLU's resident curmudgeon, wannabe media critic, fashion crusader, and arbiter of all things "pop." Passionate proponent of taking driver off the deck. Native of Atlanta, now residing in Jacksonville Beach after two quick, but beneficial years in Boston. Other interests include history, infrastructure, wine, and Michael Bay's seminal masterpiece The Rock. Also doing business as "Todd Schuster." [email protected]

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