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Tiger Woods is beginning the second year of his latest comeback campaign, a return from multiple surgeries on his back. While Woods has remained relatively healthy over the past 15 months, precisely what caused Woods’ woes remains a debate. Some point to the staggering amount of swings he’s taken in his lifetime. Others assert Tiger overdid it in the weight room, former caddie Stevie Williams claims it is self-inflicted from Woods’ fiddles with military training, and parts of the Internet subscribe to more cynical theories.

However, according to a new study, Tiger’s injuries—and injuries of other modern golfers—can be distilled to a far more elementary notion.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, a group of doctors from the Barrow Neurological Institute make the case that the modern “X-factor” swing favored by many professionals may hit balls harder and farther, but it can also put extra strain on the spine.

Comparing today’s players with legends like Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan, the doctors maintain today’s players are more muscular and have more powerful downswings, and this can put increased force on the spinal disc and facet joints, which leads to repetitive traumatic discopathy.

“We believe Tiger Wood’s experience with spinal disease highlights a real and under-recognized issue amongst modern era golfers,” writes Dr. Corey T. Walker. “RTD results from years of degenerative ‘hits’ or strains on the spine resulting in early onset breakdown, instability, and pain. We hope medical practitioners, and surgeons in particular, will be able to diagnose and treat golfers with RTD in a specialized fashion going forward.”

The group continues that, not only are current golfers experiencing more back injuries than their predecessors, but that they are victims to such issues earlier in life than non-golfers in their age range.

This line of thinking is not new, as Phil Mickelson has long been a proponent of these findings. “You can play golf for a lifetime and injury-free if you swing the club like Bobby Jones did, like Ernest Jones used to teach—where it’s a swinging motion rather than a violent movement,” Mickelson said at the 2016 Masters. “A lot of the young guys get hurt as they create this violent, connected movement, and I don’t believe that’s the proper way to swing the golf club.”

While the report can be worrisome for golfers both professional and amateur, other health experts maintain stretching and improving your core muscles can stave off injury. Golf Digest Fitness Advisor Ben Shear says back discomfort can be avoided by “Strengthening the muscles at the bottom of the spine, and improve flexibility in the mid and upper back.”

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Source: GOLF.com
By Josh Berhow

Justin Thomas led heading into the final day of the Genesis Open, but J.B. Holmes, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and others were lurking in what was a long and cold day at Riviera Country Club. Here’s what you missed.

Who won: J.B. Holmes (one-under 70, 14 under overall)

How it happened: Lots of golf was played on Sunday. Thursday’s rain delay pushed the entire tournament back and players returned to the course early on Sunday to finish their third rounds before teeing off for their final round. Thomas was two holes into his third round and led by one when play was called on Saturday, and when the third round was complete he was at 17 under and leading by four. But a lot changed Sunday afternoon. Thomas bogeyed three of the first five and Holmes took his first solo lead with a birdie on 10 when Thomas made bogey. Thomas birdied 11 to Holmes’s bogey to retake a one-shot lead, but Thomas needed seven putts on the 13th and 14th and made double bogey and bogey to fall two behind Holmes. Thomas birdied 16 to cut the lead to one, but couldn’t make a final birdie to catch Holmes. Thomas signed for a 75.

Key hole: Holmes and Thomas alternated two-shot swings on the 10th and 11th holes, but Thomas four-putted for double bogey on the 13th. That costly error gave Holmes a lead he never lost.

Why it matters: It’s the 36-year-old Holmes’s fifth win of his PGA Tour career and first since the 2015 Shell Houston Open. Holmes’s first two victories came in 2006 and 2008, and he later overcame brain surgery in 2011 before rejoining the PGA Tour in early 2012. The 2014 Wells Fargo Championship was his first victory after returning from surgery.

Best shot when it mattered: Holmes, leading by two with three to play, hit his tee shot on the par-3 16th into the bunker, but he made a key par save from 11 feet. Thomas followed by knocking in his short birdie putt, but Holmes’s clutch par kept him out in front and prevented the two-shot swing.

Notables: Woods closed with a 72 and finished T15, McIlroy shot 69 to finish T4 and Jordan Spieth made quad on the par-4 10th and shot a 10-over 81, his highest score in relation to par in his pro career.

Best secondary storyline: J.B. Holmes’s sluggish pace was noticed by the broadcast team — and social media.

Up next: Phil Mickelson defends his title south of the border as we gear up for the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. Woods is also in the field.

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2019 Pebble Beach Pro-Am leaderboard, grades: Phil Mickelson takes home record fifth title

Source: CBS Sports
By 

Phil Mickelson touched off the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Monday, a record-tying fifth of his career, the same way he sewed it up late on Sunday. Lefty hit a nasty knockdown shot from 175 yards on the iconic par-5 18th at Pebble to 6 feet and poured that home for birdie — a final round 65 and the 44th win of his incredible PGA Tour career.

The bogey-free 65 was the round of the day, and it came at the perfect time for Mickelson, who trailed playing partner Paul Casey by three strokes heading into Round 4. Casey played nicely in the final round, which spanned two days because of a hail storm on Sunday, but his 71 couldn’t keep pace with the way Mickelson commanded his short irons and wedges over the final 18 holes. Lefty easily cleared him by three at 19-under 268.

“It’s been a very special week,” Mickelson told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports. “This is a special place for me. … To have my pro career start here and to have this victory means a lot.”

Mickelson finished first in the field on his approach shots and T2 in proximity to the hole. If you saw the way he struck the ball in Round 4, it’s easy to see why.

Mickelson and Casey were the only ones on the course on Monday as everyone else finished up on Sunday in the dark. Mickelson also wanted to try and get home on Sunday, but Casey called it on the 16th green, and Lefty said he was grateful for that even if he seemed perturbed in the moment. It’s very on brand for Mickelson to thank his opponent for setting up a win for him.

“He really protected both of us,” Mickelson said. “The greens were beat up. We had a chance today to come out on fresher greens, better weather, and I was really appreciative of that.”

With the 44th win of his career, Mickelson becomes just the fourth player to win PGA Tour events 28 or more years apart. He also inches closer to Walter Hagen’s mark of 45 PGA Tour wins and a potential tie for eighth all time. Billy Casper is seventh at 51. The fifth Pebble victory ties Mark O’Meara for the all-time record at that event.

We should ignore the “What if I’d told you ‘Phil Mickelson wins at Pebble after a long wait’ would be a headline at the start of the calendar year” storyline for now and obvious U.S. Open implications. Mickelson said after the round that this win has no bearing on what happens at the U.S. Open in June, likely because this will not be the same Pebble Beach after the USGA gets its hands on it.

Still, a victory for Mickelson at age 48 — and nearly two victories in his first three starts of 2019! — is remarkable. As the PGA Tour skews younger and Mickelson nears 50, it becomes more improbable for him to keep up. And yet not only is he keeping up, he’s thriving, he’s winning. He’s dropping filthy 65s in all manner of weather with a Ryder Cup participant leading him and young bucks like Si Woo Kim and Jason Day making runs at him. Mickelson, unlike Pebble Beach, is not timeless, but you may have been fooled if you watched him play golf on Sunday and Monday. Grade: A+

Here are the rest of our grades for the 2019 Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Jason Day (T4): Ignore the Sunday bank robber look and instead focus on another successful trip to Pebble Beach for the former major winner. He did the lion’s share of his damage on Thursday with a 65 at Monterey Peninsula, but he backed it up with an even-par 72 on the toughest scoring day (Saturday) and a tasty 68 during the final round (he finished on Sunday). Day pretty quietly hasn’t finished outside the top 25 anywhere since the Dell Technologies Championship during the FedEx Cup Playoffs last fall and should definitely be considered one of the early favorites for the Masters in April. Grade: A

Jordan Spieth (T45): After playing beautifully for the first two days, Spieth ejected hard on Saturday. He made just three bogeys over his first 48 holes, but then finished Saturday’s third round with two doubles and a bogey in the last six holes. He never recovered from that, made five more bogeys on Sunday and tumbled down the leaderboard with a 74-75 weekend on the Pebble Beach course. The issue for Spieth this week actually wasn’t the putter. He finished 60th (!) in strokes gained off the tee and could muster just three birdies in his final 31 holes of play on the week. Grade: C+

Dustin Johnson (T45): It may have been even uglier for Spieth’s playing partner, Dustin Johnson. After winning last week in Saudi Arabia, D.J. struggled late at a place where he’s won twice and been arguably the most consistent player over the last decade. Johnson’s week was less volatile than Spieth’s, but a 73-73 showing at Spyglass and Pebble on Friday and Saturday respectively left him way out of the mix for a third title here. It didn’t help that he played the non-par 5s in 3 over for the week. Grade: C+

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Here’s how it breaks down, according to Rice’s recent study, which used a Trackman to test a ball flying 155 mph.

As you can see courtesy of the chart above, the carry change increases by about half a yard between your pitching wedge and driver, capping out at about two yards per 10 degrees of temperature. Rice also found that humidity had “almost no effect on carry,” — temperature and carry were the two primary atmospheric conditions (outside of wind, which is a different matter) that effect your golf ball.

So, if your driver carries about 250 yards in 70-degree conditions, according to Rice’s research, the same shot will travel about 254 yards in 90-degree conditions, and 246 yards in 50-degree conditions.

Altitude, as you can see above, is the other big factor. With a driver, you get an extra 2.5 yards per 1,000 feet of altitude. But that’s not all. The “optimal spin rate” with a driver, Rice explains, increases from 2,250 RPMs at sea level to about 3,000 RPMs at 10,000 feet. Why? Because the air is less dense at increased altitude, so the importance of hang time increases.

All this adds up — and it could help boost your driving stats in the process. Let’s say you’re that same guy who usually carries the ball a respectable 250 yards in 70-degree conditions at sea level, on a calm day. Go play Club de Golf Chapultepec, host of the World Golf Championship – Mexico Championship, in 90-degree heat with its overall elevation hovering around 7,000 feet above sea level, and that same 250-yard drive will now fly about 270 yards.

Just make sure, when you get back home and start boasting to your buddies about how far you’ve been hitting it, make sure to leave out all the scientific information.

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Sunday’s final stage of Web.com tour Q-School brought with it the reminder that at the margins of professional golf, the line between triumph and failure is razor-thin. Here are some of the Sunday stories from each side of that line.

First, a quick reminder of how this all works:

The champ

Let’s start with Danny Walker, a Mackenzie Tour player who played his way into the mix and then slammed the door with birdies on his final three holes, closes in six-under 30 on his final nine to win the entire event. That meant holding off a hard-charging much-heralded Norman Xiong by a single shot, and it means Walker will have full Web.com status for 2019. It also meant capping off a 33-birdie week; touche, Mr. Walker.

Cody Blick and the case of the missing clubs

Cody Blick experienced a nightmarish Sunday morning in which he put out a plea on Instagram for the return of his golf clubs, even offering a $5,000 cash reward. Things didn’t look good for Blick; even with his own clubs, he sat at 10 under, outside the cut line, and needed a major rally.

But then, using a set of sticks that included the course superintendent’s driver, pro shop wedges, a ‘random’ set of irons, and a putter heavier than his, Blick did the unthinkable. He shot 63 anyway, closing with three clutch birdies in what he said afterward was “the weirdest week of my life, hands down.” The round of nine-under sent him into a share of 25th place and was enough to impress personalities from across the golf world, including Justin Thomas.

Hot start

Tim Wilkinson birdied the first hole. He parred the second. And then he birdied eight holes in a row to get to nine under for his round through 10 holes. He added one more on No. 17 and posted 10-under 62, catapulting himself a full 50 spots up the leaderboard to finish T16.

What a way to start.

Hot finish

Steve LeBrun, a 40-year-old veteran, finished with five birdies in a row — five! — to cap off a 62 of his own and sneak inside the top 40 on the number. He went from T83 to T34 with the finishing flurry. Hat tip, too, to Jack Maguire, who birdied his final four holes to finish off a 64 that got him in on the number.

Cold close

Three players bogeyed their final hole to drop to 17 under, a single shot outside the top 40: Joseph Winslow, Yuwa Kosaihira, and Lee Hodges. During a week with so many low numbers, 72nd-hole bogeys were especially heartbreaking.

 

The horror story

Patrick Sullivan accomplished a rare feat by making a different score relative to par on each of his last five holes (we call this the large straight). But double bogey-bogey-birdie-eagle-par left him tragically one shot shy of the cut line; his finishing two-under 70 dropped him 27 spots on the leaderboard to finish T50.

The way it went down is far worse: Sullivan’s double bogey came as a result of his putting the ball off the green and…into the water.

Shot 62…needed 61

Benjamin Alvarado went seriously deep on Sunday, firing another 10-under 62 to jump from T93 into contention — but needed one more shot to sneak into the top 40. His consolation is much-improved conditional status.

Amateur status

Much-heralded amateur Braden Thornberry, the 2017 NCAA Champion out of Mississippi, fell four shots shy of the 18-under cut line and is expected to return to school. He had made earlier comments suggesting he’d turn pro if he had secured status. The other amateur in the field, Minwoo Lee, finished T67, a single shot ahead of Thornberry.

Seeing red

Every single player who finished in the top 40 shot an under-par final round. Just five players in the entire field shot over par on Sunday. Of those players, Spence Fulford fell the furthest, dropping from a secure position in T23 all the way to T85 with a finishing two-over 74.

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