Made In Denmark
Strange name for a tournament, but the Danes have a great sense of humour. This week is no laughing matter though as players are still trying to get a good position heading into the end of the Race To Dubai season.
The stories this week include Thomas Bjorn playing his 500th European Tour event, Thomas Pieters trying to become the first Belgian to ever defend a title and Big John Daly travelling over to Europe, with his guitar, to compete in a European Tour event. There is a music festival during the tournament and Daly will be a headline act.
A pretty good field will contest this week and besides Bjorn, Pieters and Daly, Danish duo Kjeldson and Oleson are here. So is Sumin Lee, Victor Dubuisson, Ashun Wu, Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts, S.S.P. Chawrasia and of course, Nacho Elvira (C'mon Nacho, win one for me!).
Australians in the field this week include Marcus Fraser, Nathan Holman, Wade Ormsby, Richard Green, Ryan McCarthy and Ben Eccles. Jason Norris will be on tour as soon as he quits his dayjob in Adelaide. What a great story he was last week!
The golf course is 6750 meters of links style terrain with some open holes that will see wind becoming a major factor in the scoring. The Himmerland Golf and Spa's Backtee course has only one par 5 on the back nine, so players will be looking to get off to a good start, then try to get lucky on the back nine holes. The 16th is the most famous hole here and has been named "The Himmerland Hill" by the locals. Only 117 meters, it's uphill shot to a 2 tiered green will see many making over par, but at the same time, there was 2 holes in one here last year. The feature of this course is the bunkering. They are kept natural and you may see some strange shots being played from some awkward stances during play. They are visually stunning though.
Only a dozen tournaments to go before the end of the season and they all promise to be interesting. This should be fun to watch.
Henrik Stenson teed off last Thursday at the Wyndham Championship with nothing to lose but plenty to gain. Stenson was comfortable in the knowledge he had a game next week at Glenn Oaks in the Northern Trust and a strong result could propel him into the top 50, it did too. Stenson’s win saw him jump 52 places to 23 and his 6th win made him the most successful Swede on the PGA Tour. Henrik Stenson has been there done that too, including winning the 2013 FedEx Cup.
With no driver in his bag and an extra wedge, Stenson iced it with 3 straight birdies on holes 15-17 for his first win since the Open last year. The Swede was as solid as a rock up 18, holing his par putt from 3 feet for a 1 shot victory from Ollie Schniederjans, who charged home. The rookie birdied 17 with a bomb from 40 feet then stiffed his second to 18, 2 feet from the pin. Schniederjans then had to sit and watch Stenson, the result beyond his control.
The tournament was there to be won. At one stage on the back 9, four players shared the lead at -18; Stenson, Schniederjans, Ryan Armour and Kevin Na. Armour ran out of holes and bogied 18 to completely bury his chances, whilst Na couldn’t stop the bleeding going +2 on the back 9, both finished T4 at -17. Webb Simpson finished 3rd a shot better -18, closing with 4 birdies in his last 6 holes. Rory Sabbatini had a great week finishing on -17 with Armour and Na but more importantly booked a tee-time in the Northern Trust next week. Sitting 148 in the FedEx Cup, Sabbatini played his was way into the top 125 (122).
Cameron Smith was our best placed Australian. The talented young Aussie who turned pro in 2013 has had a solid season; 4 top tens including a win at the Zurich Classic. His T7 result this week sees him move up 5 places to 40. Sitting 125 in the FedEx Cup, the heat was certainly on Geoff Ogilvy. But 3 consecutive rounds in the 60’s, a T11 result saw Ogilvy move up 9 places and book a place in the field next week.
Steven Bowditch finally made a cut but will have to rely on exemptions and sponsors invites for consistent starts next season, finishing outside the top 200.
Aaron Baddley and Stuart Appleby made the cut but didn’t complete their 4th rounds and both will miss the FedEx play-offs. Before the Wyndham Baddley wasn’t that far away (133) and a stronger result would have seen him qualify for next week. Brett Drewitt, Matt Jones, Cameron Percy, Greg Chalmers and Ryan Ruffels all failed to make the cut.
Others to play their way into the top 125 include; Martin Flores, Harold Varner III and J.J. Henry finished right on the mark. It’s the business end of the season, this week is round 1 and if results this year are anything to go by, a large percentage of the field would like their chances. It’s going to be a fascinating climax, for all the latest updates tune in.
Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Matchplay
Adrian Otaegui has won his maiden European Tour tournament with a 2 & 1 victory over the home town boy Marcel Siem.
Otaegui's week was solid and he never even reached the 18th hole in any match. This did not look the case early into the final though as Siem took the lead from the start. Birdies on the 1st, 4th and then on the 8th had the German 3 up at the turn. Otaegui, whose putter had been running hot all week failed to make a single birdie on the front nine holes and looked as if he had almost given in.
He then produced one of the best back nines of the week. Birdie on 10 for a win, then another on 11. All of a sudden, he was only 1 down and Siem was looking shaky. His putting stroke had left him and he was missing very short putts for halves. Siem hit it stiff on the 13th and it was conceeded, that put him 2 up with 5 to play. Otaegui then proceeded to win 14, 15 and 16 to be one up with 2 to play. Both players hit it to about 20 feet on the par 3, 17th, but when Otaegui rattled in his birdie putt, Siem fell short and incredibly, the match was over.
It really was a game of 2 halves. The Spaniard had nothing going for him on the front, but it completely turned around on the back and Siem looked like the one who was nervous and could not make even the shortest of putts. The local crowds support could not get him across the line and Otaegui won his first tournament in style. It will not be his last.
The re-worked Natadola Bay golf course played host this week and the Fiji International has been won by Australian 29 year old, world ranked 1238th, Jason Norris.
Norris, who works in the golf shop at The Grange in Adelaide, started the final day 9 under and one shot off the lead, but a final round 5 under par, 67 left him 4 clear of the field and -14. Obviously the re-working of the golf course from Vijay Singh over the past year has made the course a lot more playable. Norris pockets a cheque for $250,000 for the win and it is his first win on the tour since the 2009 Victorian Open. A long time between drinks.
Wade Ormsby, who started the final round one shot leader, could only manage a 1 over par 73 and finished tied 6th. Challenges fell away and other made great gains on day 4. Scott Hend could not sink a putt to save his life and his frustration bubbled over at a few points during his round. He ended up with a 3 over par 75 and tied 24th. Thai player Jazz Janewattananond shot a new course record 8 under, 64, including 6 birdies and an eagle to finish tied 2nd and his playing partner, Adam Bland shot 7 under as well. 15 under for the group! 50 year old David McKenzie shot a great 67 and finished tied 2nd with young James Marchesani who hits it a mile and could have finished higher up if he could stop lipping out putts. Very unlucky, but well played.
Norris also gets a one year exemption to the European Tour and a 2 year exemption to the Asian Tour. I think his days of working in the pro shop are now over. Let's hope we see his name up there some more over the next few years. Congratulations Jason!
There were so many storylines heading into this years 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. Much of the fanfare was directed towards Jordan Speith and his "Gand Slam", but there was also the 100th major with Phil and Ernie. Hideki Matsuyama was red hot and looked to be the first Japanese born major winner this week and then there was the first major winner run to consider. In a year of surprises, the list of new major winners keeps growing. Now, one more name can be added to that list, Justin Thomas.
The storylines didn't pan out for most. Phil and Ernie both missed the cut after disasterous first round 80's, Jordan Speith finished middle of the pack after an average tournament, Hideki looked to challenge, but fell away on the back nine with 3 bogeys in a row. That just left the first major winner J.T.
Thomas looked shaky after the first few holes of the final round. He started 2 back of Kevin Kisner and went bogey, birdie, bogey in his first 3 holes. On the par 5, 7th, he knocked it onto the green in two and made a tap in birdie. Then he hooked his tee shot on the 9th, but it hit a tree and rebounded back into the fairway. He hit the green and from 36 feet, rolled in another birdie putt. The luck would continue as his birdie putt on 10 sat on the lip for an eternity, before tilting, then droping in. He chipped in for birdie on 13 as well. That is where his luck ended.
The rest of the holes were played like a champion. After solid pars on 14, 15 & 16, Thomas faced the par 3, 17th. Most in the final round looked at the pin tucked into the left side of the green, near the lake and safely hit out to the right, then 2 putted for par. Not Thomas. He took dead aim and hit it to 15 feet, then rolled in the putt to move to -9 and secure him the tournament. He walked to the last tee 3 clear and although he found the fairway bunker, blasted it out to short right, away from the hazard, chipped onto the green safely to the right, then 2 putted for a final hole bogey and in the clubhouse at -8.
There was only one challenger left out on the course that could have spoiled the party for J.T. Kevin Kisner had led the 99th PGA from start to into the final day. He had nothing going on the front nine and the run of pars was only broken by him hitting his second shot into the water on the 7th to make bogey. The back nine started better with a birdie on 10, but he gave it back with bogeys on 11 & 12. Although he had 2 more birdies on the back, he also had another dropped shot and needed a 44 footer on 17 to drop, then make birdie down 18 to force the playoff. The putt finished short in the heart and he needed to now hole his second shot for eagle on 18. To his credit, he did go for it, but turned over the shot into the left hazard and finished with a double to be tied 7th. I applaud the fact that he could have hit out to the fat part of the green and taken a bigger cheque, but as Charlie Hoffman said last week to his caddy, "I'm here to win, not come second!" Kisner took his chance, it didn't play out, but he went for it, so bravo!
There were others that challenged during the day, but they all fell victim to the course. Molinari, Reed, Fowler and DJ shot final round 67's, as did Aussie Marc Leishman, but they couldn't catch Thomas. Jason Day finished as the leading Australian tied for 9th after a final round 70. Jordan Speith will have to wait for next year after finishing tied 28th at +2, but he was there at the 18th green to congratulate his good friend Thomas.
Justin Thomas now moves to 2nd on the FedEx Cup rankings. Well done J.T.
WGC Bridgestone Invitational
With one of the finest rounds this season, Hideki Matsuyama has taken the WGC Bridgestone Invitational leaving a quality field in his wake. Matsuyama was the last man on the range Saturday night trying to find his groove and then turned up Sunday and apparently had a disastrous warm-up session. He missed the fairway left off the 1st and scrambled a par. Something must have happened between the 1st green and the 2nd tee because Hideki Matsuyama played the next 17 holes 9 under the card. In a post round interview, Matsuyama admitted he wasn’t comfortable with his swing all day – quite unbelievable really. His win has rocketed him to No.1 in the FedEx Cup and he shapes up nicely for next week’s PGA where he will be trying to become Japan’s 1st Major winner.
Zac Johnson (2nd) began the day joint leader (with Thomas Pieters) but couldn’t find any momentum. The birdies dried up after the 11th and 68 wasn’t nearly good enough. Johnson hasn’t won since the Open 2 years ago but would be happy with his game heading into this week. Pieters had an up and down week – 65/66 in the 1st and 3rd rounds and 70/71 in the 2nd and 4th – after he bogeyed 8 and 9 Sunday his day was done. Pieters finished 4th.
Charley Hoffman (3rd) was the only other contender; he really had it going with 4 front 9 birdies and he drew within a shot, but 2 bogies on the back saw his chances evaporate. With 6 top 10’s this season, Hoffman has been in contention often but remains winless. Having had 4 PGA victories to date, the 5th is proving elusive however you can’t win if you’re not in the mix.
Scott Hend was the best placed Australian finishing T10 at -5. Hend started the day 8 under coming off a 3rd round 63, but he didn’t make a single birdie Sunday and closed with a disappointing 3 over 73. Adam Scott was next best T13 at 4 under moving him up to 61 in the FedEx Cup. Scott has only missed 2 cuts this season but has only had 4 top 10 finishes, perhaps a result of inaccuracy off the tee. He sits 149th in driving accuracy percentage but Scott’s scoring average of 69.811 is 10th on tour. The driver has always been Scott’s strength, length and accuracy; find more fairways and post better scores. Simple really!
Jason Day was T24 at -2, a second round 66 the only highlight really. Marc Leishman T41 at +3, Sam Brazel +5 and Rod Pampling finished well back on 19 over were the only other Australians in the field.
Quail Hollow will host next week’s US PGA with Jimmy Walker the defending champion. Check out our preview later in the week.
RBC Canadian Open
Jhonattan Vegas has gone back to back at Glen Abbey for his 3rd PGA win with a birdie on the 1st play-off hole. Locked with Charley Hoffman at -21 after 72 holes, both Vegas and Hoffman found sand off the tee in the play-off. Vegas had a line at the pin and blasted out to the fringe. Hoffman was less fortunate and was left with no shot at the flag. Charley Hoffman then held the pin whilst Jhonattan Vegas tapped in for his second Canadian Open in a row.
After a pretty good start to the season, Vegas has missed the cut in his last four starts, in fact he’s only made 2 cuts since he went home early from the Masters. The win on the weekend propels him up 59 places in the FedEx Cup to 28, his highest ever ranking. More importantly though, Vegas has found some game at the right end of the season.
Charley Hoffman admitted he hit his worst drive for the week on the 1st play-off hole, rotten timing indeed! It may have cost him his first win for the season, but Hoffman wasn’t too unhappy admitting he played “great”, he just didn’t hole enough putts. Although winless so far, Charley Hoffman is having a consistent year posting 6 top 10 finishes, he sits 12 in the FedEx Cup and has pocketed over $3 million in prizemoney.
One of the stories of the tournament was the resurgence of Ian Poulter, he carded a final round 64 (-8) to finish 1 shot out of the play-off. Poulter’s season has only yielded 2 top 10’s and his form has been patchy but his FedEx Cup rank is a comfortable 43 and he too seems to coming good at the business end. Dustin Johnson is back in town – nearly. His final round 67 apparently not indicative of the way he struck it. Johnson was “disappointed” and felt he could have gone much lower but his game seems to be returning. With the WGC Bridgestone Invitational next week where he is the defending champion, the PGA the following week and the FedEx Cup and the Presidents cup coming up – Dustin Johnson has a big 6 months, he’s going to need his game in order.
Ryan Ruffels was the best placed Australian T32 at -10. With 3 sub 70 rounds complete, Ruffels shot a disappointing (4th round) 76 to fall out of contention. Cameron Percy was next best at T70 on -3 and Brett Drewitt was the only other Aussie to see weekend action and finished at +1.
Congratulations to Jhonattan Vegas on his successful defence of the Canadian Open, can Dustin Johnson do the same this week in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club? Tune in for our preview.
Porsche European Open
Green Eagle golf course this week was very wet after weeks of rain in Germany, but the greens staff did an amazing job at making the course very playable and in the end, perfect for the competition.
The final days play was very tight between many players. Only a few shots seperated the top dozen players during the day and the strong winds on day 4 really made for constant changing of leaderboards. South African, Zander Lombard set the first real total coming in at -10 so the field behind him had a target to aim at, but the last group of the day had the battle that everyone was watching.
Defending champion, Alex Levy showed some frustration at times, but his determination shone through and he played some brilliant golf. Englishman Jordan Smith was the other in the same group who was playing inspired golf. Both of these players went back and forth in terms of leading the tournament. Levy was such an amazing picture of positive golf. Again and again he put every bit of strength into his swing and he carefree fast action was a pleasure to watch.
Siddikur Rahman, one of the shortest players on the European Tour, was on the 18th tee and just needed a birdie to have a chance at winning his first title. He carved his tee shot into the right rough and his second shot turned over and went into the water hazard. After a drop, he hit his 4th, from over 100 meters out, to 6 feet, then after an eternity of lining up, hit it in for par and a 68, finishing at -11 with a Swede who swings it like a baseball bat, Johan Edfors. His power and accuracy gave him 2 birdies and an eagle on the back nine and he earned a big cheque for his tied 3rd place.
Alex Levy made back to back birdies on 15 & 16 to get to -13 and took a one shot lead to the 72nd hole. Levy had to lay up from a bad lie in the rough after a wayward drive and Smith hit his 2nd shot long. Then from long rough, chunked his 3rd to 6 feet. Levy had an 8 footer to win the tournament, but pushed it 3 feet by the hole. Smith made his birdie & Levy made his par. Playoff!
Back to the 18th tee and this par 5 was the best hole all week. There were 15 eagles there, but also 14 double bogeys. It was the perfect playoff hole because of the risk / reward factor. Both players hit the fairway, Smith hit a 5 wood onto the green and Levy hit a 3 iron a few feet behind Smith. Both putts were over 50 feet for eagle. Levy was the one who judged the pace better and after Smith hit his 15 feet past and missed the one coming back, Levy amazingly, lipped out from 3 feet and they went back to the 18th tee again.
Both players looked tired and unhappy down the 74th hole. They both pushed their tee shots right, but Smith pulled out the fairway wood and hit it just off the green. Levy layed up and after he missed his birdie putt, Jordan Smith chipped to 3 feet and tapped it in for his first European Tour win.
Unfortunately for Aussie Ryan McCarthy, his final round did not go as planned and he finished tied for 19th at -6 after a final round 75.
The 146th Open Championship
Record crowds for this years Open Championship witnessed history over the four days, culminating in the win by Jordan Speith by 3 shots over Matt Kuchar. Only the great Jack Nicklaus had more majors under his belt than Speith at 24 years, which just goes to show what a special talent Jordan Speith is.
He led wire to wire and joined great names like Nicklaus, Woods, Floyd, Palmer and McIlroy, who have done the same to win majors. He becomes only the 5th player to shoot 4 rounds in the 60's in a major. His 5 under par total for the last 5 holes in a major is a new record by a championship winner and he now only has one major, the PGA Championship, to clinch a career grand slam, having already won the Masters and the US Open previously. Incredible to think his 24th birthday is in 3 days.
Of course, at times during the last round, it looked like he was going to let it all fall apart. He started with obvious nerves, letting the best weapon of his game, the putter which has been described as a 35 inch dagger, drop him to 3 over after 4 holes. He birdied the par 4, 5th and the walk returned, but another bogey on 9 had him level at -8 with his rival and playing partner, Matt Kuchar.
Things got worse as he sprayed his drive on the 13th and went on a sand dunes journey. After hitting a spectator in the head, Speith ended up on the driving range and took an eternity to play his shot. The hole finally ending in another bogey, 20 minutes later and Kuchar was now in the lead. A birdie on the par 3, 14th, where he almost holed his 6 iron, followed by an eagle on the par 5, 15th, as he dropped a 48 foot putt, had him looking again like a champion. More birdies would follow as he drained putts on 16 and 17 to walk to the 18th tee, 2 shots clear of Kuuuch. He played an iron off the tee and just made sure of his par and victory.
Behind him there were great rounds happening and several players made some significant prizemoney moves. Li Haotong, the biggest mover, as he shot a final round 63 that included closing birdies at 15, 16, 17 and 18. He finished the tournament 3rd at -6 and pocketed nearly $600,000. Rory McIlroy shot a final round 67 and finished tied 4th with Rafa Cabrera Bello. A further shot back at -4 was Marc Leishman. Leish had a great final round, shooting 65 and getting $244,000 for his tied 6th place. He was the leading Aussie in the field.
Of the other Australians, Aaron Baddeley shot a final round 64 to finish tied 27th with Jason Day who shot a 71. Adam Scott had a 67 (tied 22nd), Andrew Dodt tied 44th and Scott Hend finished tied 54th alongside world number 1, Dustin Johnson, who had a final round 77.
A really great Open Championship this year and a very worthy winner. The second day was a highlight as the weather conditions clearly won and of course we should mention the new record low round in a major, that belongs to Branden Grace. The South African's 3rd round 62 was magnificent to watch. The only draw back for me this year, was the disturbing trend of more and more idiots yelling out stupid things as the players hit. The Open does not usually have this, but unfortunately, its made its way across the pond.
Jordan Speith, the champion golfer of the year.
Speith's best from the closing holes
The Barbasol Championship
Grayson Murray adds his name to the growing list of this season’s first time winners with funky names. Tour rookie, Murray joins the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele Daniel Berger and Cody Gribble - funky indeed! In just his 24th start on tour, Grayson Murray carded a tournament record -21 to win by a shot from Chad Collins. Collins charged home with birdies on holes 15, 16 and 17 to draw within a shot of Murray but couldn’t make it 4 in a row to force a play-off.
Brian Gay, Scott Stallings and Tag Ridings (another funky name) all T3 at -19. Gay shot a bogey free 65 and played solid golf, Stallings was mediocre shooting a final round 71 and must have known par golf wasn’t going to win. Tag had it moving in the right direction on the back 9 but doubled the par 5 16th to thwart his run.
The best placed Australian was Cameron Percy finishing T12 at -15 - it would’ve have been lower had it not been for a disastrous final round front 9. Percy was out in 37 which included 2 bogies and a double, he fought back to shoot his 4th consecutive round in the 60’s and moved to 134 in the FedEx Cup, just outside the top 125.
Robert Allenby finished T27 at -12 with fellow Aussie Brett Drewitt. Stuart Appleby was the only other Australian to make the cut but did not complete his 4 rounds.
We are in Ontario for next week’s RBC Canadian Open, tune in for our take.
John Deere Classic
In what could be described as the most even competition in recent times, the PGA has produced its 10th first time winner this season. Although most of the best are in the UK and/or played in the Scottish Open in preparation for this week, there were still plenty quality golfers who’ve won on tour, that teed it up in the John Deere Classic. Deep field or not, Bryson DeChambeau played superb golf down the stretch to claim his first win on tour.
The “quirky” one stood over his second shot into the par 5 17th knowing something special was required. In the rough, off a tough hanging lie and needing a birdie, DeChambeau hammered his three wood. In Garcia like fashion, he ran up the hill to see it finish safely on the green, he then calmly two putted for birdie and moved to -17. With heat on, DeChambeau split the middle off the tee on 18 and then from 194 yards, put his second right over the pin to the back edge. DeChambeau made the putt to get to -18 and set the mark.
Patrick Rogers looked the man to beat Sunday morning. After opening with a 65 he backed up with a 64 and 68 to hold the 54-hole lead. History dictated a low number was required Sunday, but Rogers got off to a horrible start carding a 1 over 36 on the front 9. 3 birdies in 4 holes to start the back 9 and Rogers looked to be back in business but bogies on 14 and 17 (2 of the easiest holes all week) saw him finish 1 shot adrift.
Wesley Bryan tore the back 9 up shooting -6, but finished T3 with Rick Lamb after he fired a final round 66.
Three-time winner and tour veteran Steve Stricker opened with a disappointing 73 and only just made the cut. Stricker loves this place though and fired 65, 64 to go -13 under on the weekend and finish -15 in a tie for 5th. Another former winner, Zac Johnson went out in 31 and lead briefly but a mediocre back 9 (even par 36) wasn’t good enough for a second title and he finished T5 with Stricker.
Cameron Percy was the best placed Australian T12 after 4 sub 70 rounds and finished -13. Greg Chalmers and Stuart Appleby were the only other Aussies to make the cut, they finished -11 and tied for 25th. Most other weeks a dozen shots under the card would win, not at the John Deere Classic though where -16 is the number. Bryson DeChambeau got to -18, had his first win on tour and booked himself a spot in the field this week at Royal Birkdale.
See you all next week for the Barbasol Championship.
Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open
The final lead up tournament of the European Tour before The Open Championship, the Scottish Open has been won by Rafa Cabrera Bello after a 1st hole playoff birdie was enough to beat Englishman, Callum Shinkwin.
It's been over 5 years since Rafa has won on the European Tour, but he shot the round of the week at just the right time, with a little bit of luck, to clinch the victory. Four front nine birdies and four on the back gave hime a bogey free 64 and it was up to Shinkwin to capitalise on his 1 shot lead standing on the 72nd hole. Rafa earlier had got a very lucky bounce over the burn on the right of the last hole to finish with a birdie, but Shinkwin could only muster a bogey and the playoff was on.
Both players hit the fairway and had fairway woods into the green. Shinkwin was left behind the bunker and had short sided himself from the hole. Rafa hit a magnificent blow from 275yards and was in eagle territory, just 10 feet from the hole. Shinkwin chipped over the bunker and had about 8 feet for birdie. Rafa left his putt short and made birdie, but Shinkwin left his short and missed out on going back to the 18th again by just 2 inches. It was a thrilling finish to a great tournament.
Aussie and overnight co-leader, Andrew Dodt shot a final round 73 to finish tied for 4th, but he did earn a spot in the Open field for Birkdale this coming week. He will join the 10 other Australians with a chance at the Claret Jug.
Ian Poulter did not manage any spectacular golf on his last round and finished tied for 9th with Rickie Fowler, Andy Sullivan and Soren Kjeldsen. Padraig Harrington got his groove back and shot a final round 66 to finish tied 4th with Kuchar, Wall, Fox and Dodt.
The forecast for this weeks Open Championship looks like more of the same as the wind will be gusting, the rain may be sideways and the scores may be large. Can't wait!
The Greenbrier Classic
Xander Schauffele has hit the shot he played to 18 probably 100’s of times, anyone who plays golf probably has too, only this time it was for real. The Greenbrier Classic was on the line, not to mention over $1 million and a spot in the post season FedEx Cup with millions more up for grabs.
Xander Schauffele announced himself a few weeks ago in the US Open where he T5 and the win this week comes as no surprise to his team. His father and swing coach reads like a harsh but fair man who has instilled the same values in his son. Those closest to him credit these strengths as to the reason Schauffele was able to stay cool and stiff his wedge to 3 feet when under the gun. He calmly brushed home his putt for a birdie and a 1 shot victory, his first.
Robert Streb finished runner up for the 2nd straight time at The Old White TPC. Streb was leading at one stage until he doubled the 13th, he bounced back with a birdie and had his chances on the closing holes but pars weren’t good enough. Streb’s result assures him of a spot in The FedEx Cup post season. Sebastian Munoz lead after 54 holes’ thanks mainly to a red hot putter but Sunday it was colder than cold with his longest made putt just 4 feet. He carded a 4th round 72 and finished T3 at -12.
Jamie Lovemark also finished T3 12 under the card. He started the day -11 but got off to a horrible start with a double on the 1st and was out in 35 (1 over), his chances virtually gone. Kelly Kraft and Russell Henley round out the top 5 finishing -11 T5. 2015 winner Danny Lee was T9 at -9 in his title defence. Phil Mickelson finished well down T20 at -6 but a fourth round 64 was a welcome return to form with the Open just days away.
The best placed Australian was Curtis Luck, he also finished T20 alongside Mickelson after 4 sub-par rounds. Luck has made a solid albeit unspectacular start to his professional career having played just 9 events, making 6 cuts and pocketing over $300,000US so far. Geoff Ogilvy was our next best finishing even par in a tie for 58th and Matt Jones was a shot back on +1, they were the only other Aussies to make the cut.
Next stop TPC Deere Run, Illinois for the John Deere Classic. You’d expect most of the headliners to be already in England at Royal Birkdale preparing, the don’t have that luxury though and need to make a living, so see you at the John Deere.
Click here for the final leaderboard
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
Jon Rahm has cemented his favouritism for the upcoming Open Championship by demolishing the rest of the field at Portstewart this week. He has taken out the Irish Open with a record score of -24, shooting 7 under on the last day.
Jon Rahm Rodriguez has enjoyed a great time on the PGA Tour with a win at the Farmers Insurance Open, three 2nd places, two 3rd places and 11 top 10's since turning pro. His rise to now being inside the top 10 in the world rankings has been super quick. It was never really going to be in doubt after he broke Jack Nicklaus' record at the college level in 2014. Rahm shot 23 under in the World Amatuer Team Championships to eclipse Jack's old record by 6 shots (from 1960) and announced to the golfing world that he would be a special talent. He has not disappointed.
Rahm had 23 birdies and 4 eagles in his week and played some miraculous shots from some horrible locations to birdie opportunities again and again. He started the last day tied with Daniel Im at -17, but as Im started to make bogeys, Rahm put distance between himself and the rest of the field. He holed out from 150 meters on the par 5, 4th hole, Then proceeded to birdie 7, 8, 9 & 10. Draining a long putt on the 14th for his second eagle of the round, he was 7 shots clear in the lead and never looked like losing.
Many tried to get close and some had some magnificent last rounds. David Drysdale shot the best round of the week with a 9 under 63 to finish tied 4th and qualify for the Open. Claret Jug qualifiers to Richie Ramsay, 2nd at -18 and New Zealander, Ryan Fox (tied 4th, -17). Tommy Fleetwood had another top 10 as did Justin Rose. Shane Lowry had a good return to form finishing at -12 and Miguel Angel Jiminez lit up a cigar for his tied 42nd place. Playing himself into form for the senior Open on soon.
The Australians had a better week and leading the pack was Wade Ormsby, who shot a final round 68 to finish tied 14th at -13. Andrew Dodt and Scott Hend were a shot further back at -12 and Marcus Fraser finished tied 36th at -10. Hend is still the only qualifier for Birkdale out of this weeks players.
Phil Mickelson has been famous for saying that Jon Rahm is a future world number 1 player. With the game he displayed this week, he might not just get there, he may stay there for a long time. It was Rahm's first win on the European Tour but will not be his last.
Quicken Loans National
For the second week in a row, a play-off was required to decide a tour event. It only lasted 1 hole too, just like last week. It may not have been an incredible bunker shot for a birdie and the win, but I suspect Kyle Stanley couldn't care less, a win is a win. Stanley rolled in his 5-foot par putt for his second win, albiet an emotional one, on tour. It's been a long time between drinks.
In 2012 Kyle Stanley won the Waste Management Phoenix Open and his future looked set, however over the next 3 years the wheels fell off 1 by 1 and by 2015 he found himself on the Web.Com tour. The road back has been long and no doubt painful but this season has seen Stanley post 4 top 10’s and now finally, his second win, the Quicken Loans National.
Spare a thought for Charles Howell lll. In 2007 Howell had his first win on tour, the Nissan Open and has had 294 starts since…. without another! His birdie putt on 18 in regulation play - which would’ve given him his 2nd win - shaved the hol. If the ball had caught the lip it would’ve dropped in, surely. It didn’t and the rest is history.
Rickie Fowler charged up the leader board with 7 birdies in 9 holes until he got to the driveable par 4 14th. At 284 yards Fowler would’ve wanted to keep the birdie train rolling but his chances drowned with his ball in the pond right of the green, double bogey 6. Fowler rebounded with birdies on 16 and 18 to card a 65 but fell 2 short.
Rickie Fowler wasn’t the only player to have their difficulties with the tough TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms course. As predicted the player who hit fairways was going to be tough to beat. The long but wayward Justin Thomas paid the price averaging less than 50% off the tee and subsequently missing the cut. Troy Merritt followed his opening round 66 with an 82 and went home early. Even Marc Leishman who finished 4 under and T5 was solid, however suffered a 3rd round triple.
Fellow Australian Curtis Luck who’s had just 8 starts in his professional career and made the cut 5 times also finished -4 with Leishman. After 36 holes Geoff Ogilvy was -8 and travelling beautifully, but a birdie-less 3rd round 74 hurt him and he finished T13 at -3. Matt Jones T38 3 over and Cameron Percy T46 5 over were the only other Australians to make the cut.
“Drive for dough” was the call this week. Kyle Stanley was 1st in strokes gained off the tee, T3 in driving accuracy, T1 tee to green but a lowly 52nd in strokes gained putting – extremely unusual figures for a PGA event – but I'm sure Kyle Stanley doesn’t care.
We are in West Virginia next week for the Greenbrier Classic, tune in for our take.
HNA Open De France
Englishman, Tommy Fleetwood has won the HNA Open De France for 2017. Fleetwood has been having a superb year on the tour and this is his 2nd win. Combine this with 7 top 10 finishes and you can see why he now leads the Race to Dubai rankings, pushing Sergio to 2nd and has also come in from being ranked 151st in the world to 15th. Speaking after the win, Fleetwood said he just felt better in his life at the moment. He's engaged, expecting a baby, has his best friend on the bag and is just enjoying his life more than ever.
Fleetwood went into the last round only a shot behind but nearly holed his second shot on the 1st, then was an inch from a hole in one on the 2nd. All of a sudden, he was in front and did not surrender the lead all day. He shot a bogey free 66, but had to hole a knee trembling 5 footer on the 18th to hold off a fast finishing Peter Uihlein and win the title. It's the 5th time Fleetwood has come to the tournament and in his other 4 times, had not even made it to the weekend! He won't forget this one though and may even be called on in 2018 for the Ryder Cup when it is played here.
Peter Uihlein started off the day horribly with bogeys on 4 and 5, but he steadied with a birdie on 6, then 4 more birdies on the back nine. He stood on the 18th tee needing a birdie to tie for the lead. Unfortunately, he sliced his drive into thick rough, then hit his second into the greenside bunker. With Fleetwood looking on in the clubhouse already, Uihlein's bunker shot slid by, but he earns himself entry into the Open at Royal Birkdale as a consolation. Along with Alex Bjork and local Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera who made the galleries cheer all day.
As far as the Australians this week, only 2 made the cut. Scott Hend finished at +1(tied 32nd) and Jason Scrivener at +2 (tied 38th). The Le Golf National course is going to be spectacular for the Ryder Cup next year. It's such a great course for match play and the Europeans are sure to go in heavy favourites. Can't wait for that!
We are off to the magnificent Port Stewart next week for the Irish Open.
Funny game golf. It wasn’t so much how many but when. Jordan Spieth was looking to go wire to wire and pick up his second win for the season but a 4th round 70 saw him finish 12 under, right where he started the day. Spieth leapt out of the blocks too starting with birdies on 1 and 2 and it looked like Spieth by how far. A bogey on the 4th and another 2 on 13 and 15 saw Spieth drop to 11 under and look shaky for the first time during the week. He got it back to 12 on the next and then made a great up and down on the 18th for par to get into a play-off.
Daniel Berger started the day 3 shots off the lead and opened with a bogey but bounced back immediately with a birdie on the 2nd. He then had to wait until the 13th for his second, but 3 in 5 holes saw him move to 12 under and ultimately a play-off. Charlie Hoffman went bogey free and shot a fine 66 but 10 under wasn’t enough. Kiwi Dany Lee was out in 32 and would’ve walked to the 10th feeling pretty pleased with 3 birdies in a row, but 35 on the back saw him finish T3 with Charlie Hoffman.
So Spieth and Berger head back down the 18th for a play-off. Spieth hit a tree off the tee then dumped his second in the front right bunker. He faced almost the same shot he had just played to get up and down in regulation play but instead of leaving it stiff 2”, he holed it for 3. It’s when you make them! Berger had hit his second left of the pin and had to regain his composure and hole a difficult putt to stay in the game – not to be and Jordan Spieth won his 10th PGA title. Subsequent comments made by his peers suggest Spieth is a popular winner indeed!
Unfortunately, no Australians had any impact on the tournament. Marc Leishman had 4 sub 70 rounds and had to fight back from an up and down front 9 Sunday to do so and finish -6 and T17. Greg Chalmers finished +1 in a tie for 66th; Geoff Ogilvy, Cameron Percy and Rod Pampling were a shot further back T69. Jason Day missed the cut for the second week in a row and slipped a spot in the World Golf Rankings. Other notables to miss the cut were Luke Donald and Bubba Watson, do Titleist make a pink ball Bubba?
We are in Maryland next week for the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenal Farm where Billy Hurley III will be looking to defend his title. Look forward to seeing our loyal followers then.
BMW International Open
Andres Romero has won the BMW International Open after a final round 7 under 65. The world ranked 837th Argentinian played some magnificent golf on the final round and came in on the back nine in only 31 strokes. Birdies at 11, 13, 14 and 15 helped him into a tie for the lead, but the 18th hole sealed the tournament. He made the par 5 green in two, but left his eagle putt 8 feet short. Not a problem though as he rolled in the putt to finish -17. He now jumps up to be ranked 175th.
The chasing pack contained 3 names that all were a little unlucky not to be forcing a playoff. Belgian, Thomas Detry burned the edge of the cup on the 72nd hole for birdie, after hitting it into the stands with his second. Sergio Garcia missed a 4 foot putt on 17 that turned horribly, after hitting a spike mark, then his eagle chip missed by a few inches on 18. The hardest luck story though was Englishman, Richard Bland. The 44 year old has spent 17 years on the European Tour and has never won. He went into the final day as the sentimental favourite and did play well, but faulted on the 17th with a bogey. He needed an eagle up 18 to force the playoff. He struck a brilliant 239 meter fairway wood to 12 feet but his eagle putt missed by 6 inches to the right, handing Romero the victory. Another heartbreaking 2nd for Bland. Surely, his maiden win is not far away.
Defending champion, Henrik Stenson was solid all week, but could not buy a putt. Again and again, he hit long off the tee, then found greens, but had huge trouble reading the putts. He finished tied 10th at -11.
Brett Rumford was the leading Australian for the week. He was only a few shots off the lead heading into the last round, but shot a 3 over par 75 and finished at -5. Wade Ormsby, who was the first round leader, finished a shot further back at -4 and tied 44th.
All congratulations though to Romero, who was all smiles all week after holing in one on his second hole in the 1st round, then taking out the victory as well.
US Open - Erin Hills, Wisconsin
A classic US Open this week for a number of reasons. The lead up talk of how tough it was going to be, considering the long, unplayable fescue grass. For the first time since world rankings were started, the lack of a ranked 1, 2 or 3 making the cut in a major. The talk of Rory saying if your not good enough to hit fairways, you shouldn't be here, then he missing lots of fairways and was not there. The closeness of a lefty winning the Open for the first time. The record breaking 3rd round by Justin Thomas and the snubbing by Johnny Miller and ultimately, the stellar performance by Brooks Koepka to take out his 1st major.
One by one the challengers fell away. Justin Thomas, who's 9 under round 3 looked like a distant memory, started with 3 bogeys on the front nine and never was a factor. Rickie Fowler, who now holds the record for top 5 finishes in a major without a win, could only birdie 3 of the par 5's and ended up shooting even par on the last day. That will never get it done! The same can be said for Tommy Fleetwood and Brian Harman.
It was left to Hideki Matsuyama to push the leader as he shot 8 birdies and 2 bogeys for a last day 66 that was fantastic to watch. No fear in the Japanese players game as he went at flags constantly and posted the score to beat at -12. It all was not enough though as Koepka, who started birdie, birdie, played a great stretch of holes on the back from 14 to 16, where he sunk perfect putts for Open winning birdies, back to back to back. He looked the only one who was ever going to win and apparently had a phone call from friend Dustin Johnson the night before, giving him some great advice to just "take it one shot at a time." He did that and by the way, if you had read the preview this week, the big fella suggested Koepka as his roughie for the win. Did anybody clean up with the bookies? By the way, Koepka's -16 total ties the record for the lowest US Open score ever and that now makes 7 major debutant winners in a row.
Another poor tournament from the Australians with only Marc Leishman making the cut. The big Victorian finishing with a 75 to finish tied 27th for the week. Jason Day most disappointing as his play seemed to have no respect for the long fescue. Sometimes, you just gotta take your medicine, no matter who you are.
The tournament, for all its negative press at the beginning of the week, ended up being a classic. The fan favourites were of course, "Beeef!" and Steve Stricker. The Wisconsin native thrilling the home crowd with a great 69 in the final round that included 3 back nine birdies. He finished tied for 16th. Maybe next time Rickie?
St Jude Classic
A bogey free 4th round 66 saw Daniel Berger win back to back St Jude Classics and notch up his second PGA Tour win. On a day where no less than 9 players held a share of the lead at one stage or another, Berger was cool under the gun and held off Charl Schwartzel and Whee Kim (-9) as well as fast finishing Billy Horschel and local amateur Brayden Thornberry (-8). Chez Reavie, Kevin Chappell and Rafa Cabrera Bello also finished -8 and all held the lead Sunday. Unfortunately, mediocre front 9’s cost them any chance.
Daniel Berger’s day didn’t start particularly well. He pulled his drive way left off the 1st tee and when his second landed in the native area left of the green things looked dire early; especially when Berger left his third in the rough again, 25” from the cup. Staring down the barrel of a double, Daniel Berger needed something “Tigeresque” to get it back on track, so he proceeded to chip in for par and didn’t look back.
As the tournament unfolded, Brayden Thornberry just got better and better. Faced with the possibility of missing the cut as he made the turn Friday at +4, Thornberry played his last 45 holes beautifully and finished T4. Phil Mickelson was another who held the lead Sunday at -9 and a drought breaking win looked possible. However, on 12 Mickelson made a 19’ putt…. for a triple bogey and that win disappeared before his eyes. Phil hasn’t won since 2013 and it seems his inability to finish rounds off is a common thread, with his back 9 scores letting him down.
The best placed Australian was Adam Scott at -6 and T10. Scott’s whole season is scheduled for him to peak at the 4 Majors and with only 1 missed cut in his last 11 tournaments, his form looks solid. Matt Jones started the day -7 but a disappointing final round 72 saw him fall out of contention – definitely a missed opportunity after an opening round 65. Brett Drewitt was the only other Aussie to make the cut but finished well back T60 at +2.
We are in Wisconsin next week for the US Open at Erin Hills. It is the 1st time the state of Wisconsin has hosted a US Open and there can be no doubt it will be an extremely tough examination as tradition dictates. Make sure you catch our preview and updates.
* Interesting stat from last weeks PGA Tour, TPC Southwind holds the record for the most balls in the water of any tournament course, 4,700 since 2003. TPC Sawgrass is a distant second with 3,104. Wow!
Another South African has won on the European Tour this year as Dylan Frittelli has taken out the Lyoness Open. Shooting 70, 71, 68, 67, Frittelli saved his best work for the weekend and finished at -12, one shot clear of the chasers who included David Horsey, Jbe Kruger and Mikko Korhonen, who all finished at -11.
It's Frittelli's first victory on the European Tour and he banks 166,660 Euro for the win and moves into 17th on the Race To Dubai leaderboard. His driving accuracy and greens in reg stats were way ahead of the field and were the things that helped him across the line. Another product of the Texas college system and another playing partner of Jordan Speith, Frittelli will be hoping for more of this in the future, like his higher ranked friend.
Of the australians this week, lefty Richard Green, who promised much from the week before, failed to make the cut shooting 76 & 78. Ryan McCarthy was the leading Aussie finishing at -3.
With the US Open this week, the European Tour, at least in Europe, takes a week off.
How often does someone shoot a 77 in the 3rd round of a PGA Tour event and still win? Well not since Nick Faldo carded a 3rd round 77 at the 1989 Masters and walked away with the jacket - not very often indeed! Jason Dufner started Sunday a little on the shaky side too with 3 birdies, 3 pars and 3 bogies in his first 9 holes. Who knows what happened between the 9th and 10th tees, but Dufner rediscovered the form that had mysteriously deserted him for a round and a half and closed with an almost flawless 32. On a course that rewards accuracy at the flag, Dufner was pinpoint hitting every green to within 12 feet of the pin. He had a slight hiccup on 18 but drained a 40-foot bomb for par and a 3 shot victory.
Daniel Summerhays was looking to join an elite club of those who register their first win on tour at the Memorial and with a 3 shot lead after 54 holes, Summerhays was looking very good. A final round 78 (41 on the back 9) saw his chances go up in smoke and he finished a disappointing T10 at 7 under.
Rickie Fowler had his chances and after crushing his drive down 18 he watched as Dufner left his second in the rough. Needing to stuff it close for a look at birdie and put the heat on Dufner, Fowler missed the green left from 136 yards, a shot he could stick closer in his sleep! A disappointing bogey and Rickie was done.
Anirban Lahiri had a bogey-free round of 65 but started too far back to put any real pressure on. Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar were in the mix early but bogies on their inward 9’s saw them pose no real threat either. Bubba Watson returned to form and was in contention, but a final round 73 that included 5 bogies saw him fall away. Last week’s winner Kevin Kisner had four sub-par rounds and was solid finishing 8 under T6.
Jason Day and Marc Leishman were the best placed Australians at 5 under T15. Leishman is having a productive season to date and Day’s lead up to the US Open looks to be on track. Victorian Brett Coletta was the next best at -2 and T25 and after a poor first round Adam Scott fought back well on day two with a 66 but then so-so rounds of 71 and 74 saw him finish at -1 and T31. Greg Chalmers, Road Pampling, Cameron Smith, Curtis Luck and Matthew Griffin collected cheques but finished well back.
We are in Memphis next week for the FedEx St Jude Classic, tune in for our preview and take on the tournament.
The Nordea Masters for 2017 has been won by little known Italian, Renato Paratore. The 20 year old has been a golf pro since the age of 17 and before turning pro, represented his country and Europe in the junior Ryder Cup in 2012 and 2014.
He turned pro in 2014 and had success winning the Italian National Championship. The Nordea Masters though, will be his biggest victory in his short career. Standing at 191cm and possessing a perculiar swing, he may now be ready to show his potential and win more often.
Earlier in the day, South African George Coetzee shot a new course record 66 and posted a score to beat of -9. At one stage there was a five way tie, but one by one the leaders faulted. Defending champion, Matt Fitzpatrick looked the most likely to win all day. His final day 7 birdies getting him close, but the double on the 4th meant he missed the mark by one shot. The same margin for Chris Wood. His bogey on the 18th cost him a chance at a playoff and both he and Fitzpatrick finished at -10.
A further shot back was Coetzee and Thorbjorn Oleson. Oleson hit some strange wayward shots on the back nine, but kept making miraculous par saves. The 2 birdies and one bogey, not enough to reach the top. Home favourites Alex Noren(-5) and Henrik Stenson(-3) just did not sink enough putts to be in contention, Stenson only made 11 birdies for the week, very unusual for him around his home course.
Of the Australians, the lefty Richard Green finished best at -2 which was good enough for tied 30th. The week, though, belonged to Paratore, whose finishing nine holes of 7 clutch pars and 2 birdies was enough for the victory.
Dean & Deluca
It would be fair to say Kevin Kisner wanted, actually, needed to hole his 5-footer for par on the 18th, as playoffs are not his forte. I’m not suggesting he would have lost the 4-way playoff if he missed, but his record is not great.
Since the 2014/2015 season, Kisner has placed second 6 times, losing 4 in playoffs. With defending champ Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Sean O’Hair giving him the silent “NOONAN”, Kevin Kisner calmly brushed in his par putt on 18 and donned the plaid jacket.
Opening with 3 birdies on the back 9 and another on 15, Kisner was in a commanding position. After bogeying the next, he steadied with two pars to post a 66 which was good enough to close the deal by a shot. Spieth and Rahm had putts on 17 and 18 respectively that would have got them to 10 under and a playoff but they didn’t drop. O’Hair would have been ruing missed opportunities having 4 birdies but 2 costly bogies on his front 9. However, his back 9 was solid and he played the 18th beautifully draining a putt from 10 feet to get to 9 under and be part of a possible 4-man playoff. Not to be, Kevin Kisner made a great up and down for his second win on tour.
Webb Simpson held the 54-hole lead, but he caught the par train on the back 9 Sunday and then had a bogey on the last to shoot a 71 and finish 8 under, 5th by himself. The low round of the day belonged to Steve Stricker, the oldest man in the field, he turned back the clock to 2009 when he shot 63 twice to win here. His last round 63 didn’t produce a win this time, but it was superb nonetheless.
Australia’s Curtis Luck and Marc Leishman were the best placed Australians finishing T34 at 1 over. The next best was Geoff Ogilvy at 4 over and Matt Jones was the only other Aussie to make the cut finishing T63 at 7 over.
We’re going to Jack’s house next week, Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin Ohio for the Memorial Tournament where William McGirt will be looking to defend his title. Tune in for our preview later this week.
BMW PGA Championship
The first leg of the new Rolex Series has been run and won. The BMW Championship was taken out in spectacular fashion by Alex Noren.
Noren fired a course record 10 under, 62 on the final day to set the bar at -11. A score that nobody could get near to in the end. Although there were 6 or 7 players at one stage at -9 and -8, they all fell victim to the Wentworth golf course, the late rain and some terrible golf.
The 54 hole leader, Aussie Andrew Dodt, started his day with a bogey, but bounced back with birdies on 3 and 4. They were the last confident holes played until he finished birdie, birdie on 17 and 18 to finish tied for 6th at -7. Dodt really looked like he did not want to win. He played safe to the middle of greens and came up short on chip shots again and again. It was a round I'm guessing, he would want back.
Of the other challengers, Shane Lowry couldn't buy a putt, then drove the ball all over the place to fall away. Branden Grace found the ditch on the 12th and instead of taking a drop, tried to play out Van Der Velde style and his day was over. Henrik Stenson made 2 bogeys in the last 6 holes to fall to third and Hideto Tanihara, who looked like he was going to challenge, kept leaving putts too short. It was horrendous golf by some of the best golfers in the world. There were hooks, slices, chunky chips, out of bounds drives, poor decisions and weak putting. It was hard to watch.
Franky Molinari saved the day by adding some interest on the back nine. The Italian played some mignificent iron shots and made 3 back nine birdies to finish second at -9. He looked like the only challenger really.
But nobody was going to catch Alex Noren. The round of the week got him the victory and has put him into the world top ten rankings as well at number 9. He takes out the first Rolex Series Tournament and the winners cheque from BMW at the same time. What an amazing days golf it was.
AT&T Byron Nelson
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the PGA gives us another great tournament with another great story - or two. Billy Horschel was at the lowest ebb in his short career on tour, he was enduring his most unproductive stretch since his rookie year in 2011. In 2014 Horschel won The TOUR Championship and FedEx Cup; life on tour was very comfortable thank you very much. But golf giveth and taketh away and Billy Horschel had been winless ever since.
It felt like Jason Day was canning them from everywhere this week, then on the 73rd hole he missed from 4 feet for his first 3 putt of the tournament and gifted Billy Horschel the Byron Nelson. One three putt in 73 holes – it wasn’t so much that Day had a 3 putt, it was when he had it. This came after Day played the shot of the day, chipping in at the 15th off a downhill lie over a bunker to get to 12 under.
James Hahn almost holed his second shot on 18 that would have put him into the playoff, but it was 3 bogies in 3 holes (12, 13, 14) that cost him in the end. With the 54-hole lead at 12 under James Hahn looked the man to beat, but when the deal needed to be done Sunday afternoon, he couldn’t close it.
Jason Kokrak started the day 2 shots off the pace at 10 under, but 1 over through nine on Sunday made it a difficult proposition and he finished with an untidy 71 and 4th place. Danny Lee, Sean O’Hair, Byeong Hun An and Bud Cauly finished tied for 5th at 8 under, but were never really in the hunt. Marc Leishman was the only other Australian to finish under par at -6 tied for 13th and Rod Pampling was well off the pace shooting 75 in the last round to finish tied for 59th at +3. Geoff Ogilvy and Greg Chalmers were the only other Aussies to make the cut.
Spare a thought for Jordan Spieth. A “9” on the par 5 16th in Fridays round saw him miss the cut by a shot. It just goes to show we all have disasters, but yours and mine cost us a couple of beers and our pride, not $1000’s!
Congratulations Billy Horschel, today was your day - golf giveth this time around. We’re still in Texas next week for The Dean and Deluca Invitational at Colonial CC Fort Worth. I have a feeling Jordan Spieth will be keen to bounce back and defend his title.
The Asian Tour this week has the $300,000 Thailand Open. This event has been missing from the Asian Tour schedule for 8 years and makes a welcome comeback.
Rattanon Wannasrichan has won the Thailand Open with a 2 shot victory over Shiv Kapur of India. Wannasrichan fired a final round 67 to hold off a fast finishing Kapur who had 5 birdies on the back nine and a final round 63. Wannasrichan shot 62, 69, 65, 67 in front of his home crowd to win.
Australians Terry Pilkadaris and Scott Hend finished 6 back from the leader, but inside the top ten at -15 for the week. Well done boys!
Rocco Forte Open
Spaniard Alvaro Quiros has won the Rocco Forte Open after a playoff against south African Zander Lombard.
Quiros was at one stage 7 clear in the lead at -20 after birdies on 2, 4, 5 & 6. Unfotunately, for him, he stumbled on the back nine and after dropping a further 4 shots in 3 holes (15, 16 & 17) found himself in need of a sand save on the 18th green to force the playoff. Hitting it to about 10 feet, he calmly rolled in the par putt. Lombard, on the other hand, was making scores happen all day. He went out in 32 after 5 birdies and came home +1 after 3 bogeys and 2 birdies. His chip at the 18th to a foot forced the playoff.
Both players made par down the first playoff hole and went back to the 18th once more to decide the winner. Lombard had a chance to force a third playoff hole, but missed a 3 foot par putt to hand the tournament to Quiros. It's his first win since 2011 and he now earns a regular spot back on the European Tour. He was once ranked in the top 20 players in the world, let's hope this is the start of the climb back up that leaderboard.
Australians Marcus Fraser and Jason Scrivener both shot 67's on the last day to finish tied for 5th place. If not for the double bogey on 17, Scrivener may have been in that playoff. China's Li Hao Tong made an impressive albatross on the par 5, 12th hole.
The Players Championship
Golf at the elite level never fails to deliver. Since Tiger’s dominance and subsequent disappearing act, the PGA tour gives rise to story after story. Sergio’s major drought breaking Masters victory, Dustin Johnson’s dominance in the month before the Masters then sensational withdrawal. Coupled with only one of the big three (Day, Spieth, McIlroy) having a win this year on tour (with Spieth winning back in early February) and now The Players Championship has it’s youngest ever champion in Si Woo Kim. And its only mid-May. On Sunday afternoon when the Stadium Course is renowned for disposing of even the most seasoned pros, Kim was flawless carding a bogey free 69.
Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poulter challenged mid-way through their rounds but gave shots back in the closing holes leaving Kim to battle with himself and the intense situation he was (supposedly) experiencing. If Si Woo Kim was nervous he certainly didn’t show it – he was as solid as a rock, closing with 9 straight pars. In fact, Kim had one bogey in his last 36 holes. His ability to get up and down from various situations with a variety of clubs was sublime.
Poulter and Oosthuizen finished 3 shots off the pace at 7 under and both of them suffered from not taking on the course. I think they thought that Kim would come back to the field and their play reflected that. Again and again they played it safe while Kim went at the flag. Only with nothing left to lose on the 18th, after a second shot schanck, did Poults go flag hunting, but it was too little, way too late. Rafa Cabrera Bello and Kyle Stanley a further shot back tied for fourth at 6 under. Spare a thought for some of the players that had days they would rather forget. Jason Day had 80, Sergio 78 and J.B Holmes an 84!
Adam Scott was the best placed Australian after shooting 32 on the back 9, but 2 front 9 bogies probably cost him any chance of contending and Scott finished 5 under. Aaron Baddley, Rod Pampling and Jason Day were the only other Australian’s to make the cut but all finished well back.
With the “5th major” done and dusted we move to Texas and the AT&T Byron Nelson at the TPC Four Seasons Resort. Stay tuned for our tournament preview.
Open de Portugal
This week marks the return of the Open de Portugal to the European Tour roster. It was last played in 2010. This weeks event is a co-sanctioned event with the European Challenge Tour.With most of the big names in golf playing The Players Championship, this tournament may go under the radar for most, but it should be a good one to watch.
Englishman Matt Wallace has won the Open de Portugal with a wire to wire victory. Wallace shot a 10 uner 63 on the first day of the tournament and although shooting even par (73) on moving day, he went into the final round 5 shots clear of the field. The 69 on the last day good enough for his 1st European Tour victory, just over 83,000 Euros and a European Tour card.
The leading Australian was Ben Eccles, who was tied for 48th at -5. Congratulations to Matt and we look forward to seeing him in action on the tour.
Wells Fargo Championship
Brian Harman has sunk an incredible 72nd hole, 30 footer to win the Wells Fargo Championship. It is Harman's 2nd win on the PGA Tour and he was visibly excited after sinking the long putt to beat Dustin Johnson by 1 shot.
Johnson earlier had made a 15 foot putt on the 18th himself to finish at -9 as well as Pat Perez (-9) who will be thinking about the double bogey he made on 14 that cost him a chance at the title. Jon Rahm finished a further shot behind at -8 and had a chance to force a playoff on the last hole. His second shot was long and his chip back for eagle was not good.
Overnight leaders Patrick Reed and Alex Noren both had rounds they would rather forget. Reed having a horror run of 4 bogeys in 6 holes on the back nine and Noren shooting a final day 77. The day though, belonged to Harman as his 71, 69, 70 and final day 68 was good enough for the one shot win and the exemptions that come with it. Most notibly, entry into the Masters.
Just what is it and how does it work? Well, this is the first event of the new Golf Sixes format. There are 16 countries represented by 2 man teams. These teams are split into 4 different groups and the matches are played over 6 holes with ties going to sudden death at the 18th. It is similar to the event played in Perth at the start of 2017, but this time it is a teams event.
The inaugural golfsixes has been won by the team of Thorbjorn Oleson and Lucas Bjerregaard from Denmark. They defeated the Australian team of Scott Hend and Sam Brazel by 3 to 1.
This tournament was a breath of fresh air for a sometimes pedestrian schedule on the European Tour, but I commend them for doing something different. The atmosphere of the matches was fun, loud, fast and everything that normal golf just is not. The crowd and the players seem to really enjoy it. With the matches only being over 6 holes, most of them were over in less than an hour. Many of the top seeds were defeated by single shots on the 6th, or last hole. France and England suffered this fate.
The final came down to Denmark versus Australia. It was a tale of the unlucky against the bit luckys. The Australians should have been 3 up after 3 holes, but the lip outs at 1 and 2 kept it to just one up after a birdie on the 3rd. The 4th hole was where things started to turn for the Australians. Both players hit their drives into the water down the left and handed the hole to the Danes. A great birdie on the next had them 1 up. It was on the last hole where Team Denamark had a bit more luck. Their second shot was heading for the water, but stopped within a foot of going in by some heavy grass. The Aussies could not convert a 10 foot putt and it handed the win to the Danes. Well deserved, although I couldn't help but think about the 2 in the water that turned the tide against the Aussies.
Again, it was the fast paced style of play here that most likely cost the Australian team the chance to have some composure on that tee. The 4th hole was the clock hole and players only had 30 seconds to hit a shot, or be penalised a stroke. Had this been a standard hole, Scott Hend may have thought twice about hitting his driver after Brazel went into the water. But, that was the GolfSixes.
Personally, I thought it was fantastic to see the European Tour again lead the way into new territories regarding golf and how it's played. Team Scotland beat team Italy for the 3rd place trophy.
Volvo China Open
The European Tour this week heads to China for the Volvo China Open. Li Haotong is the defending champion and a pretty good field has assembled this week to battle it out at the Topwin Golf and County Club, at the foot of the Great Wall.
Frenchman, Alex Levy has won the Volvo China Open with a birdie on the 1st playoff hole against South African, Dylan Frittelli. Levy shot a final round 67 to tie Frittelli, who only needed to shoot par or better on the final round to win. The 74 he shot was not good enough, but he had a chance in the playoff. Levy made his birdie with a 15 foot putt and clinched the win.
The best placed Australians were Sam Brazel and Jason Norris, who finished tied for 48th position.
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
The Zurich Classic is headed for a Monday finish as Kevin Kisner rolled in a 94 foot chip to make eagle on the 72nd hole and force a playoff between him and Scott Brown, versus Jonas Blixt and Cam Smith of Australia.
Cam Smith and Jonas Blixt have won the Zurich Classic after a 4th hole birdie this morning. Cam Smith was the one who hit a magnificent wedge shot to 3 feet and sunk the putt for the win. Both teams had their chances to win with 3 putts of less than 10 feet just missing the edge of the cup the first 2 times down the 18th hole.
The young Queenslander now has a 2 year exemption for the tour and will be teeing it up in all the majors as well as rising the leaderboard in the FedEx Cup. His future on the tour looks set as he is only the 3rd Aussie to win a PGA Tour event under the age of 24. The other 2 were Jason Day and Adam Scott. Congratulations Cam! And go Aussies!
Valero Texas Open
If a race horse had 179 starts and, although showed promise in a few big races, could never quite bring home the chocolates, it would be sent to the knackery. Lucky for Kevin Chappell he’s not a race horse because on his 180th start, he had his first victory on the PGA tour when he brushed in an 8-footer for birdie on 18 and win The Valero Texas Open.
After a decorated college and amateur career Chappell turned pro in 2008 and spent 3 years on the Nationwide Tour before graduating in 2011. In his rookie season he finished tied for second at this very tournament in just his ninth start and then followed it up with a tie for third at the 2011 US Open – Kevin Chappell would have been forgiven for thinking his first win was close.
Six years later Kevin Chappell was still winless and the monkey on his back putting on weight. Yet with career earnings totalling nearly $10million USD and only 30 years old, life wasn’t that bad – or was it? A win on tour was a high priority, especially after experiencing success throughout his amateur career. He closed out Brooks Koepka by a shot after Koepka playing ahead of Chappell, birdied the 18th on his way to a 67 and tie for the lead. Undaunted, Kevin Chappell played the last hole beautifully, holed out for a 4 and walked away with $1.1 million and an awesome pair of boots.
Kevin Tway and Tony Finau finished 2 shots further back on 9 under with Australia’s Aaron Baddley finishing fifth at 8 under. Cameron Smith tied for sixth due largely to a second round 65 and Matt Jones was 5 under and tied for thirteenth. Geoff Ogilvy and Cameron Percy were the only other two Aussies to make the cut.
Pre-tournament favourites Charlie Hoffman and Matt Kucher had fairly disappointing tournaments. They both made the cut but finished middle of the road at 2 over.
This week we’re in New Orleans for the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana. Some big names are back too; Day, Fowler, Spieth and Watson are teeing it up after a short break post The Masters.
Last year Wesley Bryan was trying to scratch out a living on the Web.com tour, what’s more he was probably better known for his trick shots. Fast forward 12 months and Bryan wins the RBC Heritage, slips on the plaid jacket and propels himself to 14th in the FedExCup and is staring squarely at a spot at the Tour Championship. The South Carolinian native was solid down the stretch with a bogey free back nine to close the deal by a shot at 13 under.
Arguably the bigger story for the week was Luke Donald going down by a shot and racking up his fifth second place and seventh top three finish – all in the last nine years at the same tournament! If Donald had been able to hit fairways off the tee (he hit 31 of 56), he may well be the one sporting the plaid jacket. Conversly, Donald’s short game was sublime and kept him in it, but will his time ever come at Hilton Head?
The best placed Australian was Rod Pampling at 6 under with Cameron Smith a further shot back. Marc Leishman finished 2 under and was the only other Aussie to make the cut in a fairly disappointing tournament for Australia.
Next week we are at TPC San Antonio for the Texas Valero Open
"If ever there was an omen bet though, get your money on Garcia. When his ball stayed up on the 13th, I instantly thought of Fred Couples and Adam Scott receiving such gifts and going on to win the Masters!"
If you read yeterdays update, you would've read the above statement I made after the the third round. I'm not a betting man (unfortunatly), but maybe, just maybe the golfing gods were sending me a message. Maybe like Sergio they recognise I've paid my dues, the goods are finally going to smile my way.
I think not, Sergio Garcia simply discovered you have to accept everything that happens on the golf course. If you miss, walk to your ball and play you're best next shot. It's no ones fault, you hit it! Much has been written and said about Garcia's "new" state of mind, take the good with the bad and move on.
Sergio's win was gutsy, coming off bogies on 10 and 11 and done by two to Rose, Sergio was in trouble again on the 13th. A penalty drop and an awesome par save and then Justin Rose missing a crucial birdie putt, meant Garcia avoided a possible 4 shot swing. He then played solid golf and had a real opportuntiy to close the deal early in regulation, but Sergio's putt on the 18th slid by.
The play-off was basically done when Rose missed right in the pines off the tee and Sergio Garcia was able to hit his favoured cut straight into the mayors office. Justin Rose chipped out and Garcia all but closed the door with a fine shot pin high to about 15 feet. Now Rose needed the gods to smile his way but it was not to be, Sergio drained his putt to put it beyond all reasonable doubt - a great win.
It was a battle for two and it seemed no one else was invited. Charl Schratzel fired a 68, Matt Kucher a 67 and Thomas Pieters bounced back with a tidy 68 after faltering yesterday, but no one put any real pressure on the leaders. Adam Scott just couldn't get it going missing a couple of putts early that could've really put him amongst it. There were other good scores posted, but they weren't good enough or they started too far back.
Other than Adam Scott, no Australian's figured. Jason Day shot a 71 to finish 1 over, Marc Leishman also fired a 71 but finished 8 over and Curtis Luck capped off his first Masters with a very respectable 72 and finished the tournament 9 over.
So the 2017 Masters did come down to the back 9 on Sunday and one man beat everyone and everything including himself to not only win his first major, but THE major! Congratulations Sergio Garcia.
Shell Houston Open
Russell Henley booked himself a place in the Masters field this week with his win in The Shell Open at Houston. In the wind and rain Henley made 10 birdies on his way to shooting 65 and in doing so, put a stop to Sung Kang's attempts to win his first PGA event.
After shooting rounds of 65 and 63, and getting it to 16 under on Friday, Kang could only manage 1 under on the weekend - but it was still enough to finish second by himself. A shot further back were Luke List and Rickie Fowler. 3 over after the first 4 had Fowler on the back foot and playing catch up, though he rallied and closed with 5 birdies in his last 11 holes. But it was Henley's 4 birdies in 5 holes on the back 9 that put him in unbeatable position as he stood on the 18th tee.
The best paced Australian was Aaron Baddeley at 7 under, Geoff Ogilvy was a further 2 back and Matt Jones finished 1 under. Jon Rahm backed up his second place last week with a top ten result at -9.
It's officially Masters Week now, stay tuned for Carls Masters preview.
World Golf Championships - Dell Match Play
Three in a row for DJ as he dominates in Austin and widens the gap between himself and the rest, in the world golf rankings. Not once in his seven matches and 112 holes was Johnston "down". Add to this the top 64 players in the world teed it up in Austin, DJ smashed a quality field.
5 down through 8 in the final, Jon Rahm could have been forgiven for thinking about an early beer. A couple of makeable putts slid by the hole and DJ was looking invincible. But 4 down on the par 4 13th tee, Rahm smashed his drive 270 yards plus into the wind, over water on to the green. Two putts for a birdie and Rahm's comeback was ignited. Two more birdies on 15 and 16 and it was game on and for the first time in the tournament, DJ's grip on the trophy appeared to be under threat.
The match was decided on the 18th when DJ calmly rolled in his par putt to bring his WGC tally to four, a career slam! With The Masters only a few weeks away and a T6 and T4 in his last 2 starts at Augusta, Johnston has firmed as favorite to win a second major.
Arnold Palmer Invitatonal
Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill hosts the Invitational this week. Jason Day is the returning champion.
Aussie Marc Leishman has won the Invitational. Leaishman shot a final round 69 that included play down the stretch that was the definition of clutch. The 51 foot eagle putt he made on 16 to hit the lad was just the start. Finding the bunker on the 17th, he was short sided. He played a delicate flop out of the sand and then holed a 5 footer for par.
On the 18th tee, he sprayed his drive into the deep rough right. Taking his medicine, he played a perfect shot to 15 feet from the front of the green. Pitched up to 3 feet and sunk the putt for par and the win. He had 4 putts over the last 4 holes and this was why he won. The others on the leaderboard wre up and down, but none finished as well as Leishman.
He gets $1,566,000 and has tour tickets for the next 3 years. He also gets into the Masters field for April. A great effort by Marc and it's great to have back to back Australian winners at this tournament. Congrats!
Hero Indian Open
The Gary Player re-designed course at DLF golf and country club is the venue for this years Hero Indian Open.
S.S.P. Chawrasia has defended his title and won this years Hero Indian Open. The golf course was brutal during the week and Chawrasia was one of only 7 golfers that were under par at the end of the 4 days, eventually winning by a huge 7 strokes.
Rafa Cabrera Bello and Anirban Lahiri were the only 2 players inside the top 10 to join Chawrasia in being under par on the last day. They both finished 9 shots behind the winner.
Wade Ormsby was the leading Australian at +5 for the week.
Adam Hadwin has won at Copperhead after a dramatic back nine with playing partner Patrick Cantlay. The two were tied heading to the 18th, but the deadlock was broken when Cantlay could not get up and down from the greenside bunker on the 72nd hole.
Hadwin finished at -14 after a nervous last round of 71 to claim his first PGA Tour victory. He went out on the front in even par and had birdies at the par 5, 11th and then on the par 3, 13th. The double bogey on 16 brought back Cantlay into contention, but Hadwin sealed the deal with a great par on the last to add another Canadian name to the winners list this season.
Big hitting Tony Finou shot a final round -7, 64 to finish 5th. Charl Schwartzel finished 6th and Henrik Stenson finished tied for 7th. Rod Pampling was the leading Australian at tied 41st.
WGC Mexico Championship
The world's best assemble for another WGC event. This time, it's in Mexico. Ironic that it was taken from Donald Trump's Doral and given to Mexico. No wall as yet, so there should be good crowds. The full top 30 players in the world are playing in this event, except for the world number 2, Jason Day, who is still nursing an injury.
Dustin Johnson has confirmed his world number 1 status by taking out the WGC Mexico. Johnson fired a final round 68 to finish one shot clear of Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who rolled in a long birdie on the 18th to finish second. Rory McIlroy, who had the chance to become the new world number 1 this week, failed to fire on the weekend, shooting 70,71 and eventually finishing tied 7th, with Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker.
It was Jon Rahm that will be the most disappointed though. He was tied for the lead with 3 to play, but finished bogey, bogey, par to drop to tied 3rd with Ross Fisher. Although the PGA / European Tour event promised to showcase the best of the PGA Tour, it was the European Tour players that seemed to relish the spotlight, filling 3 of the top 5.
Unfortunately, there were no Australians that finished under par this week. Adam Scott, who was the defending champion here, was the best placed Aussie at +1.
So the chocolates go to Dustin Johnson again as he cements his place as world number 1 with yet another win.
The Honda Classic
Rickie Fowler has hung on to win the Honda Classic by a comfortable margin of 4 shots. Fowler started the day with a for shot lead, but his front 9 was very up and down. He carded 2 bogeys, a double bogey and 2 birdies to go out 2 over.
At one stage he was only 1 shot in front, but he drained a long birdie putt on12, then followed it with another from 25 feet on 13. His birdie on 16 sealed the win and even though he bogeyed the final 2 holes, the challengers were nowhere to be seen and he cruised to victory.
Adam Scott was the leading Australian at -4.
With 3 places up for grabs in the British Open field for 2017 this week, you would have thought that some players would be scrambling for a win at the Joburg Open. Unfortunately, only 4 of the top 100 players in the world turned up this week. Of the 4 that did turn up, Brandon Stone at 69 is the top ranked player in the field.
Darren Fichardt has won the Joburg Open by 1 shot over Stuart Manley and Paul Waring. All 3 have qualified to go to the British Open. In a shortened 54 hole tournament that was drowned by lots of rain, the leaderboard was crammed with challengers. Only 5 shots separated the top 22 players. Fichardt shot 66,66,68 to claim the one shot win and move him into 18th position on the "race to Dubai."
There were no Australian players playing this week on the European Tour.
Dustin Johnson has won the Genesis Open at Riviera by 5 shots. At one stage he was 9 clear, but he finished the afternoon a little wayward down the stretch for a 71. The damage was done in his earlier rounds of 66,66,64 though. Johnson now overtakes Austrailias own, Jason Day as the new world number one ranked player. Any wonder after the golf he has been playing. Top 10 after top 10. Top 5 after top 5. Johnson is a machine! Long off the tee, accurate with his irons and lethal with the putter.
European Tour regular Thomas Pieters finished second on -12 after a final round 63, tied with American Scott Brown. Justin Rose was a further shot back on -11. Adam Scott was the best placed aussie at -9 and Jason Day, who made the cut, finished up 2 over par after rounds of 70,70,75,71.
The Tour now heads south to Florida and PGA National for the Honda Classic. Adam Scott is the defending champion here.
ISPS Handa Super 6's
Local Brett Rumford has taken out the ISPS World Super 6's tournament in Perth. Rumford was clearly the best player through the first 3 days of stroke play, finishing 5 clear of everybody at -17. The unique format of the Super 6's though, meant that matchplay over 6 holes would determine the winner. The final 24 were paired off and match by match, the numbers were cut until the final match which was between Rumford and young teenager Phachara Khongwatmai.
Rumford eventually beating the Thai 17 year old 2 & 1. Aussie pair Adam Bland and Jason Scrivener took 3rd and 4th and Louis Oosthuizen placed 5th.
The format was sensational and proved to be a winner for the viewing asudience as well. Many people today talking of how exciting the short playoff hole of only 65 meters was, as well as how entertaining the 4th day turned out to be. It's great to see the tour embracing change every now and then. Hopefully there is more of this type of tournament to follow.
Back to South Africa next week for the Joburg Open.
Pebble Beach Pro Am
Jordan Speith has cruised to victory at Pebble Beach by 4 shots to win his first tournament for 2017 and his 9th on the tour. Speith shot 68, 65, 65, 70 in sometimes trying conditions to clinch the win.
Kelly Kraft finished second 4 shots behind on -15, then Dustin Johnson at -14, Brandt Snedeker at -13, Gary Woodland, Jon Rahm and our own Jason Day equal 5th on -12. It was a good bounce back from Day who carded a 3 over par 75 on Saturday.
Speith though, was never going to be caught and he kept the field at arms reach throughout the last round. His form look great this year as he has finished top 10 in every tournament in 2017 he has played. The signs look good for his return to Augusta and perhaps an improvement on his second place last year.
The PGA Tour now heads over to Riviera CC for the Genesis Open and the return of Jason Day and Adam Scott to Hogan's Alley. Sergio Garcia is also playing, fresh off a win on the European Tour. It should be a classic contest and Riviera always looks magnificent.
Little known Paraguayan golfer Fabrizio Zanotti has taken out the Maybank Championship with a superb eagle on the 18th hole. He shot -9 for the day and was clearly the best golfer out there in the last round. the 63 was enough to take the trophy over 2nd placed David Lipsky, who needed a birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff.
Overnight leader and Masters champion, Danny Willett shot a 73 on the final day and fell out of contention, eventually finishing tied for 5th place. It was, however, a great return to form for Willett, who has been struggling since his victory at Augusta last year. His first 3 rounds of 66, 67, 67 included only 2 bogeys in total and his form looks good for the Masters again this year.
Sam Brazel was the leading Australian at -9 and looks to be having a good 2017.
The tour now moves to our shores next week for the ISPS Handa Super 6's. Staged at Perth's Lake Karrinyup GC, the event is tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, the Asian Tour and the Australasian Tour. The unique format has players playing regulation stroke play for 54 holes, then the last top 24 will pair off and play 6 hole matches until a winner is decided. Patrick Reed and Alex Noren are two of the headline golfers who will be playing. It should make great viewing for the Television audience, and all golf fans should be tuning in to see the action on Sunday.
Waste Management Phoenix Open
Hideki Matsuyama has won the title back to back after a playoff victory this morning against Webb Simpson. Simpson who carded a final round 64 including birdies at 15, 17 & 18 to get him to 17 under and tie for the lead after 72 holes was outstanding and had several chances to win, but the putts slipped over the edge of the hole time after time.
Matsuyama shot a 66 in the final round and the playoff with Simpson was very close. They played 18 (both pars), 18 again (both pars), 10 (both pars), then came to the 17th. 17 was always going to be the hole that decided it. The tricky back placement of the pin was the thing that made it impossible for Simpson to putt at the hole, after he came to rest back right. A bunker seperated him from the flag. He putted it to about 24 feet but missed the second putt by millimeters to make par. Matsuyama chipped his second to about 10 feet and rolled in the putt to secure his back to back victories. He won in a playoff against Rickie Fowler on the 17th last year as well.
This win puts Matsuyama in 1st place in the FedEx Cup race and gives him his 4th PGA Tour victory. Not bad for a 24 year old. Marc Leaishman was the leading Australian at -9.
Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Sergio Garcia has won his 12th European Tour tournament and taken a wire to wire victory in the Dubai Desert Classic. He started the week with a 7 under par 65 and ended with a 3 under 68 to beat out Henrik Stenson for the title by 3 strokes.
Playing together in the last round, Stenson cut the lead to only 2 on the 14th hole, but Garcia stepped onto the par 3, 15th and hit the winning shot. A 7 iron to 2 feet. Stenson was over the back of the green and made bogey. Stenson had a chance to try and go for the win on the 17th hole that was drivable, but instead he played an iron and made par. Garcia strode to the 18th with a 4 shot lead and took the title with a par.
Curtis Luck was the leading Australian finisher at -5 and although he shot a 75 in the last round, the young amatuer has much to be proud of. His game is solid enough to compete with these guys and I'm sure success will follow shortly.
Farmers Insurance Open
Rookie sensation Jon Rahm has won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines by 3 strokes, thanks to a back nine on Sunday that included 2 eagles and 2 birdies.
He finished the last round with a 65 and a monster eagle putt from 60 feet on the 18th green sealed the win. Rahm, who is just 22 years old, has finished in the top 10 now several times, including a top 10 finish at the US Open last year. Although he has only played on tour for less than a year, he looks like he belongs and his power game off the tee will see him being one to watch in 2017.
All eyes earlier in the week were on Tiger Woods and his return to the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, Tiger shot 76,72 to miss the cut. Aussie Marc Leishman started the day just 2 shots off the lead and although at one stage he did hold a share of the lead, he fell away late to finish with a final round 73, tied for 20th.
The action for next week is all about the stadium hole at TPC Scottsdale. The Phoenix Waste Management Open will see a big name field looking to please the crowd on the 16th, the noisiest hole in golf.
Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
The Qatar Masters has been won by Korean Jeunghun Wang after a birdie on the first playoff hole against Swede Joakim Largergren and South Africa's Jaco Van Zyl.
All 3 were tied at -16 after regulation play and it was Van Zyl who was in the box seat during the playoff. He had hit the green for 2 and had about 35 feet for eagle. Wang was long and had to chip back from the grandstand. Largergren was in the greenside bunker and could only manage a par. Wang hit his chip to about 3 feet and watched as Van Zyl 3 putted to make par. Wang calmly stepped up and sunk his putt to win the tournament and propel himself into the world's top 50 players.
If he stays there, he will have earned himself an invite to the Masters at Augusta in April and a chance at a green jacket. The 24 year old has already won 3 times on the European Tour and the move inside the top 50 rankings will get him invited anywhere he wants to play.
The best placed Australian was Scott Hend at -2.
Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic
Brittany Lincicome has won the Pure Silk Classic in the Bahamas, defeating Lexi Thompson on the first playoff hole, after the two women were tied at -26 through regulation play. American players filled the top 5 spots and dominated the scoring all week.
Lincicome takes home the first title for 2017, as well as $210,000. Sarah Jane Smith was the best placed Australian in the field but finished well back on -3.
Career Builder Challenge
Hudson Swafford has won the Career Builder Challenge by 1 shot over the newest member of the 59 club, Adam Hadwin. Swafford played the PGA West Stadium course back nine better than anyone on the last day and while those around him struggled to make pars, he made birdies on some of the course's toughest holes. His birdies on 15, 16 and 17 handed him the win.
It's Swafford's first PGA Tour win and he moves from 69th to 6th on the FedEx Cup points table. Phil Mickelson played his first tournament of the year and finished 9 behind the leader at -11. Patrick Reed finished at -13 and the leading Australian was Geoff Ogilvy at -10.
Congratulations Hudson on your first win!
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood has won his second European Tour event and taken out the HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi.
Fleetwoods first win was over 3 years ago, but he has been consistant in his scoring, finishing in the Race To Dubai's top 50 most years. This win puts him into the lead. It also puts just over 420,000 Euro into his bank. Fleetwood surged to the lead after a chip in eagle at the 10th and followed it by having another birdie on 11, then 16, then again on 18 to score a 31 on the back nine.
He finished 1 shot clear of American Dustin Johnson who eagled the 72nd hole and Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, who had an amzing scoring week. Larrazabal carded ten 2's for the week on the par 3's and 25 birdies all up. Dropped shots on the back nine at 11 and 15 put him out of the running. Johnson's long game off the tee had him always in with a chance, but the birdie on 16 and eagle on 18 were only enough to get the world number 3 tied for 2nd place. His 64 on Saturday was an incredible round with no bogeys, 6 birdies and an eagle.
Wiesberger, Aphibarnrat and Martin Kaymer were a further shot back in equal 3rd. Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood a further 2 shots behind them. Stenson played well early in the week and Westwood was solid all 4 days, shooting 68,69,69,69.
But, the tournament belonged to Fleetwood who moves up to 53 in the world ranking and will be one to watch this year. Congratulations Tommy!
Sony Hawaiian Open
Justin Thomas has gone wire to wire and won the Sony Hawaiian Open for 2017. Thomas carded the tours 7th 59 in history on the opening round and went on to shoot 64 on Friday, then a pair of 65's on the weekend to finish 7 shots clear of the field at -27.
Englishman and Olympic gold medalist, Justin Rose, finished second. He birdied 15,16 & 18 to sneak past Jordan Speith who was a further shot back after shooting a final round 63. They were all playing for second though, as Justin Thomas was the clear winner.
Thomas goes back to back with wins in Hawaii, only the 3rd player in PGA Tour history to do that while under the age of 24. Only Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have done this before him and it puts him in elite company. We could be seeing the start of another dominant player on tour as Thomas is growing more and more confident with each passing week. He obviously has the game to compete and must now be one of the players to watch this season. He jumps over Hideki Matsuyama as the leader in the Fedex Cup. Congratulations Justin!
BMW South African Open
Englishman Graeme Storm has won the BMW SA Open after a 3rd playoff hole par to beat Rory McIlroy. It has been almost 10 years since Storm has won on the European Tour and last year, he even lost his tour card. He was given entry to some recent events because some players chose not to compete.
McIlroy was 1 shot up on Storm with 2 holes to play, but after hitting into the bunker on the par 3, 17th, his ball was semi plugged in the face, leaving him an extremely difficult shot to even get it out. He got it out, but the ball ran back into the bunker. He got up and down for the bogey but both players were tied going down the last.
After both making regulation pars, the playoff was on. McIlroy was obviously struggling with a sore back and was taking anti-inflams most of the 3rd and 4th rounds. He has been hitting way too many balls lately due to testing new equipment and the toll is showing. His new Callaway Epic driver failed to find the fairway on all of the 3 playoff holes, although it was long.
The 1st playoff hole, McIlroy hooked into the left rough, but made par. The 2nd time he pushed it right and made a miraculous shot out of trees for a par. The 3rd time he pushed it right again and after hitting his second a little heavy, came up short of the left trap. He pitched to 6 feet, but could not make the par putt. Although Rory was not hitting fairways, the skill he showed by making the pars each time just showcased why he is the world number 2.
Storm on the other hand, was a picture of consistency. Each time, as in regulation play, he hit 5 wood to the fairway and left himself 180 meters in. He hit the middle of the green every time and made 2 putts for par. The 3rd time down, seeing Rory miss, the par gave him the victory.
The exemption will see him compete for the next 3 years on the European tour and if he keeps up his form from this week, more victories will surely follow. Congratulations Graeme!
SBS Tournament of Champions
Justin Thomas has won the SBS Tournament of Champions for 2017. Thomas records his 3rd PGA Tour victory and his second victory in this new season. He is now 2nd on the Fedex Cup points and finished the tournament at -22, 3 clear of the red hot Hideki Matsuyama, who leads the Fedex race.
Thomas shot 3 consecutive rounds of 67 and a final round 69. He made the turn at -3 and was clear at the top of the leaderboard, but he bogeyed the 10th and double bogeyed the 15th. With his challengers getting closer, he rallied to birdie 17 and almost eagle 18, before tapping in for a closing birdie. Good friends Jordan Speith and Jimmy Walker were one of the first to congratulate Thomas at the back of the 18th green.
Earlier, Speith had shot the best round of the day with a 8 under 65 that had no bogeys and 8 birdies. Aussie Jason Day finished with a great eagle on the 72nd hole as he hit his second shot to 8 feet and rolled in the putt. Runner up Matsuyama had an interesting last round at Kapalua. His scorecard featuring 3 bogeys, 4 birdies and a stunning 60 foot wedge hole out for eagle at the 14th. His great form seems to be continuing into 2017 and he looks to be the man to watch for this year.
Kapalua and Hawaii never fail to deliver a great tournament. The stunning visuals are a delight to watch every year. A great start to the 2017 season and congratulations to Justin Thomas.
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