WGC Dell Technologies Match Play
This tournament has bounced around the world and been played at some magnificent golf courses. It started its life in 1999 at the La Costa Resort and Spa, in California, but has also been played at The Gallery Golf Club, The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, TPC Harding Park and even in Australia at Metropolitan. From 2016 until 2019 though, its played in Austin, Texas at the Austin Country Club.
One of the oldest golf clubs in Texas, this Pete Dye classic has been moved 3 times in its life as developments have taken up around the area, but the location it sits in now, near the Pennypacker Bridge, on the Colorado river is fantastic. It’s a par 72 of only 6,500m, but don’t let the length dictate how you think about this course. The slope rating is a whopping 152 thanks to some very narrow fairways, lots of sloping ground and plenty of trees and water. For many years it was home to one of the greatest golf teachers in the world, Harvey Penick. He co-wrote some of the most popular books on golf instruction that have ever been written. The “little red golf book” was the most famous and sold millions of copies. He started his golfing life as a caddy at the Austin Country Club at 8 years old.
Of the 19 times this tournament has been staged, we Aussies have done pretty well. Geoff Ogilvy was the first to win in 2006 and he lost to Henrik Stenson the year after. In 2009 he was back though and won it again beating Paul Casey 2 & 3 in the final. This was back when the final was decided over 36 holes. Jason Day was the last Australian winner. He took it out in 2014 beating Victor Dubuisson on the 5th extra hole to claim his 1st win here. His 2nd came in 2016 when he defeated Louis Oosthuizen at this golf course 5 & 4.
There will be 3 Aussies in the draw this week as they rank in the world top 64, which is where the field is taken from. These 64 players will be split up into 16 groups of 4 players who will play the first 3 days in 18 hole matchplay against the others in their group. 1 point for a win, half a point for a drawn match. These matches take place from Wednesday to Friday. The 16 players remaining will battle it out in standard knockout matches on Saturday up until the quarter final stage. The semi finals and final will be played on the Sunday. Exhausting to read, but thankfully, great to watch. So who are in the groups and who are the favourites?
Group 1: D.Johnson, K.Kisner, A.Hadwin, B.Wiesberger
Group 2: J.Thomas, F.Molinari, P.Kizzire, L.List
Group 3: J.Rahm, K.Aphibarnrat, C.Reavie, K.Bradley
Group 4: J.Speith, P.Reed, H.Li, C.Schwartzel
Group 5: H.Matsuyama, P.Cantlay, C.Smith, Y.Miazato
Group 6: R.McIlroy, B.Harman, J.Vegas, P.Uihlein
Group 7: S.Garcia, X.Schauffele, D.Frittelli, S.Sharma
Group 8: J.Day, L.Oosthuizen, J.Dufner, J.Hahn
Group 9: T.Fleetwood, D.Berger, K.Chappell, I.Poulter
Group 10: P.Casey, M.Fitzpatrick, K.Stanley, R.Henley
Group 11: M.Leishman, B.Grace, B.Watson, J.Suri
Group 12: T.Hatton, C.Hoffman, B.Steele, A.Levy
Group 13: A.Noren, T.Finau, T.Pieters, K.Na
Group 14: P.Mickelson, R.Cabrera Bello, S.Kodaira, C.Howell III
Group 15: P.Perez, G.Woodland, W.Simpson, A.Kim
Group 16: M.Kuchar, R.Fisher, Y.Ikeda, Z.Johnson
From the past years, you can’t go past proven match play winners. Jason Day will always be lurking here as he likes this golf course and has the length to dictate many birdies. If only his accuracy was a bit better, but perhaps? Dustin Johnson is another who has performed well here and he is the defending champion. They say beware great putters in match play, so you would have to consider Jordan Speith as well. Of course, you cannot go past Rory. His blade was on fire last week and it has been the missing ingredient in his game. If he putts like that again, he will be the man to beat.
Of the others, Rafa Cabrera Bello always plays match well, as does any of the Spanish boys so don’t count out Sergio and Jon Rahm. Louis Oosthuizen likes this course too and has the swing to win. Haotong Li was fantastic at the EurAsia cup and loves this format too. With the 64 best players in the world here this week, anybody can win! This will be a great one to watch and a perfect little appetiser for the Masters the week after.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational
Rory McIllroy left a quality field in his wake on the way to winning The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida. McIllroy fired a scintillating 64 to finish 18-under, 3 shots ahead of Bryson DeChambeau who carded a final round 68. It was Rory McIllroys 1st TOUR win since the 2016 TOUR Championship. He was square for the day standing on the 6th tee, then the fireworks begun. McIllroy birdied 6,7 and 9 then closed with a flawless 5-under 31. It was vintage Rory as he led the field in Driving Distance, Proximity to Hole, Scrambling and Strokes Gained: Putting.
Playing behind McIllroy, Bryson DeChambeau holed an eagle putt on 16 to move within 1 shot but McIllroy curled in a bomb on 18 to move 2 up and DeChambeau needed to birdie 17 and 18 to force a play-off. The “Scientists” fairytale didn’t eventuate and he finished 2nd. At one stage during the 1st round, Justin Rose found himself 4-over the card. He fought back for an opening 69, followed it up with a frustrating 71 and then shot a fine pair of 67’s to finish 3rd at 14-under.
Henrik Stenson opened the API with a blistering 64, backed it up with a 3-under 69, went to bed Friday night with the lead and probably feeling pretty happy with his tournament. The weekend was nothing short of frustrating for the big Swede though. A pair of 71’s saw him overtaken, actually he was swamped by McIllroy, DeChambeau and Rose. Stenson held a 1 stroke lead after 54-holes but shooting par (or just under) was never going to be good enough. It was his best result on TOUR since a T2 and the WGC-HSBC Champions in October last year.
Aside from Rory McIllroy’s win, the biggest story of the week was…. of course Tiger Woods. A 1st round 68 was backed up with an even par-72 and if name wasn’t Tiger you’d be forgiven for thinking he couldn’t figure in the results. But his name is Tiger and a 69 on moving day, whilst not particularly low, had him within striking distance. Out in 34 on Sunday saw him 5 shots behind the leaders, a sloppy bogey on 9 seemingly halting momentum. Not to be as Woods birdied 3 of his next 4, got it to 12-under and a 9th API looked for than likely. Tiger had birdied the 16th in rounds 1, 2 and 3 after finding rough-right every time but on Sunday he missed way left (OOB), made bogey and his charge ended. Not to mention the hopes and dreams of most of us.
Defending champion Mar Leishman was the best placed Australian finishing T7 at 8-under. A 3rd round 73 costing Leishman a higher finish but a final round 67 moved him up 28 places. Jason Day was next T22 at -5, 3 early bogies in the 4th round saw him fighting for relevance. Adam Scott made the cut but his result T41 wasn’t the finish he was looking for 2 weeks out from The Masters. Curtis Luck was the only other Australian to make the cut, finishing T58 at plus-1. A 74 and 76 over the weekend doing him no favors.
It’s the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play this week at the Austin CC in Texas. Match play is the only time where true gamesmanship can be employed, as players slug it out one-on-one. It’s always a fascinating week, check in for our full preview.
Paul Casey fired an almost faultless 6-under 65 to hold off Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed to win the Valspar Championship by 1 shot. It was Casey’s first victory on TOUR since the 2009 Houston Open but it wasn’t the drought breaking win the fans had come to see. Paul Casey was out in 33 (3-under) then rattled off 3 straight birdies on holes 11,12 and 13 to take the lead. He closed with 5 solid pars to finish 10-under then had to wait to see if anyone could chase him down.
Dressed in his traditional Sunday red, Tiger turned back the clock opening with a birdie and the fairytale was alive and well. A bogey and 7 pars followed which wasn’t ideal but none of the leaders were going low so Tiger was back where he belonged – in contention Sunday afternoon. Unable to generate any momentum early on the back half, Woods moved to within 1 shot of Casey when holed a bomb for birdie on 17 from outside 40-feet. Needing another to force a play-off, Tiger knocked his second to just inside 40-feet but left his birdie try short.
Patrick Reed finished T2 with Tiger at -9 after making a disappointing bogey on the 18th. Needing a par to force another play-off, Reeds birdie attempt rolled 45-feet back to him. A soul destroying 3-putt and Patrick Reed was cooked. Sergio Garcia’s form continues to improve as he heads towards his Masters defense. Garcia’s perfect record of making cuts here remains intact as he shot a final round 65 to move into 4th, 1 shot behind Reed and Woods on -8.
Rory Sabbatini had a welcome return to form ending a strong week T5 on 7-under with Justin Rose. Rose had it to -9 standing on the 10th tee and it was shaping up as a 4-way battle with Casey, Woods and Reed. Back-to-back bogies on 12 and 13 saw Rose slip back and he was unable gain any ground over his final 5 holes. Unfortunately, the 54-hole leader Canadian Corey Conners closed with a 6-over 77 to finish T16. Conners was set to cause a boil over and have his 1st win on TOUR but the situation proved too big and he couldn’t hold the form that had seen him shoot 3 sub-70 rounds.
Adam Scott was the best placed Australian T16 after showing glimpses. A 3rd round 66 easily his best for some time. Cameron Smith T46 was next best, a final round 73 saw him lose ground on the field but it was another cut made and he remains 22 on the FedEx Cup table. Aaron Baddeley (T49) and Rod Pampling (T59) were the only other Aussie’s to make the cut.
Speaking of cuts, some big names missed out on the weekend action; Jordan Spieth and Rory McIllroy both missed by a shot, not an ideal preparation for the upcoming month. Tony Finau, Henrik Stenson and Chez Reavie also found themselves on the wrong side of the line.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is next on the schedule and it always attracts a quality field. That’s followed by the WGC – Dell Match Play where the world’s best slug it out 1-on-1. It promises to be 2 huge weeks on TOUR.
Hero Indian Open
Starting the final day of the Hero Indian Open, there were plenty of players in contention. The hometown horse was Shubhankar Sharma and if history had anything to say about it, he was looking the most likely. Over the first 3 editions of the Hero Open, an Indian player had won all 3. Combine that with the fact that he had won twice already this year and was playing magnificent golf over the first 3 days and you had pretty good reason to think he would again.
Unfortunately, Sharma never really got going on day 4. Birdies on 2 & 4 were followed by double bogeys on 5 & 7. Even though he tried and went at pins all day, the dropped shots just kept coming and he finished with a 75 (Tied 7th) His luck deserted him as well and at one point he hit the hole with a magnificent approach shot, only to ricochet off the green and make bogey.
Through the first 3 days, Emiliano Grillo had the ball on a string. After 36 holes he was 6 clear, but his 3rd round 78 pushed him back a little. His final round 72 was nothing spectacular and he finished disappointed at tied 6th. Pablo Larrazabal of Spain was looking like the guy who was going to win and through the first 13 holes, made 6 birdies. His 3 bogeys at 14, 16 & 17 dropped him to finish tied 4th with Austria's Matthius Schwab.
Little known American, Sihwan Kim started like Larrazabal. He was off to a great start through the first 11 holes with 5 birdies, but a run of pars on the back nine, followed by a closing bogey on 18 and he finished 3rd. This just left the top 2.
Andrew 'Beef' Johnston is a crowd favourite for many reasons. Mostly because of his outgoing personality and the fact that he loves people yelling"Beeeef!" at him all day. He plays the game with a smile on his face and is heard complimenting other players often. He really is a nice guy on the European Tour. As they say, "nice guys finish last", but not today. Beef was right in the mix and his final round 66 here at this difficult golf course was extraordinary! He did not drop a shot all day, but when heroics were called for, he sadly fell short.
Tied with Matt Wallace and sitting in the middle of the fairway on the par 5, 18th hole, he needed to go for it. He needed to pull out the long iron or fairway wood and chance it. He didn't and finished on -11. Matt Wallace had started the day in front with Sharma on -7 and played very steady golf all day. He drove the ball very well and hit green after green, making 4 birdies through the first 9 holes. He then chipped in on the 10th and was 3 clear of his nearest rival. It seemed like he started to play it safe and wasmaking good pars, but a bogey on the 16th from the back bunker had him in a playoff with Beef.
Wallace smashed one down the middle of the fairway on the first playoff hole and Beef hit the fairway too, but 40 yards behind Wallace. Again, heroics were called for, but Beef sadly, layed up again and the 20 foot birdie putt caught the edge of the hole and he made 5. Wallace went for it! He took out a long iron and went straight at the pin, finishing 10 feet past the hole. He 2 putted for the birdie and the win. This was an extremely enjoying last day at the Hero. The golf course was tough, but the players relished it and put on a show. No second win for Beef, but Matt Wallace deserved the title after a great attitude oin the playoff. Congratulations!
WGC - Mexico Championship
Phil Mickelson proved that if you keep putting yourself in contention Sunday afternoon, sooner or later you will prevail. And prevail he did, ending a 5-year drought taking out the WGC – Mexico Championship on the 1st play-off hole over Justin Thomas. Mickelson and Thomas were tied on -16 after 72 holes and in what seems to have become the norm this season, headed to the par 3 17th hole for another play-off. Justin Thomas was fresh off an overtime victory last week and Phil was coming off 3 straight top-10’s and new he was heading in the right direction.
As is usually the case on TOUR, the final round delivered everything. The youngest player in the field at just 21, Shubhankar Sharma held a two shot lead after 54 holes – but they were all lining up behind him. Mickelson, Tyrell Hatton, Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello were at 11-under with Dustin Johnson looming a further shot behind. Thomas tore it up Saturday shooting a course record 62 propelling him up the leader board to sit just 4 strokes off the lead.
Unfortunately for Sharma he couldn’t generate any momentum on Sunday. He made his 1st birdie for the day on 12 and then consecutive bogies on 17 and 18 saw him sign for a 3-over 74 in a T9. Shubhankar Sharma is on the verge of big things and this week was the (almost) perfect start. Hatton looked set to cause a boil-over with a 3-3-3-3 score line on holes 12 through 15 getting it to 16-under. He closed with a disappointing bogey and fell out of the lead. Cabrera Bello got off to a flyer holing out from a bunker for an eagle for an early share of the lead at -13. In hindsight though, bogies on the 5th and 12th were costly because he played his last 6 holes 3-under. Hatton and Cabrera Bello finished T3 at 15-under.
It was the Mickelson and Thomas show though. Playing ahead of Phil, Thomas stood over his 2nd shot to the 18th tied for the lead hoping to stuff it close. He sent the crowd into meltdown when he holed out from 119-yards for eagle and a 2-shot lead, closing with a superb 64. In typical “Phil” style he gave the crowd (and himself) some anxious moments. The 11th is a reachable par-5 and Mickelson had birdie in mind going for the green in 2 from a suspect lie. His 3rd was played from deep in the trees and his 4th from not much closer. Phil managed to get up-and-down for a bogey 6 but now had his work cut out down the stretch. Mickelson responded with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to move to -16 and tie Thomas. His 4th round 66 was vintage Phil.
Thomas and Mickelson went to the 17th to slug it out. Thomas missed the green long and Phil’s tee-shot finished 18-feet from the cup. JT’s chip settled just inside 10-feet and it was now Mickelson’s turn to close the door. His putt lipped out but Phil’s agony was sort-lived as Thomas’s effort never looked like it and after 101 starts worldwide since his last win (2013 British Open), Mickelson was the man.
Adam Bland was the best placed Australian T18 at -7. Bland played 4 solid rounds at par or better and would be pleased with his result. After 54 holes Marc Leishman was -7 looking at another top-20 result, at the very least. A final round 77 was a disappointing way to close after 3 sub-70 rounds. Wade Ormsby finished +2 and T50, an opening 79 doing the damage. Lucky for Brett Rumford there was no cut because if there was he would have had the weekend off. Rumford placed 62nd, 13 over the card.
Back to Florida this week for the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor where Adam Hadwin is the defending champion. With the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC Dell Match Play following and the Masters a month away, players on the “qualifying bubble” will be desperate to play their way into the fields.
George Coetzee had already lifted the trophy at the Tshwane Open in 2015. It is a tournament that the local south African Players have dominated since its inception and today, it happened again. Coetzee won his second Tshwane Open title.
He was the overnight leader at -14 and he was clear by 2 shots over the chasing field. Playing on his local golf course, where he grew up and learned his golf, you would have been a brave man to bet against him. Obviously, Mikko Korhonen of Finland did not get the memo. While Coetzee started slowly and bogeyed the 3rd and 4th holes, Korhonen ripped into his final round and was 3 under and 2 shots clear of the field by the time he was standing on the 8th tee.
This is where Coetzee decided that this was his tournament to lose. He birdied the 8th, then the 11th, 12th & 13th. By the time he was standing on the 16th tee, he was firmly back in control of the tournament. Even a weather disruption could not stop him from a final birdie on the 18th and a 2 shot win.
England's Sam Horsfield finished with 3 birdies in a row to take secondat -16 and Korhonen finished 3rd another shot behind him. Daniel Van Tonder and Sebastian Gros both shot final round 65's to tie 4th with Felipe Aguilar from Chile. Pedro Oriol fired the round of the week on the last day and his 9 under 62 got him a top ten finish at tied 8th.
Not a great week for the Aussies with both of them missing the cut. There's always next time. Speaking of which, it's the Hero Indian Open from New Delhi. Should be one to watch with Shubhankar Sharma back from the WGC and in great form. Congratulations Georgey boy!
The Honda Classic
Justin Thomas has denied Luke List his 1st TOUR win after birdieing the 1st play-off hole at the Honda Classic. Of the 15 tournaments played on TOUR this season, 7 have gone into overtime, a record number at this stage. Both Thomas and List made birdies on the 18th in regulation play to move 1 shot clear of Alex Noren. At one stage during the final round, 4 players shared the lead on 7-under but PGA National, Champion claimed 3 serious contenders; Noren, Tommy Fleetwood and Webb Simpson.
Alex Noren was tied for the lead standing on the 18th tee but got a difficult lie in the sand and only managed a par. Noren got off to a flier and was out in 32 (-3), but bogies on 11 and 12 were costly indeed. Alex Noren bounced back with 2 birdies in the next 3 holes and carded a fine 67 to finish 3rd. Fleetwood had it to -7, again a pair of bogies this time on 14 and 15 and Tommy’s day was done. He birdied the 18th to finish 4th on -6. 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson hasn’t won since 2013 and started the final round 1 shot off the lead. The 32-year-old stood on the 10th at 7 under with a share of the lead also. Bogies on 11, 12 and 14 saw him close with a disappointing 38 (+3) and finish T5 with Byeong Hun An. An shot a fine 65 but probably started too far back.
Luke List slept on a 1 shot lead and was shaky early going out in plus 2 and looked to be losing touch with the leaders. He got it together down the stretch with 3 back-9 birdies closing with a 69. An excellent 3rd round 65 propelled reigning FedEx Cup Champ Justin Thomas right into the frame at -6. Thomas was out square with the card and then played the treacherous closing 9 superbly at 2-under.
List looked to have the advantage coming up 18 in regulation play. He was in great shape off the tee leaving only a 4-iron he hit to the back of the green. Thomas found the rough off the tee and opted to lay-up and not take on the water. The decision proved wise as he stuffed his wedge to under 3 feet from 115 yards forcing List to make his eagle putt for the win. He didn’t, Thomas did and it was play-off time. Justin Thomas played the 18th hole beautifully this time, successfully taking on the water with his second and giving himself a look at eagle. List missed right amongst the palms, got his 2nd to the grandstand and chipped on to 15-feet but couldn’t get his birdie try to drop. Thomas brushed in his 4-footer for birdie and joined Patton Kizzire as the only duel winners on TOUR this season.
Australia’s Adam Scott and Greg Chalmers both made the cut and both finished in the top-20. Scott didn’t open particularly well and just made the cut by a shot at-4. The weekend saw Adam Scott break 70 twice for the 1st time this season firing 67 and 69 finishing 1-over and T13. Chalmers finished Friday right on the cut-line and after an even par 70 on Saturday, he closed with an impressive 67 to move into T17 on 2 over.
The PGA National Golf Club, Champion lived up to its reputation and played tough, especially down the stretch. The course claimed numerous heavy weight’s; Sergio Garcia +5, Rory McIllroy +9, Jhonatton Vegas +14 with Rickie Fowler, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Patton Kizzire missing the cut. Tiger Woods played par golf and finished 12th. The difference this week, he hit fairways and greens and gave himself looks at birdies. The putter was cold, but Tiger was there and at one stage only a few off the lead.
Justin Thomas has moved to No.3 in the world and has assumed the No.1 position in the FedEx Cup as he looks to become the only player in history to win it back-to-back.
It’s going to be a huge week at the WGC-Mexico Championship, the field will be strong as there are 550 points available to the winner. Dustin Johnson is the defending champion but he will definitely have his work cut out if he’s thinking about back-to-back titles.
Eddie Pepperell has his caddy to thank for his win today at the Qatar Masters. Mick at several times during the final round "made the call" that would prove pivotal in Eddie winning the tournament. A massive thanks to the European Tour for the audio during some of the round that just went to prove how important a caddies advice is at times. It was Pepperell's 129th appearance on the European Tour and his first win.
It did not come easy as he was nervous all day. His caddy just gave him 3 wood all day instead of driver and again and again, he split the fairway and made par after par. He knocked in birdies on the par 5, 9th and 10th as well as a birdie on the very short par 4, 16th. A bogey on the 15th was his only blemish and he had his caddy to thank for it. He wanted to take the long club and blast away at the green from the waste area he had driven it into. Mick told him to take the short club, chip it out and take the bogey. Otherwise, he was staring down a double at best. He did however, have some luck. His shot on the 12th was dangerously close to disaster as he was short of the green and in the waste area, but a very lucky bounce got him out of the trouble and a par followed. He had miraculoulsly holed out in the 3rd round after hitting 2 in the very same waste area. Again, Mick earned his 10% by making him hit a longer club from his bad lie on the 18th and it proved to be the perfect club as he parred out to take the win by 1 shot.
It was Oliver Fisher that was the man to take away the pain of the day as his front nine bogeys on 4, 5 & 6 would come back to haunt him as his 72nd hole birdie putt from only about 9 feet, slipped by the edge of the hole to give Pepperell the win. Renato Paratore shot an impressive 6 under 66 to finish tied 4th at -15, George Coetzee's 68 just wasn't enough to get him over the line and he finished tied 8th. A great performance by youngster Marcus Kinhult from Sweden as he finished 3rd on his own after a final day 68.
As for the Aussies, Jason Scrivener finished with a 70 to finish tied 19th and Scott Hend had a bad Saturday with a 75, but a good Sunday and finished tied 70th.
A huge congratulations to Eddie Pepperell though. It just goes to show that perseverence pays. After years of not winning and losing his tour card. He came back and played a great final round to win today. A great caddy can make great things happen and that was on show today. Yes, the player hits the ball, but the caddy gives him the confidence to do it and today was a great example of that. Well done team Pepperell and hopefully by next week, there might just be a sponsor on his empty cap. Maybe.
Bubba’s back and like him or not, he’s great to watch. Unconventional, unorthodox and unbelievable when he’s on! He bends the ball left and right, rarely hitting a straight shot so when Bubba’s in the zone there’s no pin he’s afraid of. He was in the zone this week, especially moving day where he set up his win with a 65. Leading by a shot after 54 holes, Watson found himself down by 1 after 10 with Kevin Na and Patrick Cantlay taking the lead briefly. All 3 birdied the par-5 11th but both Na and Cantlay bogeyed the very difficult 12th and 13th. Bubba Watson had 2 pars, was 1 up and after he holed a great bunker shot on 14 to move 2 ahead it was Bubba’s to lose. Another birdie on 17 and Watson was home barring a complete catastrophe on the 18th – there wasn’t and par was good enough.
Bubba joined some elite company as a 3-time winner of the Genesis Open; Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer. Whilst Bubba’s long game was good, it was his putting down the stretch that stood up. Watson made some crucial putts for par on the back 9 on his way to a 3-under 33, whilst those closest just couldn’t make ground. Tony Finau finished T2 with Kevin Na after both shooting 69. Finau’s in good shape this season sitting 6th on the FedEx Cup table having missed only 1 cut in 8 Tour starts.
Scott Stallings and Patrick Cantlay finished T4 on -9. Stallings was out in 32 and had it 9 to under early but a mixed bag heading home saw him gain no ground either. Canadian Adam Hadwin, Phil Mickelson and Aussie Cameron Smith finished T6 on -8. Hadwin shot a fine 66 but started too far back and for the 3rd time in as many weeks, Phil was in contention. Mickelson moved to -9 through 14 holes and was just 1 off the lead, but bogies on 15 and 16 saw his run come to an end. Cameron Smith couldn’t maintain his momentum into Sunday after a stunning 65 in the 3rd round. He also made no ground carding an even par 71, still a fine result.
Aaron Baddeley enjoyed a welcome return to form finishing -6 and T14, Adam Scott was the next best placed Australian on 2-over and T53. Greg Chalmers was the only other Aussie to make the cut closing with a 75 to T68. Some pretty handy players went home early; Marc Leishman, Jhonatton Vegas and Tiger Woods. Woods got on the bogey train Friday and couldn’t get off shooting a 76.
The TOUR moves east to Florida this week for the Honda Classic at PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens before heading south to Mexico City for the WGC Mexico Championship. It’s going to be a great few weeks with the Arnold Palmer only a month away. Stay tuned for our take.
For a first attempt at a European Tour golf tournament, the Al Mouj Golf course in Muscat, Oman really did deliver. Players on social media all week have been saying how great this Greg Norman designed course is. In fact, some have been saying that it is the best in the desert swing.
The tournament itself had ups and down during the week and so many players were in with a chance on the final days play. Matthew Southgate went out in the penultimate group and had been playing very good golf all week. That, unfortunately did not continue on his final round. Bogeys on 3, 5, 6 & 7 had him rattled and he faded to finish -9 (9th) with a final day 75.
Julien Guerrier was another leader heading into day 4. The Challenge tour graduate had no wins on the big tour but looked like he was playing for a cheque, not the title. His front nine holes were full of hitting middle of greens and 2 putting. 8 birdies and 2 bogeys through his first 10 holes and his 3 birdies to finish were not enough. He finished 3rd and got his big cheque though.
That left 2 players to fight it out for the trophy. Overnight leader, Joost Luiten and Chris Wood. Luiten exploded out of the blocks with 3 birdies in the first 4 holes. He opened up a lead of 3 shots at one stage and was looking unbeatable, but back to back bogeys on 7 & 8 brought him back to the field. Wood, meanwhile, was making a few birdies and had joined Luiten at the top. His bogey on the 17th though put pay to his challenge and Luiten finished with a final day 68 to claim his 6th victory on the European Tour.
He finished at -16, 2 clear of Wood and 3 clear of Guerrier. Sam Brazel was the best of the Australians and finished with a 2 under, 70 on the final day to finish tied 16th. Scott Hend finished tied 56th after a final round 73. An extremely good showing for this golf course and this tournament. There will be plenty more big names heading here next year I am sure. Norman's course was perfectly presented and won over all the players and the commentators all week. Next week, we are off to Qatar and the Commercial Bank Masters at Doha Golf Club.
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
As Ted Potter Jr walked to the 1st tee for his final round he was ranked 246 in the world, Potter walked off the 18th green No.73 in the OWGR. Along the way he pocketed $1.3million, moved to 15 in the FedEx Cup and secured a ticket to the Masters. There were no heroics, Ted Potter Jr closed with 11 straight pars to clinch his 2nd TOUR victory holding off 3 of the biggest names on TOUR in the process.
Opening with a bogey, Potter bounced back immediately having 4 birdies in the next 6 holes. The pivotal moment came at one of the worlds most photographed holes, the par 3 7th. Potter and playing partner Dustin Johnson both missed the green in similar spots. Johnson was away and ran his chip 5-feet past the cup – Potter holed his and extended his lead to 2. Johnson then bogeyed 8 handing Potter a 3 shot lead which was good enough for the win.
Dustin Johnson “just didn’t have it” according to his self-admission. He was -12 through 36 holes and on the verge of his 3rd win at Pebble Beach, but could only manage -2 through his last 36 and that was never going to be enough considering who was chasing. Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson and former world No.1 Jason Day were the two expected to mount the challenge. Mickelson fired a final round 67 (-5) including 3 late birdies to finish 14-under with Day and Johnson. A 3rd round 72 hurt his chances. Phil hasn’t won in 5 years but form suggests the drought breaker is not too far away – hitting fairways still remains his greatest challenge though.
Jason Day is coming off an interrupted, winless season and seems determined to re-establish himself at the top of the tree. A win 2 weeks ago at the “Farmers” backed up with T2 at Pebble this week has all the signs pointing in the right direction. The 72nd hole a real indication of his attacking mind-set. Needing an eagle to put some pressure on Potter, Day took driver off the deck on the par 5 18th rather than playing it safe to protect his score. His shot finished on the beach but Day saved his par, signed for a 70 and joined Johnson, Mickelson and Chez Reavie on -14 all in a tie for 2nd.
Aside from Day, only 2 other Australians made the cut; Rod Pampling -4 and Aaron Baddeley -3. Other notables to miss the cut were; Rory McIllroy, Luke Donald and Adam Scott. DA Points, Bill Murrays played partner also missed the 54-hole cut finishing even par – no cinderella story this week.
California again this week for the Genesis Open at Riviera CC where Dustin Johnson is the defending champion. Tiger Woods is scheduled to play adding to the interest. The big-names are in preparation for the World Golf Championships in Mexico on March 1st, so expect some quality fields for the next 2 TOUR events.
Lake Karrinyup again looked magnificent all week and was a brilliant venue for the 2nd ISPS Handa Super 6's. For the first few days it looked like the defending champion would do it again. Brett Rumford was at home around his local golf course and looked to be cruising, but Saturday saw him drop out of contention, as did Lee Westwood, who was leading alongside Rumford for most of the week.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat had never seen the Lake Karrinyup golf course and was not really going to play here until a week before the tournament. What a smart decision it ended up being though with his win in the final over James Nitties giving the Thai the tournament victory. It was not easy though. Kiradech was the last through to the round of 24 after only claiming the spot through 4 playoff holes. He then had to play 35 holes on Sunday and beat 5 different opponents in matchplay. Not an easy task, but a satisfying one for the man who has been working very hard of late. Not only has he dropped about 40 pounds, but he has been consistently up near the leaders in nearly every tournament he has played this year, without getting the win.
His opponent, James Nitties, almost lost in the first round of matchplay games to Nick Cullen, but rallied to beat Papadatos, O'Reilly and Englishman Sam Horsfield. Nitties took the early lead in the final match, but wayward driving on the next few holes ended up costing him and although he made some great saves, Aphibarnrat was too good. Lucas Herbert ended up in 3rd position after beating Horsfield in the other match. Another successful event in Australia for the European Tour. Next week it's off to Al Mouj and the Oman Open.
Waste Management Phoenix Open
Another week, another play-off, this time in front of record crowds. There were over 200,000 fans there on Saturday alone, the biggest turnout in the history of golf! Gary Woodland returned from the wilderness in Arizona to claim his first win since 2013. Injuries, frustrations with form and a family tragedy took their toll, getting to the point where Woodland just wanted the 2016/17 season to end.
A new season and a new attitude has seen Gary Woodland play 7 TOUR events, make every cut and make significant improvements. A T7 at the Sony Open and a T12 at the Farmers meant Gary Woodland was finally contending again. Woodland fired a final round 64 that included 9 birdies and by his own admission, “was in the zone”. And he stayed in the zone, as Woodland and Chez Reavie headed to the 18th for the 4th play-off in as many weeks. Woodland got up-and-down from the fringe for par, Reavie missed his 11” par putt and an emotional Gary Woodland was back in town.
Chez Reavie closed with a fine 66 to force the play-off. Reavie got it moving on the front 9 with an eagle and a birdie then another birdie on the par 5 13th set him up for a strong close. An untidy bogey on the par 3 16th “stadium hole” threatened to derail the charge home, but it didn’t. Chez Reavie bounced back with birdie on 17 and holed a 20-foot bomb on 18 for another and it was play-off time. Unfortunately, Reavie couldn’t repeat history and a bogey cost him the tournament.
54-hole co-leader Rickie Fowler was set to go low Sunday but found momentum hard to find. Out in -1, Fowler new something special was required and the back 9 at the Stadium Course provides plenty of opportunity. It wasn’t Rickie’s day, 5 straight pars then 3 consecutive bogies and Fowler was done finishing T11 at -12. Unlike Fowler, Ollie Schniederjans tore the back 9 up with 5 birdies, carding a 64 to move into T3 with Brendan Steele.
Aaron Baddeley was the best placed Australian T26 at 8-under with Marc Leishman a further shot back on -7. Only one other Aussie played on the weekend, Cameron Smith continues to make cuts this week finishing a little down at T48, a 3rd round 74 costly.
The famous AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is next week’s event where Jordan Spieth is the defending champion. Pebble Beach always attracts a quality field, check in later this the week for our review.
Only a few months ago, Shubhankar Sharma was not really living out his potential on the european Tour. He had won a few times on the Asian Tour, but the bigger tour win had eluded him. Today he won his second European Tour event after a closing 10 under 62 that left the field with their jaws dropped.
Sharma won the Joburg Open in December and came into 2018 with renewed vigor. He was thereabouts after 3 rounds sitting 4 shots off the pace at -11, but there were 18 players sitting between him and the leader. Things looked even worse when the overnight leader made eagle down the first hole, but Sharma was not afraid. He made 4 birdies in a row on the front nine, then as fifth just at the turn. By the 16th, after another 3 birdies, he was 2 clear on top, but he wasn't finished. He birdied 17 and 18 just to make sure of things and finished 2 clear on top ahead of the overnight co-leader, Jorge Campillo of Spain, who finished 2nd at -19.
Ryan Fox and Pablo Larrazabal both shot 6 under 66's to finish tied 3rd. The Japanese pair of Tanihara and Ishikawa were in a pack of players tied 5th and both looked peomising all week. Their 69's on the final day though, not enough.
A disappointing event for the australians this week with only 2 of them making the cut. Andrew Dodt was in contention, but finished with 74, 71 on the weekend to be tied 55th and Jason Norris was tied 70th after back to back 73's on Saturday and Sunday. Scott Hend just missed the cut by 1 shot and tweeted out during the week that the greens at the Maybank were the "Worst conditioned greens I've ever played a tournament on." He will most likely be fined for that. but his twitter feed is well worth following (@hendygolf).
Overall, a very well deserved win to Sharma. To step up on the Sunday and have a 10 under, 62 is a huge effort and we will be seeing more of this very talented Indian as the year goes on. He jumps to 2nd in the Race To Dubai list, just a few points behind leader, Tommy Fleetwood. Next week it's off to Perth and the unique Super 6's. Can't wait.
Farmers Insurance Open
There’s no draws on TOUR, you play until you win or lose, that’s golf. After 5 play-off holes Sunday evening, Jason Day and Alex Noren were still locked together and then had to sleep on it. Lack of light halted play meaning Day and Noren went through the whole process Monday morning to possibly play 1 hole! Ryan Palmer, the 3rd player tied after 72 holes, bogied the 1st extra hole and earnt an early shower.
The pair teed off at 8:04 Monday morning in front of the media, family and friends – no spectators were permitted as there was not enough time to arrange security. Jason Day holed his winning putt 13 minutes later for his 11th TOUR victory and his 1st since the 2016 PLAYERS Championship. Noren, trying for his 1st win on TOUR found the water with his 2nd shot allowing Day to take the safer option and lay up from the rough. Day then stiffed his wedge to 18 inches forcing Noren to hole his chip and force the play-off into a 7th hole. Alex Noren missed and Jason Day calmly rolled in his winning putt and end the tournaments longest play-off in its 67-year history.
J.B. Holmes had it to -11 and was in it up to his ears but bogies on 14, 15 and 16 meant he was finished. Holmes birdied 18 but it was too little too late and he finished 4th, a shot back at -9. Keegan Bradley fired 4 sub-par rounds and finished -8 and in 5th but like Holmes, it was the back 9 on Sunday that cost him. Bradley carded 2 birdies, an eagle 2 on the 15th but 3 bogies on holes 12 through 14 cost him any chance also.
Marc Leishman was the next best Australian T8 at -6. Leishman started his 4th round at -7 but a double on the 2nd and another bogey on 4 and his chances started evaporating. Leishman bounced back immediately with 3 birdies in his next 4 holes to par the front 9, but closed with a disappointing 1 over par 37 making no ground on the leaders. Cameron Smith played solid golf to finish T20 on -4. Smith has played 4 tournaments on the PGA TOUR this season and has finished in the top 20 in all, nice work indeed from our quiet, unassuming achiever. Cameron Davis was the only other Australian to make the cut finishing T58.
Finishing T23 and 7 shots off the pace doesn’t normally rate a mention, but the player in question is Tiger Woods playing his 1st PGA TOUR event in 12 months – as if you didn’t already know. Woods shot 4 rounds at par or better making a birdie on his 36th hole to make the cut by a shot. If we are to be brutally honest though, Tigers performance off the tee was terrible but his chipping and putting showed glimpses of the “Tiger of Old”. Tiger needs the game and the game needs Tiger.
The TOUR moves to Arizona next week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Hideki Matsuyama was in hot form when he won here last season, expect a big week in the Desert.
Dubai Desert Classic
Another absolute classic from this tournament this year and another very worthy winner. China's Li Haotong has taken out the very large trophy and the win by finishing just 1 stroke ahead of the tournament favourite, Rory McIlroy, with a 72nd hole birdie.
Li played with Rory over the final 36 holes of the tournament and was never star struck at all. He scored 4 better than Rory on moving day, then equalled his score on the Sunday. He did it by not being scared to go for his shots around a golf course that rewards the brave player off the tee. As players like Rafa Cabrera Bello showed, by finishing eagle, eagle on Saturday, there are plenty of opportunities at the Emirates Golf Club.
Leading going into Sunday at -20 (Rory at -19), Li's start was poor. He bogeyed the first hole, but made birdies on the 3rd and a great 25 foot birdie on the 7th to be 1 under at the turn. He then made a horrible 6 on the par 5, 10th and this was where it looked like Rory would take advantage as he made birdie and the 2 shot swing had Rory in the lead. McIlroy then bogeyed 11 and Li bogeyed 12, but it was the 13th hole that would prove to be decisive. McIlroy had an eagle putt lined up, but 3 putted to make par. Li made birdie, then another at 15 with a 20+ footer from off the back edge of the green.
They were again tied for the lead standing on the 16th tee. This was where again, Rory lost the tournament and Li took advantage. McIlroy missed the fairway badly on the right and was in the sand. He tried to make an impossible cut shot around the trees, but only left himself in the deep rough on the other side of the fairway. His resulting bogey 5 had him 1 back of Li with 17 and 18 to go. Both players took out driver and went at the short par 4 17th, both making birdie. Then with Rory on the green for 2 on the par 5, 18th, Li casually layed up, then put his 3rd on the green to 8 feet and rolled in the birdie to win.
They both had their chances to win, but looking back at it now, Li Haotong was just more composed. He birdied 4 of the last 6 holes and overtook Rory down the stretch, which is what you need to do to win tournamnets. Behind the leaders Tyrrell Hatton finished 3rd, Alex Levy smiled his way around another 18 holes and shot a 70 to finish 4th and Chris Paisley had another good tournament finishing 5th.
13 players shared tied 6th including Stenson, Poulter, Fleetwood and Aussie Jason Scrivener. The Australians had a pretty good showing with 5 players finishing in the top 37 positions. Well, as I said before the tournament began, the last 2 winners also won the Masters, so get your early money onto Li Haotong and get ready to cash in. You heard it here first!
Malaysia next week for the Maybank Championship.
Jon Rahm has followed up his 2nd place at the Sentry Tournament of Champions 2 a fortnight ago with a solid win this week in California at the CareerBuilder Championship. Rahm and Andrew Landry were locked at -22 after regulation play. They were still square after 3 play-off holes until Rahm drained his 12ft birdie putt for a win on the 4th extra hole. Jon Rahm continues his rise moving to No.3 in the OWGR and has shot to 2nd in the FedEx Cup. This was Rahm’s 4th win worldwide in the last 12 months and his 2nd on TOUR.
Andrew Landry opened this week with a blistering 63 then backed it up with a 2nd round 65. Landry played the “harder” Stadium Course with Rahm on Saturday where they both carded 70’s. Starting the final round a shot up on Rahm, Landry stood over his 11ft putt on 18 needing to make it and force a play-off. Both had their chances in the play-off, Rahm on the 1nd and Landry on the 2nd, but it was Rahm who held his nerve and made a great putt to win.
A trio of players finished T3 at -20; John Huh, Adam Hadwin and Martin Piller. Huh made 6 birdies and an eagle in his final round but 2 bogies were costly and he signed for a 66. Hadwin had no momentum on the front half but closed with 4 birdies carding a 68. Piller started the day 1 back and had 5 birdies in his final round, 2 untidy bogies sealed his fate. Kevin Chappell and Scott Piercy were a shot further back T6 at -19. After tearing it up Saturday and rocketing up the leader board, 54 hole leader Austin Cook fired a disappointing final round 75 to fall out of contention and finish T16 at -14.
Unfortunately no Australians made the 54 hole cut – Greg Chalmers was our best finishing -5. Matt Jones and Geoff Ogilvy both finished under par also but alas there was no check waiting for them on 18. Headliners Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson were -3 and -4 respectively but weren’t low enough to make the -8 cut line either.
We head down to Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open this week. The Farmers always attracts a strong field, this week made stronger by the scheduled appearance of Tiger Woods for his 1st start this year.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Tommy Fleetwood has done it again. He has launched his 2018 campaign with a win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Fleetwood started the week in fine fashion, leading the field after a superb 66, but after that there were some great rounds from others to push him back a little heading into the final round. Yes, he was thereabouts, but he was not leading. Thomas Pieters, Matt Fitzpatrick and Ross Fisher all took their turns having sub 66 rounds and looked most likely to take out the tournament.
Also up with the leaders was the returning Rory McIlroy. The Irishman did not drop a shot until the 15th hole of his 3rd round, but still shot a 65 that day. He was looking unstoppable and his scores were getting better each day. The smart money was on him, but it was Ross Fisher who jumped out of the blocks on Sunday.
The Englishman eagled the 2nd hole and had two more birdies on the front nine to be leading by 4 at one stage. He was -21 and Rory was -17. It was looking over. Fisher had 2 bogeys on the back and started to drive the ball terribly. McIlroy was missing fairways, but making pars. Too many pars. Rory made 8 pars in a row when he should have been making a winning score. His bogey/birdie finish on 17/18 was not enough and he finished tied 3rd with Fitzpatrick, who finished strong with 3 birdies, but only managed a 69 for the day.
In stepped Tommy Fleetwood. two birdies and a bogey on the front had him making the turn at 35, but his back nine was a masterclass. Six birdies and three pars and he came home in 30 to win by 2 shots over a galant Fisher who needed to make eagle up the last to force a playoff. He could only make par and Tommy went back to back in the tournament that really launched his career last year.
It remains to be seen if this can be the springboard for him to have another stellar year, but it should at least get him firmly planted in the Ryder Cup squad for September. Chris Paisley followed up his last weeks win with a good tied 5th with Tommy Peiters, "Beef" was back with a -14 tied 9th with DJ & Casey, Scotty Hend was the leading Aussie at -10 and Henrik Stenson made a lunge at the tape with a final round 65 to finish 8th at -15.
It was a fantastic tournament for the viewer. So many big names were in contention and the standard of golf, as well as the golf course, was magnificent. Next week it's the Dubai Desert Classic and Sergio will return to defend. After his 5 shot win this week in the Singapore Open, he will start as favourite.
Patton Kizzire is fast becoming one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour. In his 66 events, he has made the cut 41 times, had 12 Top 10 finishes, finished 2nd twice and won twice. He sits on top of the Fedex Cup rankings and has a cool $5.5 mil in the bank. It's little wonder that he prevailed against James Hahn in a 6 hole playoff at the Sony Open.
After the win, Kizzire was heard to say "It wasn't pretty", but a win is a win and although he had the chance to take the victory in regulation play, his up n down birdie attempt on the 18th just missed. What followed was a 6 hole playoff that both players just kept making the same score over and over. Hahn had his chances as well, but was not able to convert. It was surprising because earlier in the day he had shot an 8 under 62 with his final round and should have been running hot.
When the end finally came on the par 3, 17th, it was Hahn who failed to make par and the pain on his face was plain to see as his par putt lipped out. Kizzire had only a 2 footer to tap in and get the win in near darkness.
Tom Hoge started the day 1 ahead of Kizzire, but play was almost not going to happen after an early morning ballistic missile warning earlier in the tournament, which turned out to be a false alarm and a Sunday walk out of some of the video production crew. This left the coverage average at times, but "the show must go on."
Hoge ended up just one shot behind the leaders at -16 after an even par round. Webb Simpson, Brian Harman and Brian Stuard a further shot behind Hoge. Justin Thomas was tied 14th, Jordan Speith tied 18th with Aussie Cam Smith and Marc Leishman's run of great form halted a little as he finished tied 47th at -7.
As for the other Aussies, Matt Jones was tied 39th, Steve Allen was tied 69th. Badds and Greg Chalmers failed to make the weekend cut.
We head to the American mainland next week. To California and the PGA West Stadium Course. Can't wait!
The EurAsia Cup
Europe has taken out the 2018 EurAsia Cup with a great performance on the Sunday singles.
The Asian Team lead both the first 2 days of competition by a single point. Both Fourball and Foursomes matches were won by the home side in a slim majority each day, but the Sunday singles was where it was always going to be won. The home track in Malaysia was always going to favour the Asian team, but the Europeans got used to it after playing on it for 2 days and powered home to take the singles matches and win the EurAsia Cup.
Europe won 8 of the possible 12 matches on Sunday with Paul Casey losing his first match of the Cup, going down to Poom Saksansin, who it must be said, played some great golf all week. He was part of the team that beat Stenson/Levy 5&4 on day 1. Ross Fisher lost to Yuta Ikeda on the 18th and Hoatong Li, who was the player of the tournament in my opinion, beat Paul Dunne 3&1 after wins on 13, 14, 16 & 17 to close out the days play. Fitzpatrick and Kang halved their match.
Most of the other matches on Sunday were close and could have gone either way. Alex Noren finally got his game working and jumped out to a 3 up lead after 4 holes. He beat Nicholas Fung 4&2 and Rafa Cabrera Bello closed out his match against Asia's #1 Gavin Green on the 15th hole, 4&3. Green having his worst day. Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson, Bernd Weisberger and Tyrrell Hatton all won 2&1. Alex Levy birdied the tough 17th hole to beat Kiradech Aphibarnrat 3&1 and Thomas Pieters hung on to win on the 18th against Byeong Hun An with a par.
Hatton and Fleetwood went through the Cup undefeated and look to be strong chances to make the Ryder Cup team for Paris in September. Thomas Bjorn, who had a miserable look on his face after the first 2 days finally was given the chance to smile and enjoy the win, but the Asian team were strong all week and Europe will have to watch out next time this event is played.
Apart from the Ryder Cup, this tournament was a fantastic display of country represented matchplay golf and although I started the week thinking this would not be as good as say, The President's Cup, in the end, it turned out to be better.
BMW South African Open
Sitting at 289th in the world rankings, having no European Tour wins, just hanging onto your card through 2017 and with your wife on the bag for the first time, Englishman Chris Paisley would not have been super confident heading into the SA Open for this week. Combine that with the fact that you were playing with the home crowd favourite, Branden Grace in the final grouping of the day and hanging onto a one shot lead. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it?
Well, not to Chris Paisley. Even though Grace birdied the first and eagled the second to jump into the early lead, Paisley stuck to his game and put together a magnificent 66 on the final day to take out the SA Open by 3 shots over Grace whos momentum halted when he doubled the par 3, 6th. Paisley, with his wife Keri on the bag, made 3 birdies on the front and 3 on the back and played with a unbelievable calmness all day in the face of the home town crowd clearly all going for Grace. It was a fantastic way to win your maiden European Tour tournament and his 66, 65, 70, 66 (-21,267) earned him 160,000 Euros.
Grace finished second after a final day 68, followed by a fast finishing JC Ritchie, who shot a 65 that included 6 birdies and 2 eagles. Chase Koepka continued to show his pedigree and finished tied for 7th, while Hennie Otto had a chance for the course record, but finished bogey, par for a 64 and tied 12th. Tournament host, Ernie Els finished at -8 and tied 31st, while the only Aussie to make the cut, Brett Rumford, shot 75, 78 on the weekend to finish 74th.
The tour moves to Abu Dhabi next week for the HSBC Championship from Abu Dhabi golf club.
Sentry Tournament of Champions
The highly anticipated return of tournament golf for 2018 was promising to be spectacular. 34 of the winning pro's from last season all teeing it up at the magnificent Maui Kapalua Plantation course in sunny Hawaii. The result, however, was over by the turn of the final round.
Dustin Johnson literally blew away the competition with a show of brutal distance golf that no other could match. Not only could they not match it, they couldn't even get close to it. Johnson won by 8 shots in the end and smashed the field with his length and accuracy off the tee. He got better with each round as if he was warming into the year. His 69, 68, 66, 65 -24 total including 23 birdies and 3 eagles (2 of which were driving the green on the 12th, a 420 yard, par 4) was amazing to watch.
As good as the others played behind him, they were not in the hunt. Jon Rahm finished 2nd at -16 after a final round 69, Brian Harman could only manage a 72 on the last day to finish 3rd at -15, followed by a 3 way tie for 4th including Matsuyama, Perez and Rickie Fowler. Aussie, Marc Leishman finished tied 7th and was in the hunt for the win after 36 holes, but a 3 over 76 on Saturday cost him. Even though he rallied with a final round 67, he was too far back to get near DJ.
This is Johnsons 8th win on the PGA Tour in the last 3 seasons, the most from any tour pro and the way he did it, was extremely impressive. He really is in a league of his own when he is given the freedom off the tee to launch. All the other tour pro's better be warned, he's fit, he's long, he's accurate, he's hungry and he looks to be at fixed at number 1 in the world for a while yet. There were not many dominant performances in recent years that could match what DJ has done this week.
Of the others, Jordan Speith was 9th(-12), Cam Smith 17th(-8), Justin Thomas 22nd(-4) and Brooks Koepka was last at +13 with a mystery wrist injury that he says gave him pain all week.
The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii, but island hops over to Honalulu next week to the Waialae Country Club for the Sony Open. Justin Thomas is the defending champion. Head back here for our preview and review then.
We do not usually cover a lot of the Asian Tour, but it would be crazy to ignore what Justin Rose just did at this tournament. Not only did he start with a 10 under 62, but he finished with one as well. In fact, his 29 under par total was incredible and in the end, he won by 8 shots!
Thai sensation Phachara Khongwatmai was runner up, but there was daylight between Rose and the field. Here is a video interview with him after his win. Rose pockets a cool $135,000 USD for the win. Not a bad Christmas present.
Tour veterans Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair have taken out the QBE Shootout by 2 shots from international pairing Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell. Stricker and O’Hair fired a stunning 57 in the opening round, Scramble format. A 2nd round 69 allowed Lowry and McDowell to draw level after they shot a 64 in the modified alternate shot format.
Standing on the 10th tee Sunday, nothing separated Stricker/O’Hair and Lowry/ McDowell. A clutch eagle on 17 from O’Hair saw the US pair take an unassailable 3 shot lead into the last. McDowell birdied 18 but it wasn’t enough to deny Stricker and O’Hair victory. Pat Parez and Brian Harman started the final round 4 shots off the pace and needed to go very low if they were to contend. They carded 5 birdies on their closing 9 which saw them move into 3rd place.
Gary Woodland and Daniel Berger combined for an 8-under 64 on Sunday to move into a tie for 4th with 2 other teams. Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley fell out of contention with a 3rd round 67, 2 costly bogies on holes 3 and 4 doing the damage. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau also finished T4 on -21 after a final round 66. The pair had 3 bogies Sunday which didn’t cost them a win, but it did deny the pair a possible 2nd place finish.
The PGA TOUR breaks for Christmas as of this week, returning on the 4th January for the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua (Plantation Course), Hawaii. Patton Kizzire leads the FedEx Cup into the break with 1 win, 3 top 10’s and 659 points. Pat Perez is hot on his heels just 13 points behind, Perez has 1 win and 1 top 10 under his belt. Other notables in the top 10 include Justin Rose (6) and Justin Thomas (7) both with 1 win and a top 10.
The fields grow stronger as we move into January with the world’s best prepping for the bigger events on the calendar. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am and the WGC - Mexico are the “big 2”scheduled for early February and March respectively. Expect the TOUR guns to saddle up for these.
Shubhankar Sharma is not a household name, but he is an up and coming 21 year old star now on the European Tour after getting his maiden victory at The Joburg Open in South Africa on Monday. Yes, Monday, because the event was stopped on the Sunday after a huge storm. Sharma's ball was marked on the 8th green.
On Monday, when the rain had stopped, he went out and started where he left off. He made a birdie on the 9th to get to -23 and then calmly proceeded to par in the back nine to finish the tournament 3 clear of Erik Van Rooyan. Speaking after the win, Sharma said he almost was not coming this week, but decided to at the last minute. It ended up being a great decision, because not only did he win this week, but has booked a place at Carnoustie for the 2018 Open Championship. Second placed Van Rooyan and third placed Shaun Norris also will be at The Open.
As for the Aussies, Jake Higginbottom finished with a final round 69 to finish tied 27th at -9 and journeyman, Terry Pilkadaris, finished tied 63rd at -3. They were the only 2 Aussies to make the cut.
A break for Christmas now and then we are back on the European Tour and back in South Africa for the SA Open on January 11. We'll see you back then. Merry Christmas!
The World Hero Challenge
Rickie Fowler lit it up at Albany Golf Club shooting a course record 61 in the 4th round of the Hero World Challenge to win by 4 shots from Charley Hoffman. Fowler opened with 7 straight birdies then added another on 9 to be out in 28. He fired 3 more on the back half to card one of the rounds of the year and clinch his 2nd worldwide win for 2017. There appeared to be no weaknesses in Fowlers game; he was solid off the tee, approaches were dialed in, if he did miss greens Fowlers short game was sublime and his putting was phenomenal.
Over-night leader Charley Hoffman was gunning for his 1st win of the year, but shooting par in the 4th round was never going to enough – and it wasn’t. Hoffman opened with a birdie on the 1st but gave 2 back on 4 and 5, another birdie on 9 and he was out in 36. Nine straight pars on the back 9 meant he finished on -14 – right where he started the day. Tommy Fleetwood carried his Race to Dubai form into this week and finished T3 after firing a final round 67. Jordan Spieth also finished -12 (T3) closing with a 3-under 69. Last year’s winner Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Justin Rose rounded out the “top 5” at -11.
Aside from Fowler, the biggest news to come out of the Bahamas’ was Tiger Woods’ successful return to competition golf. After back fusion surgery 10 months ago, Woods carded 3 sub-par rounds with a 3rd round 75 in very difficult conditions being his only “hiccup”. On Sunday Tiger was out in 31 which included 3 birdies and an eagle and despite closing with a 37, it was the Tiger of old. His swing looks to be fast and full of power and at several times we saw the famous Tiger "recoil" swing, when he was seeking a little extra. He was frustrated and angry with himself on missing a few little putts on Sunday, but that is just showing, that he is taking this comeback seriously, which was great to see. We’re not likely to see Woods again until late January at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open, his next scheduled appearance.
This week sees us remain on the east coast for the QBE Shootout in Naples, Florida. It is the last PGA event for 2017 before most take a well earned break for Christmas.
The Australian PGA
Cameron Smith has taken out the PGA Championship of Australia in a playoff victory over Jordan Zunic. Both players could not be separated after 72 holes after finishing at -18.
Zunic, who had carded a magnificent 64 the day before, could only manage a -1 round on day 4. Smith, in comparison, shot a 4 under 68 and after both players made par down the first playoff hole, it was Smith who rolled in his par on the second to win the Joe Kirkwood Cup. He takes home the winners cheque of $237,500 and an exemption onto the European Tour, as it is a co-sponsored event.
Adam Bland was a further shot back at -17, followed by Marc Leishman and David Bransdon who all shot final round 68's. Defending champion, Harold Varner finished 6th at -12 in a very good defence of his 2016 title.
For Smith, it was his first solo win. He had won previously at the pairs event, The Zurich Classic with Jonas Blixt, but this is his first. We are sure it will not be his last. It's great to see a first up winner overcome with emotion when interviewed, it just proves what it means to them to get validation. Congratulations Cam!
The Australian Open
There are many different ways to win a golf tournament, some conventional and some well…. not. In the end though it doesn’t matter how you do it, so long as you have the lowest score Sunday afternoon, it’s your name etched on the trophy. On Thursday, Cameron Davis shot the lights out carding an 8-under 63 and lead a field that boasted a host of PGA Tour players. On Friday and then again Saturday, Davis looked like a struggling 2nd tier tour player unable to break par. With Jordan Spieth looming, Jason Day the 54-hole leader and Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith on fire early, Cameron Davis kept his calm and carded a blistering 7 under 64. Two great rounds were good enough to be crowned the 2017 Australian Open Champion.
PGA Tour players Matt Jones and Jonas Blixt finished a shot back on -10. Jones had one of the more interesting days on course. Out in 38 with 4 bogies and a birdie and home in 30 with 6 birdies to sign for a 68 and T2. Blixt was in the process of putting himself in contention until he dumped his approach on 9 in the water and made a double. He fought back hard with 4 birdies in 5 holes to start his back 9 but pars on 15-18 weren’t good enough and Blixt finished -10 with Jones.
Cameron Smith had opened with 3 consecutive 69’s and was sitting 4 shots adrift after 54 holes. Another 69 wasn’t going to get the job done and after birdies on 1 and 2 Smith looked set to lay down a serious challenge. Out in 32, a birdie on 10 and with the leaders struggling Cameron Smith had his chances. Bogies on 13 and 15 stalled his charge and Smith finished 4th at -9.
Arguably the biggest story of the day was Jason Day’s inability to close the deal after holding the 54-hole lead. Day played the first beautifully, made birdie and it looked like Jason Day by how far – not to be. An untidy bogey on 3 then an awkward double on 9 and his lead was gone, further dropped shots on 11 and 13 and Day was done. He eagled the 14th but it was little consolation and he finished 5th on -8.
Lucas Herbert started the 4th round a shot behind Day and like Day birdied the 1st setting up a potential shootout. Herbert turned -2 for the day and in the lead but it went south and he dropped 4 shots on the back half and finished T6 at -7. World No. 2 Jordan Spieth couldn’t buy a putt for three days and was hanging around par. A fine 67 Sunday and Spieth jumped up the leaderboard to 8th at -6.
Once again The Australian Golf Club showed why it’s one of Australia’s premier tournament venues. A tough but fair course where big numbers are easy to find. Congratulations to Cameron Davis, a worthy winner in the process of fulfilling his enormous potential.
Tigers back this week hosting his tournament The Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. It promises to be a riveting week, check in Thursday night for our preview.
Hong Kong Open
The new season started this week for the European Tour and has brought up a new champion. Happy to say it's an Australian. Wade Ormsby has claimed his first win on the European Tour with a one shot victory and gets $333,000 euros and the title of Hong Kong Open champion.
S.S.P Chawrasia held the lead for the majority of the tournament, but his Sunday round was less than perfect. he made 3 birdies in the first 8 holes and looked to be cruising, but a triple bogey on the 9th, followed by 4 back nine bogeys saw him finish tied for 7th after a final round 2 over 72.
Round of the week went to the most interesting man in golf. Miguel Angel Jiminez shot a bogey free 63 to storm up the leaderboard and finish tied 7th. Justin Rose finished -7 and tied 10th, Matt Fitzpatrick & Sergio Garcia both -6 and tied 19th. Tommy Fleetwood had a 69 on the last day to finish 6th.
Rafa Cabrera Bello and Alex Bjork both had chances to tie the Aussie for the tournament lead, but both had 72nd hole bogeys and that left Ormsby alone at the top on -11 and the winners trophy. A fantastic start to the new European season for Wade and he now leads the Race to Dubai rankings for the 2018 season.
Next week we are in Australia for the PGA from Royal Pines on the Gold Coast. Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Sergio Garcia and defending champion Harold Varner will all be playing.
The RSM Classic
Austin Cook had 1 goal coming into the 2017/18 PGA Season, winning Rookie of the Year. After taking out the RSM Classic in style at Saint Simons Island this weekend, he has taken a giant step towards realizing his goal. The 26 year fired a final round 67 for his 1st TOUR win in just his 14th start. Cook didn’t have a bogey until he played his 50th hole – the 14th in his 3rd round but he bounced back immediately with a birdie on 15. After a self-confessed “sleepless night”, Austin Cook went out in even par but then closed with 3 birdies in his last 4 holes to put the result beyond doubt. It was second round 62 at the more difficult Seaside course that set up his win.
J.J. Spaun was Austin Cook’s only real challenger. A 3rd round 62 set up a Sunday charge and it looked to be on the cards after birdies at 6,7 and 9 then another at the 1oth. He moved to within a shot of the lead, but a bogey on 11 stalled his charge and his run was done and he finished 2nd. Spaun’s form has been solid over the last 6 weeks, his first win is not too far away.
Golf giveth and golf taketh…that about sums up Brian Gay’s tournament. 11-under through 36 holes and just 1 bogey to his name, Gay had 4 bogies, 7 birdies, 2 doubles and 2 eagles in his final 36 holes – what could have been, he finished 3rd at -14. Brian Harman, in-form Kevin Kisner, Andrew Landry and Chris Kirk finished T4 at -14 but were never realistically in it.
It’s been sometime since an Australian has been in the winner’s circle, actually it been sometime since we’ve had an Australian in serious contention. Cameron Percy was the only Aussie to make the cut, he was -5 after 54 holes, but a final round 77 saw him fall to T70 and even par. The cut was -3, so there was no easing into the action.
Austin Cook is off to The Masters next year, another goal attained - though this one he kept to himself until now.
The long anticipated return of Tiger Woods is scheduled for this weekend at his event, The Hero World Challenge. After what his body has been through, it will be awesome to just see him walking the fairways again. Imagine if he……
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