AT&T Byron Nelson
Aaron Wise, a gifted and decorated junior, took a giant step towards fulfilling his potential by taking out the AT & T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club, Texas. The 21-year-old has now won at every level and went 1 better than his T2 at the Wells Fargo 2-weeks ago for his 1st TOUR win. Wise put his foot on Leishman’s throat going out in 31 (5-under) and another birdie on 10 gave him a 4-shot cushion. He closed with 8 pars and signed for a classy, bogey-free 65 finishing 23-under, 3-shots ahead of Leishman.
Marc Leishman opened with a Tournament record 10-under 61 Thursday, then backed up Friday with a 5-under 66. On moving day Leishman couldn’t get anything going, shooting 2-under and found himself co-leader with Wise, 4-shots clear of the field. On Sunday Leishman went out in 33 but an even par back half was never going to be enough. Marc Leishman has finished 2nd twice this season including 6 top-10’s and sits 14th in the FedEx Cup. The laid-back Victorian is backing up with another solid season.
Branden Grace, J.J. Spaun and Keith Mitchell finished T3 at 19-under. Grace had the round of the day, firing a 9-under 62 and had his best result for the season. Spaun and Mitchell carded the next best rounds of the day, a pair of 63’s. Spaun’s form has been inconsistent but 3 top-10’s has him comfortably in the top-50 in the FedEx Cup. Mitchell went out in 30 and needed another if was to catch Wise. Unfortunately, he could only manage 2-under down the stretch but it’s another solid result in Texas after a T6 at the Houston Open.
Adam Scott continued his form resurgence recording his best result this season, T9 on 15-under. A 3rd round 72 costing him any chance of contending. His record in Texas is formidable, pity every 2nd week wasn’t played there. Matt Jones also recorded his best result this season, T13. Jones started his 4th round 13-under needing to go low to really contend. Every time Jones gained a shot though he gave it back eventually carding an even-par 71. Geoff Ogilvy was the next best Australian, T32 in 9-under. Ogilvy didn’t go really low, but carded 4 sub-par rounds to have his most important result this season. Cameron Percy and Rod Pampling finished T70 (3-under) and the only other Aussie to make the cut was Robert Allenby 75th, last.
The TOUR remains in Texas for the Fort Worth Invitational at the Colonial CC where Jason Dufner is the defending champion. With the US OPEN a month away you can expect all players on the qualifying bubble doing everything possible to get on the starters sheet.
Final Day Highlights
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It looks like Ryder Cup Captain, Thomas Bjorn has found a new match play warrior this week as Spaniard, Adrian Otaegui has taken out the Belgian Knockout for 2018. His last victory in match play format was the Paul Lawrie challenge last year. This tournament was a little different, but Otaegui looked down the barrel of the camera in the after win interview and said "Thomas, I would love to play Ryder Cup, I love match play!"
Bjorn would be stupid not to consider him for the team. This was Otaegui's 6th top 20 in a row on the European Tour and he has become a permanent fixture at the top of leaderboards week after week. He shot opening rounds of 67 & 68 through 36 holes. Then went on to shoot under par in every 9 hole match. In the end, the finalists had played 90 holes for the 4 days, but the tournament was a big success. All the players loved the new format.
It was Thomas Pieters' family and their promotions company that staged the tournament this week and when Thomas stopped by the commentary booth on the last day, he informed the viewing audience how many favourable comments he had from all involved during the week. He said "A few of the players would like a bit more length on the par 5's and some of the crowd even told me we need more rubbish bins out here as well." Surely, that's not a job for Thomas.
Otaegui beat Frenchman Ben Hebert in the final, but after the first hole they were both over par. Carved drives right off the 1st saw them both make bogey, but Hebert got it back on the next. It was a par saving putt on the 3rd that was the decider. Otaegui seemed a litle rattled after smashing his first birdie putt at least 12 feet past the hole. He was already 1 down and if he missed that, the 9 hole format would have seen him slip 2 down to Hebert, who was playing well. Otaegui rolled it in confidently, then proceeded to putt the lights out for the rest of the nine, rolling in a 30 footer on 4 and a few inside 10 feet to finish 2 clear of Hebert by the 9th. Of course, luck always plays a small part in it as well and he had his share. His drive on the 4th bounced over the edge of the water hazard and finished inside the line, but not wet. He knocked it to a foot and began his charge from there.
David Drysdale beat James Heath for 3rd place, but both qualified for the BMW PGA Championship next week at Wentworth. An added bonus for 2 players who have been missing a lot of cuts lately. As for the Aussies, Adam Bland and Dimitrios Papadatos both were knocked out on day 3. Better luck next week guys. Personally, I think this format is a winner and it should grow in popularity by next year and hopefully attract a better field. Well done Thomas Pieters and congratulations to Adrian Otaegui.
Otaegui Vs Hebert
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AT&T Byron Nelson
Records are set to be broken, but Byron Nelson holds 2 that may stand forever. In 1945 Nelson won 11 straight PGA TOUR events. Only 4 players have won 4 or more in a row; Nelson did it twice, so did Ben Hogan, Jackie Bourke won 4 straight once and Tiger Woods did it 3 times. 11 in a row appears unattainable in today’s competitive climate. That same year Byron Nelson won 18 events, the next best is Ben Hogan with 13 (1946) and the most Tiger won was 9 in 2000. Given, it was 1945 and a lot of players were in military service, but Byron Nelson dominated like no other and this week’s tournament is appropriately named in his honour.
The host venue this week is the Trinity Forest Golf Club, Dallas Texas designed by Bill Core and Ben Crenshaw. A links style course and built on an old tip and wasteland, Trinity Forest is 300 miles from the ocean and is surrounded by a forest – links? It is the terrain that’s “linksy” though, the course is basically treeless and meanders through rolling, rumpled sand. Trinity demands a strategic approach to find the right angles. Opened for play in 2016, this is the 1st PGA TOUR event Trinity Forest has hosted and there will no doubt be been much talk about the layout.
Old tournament but a brand new course makes finding a winner difficult as there’s no “course form” to refer to. There are though, 2 players in the field that are more intimate with the layout than the rest; Hunter Mahan and Jordan Spieth. Mahan was a foundation member and has played more rounds at the Forest than anyone – but Hunter’s form is ordinary. His last top-10 finish was the 2015 Masters. Not so Spieth, whilst has hasn’t played as many rounds as Mahan, Jordan’s game looks to be coming together.
Maybe “Texas form” should be considered. If so Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia move into favouritism. Scott has won the “Texas Slam” – Houston Open, Valero Texas Open, Forth Worth Invitational and the Byron, albeit at a different course. Prior to THE PLAYERS, Scott was 193rd in Strokes Gained: Putting. He was above average on the greens last week with the broomstick and had his best result since 2017 – he does like Texas too. Garcia has won the Byron twice but would definitely like to be in better touch. Hi did record a 4th at the Valspar in November though – Texas form….
Apart from Scott, Australia has a further 12 players in the field this week. Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, John Senden, Steven Bowditch, Robert Allenby, Rod Pampling, Aaron Baddeley, Greg Chalmers, Marc Leishman, Matt Jones, Cameron Percy and Oliver Goss. Leishman stands out, he plays well in Texas, is outstanding in the wind and performs on links style courses. It would be awesome to get another Aussie up this week, with 13 in the field we are a real chance.
In a week where the course will get as much coverage as the players, the Byron Nelson promises to be an interesting event. Still can't get my head around there being a links course 300 miles from the ocean surrounded by a forest though.
Check out our Facebook updates and look for our full review Monday night.
THE PLAYERS Championship
Even an untidy double on the 72nd hole couldn’t tarnish Webb Simpsons return to the winner’s circle when he took out THE PLAYERRS Championship at TPC Sawgrass on the weekend. Sleeping on a 7-shot lead and no doubt knowing that no one in the history of the PGA TOUR had ever given up such a lead, Simpson was rock solid. He fired a 1-over 73 to comfortably win by 4 shots from Charl Schwartzel, Jimmy Walker and Xander Schauffele.
Simpsons 5th win on TOUR moves him to No.20 in the world and 8th in the FedEx Cup. The 2012 US Open champion last won 107 starts ago, about the time the anchor ban came into force. Simpson was a true convert and struggled with the ban falling to 177th Strokes Gained: Putting in 2016. A heated heart-to-heart with caddie Paul Tesori lead to Simpson opening his mind to possible cures. Enter Tim Clark suggesting he keep the mid-length putter just try the “claw grip”. It has proved a masterstroke and Simpson admits he’s “never putted better in his life”.
Although Webb Simpson “appeared” to have everything under control, the battle for the minor places was a cracker, at one point there was a 10-way tie for 3rd. Schwartzel carded a fine 5-under 67 on Sunday but it was his 3rd round 73 that cost him any real chance. Walker shot a bogey free 67 and claimed his 2nd top-5 in his last 3 starts. Experiencing a form resurgence this year, Jimmy Walker has moved to 49 in the FedEx Cup. 24-year-old Xander Schauffele doesn’t look to be suffering from 2nd year blues, notching up his 3rd top-10 this season and rising to 31 in the FedEx Cup.
Australia’s Jason Day and Jason Dufner finished T5, a further shot back on 13-under. Day was out in 32 but closed with a frustrating 9 straight pars and he made no ground on the field. Jason Day remains 2nd in the FedEx Cup and looks to be peaking for the US Open in June. Dufner was out in 32 also and looked like he could be the one to put pressure on Simpson. Like Day, Jason Dufner could find no momentum on the back half, but this is his 2nd top-5 in 3-weeks and is coming good as his national open nears.
Adam Scott had his best result on TOUR since June 2017 firing a final round 4-under 68 to finish T11 on 11-under. Another who’s struggled with the “anchoring” ban, Scott has gone back to the broomstick to find results and looks to be making progress. Marc Leishman was our next best T63 on 3-under, a final round 76 saw him free-fall down the leader board. Unfortunately, no other Australians made the cut.
Sidelines: Tiger Woods started slowly and just made the cut, then on Saturday he turned back the clock – it was vintage Tiger. A superb 65 on moving day was followed by a 4th round 69. Woods was 6-under through 12 (-14) and Simpson could hear the roars from 4-holes away. A soft bogey on 14 and a minor disaster on 17 halted his run and Tiger fell to T11, but a win has got to be close. Justin Thomas ended Dustin Johnson’s 64-week run as the No1. golfer in the world. Thomas finished T11 at 11-under, just 1 shot ahead of Johnson (T17) but enough to move to the top.
The TOUR moves to Dallas, Texas for the AT&T Byron Nelson where Billy Horschel is the defending champion. Check in for our preview later this week.
Rocco Forte Sicilian Open
Sir Rocco Forte was on hand to present the trophy this year and it was to another 1st time Tour winner, Joakim Largergren, who clinched victory against Mike Lorenzo Vera on the first playoff hole.
It was back to back tournament victories for the Swedes after Alex Bjork won a few weeks ago and in between there was the Golf Sixes. The final that France and Mike Lorenzo Vera was involved in as well. He was the bridesmaid then too. He held the 54 hole lead, but Lorenzo Vera could only manage a 1 under 70 on the final day and was in position for the playoff thanks to a perfectly struck iron on the 71st hole, where he made birdie. He had a chance on the 72nd with another birdie putt from about 12 feet, but it missed by millimeters and the playoff was on.
Both players sood on the 18th tee for the playoff and both were yet to claim a European Tour Victory. Lorenzo Vera's drive caught the rough down the left side and he hooked his second a little long, but just off the back of the green. He let out a groan immeadiately because he knew it was a terrible spot. A downhill, side hill, sliding chip that he would have to make to put any pressure on Largergren, who was inside 10 feet for the win. As good as that chip was, it didn't matter as Largergren slotted the putt for his maiden victory.
Special mention to Aussie, Lucas Herbert. After the very windy conditions through Thursday & Friday, Herbert managed to make the cut shooting 69,71. His weekend play was superb making 4 birdies and an eagle in a 66 on moving day, then making 9 birdies on the final day to miss the playoff by a shot and finish tied 3rd with Andy Sullivan. An incredible performance and one we all hope he can repeat soon. Nick Cullen finished tied 26th and Matt Millar tied 58th. They were the only other Aussies to make the cut.
We're off to the Rinkvin International GC next week for the Belgian Knockout.
THE PLAYERS Championship
Arguably the PGA TOUR’s signature event, THE PLAYERS attracts a stronger field than just about any other tournament on the planet. This week is no exception. In only the 2nd time this year, all 50 of the top-50 OWGR will tee it up on Thursday. The remaining 94 players on the sheet are no slouches either, in fact a winning case could be made for nearly every player in the field. With nearly $2 million and 600 FedEx Cup points going to the winner, it’s no wonder the world’s elite are in Ponte Verdra Beach, Florida this week.
The host venue of THE PAYERS Championship is the legendary TPC Sawgrass, Stadium Course. Designed by renowned architect Pete Dye, The Stadium Course was built with both player and golf fan in mind. The home of THE PLAYERS since 1982, Dye constructed a course to favour no particular player or style of play. Incorporating doglegs left and right, a selection of short, medium and long holes and a routing so that no 2 consecutive holes play in the same direction, Pete Dye ensured only shot-makers prevail here.
Widely criticised early for being too difficult, Pete Dye tweaked his creation making it a little less severe. Whilst not the longest, the Stadium Course is still quite possibly the toughest test on TOUR, tipping out at just under 7,200-yards of spectacular nastiness. A par 72, the course has a slope rating of 155 and averages 76.4 strokes per round for the pros. One of the most photographed holes in the world is the par 3 17th, known simply as the “Island Green”. At only 137-yards it’s nothing more than a wedge, weather depending and your options are either green or water. An estimated 100,000 balls per year are retrieved from the surrounding water and in May 2007, a record 50 balls were lost during THE PLAYERS.
Because the field is so deep, predicting a winner is damn near impossible, but history perhaps rules out some. No champion has ever successfully defended, Si Woo Kim’s in trouble. Sandy Lyle (1987) is the only player from the British Isles or Ireland to win, that takes care of Justin Rose, Rory McIllroy and co. No PGA Rookie has ever won either; the best result was David Lingmerth in 2013. The last player to win the week before and back up 5 days later was Tiger in 2001 so history is working against Jason Day – fairways Jason, fairways!
This week, 4 players step onto the 1st tee Thursday all with a chance to supplant Dustin Johnson as the No.1 golfer in the world – Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose. A win will assure Johnson and Thomas the No.1 spot, Rahm, Spieth and Rose need other results to fall their way. They’ll say it won’t be on their mind, but it would be hard not to let it creep into your head – at least once or twice.
In yet another storyline, arguably the 2 greatest players of our generation, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are going head-to-head in the opening 2 rounds. Woods’ has won here twice, 2001/13 and knows you need to have everything under control to get the job done at Sawgrass. Mickelson, the 2007 champion is having a fine year and would dearly love to add another to the resume. The 2 modern icons have been trading barbs in the lead up this week and will no doubt attract a massive gallery. Rickie Fowler is playing with the legends on Thursday/Friday and just might have the temperament to cope with the extra attention and add to his 2015 victory.
Jason Day headlines the Australian charge this week at Sawgrass. He’s quite possibly putting better than anyone…ever has. Adam Scott won in 2004, but it would be fair to say he’s a long way from his best. After Day, Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman would be our next best chances, both ranked inside the top-50 in the FedEx Cup and both having solid seasons. Rod Pampling and Geoff Ogilvy are less likely, but you never know.
It has been said TPC Sawgrass is the most intimidating course on TOUR, requiring you to hit quality shot after quality shot. The winner on Sunday will have absolutely earnt his place in history. Check out our Facebook page for updates.
Wells Fargo Championship
He who owns the best short game wins. Jason Day put on a clinic this week around the greens and in doing so made the Wells Fargo Championship is 2nd win of the season. Despite hitting just 57% of greens in regulation, Day carded a mere 7 bogies in 72 holes, phenomenal! This week Day lead the field in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and got up-and-down from greenside bunkers 15 out of 16 times. He’s putting pretty well too; Day was 2nd in Strokes Gained: Putting, but it’s his season statistics that are astounding. Jason Day hasn’t missed from 5-feet or closer and has made a total of 93.24% putts inside 10-feet. Straighten up off the tee Jason and a return to No.1 is a sure thing - sooner rather than later!
Aaron Wise and Nick Watney finished T2 after carding 68 and 69 respectively. Wise’s college coach preached the value of a quality short game - you need a good one to survive on TOUR. Playing a group ahead of Day and Watney, Wise found himself in a share for the lead after a birdie on 14 and Day bogeying 13 and 14. Wise used his polished short game to get up-and-down on 17 and 18 to keep the pressure on Day, but he bounced back with birdies on 16 and 17 to close the deal. Watney hasn’t won since 2012 and had his best finish in 3 years after he holed a 59-foot bomb on 18 to move into a T2 with Wise.
Bryson DeChambeau continued his vein of form by finishing 4th and notching up his 3rd top-4 finish in his last 4 starts. On Thursday morning DeChambeau was out in 40 and looking at a missed cut, he played the next 63-holes in 12-under, got it to -8 and moved to 17 in the FedEx Cup. Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey and Peter Uihlein finished T5 on 7-under. Mickelson just made the cut then fired -9 on the weekend to record his 8th top-5 in 15 trips to Quail Hollow. It was typical Phil on Sunday, shooting a 2-under 69 and having just 6 pars in the process. Casey bounced back from a missed cut at the Heritage to card 4 solid rounds moving him into 10th in the FedEx Cup. Uihlein snuck into the weekend then shot a scorching 62 on moving day to propel him to 7-under, a final round 71 saw him gain no ground.
The next best Australian was Greg Chalmers T21 at -2 after 4 consistent rounds. Chalmers made plenty of birdies, unfortunately he made nearly as many bogies’. Adam Scott was the only other Australian to make the cut but he recorded an MDF. Geoff Ogilvy fired a beautiful 68 in the 1st round, but followed it up with a very disappointing 81 and got the weekend off.
Tiger Woods had a good tournament off the tee and approaches to the green, finishing in the top-15 in both categories. Alas he lost nearly 6 strokes to the field in putting and finished well down T55 at 2-over. It’s off to THE PLAYERS next week where he’s won twice and on greens he’s more familiar with. Day also won here in 2016 but will need to improve off the tee if he’s to go back-to-back. Check back later in the week for our full preview.
The 2018 edition of the Golf Sixes has been won by the last pairing to join the competition. Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan (Team Ireland) were the last of the 4 wildcard entrants into the Sixes, but showed great form to take out the trophy.
They only lost one match during the whole tournament and although not considered favourites to win, took out every team that they came up against on the final days play to win. Their only loss was against their finalists, Team France during the round robin stage, but they had their revenge winning the final. They won the 1st hole with a birdie and the 3rd with an eagle to be 2 - 0. After halving the 4th & 5th holes, there was no need to play the 6th and they were declared the winners.
South Korea made birdies on the 2nd, 4th & 5th to beat Australia for 3rd place. The Aussies were having a great final day, but could not get anything going in the playoff final making only pars on every hole.
The big surprise of the tournament were the ladies groups. Both the European Ladies and the England Ladies made it through to the final days play and were super impressive against the more fancied mens teams. Charley Hull in particular was probably the player of the tournament. She was long and straight and took aim at most pins without fear. She was fantastic to watch. The women's teams certainly won over the support of the crowd at the tournament and I'm guessing, the viewers at home.
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
In a tournament where anything can happen, the PGA made sure it could by playing the more difficult alternate stroke format in the 2nd and 4th rounds. Of the 36 teams who made the cut only 7 could break 70 on Sunday. The low round of the day belonged to eventual winners Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy. Starting the day 3-shots behind 54-hole leaders Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown, Horschel and Piercy fired a bogey free 5-under 67 to win by 1 shot from Jason Dufner and Pat Perez.
Dufner and Perez began the day tied with Horschel and Piercy at 17-under and were bogey free in the 4th round too, only 1 birdie down the stretch saw them fall short. South African pair Charl Schwartzel and Louis Ooshuizen finished 3rd, a further shot back. Beginning the 4th round 16-under, they needed early birdies to put pressure on the leaders, but opening with 9 straight pars had them treading water. Birdies on 10 through 13 propelled them into contention, but 5 closing pars just wasn’t good enough. English pair Chris Paisley and Tommy Fleetwood and US twosome Brice Garnett and Chesson Hadley finished T4 on -19.
Last year’s runner-up’s Kisner and Brown looked set to go one better this time round. Holding a slim 1-shot lead Sunday morning, a disastrous closing 9 (+5) saw them tumble out of contention and finish T15 at 15-under. Think the alternate shot format isn’t that difficult? Opening round leaders Xinjun Zhang and Zecheng Dou fired a stunning 60 then followed up with an 80 and missed the cut! The scoring average Thursday when it was best ball was just over 65, alternate shot on Friday it was 73.8 – incredible.
The best placed Australians were Greg Chalmers and Cameron Percy. The pair finished T10 after a final round 69 – they probably didn’t go low enough in the best ball rounds. Matt Jones, who played with Chad Campbell (US), finished T19 at 14-under. After an opening round 63, Jones and Campbell failed to break 70 from then on and were never in it. Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels opened with a fine 64 but found the alternate shot format tough, shooting a pair of 74’s in the 2nd and 4th rounds – they finished T34 on -9.
The TOUR moves north-east to North Carolina for the Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Club. Brian Harmon is the defending champion after scoring his break-through win here last year. Check in for our tournament preview here.
Volvo China Open
Sweden has a new golfing star today after Alexander Bjork came from behind to win the Volvo China Open.
At the start of the day he was 1 shot behind the overnight leaders Matt Wallace and Adrian Otaegui, but birdies on 1,4 & 8 on the way out, had him in a 6 way tie for the lead at the turn. His back nine was superb with birdies at 11, 12 & 15 then he jumped into the outright lead with a 12 foot downhill slider on the hardest hole of the week, the 17th. He still needed to finish off on the par 5 18th, but decided a par would be good enough and layed up with an iron, hit his wedge and 2 putted for a -18 finish.
Behind him, the final grouping of the overnight leaders was having their troubles. Wallace had 6 birdies in his first 15 holes, but also had a bogey and a double on the par 5, 4th. After a par on the 16th, he knocked his second on 17 to 5 feet and rolled in the birdie. He was -16 and needed an eagle up 18 to force a playoff.
Otaegui meanwhile was having a more steady round. Nothing flash, but was making ground with 3 birdies on the outward journey and then more at 13 & 15. He, like Wallace was close on the 17th, but his put was downhill and a slider. He knocked it 2 feet past and needed to hole it to be one behind going up 18. He missed! He now needed eagle just like Wallace.
Both men hit the fairway on 18 and Otaegui hooked his fairway wood and was against the grandstand. Wallace hit one of his best shots of the day. A cracking long iron that was all over the stick, but was too well struck and ended up over the green in the light rough. Both men missed their chips to force the playoff, but Otaegui made his putt to finish second to Bjork.
As for the aussies, Jason Scrivener finished tied 20th at -11, Andrew Dodt & Jason Norris tied 27th at -9 and Marcus Fraser a shot back at tied 32nd. Congratulations though, go to Alex Bjork on his maiden European Tour victory. The unique golf sixes is up next from the Centurion Club in England. Look out for our preview next week.
Valero Texas Open
Local boy Andrew Landry held his nerve down the stretch to chalk up his maiden PGA TOUR win at the Texas Valero Open on the tough Oaks Course lay-out. Landry and tour veteran Zac Johnson held the 54-hole lead at -13 with Trey Mullinex a shot back. Opening with 3 consecutive birdies, Andrew Landry seemed destined to put past disappointments behind him. Another 2 on 6 and 10 and Landry looked home. A hiccup on 11th with a bogey left the door ajar for chasers Mullinex and Sean O’Hair. Mullinex got it to 16-under but faltered with a bogey on 17 to give Landry a 2-shot lead on 18. O’Hair started the 4th round 9-under and fired 8 final round birdies, unfortunately 2 back-9 bogies cost him a shot at a play-off.
Zac Johnson had a frustrating final round; 4 birdies, 4 bogeys and no momentum saw him finish 5th at -13 where he started the day. Johnson is having a very consistent season making every cut, but he hasn’t won since the 2015 British Open and it’s got to be frustrating him. Trey Mullinex shot a course record 62 on moving day to rocket up the leader board and into contention. There were more birdies in the final round too, 6 in fact, but there were 3 bogies that took the shine off a solid 69 and a T2 with O’Hair. 2015 champ Jimmy Walker shot a pair of 67’s on the weekend after a slow start to finish 4th at 14-under. It is Walkers best result this season.
In his 1st start as a pro, Chilean Joaquin Niemann must be wondering what all the fuss is about. A couple under after 36 saw him comfortably make the cut, then 10-under on the weekend shot him to -12 and 6th place by himself. Birdies on 16,17 and 18 was a beautiful way to finish his debut event, a sign of things to come……
Aaron Baddeley was the best placed Australian, T16 at -7. Baddeley made plenty of birdies but had too many costly bogeys to really press for contention. Rod Pampling finished well back T68 at 4-over after a final round 77. In just his second event after a year off, John Senden made the cut but did not finish. There were a number of notables who missed out on weekend action; Sergio Garcia, Luke List, Adam Scott, Jhonattan Vegas and Indian whiz-kid Shubhankar Sharma.
Congratulations to Andrew Landry on his first win on TOUR in just his 32nd start. After a loss in a play-off earlier this season and final round 78 in the 2016 US Open when in contention, Landry has exercised the demons, for good.
We head east this weekend for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana. It is a team’s event where Aussie Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt are the defending champions.
Trophy Hassan II
Heading into the final day of play, Alvaro Quiros was on track for a great win. Although he was only one shot ahead of the chasing pack, he looked to be playing great golf and the chasers were just hanging on. This all changed on the last day. Quiros bogeyed the 2nd, then the 6th and then the 10th. With only the one birdie going out, it was enough to put him out of the lead and gave everyone else a sniff of victory.
Alexander Bjork moved into contention with 3 front nine birdies, but fell away with an even par back nine. His countryman Joakim Largergren did the same thing. Mikko Ilonen of Finland was there abouts, but a par round was again, not good enough to take victory. Andrea Pavan of Italy came to play on the last day and fired one of the rounds of the week, a 6 under 66. Unfortunately, he started the last day on even par and just could not get enough to catch the eventual winner.
Alex Levy was the man they were all chasing and his final day was great to watch. The Frenchman plays golf with such vitality that it is hard not to like him. He smiles, he talks to himself and his ball. He runs after the ball when he thinks he has hit a good one. But most of all, he goes for it! He goes at pins and doesn't worry about the consequences. It's refreshing to see someone do this and today, it paid off. Levy would have impressed the Ryder Cup Captain, Thomas Bjorn, who was in commentary for a large portion of his last round. With the Ryder Cup anly months away and being played in France, Levy surely has to of caught his eye.
This is Levy's 5th title in only 138 appearances. The win moves him into the top ten in the Race to Dubai and into the top 50 in world rankings. It also gets him over 400,000 Euros and the jeweled dagger trophy. A pretty good pay day.
As for the Australians, Andrew Dodt and Wade Ormsby were in contention after day 3, but Dodt's +6 and Ormsby's +8 saw them fall away. Marcus Fraser shot a final day 69 to finish tied 22nd at even par.
Next week we are off to Beijing and the Volvo China Open. Check here for our preview Wednesday night.
Green Jacket or Plaid. Granted the Green Jacket is the one every golfer wants to own but Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira is very happy with the Plaid – thank you very much. Kodaira came from 6-shots behind and shoot 66 on the final day of the RBC Heritage to force a play-off with Si Woo Kim. He then holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 3rd extra hole to claim his 1st PGA Tour victory. Kim looked to have things under control and was 3 clear of the field after 9, but 3 bogies on the back half saw him finish 12-under, tied with Kodaira who finished an hour earlier.
In windy conditions on a narrow course, Satoshi Kodaira set the tone opening with 3 straight birdies and was out in 33 (-3). The back-9 was looking much the same with 3 more birdies on 10,14 and 15 but a bogey on the par-3 17th saw him sign for a 66 (12-under). He then had to sit, watch and wait as the result was now out of his hands. Si Woo Kim stood over his 6-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole with a chance to win, alas it grazed the lip and the rest is history.
Bryson DeChambeau and Luke List finished T3 11-under the card. DeChambeau was 10-under after 2 rounds and was looking to make it 2 wins on TOUR. A 3rd round 75 wasn’t in the plan and on Sunday there was some serious work to be done. Out in -3 and DeChambeau was back to -9 with a chance, bogies on 13 and 14 put the brakes on though. Bryson DeChambeau then birdied 15 through 18 to fall 1 shot shy of the play-off. List teed off 1 shot out the lead and moved to -14 after 10, he then reeled off 3 bogies in 4 holes and looked done. Luke List bounced back and on 18 he had 10-feet between himself and a play-off, he missed and signed for a disappointing 1-over 72.
T5 on -10 were Webb Simpson and Billy Horschel. Simpson carded 4 sub-70 rounds and must feel a win is close. He’s played 12 events for 4 top-10’s, 3 of which were top-5’s. Horschel had played 3 solid rounds and was 11-under after 54, a final round 72 saw him fall out of the mix though. Ian Poulter lead after 54 holes, moved to -14 early and 2 wins in 3 weeks looked likely. He then proceeded to fire 5 back-9 bogies (40) and fall to T7. That’s golf!
Rod Pampling and Cameron Smith were the best placed Australians, T32 at -5. Pampling was steady, highlighted by a 3rd round 67. Smith was 6-under after 36 and heading in the right direction. He then opened birdie, eagle in the 3rd round and Poulter had a serious challenger. Smith’s back-9 was forgettable, 3 doubles and a solitary birdie left too much to do Sunday. Aaron Baddeley was the only other Australian to make the cut finishing T55 even with the card.
The TOUR heads to the wild west this week for the Valero Texas Open where Kevin Chappell defends his title. Check in for our preview this week.
Open De Espana
The final day of the open de Espana gave the local crowd what they all wanted. The top 2 players tied with 2 holes to go were both Spaniards. Nacho Elvira, a favourite of ours here at Daddyshack, was looking like he could win for the 1st time on the european Tour. He had played magnificently on the back nine and was co-leader with the world number 4, Jon Rahm.
But something got the better of Nacho on the par 3, 17th and he hooked his tee shot into the water. Up ahead, Rahm was in the middle of the fairway on the par 5, 18th with only an iron in his hand. He had spoken of his burning desire to win his national championship and how it meant the world to him to get his name on the trophy next to his hero, Seve.
Back on 17, Nacho took the drop and hit an unbelievable ship shot from just short of the green. It looked in all the way, but lipped out to sit at 2 feet. Bogey was on the cards. Rahm struck his second on the 18th and it hit the green and rolled to the back. He had 20 feet for eagle. Back on 17, Nacho incredibly missed his 2 footer and made double. He left the green at -17 and looked to have no chance. Up ahead, Rahm hit his putt to inches and tapped in for the birdie. He was -20 and in the clubhouse.
Paul Dunne had been the leader heading into the final round and both him and Nacho, both needed albatross to force a playoff. Neither could and Dunne took a birdie to finish second, Nacho a par to finish 3rd. George Coetzee had the round of the week with a final 9 under 62 to finish 4th and our own Brett Rumford could get nothing going on the last day to finish tied 5th.
Of the other Australians to make the cut Marcus Fraser finished tied 46th, Jason Norris tied 58th and Jason Scrivener tied 73rd, but it was Jon Rahm who took the chocolates this week. His first win on home soil as a professional, the first win by a Spaniard at home since 2014. He gave the locals everything they wanted and at the same time, lived out his boyhood dream. Ole! And congratulations.
Next week we are off to Morocco for the Trophy Hassan II. Watch out for our preview on Wednesday evening.
The Houston Open
Ian Poulter has come back from the dead to take The Houston Open and book himself a spot in the field for this week’s Masters. After nearly losing his card in 2016, Poulter was granted a medical exemption extension for the remainder of the 2016/17 season and proceeded to play his way back into some form. Last week in Austin a mathematical error had him in the Masters field – and then out. Admitting he was still feeling the frustration of this error in the 1st round in Houston, Poulter shot a disappointing 73 and was getting set to leave Friday night after missing the cut. Then after a mental reset, Ian Poulter played 54 great holes to finish 19-under.
Beau Hossler and Poulter held the joint lead (-14) with 18 to play. Hossler had no momentum on the front 9, a lone birdie coming on the 8th. Meanwhile Poulter had gone out in 33 and held a 2-shot lead standing on the 10th. Hossler wasn’t done, 4 birdies in 4 holes (12-15) gave him a 1-shot lead with 3 to play. Beau Hossler closed with pars and Poulter needed a birdie to force a play-off. His patience was rewarded when he rolled in a 19-foot birdie putt on 18 and they were headed to overtime. What happened next was almost an anti-climax, Hossler made a triple bogey 7 while Ian Poulter had a cast iron par and cap off a roller-coaster 2 weeks.
Jordan Spieth had his best result this season finishing T3 with Emilian Grillo on 16-under. Whist his putter quite Spieth-like, he managed to roll in 5 birdies and an eagle in his final round. The most important stick in Jordan Spieth’s bag is his putter, if his improvement continues, a 2nd jacket looks possible. Grillo posted 4 sub-70 rounds to have is best result this season, not enough for a berth this week though. World 312, American Sam Ryder joined the TOUR this season and missed his 1st 4 cuts, 8 starts later and Ryder has secured his best result. Ryder fired 4 sub-par rounds to finish 5th on 15-under; no doubt the $280,000 he pocketed takes some pressure off too!
Matt Jones was the best placed Australian, T52 on 7-under after 4 consistent rounds at par or better. After 54 holes, Greg Chalmers was 12-under and just 2 off the pace. Fast forward to the 17th tee Sunday and Chalmers was 7-over for the day and wondering where his swing had gone. He doubled 18 to rub salt into the wound and signed for a soul-destroying 81 to finish T70. The only other Aussie to make the cut was Aaron Baddeley who finished 1-under (74) after a disappointing weekend carding a pair of 74’s.
The Houston Open was Ian Poulter’s 1st stroke-play victory on US soil and in the process he became the 1st player in 35 years to win on TOUR after starting the 2nd round 123rd or worse. Every now and then the “golfing gods” smile on us, or maybe they just take pity. Poulter doesn’t care either way, he’s going to Augusta.
WGC Dell Technologies Match Play
The week did not pan out quite the way most people thought. Most of the big favourites and returning champions failed to fire many shots during the first 3 days of the Match Play. The world number one was probably the biggest shock of all of them. DJ would have been licking his lips after the initial draw was done. Kevin Kisner, Adam Hadwin and Bernd Wiesberger were the others in his group. Not that any of those fine gentlemen are bad golfers, but you would have thought that DJ would be odds on to get through after his demolition last year. Again, you would have thought he was the pick after him hitting over 450yard drives during play. But, he failed to win a single match.
Rory McIlroy too, was on fire last week. He blitzed the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and his back nine holes were scary for any opponent he had this week, but standing on the 10th tee on day one, he was 5 down against European Tour regular, Peter Uihlein. He fought back but lost 2 & 1. He then beat Vegas the second day and then was smashed 5 & 3 by Brian Harman on day 3. Aussie Jason Day was another who was expected to do well. After winning here in 2016, he came out strong on day 1, beating James Hahn on day 1, but then lost to Dufner and Oosthuizen to fail to make the round of 16. Justin Thomas and Sergio Garcia were the only 2 players from the top 10 ranked golfers left standing to play on Saturday.
Heading into the Semi Finals, there were 3 players who had not lost for the week. Kiradech Aphibarnrat was playing sensational golf. His blade was burning up the greens and his short game was keeping him ahead of every opponent. He had taken down Chez Reavie, Keegan Bradley and Jon Rahm in the group stage, then beat Charles Howell III in the round of 16, but his short game deserted him in the semi finals and he was beaten by Bubba Watson. From group 11, Watson had defeated Leishman, Grace and halved with Julian Suri. He met Justin Thomas in the Semi Finals. The other Semi Final was Alex Noren (who had beaten Finau, Na, Pieters, Si Woo Kim & Kyle Stanley) versus Kevin Kisner (halved with Hadwin, beat DJ, Wiesberger, Kuchar & smashed Poulter 8 & 6).
It was all set up for a sensational final day. The Semi Finals in the morning and the Final in the afternoon. Could Bubba keep up his great form of late and take out the biggest seed left in Justin Thomas? Then Noren, who was undefeated, playing against the surprise man from the world number one’s group, Kisner. Bubba came out swinging and took the early lead against Thomas. He birdied the 1st, 5th and 6th to be 3 up, but Thomas ended the front nine with 2 birdies of his own. A win to Bubba on 10 and then 12 and the halves cruised him to victory 3 & 2. The other Semi was not as easy, with Noren and Kisner both draining putts to keep the match tight all day. In fact, it was Noren who had the most chances. He missed putts within 10 feet on about 5 different occasions and they would have given him the match, bur instead it went to extra holes and Kisner birdied the 19th to advance to the final.
The much anticipated final match never got started. Bubba just smashed Kisner from the very 1st hole. He was 5 up through 5 and 6 up through 7. The long extra hole semi final had taken it out of Kisner and he failed to put up much against Bubba, who was making birdies left right and centre. He was 7 up through the 10th and although Kisner birdied the par 3, 11th to take one back, Bubba birdied the par 5, 12th to take the match and the title 7 & 6. Surely he goes into next weeks Masters tournament the red hot favourite, right? That’s for another article. Can’t wait for next week! It’s Christmas for golfers again in 2018 as the first major is here. Look out for our very special preview soon.
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.
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……