East Lake Golf Club, the home of “Bobby Jones”, is an American classic that fell into disrepair. Through community support and hard work, it has been faithfully restored to mirror its grand beginnings. Eastlake GC opened for play in 1908 after the prestigious Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) purchased land to build a golf course for their rapidly expanding membership. The course was originally designed by Tom Bendelow, but in 1913 legendary golf course architect Donald Ross completely remodelled the lay out. Ross’s redesign included rerouting the holes so that each 9 returned to the clubhouse. Donald Ross is credited with about 400 courses in the US alone including last week’s venue, Aronimink GC.
In preparation for the 1963 Ryder Cup, East Lake went through a 3-year face-lift under the direction of George Cobb. Many of the holes were altered in an attempt to provide the quality lay-out such a prestigious event merited. Unfortunately, over the next 20 years the East Lake Golf Club and its surrounds fell on hard times. The No.2 course was sold for project housing and when the neighbourhood succumbed to poverty, drugs and violence the once proud East Lake Golf Club was almost written off.
In 1993, a local charitable foundation bought the club with the view to restoring it in honour of Bobby Jones. Using original architectural plans and drawings, Rees Jones faithfully restored Donald Ross’s layout. The clubhouse was also meticulously renovated to mirror its grand 1926 design. The hard work was rewarded when in 2005, The East Lake Golf Club became the permanent home of the TOUR Championship.
WGC’s are important events for their own reasons, the 4 Majors take on another level of importance because of their history and THE PLAYERS Championship is often regarded as the 5th Major. The TOUR Championship takes it to another/different level. The best 30 players on TOUR this season shoot it out over 72-holes for the FedEx Cup and $10 million. Winning the TOUR Championship this week doesn’t guarantee you the FedEx Cup (unless you are seeded 1 to 5), but you will pocket $1.62 million and more importantly, receive a 3-year TOUR exemption.
Since the opening event of the season in 2017, players have been collecting points based on results. At the Northern Trust 3-weeks ago, the best performed 125 players on TOUR began the FedEx Cup playoff series. The field was cut to 100 for the Dell Technologies Championship and then 75 last week for the BMW. This week for the TOUR Championship the top 30 players have had their points reset, 1 through 30.
If your Bryson DeChambeau 1, Justin Rose 2, Tony Finau 3, Dustin Johnson 4 or Justin Thomas 5 the equation is simple – win this week and win the lot. Tee off anywhere outside the top-5 and win, you need other results to fall your way to win the FedEx Cup. It’s an intriguing tournament with only 30 players and no cut, it leaves the door for big comebacks wide open.
Of the players making up the top-5, DeChambeau and Rose look the men to beat. The Scientist won the 1st 2 playoff events pretty convincingly and Justin Rose has very recently moved to No.1 in the world. Rose has had a superb season with 10 top-10’s including 2 wins and 2 seconds in the last couple of weeks. The only thing Tony Finau hasn’t done this year is win. Of his 11 top-10’s this season, 3 have come in the last 3-weeks – what a time to get that 2nd TOUR win! Dustin Johnson’s game looks to be fractionally down. He lost his OWGR No.1 spot last week and his FedEx Cup rank has slipped to 4. The same could be said for Justin Thomas. A winner in August, he backed it up with consecutive top-10’s but didn’t contend at the Dell or BMW last week.
The list of serious contenders continues; Brooks Koepka (7) has proved himself a “big game” player, 2014 FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel (9) is coming good at the right end of the season, ball striking genius and OPEN Champion Francesco Molinari (13) can’t be ignored and Rory McIllroy’s (17) had 4 top-10’s in his last 6 starts. Defending Champion Xander Schauffele (18) played his way in from 41 finishing T3 last week, Tommy Fleetwood (19) has had a great 1st year on TOUR and his 1st win must be close, Rickie Fowler (23) missed a month through injury and returned last week to finish T8 and whilst Spaniard Jon Rahm’s (24) game isn’t quite there at the moment, he’ll want to finish a frustrating year on a high.
I couldn’t preview this week without talking about Tiger Woods (20). After one of the most anticipated comebacks in sports history, Tiger has let know one down and surprised many. Woods, one of the few athletes that transcend their sport, has threatened more than once but hasn’t closed like the Tiger of old. A win this week would make the story complete. His old sparring partner Phil Mickelson (14) has contended only once since he won the WGC-Mexico in March. Mickelson’s FedEx Cup rank has slipped slowly since, largely due to is inability to find fairways consistently.
Australia’s Cameron Smith and Jason Day are seeded 10 and 12 respectively. Smith has had an interesting season, to say the least. Beginning beautifully, Cameron Smith missed 5 straight cuts mid-season but has played his way back into contention. Although finishing well out of it at the BMW, Smith posted consecutive 3rd’s in the opening playoff events elevating him into the top-10. Day is a little similar to Johnson and Thomas, his games not quite there at the wrong time of year. The best putter on TOUR this season, it’s Day’s inability to hit fairways that costs him. Marc Leishman snuck into the TOUR Championship this week finishing 29th after the BMW. Leishman hasn’t contended since his 2nd at the Byron Nelson in May.
The best 30 players this season over 72-holes with more money than I care to think about on the line, the TOUR Championship this week in Atlanta promises so much. The 2 best players of our generation Woods and Mickelson, are slugging it out with the next generation of superstars Johnson, Thomas, Koepka, Day and co for the biggest prize on the TOUR calendar. My head thinks Rose, my heart is pulling for Tiger and there’s at least 20 more with legitimate claims – bring it on!
Make sure you check out our Facebook page for updates and tune in next week for our full review.
Englishman Tom Lewis went into this weeks Portugal Masters sitting at 163 on the money list. With only the top 110 getting their Tour cards back, he needed something special. He turned pro in 2011 and after only 3 weeks on tour, won the Portugal Masters. It was his only European Tour win.
Lucas Herbert on the other hand was sitting in the same position Lewis was in all those years ago. This is his first year on tour and a sponsors exemption for this week was what got him into the field. After 54 holes, he had taken great advantage of it. He was in the lead after rounds of 63-67-64 and was 2 in front of the chasers at -19. All he needed was a solid last round to clinch his first title.
It was Lewis who got away to the better start. Birdies at 2, 3, 5 & 8 saw him make the turn with 31 strokes and was at -21. Herbert looked solid, but was missing a few greens and having to scramble to make pars. Of the 2 players, he was definitely the better around the greens and his short game had him still in touch at -20 after nine holes. He was making pars, but was running out of holes to bridge the gap between him and Lewis. A bogey on the 10th from Lewis, followed by a birdie bounce back on 11 and he was still one ahead. Both men hit it close on the par 3, 13th and both made birdie. It was on the 15th that the tide could have turned.
Leading by one shot, Lewis sprayed his drive right on the short 288 meter par 4. Herbert hooked his left and the pair were 100 meters apart. Herbert played first and executed a delightful pitch shot that ran across the green and ended up 6 feet below the hole. Lewis was closer to the green, but in deeper rough and he chunked his pitch badly to still be 5 feet off the putting surface. Chipping his next to 7 feet, he calmly rolled in the par like it was meant to be. Herbert lipped his out and both made par. There was still one between them.
After making a magnificent up & down on the par 3, 16th hole from a tough short sided tee shot, Herbert smashed his drive down the par 5, 17th, but landed in the rough. Lewis sliced his tee shot into the middle of the water and after taking a drop, hit his next towards the fairway bunker left. Amazingly, it stayed out and he played onto the green to 40 feet. Herbert's ball was sitting into the bermuda rough too much for him to go for the green and after 2 more, he was 30 feet from the cup for birdie. Lewis holed his 40 footer for par and Herbert's putt curled around the hole without dropping. Both had made par again, but Lewis had really dodged a bullet and it showed on the next tee.
Lewis striped it down the middle after his luck on the previous hole, but Herbert hooked his badly and ended up in the water. This put an end to his challenge and Tom Lewis made the par and took the win. A sensational performance by the 22 yr old Australian to finish tied 2nd with Eddie Pepperell. It was a great final days play at the Portugal Masters and unfortunately Herbert shooting level par was never going to be enough. He will be much better for the experience though and we all look forward to him getting his first win soon. For Lewis, he becomes the only person to win at Portugal twice. He will keep his card and get a 2 year exemption, plus a cheque for 333,00 euros. Herbert takes home 173,000.
It's The Ryder Cup this week so look out for our extended preview and all the updates on our socials during the week.
Video of the complex
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PGA Tour European Tour
Six years ago Keegan Bradley was a 3-time TOUR winner, including the 2011 PGA Championship and 2012 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, not a bad way to kick off your pro career. He was also on the US Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams. Then the anchoring law came in to effect Jan 1st 2016, right in the middle of his worst season yet.
A true belly putter concert, Bradley’s woes began on the greens, then filtered their way through the rest of his game. Over 10 missed cuts later and struggling to make the playoffs, Keegan Bradley’s game was at an all-time low. He got his swing sorted and went with Webb Simpson’s “arm-lock” method on the greens. Monday afternoon in Philadelphia, Keegan Bradley took out the BMW Championship from Justin Rose in a playoff and all the hard work finally paid off.
Playing ahead of Rose, Bradley went out in 31 (4-under) then birdied 14 and 16 to take the outright lead. Bradley didn’t let up and after he birdied 17 he moved to 21-under and the pressure mounted on Rose to keep pace. Unfortunately, Keegan Bradley bogeyed 18 and signed for a 64, 20-under. A mediocre front half for Justin Rose meant there was work to be done. He birdied 16 and 17 and was 1 clear standing on 18 with Bradley already in. Needing a par to win, Justin Rose came up short with his 2nd and couldn’t get up and down.
Locked at 20-under, Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose went back down 18 to shoot it out. Both missed the green with their 2nd and when Rose missed his 1st putt from 5-feet for the week, Bradley saluted. 2014 FedEx Cup Champion Billy Horschel, stormed home with a 64 to finish T3 with last year’s rookie of the year, Xander Schauffele on 19-under. Horschel went out in 30 but couldn’t keep it going and a bogey between birdies on 14 and 16 stalled his run. Schauffele lacked momentum on the weekend closing 67/67 to fall a shot out of the playoff.
Rory McIllroy closed out the top-5 finishing a shot further back on 18-under. McIllroy was hot then not, hot then not again closing with a bogey free round, but it was only a 2-under 68. Tiger Woods was a shot further back T6 with Webb Simpson. Woods tore it up opening day with McIllroy the pair firing 62’s. A 2nd round 70 saw Tiger lose ground to the field but fight on he did. Woods moved to within a shot of the lead twice (on 9 and 13) only make bogey on the very next hole and lose momentum
Jason Day was the best placed Australian, T24 on 11-under. A 4th round 70 when most others were in the red saw Day lose ground. He also fell 2 places on the table to 12. Marc Leishman can consider himself very lucky to have a game this week. He was 2-over after 12 and on the brink of finishing outside the 30 but Leishman closed strongly with 3 birdies to sneak in at 29. Adam Scott finished T51 on 4-under but his season’s over after a gallant late run. Although Cameron Smith had his worst result in 3-weeks he still had enough points in the bank to finish 10th on the table despite his T65 finish this week.
The ultimate goal for the 70 who teed it up last Thursday was to finish in the top-30 after the BMW Championship. 2 out - 2 in. Jordan Spieth and Emiliano Grillo made way for winner Keegan Bradley and T3 Xander Schauffele. Bradley climbed from 52 to 6 and Schauffele from 41 to 18 and into the draw for next week at Atlanta. Spieth is going to miss the TOUR Championship for the 1st time in his career. The 2015 FedEx Cup champion’s week was a reflection on his season, poor form with the putter. Spieth had his chances, but a final round 73 was never going to be good enough, especially when you start 27th on the table and no room to move.
The top-5 names didn’t change after the weekend, just the order. Check back in 24hrs for our full preview of the TOUR Championship. The scenarios are endless results depending – Major’s aside, it’s the biggest event of the year.
Dell Technologies Championship
The Bryson DeChambeau show rolls on after he cleaned up the field in the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston over the Labour Day weekend. DeChambeau’s 2-shot victory assures him the No.1 seeding at the TOUR Championship in 2 weeks and forced Jim Furyk’s hand re Ryder Cup selection. A decorated amateur, Bryson DeChambeau joined the TOUR in 2016 and after a strong start missed 11 cuts in 15 starts in early 2017. Self-belief and a relentless work ethic paid off when DeChambeau had his 1st win on TOUR, the John Deere Classic in July last year. They may call him crazy, but he’s the hottest golfer on the planet right now!
England’s Justin Rose showed last week’s missed cut was a mere hiccup in an otherwise very solid season. Rose closed with a 3-under 68 to finish 2nd, but oh what could have been. 5 front-9 bogies saw Rose go out in 37 (1-over) after starting 3-shots off the lead. Justin Rose finished with 4 birdies in his last 6 holes but the damage was done, still he looms as a serious threat to spoil DeChambeau’s party.
Australia’s Cameron Smith T3 last week at the Norther Trust and backed it up with a solo 3rd at the Dell. Smith teed off 2-shots off the pace but got nothing “going” on the way out finishing the front 9 square. His 3rd back half birdie on 16 moved him to within a shot of the lead but a bogie on 18 left him 3-shots short of the mark. Smith has moved to 8th in the FedEx Cup and is proof late season bursts can set you up for life.
Hideki Matsuyama, C.T. Pan and Tony Finau finished T4 at 12-under. Matsuyama started a long way back but went out in 30 to put some pressure on the leaders, an even par 35 coming in stalled his run. More importantly, Hideki Matsuyama moved to 28 on the table and needs another solid result to remain inside the top-30. Pan teed off 6-shots down and closed with a fine 66 but more importantly, his result saw him jump 39 spots to sit just outside the top-30 on 33. Finau sits a winless 4th in the FedEx Cup and his having his best season yet. Maybe, just maybe he’s saving his win for when it counts most.
Marc Leishman was our next best placed Aussie, carding an 8-under total and finishing T21. Again Leesh was there-abouts but didn’t contend, he did move up 2 spots to 22 though. Adam Scott fell to 48 after finishing T49, 3-under. Scott will need a big result next week to progress to Atlanta. Surprisingly, Jason Day missed the cut by a massive 5-shots but hangs on to 10th spot. He’s assured of a start at the TOUR Championship but would definitely prefer better results at this stage.
The field is cut to 70 this week for the BMW Championship at Aronimink GC. Expect nothing to be left in the bags of those sitting 31 to 70, it’s all or nothing. We’ll see you later in the week for our full preview.
The Northern Trust
There can be no doubt, Bryson DeChambeau is his own man, he walks to a slightly different beat to most and he’s even been called crazy, more than once. His quirky swing matches his quirky bag of clubs and he’s the only player on TOUR that dons the “flat cap”. After cruising to victory at the Northern Trust, DeChambeau proved golf is about getting the ball in the hole. It matters not what you look like or how you do it, just get it done. And DeChambeau’s not only playing for the FedEx Cup which he's now No.1, there’s Ryder Cup selection on the line too.
Bryson DeChambeau took control of the tournament on moving day shooting a blistering 8-under 63 whilst everyone chasing went backwards. Of the final 10 players to tee off Saturday, Adam Scott was the only other player to shoot under par, just. DeChambeau teed off Sunday 4-shots clear and immediately stretched it to 6 with birdies on 1 and 2. His second 3-putt bogey on 9 saw Aaron Wise move to within 2 but that was as close as it got. Wise bogied 16 and 17 at about the same time DeChambeau went birdie, birdie on 12 and 13 then closed with pars for a 4-shot victory.
Another with Ryder Cup aspirations Tony Finau closed with a 68 to finish 14-under and in 2nd place outright. Both Finau and DeChambeau missed automatic selection, surely 1st and 2nd this week warrants them a pace on the team. 2014 FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel and Australian Cameron Smith finished T3 on 13-under. Horschel has moved to 14th and another solid result next week could see him move inside the top-10. Smith had a horror stretch mid-season missing 5 cuts straight after making a solid start. This week’s result sees him jump to 16th and almost guarantees him a start at East Lake in 3 weeks.
Ryan Palmer, Aaron Wise and Adam Scott finished in a tie for 5th on 12-under. A 3rd round 72 hurt Palmers chances, though a final round 65 saw him move up 50 places to 50th on the table. Wise was 6-under through 14 on Sunday and the Rookie of the Year contender was in contention. A pair of bogies on 16/17 stalled his run. Scott opened with a decent 2-under 69 then backed it up Friday shooting 64 and moved to 2nd. Adam Scott battled hard for a 3rd round 70 to stay in touch but went out Sunday 1-over and he was done by the turn.
The “big 3”; Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka finished T8 and T11 respectively and didn’t really do their chances any harm. Phil Mickelson moved into 10th with a T15, Tommy Fleetwood remained at 23 and Jordan Spieth moved to 33 after finishing T25 on 7-under. Tiger Woods never gained any momentum and actually lost 5 places falling to 25. Francesco Molinari and Justin Rose surprised many by both missing the cut.
After Adam Scott, Jason Day was the best placed Australian signing for an 8-under and a T20. Once again Day’s putting was solid, hitting fairways remains an issue. Marc Leishman closed with a 67 to move into a tie for 34th on 5-under. Leishman was lucky to make the cut after opening with a 73, but he remains inside the top-25 and looks sure of a place in Atlanta. He was the last Aussie to make the cut.
Round 2 of the playoffs takes place this week at TPC Boston and the Dell Technologies Championship. The field is cut to 100 and the pressure cranks up a notch. Justin Thomas is the defending champion and will be in the hunt again. Make sure to check back in for our full review later this week.
The Wyndham Championship
Brandt Snedeker is back. Snedeker wrapped up the Wyndham Championship by 3-shots and rocketed to 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, up 50 places. The 2012 FedEx champ is now a realistic contender as only the top-30 go through to the TOUR Championship at Eastlake. More importantly though, Brandt Snedeker is back from a swing crippling, sternum injury that sidelined him for nearly 6 months last year. An incredible opening round 59 was always going to be tough to chase but in the end it came down to 3; Snedeker, C.T. Pan and Webb Simpson.
Pan got it to 20-under and briefly took the lead on the back 9 before dumping his drive OOB on 18 and making a double. C.T. Pan carded a fine 62 and matched his best TOUR finish T2. The result elevated him to 63rd in the FedEx Cup, not bad for a 2nd year pro. Simpson teed off 6-shots behind Snedeker and carded a superb 62, at one stage sharing the lead with Snedeker and Pan on 19-under. A poor drive on 18 cost Webb Simpson a bogey and he finished 18-under tied with Pan. Simpson moves inside the top-10 to 7 and has the game and form to go deep in the playoffs.
Jim Furyk fired a faultless final round 63 to T4, his best result this season. Unfortunately for Furyk he needed to finish solo 2nd or better. The 2010 FedEx Cup champ’s “playing” season is over but the US Ryder Cup captain is far from done. D.A. Points teed off 2 down and reeled off 5 birdies and an eagle, 4 bogies stifled any chase and he finished 17-under with Furyk.
For the 1st time since their inception, Sergio Garcia and Bill Hass will not take part in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Garcia needed to finish 20th or better, T24 saw him agonisingly close at 128. Sergio fired 3 back-9 bogies and probably cost himself a berth. Haas fired 3 sub-70 rounds but unfortunately finished well short of the mark on 262 points and in 152nd place. Aaron Baddeley (132) and Cameron Percy (168) were the only Australians to make the cut. Baddeley and Percy are both done for the year.
Week 1 of the FedEx Cup playoffs begins this week at the Ridgewood CC, New Jersey. The top 125 players on TOUR this season begin a 4-week “finals series” for big bucks and bigger even “employment” opportunities. It’s shapes the most exciting series for some time with the world’s best hitting it great. See you later this week for our full preview.
The PGA Championship
Brooks Koepka; 4 TOUR wins, 3 of them Majors, 3rd in the FedEx Cup and as of Sunday night, No.2 in the world. Koepka held off charges from Tiger Woods and Adam Scott to secure a 2-shot victory in the 100th edition of the PGA Championship. The 28-year-old sits among some elite company too; Koepka joined Jordan Spieth, Tiger, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson as the only players with 3 Majors before turning 30 (post World War II). Brooks Koepka’s Major record is astounding; 14 Majors, 10 top-15’s and 3 wins - 39th his lowest finish at this year’s OPEN.
Koepka slept on a 2-shot lead over Adam Scott and opened beautifully with a birdie, but bogies on 4 and 5 threatened to derail his train. No so, Brooks Koepka birdied 7,8 and 9 to reassert his authority. Solid pars on 10 through 14 and then consecutive birdies on 15 and 16, Koepka closed the door firmly on those chasing. Brooks Koepka’s tee shot to the 237-yard par-3 16th to 7-feet was a bullet and under the circumstances, maybe his best of the day.
Almost overshadowing Koepka’s victory was the run Tiger Woods made at his 15th Major. It was vintage Woods knocking down pins and draining putts and the he had the crowd at fever pitch when he drew within 1. Unfortunately for Wood’s, Brooks Koepka was up for the fight and he finished 2-shots shy in 2nd. Adam Scott ran off 5 birdies mid-round and drew level with Koepka after 13 but that’s where it ended for him. Pars and then a bogey on 18 saw Scott sign for 67 and 3rd place on 13-under. It was Scott’s best result this season and he moves to 70 in the FedEx Cup.
TOUR veteran Stuart Cink fired 4 sub-70 rounds to finish 11-under and in a T4 with Spaniard Jon Rahm. Cink has played 23 events this season for 3 top-10’s and moves to 55 in the FedEx Cup. It was his best Major finish since winning the OPEN in 2009. Rahm’s recent form had trailed off with missed cuts at the US OPEN and The OPEN but 4 solid rounds in the 60’s is a good sign with the Play Offs just 2 weeks away. Thomas Pieters, OPEN Champion Francesco Molinari, Justin Thomas and early leader Gary Woodland finished T6 on 10-under.
Jason Day was the next best placed Australian T19 on 7-under. Day Teed off in contention 4-shots off the pace but signed for a mediocre 71 losing ground to the leaders. Cameron Smith missed 5 cuts straight before the OPEN; 78th, 23rd at the Bridgestone and a T56 this week has meant 3 paydays in 3 weeks. Marc Leishman was the only other Australian to make the cut finishing T71 at +2 after a promising start.
Congratulations Brooks Koepka on winning his 1st Wanamaker trophy at the Bellerive CC. No fanfare, no heroics just crushing drives, precision iron play and deft touch with the putter.
The TOUR heads to North Carolina this week for the Wyndham Championship for the last event before the FedEx Cup playoffs. Those on the 125 bubble will be desperate for a result at the Sedgefield CC, so expect some do or die golf this weekend.
WGC – Bridgestone Invitational
Justin Thomas made it 3 wins this season and 9 TOUR wins in total when he took out the WGC Bridgestone Invitational by 4-shots at Firestone CC, Akron Ohio. With so much talent in the field it was almost an anticlimax as Thomas was never really challenged and a closing 1-under 69 was easily good enough. It was an emotional victory for Justin Thomas as it was the first time his grandparents had seen him win on TOUR. Despite having a solid season and sitting 2nd in the FedEx Cup, it had been 5 months since his last victory his results were starting to slide. With the PGA next week and Thomas in a self-confessed “great place mentally right now”, he might be the 1st to defend since Tiger in 2006/07.
Justin Thomas' 7 closest challengers after 54-holes shot a combined 17-over par and virtually gifted him the tournament. Among them Kyle Stanley was the only one to break par, firing a 68 to finish 2nd. Stanley moved within 2, but even he fell away with consecutive bogies in 13 and 14. Thornbjon Oleson and Dustin Johnson both shot 64’s but they started too far back to contend. Johnson went out in 29 and it looked like a course record was imminent. Unfortunately, he cooled on the back-9, a T3 result ensures Johnson stays No.1 in the FedEx Cup.
Brooks Koepka closed with a 67 to finish 5th, and according to Koepka he’s hitting it as well as he ever has. A nice feeling with a Major just days away. Rory McIllroy teed off with Thomas Sunday but went out in 37 and he was done before the turn. Jason Day opened beautifully, a 65/66 had him looking strong and set for the weekend. Missing fairways proved costly though, Day hit 4 Saturday and 5 Sunday and didn’t get enough looks and finished T10, firing 73. Ian Poulter opened with a 62, but it got progressively worst culminating in a 74 to also finish T10.
Marc Leishman was the next best placed Australian finishing T14 after shooting a disappointing 73, yet another who failed to mount a challenge. Cameron Smith had a welcome return to form finishing 23rd after shooting a final round 67. Wade Ormsby closed with a disappointing 73 to finish T39 (plus-1) after opening with 3 good rounds. Adam Scott finished well down, a 2nd round 75 and a closing 74 saw him finish +4 T57.
It’s the last Major of the year this week, the US PGA at Bellerive CC, St Louis Missouri. The world’s best are in great shape and Australia has a couple of serious contenders in Jason Day and Marc Leishman. It’s going to a big week, check in Wednesday night for our full preview.
RBC Canadian Open
When Dustin Johnson joined the TOUR in 2008 he was a ridiculously talented athlete capable “they” said of just about anything. 10-years and 19-wins TOUR wins later, Johnson is exceeding expectations. Freakishly long and able to hit wedges at pins, Johnson is difficult to beat when he's on. Dustin Johnson caught the field on moving day with a superb 65 then pulled away Sunday, closing with a 66 to win the RBC Canadian Open by 3-shots from Whee Kim and Byeong Hun An. It is Johnson’s 3rd win this season pushing his lead in the FedEx Cup to over 500 points. This week’s win reasserts his standing as the No.1 golfer on the planet.
Dustin Johnson held the 54-hole lead with Kevin Tway, Byeong Hun An and Whee Kim at 17-under. Tway was looking to win the tournament his father won in 15 years ago, unfortunately he shot a 4-over 76 and fell off the leader board finishing T17. Kim had his best finish on TOUR after carding a 4th round 69 and he moved up 31 places to 51 in the FedEx Cup. An also shot 69 for his 2nd runner-up result this season and he sits just outside the all-important top-35 in the play-offs race.
Keegan Bradley rocketed into contention Friday after a scorching 63, then on moving day Bradley moved…. in the wrong direction shooting a 73. He bounced back with a final round 64 but was never really in it. Abraham Ancer rounded out the top-5 at 17-under and moved up to 79. Tommy Fleetwood’s good form continued, another top-10 moved him to 25 in the FedEx Cup, surely a win is close.
This week only 3 Australians made the cut. Aaron Baddeley finished T65, Cameron Percy T69 and Rod Pampling 77. Baddeley was 10-under going into the weekend, but he went 75-73 tumbling down the board. Pampling had a weekend he’d rather forget too, 75-74 after being 7-under.
This week is the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC in Akron Ohio. DJ's WGC record is strong, don't be surprised if he chalks up number 4.
The Barbasol Championship
Expect to see Troy Merritt play with more freedom and confidence as the post-season play-offs approach. A 1-shot victory at the Barbasol Championship has handed Merritt a 2-year exemption and most importantly, job security. Full TOUR status is huge for a man who’s struggled to maintain his job each year as a pro. The win sees Merritt jump 66 spots to No.65 in the FedEx Cup and assures him of a place in the season ending play-offs and a chance to earn big! Clutch birdies on 14 and 15 shut the door on Billy Horschel, Richy Werenski and co-overnight leader Tom Lovelady who all finished T2.
Billy Horschel was solid all week, making just 2 bogies and his birdie putt on 18 to force a play-off lipped out. Horschel moves to 36 in the FedEx standings, 1 away from the all-important top-35. Richy Werenski began the day 2-shots off the pace, his final round 66 flawless, just a birdie shy of a play-off. Tom Lovelady’s T2 was his best result on TOUR after a fine 4 days of golf. An eagle on 14 and a birdie on 17 saw Lovelady pull within a shot but a miss-hit to the par-3 18th left him 48-feet from a play-off. Lovelady gave his putt a chance, but it slipped by and he too missed by a shot. J.T. Poston finished 5th after a final round 66 and moves to 100 in the FedEx Cup.
Cameron Percy was the only Australian to see weekend action. Percy finished T7 on 19-under after 4 sub-70 rounds highlighted by a 64 on Friday. With just 6 events remaining in the regular season, the race for the top 125 spots on the FedEx Cup table is hot. Francesco Molinari was 123 before the Quicken Loans, 2 wins and a T2 in his last 3 starts has pushed him to 7th. Notables on the bubble include; Jhonattan Vegas, William McGirt, Danny Lee and Sergio Garcia – the next month is going to be very interesting indeed.
It’s the Canadian Open this week, hosted by the picturesque Glen Abbey GC designed by legend Jack Nicklaus. The field, especially the 32 who teed it up at Carnoustie last week, can expect softer conditions and plenty of chances to go low
John Deere Classic
In 2011, 5 young men graduated from high school; Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele and Michael Kim. Spieth; 13 victories worldwide – 3 Majors. Justin Thomas; 8 Wins on TOUR – 1 Major. Daniel Berger; 2 wins on TOUR and Xander Schauffele; 2 wins, one of which TOUR Championship. Michael Kim; 83 starts, 1 top-10 and feeling like he was getting left behind. Sitting 161st in the Fed Ex Cup, cut 14 times from 22 events and with only 3 top25’s this season, it seemed Kim was falling even further behind his “classmates”. Sunday afternoon at TPC Deere Run in his 84th start, 24-year-old Michael Kim looked like a seasoned pro as he cleaned up the field and made the John Deere Classic his 1st TOUR win.
Michael Kim is the 19th player to make the JD Classic their breakthrough event. Kim tried to sleep on the 54-hole lead but his head wouldn’t let him. Standing on the 1st tee Sunday he must have been mentally exhausted and with a 5-shot lead, it was his to lose. By the time he turned, the rest were playing for 2nd. Kim opened with 3 straight birdies added another at 8 went out in 31. Michael Kim singed for a 66 and a record breaking 27-under, 8 shots clear of the rest. Kim and his team knew he was good enough but his lack of success was confusing. Michael Kim was never long but when you lack length and you miss more than you hit, you’ll have a hard time shooting scores. A brand new set of eyes and the belief you can, has paid immediate dividends.
Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon finished T2 on 19-under. Molinari fired a flawless final round 64 and continues his hot form leading into the OPEN next week. Francesco Molinari has played in the US for past 6 weeks with 1 aim, to improve his FedEx Cup rank. Mission accomplished as Molinari has moved from 122 to 27. Dahmen backed up last week’s T5 at Greenbrier with a fine display shooting 65-65 on the weekend and move to 71 in the FedEx Cup. Sam Ryder had his best result this season and Burgoon had his 2nd top-10 in his last 3 starts. Harold Varner III finished 6th at 18-under in another solid performance – he just couldn’t go low enough.
Matt Jones was the best placed Australian, though a disappointing back-9 Sunday afternoon cost him places and money. Jones was 16-under after 54-holes and in contention for a place, but shooting a 1-over 72 Sunday won’t cut it. John Senden had his best result since returning to the TOUR after taking an extended break to deal with his child’s health issues. His T34 is a promising return to some form. Stuart Appleby was the only other Australian to make the cut, he closed with 5 birdies on his back-9 to finish T50 at 9-under.
With his maiden win this week, Michael Kim secured the only available ticket to Carnoustie – congratulations indeed.
Ashun Wu has returned to the winners circle after clinching the KLM Open with a 72nd hole birdie to edge out Englishman Chris Wood.
It's Wu's first win since 2016 and he was behind most of the day. Chris Wood was out in front from the start of the final round, but an early bogey, followed by 2 birdies on the front nine had him up at the turn. Two more birdies at 10 & 11 and all of a sudden, Wood was up by 3 shots and cruising. His tee shot on 12 found the water right and after not making the green after his drop, he made double. The field were back in with a chance. Although he made a birdie on the next after hitting his second shot to a foot, Wood played safe golf on the way in and after spraying a few shots, needed birdie on the last to tie Wu. His 10 footer sat on the edge of the hole and Wu took out the title.
Wu on the other hand was shooting at pins. It's always the brave golfer who wins it on the final day and Wu was definitely that. He knocked it to 6 feet on the par 3, 14th and then hit his 3rd to a few feet on the par 5, 15th to pull level with Wood. Knocking it on the par 5, 18th for 2 he rolled in the birdie and went to the practice range to wait for the final group. His caddy gave him the good news that Wood has missed and he was the champion. Wu now becomes the most successful Chinese player on the European Tour. He has also moved away from the dreaded cut line of 110 in the Race To Dubai to 43rd and will be back on the tour for the next 2 years. He also moves up 168 places in the OWGR to 175.
Thomas Detry and Hideto Tanihara were tied for 3rd. Tanihara was solid throughout the whole tournament and Detry thought he missed the cut after 36 holes and went home. He found out that he snuck into the weekend and returned to shoot a course record 63 on Saturday, then a 66 on Sunday.
For the Australians, Jason Scrivener shot a final round 6 under 65 to finish tied 15th at -9, Wade Ormsby a shot further back at -8 and tied 20th. Scott Hend withdrew from the tournament during the first round with leg cramps. Hope that resolves itself soon. Lucas Herbert, Sam Brazel, Andrew Dodt and Adam Bland all made the cut this week as well.
Omega European Masters
In the last 6 years there has been 5 playoffs at Crans-sur-Sierre for the Omega European Masters. Last year it was our own Scott Hend being beaten by Matt Fitzpatrick and this year it was Lucas Bjerregaard being beaten by Matt Fitzpatrick again. The only other player to go back to back at this tournament was Seve Ballesteros and that was 40 years ago. Fitzpatrick missed out on selection in the European Ryder Cup team, but his victory this week will have him feeling a little better at least.
He started the day with a two stroke lead over Frenchman, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and the 2 of them tangled for top spot through the front nine. Fitzpatrick went out in level par after 2 bogeys and 2 birdies, but MLV was playing better. He had not had a win on the European Tour yet and his 167 starts were looking like they would finally bear fruit. He was cruising with birdies at 1, 5, 7, 9, 10 & 13 and was -17 stepping onto the 14th hole. He had 2 par 5's in front of him and although Bjerregaard was level in score with him, he had holes to spare.
He hooked his tee shot on 14 and instead of chipping out, hitting the green in reg and making either birdie or par, he chose to have a go. In his defense, he played a great shot, but got a massive bounce 20 metres short of the green and his ball rocketed through into the trees at the back, almost going out of bounds. The drop, the chip and a missed short putt gave him a double bogey 7. He did bounce back with a birdie up the next par 5, but he needed birdie up the last and could only manage bogey after finding the water short from the fairway bunker. Valiant till the end, but he will have to wait for that breakthrough win a little longer.
Bjerregaard was magnificent all day. His 7 under included no dropped shots and he waited in the clubhouse for an eternity for the last group to come in. After all that wait, he looked like he would be the one to win on the first playoff hole. He was up against the shoulder of the rough around the back of the green and had 20 feet. The putt looked in all the way, but shaved the edge. Fitzpatrick hit his to 15 feet below the hole and calmly rolled it in for the birdie and the win.
Only Scott Hend made it to the weekend for the Australians, but two 70's was only good enough for tied 45th. It's off to the Netherlands next week for the KLM Open, where Romain Wattel will defend his title from last year.
Made In Denmark
The Made in Denmark came down to a thrilling finish after four players were tied after 72 holes and the tournament had to be decided in a playoff. For much of the last day it seemed that Lee Westwood would be triumphant, but his last birdie was on the 11th hole and he failed to get it done on the back nine on Sunday and finished -19.
Big 6 foot 9 Jigger Thomson was surely the guy that most were going for. The huge Englishman had already beaten Leukemia in his teens and was looking the goods on the final day. His front nine was nothing special with 2 birdies and a bogey, but his back nine showed that he is not far away from his first win with birdies on 10, 11, 14 & 16 to finish -19.
Steven Brown is not a household name on the European Tour, but the 31 year old was in search of his first win and was playing great golf. A final round 68 that included some amazing shots from off the fairway and on had him zeroing in on flags, making putts and in the hunt at -19 as well.
Matt Wallace was looking for something incredible this week. The Ryder Cup team was being decided and he needed to grab Thomas Bjorn's attention. His first 3 rounds did just that with back to back 68's then a 66 in the 3rd round. His front nine on the final day, however, was sending him in the wrong direction. While other were making their move, he was level par through 9 holes. His back nine was just what he needed. Birdies on 10, 13 & 14, a dropped shot on 12, but then he finished with 3 birdies in a row to tie the lead at -19. Fist pumping the whole way around, he looked the most likely and he was always going to win the playoff.
The first playoff hole had both Wallace and Brown hitting it inside 6 feet and making birdies. This put Westwood and Jigger out of the running. The second time down the 18th, Wallace again put it super close and hit the short putt in for the win. If Thomas Bjorn was looking for a form player, Wallace would surely have to be in the running, His last few months have been amazing and he would be a fitting member in the team.
Speaking of the team, the last player has now been finalised with Thobjorn Oleson making his Ryder Cup debut after his tied 20th finish here. As far as the Aussies were concerned this week, there was not much to write about. Nick Cullen was the highest placed at tied 49th, while at the other extreme, Scott Hend missed the cut after being 10 over after Thurs/Friday. It will be interesting to see if Wallace will be picked after his 3rd win this season. His OWGR has moved to 76 and he is now 17th on the Race to Dubai.
The D+D Real Czech Masters
Coming into the final day of the Czech Masters all eyes were on Padraig Harrington. The Irishman was playing great golf and looking most likely to take out the tournament. His strange new swing take away was making headlines because it was working so well. If you haven't seen it, it looks like he is having a longer than normal waggle at the ball, but lifts the club and plays the shot when you are not expecting it. Combine that with the fact that he sometimes has 7 or 8 practice swings before he hits and it can be a frustrating time following him.
Through the front nine though, it was working a treat and he went out in 33 with birdies on 1, 6 & 9 to lead comfortably by 2. His playing partner, Andrea Pavan from Italy was his nearest competitor. A birdie / bogey front nine had him level par and just plodding along beside a happy Harrington, who was talking his leg off between shots. That talk dried up as Pavan went on a back nine birdie blitz. 10, 12 and then the birdie at 14 put him level with Padraig. His putter was on fire and he holed another on the par 3, 16th and went back to back with another on 17. He went to the final tee with a 2 shot lead. Harrington looked deflated and missed a short birdie putt of his own on the 72nd hole, but it didn't matter. Pavan won his first European Tour victory on his 112th start. He took home his biggest cheque and moved into the world top 150.
For the Australians, it was not the best tournament. Jason Scrivener and Adam Bland finished tied 18th on -11. Scrivener shot a final round 67. Nick Cullen and Lucas Herbert were tied 44th and Scott Hend was tied 70th after going out on his own on the final day and finishing his round in under 2 hours. He shot 1 over.
The Nordea Masters
Englishman Paul Waring has overcome 2 major injuries and self-doubt to finally salute taking out the Nordea Masters, his 1st win in 200 starts on the European Tour. Waring defeated South African Thomas Aiken on the 1st playoff hole after both finishing 14-under at the end of regulation play. Since graduating from Tour School in 2007, Waring has missed the best part of 2 seasons with a wrist injury and subsequent shoulder issues, both of which required surgery. Persistence and self-belief the keys behind his road to victory this week.
It was a welcome return to some form for 3-time European winner Aiken, who’s had just 1 other top-10 this season. Thomas Aiken and Paul Waring went shot for shot for most of the day but it was Aiken who cracked 1st finding water off the tee on the 1st playoff hole. A subsequent bogey to Waring’s regulation par and the tournament was done. The loss was disappointing, but Aiken takes a lot of positives into the coming weeks.
German Maximillian Kieffer closed strongly with 3 birdies to sign for a 65 that could/should have been better. The result moved Kieffer into 3rd outright 13-under. In form Thorbjorn Olesen needed a solid result and he delivered. ”Thunder Bear” placed 4th and moved him into the automatic positions for the Ryder Cup Team via the World Points List.
Australian Lucas Herbert carded 4 sub-70 rounds to finish 5th after closing with a 66. Adam Bland T13, Richard Green T45 and Jason Scrivener T61 were the only other Australians to make the cut.
The Tour moves to the Czech Republic this week for the D+D Czech Masters at the Albatross Golf Resort.
"Bula!" is the phrase in Fiji. You can't walk 20 meters without one of the locals saying it to you, but it took on a different meaning on Sunday with Gaganjeet Bhullar taking out his 9th Asian Tour victory with his 1 shot win at the Fiji International.
He had to fight very hard for it though with challengers coming from everywhere on the last day. The final 4 players on the leaderboard were a total of 28 under par for the day. The conditions were perfect for golf in Fiji, the wind was only light, about 12kmh, so the course was very playable. The tournament organizers also did the players a favor by making some pretty accessible pin positions on the last day. Obviously, they were after some spectacular golf and that is what they got.
Anthony Quayle shot a course record 63 that included a 29 on the back nine with 2 eagles. His playing partner, The Big Easy, Ernie Els was full of praise for his Australian playing partner calling him "the whole package" after witnessing his brilliant back nine first hand. Els himself shot a final day 65 to finish tied 3rd with Ben Campbell.
But they were all after Bhullar and after going out in 33, the Indian star had a birdie on the par 3, 12th and then a magnificent long chip from off the green on the par 5, 17th to put him one shot clear at the top. A regulation par up the 72nd hole and the trophy was his. He now holds the record for the most wins by an Indian on the Asian Tour. It's off to Missouri next week for the US PGA Championship.
Porsche European Open
Englishman Richard McEvoy was looking forward to heading back to the Challenge Tour and his 40th birthday at the start of this week, but now after 286 appearances on the tour, he is a winner for the first time after 17 years as a tour pro.
He won the Porsche European Open after a final round one over par 73. It all came down to the last hole and a 20 foot right to left putt that would give him a birdie and the win. He nailed it and in the process, turned his golfing life completely around. He went from 190+ rank on the Race to Dubai to inside the top 70. five pars and a bogey to start in his first 6 holes, McEvoy made birdie on the 7th, but gave it back straight away on the next. Three birdies and 3 bogeys on the back nine saw slow and steady win this race on a day when all the leaders just kept going backwards.
The start of the last day had some big names much fancied to take out this tournament. Patrick Reed, Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau were all up the top of the leaderboard and the experts were all tipping one of them, but they all started horribly and then got worse from there. Reed was stung by a bee on the 7th tee, but his round was already going south. He finished with a 4 over 76. Casey played with Scott Hend and both of them struggled all day. Casey continues to have issues with final days and his putter. He shot a 73 and finished tied 7th.
It was DeChambeau that was the surprise fail. Approaching the par 5, 15th hole he was leading by a shot and in the middle of the fairway. He took out the 5 wood, then decided to hit a long iron instead. It was the worst decision of his day and he came up short into the water. Another bogey on the next, followed by a minor meltdown on the 17th and he was on the ropes. His hooked tee shot into the water on 18 was the end. He shot a 6 over par 78 and finished tied 13th.
Scott Hend was the best Aussie this week and finished tied 19th after a final round 75. Lucas Herbert had a great last round and finished tied 29th. Andrew Dodt tied for 54th.
There were so many players in contention on the final day of the Scottish Open, that the leaderboard would've been very difficult to maintain. In actual fact, there was 33 players within 5 shots of the lead, which was held by Jens Dantorp of Sweden.
Most people thought that Rickie Fowler, who was only a shot behind the leader, was the one who was going to take out the trophy, but a lackluster -1 on the front nine and another -1 on the back saw him finish tied 6th. He still looks to of come to terms with links golf though and will push strongly in next weeks Open. Justin Rose was another who was looking to make a final run at the win today. Starting 3 off the lead, his -3 was never going to be enough and he finished tied 9th with Tyrrell Hatton.
Eddie Pepperell was another who was looking to be the eventual winner. His front nine 30, which included 5 birdies and no dropped shots had him out in front. Birdies on 10 and 14 and he must have thought today was his day, but he could not finish off the round and a late bogey on 17 had him finish on -16 and 2nd place. He did however score a place in this weeks Open, as did Dantorp who finished tied 3rd with Luke List and world number 1380 and 2008 Masters winner, Trevor Immelman, who turned back the clock in an unbelievable display.
Disappointment for Aussie, Scott Hend who went into the final day looking to grab one of those Open spots. Hend just could not get anything going and after missing his birdie putt on the 2nd hole, made bogey down 3 and did not convert another until the 12th. He finished tied 14th after a mundane even par round. Of the other Australians this week, Cam Smith was 42nd at -7 and Adam Bland finished on even par and 66th.
But everyone was chasing the eventual winner, South African Brandon Stone. Not only were they chasing him, but he was chasing history after being on 59 watch for a lot of his back nine. He was -4 through his front nine holes and made another birdie on the 10th. His putter was on fire today and he was draining putts from good distance. More birdies on 12, 14 & 15 had him -8 with 3 to play and the next, a par 5. The 25 foot left to right snake here was the sealer for the tournament as it propelled him 4 shots clear of the chasers and -10 for the day. There has never been a 59 on the European Tour, so he was chasing history as he played his final 2 holes. He parred the par 3 17th and the short 18th hole was looking to be the chance. His second shot coming to rest, just 7 feet from the hole. After the long putts he had been making all day, it looked to be the first 59 ever, but he missed. That record still remains, but his 60 today got him his 3rd European Tour title. An incredible final round and a worthy champion.
A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier
Kevin Na had a day with his putter that most of us dream about Sunday afternoon at The Greenbrier. He made them from everywhere and rode it all the way home for his 2nd TOUR victory – A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. Na teed off 1-stroke behind co-leaders Harold Varner III and Kelly Kraft and went out in 29 to set up a commanding lead. Another birdie on 10 saw Na move to 19-under and he looked home. Na took his medicine on the 11th after missing the fairway and made his only bogey for the day. A birdie on 16 after thumping his drive 300-plus yards over the water allowed Kevin Na to play 18 with a smile on his face and a 5-shot lead.
Na turned Pro in 2001 and joined the TOUR in 2004. He had stints back on the WEB.COM before finally winning the Shriners in 2011. 7 years and nearly 40 top-10’s later, Kevin Na proves if you keep working hard and putting yourself in contention, your day will arrive. Na’s win moves him inside the top-50 OWGR (41) and inside the top-20 in the FedEx Cup (18) making his season look much better than it did last week.
Kelly Kraft was staring down his 1st TOUR win standing on the 1st tee Sunday afternoon. By the time he stepped off the 5th green he was down by a shot after doing little wrong. Playing in the group behind Kevin Na, Kraft knew what was required but he couldn’t deliver. Kraft’s game cooled on the weekend and he played the last 36-holes 1-under, it was never going to be good enough. A final round 70 saw Kraft finish 2nd on 14-under. A ticket to The Open in 2-weeks is a nice consolation prize.
Brandt Snedeker and Jason Kokrak finished T3 13-under the card. Snedeker fired 8 birdies in his final round to record only his 2nd top-10 this season. It was a welcome return to some form and his result earns him a birth in The Open. A 3rd round 71 probably cost Kokrak any real chance, he started too far back Sunday and didn’t contend. He did nail the 2nd last spot to Carnoustie though. The last of the 4 available starts went to Austin Cook when he finished T5 with Joaquin Niemann, Joel Dahmen, Sam Saunders and Harold Varner III. Varner had a round he’d rather forget (72) and it cost him a start in The Open. Niemann’s results have earned him a full PGA TOUR card for the upcoming season.
Australia didn’t fair very well in West Virginia this week with only Cameron Percy making the cut. Percy finished T56 on 2-under after shooting 3-over on the weekend. Matt Jones and Stuart Appleby both finished 1 and 2-under respectively, but finished just outside the 3-under cut-line.
Quicken Loans National
Francesco Molinari put on ball-striking clinic this week at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm and streeted the field by 8-shots chalking up his 1st (official) win on TOUR; the Quicken Loans National. Molinari elected to remain in the US this week rather than play in the lucrative Rolex Series French Open – FedEx Cup points his main motivation. It stung Francesco last year when he missed the TOUR Championship in Atlanta by 1-shot finishing 37th on points. So what better way to boost his ranking than at a course made for ball-strikers, and strike them he did. Francesco Molinari missed just 10 greens-in-regulation over 72-holes – phenomenal!
Rounds of 67-65-65 gave Francesco Molinari a share of the 54-hole lead and a solid 2-under front half Sunday saw him increase it by 1. Eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie on holes 10 through 14 and Molinari iced it. It proved a wise decision as $1.2 million went in the pocket, more importantly though Molinari earned 500 valuable FedEx Cup points elevating him from 123 to 42. Francesco Molinari is one of only a hand-full of players who share their time between both the European and US TOUR’s. Imagine winning the Fed Ex Cup and the Race to Dubai!
“Fairway Boy”, Ryan Armour teed off Sunday 2-down and a 4th round 68 was only good enough for 2nd. Armour moved to 30th in the FedEx Cup and most importantly booked himself a ticket to The Open at Carnoustie. Ryan Armours ability to hit fairways and keep it low give him a real chance. Sung Kang fired a flawless final round 64 to jump into 3rd, his 2nd top-10 of the year. Kang’s season has been inconsistent but the weekends result also secures him a ticket to Carnoustie.
Tiger Woods fired 21 birdies this week, the same as winner Molinari. Unfortunately, Woods had 8 bogies and a double to finish T4 on 11-under, once again he was almost in the mix. All the talk at Potomac though was around Tigers new mallet style putter. Woods traded the blade putter he has used since forever in a bid to find some feel. Even though he missed 13 putts inside 10-feet, a gimme for Woods when he was at the peak of his powers, Tiger was happy with the switch.
Abraham Ancer arrived at the course Sunday with a share of the lead with Francesco Molinari hoping his 3rd round 62 was a sign of things to come. Unfortunately for Ancer, he was a full 10-shots worse carding a 2-over 72 and finishing T4 with Tiger. Ancer moves inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup and he too will be heading to The Open later this month.
Marc Leishman was the best placed Australian finishing T13 on 7-under, a final round 70 saw him lose ground to the leaders. Cameron Percy was next, 3-under and T32. Percy shot a pair of 70’s on the weekend while the contenders were making birdies. Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley missed the cut by a shot and Matt Jones and Rod Pampling missed by a long way.
Congratulations Francesco Molinari on your 1st TOUR win, the first Italian since Toney Penna in 1947. Molinari’s 8-shot victory equals the largest margin this season and his 21-under 259 broke the tournament record by 7 shots. A masterful display.
In 2010 Bubba Watson had his 1st win on TOUR – The Travelers Championship. On Sunday he had his 12th and his 3rd Travelers. TPC River High Lands must feel like his back yard. Teeing off 4 groups ahead and 6-shots behind 54-hole leader Paul Casey, Bubba Watson went out crushing his drives but didn’t take advantage and he was out in 33. Then Bubba did what he does best, went nut’s and stole the show. A spectacular back-9 30 which included 5 birdies set the mark at 17-under, Bubba had it on a string. Watson finished 3-shots ahead of 4 players T2 on 14-under.
Paul Casey slept on a 4-shot lead and when he birdied the 1st Sunday, it looked to be his to lose. What followed was a man struggling to hold his swing together. A 4th round 2-over 72 on a course that gives up lots of birdies was never going to be good enough and it wasn’t. Casey was coming off a 62 on moving day after opening with 2 solid rounds and his swing was in the groove, funny how it just deserts you overnight. Let’s face it, no matter what you play off, we’ve all been there. Paul Casey finished T2 with Stewart Cink, Beau Hossler and J.B. Holmes.
Cink is a 2-time Travelers winner and on Sunday meant business from the get-go. Opening with 6 birdies in his 1st 7 holes – Stewart Cink propelled himself into contention. Cink made 4 birdies on the back half, unfortunately he also had 2 bogies – still 62 was the equal lowest round of the tournament. Hossler is having a fine rookie season; 22 events, 19 cuts, over $2 million in prizemoney and 31 in The FedEx Cup. 4 birdies in his last 6 holes saw Hossler close with a 66, his 4th sub-70 round of the week. Holmes worked his way into contention getting it to 15-under by the 13th, but bogies on 14 and 18 ended his hopes.
Jason Day was the best place Australian at T12 on 11-under. Day made plenty of birdies this week, alas there were just too many bogeys for him to contend. Matt Jones tore it up Thursday/Friday and was 9-under shaping up nicely for the weekend. Par golf on the weekend will rarely win you a tournament, US Opens aside and that’s what Jones did. A pair of 70’s and Matt Jones went backwards. No other Australians made the cut along with some big manes; Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Aussie Marc Leishman, Webb Simpson and Chez Reavie.
With his win on the weekend, Bubba Watson becomes the only player with 3 wins this season and moves into 3rd place in the FedEx Cup. Watson was coming off a missed cut last week at the US Open and aside from his victories, Bubba’s results have been mediocre with only 2 other top-10’s. With the Open only a month away, Watson’s got it going in the right direction though.
FedEx St. Jude Classic
Dustin Johnson has had the perfect preparation for the 2018 US Open this week at Shinnecoack Hills, South Hampton, NY. Johnson holed out from 170-yards for eagle on the 72nd hole for a 6-stroke victory, his 2nd win of the season, at the FedEx St Jude Classic. In doing so he regained the OWGR No1. position he lost a month ago, moved to No.2 in the FedEx Cup and heads to Shinnecock the man to beat.
Johnson displayed incredible power and superb touch this week. He was his usual monstrous self off the tees; 350-yard plus drives and when he did take an iron for “safety”, Johnson launched them 300 too. He stuffed approaches close, was 100% from the sand, sublime around the greens and made crucial putts when required. On Sunday he hit just 12 greens in regulation and still managed a 66. It was a dominant display from the best player in the world.
Andrew Putman started the day on 15-under, equal leader with Johnson but doubled the 1st handing Dustin Johnson a 2-stroke lead and he never really looked back. Johnson’s lead moved out to 3 after a birdie on the 3rd and the pair matched bogies on 5. Putman stole 1 back on 7 but closed with 11 straight pars to fire a 2-over 72 and finish 2nd, his career best performance. He watched on as Johnson carded a back-9 31 (4-under) including that amazing hole-out on the 18th.
J.B. Holmes has been up and down all season. He’s played 17 events, missed 6 cuts and had just 2 top-10’s, including his 3rd place this weekend. Holmes hit 16 greens in regulation firing a final round 67 and finished 9-under for the tournament. Stewart Cink and Richy Werenski finished T4, 8-under the card. Cink fired a final round 72 (2-over) which included a double, an eagle, 4 bogies and 2 birdies, it was easily his best result for the season. Werenski also had his best finish for the season after a 4th round 71.
Stuart Appleby was the best placed Australian, T12 at 6-under. Appleby has been struggling missing more cuts than he’s made so it's a welcome return to form. Cameron Percy was next best, T26 (-4), a 1st round 71 his only round over par. Aaron Baddeley and Matt Jones were the only other Australians to make the cut, finishing T37 and T51 respectively.
The Memorial Tournament
It was a case of 3rd time lucky for Bryson DeChambeau at Muirfield Village this week. In regulation play DeChambeau bogied 18 to fall into a 3-way play-off with Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley. His 2nd trip down 18 yielded and up-and-down par save which was matched by An. On trip No.3 DeChambeau stuck his approach 12-feet behind the pin and calmly rolled it in for a birdie to win the Memorial, his 2nd victory on TOUR. Often ridiculed for his overly “scientific” approach to his game, Bryson DeChambeau has stuck to what he knows best; working harder than every other pro on TOUR and leaving no stone unturned in his quest to be the best he can be.
Bryson DeChambeau slept on a 1-shot lead over Kyle Stanley, Patrick Cantlay and Chilean whiz-kid, Joaquin Niemann. Stanley went out in 35 and was right amongst it, but a double on the par-3 12th put the brakes on. He then proceeded to make 4 straight birds (14-17) and got it to 16-under, but a bogey on 18 and Stanley also fell into the play-off. Stanley bogied the 1st pay-off hole to finish T2. Cantlay looked set to notch up his 2nd win after shooting 4-under on the front 9 and getting it to -17. Unfortunately, Cantlay closed with a 3-over 39 to finished a shot out of the play-off in 4th. Byeong Hun An fought back from an untidy start to play his way to 15-under and the play-off. An made a great par save on the 1st play-off hole but then had to watch as DeChambeau made his tournament winning putt.
Peter Uihlein fired a blemish-free final round 66 to finish 13-under and 5th place. In hindsight it was Uihlein’s front-9 on Friday that ultimately cost him. Joaquin Niemann teed off Sunday -13 and was in contention for his 1st win on TOUR after turning pro only very recently. Call it inexperience, nerves or luck but every time Niemann gained 1 he gave it straight back and finish T6 with Justin Rose on 12-under. The big news of the week was Tigers ice-cold putter. He lead the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, Approach to Green and Proximity but finished 2nd last in Strokes Gained: Putting. Tiger struck better than everyone but couldn’t hole a thing – very un-Tiger like indeed.
Adam Scott was the best placed Australian, T35 on 7-under after closing with a disappointing 73. Jason Day looked great after opening with a pair of 68’s, a pair of 74’s on the weekend saw him freefall down the leader board to finish -4 and T44. Marc Leishman closed with a mediocre 76 to slide to T62 and finish 1-under. John Senden and Rod Pampling made the cut but both had MDF’s.
Fort Worth Invitational
Justin Rose cruised to victory taking out the Fort Worth Invitational by 3-shots from Brooks Koepka (-17) and Emiliano Grillo (-16) finished 4 back. Teeing off with a 4-shot lead, Rose gave a ball-striking clinic. He lead the field in GIR, Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and was 2nd in proximity to the hole. The most telling statistic though, Rose had a birdie putt from 20-feet or less on 45 of the 72 holes. Fair to say he was stuffing it with monotonous regularity. It was a masterful display that 5-time winner and Colonial legend Ben Hogan would have been proud of.
Reigning US Open Champion Brooks Koepka closed with a 7-under 63 to at least keep some pressure on Rose. Koepka matched Rose early and moved to within 3 after Rose bogeyed the 3rd, but Justin Rose caught the birdie train and Brooks Koepka got left at the station. It was Brooks Koepka’s 6th runner-up finish on TOUR. Emiliano Grillo’s card was blemish free Sunday but he had too much ground to make up. Level with Koepka after 54-holes, Grillo went out in 31, but found birdies early on the back-9 hard to come by. He carded a final round 64 to finish 3rd.
Kevin Na lead after the 1st round shooting a remarkable 8-under 62 and closed Sunday with an even better 61. A Friday 73 and an even par 70 on moving day saw him tumble down the leader board and out of contention finishing 4th. Kevin Tway, Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen finished T5 on 10-under. Tway had his best result this season coming off a T9 last week at the Byron. Oosthuizen’s tournament mirrored his season, inconsistent – plenty of birdies but too many bogies to seriously contend. Jon Rahm just goes from strength to strength and bounced back after a disappointing T63 at THE PLAYERS 2 weeks ago.
The best placed Australian was Adam Scott T52 on 3-under. Trying to play his way into automatic qualification for the US Open, Scott needed a strong result to move into the top 60 OWGR. T52 saw him move to 61, he has 2 events left to keep his major streak alive. John Senden was the only other Aussie to make the cut, he finished T77, 6-over the card.
Justin Rose hasn’t missed a cut this season, he’s recorded 5 top-10’s including 2 wins and has moved to No.2 in the FedEx Cup – nice form coming into the US Open in 3 weeks, which he won in 2013.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
Russell Knox is a winner once again on the European Tour. He did it by holing 2 incredible putts on the 18th hole. One in regulation play to get into the clubhouse at -14, the other to win on the 1st playoff hole. Both putts were from about the same spot and both were perfect.
The final day started at Ballyliffin GC with South African, Erik Van Rooyan firmly in control. He was leading by 4 shots and all week he had been rock solid. Fairways and greens and holed some superb putts to be the dominant player in the field. This all changed on the last day. After 3 pars to start, he made his first birdie on the par 5, 4th, but this would be his last happy hole for a while. Bogeys followed on 6, 7 & 9 as his tee game deserted him. Playing from the deep rough around Ballyliffin was a diagnosis for distruction and by the turn, the field had caught him on the leaderboard. Although he parred in, it was not enough and he finished 2 shots back from the leaders at -12 & tied 4th with Jon Rahm.
Rahm himself had an up and down day. He thought he was going to be in contention before hitting off on his last round, but a triple bogey 7 on the 2nd hole made him re-adjust quickly. It seemed to really spur him into action because he went birdie, birdie, par, eagle on the next 4 holes. He also finished with 5 birdies on the last 6 holes to almost be in the mix. His fellow countryman, Jorge Campillo almost got there too. Campillo had a 29 on the front nine that included an eagle and although his back nine was not spectacular, he eagled 17 to almost get there. He fell short by a shot and finished 3rd at -13 after a final round 65.
This just left the final challenger, Ryan Fox. The New Zealander impressed everyone with his tee game this week. He boomed drives into places that nobody has ever seen around here. One of his drives went 395 metres! Not only was he long, he was straight. No turning fades or draws, just straight and long and incredible. His short game was good too, but if he had of putted a little better, he could have taken out this tournament easily. Costly bogeys on the opening hole and then the 14th really hurt and his playoff was sunk by Knox's long putting prowess. He did however, earn a place in the Open field next week. So did Zander Lombard & Andy Sullivan who finished tied 6th at -9.
The Aussies this week did not have a great tournament. Only 3 made the cut for the weekend. Wade Ormsby & Adam Bland finished tied 49th and Andrew Dodt tied 72nd. All congratulations must go to Russell Knox though. His final day and his putting on the back nine was the key to his victory. He will be one to watch over the next few weeks and could be a great little smokey for the Open.
Open de France
When Alex Noren headed out on his final round at the Open de France, he was 8 shots off the lead and at the turn he was still 4 shots off the lead, but he kept grinding. He was one of the few players near the top of the leaderboard that did not have a really bad hole.
At the start of the last day, the final four players were Garcia, Rahm, Wood and Kinhult. The young Swede was 2 shots clear in the lead at -10, Wood at -8 and the Spaniards at -7 & -6. Garcia was the first to have a meltdown and it came early at the 1st hole. He drove into the water off the tee, then instead of playing it safe, went for the green in 2 and hit into the water again. A seven on the par 4, 1st had his day off to a terrible start. By the time the 18th came around, he had an impossible long bunker shot to try and make birdie, but fell short into the water again to finish tied 8th.
Jon Rahm was sailing through the front nine. A birdie on the par 5, 3rd and 8 pars had him sitting -7 and another birdie on 10 and he was tied in the lead. His meltdown was on the 12th. A wayward tee shot had him in the fescue, but it had not bothered him all week. His rough game, because of his strength had been amazing, but it deserted him on the 12th. It took him 3 to get out of the long stuff and a further 3 at the green and he carded a 7 on the par 4 to slip out of the picture. He got it back a little with a birdie on the 16th, but a hooked drive on 18 and he was gone. He finished tied 5th. Rahm really was a little like a spoiled child on the back nine today. He blamed everything from spike marks on the greens to the grass turning his club. He swore, threw clubs and bent shafts. It was not great to watch. I doubt he will have fond memories of this course come Ryder Cup time.
Marcus Kinhult had moved to -11 by the 3rd hole and was looking strong, calm and in control. On the 4th however, he topped his second shot from the second cut, hooked his next into no mans land, took a drop 50 yards back into more no mans land and took 7. It was this hole that proved to be the turning point in the tournament. He did gather himself and play the next 8 holes in even par, but another bogey on 13, followed by a double on 15 and he finished tied 5th with Rahm.
Chris Wood was another who had a shaky start. A seven at the 3rd, but birdies on 9 and 10 had him tied for the lead standing on the 15th, but a bogey there and another on 17 when he failed to get up and down from the front of the green, rattled his confidence. He took an iron off the 18th tee and was too far back for much of a chance at birdie. His second landed in the bunker and he made par to finish tied 2nd.
There were other challengers for the day. Most notably, Julien Suri. The American played with Justin Thomas and for much of the back nine, it seemed like Suri was going to take out the tournament. After his eagle on 9 and birdie on 10, he was leading. A bogey on 15 hurt him, but he was still in control coming to the 18th. His second shot though found the water and he doubled over as he realized he was out as well. Russell Knox came from nowhere on the last day and fired a bogey free 65, but came up one shot short.
It was Alex Noren who took out his 10th European Tour title with another come from behind charge. A bogey on the 4th was his only blemish and he made 2 great closing birdies around the "loop of doom" (15, 16, 17 & 18) to finish clubhouse leader at -7. The rest just couldn't get it done in the end and Noren was left on the practice fairway to wait out his inevitable victory. This is going to be a great venue for the Ryder Cup in September. This course brought the best golfers to their knees this week and in some cases like Jon Rahm, it drove them crazy to the point of throwing clubs and almost to tears. Can't wait!
Marcus Kinhult, Julien Suri and Russell Knox took the qualifier places for The 147th Open. The last spot that Wade Ormsby was gunning for all day. Unfortunately, his bogeys on 13 and 17 put pay to his Open aspirations and he finished lead Australian and tied 12th. No Open spots for Scott Hend(44th) or Sam Brazel(35th) either, but Brett Rumford(61st) has already qualified.
BMW International Open
As far back as 2014, the great Laura Davies called for bans on caddys standing behind players as they took their stances. She argued that being able to line up yourself as a player was a fundamental skill that belonged to the player and the player alone. It's hard to disagree with her. This rule, which is being changed in 2019 has again come to light as Matt Wallace has won the BMW International Open in Pulheim, Germany.
At the start of the day the overnight lead was shared by 6 players who were all at -5. Before all of them had even gone out from the 1st tee, Thorbjorn Oleson and Justin Walters were just finishing up on the 18th. The pairing had been -19 under par. Walters -8 and Thunder Bear -11, a new tournament record. If not for the "Snowman" 8 he took on the par 4, 4th the day before, the tournament could've been his. He was the clubhouse leader at -9 and the leaders now had to shoot 67 or better to win.
Max Keiffer was an early casualty starting double, par, bogey. The local crowd had the 2 German leaders playing together on the final day, but it was Kaymer, not Keiffer that rallied. Standing on the 17th tee, Kaymer was one off the lead and really needed to pull out 3 wood and have a go at the short par 4. He hit an iron instead. His lack of short game skills came into view as he thinned his second shot through the green and made a bogey from being 50 metres off the green for 1. The German challenge was over. The local crowd fell silent.
Andy Sullivan, Soren Kjeldsen and Matt Wallace all were making early progress on the last day. Sully had plenty of birdies, but also bogeys and he fell short. Kjeldsen had a great front nine, but only an eagle and a bogey on the back saw him finish a few short at -7. It was Matt Wallace who put his foot down and continued to make birdies all the way through his final day. He made the turn -2, but birdies on 10, 11, 13, 15 & 16 had him -7 for the day and -10 for the tournament. It was a mark that nobody else could get to and although many tried, they all fell short. The only problem I see from watching him is having the caddy line him up. It's just a bad look for the game as well as time wasting as the caddy says "Left a bit, right a bit"
As for the Aussies, Scott Hend had a very interesting week. He was one of the leaders heading out on day 4 and early on he was looking great. 3 front nine birdies had him 1 shot off the lead stepping onto the 10th tee. He sliced his tee shot, then hit the cart path on his second. Trouble! A double saw him drop back, but he recovered with birdies on 15 & 16. Again another player stepped onto the 17th needing to drive the green, but instead he hit iron, thinned his second through the back and made par. He fell short with a final hole bogey and finished tied 7th at -7. He did have a week of amazing recovery shots though and his skill from the hay had me thinking he may be a chance at The Open in 3 weeks time. Wade Ormsby was the other Australian in contention and finished tied 16th at -4.
An incredible final day where there were so many players who had a chance, but either bad decisions or poor execution cast them one by one. It looked like as many as 5 players would catch the leader, but they all failed. Only Matt Wallace seemed unphased by it all and came away with the win. It's his 3rd win on the European Tour, but he won't be able to be lined up for much longer.
Shot Clock Masters
The "experiment" for the European Tour this week went off without a hitch. The idea was to get round times faster by at least 30 minutes. They made it faster on average by 33 minutes. The scoring was the same, if not just a little better for the week compared to years previous, so the Tour proved that faster times does not equal worse golf for the customer to view. Only 4 players incurred a time penalty for the week and when you consider how many shots were played thoughout the 4 days, that's a pretty good result. Management for the tour would not be pushed as to how this will be used, going forward on the Tour calendar, but it's safe to say, that the week was a great result and there could be bits of this used going forward on the European Tour.
Mikko Korhonen was right at home with the time constraints and performed much better than the rest of the field. On the start of the last day, the question was not who was going to win, but by how much Mikko was going to win by. He started the last day with a 5 shot lead and was never really in trouble of surrending that. Yes it was cut to 3 at one stage, but just as easily as it was narrowed, it fell out again as players failed to take advantage. It was a great week for Mikko, who had his years of trying to even keep his card, let alone win on the Tour. This was his 146th attempt and he had been beack to Q School 4 times to stay where he thought he belonged. The 37 year old Finn now has his first win on the European Tour and who knows where he will go after this? Mikko only had 2 bogeys for the entire week and ended up winning by 6 shots over Scotsman, Connor Syme. The rest of the field were never in the hunt.
Australians Dimitrios Papadatos and Adam Bland finished tied 12th at -7, Marcus Fraser tied 19th at -6 and Wade Ormsby tied 30th at -4. We are off to Shinnecock Hills for the US Open this week. Nothing like a major.
The local crowds had the feeling that a local boy was going to take out their Open Championship on the final day. Francesco Molinari was fresh off a win last week and was firmly in the hunt here. He was playing in the group in front of Thorbjorn Oleson and the Dane had to watch Molinari and "his" crowd all day.
The golf course was ripe for the picking with Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jiminez already in the clubhouse both shooting a pair of 8 under 63's. There were also a number of other challengers and at one stage, one shot separated the top 10 players. The back nine was to tell the story though as one by one they slipped away. Lee Slatery could not continue his great form for the week and finished 3rd at -20. Rafa Cabrera Bello gave it a shake on the final day but parred some of the holes everybody else was birdieing and finished 4th with -18. Graeme McDowell was on fire through his back nine. He had 5 birdies in the first 6 holes after the turn and should have had more, but his putts kept just missing and he finished a frustrating tied 5th with Westwood and Andy Sullivan. Danny Willett had a great return to form as well and although he finished the final day with a 69, he finished top 10 for the first time in a very long time.
This left 2 out in front, Molinari and Oleson. The Italian was making birdies, but the Dane was matching them and although Oleson was 2 clear at stages, Molinari kept him in sight and after birdies on 13, 14, 15 & 16, Molinari unfortunately bogeyed the 17th. Oleson was 2 shots up with only 1 to play. The local crowd were pumping up Molinari and he made a fantastic 30 foot birdie up the last hole with Oleson watching from back in the trees after a wayward drive. The Dane held his nerve after making a great up n down from the bunker to hold on by a single shot and deny the home crowd their victory. What a finish!
Scott Hend was the leading Aussie at tied 14th.
BMW PGA Championship
Francesco Molinari has won the BMW PGA for 2018 with an impressive front nine on the last day. Starting as the co-leader with Rory McIlroy at -13, Molinari went out strong with birdies on 3, 4 & 8 to put space between him and McIlroy, who was having another ordinary round. Another birdie from the Italian on the 12th and he cruised home to victory with all pars to finish at -17 and take the first leg of the Rolex Series with ease. In fact, Molinari did not have a single bogey over the weekend of the tournament and it was that consistency, that made him the winner.
McIlroy was the disappointment on the final day. He played magnificent golf on the 2 opening days of the tournament, shooting 67, 65, but his weekend was far less impressive with 71, 70 just not enough to get the job done. His putting was incredible for 2 days and ordinary for the other 2. Again and again he let chances slip by with lip outs and close shaves or just not seeing the correct line. For a player with his obvious talent, the putter is a problem for him. Another problem is his lack of calling "FORE!" when he hits it wayward. He hit 2 spectators on the Saturday and again another on the final round, all without saying anything. It's disgraceful! make the call Rory!
The big Norweigan, Lucas Bjerregaard had one of the rounds of the week on the last day shooting a 7 under, 65 which included 5 back nine birdies. If his putter was just a little better down the stretch, he could have challenged, but his missed a few opportunities to finish 3rd with defending champion, Alex Noren. The Swede was great in his defense of the trophy, but a bogey on the 13th halted his final charge.
As for the aussies this week, it was a tournament that most of them would like to forget. Andrew Dodt was the lone Australian through the cut and he finished 51st with a final round 69 at least, which pushed him up the leaderboard a little. The golf course was magnificent and the crowds were too, but some of these pro golfers or their caddies need to start calling out to the crowd when they are offline from the tee. There are far too many spectators getting hit without any warning and this is not good enough for professional sportsmen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 in the playoff. Congratulations.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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……