A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes… Tiger nearly won! Okay I’ll calm down, Paul Casey broke his own-drought (the Englishman last won in September 2014) edging Woods in the Valspar Championship and there was a second European Tour victory for fellow Brit Matt Wallace who triumphed in the Indian Open.
The now world number 149 Tiger Woods drained a birdie putt on the 17th at Palm Harbor’s Copperhead Course as he attempted an improbable (at least a month ago) win for the first time since August 2013. Woods missed out of the chance to force a playoff with Paul Casey but the Cheltenham-born golfer held on after posting an equal best of the day 65 in the final round. Woods went 70-68-67 and looked ominous sitting one stroke behind Canada’s Corey Connors with 18 holes to go but it was Casey, who started the day five shots back of the leader, who set the standard which couldn’t be matched.
Woods, who thrives in Florida (his place of residence like many pro golfers), has seen his club-head speed return recording the fastest swing of any player on the PGA Tour this year at a shade over 207 kilometres per hour at Tampa on the weekend and coupled with deft iron play highlighted by his recent high proximity to hole statistics a win now seems a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’ Woods, who is favourite this weekend, recorded the best proximity to hole figures at the Honda Classic.
Winner Casey recently lost a friend so was quit emotional after the victory. The 13-time winner on the European Tour has only previous triumphed once in the USA but the result is notable as Casey has recorded top six finishes at the last three editions of the Masters
In Delhi, Matt Wallace prevailed at the first extra hole seeing off countryman Andrew ‘Beef Johnston after they both finished at 11 under. Wallace, who was joint overnight leader with local hero Shubhankar Sharma shot a final round 68 but Johnston’s 66 forced extra time. However, Johnston electing to lay up on 18 (the first playoff hole) paved the way for Wallace to claim his second win since May last year in Portugal.
Player performance notes
Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Staying in Florida the USA PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational takes place at Bay Hill. Ranked 656 at the end of 2017 Woods almost got home last weekend but I still need him to show me he can string multiple weekends together in contention and backing up across multiple weeks will be a significant challenge. This will be his fifth full-field tournament of 2018 and he has missed one cut in that period.
Under 20. Jason Day. The Australian’s T2 at Pebble Beach followed his win at the Farmers Insurance and he won here two years ago before Marc Leishman prevailed in 2017.
20 to 50: Tyrell Hatton. Third a fortnight ago England’s Hatton has played this venue once before for a T4 here last year
20 to 50: Adam Scott. World number 56 Scott is another quality player looking to snap a long-term winless run and he enters this event having finished T13 at the Honda Classic before a T16 at Valspar, the latter result included a third round 66.
20 to 50: Henrik Stenson. Before a missed cut last year the Swede had a four-year run when he finished at least eighth in this tournament but he is yet to win here
20 to 50: Kevin Chappell. The American has two top ten finishes this year so isn’t exactly blasting away with form but he’s finished second here to years ago to when Jason Day prevailed plus he’s also finished second at another big tournament in Florida when second at The Players in 2016, an event also won by Day.
Greens in regulation
This week the LPGA tour heads back to the USA with the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix Arizona. Anna Nordqvist is the defending champion at the, here we go, Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Resort and Spa (branding – ???) after firing a super low 25 under. The Australasian PGA Tour returns in about six weeks with the PNG Golf Open in Port Moresby from April 26 and start planning your holiday now – the Fijian International is on from August 2-5 in Sigatoka.
The European Tour takes a few weeks off from a sole event with the WGC Match Play event in Austin Texas next week before the Masters and a return with the Open de Espana from April 12. However in the period around the Indian Open the talk on the ET wasn’t just about the coal mine size bunkers. The ET announced Saudi Arabia would come on board as a future venue host. The yet to be named tournament will be staged at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club from January 31- February 3 next year and has attracted controversy due to various policies held by the local Kingdom and it’s leaders. The move should not be a surprise given most nations in that region host a tournament. Whilst they may not all play nicely politically it is hard to pot players for attending the events. As much as I am an advocate of human rights it seems rough to ask individual athletes (who may be suited by the venue) to not play their when other aspects of industry, politics and other areas of life still have relationships with the country. The athletes can perhaps use their platforms to make a protest whilst they are there and discuss the issues but asking them simply not to go to the venue as the only solution is too simplistic.
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