A collection of golf news, notes and thoughts from the week across the globe covering tournaments in Perth, Adelaide and Los Angeles.
A Perth local beat out a rising star in the first World Super 6 tournament as 54-hole leader Brett Rumford also proved superior in the six-hole match play format beating Phachara Khongwatmai in the final on the same weekend Dustin Johnson became the 20th player to every reach the world number one ranking for the men since they were introduced in 1986. Johnson’s five-stroke win at the Riviera Country Club also meant he became the fourth player in history on the PGA Tour to win at least one tournament every year in ten years (or more) on tour. Florida resident Johnson joins only three other players to have done that – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
A busy Sunday saw a large portion of the field play/finish their third round before starting the fourth and Johnson, despite two bogeys on the back nine, had a healthy enough advantage to never really be in trouble. Johnson prevailed with Belgian Thomas Pieters and American Scott Brown in a tie for second.
Rumford’s win in Perth was intriguing in that the 39 year-old had a nine-shot spread on the players that got into the top 24 for the Sunday match-play component so his lead was effectively rendered worthless (even allowing for his first round match play bye which the top eight got) as everyone was back at level par so to speak come Sunday morning. Prior to the final day though there was great drama on Saturday as eight players, who finished at eight under, vied for five spots to round out the top 24. Playing in two foursomes to start with four players progressed in the first appearance of knockout match play for the weekend then Sebastian Heisele and Jordan Smith were eliminated with Kiwi Ryan Fox and Khongwatmai left to try to get the final spot. Despite over-shooting the green on the duo’s second attempt at the 18th hole the Thai 17 year-old chipped close enough to the hole before Ryan Fox missed his key putt from about 1.5 metres. On Sunday Khnongwatmai got lucky a few times and eventually made the final before Rumford won 2 &1. After this tri-sanctioned event the European Tour heads to South Africa for the Joburg Open this weekend with the Asian Tour and Australian PGA resuming next month.
An eagle-birdie finish to South Korea’s Ha Na Jang gave the world number six victory in the Women’s Australian Open at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club. Third-round leader Lizette Salas collapsed whilst up by three shots past the turn and ended up signing for a 78, which was a disappointing finish for the American who hasn’t won since 2014 on the LPGA. After Jang’s victory in South Australia the LPGA Tour heads to Chonburi for the Honda LPGA Thailand where Lexi Thompson is the defending champion.
Player performance notes:
Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. With the West Coast swing on the PGA Tour concluded Florida is home to the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens with the tournament won by Australian Adam Scott last year.
20 and under: Sergio Garcia. Second behind Scott last year the Spaniard has good course form and won earlier this month in Dubai.
20 and under: Justin Thomas. Recent tour winner (twice in January) Thomas was four shots behind the winner last year. As long as his busy early load on tournaments hasn’t got to him he could go well here.
50 to 100: Matthew Fitzpatrick. The Englishman’s focus is the PGA Tour this year and his experience on links courses will help on what can be a windy layout. Fitzpatrick, 22, will derive great benefit from his go around here last year even though he missed the cut.
50 to 100: Billy Horschel. T8 last year in the tournament Horschel closed with rounds of 66-69 to finish seven strokes from Scott and the former FedEx Cup winner was in a playoff last year on the PGA Tour so has contended relatively recently even though he’s yet to win since the Tour Championship in 2014.
50 to 100: William McGirt. The American shot the best final round (67) of last year’s top ten here and he’s progressed from ranked 109 to 48 in the last 12 months so has improved his play gradually and ranks third for greens in regulation on Tour this season.
100 to 200: JJ Spaun ranked second last season on the second-tier Web.com tour in greens in regulation so with water in play on 13 holes that statistic is important here. LA native Spaun missed the cut at Pebble Beach last time out but was T4 and T9 in his two events prior at Phoenix and La Jolla, respectively.
Greens in regulation:
Widely lauded by those involved in the game the modified format debut in Perth on a big stage was pretty good for a first go with the three tours involved. The drama on Saturday was good fun, when has 24th spot ever mattered before in a sporting event, but the broadcast missing the first two and a half hours of the Sunday match play meant several players from the top 24 weren’t even sighted in live play on Sunday. Maybe next time around the TV coverage can commence at the start of the final day’s play. My other quibble was having playoffs for positions 3-8 once players got knocked out of the main running. Why not split the prizemoney and points? It looked messy and meant one semi-final wasn’t following one hole behind the other as I thought the case may be. Another good idea offered up by Ben Coley of sportinglife.com was the concept of a ‘shot clock’ which would add to the knockout drama of some of the holes. Format aside, the Perth tournament had one aspect which absolutely need to be introduced at every tournament from this week onwards and that was the ‘kids zone.’ I’ve not seen it before but the area allowed kids an area to get an unimpeded view of play next to a specific hole. Most fans will allow kids to shuffle up front in galleries but giving children a dedicated area to be theirs is a good idea. This would also alleviate something Jordan Spieth has spoken about recently regarding his disdain for adults getting signatures to sell online but seeing kids miss out.
In Los Angeles it was interesting to note that Kevin Hall, who has been deaf since the age of 2, got into the Genesis Open on the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption. Essentially it’s an exemption for a golfer from a minority background. Hall, 34, missed the cut but it’s interesting that Tiger Woods who ‘hosts’ the event places this exemption on his entry list but seems to be the only PGA event which does so. Named after Sifford, often referred to as the Jackie Robinson of golf, this would be a good idea for players from each area to be given this opportunity when the PGA Tour comes to their part of the States.