Golf Capital – Reed takes first playoff win as Pieters gets picked for Europe

@hamishneal

A collection of my golf thoughts from the week plus some player performance/form notes for the next few days.

 

Opening drive:

From Olympic golf to the first event of the US PGA Tour’s playoff series it feels as if the ‘finals’ of golf for 2016 is into week three as Patrick Reed won the Barclays at Bethpage Black. All this with the Ryder Cup coming into view in a month’s time! Reed now leads the FedEx Cup and heads into the Deutsche Bank with strong form. The American’s one stroke win came after Texas-native Sean O’Hair closed with a five under round to fall short and Ricky Fowler also imploded after he looked set for the triumph earlier in the tournament.

 

North-west from New York in Alberta, Canada Ariya Jutanugarn returned from injury (she withdrew during the Olympics) to win the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open by four strokes with defending champion Lydia Ko ten shots back. The LPGA stays in Canada this weekend with the Manulife LPGA Classic in Ontario. Thomas Pieters won the Made in Denmark event on the European Tour on Sunday but, more significantly for the Belgian, he was selected on Tuesday as one of three ‘captain’s picks’ along-with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer for the European Ryder Cup team. There was some consternation with Russell Knox missing out especially as the Scot plays regularly in the USA whereas Pieters does not. Knox has two wins in the last year and Pieters three. I’d have gone for 31 year-old Knox based on the quality of his recent win I the Travelers on the US PGA Tour.

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Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investment, if that’s your thing. We head to the second event of the playoff series in the USA which will be held at TPC Boston.

 

20 and under: Henrik Stenson. The Swede withdrew from the Barclays due to injury but working on the ‘Jutanugarn theory’ of winning after a quick recovery the Olympic silver medalist is a top hope.

 

20 to 50: Patrick Reed. Playing with the other top two players in the standings could make Reed nervous but not much else will after his first-place finish last weekend.

 

20 to 50: Justin Rose. The Englishman is one of only two major winners with an early tee off time on Thursday and given the quality of winners in the last two significant men’s events (the Barclays and Olympics) that could be important.

 

20 to 50: Emiliano Grillo. After another great placing (T2) last weekend Grillo has now finished in the top 15 in five of his last six starts.

 

50 to 100: Justin Thomas. The rising star finished T10 last weekend but his even par final round was disappointing given he could have been expected to perhaps push on for at least a top five finish.

 

50 to 100: Gary Woodland. The Kansas native finished with three sub 70 rounds and was the only player at Bethpage who was in the top five to do so. But he hasn’t won since August 2013.

 

50 to 100: Charley Hoffman. It is a different course to last year’s event but the 39 year-old’s third behind Fowler and Stenson last year is worth consideration. He also won the event in 2010.

 

100 to 200: Jason Kokrak. Like Woodland, Kokrak is one of the lesser lights to have down well last weekend and has a reasonably early tee time on Thursday.

 

Greens in regulation:

Crans-sur-Sierre hosts the European Masters and many of the key European Ryder Cup players will feature in this event. Defending champion Danny Willett returns, and column favourite Matthew Fitzpatrick (who was second last year) is also back in Switzerland for the event which is co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour. This event in Crans Montana is the longest-running tournament held at the same venue in Europe, and the second-longest in the world behind the prestigious Masters. Clarke, with his whole team nailed down for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, now has a nervous month to hope his top-liners stay in form whereas the USA side are sitting on their final picks for now.

 

Tap in:

Advanced statistics in sport have started to become more prevalent and golf is already a fair way down this track in terms of what is logged regarding player performance but one of golf’s key events is getting further in on the action. Heading into the Ryder Cup USA skipper Davis Love III has admitted he is accessing statistics prepared by PGA to assess which players should be paired with which based on specific formats on the teams event due to be held in Minnesota in the final week of September/start of October. The theory been players are paired based perhaps on stats as opposed to personality, which has happened somewhat in the past. However when it gets down to the final pairings I wonder if Love will waiver on the stats and go with the vibe, or who the big names want to play with.

Image via sbnation.com

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 25 and Challenge Cup Final 2016

@hamishneal

 

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the 25th round of the NRL. The Sharks are currently in second place and meet top team Melbourne on Saturday night to decide the minor premiership. Should Cronulla slip up to hand the Storm top spot they could also miss out on second if the Raiders win the next day.

 

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Melbourne conceded three tries in the opening 40 minutes for the first time this season in falling 26-16 at home to Brisbane. The 26 points was also the most Craig Bellamy’s side had conceded in a single game this campaign. The latter statistic could be taken as a positive for fans of the Victorian side in that they would appear unlikely to concede more points in single game remaining this season based on their record this term. Bellamy admitted afterwards it was ‘poor reads’ which cost his side in defence, particularly in the first half, hence the reason the Storm’s missed tackle count of 25 might not be important a statistic in this case – Brisbane actually conceded more (31) in winning the contest.

 

North Queensland forward Jason Taumololo has featured a lot recently as we have tracked forwards running for over 200 metres. However we got a further insight into how much he is valued by his team, and what other stats he tops, when Cowboys’ performance analyst Steve Burman featured on the NRL Boom Rookies podcast. In addition to the metres gained Burman noted that the Kiwi international is highly regarded for the metres made after first contact (a good figure is 100 metres made after first contact if you match total is over 200 metres gained) plus tacklers committed per run and the ensuing speed of the play of the ball. Speaking about the Cowboys broadly Burman also noted Taumololo has played some 40 minute first halves recently, which Burman says “is a maturation for his game” and also pointed out that “it’s not a conscious decision (by the coaching staff) to up the minutes” of big name players in the finals but sometimes occurs. However Burman stated the strength of your bench goes a long way as to working out when your first forward interchange is made. For anyone who is interested in advanced statistics in rugby league I would highly recommend checking out the interview which starts about 50 minutes into the podcast. Well done to Mitch Doyle, Dale Roots, and Matt Bungard who produce an excellent podcast, now I just need a way to access the data each week to add ‘metres made after first contact’ as our new favourite statistic at Five Metre Gap

 

Naturally Taumololo topped the 200 metre mark running again this weekend making 201 metres as the Cowboys won 24-16 at Belmore with Kiwi Martin Taupau again topping that stat with 204 metres amongst forwards this weekend, but his side Manly were beaten 44-30 by Canberra. As the Sharks humbled the Roosters 37-12 on Saturday night skipper Paul Gallen ran for 211 metres but Gallen does tend to take a lot of runs from the kick off which can be easier metres to gain first up compared to edge forwards like Taumololo who don’t receive the ball from kick-off returns.

 

The relatively recent innovation of the 40/20 kick produced two crucial results this weekend in rugby league – keeping the Wests Tigers’ NRL finals hopes alive and helping to secure one club rugby league’s greatest knockout prize. Three years ago as an 18 year-old Tigers halfback Luke Brooks was pulling off stunning 40/20s in the youth competition and the Tigers playmaker’s late kick helped set up a victory over the Warriors which gives Jason Taylor’s side a shot at finishing in the top eight. Brooks’ kick set up territory for the Tigers and allowed Sauaso Sue to score his second try before Mitchell Moses and Kevin Naiqama dotted down – all of this happened in the last ten minutes. Despite the controversial nature of the games with the New Zealand side falling foul of the NRL Bunker Brooks’ late play shows how much the 21 year-old has improved this season.

 

Meanwhile, a long way from Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium Hull FC won the Challenge Cup final in London breaking a hoodoo in the English capital primarily on the back of Marc Sneyd. Down 10-0 on the hour the eventual Lance Todd Trophy winner (man of the match award) executed a great 40/20 before his pin-point high kick sent former Melbourne Storm outside back Mahe Fonua. Sneyd’s deft kicking game saw Jamie Shaul’s four-pointer put Lee Radford’s team ahead with Sneyd’s conversion. The Humberside team held out Warrington in the final stages (including a crucial Danny Houghton tackle) for their first Challenge Cup triumph since their 2005 win over Leeds in Cardiff. Former Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow had a strong first half, including a 40/20 of his own, but his Wolves side ultimately fell short. The 40/20 rule, which first came about in 1997, is one of the consistent rules across both the top flight competition in each hemisphere and proved it’s value this weekend in two dramatic finishes.

 

Image via the guardian.com

Golf Capital – Park victorious in Rio on stellar weekend for South Korea

@hamishneal

A collection of my golf thoughts from the week plus some player performance/form notes for the next few days.

Opening drive:

Olympic golf had another high-quality winner Saturday (Rio time) with seven-time major winner Inbee Park claiming gold ahead of world number one Lydia Ko and China’s Shanshan Feng. Park, 28, is already elevated to Hall of Fame status but may not play on much longer. If she does call it a day soon it will be some way to go out with the Olympics return as perhaps her last career win. South Korea’s great weekend continued with Si Woo Kim winning the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship. Seven years Park’s junior Kim was close to a victory when he lost out in a playoff to Aaron Baddeley a few weeks back so a win was not a surprise but the victory margin (five strokes) was. In what was the final event before the FedEx Cup playoffs Kim shot a 59 in the second round to continue a run of recent low scores in the US.

Whilst it wasn’t an American win on the PGA tour it was in Europe with now world number 180 Paul Peterson securing the Czech Masters title. Arizona native Peterson prevailed by one stroke over defending champ Thomas Pieters for his first professional win. Europe’s main tour heads to Denmark for the touristy-named Made in Denmark event which was won last year by Englishman David Horsey whilst the playoffs start in the USA with the Barclays at the imposingly-named Bethpage Black. The LPGA resumes in Calgary this weekend with the world’s top three in action in the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open where Ko is the defending champion.

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Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investment, if that’s your thing. We head to the start of the playoff series in the USA this weekend in Farmingdale, New York.

20 and under: Henrik Stenson. The Swede was second in the Olympics and also runner-up last year at this event.

20 to 50: Brandt Snedeker: The American shot no worse than 70 for his four rounds in the 2012 edition here and given the event was won with a score of only -10 shooting lights out in at least one round isn’t needed to prevail. T3 last weekend.

20 to 50: Justin Rose. Bar one terrible round of 79 the Olympic gold medalist would have been well in contention for at least a top five spot previously here.

50 to 100: Jim Furyk. The world number 22 Furyk was T10 on the weekend and has shot a few low rounds recently.

50 to 100: Emiliano Grillo. T8 in the Olympics, the Argentinian has had a solid run of four top 15 finishes from his last five starts. Won late last year on Tour.

200 to 500: Ryan Palmer. The American has an early tee time in round one and is T4 in par five scoring on tour this season on a course which could favour accurate players.

200 to 500: Graham DeLeat. The Canadian has performed well in recent weeks and he was T5 in the 2012 edition here. Experience matters in these events plus he started the Olympics well with an opening round of 66 recently.

200 to 500: Shawn Stefani. The 34 year-old closed with back-to-back rounds of 66 at the Wyndham to get into the FedExCup playoffs, and also jagged a hole-in-one during the week. It has been a good few weeks for those with recent hole-in-ones.

Greens in regulation:

As we bid farewell to Olympic golf until four years’ time for the Tokyo edition at the Kasumigaseki Country Club it’s time for a reflection on the format in the return. The stroke-play worked well but the lack of a cut was odd, however this was due to field capacity issues. Having 240 athletes for golf would be greedy in terms of taking up accommodation. An option could be to mixed teams event were you use the stroke-play event scores to qualify your team but it’s tricky to manage a team event within the schedule. Having ‘lesser’ players was a great experience for them but those players who had no hope of qualifying for to a team event if one was held after the stroke-play events thus feeling left out of end of the event, at least the current format saw everyone play on the final day. The tournament could start early like football and then have the teams event across the last few days but you then have an issue with whichever event goes first having to have those players stay around doing nothing, unless the stroke-play events were played simultaneously but that would probably not be good for TV coverage and would mean running two events at the same time so extra staffing etc. The simple alternative is keep the same format but award the team medal based on best two male/female scores but then the second half of the gold medal winning duo could be long gone from the country. Have I found an answer? No. I think this means let’s keep the same format and tinker if the sport is retained beyond Tokyo. That will be known by next year.

Tap in:

Western Australian player Curtis Luck secured the prestigious US Amateur title on the weekend beating Oklahoma’s Brad Dalke in the final. Luck won the decider at Oakland Hills in Michigan handily (6 and 4) but was forced to work in his semi-final pushed to a 21st hole by local Nick Carlson. Luck becomes the first Australian since Nick Flanagan in 2003 to win the crown and whilst Newcastle-born Flanagan hasn’t had a stellar career (with four second-tier victories in the USA to his credit) other recent winners Ryan Moore (2004), Kiwi Danny Lee (2008) and Brit Matthew Fitzpatrick (2013) have multiple wins at the top level in Europe or the USA. Luck gains entry to three of the four majors in 2017.

Image via: golfrevue.sk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 24 2016

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the 24th round of the NRL. The Panthers and Titans won to stay in the top eight whilst Cronulla fell to Souths on Monday evening which hands Canberra a chance to finish in the top two.

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The Raiders now have a chance for a home final during the early stages of the playoffs after they beat the Eels 28-18 on Sunday afternoon, coming back from 16-0 down at one stage. Canberra coach Ricky Stuart ensured his side didn’t panic which they could have from that far behind. Despite completing 14 of 16 sets in the first half it was the finishing touches that were missing for the Raiders until they crossed in the 23rd minute for the first of their six tries. Focusing on the process the tide turned and the Raiders returned to their dynamic best in the last hour of the match to win convincingly. Yes they did target a vulnerable right-side Eels defence but you can only beat what is put in front of you.

Cronulla’s lack of form heading into the finals has now reached concerning levels. Shane Flanagan’s side has not won in four matches (three defeats and a draw) and their complete lack of ideas when they had a huge weight of possession (25 minutes in Souths half during the first period) must be a concern for the previously free-scoring team. Even allowing for the wet conditions, and the absence of Paul Gallen, the 12-6 defeat and apparent lack of a plan B in attack could bring the Sharks undone early next month.

From the six-point on Monday night win there were positive signs for Souths looking towards next season – one of which has to be hooker Damien Cook. Recently elevated to the starting spot at the expense of Cameron McInnes the former Bulldog’s well-timed runs out of dummy half helped to set the Rabbitohs up for good field position, particularly in the first half. Cook, 25, also offers a reliable option as a back-up goal-kicker to Adam Reynolds. With the cardinal and myrtle reportedly in the market for want away Tiger Robbie Farah, 32, it appears Cook (who was only signed last season) is finally getting a deserved chance. This could present Souths officials with an interesting conundrum as they consider recruiting the NSW Origin rake.

Warriors debutant Ata Hingano was one of the rare shining lights for the Auckland franchise as they were thrashed 34-6 by the Cowboys on Saturday evening. The rookie ran five times for 67 metres and was not afraid to take the line on during his 63 minutes on the park in Townsville. The ex-Pakuranga College student helped lay on the only try for Andrew McFadden’s team on the evening popping a short ball to Ryan Hoffman after he was feed by veteran Simon Mannering. Contrast this with play-maker Shaun Johnson who ran once in the contest and it’s a stark comparison in effort for a side which now needs to win out to have any hope of making the finals.

In the fixture in Townsville saw Kiwi international Jason Taumololo run for 223 metres and was one of two forwards to break 200 metres over the course of the round. The other was Monday night. In a beaten side Shark Andrew Fifita made 238 metres from 24 runs. Taumololo, 23, made 21 runs for his gain to go with 17 tackles plus three tackle busts, whilst Fifita made a big 34 tackles and two tackle busts. Souths’ Sam Burgess (197 metres) and Melbourne’s Dale Finucane (188 metres) were the next closest to breaking the 200-metre threshold in round 24.

 Image via canberratimes.com.au

 

 

 

 

Golf Capital – Rose triumphant in Rio, Ko favourite for women’s crown

@hamishneal

A collection of my golf thoughts from the week plus some player performance/form notes for the next few days.

Opening Drive:

Only a matter of weeks after a thrilling finish at the Open Henrik Stenson was locked in another gripping contest, this time in Rio, but Brit Justin Rose prevailed on the 72nd hole to claim the first men’s Olympic stroke-play gold medal in golf. Rose, who won twice last year, has won every year on either the European Tour or US PGA Tour tour since 2010 and carded a final round 67 to claim the gold ahead of Open champion Stenson with Matt Kuchar of the USA claiming bronze. Officials got the tight finish in the men’s event which it desperately needed after it’s inclusion had been questioned by all and sundry, including top golfers. However Rory McIlroy appears to have changed his tune plus the women’s event has all the recent major winners aboard which the men’s competition did not so it will be interesting to see how things play out from Wednesday.

Elsewhere the US PGA Tour rolled on with Ryan Moore claiming the John Deere Classic. Moore, 33, has put together a tidy career with a win in three of the last four years but has struggled in majors with his recent best a T12 in the Masters last year so the win was somewhat of a surprise even with some tour regulars missing as they were playing in Rio.

Away from Brazil this weekend the US PGA Tour stages the Wyndham Championship. Won last year by Davis Love III. Americans haven’t had it all their own way at the Sedgefield Country Club track with recent wins to Spaniard Sergio Garcia (2012) and Colombia’s Camillo Villegas (2014.) The event is the last one before the FedEx Cup Playoff Series commences so players will be clambering for spots to boost their ranking. European Tour action returns with the Czech Masters in Prague which was won easily by Thomas Pieters last year. The Belgian finished just out of the medals in Rio.

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Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investment if that’s your thing. We stay at the Reserve de Marapendi venue in Rio with the women’s Olympic event which starts on Wednesday local time with a Saturday finish.

20 or under: Lydia Ko: The Kiwi World number one has two major wins to her credit and is looking for title number 20 as a professional. Ko, still only 19, has won a major this year (the ANA Inspiration,) lost a playoff in another and also finished third.

20 or under: Amy Yang: The course has one more par three compared to standard courses and South Korean Yang is second in par three scoring this year. Ko leads that statistic with Open winner Ariya Jutanugarn third.

20-50: Minjee Lee. The Australian has won this year already and in the men’s event the top four (bar Kuchar) had all won in the last 12 months.

20-50: Suzann Pettersen. Experience told in the men’s event with Rose, 36, the youngest of the top three (although fourth-placed Pieters is 24) so Pettersen, 35, fits the bill. But the Norwegian hasn’t won since 2013

50-100: Charley Hull. The Brit felt the pressure somewhat with a T17 finish at the women’s Open which was held on her local course and finished second to Ko in the Ana this term. The world #27 may have drawn inspiration from Rose’s triumph. Hull, 20, also ranks seventh in the par three scoring stat on the LPGA Tour we mentioned earlier.

100-200: Leona Maguire. The Irish amateur will be able to draw on the knowledge US second-tier regular Seamus Power (T15) and four-time Ryder Cup winner Padraig Harrington (T21) who posted low rounds of 67 with Power, doing it twice. Maguire is the world’s top female amateur and this event is the perfect lead in to turning pro which she will do after Rio.

200-500: Christel Boeljon. Looking for winning form at long odds the Dutch player last won in June of 2015 and also secured the Australian Ladies Masters title in 2012

500 or higher: Tiffany Chan. The Chinese player won the Hong Kong Open in June. Rose won the corresponding men’s event (sort of) in 2015 and with a lot of inconsistent players in the field Chan, 22, has some hope. Like Maguire currently retains amateur status.

Greens in regulation:

With a plethora of low rounds and a quality podium golf’s return to the Olympic family was with a strong pass mark. The TV ratings in the US were surpassed by only the Masters this year and the event already has lessons for the main golf tours. Greg Baum of Fairfax Media, in his reflections on the men’s event, noted at one stage he saw an inflated boxing kangaroo in the galleries (likely following Australian duo Scott Hend and Marcus Fraser.) Even the party-themed tournaments in the USA would probably ensure something that fun never made it on the course. Food for thought for golfing tour officials.

Tap in:

Eventual winner Rose and South Africa’s Jaco Van Zyl both nabbed a hole in one over the four days of the men’s event. Given the field had half the amount of a normal tour event that’s quite the strike rate. South Korean Inbee Park has already nabbed one in practice for the women’s event as well. It would be a decent feat if this trend continues over the duration of the life as a public course. If that happens it might be worth pulling up a seat at the bar there on your next trip to Rio as you are likely to score a free brew courtesy of any accurate locals.

Image via sltrib.com

 

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 23 2016

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the 23rd round of the NRL. For the second weekend running the Raiders have beaten the competition’s top side seeing off Melbourne having beaten Cronulla the weekend prior. Plus two games were decided by one scoring play, with one of those games in golden point.

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Canberra’s 22-8 triumph over the Storm ensured they finished the weekend in third place after the Bulldogs victor over Manly on the Thursday and it was built in a solid defensive effort. Melbourne had a large amount of attacking opportunities spending 18:19 mins in the Canberra 20 metre zone on attack, compared to 12:40 mins for the Raiders. To underline the strong defensive effort of Ricky Stuart’s team it’s worth noting the game was only the second time this season Melbourne have scored just one try in a match. (The other occasion was in round 4 when there were beaten 14-6 by Cronulla who currently lie in second spot.)

At Five Metre Gap HQ we have tried not to kick a team when they are down plus writing every week about what’s wrong with the Knights can become tiresome but a complete lack of sensible direction at the end of sets, despite their inexperience, is simply not good enough. This was shown up again at Hunter Stadium as they were beaten 42-6. Nathan Brown’s side conspired to see forwards Mitchell Barnett and Daniel Saifiti end up with the ball as the last tackle option on multiple occasions with their two New South Wales representative halves Jarrod Mullen and Trent Hodkinson failing to ensure they got possession as they team needs to lay on a key attacking play. On two occasions former Raider Barnett was forced to kick away possession causing no serious trouble for Penrith. The Newcastle side is inexperienced, but so are the Panthers who beat them. Anthony Griffin’s side had Nathan Cleary, 18, James Fisher-Harris, 20, Waqa Blake, 21, Bryce Cartwright, 21, and Isaah Yeo, 21, in their squad on Sunday. They are not making those sort of mistakes as often as the Novocastrians.

Without an outside chance of still making the top eight Manly disappointed their fans as they fell 20-16 to the Bulldogs in golden-point extra time after Canterbury playmaker Josh Reynolds twice crossed the line in the bonus period only to have the first try scratched off. Reynolds four-pointer, and an earlier one by teammate Brett Morris in the 27th minute (his second of the evening) beat some feeble Sea Eagles’ defence which highighted the lack of focus in defence from Trent Barrett’s team. Morris’ second try came at a time just after the first run of interchange occurs and your new players should be fresh but Manly lacked cohesion at key times. Given they recently conceded three tries despite beating the Knights perhaps we should not be surprised.

Staying with Manly Kiwi international Martin Taupau was the only forward to cross the 200 metre threshold this weekend running for 269 metres from 20 runs in the four point defeat. It should be noted he did miss four of his 30 tackle attempts but it wasn’t as bad a teammate Api Koroisau who missed seven to see Des Hasler’s side make ground around the ruck very easily. As former Eel Jarryd Hayne secured the win in ‘his house’ when the Titans beat the Tigers 19-18 Wests forward Aaron Woods got as close as possible to the 200-metre mark with 199 metres from 22 runs to go with his 22 tackles.

Finally, the round outlined (yet again) the two worlds in which the NRL exists. That on free-to-air TV (Channel 9) and that on Fox Sports – the pay TV provider. All five of Jarryd Hayne’s possible regular season games will be on Fox Sports as Channel 9 didn’t choose any of their fixtures even though the Titans were well-placed when the final few rounds were allocated dates recently. A further example came Monday night when it was noted the Raiders (who have been a top eight side for some time) will also not feature on free-to-air in the remaining three weeks of the regular season. This will not be the case in the next cycle when the NRL will allocate the days each game is played, and it won’t be a moment too soon.

Image via abc.net.au

Golf Capital – Knox again in 2016 and an Olympiad return

@hamishneal

A collection of my golf thoughts from the week plus some player performance/form notes for the next few days.

Opening drive 

Scot Russell Knox claimed his second title for the US PGA Tour season coming from three shots off the lead after the third round to win the Travelers championship in Cromwell. Knox could easily have opted for the European Tour’s match-play event on the weekend won by tour veteran Anthony Wall but elected to stay in the USA. England’s Wall triumphed over Swede Alex Noren for his first win since 2000 to win the Paul Lawrie Matchplay event. A prize for persistence if ever there was one.

In a tournament of stunning scoring in Connecticut Knox whilst winning, played somewhat second fiddle during proceedings in the final round as American Jim Furyk carded a remarkable 58 to claim a share of fifth. Inverness-born Knox joined Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and Dustin Johnson as the only multiple winners on the US tour this year and Knox has positioned himself well for the European Ryder Cup team.

The major women’s tours and the men’s Asian Tour have taken a break to focus on Rio but the John Deere Classic goes ahead at TPC Deere Run. Jordan Spieth is the defending champion but won’t take part and in an interesting quirk of the scheduled coming off Furyk’s 58 this tournament saw Paul Goydos shot a 59 in the 2010 event before going on to finish second so look out for low scoring.

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Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investments, if that’s your thing, in the weekend’s big event. We focus on the men’s Olympic golf event which takes place at the Reserve de Marapendi venue. The women compete next week.

20 and under: Patrick Reed. A likely key player in the USA Ryder Cup team Reed has been amongst the most positive supporters of golf in the Olympics. He has good recent form in relevant courses plus he has contended in majors of late – including a T12 at the Open. Designer Gil Hanse outlined the characteristics recently and the course has similarities to Australia’s sandbelt tracks with a slight comparison to some links courses as well. Hanse was assisted in the project by consultant Amy Alcott.

20-50: Danny Willett. The Masters champion did well in the Open in 2015 and has good form on tough courses.

20-50: Emiliano Grillo. The Argentinian has the same form in the last two majors as Reed T12 before a T13 at the USA PGA plus he shot a 66 to open his tournament at Baltusrol.

50-100: Joost Luiten. Dutchman Luiten was two shots off the winner in the 2015 Scottish Open and has won four times on the European Tour, but not since 2014.

50-100: Danny Lee. A winner on the US PGA tour this season and a good result in the Scottish Open when T3 at Caste Stuart, also designed by Hanse.

50-100: Ryan Fox, the Kiwi won the Northern Irish Open and has experience on Australia’s sand-belt courses. Recent relevant form on a links style should favour him and fellow Kiwi Lee.

100-200: Scott Hend. The Australian has won on the European Tour this season, albeit the co-sanctioned Thailand Classic on the Asian circuit but he’s also won a standalone Asian Tour event – the Queen’s Cup in June.

200-500: Hao Tong Li. The lanky Chinese player, standing at 1.83 metres, won his home Open this year at a course which experienced high winds so playing this track with no trees to speak of could advantage him.

Greens in regulation

Regarding golf’s return to the games after a 112-year absence Middle Australia makes a sensible case for what sports should be the Olympics and which ones shouldn’t, golf misses the cut (pardon the pun.) However I think it has value and could indeed act as a fifth, or home, major in the relevant years. Japan is never likely to host a major in Yuta Ikeda’s lifetime so maybe it’s another major for him in a way at Tokyo 2020. The same goes for number 22 in the women’s game, Harukyo Nomura. For what it’s worth I would have preferred the event as amateur only but that is not realistic given the star names associated with the bid pitch to get the sport in the games.

One of the most amusing stories in the last week was the fact the world number 20 Matt Kuchar didn’t know the format of the event. For the record there is no cut in the 60-player field with three-hole playoffs for top three ties. As it’s the Olympics there is no direct prizemoney but there are ranking points allocated. The format is structured with limits on the amount of participants from each country hence the majority, 42 of the 60 players, aren’t regulars on the US PGA Tour.

Tap in

A somewhat surprising announcement came last week with Nike confirming they will shut down their golf equipment operation. The swoosh will still produce golf apparel but they will no longer produce woods, irons, putters and bags for the likes of Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau and 14-time major winner Tiger Woods (if he ever makes it back at the professional level.) The delightfully named ‘The Oven’ which designed and produced the equipment will be closed with staff expected to lose their jobs. Australian-based journalist Jamie Pandaram indicated on the weekend the actions of the company headquartered in Beaverton Oregon may be linked to some damaging news for the sport on the horizon. Stay tuned for more.

 

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