Golf Capital – MacLaren short-changed despite back-to-back wins, plus the glory of Lofoten

@hamishneal

 

England’s Meghan MacLaren won back-to-back Women’s New South Wales Open titles on Sunday as Open Champion Francesco Molinari blasted to a two-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on the PGA Tour. South Africa’s Justin Harding won his first European Tour event at the Qatar Masters as Kiwi amateur Kazuma Kobori won the NZ PGA Championship on his home track at the Pegasus Golf and Sports Club.

 

Meghan Maclaren of England with her trophy

 

Opening drive

 

A stunning eight-under 64 in his final round saw Ryder Cup hero Francesco Molinari set a clubhouse standard relatively early in the final round which the chasing pack failed to match at Bay Hill. The event, which was dominated by Europeans with six inside the top nine, finished in odd circumstances with Molinari eleven groups back and five shots back after the third round before he prevailed over England’s Matt Fitzpatrick and the chasing pack.

 

After her Women’s NSW Open wins in Coffs Harbour last year this year’s title defence for Meghan MacLaren came at the Queanbeyan Golf Club. A great effort to go back to back finishing at 12 under saw MacLaren home by three strokes over Sweden’s Lynn Carlsson and Kiwi Munchin Keh. MacLaren, 24, went eagle-par-birdie over the last three holes to secure the win.

 

It’s just the shame the Women’s NSW Open doesn’t share the same prizemoney or stature as it’s Victorian counterpart where the men’s and women’s events are equal in prizemoney and played on the same course at the same time.

 

Northamptonshire native MacLaren pocketed only AUD22,500 for the victory in Queanbeyan. Jake McLeod’s NSW Open win in November netted him AUD72,000. MacLaren would have to win this tournament TWO MORE times to surpass what McLeod earnt in November. It should also be noted the NSW Women’s Open is co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour and the NSW Open on the men’s tour is not linked to any overseas tour. Something for the golfing bodies and tournament backers of the event to consider for the future, and across the tours for that matter. If the Men’s and Women’s NSW Opens’ can’t be run simultaneously maybe could they at least offer equal prizemoney to match the inclusive standard the Vic Open has set?

 

In Christchurch Kobori’s victory seemed likely after the third round when he lead before eventually finishing at 21 under after a final round three under 69. Kiwi David Smail finished second one shot ahead of Victoria’s Cameron John but collected the first=place prizemoney of NZD125,000 by virtue of Kobori’s amateur status.

 

The Qatar Masters, a European Tour event, went to Justin Harding after he finished at 13 under, two strokes clear of nine (!) players including overnight leader Oliver Wilson. Cape Town resident Harding has been a prolific winner with seven Sunshine Tour victories since 2010 plus two Asian Tour triumphs last year but this is his first ET triumph.

 

Greens in regulation

 

The Kenya Open is elevated to European Tour status as the ET leaves the Middle East for the next few weeks (yes it will eventually get back to Europe.) Nairobi’s Karen Golf Course hosts the tournament which has a somewhat surprising history with the 52-year-old event having the likes of major winners Ian Woosnam and Seven Ballesteros among the victors. After the recent tournaments in New Zealand the Australasian PGA takes a break until the PNG Open in May with the ALPG Tour this week in New Caledonia before a return to Queensland for the AVEO Brisbane Invitational. The LPGA resumes later this month in Arizona.

 

Tap in

 

Tiger Woods is back and it’s the ‘fifth major’ this weekend in men’s golf with The Players taking place on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass with great viewing including the ‘Island Green’ on 17. However, that, and any golf for the next few weeks is going to be hard to top compared to the spectacular viewing of Lofoten Links. This three-minute video from No Laying Up which I saw late one night about a week ago on my smartphone was so good the next day I went and watched in on the big television.

 

‘In the middle of the night, at the edge of the world.’ Enjoy.

 

 

This week

The Players

 

Justin Thomas

Since the start of 2019 Thomas has five finishes of top nine or better and was T11 at this track last year.

 

Francesco Molinari

Twice last year after winning (at the BMW Championship and Quicken Loans National) Molinari contended again finishing second or tied second at his next event so the Open winner has the ability to stay in form.

 

Jordan Spieth

Believe it or not Spieth is now ranked 47, his worst ranking since August 2013. Once T4 in this event early in his career the American must be due to turn around his form.

 

Keith Mitchell

Speaking of in form. After winning the Honda Classic Mitchell ranked 161st only two weeks ago maintained his form to finish T6 at Bay Hill.

 

2019 record:

Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.

Feb 20: Ledioda missed the cut and in Mexico Ancer (T39) was the best of the three.

Feb 27: Best two were Brooke Henderson (T15) after taking an eight on one of the par fives in her opening round and Harrison Endycott T17.

March 6: Matt Millar T23 in NZ was the best result in the tough weather on the South Island.

 

Image via TheLeader.Info

Advertisements

Golf Capital – Mitchell’s first win and Tiger’s pain in the neck

@hamishneal

 

First-time winner Keith Mitchell outlasted some guns of the game, windy conditions in Oman saw the winner (Kurt Kitayama) play 33 holes on Sunday after South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park was the best-performed final round winner of the week when she won in Singapore.

 

keithmitchellvalleymorningstar

 

Opening drive

 

After 96 ranking events Keith Mitchell prevailed in the Honda Classic in Florida over highly credentialed players for his first PGA Tour win (and win anywhere) as a professional at the PGA National track in Palm Beach. Recent winner Rickie Fowler (final round 67) and three-time major winner Brooks Koepka (66) looked like they would feature in a playoff before Mitchell’s four birdies in his last seven holes (including on 18) saw him claim a richly deserved win. There was also a rare Vijay Singh sighting at the age of 56 on the leaderboard.

 

Following his December win in Mauritius American Kurt Kitayama claimed his second European Tour title in quick time with a one-shot victory in the Oman Open. Kitayama ,26, opened his third round on Saturday with a quadruple bogey eight and eventually managed to overhaul a seven-shot deficit. The Californian’s recent rise from Qualifying School in November has been rapid and he showed great determination to win the weather-hit event at Al Mouj Golf.

 

Wodonga’s Zach Murray claimed the 100th New Zealand Open at the Hills Golf Club near Queenstown on the South Island after an opening round 63 put the recent Blitz Golf winner up on the pace immediately. Josh Geary (round of 63 on Saturday) and Ashley Hall (65 on Sunday) both pressed their claims at various stages on the weekend before finishing third and second, respectively.

 

Dual major winner Sung Hyun Park claimed her fourth LPGA title in 11 months, and sixth overall, when she edged home by two strokes over Australian Minjee Lee in the Women’s World Championship. Overnight leader and world number one Ariya Jutanugarn buckled firing a final round four over 75 and Park, three groups back, started her round with three consecutive birdies before signing for a 64 to finish at 15 under. Lee, who it should be noted at the age of 22 has won four LPGA tournaments, would have to be shaking her head at Park’s final round thinking a win for herself was highly likely.

 

In-form Dutchwoman Anne Van Dam claimed the Canberra Classic by three strokes. Heading into final round of the ALPG and Ladies European Tour co-sanctioned event tied for the lead with Slovenia’s Katja Pogacar before defending champion Jiyai Shin also made a run at the title. Eventually finishing at 17 under van Dan,23, now sits inside the qualifying spots for the European side for the Solheim Cup.

 

Greens in Regulation

This week the greens of Queanbeyan Golf Course host the Women’s NSW Open following the event been held in Coffs Harbour last year. England’s Meghan MacLaren is the defending champion of another joint ALPG Tour and LET event. Those heading along to the venue may spot a familiar face on the bag of recent Australian Ladies Classic winner Marianne Skarpnord as her caddie and fiancée is Australian golfer Richard Green.

 

The men’s European Tour has switched the Qatar Masters on the schedule in 2019 and thus the Doha event won see it’s defending champion (Eddie Pepperell) take part but the conditions will likely be typical of a desert golf track whilst in New Zealand the Australasian PGA Tour shifts to north of Christchurch for the NZ PGA Championship at the Pegasus Golf and Sports Club. This was won by Kiwi Ben Campbell last year on the North Island in Palmerston North.

 

Tap in

This week the US PGA heads to Bay Hill but some of the gloss is off the Arnold Palmer Invitational with Tiger Woods out due to a neck injury. Woods had a similar concern prior to the Open last year when he still managed to finish T6 however given his catalogue of recent injuries and surgeries in the last few years it’s not ideal. Especially given this is probably the tournament, outside of majors, Woods would have marked as a focus event in 2019 given he has won it a staggering eight times. I put myself back on the bandwagon last year having previously written off his career but this is at least somewhat concerning as the 43-year-old hunts a 15th major and more big wins.

 

This week

 

Arnold Palmer Invitational

Bryson DeChambeau The world number five didn’t reach his usual lofty standards last time out in Mexico and I expect a bounce back given he was second here last year.

 

Qatar Masters

Lucas Herbert. Am convinced the Aussie is tailor-made for the possible windy conditions in Doha and that effort in Portugal last year to race home at nearly in is still prominent.

 

Adrian Otaegui. Recently beaten in the Perth Super 6 event Otagui was tenth here last year.

 

NZ PGA

Matthew Millar. With some windy weather expected for the first two days the Canberran, who won the NZ Masters last year, can get in front early.

 

2019 record:

Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.

Feb 20: Ledioda missed the cut and in Mexico Ancer (T39) was the best of the three.

Feb 27: Best two were Brooke Henderson (T15) after taking an eight on one of the par fives in her opening round and Harrison Endycott T17.

 

Image via Valley Morning News

Golf Capital – NZ Open time, Mexican coverage turned off

@hamishneal

 

Arrowtown, Canberra, Singapore, Florida and Oman. Never let it be said golf can’t find a tournament venue. Coming up this week there is a variety of locations all hosting some of the world’s best this week, if not the rising stars.

 

SKarpnord_1920_20190224Aus_Ladies_Classic_rd4_678.jpg 

 

Opening Drive

 

American Dustin Johnson joined illustrious company as he romped home in the WGC Mexico event by five strokes at Chapultepec. Johnson’s victory made him the fifth player in the last 50 years under the age of 35 to reach 20 PGA Tour wins. The others are Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson and Johnny Miller. Quite an elite group. Rory McIlroy came home in second with a further five shots back to the group at 11 under in third.

 

Despite the presence of a WGC tournament on the calendar the PGA Tour circus continued with first-timer winner Martin Trainer claiming the Puerto Rico Open.

 

This week’s Canberra Classic follows the Australian Ladies Classic which as won by Marianne Skarpnord at Bonville Golf Club. The Norwegian finished at eight under two clear of Australian Hannah Green and Nuria Iturrios of Spain.

 

It’s an odd year so it must be Amy Yang winning the Honda LPGA Thailand. The Korean edged home by one stroke from Australian Minjee Lee during a weather interrupted fourth round which saw Yang, Lee and Carlota Ciganda tied for the lead. Yang has also won the event in 2015 and 2017. She will be strongly lobbying to keep this event on the LPGA calendar.

 

Before the Australasian PGA Tour heads to the New Zealand Open the 2018 NZ Open winner Daniel Nisbet was a comprehensive winner of the Queensland PGA Championship from Deyen Lawson and Harrison Endycott by six strokes coming home with a final round of 64 – the equal best of the day. Queenslander Nisbet has risen to a career-high 312 in the rankings with the triumph.

 

Greens in regulation

 

Having not won since 2014 Michelle Wie prevailed in last year’s HSBC Women’s Champions event at the Sentosa Golf Club and the LPGA returns again in 2019. Whilst the PGA Tour heads to Florida for the Honda Classic, a tournament with Justin Thomas won in a playoff last year over Luke List.

 

The European Tour loops back to the Middle East for the Oman Open which was won in 2018 by Dutchman Joost Luiten in the inaugural edition of the tournament.

 

Tap in

 

Maybe not a tap in perhaps a throwing of the clubs into the water in anger on this one.

 

Yet again golf fans (even those with subscription television) we’re left lamenting the lack of coverage of the WGC Mexico event. Golftv, yet another online streaming platform, carried the event, but the communication about the lack of coverage on Kayo and Fox Sports in Australia was very frustrating. Luckily the other offerings over the course of the weekend meant golf fans were still treated to some quality but missing this from Tiger Woods unless you were on social media is frustrating for folk who have shelled out money in the expectation they will get ALL the top flight golf.

 

This week 

 

New Zealand Open

Harrison Endycott

Second in Toowoomba last weekend Endycott was T11 here last year and has five top ten finishes in his last ten starts.

Nick Voke.

Kiwi Voke was T7 her last year and has since won three times in the PGA Tour of China. Had the week off last week after his recent jet-setting.

Daniel Nisbet. Hard to not follow in the defending champion who is also a last start winner. However he did miss 14 cuts in 23 starts last year.

 

LPGA Singapore

Brooke Henderson.

Second here last year and the Canadian has finished sixth in both her starts thus far in 2019.

 

2019 record:

Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.

Feb 20. Ledioda missed the cut and in Mexico Ancer (T39) was the best of the three.

 

Image via ausladiesclassic.com.au

Golf Capital – Korda kicks a fourth family Australian Open, Fox finally in Perth and time runs out in LA

@hamishneal

Korda family history was made in Adelaide came as Kiwi Ryan Fox won in Perth before JB Holmes, eventually, prevailed in Los Angeles.

 

Nelly-Korda_Golf-Australia_low-850x455

 

Opening drive

 

Nelly Korda eased to victory in the Women’s Australian Open by two strokes but not after a six-stroke lead was chipped away at late in the day following Jin Young Ko’s eight under 64. The defending champion was second to Korda with the winner rolling in an impressive 28 birdies over four rounds at Adelaide’s Grange Golf Club. Korda, 20, joins dad Petr, brother Sebastian and sister Jessica as an Australian Open winner. The former duo in tennis (Sebastian won the junior boys’ singles in 2018) and Jessica won in the Women’s Australian Open on 2012 following a six-player playoff.

 

Within a few hours at Lake Karrinyup Kiwi Ryan Fox broke through for his first European Tour triumph when he won the co-sanctioned World Super 6 Perth event after seeing off Adrian Otaegui 3 & 2 in the final. This followed three wins earlier in the day in the six-hole match-play format. Fox, son of All Black legend Grant Fox, has now won five professional events and the victory got him into this week’s WGC event in Mexico and made up somewhat for his playoff defeat last year in Ballyliffin in Northern Ireland.

 

Elsewhere the Genesis Open (LA Open) was won by JB Holmes by one stroke from Justin Thomas who entered the day in a strong position to win before shooting four over 75 as Holmes one under saw him edge home.

 

Greens in regulation

Last week we were tut-tut-tutting Sergio Garcia’s destructive play at a recent European Tour event and this week in California one recent wrong was finally corrected by Matt Kuchar after much chagrin before the annoying ‘slow-play’ topic raised its head during Holmes’ triumph.

 

Veteran Kuchar, after a win in Mexico during November, has finally agreed to pay his fill-in caddie for that week the reasonable amount after multiple statements/interviews and pressure. David Giral Ortiz (El Tucan) had initially bucked at a US$5,000 payment following the win. El Tucan thought might get ‘topped-up’ by Kuchar and many golf pundits and fans, upon hearing the news expected a payment to the Mexican in the order of US$129,000 as what should have been offered following the win – no matter what agreement the duo had made prior to the tournament.  El Tucan was only seeking around US$50,000 so it’s actually quite stunning Kuchar and his team (including super-agent Mark Steinberg) thought low-balling El Tucan in the renegotiation process for US$20,000 was a sensible idea.

 

Kuchar’s payments to El Tucan weren’t the only controversy to fizz at Riviera as winner JB Holmes’ pace of play coping a raft of criticism. Holmes, who won for the first time since April 2015, should be known for his quite remarkable comeback from brain surgery in 2011 to return to the tour the following year but he will become the poster-child for slow-play with several other players unless players are properly monitored. There are multiple rules officials and events like the Shot Clock Masters show that logistics for monitoring time spent before shots can be looked at. Enforced time limits for shots and perhaps even a total round allotted time should be set, perhaps allowing for poor conditions if needed.

El Tucan was only seeking around US$50,000 so it’s actually quite stunning Kuchar and his team (including super-agent Mark Steinberg) thought low-balling El Tucan in the renegotiation process for US$20,000 was a sensible idea.

Coming off the previous event the AT&T Pro Am which was drawn out until a Monday finish, thanks largely to the celebrity amateurs dragging out proceedings, the last thing the Tour needed was someone dragging out the end. Holmes took an inordinate of time over several putts including short ones and it just isn’t necessary.

 

Tap in

Before next week’s New Zealand Open Daniel Fox defends his title in the QLD PGA Championship. Whilst further south from Toowoomba on the New South Wales north coast the Australian Ladies Classic takes place at Bonville Golf Club.

 

On the LPGA Tour, after their Australian swing, the tour heads to the Siam Country Club in Chonburi for the LPGA Thailand.

 

The men’s WGC Mexico Championship takes places at Chapultepec and hence there is no European Tour event but the PGA Tour will still squeeze the lemon with the Puerto Rico Open

 

This week

WGC – Mexico

Marc Leishman . Since his CIMB Classic win in October Leishman has an impressive five T4 or better finishes in his last seven starts.

 

Alex Noren. 14th last year here the Swede hasn’t set the world on fire in recent weeks but he did conclude 2018 with two top ten finishes, one of which was the ET’s World Tour Championship.

 

Abraham Ancer. The local was T52 at his event debut last year but since then has won the Australian Open and claimed six top ten finishes which has seen him rise from 246th to 61st in the world.

 

Puerto Rico Open 

Hank Lebioda. With T38 and T29 finishes in vastly superior PGA Tour events in the last month Lebioda, who is in his first full year on the PGA Tour, much can be expected of the Floridian.

 

2019 record:

Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.

 

Image via lpga.com

Golf Capital – 2019 Return. Tantrums and troubles but fun at Barwon.

@hamishneal

From tantrums to dubious tournament venues it’s been a busy few weeks in golf since we last reflected on the goings on with the great game. Here we go to start 2019, albeit rather late.

ISPS Handa Vic Open - Day Four

Opening drive

Scotland’s David Law produced a stupendous eagle on the 18th as Wade Ormsby blew up late in the piece at the Victorian Open to claim the men’s title whilst Celine Boutier secured a first LPGA triumph in her second year on tour with victory at the Barwon Heads venue. Law’s, win adds to his home triumph in Scotland last year on the second-tier Challenge Tour and the 27-year old beat Ormsby and Brad Kennedy by one stroke with Boutier a two-stroke winner over another Australian duo, this time Sarah Kemp and Su Oh. One of the stars of the dual-event tournaments which even allowed people to take their dogs for a walk on course, was American Kim Kaufman with a great slam dunk on the very tricky par three seventh on Saturday.

Phil Mickelson secured another win this time number 44 on the PGA Tour and number five at Pebble Beach when he came back for a few holes on Monday to prevail over Paul Casey in the AT&T Pro Am on the Californian coast.

Greens in regulation

Sergio, Sergio, Sergio. We need to talk… At the tournament which shall not be mentioned one-time major winner Sergio Garcia lost the plot and was disqualified by the officials after the third round following his rough treatment of multiple greens. Interestingly, there appears to be no vision of the damage to the greens but there is footage of the 39-year-old overreacting in a bunker like he has just had his sandcastle trampled by his elder brother at the beach. The Spaniard wasn’t DQ’ed for that although I’m sure that was a part of the thinking by the officials. It’s probably ironic in a way that we couldn’t see what Sergio did wrong given the host nation of the tournament has been in the news for things that happen in far away places. Hmm…

 

Tap in

Since the last golf capital we’ve seen some first time-winners plus top ranked winners across both the men’s and women’s game. On the European Tour American Kurt Kitayama won in Mauritius, Louis Oosthuizen triumphed in the South African Open, and David Lipsky also won in the Republic. Into the Desert swing of the ET Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Bryson DeChambeau, now ranked a career high of five, won in Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively.

 

Before last week’s Vic Open the only LPGA event since our break was the Tournament of Champions won by South Korean Eun-Hee Ji in Florida. Whilst the PGA Tour has seen wins to Jon Rahm in the limited field event in Bahamas, Brian Harman joined Patton Kizzire on a team at late notice to claim the QBE Shootout before wins in Hawaii to Xander Schauffele and then Matt Kuchar. Schauffele’s win was another limited field event but back on the mainland produced the short of the last few months as Adam Long who has toiled away on lower tier tours since 2011 won for the first time in 142 ranking events as he won the Desert Classic. Long holed at putt on the last at La Quinta as multiple major-winner Phil Mickelson looked on. The restore normality afterLong, previously ranked 417th, had won the week prior England’s world number one Justin Rose won the Farmer’s Insurance Open before Ricky Fowler won in Phoenix prior to Mickelson’s Pebble Beach win.

 

On the Australasian men’s PGA Tour Cameron Smith won on the Gold Coast in December (an event co-sanctioned with the European Tour) and that tour resumes regular full field stroke-play events after the World Super 6, also co-sanctioned with the European Tour, this week

 

This week

Women’s Australian Open

Nelly Korda. The American has won as recently as October and returned with a third at the TOC in Florida.

Su Oh. After going close in Victoria the Australian could prevail at the Grange venue in South Australia.

 

World Super 6 Perth

Paul Dunne. A Golf Sixes winner in team’s format the Irishman was 17th last time out in a stronger field.

Dimitrios Papadatos. 11th here last year making the Sunday play the Central Coast golfer has won three times in the last two years and twice on the Aus PGA in that time.

Stay out of the bunker, Until next time.

Golf Capital: Belgium’s World Cup triumph as The Match goes extra holes

@hamishneal

Belgium won the World Cup of Golf on the weekend it took Phil Mickelson 22 holes to win The Match as Aaron Rai scored the first European Tour event of the new season as the ET flew it’s way from the Middle East to Hong Kong to start a new season.

thomas-detry-thomas-pieters-world-cup-of-golf-sunday-2018-trophy

Opening Drive

 

Belgian duo Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry secured a world cup for the European nation, coming five months after they seemed to start the men’s football World Cup as everyone’s roughie before finishing third after they lost to France in the semi-final. An impressive three-stroke triumph capped proceedings on Sunday at The Metropolitan course to see them see of the host nation, Australia, and Mexico.

 

The victory was set-up as the Belgians entered the weekend tied for the lead before their round of 63 in Saturday’s fourballs (best ball) gave them a five shot lead heading in Sunday. This was not only the first time Belgium had won the event but their best result since a T4 in 1955!

It wasn’t pretty but Phil Mickelson ground out victory in The Match over Tour Championship winner Tiger Woods in the controversial Las Vegas contest on Friday. The win came after 22 holes but failed to get going early on from a quality point of view as it wasn’t until the fifth that each player registered their first birdie.

 

England’s Aaron Rai won the opening European Tour event of the season breaking a run of Australian winners of the Hong Kong Open after finishing at. Like Belgium in the World Cup Rai had a commanding lead (six strokes) heading into Sunday at the Fanling course but Matt Fitzpatrick’s six under 64 had the Wolverhampton native nervous until Sheffield’s Fitzpatrick dropped a shot at 17.
Player Performance Notes

 

This week the Australasian Tour heads to Queensland for the Australian PGA which is co-sanctioned with the European Tour.

 

Under 20: Lucas Herbert. Seventh in this event last year since then Herbert has placed in the top ten on six occasions in European Tour events which has seen him rise from 290 in the world to 82.

 

20 to 50: Cameron Davis. Despite only finishing T40 in his title defence of the Australian Open Davis showed signs of promise for this time of year going 69-68 in the middle two rounds which was impressive given the tough conditions on Saturday but the bookend rounds of 76 and 75 cruelled any real chance of a result. He showed great resolve after playing his first three holes in seven over.

 

20 to 50: Curtis Luck. Now a PGA Tour member Luck was 11th here in 2017 and might appreciate the return to the track having missed the last three cuts on the PGA Tour as he shifts from the Web.com.

 

20 to 50: Jake McLeod. The NSW Open winner followed that up with third in the Australian Open and he’s improved at this event in the last three years after missing the cut he was 25th in 2016 then 11th last year. Another interesting player here is Anthony Quayle who I watched at the Australian Open, he did well in the last co-sanctioned event between the two tours – the Fiji International.

 

Greens in regulation

 

For the fourth year since it’s inception the Greg Norman Medal has gone to a female with Minjee Lee claiming the honours at Tuesday’s awards night. Lee, who started the year ranked 19, is now ranked sixth having climbed to as high as five following an LPGA win during 2018 to go with her Victorian Open triumph. Lee joins Jason Day (twice) and Marc Leishman as winners of the award.

 

This week the limited field events start on the US PGA with the 18-player Hero World Challenge taking place in Bermuda. Whilst the European Tour’s other tournament for the week the Mauritius Open is held at the Four Seasons Golf Club in Anahita.

 

Tap In

 

Shadow Creek in Las Vegas played host to The Match and no other city in the US of A would have been more appropriate. My chief disappointment with it was not the concept itself which I’ve written about recently but more along the fact it wasn’t broadcast in Australia. At the time the 19-time combined major winners were competing for the USD9 million across the Foxtel platforms we copped replays of the previous day’s action in the World Cup of Golf and Hong Kong Open. That’s not unusual and in normal circumstances would be fine but if you are going to trumpet a brand new ‘Netflix for Sports’ it’s no good if you can’t get the big viewing event for that time on your main platform.

Technology was also a major hindrance to the coverage in the USA with the pay per view platform falling over and the event eventually going out for free (Doesn’t that sound familiar to FIFA World Cup fans in Australia.)

The apparently obscene prize fund could be argued to be a market correction or commission of sorts for two players who generate great interest which in turn generates revenue for the tour and it’s players. Would it have been acceptable if the prizemoney was 5 million or 3 million?

11446175_web1_GLF-THEMATCH-NOV24-18_RB_2349.jpg

 

Weighing up pros and cons of the event. The fact PGA Tour players compete for the funds they do each week is because of Tiger Woods and, to a lesser degree Phil Mickelson. The apparently obscene prize fund could be argued to be a market correction or commission of sorts for two players who generate great interest which in turn generates revenue for the tour and it’s players. Would it have been acceptable if the prizemoney was 5 million or 3 million?

 

Yes there should have been clarity around the charity aspects, yes there should have been more fans (maybe paying an entrance fee to said charity) but that wasn’t possible due to the rules around the use of drones in the TV coverage, strange but they are the civil aviation rules the event had to abide by.

But really if the argument is something like this shouldn’t at least be attempted because the prizemoney is too much it’s an odd position to come from and one with limited reasoning. As a change to the four day 72-hole stroke-play events which appear to take place on similar courses each week in the USA this is a good idea. I’d love a European Tour version with Rory McIlroy (assuming he stays eligible) versus Justin Rose. I’d also love more Golf Sixes events – team and individual.

Images via golfdigest.com and reviewjournal.com

Golf Capital: Ancer’s Aussie triumph, Friday at the Lakes

@hamishneal

Mexico’s Abraham Ancer capped an improved 2018 with a triumph in Sydney to claim the Australian Open comfortably as Danny Willett and Lexi Thompson won the season ending events on the European Tour and LPGA respectively. Keeping up the trend of veteran winners and drought-breakers Willett was joined by Charles Howell III who won for the first time in 11 (!) years.

 

ancerausopennov2018.jpg

 

Opening drive

 

27-year-old Abraham Ancer dominated The Lakes Golf Club on Saturday before easing to victory on Sunday at the Australian Open and moved to a career-high 60 in the world I doing so. Ancer finished at 15 under, having signed for a seven under 65 on Saturday followed by a three under on the next day. Central Coast golfer Dimitrios Papadatos and Queensland’s Jake McLeod (who endured a rules issues on Saturday costing him strokes) won their way into the Open at Royal Portrush by virtue of their second and third place finishes.

 

Also at the Lakes on Sunday was the final round of the three-round Australian All Abilities Championship. Sweden’s Johan Kammerstad won by an astonishing ten strokes finishing at 17 over with Ireland’s Brendan Lawlor in second. Geoff Nicholas (+33) was the highest placed Australian in fourth.

 

Ariya Jutanugarn claimed all the prominent LPGA awards for 2018 to finish the season at number one but it was American Lexi Thompson who won for the first time this year as she won the CME Group Championship in Naples, Florida by four strokes over Nelly Korda. Thompson has won every year since 2011 (bar 2012.) Which is some feat when you remember she is only 23. Jutanugarn finished T5 six strokes back from Thompson’s 18 under.

 

England’s Danny Willett triumphed for the first time since his 2016 Masters win when he secured victory at the DP Tour World Championship in Dubai on the weekend finishing at 18 under. Francesco Molinari won the European Tour’s season-long  race. Willett started Sunday matched with this year’s Master champion Patrick Reed before an early bogey from Reed helped give Willett a lead he never relinquished.

 

11 years after he won the Nissan Open Charles Howell III beat Patrick Rodgers in a playoff at the RSM Classic to claim his third PGA Tour title. Rodgers had a record-setting weekend of scoring (61-62) to force the playoff and Howell, who could have won it in regulation, prevailed after the second playoff hole when he birdied 18 at the Sea Island Resort venue.

 

Player performance notes

To team golf for one of our last looks in 2018. Won last time (2016) by Denmark the World Cup of Golf goes to The Metropolitan in Melbourne with the home duo the favourites in the 28-team event.

 

Under 20: Australia. Cameron Smith was picked to join Marc Leishman by the CIMB Classic winner who admits he hasn’t played the course ‘in about 12 years’ but they got a good look at the venue with amateur Daniel Micheluzzi on Tuesday and are both in good form.

 

Under 20: USA. Matt Kuchar picked the consistent Kyle Stanley. The team leader has won recently and Stanley scored two high quality finished in 2018 (WGC – Bridgestone and The Memorial)

20 to 50: South Africa. Young South African duo of Dylan Fritelli and Erik Van Rooyen could be suited to the Melbourne Sandbelt. Van Rooyen was named the European Tour’s ‘graduate of the year’ and Fritelli has been playing in the USA recently plus registered a T7 in Dubai.

 

20 to 50: Sweden. Course familiarity with matter but given Denmark won last time out I’ll go with another European pair from that neck of the woods. Both Alexander Bjork (April in China) and Joakim Lagergren (May in Portugal) have won in 2018 giving them confidence for an event in which they’ll have no pressure.

 

Greens in regulation.
After the season wound up in the Middle East the ‘new’ European Tour gets underway with the Hong Kong Open. The Fanling track has been home to much success with Wade Ormsby the last winner and Sam Brazel before that.

 

The PGA Tour sanctions the World Cup of Golf so doesn’t have a direct event up against this tournament but there will be some focus on Friday (Saturday morning in some locales) when ‘The Match’ sees Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson battle it out over 18 holes of match-play for a USD9 million purse. When the made-for-tv event (there will be no spectators on the course bar VIPS and officials) was first flagged up I was not as opposed to it as others. If the event is perhaps the fore-runner to the return of Monday Night golf that is fine. I don’t think it takes the gloss off the World Cup too much, but I would like to see them pull the cash out each time they lose one of the side bets

 

 

Tap in

On the Friday of the Australian Open I did head out to the venue to check out proceedings. There is a good chance I’ll put something down to review the day but in case times gets away here are five musings

  • It doesn’t matter about the standard of players, which can be the catalyst to getting people to a tournament, once you are watching it live the nuances of the groups you are following become the focus.
  • Anirbarn Lahiri might be a sneaky candidate for Alpha-dog golfer of the year. He stood at the foot of the bridge waiting for Brandt Snedeker and Cameron Smith to play their third shots on 14 after driving the green in two.
  • What is the scale for ‘golfer hits you with their ball’ rewards? A gentleman was struck on the shoulder by a Brandt Snedeker drive on 14. He got a signed golf, but if it was say the hand would that be a signed glove and two balls?
  • Speaking of golf balls… shout out to Anthony Quayle for giving me his ball as he walked off the ninth (his last for the day and tournament) on Friday. Having missed the cut he could have sulked away but instead turned around to me as I passed the players and said “Thanks for coming out.” Quayle and his group which included Kiwi Nick Voke and fellow Australian Cameron John would have been followed by about 25 people across the four or so holes I followed them and it was a small touch for a player who would, rightly, not be in the mood for that sought of interaction after his round. Rather embarrassingly I couldn’t find a young child nearby to give the ball to but my eldest now has a new treasured sporting possession to go with the captain’s armband he was gifted from Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante last season.
  • People can’t leave celebrities alone some times. Jimmy Barnes was watching a group that included his good friend Peter Lonard and someone was still asking for a photo just as Barnes and the rest of the gallery was about to putt! What until the walk to the next tee champ!

 

Image via winghamchronicle.com.au

Bringing you insight and thoughts in the world of sport with a focus on rugby league and football.