Golf Capital – Casey denies Tiger, Masters ever closer


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.


Opening drive

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.


Tap in

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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Golf Capital – Drought-breakers and a week of Mexican fun


A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from a week of significant drought-breaking wins and more thrilling golf entertainment. Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson beat Justin Thomas in a playoff, Michelle Wie won as another Korda almost claimed the victory in Singapore and Daniel Nisbet won the New Zealand Open.


Opening drive

The drought-breaking weekend of golf commenced when Caboolture’s Daniel Nisebet overhauled Terry Pilkadiras in the New Zealand Open for only his second professional triumph. Nisbet at 27 under won at Arrowtown to go with his 2016 triumph in Hong Kong on the PGA Tour of China. Pilkadaris, who is yet to win on the Australasian PGA Tour, will very much see this as an opportunity lost.


A four-year winless run was ended when Michelle Wie’s final round final round 65 saw the American edge ahead after a monster putt on 18 and eventually see off four players a  shot back including overnight leader Nelly Korda in Singapore. Wie’s last win was the 2014 US Women’s Open. Korda went into the final round at the HSBC Women’s World Championships looking to complete a unique family double with sister Jessica having won the week prior but Wie’ final round 65 left Korda, plus Brooke Henderson, Danielle Kang and Jenny Shin in a tie for second. Wie’s clutch putt from off the green on the last hole gave her the decisive lead before she watched Kang miss a chance to force a playoff in the following pairings.


Having last triumphed in 2013 at the Open Phil Mickelson finally registered professional win 49 when he prevailed over Justin Thomas in the first playoff hole in the WGC event in Mexico. Thomas had a great hole out on the 72nd hole for eagle to force the playoff before 47-year old Mickelson won the first extra hole. The PGA Tour resumes in Florida this week with the Valspar Championship.


Pretoria’s Tshwane Open was won by 10-tine tour pro winner George Coetezee who entered the tournament as one of the favoured players. This weekend the European Tour heads to India and is played at a diabolical venue designed by the legendary Gary Player. Recent ET winner Eddie Pepperell said the course was ‘designed by satan.’ Last year local SSP Chawrasia claimed victory.


Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Shifting to the US PGA Tour the Valspar Championship, won last year by Adam Hadwin, takes place in Florida. Tiger Woods plays the Cooperhead course in Palm Harbour for the first time


Under 20. Justin Rose. World number five Rose was T8 in his last event in the USA and he has a solid record at this event with two top 10 finishes including an eighth in 2014 plus two other top 20 events. The Englishman won four starts ago in Indonesia.


20 to 50: Tony Finau. The American was second in his last start in the states (the Genesis Open) and his fifth place finish here last year shows he likes the course. He hasn’t won since 2016 so it would snap a streak similar to other recent golf victories.


20 to 50: Adam Hadwin. Canadian Hadwin’s last victory was here and he’s finished T6 and T9 in his last two starts so has roared back into form before his title defence.


20 to 50: Henrik Stenson. The Swede has an impressive recent record of 7-11-4 in this tournament and won as recently as August last year.


50 to 100: Branden Grace. A winner in November in South Africa Grace finished with a 68 in Mexico to end up T30 but he has won in nearby South Carolina.


Greens in regulation

Another drought was also snaped when England’s Meg McLaren triumphed in the NSW Women’s Open. The event finished off a period of high profile events which kicked off in early February with the joint event with the Victorian Open and was highlighted by Jin Young Ko’s Australian Open triumph. McLaren’s victory in the Women’s Open was her first on the Ladies European Tour and came after the Wellingborough native finished at ten under. Sarah Kemp (T5) was the best placed Australian behind 23-year-old McLaren.


Tap in

It’s not a tap in it’s a hole-in-one but Ross Fisher’s 1 during the WGC Mexico Championships was a great shot – it’s even better with the local Mexican commentary on it! Enjoy


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Trials and tribulations – a reflection on Darije Kalezić’s time at the Phoenix


“Speculated Wellington Phoenix coach Darije Kalezić has managed four teams in four years in three countries (England, Holland and Saudi Arabia” I noted back in May.

“It doesn’t exactly scream stability”

And henceforth the Swiss-born coach won’t end the season in charge of the Kiwi-based A-League franchise. As March started with the club announcing his departure.

Setting aside Kalezić’s next few weeks (it looks like he’s holding on for a payout) his reign at the Phoenix will be recorded as one of failure. And up there in the top few of poor A-League coaching tenures – think Tony Walmsley at the Mariners or Jim Magilton at the Victory.

I’d hoped Kalezić’s record coaching with, and against, A-League players in Holland plus the network he could utilise to bring in high quality imports would work in his favour. But realistically his lack of knowledge of the A-League coupled with the loss of key players in the off-season was always going to be a huge barrier to overcome.

I predicted, with a great deal of sadness, the Nix would finish last and this looks likely.

There was an array of situations this season which highlight why the 48-year-old probably wasn’t right for the role and why he’s been moved on four times now in five years as a coach.

Without trying to overthink a trial game Thursday’s announcement had me casting my mind back to when the Phoenix lost to the Central Coast in September and the two particular incidents from the match at Lisarow, just north of Gosford, which puzzled me:

-Towards the end of the game trialist Tinashe Marowa (who has since returned to New Zealand Premiership side Tasman United) was told to sit back down as he went to get up and join his teammates to warm up. That can’t be good for moral and makes no sense.

-Goalkeeping coach Fernando vaz Alves spent a period of the loss screaming at shot-stopper Lewis Italiano. At one stage Italiano (who has lost his job twice this season to other keepers) had to make a play whilst the former FFA Centre of Excellence mentor was yelling at him. Distracted Italiano fumbled and the resulting mess near the edge of the area ended up in a free kick to Paul Okon’s side. My feeling was it’s a trial why not wait until the interval or the end of the game to query whatever it was that went wrong. And certainly don’t do it when the player is well in play?

They are mere slivers of time in the season but I think they displayed how abrupt Kalezić (and his coaching staff) dealt with players.

As the season proper got rolling Kalezić’s stubbornness saw other odd scenarios.

-On New Year’s Eve chasing what would have been a winning goal in a match which ultimately finished 0-0 dynamic teenager Sarpreet Singh came on very late in the game (the fourth minute of time added one) but only after a defensive substitution when Dylan Fox entered the fray six minutes earlier. Waiting so long to make the attacking replacement, even it had come in the 88th minute, was strange in a game which needed a spark.

-Adam Parkhouse, who must be one of the best A-League players when you consider wage to output, was shifted to play on the right during the campaign at one stage. Parkhouse has often been a makeshift player but forcing the left-footed speedster to play an inverted winger role made life tough on him and forced teammates to adapt their play for the umpteenth time this season.

I’m not sure who should be the next coach. I would like Des Buckingham to be given the opportunity but I sense the time has come for Auckland City boss Ramon Tribulietx (if he can have his pro license sorted by the start of next season)

Whoever the coach, they must realise the challenge they are taking on. Ernie Merrick has done tremendous things with the Newcastle Jets since leaving the New Zealand capital, but his departure was partly due to the limitations of the role. The next coach must be cognisant of the restraints the position comes with.

Connection with the city, culture and player development in New Zealand is also key but producing on match day is fundamental.

Finally, and this is only small, but it says a lot about Kalezic’s time at the club. I don’t recall him once coming over to speak to the fans at the away games I attended. Ernie did. Ricki Herbert did. Darije didn’t. Senior players such as the club stalwart Andrew Durante (who appears set to retire at the end of the season) understood the value of this connection which I think the former Roda JC mentor never did. The All Whites defender has also passed on the values of the club to the young players.

Sarpreet Singh showed the value of the fans earlier this year in Newcastle after a rare win in high-fiving my eldest tama.

A fleeting moment of joy in a stagnant season.

The lesson from Kalezić’s time at the club is culture and understanding plus style breeds winning. The Phoenix have the club culture. The new coach must bring the understanding and style.


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Golf Capital: Korda’s jaw, Pepperell’s win, Justin and the sledger


A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Justin Thomas climb into the top three, Eddie Pepperell break through on the European Tour and Jessica Korda win for the first time since 2015.


Opening drive

Justin Thomas needed only one hole in the playoff to win the Honda Classic and see off Luke List which prevented the Seattle-born player from grabbing his first PGA Tour victory. Now world number three Thomas has won eight times on the PGA Tour since November 2015. Thomas and List finished at eight under with a birdie each on the last when it looked like it might be a three-person playoff with Alex Noren. The Puerto Rico Open has been cancelled this year due to the ongoing impact of Hurricane Maria from late last year but the WGC Mexico Championship takes places at Club de Golf Chapultepec with Dustin Johnson the defending champion.
American Jessica Korda won on her seasonal return with an impressive 25 under at the Honda LPGA Thailand event in Chonburi. Korda, 24, won by four strokes from Moriya Jutanugarn and Lexi Thompson with Australian Minjee Lee a further three strokes back. The LPGA heads to Singapore for the HSBC Women’s Wold Championship in Singapore won last year by Inbee Park


I’ve noted before how much I enjoy Eddie Pepperell, his blog and twitter feed are not your standard fare, so I was happy to see him rip off his hat in delight when he tapped in for victory at the Qatar Masters. Having led with Oliver Fisher at 16 under heading into the final day at the Doha Golf Club Oxford-born Pepperell recorded a two-under round to win by a shot from Fisher with Swede Marcus Kinhult third. The ET returns to South Africa for the Tshwane Open in Pretoria won in 2017 by South African Dean Burmester.


Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Kiwi Ben Campbell won the Horizon Golf New Zealand PGA Championship in Palmerston North. This week the Australasian PGA Tour, in an event co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, shifts to the South Island for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open at the Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown. Michael Hendry won in 2017. The early stages are played over two courses.


Under 20: Ryan Fox. New Zealander Fox was T3 in Malaysia two starts ago in a much stronger event and was T6 only three shots behind Hendry here last year.


Under 20: Lucas Herbert. Herbert missed the cut in Oman straight off a beaten semi-final effort in the Perth World Super 6 event so that’s not a major knock in my view. I also think he’s improved since he missed the cut here last year evidenced by his rise in the rankings from 501st to 178th.


20 to 50: Matt Millar. The Canberra golfer again showed his best recent form is in New Zealand with a T5 on the weekend having won the NZ Masters last month. Last year here he was T32


20 to 50: Anthony Quayle. The Queenslander was in with a chance to win last weekend and was T3 in the Victorian Open so is showing form in similar level events. A T15 last year included a 67-67 weekend performance.


100 to 200: Daniel Gale. Sydney’s Gale is one of the recent stars rising from the amateur ranks and this summer we’ve already seen the likes of Cameron Davis triumph. Gale qualified in for this tournament shooting 67 at Cromwell, 45 minutes away from this week’s venue.


Greens in regulation 

Not only was the 73 holes eventful for Thomas at the PGA National Golf Course in Florida for the Honda Classic as multiple players held the lead late in the day he also had to deal with some terrible sledging from a spectator late in the round. The odd post-putt ‘get in the hole!’ this was not. Thomas’ win was the end of an eventful week which showed us even though Tiger Woods, with a 12th-placed finished, might not spook as many of the current crop of players in his pomp he can still make some players buckle. With two wins on the PGA Tour since November last year one would expect Patton Kizzire, 31, to have enough recent confidence when paired with Woods for the first time but this was not the case. Kizzire missed the cut with rounds of 74 and 78 as Woods finished the opening two rounds 11 strokes ahead of Kizzire. The Big Cat has still got it.


Tap in

Korda’s fifth career win was notable not just for the fact it included a course record 10 under 62 in the second round in Thailand but due to her comeback from an unusual injury. Beset with breathing issues and persistent headaches the Floridian has what she labelled ‘double jaw surgery’ in the off-season. This was a procedure which saw her end up with 27 screws in her face and a numb (but not painful) feeling. Korda’s previous best finish in a major was T5 in the 2014 British Open and this new surgery seems to have changed her confidence levels.





Golf Capital: Ko wins Australian Open, Bubba’s strange week


A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw South Korea’s Jin Young Ko claim the Women’s Australian Open title and two players (Bubba Watson and Joost Luiten) win for the first time since 2016.


Opening drive

Jin Young Ko eased to victory at the Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide winning the Women’s Australian Open by three strokes it what was her first start as a full member of the LPGA. The tournament, which was co-sanctioned with the local ALPG tour, saw Hyejin Choi finish second with Australian duo Hannah Green and Katherine Kirk in third and fourth, respectively. Ko led from start to finish posting scores of 65-69-71-69. Green’s third round 66 saw the West Australian edge into contention but Ko’s recent win in Korea (in an event co-sanctioned with the LPGA) meant the Korean had the edge on the rest of the field to win handily.


In addition to the win it extends the impressive results Ko had during limited LPGA starts in 2017. To go with the South Korean’s three wins on the KLPGA last year Ko was T16 in the season-ending title and T15 in the US Open. She’s now won seven times in KLPGA/LPGA or co-sanctioned tournaments in under two years. A major win for the 22 year-old is surely coming within the next three years.

It’s quickly over to Chonburi for the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament where Amy Yang is the defending champion whilst the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour commences a series of three tournaments on the North Coast of New South Wales with the Australian Ladies Classic at Bonville.

American Bubba Watson won the Genesis Open in Los Angeles which he has, oddly, won every even year since 2014. Watson faced several challenges on the final day and when Patrick Cantlay lead with nine to play it looked like the challenge of the two-time Masters winner would fizzle out. But three birdies on the back nine, highlighted by a hole out from the bunker on the par three 14th, pushed Watson to victory.

For the first European Tour top line event played in Oman Joost Luiten prevailed at the Al Mouj course to win the Oman Open. The Dutchman entered the final day tied at the top with Matthew Southgate of England and Frenchman Julien Guerrier before Luiten’s 68 (equal best of the day) was enough to edge home over England’s Chris Wood.


Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Rounding out the series of Middle East events for this time of year the European Tour’s Qatar Masters takes place at the Doha Golf Club.


20 to 50: Julian Suri. Back on the European Tour after three starts in the USA American Suri will do well to remind himself he thrives on this tour having finished T2 in Hong Kong at T8 in the season-ending DP Tour World Championship. He won twice last year and one of those was in Denmark on the ET.


20 to 50: Jeunghun Wang. It almost feels like I have shares in Wang such has been my recent support of him in Middle East events, but that is on the strength of his win here last year. Add to that a closing 68 at Oman and I’m in again. Incidentally, you CAN have shares in golfers, just as Scotland’s Duncan Stewart.


20 to 50: Erik Van Rooyen. The third longest driver on the ET the South African was third last year at the Challenge Tour’s season-ending event in Oman. Van Rooyen, 27, also won in South Africa and China last year displaying some nice versatility.


20 to 50: Chris Wood. We’ve seen repeat winners prevail at venues after a recent dip in form such as Bubba Watson and Wood’s second placing in Oman is of note for a player who won this tournament five years ago at the same venue.


50 to100: Sean Crocker. The American has missed the cut twice in his last four outings but he’s also picked up a T5 in Perth where he was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the match-play and T6 in Singapore. This course usually suits long-hitters and Crocker is top 20 in that statistic on tour.


Greens in regulation
“Obviously God’s given me a gift to play golf and I’m not good at anything else.” Genesis Open winner Bubba Watson is a different cat and his post-round reaction to his tenth PGA Tour victory was maybe not surprising given the rough period he’s had on the course. After a severe dip in form Watson had dropped to 117 in the world before the triumph however it is Watson’s reaction to his win plus his mid-tournament sojourn which are particularly fascinating. Watson’s apparent defeatist attitude to his other ability outside golf might perhaps explain his relative lack of career success compared to other players. Thinking he has to win because he won’t be good enough to do well at anything else must play on his confidence to a degree. It might explain the fact Watson, 39, has only 11 other professional wins in his career. He didn’t win until his 30s on the PGA Tour. Compare this to 38-year-old Sergio Garcia. Whilst the Spaniard took until last year to win his first major he was still knocking up winning events – he’s now won 33 in his career. However, I may be reading too much into one quote and Watson needs to relax during tournaments more often.

This was best evidenced by Watson’s trip on Friday night to the NBA, and not just to watch it. The Florida native played in the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game held in Los Angeles. I was unsure as to the effectiveness (read safety) of this sort of activity during a tournament, at which stage he was three shots off the lead. Naturally he fired an impressive 65 the next day to lead after the third round before winning by two. More basketball Bubba and less thinking about what you might not be good at.
Tap in 

The week after Western Australia was on show with a European Tour event linked to the local tour it was a WA golfer winning on the Australasian PGA Tour. In Toowoomba Daniel Fox won the (wait for it) Coca-Cola Queensland PGA Championship presented by Wippells Volkswagen (phew.) Fox withstood the challenge of Taree-born Steven Jeffress and Canberra’s Matt Millar (who had a putt to force a playoff) to win at 18 under after a final round five under 65. The Australasian PGA Tour now moves to Palmerston North for the Horizon Golf NZ PGA Championship, won last year by Perth’s Jarryd Felton.

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Golf Capital: Kiradech – King of the knockout, stars in Adelaide for Open.


A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Kiradech Aphibarnrat win the World Super 6 in Perth, former world number one Jiyai Shin triumphed in Canberra and near rank outsider Ted Potter Jr stared down multiple major winners to claim the victory at Pebble Beach.


Opening Drive

Thai golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat won his fourth European Tour title, and tenth at the professional level, when he saw off Newcastle’s James Nitties in the World Super 6 match-play final at Lake Karrinyup.


There was much to like about the drama at the Perth venue. Aphibarnrat only got into the top 24 for the match-play element on Sunday by virtue of winning the final playoff contest with the Gold Coast’s Anthony Quayle after four holes on Saturday. Quayle had two chances on Saturday to slam the door shut on the Bangkok native but couldn’t. The Saturday action was even more stunning as Lee Westwood and last year’s winner Brett Rumford fell away to miss the top 24 altogether going from the overnight lead heading into the third round to each shot 78s and miss playing on Sunday. This paved the way for the final day drama which included at all-Newcastle quarter-final with Nitties beating Cal O’Reilly plus a host of great contests utilising the shortened shoot-out hole.


50-time winner (yes 50!) Jiyai Shin brought up the historic mark when she stormed around Royal Canberra on Sunday firing a final round eight under to win the Canberra Classic by an impressive six shots at 19 under. Shin came into the day three strokes adrift of Australia’s number one Minjee Lee at the event co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour. An eagle at 15 was crucial for the 29-year-old South Korean once one of the game’s big stars. Shin held the world number one ranking during 2010 and has two British Open majors to her name.


The litany of golfing stars and celebrities didn’t bother Ted Potter Junior as the Florida native won easily by three strokes on Sunday at Pebble Beach to claim the AT&T Pro Am for his second PGA Tour win. TPJ saw off challenges from major winners Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickleson who all finished in a tie for second with American Chez Reavie. One would have expected the 34-year-old to fold after he bogeyed the opening hole having started the day as joint-leader with Johnson but he tamed the California coastal venue with birdies on four of the next six holes.


This weekend Tiger Woods is back (okay I need to stop saying this) as the PGA Tour heads to the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles for the Genesis Open which is the concluding leg of its West Coast Swing and was won by Dustin Johnson last year.


Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Adelaide plays host to the Women’s Australian Open which is co-sanctioned with the LPGA Tour and brings a far stronger field than the men’s equivalent. Eight 2017 winners from the LPGA are  taking part plus four of the current top ten in the world. Ha Na Jang won in 2017 and 2015 champion Lydia Ko, who has gone through a period of major change, is playing this tournament for the eighth time despite been only 20 years of age.


Under 20: Minjee Lee. Whilst Lee disappointed on face value at Royal Canberra the fact she was in contention to win having triumphed the week prior is positive given many of her main opponents here will be playing for the first time this season. She shot nine-under in the second round in Canberra.


Under 20: So Yeon Ryu. The world number three won twice on the LPGA tour last year – including a major in the ANA Inspiration and returned for the year finishing T11 in the Bahamas.


Under 20: Brooke Henderson. Canada’s top player won the New Zealand Open in October and despite not turning 21 until September has won five times on the LPGA Tour. Placed in the top ten in the Bahamas.


20 to 50: Hannah Green. 21-year-old Green was T7 here at the Kooyonga Golf Club last year and since then has qualified for the LPGA Tour. Her LPGA debut last month saw her place an impressive T11 along with Ryu in the Bahamas having had to deal with windy conditions and delays.


200 to 500: Holly Clyburn. English golfer Clyburn finished fifth in Canberra which came after a sixth place at the Victorian Open so she has adapted well to the local conditions.


Greens in regulation

Second time around for the World Super 6 was another great event and the ‘mic’d up’ players added a interesting element with actual insight (hello athletes in football codes) as evidenced by Lucas Herbert.


The lack of television coverage early on the final day is really the only criticism one could make of the event which needs addressing immediately. Like last year when I noted the need to scrap the playoffs (the third-place contest is still silly) and look at the idea of a ’shot clock’ as suggested by Ben Coley of a few tweaks are still required but on the whole things are positive for the format and style of the event.


The lack of a few more star names is made up for in the drama of the format but my sense is the tournament will need some marquee names sooner rather than later. However these would have to be from the European Tour or other Australian’s as the timing means it clashes with some big name US PGA Tour events.


Tap in 

This weekend a new country is added to the top flight of golf as Oman becomes the 44th country to host a European Tour event. It’s been a rapid rise for the sultanate and even quicker for the course which has only been open six years. The Al Mouj Golf venue, designed by Greg Norman, is elevated to the main tour having hosted the Challenge Tour (second-tier) season-ending event for the last three years. Oman, home to a population of just over four million, has two golfers ranked and they are both amateurs – Saami Keating and Azaan Al Rumhy. The latter is playing this week in the NBO Oman Open and he has won two of the last three amateur titles played at this venue.

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Golf Capital: Phoenix records and Vic Open wrap


A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw another playoff in the USA this one going to Gary Woodland, plus wins for star Minjee Lee and Tasmanian Simon Hawkes at Barwon Heads as Indian Shubhankar Sharma won in Malaysia.


Opening Drive

Three-time LPGA winner Minjee Lee scored a comprehensive five stroke victory in the women’s event of the Victorian Open at 13th Beach Golf Links whilst Tasmanian Simon Hawkes got home after a playoff on a busy Sunday at Barwon Heads. Whilst Lee led at halfway before winning easily Hawkes faced a few challenges on the final day and even though he had a chance to win in 72 holes needed just the first playoff hole to see off Harrison Endycott of New South Wales. Hawkes, who spent part of 2017 playing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, heads to Perth this week and has an Australasian PGA tour card set for the next three years. Lee is short in the betting to salute in the Canberra Classic at Royal Canberra this week – a forerunner to the Australian Open.


The co-sanctioned Maybank Championship in Malaysia finished in a convincing win for Shubhankar Sharma of Indian when the 21-year-old, who also won the Joburg Open in South Africa in December, came from four shots back after the third round to win by two from Spain’s Jorge Campillo. The Spaniard can feel hard done by as most people who lead a golf tournament going into the final day and shot 68 usually win. In this case a ten under 62 from Sharma saw him win at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.


Rickie Fowler followed the recent trend of third round leaders dropping away in this event to finish outside the top ten (T11) as Gary Woodland beat Chez Reavie on the first hole of the playoff at the Phoenix Open after both players finished at 18 under. Woodland’s seven under was the best of the day on Sunday and the 33-year-old won for the first time in five years to move up to 26 in the world. This might seem high for a non-winner but he’s incredibly consistent having had ten top ten finishes since that start of 2016 and missing only seven cuts in 56 events in that period.


Fun fact about the PGA Tour, since the ballistic missile warning false alarm in Hawaii the week of the Sony Open every tournament has gone to a playoff. Make of that what you will.
Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The big pro-am event at Pebble Beach is the PGA tour feature but the second attempt at the Super 6 format in Perth gets our attention this week. Western Australia’s Brett Rumford prevailed in 2017 in the tournament which follows a stroke-play format until the end of the third round when a further cut it made and 24 players are left to feature in elimination match-play. The top eight after 54 holes get a bye into the second round of the match-play format which are six-hole contests with playoffs on a special shoot-out hole if needed.


20 to 50: Lucas Herbert. Knocked out early in the match-play section last year. Herbert, 22 , was T8 last time out in Singapore when he secured a spot in the British Open . The Victorian was T7 in the Australian PGA in his most recent start in Australia.


20 to 50: Andrew Johnston. The Englishman was a late addition after the withdrawal of Tyrell Hatton and he returns after a T15 two years back under the stroke-play format. A repeat of that gets him into the match-play format and a recent T9 in Abu Dhabi when he resumed for the year is promising.


20 to 50: Jason Scrivener. Another top WA golfer who is close to breaking into the top 150. Scrivener was 208th this time last year when he made the semi-finals at Lake Karrinyup. Scrivener, 28, missed the cut in Malaysia but was T6 in a strong field the week prior in Dubai.


50 to 100: Austin Connelly. The Canadian was ninth last year like Herbert going out having won one of his match-play contests before losing to recent NZ Masters winner Matt Millar in the quarter final. NB: As a recent winner and quarter finalist Millar was on the short-list here


50 to 100 Travis Smyth. Shellharbour’s Smyth won the NT PGA and featured in my thoughts in big events at the back end of 2017 when he recorded three consecutive top 20 finishes highlighted by a T10 at the Australian Open. It shouldn’t be forgotten he was a quarter finalist at the USA Amateur last year in Los Angeles – great experience for the pressure of match-play if he can make it into the top 24.



Greens in regulation

So the SuperBowl was the biggest sporting event in the USA this weekend? The TV ratings may confirm that but the Phoenix Open seems to have found a niche with the single-biggest ever Saturday crowd – a jaw-dropping 216,818 for a tournament total of 719,179 across the week. The No Laying Up podcast reported there was some questionable behaviour on the Saturday with 26 incidents (not necessarily arrests) but you can’t argue when the general admission seating of 37,000 on the stadium hole (the 16th) is full by 7:30am! Nearly four hours before the first group was due through. How are they entertained you ask in that time? The DJ is cranked up to bust out some tunes…Other tournaments are you listening? It might not be everyone’s cup of tea (or can of Budweiser) but if even one per cent of the crowd don’t normally tune into golf watch the next few weeks of action it’s some sort of result for generating new fans.


Tap in 

Hawkes’ and Lee’s respective triumphs in Victoria gained not only attention for the varying degrees of drama and decisiveness but it was noteworthy the events’ equal prizemoney got coverage across plenty of platforms including the Golf Channel. The $650,000 cheque for each section is a rarity for gender equity in sport (and golf itself) but the issue (week-to-week) in golf comes with the fact the men’s and women’s tours are run by multiple organisations. That’s also not likely to change anytime soon in regards to majors. Last week we mentioned the golf versus tennis prizemoney difference regarding individual athletes but one advantage tennis has over golf is each major can determine their prize money due to the fact they are individual entities running all the categories. More joint events at the lower tier might drag up this figure by way of pressure from the bottom up but well done on the Victorian Open for leading the way.


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