A collection of my golf thoughts reviewing the weekend’s action plus a look to the week ahead which includes the culmination of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai finals series and the Australian Open taking place in Sydney.
After a poor Saturday at Sun City Swede Alex Noren rallied with a nine under final round to win the Nedbank Challenge and vault up to third in the RTD standings, behind Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett. Noren, who has now won four times since July, produced his most decisive margin of victory in 2016 as he triumphed over South Korean Wang Jeunghun by six strokes. He will go into the final event of the season in Dubai supremely confident.
Meanwhile in Mexico, the irony-meter was off the charts as, in the days after wall enthusiast Donald Trump was elected US President, Pat Perez (who has a Mexican grandfather) won the USA PGA Tour event at Playa Del Carmen by two strokes from fellow American Gary Woodland. The PGA Tour returns to the USA with the RSM Classic in Georgia for a split-course tournament this weekend with the Seaside and Plantation courses in use on the first two days until Seaside hosts the final two rounds on it’s own.
In Mexico on the LPGA Tour Spain’s Carlota Ciganda won for the second time in a month with victory in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational by two strokes. The season-ending event is held in Florida this weekend with the CME Group Tour Championship seeing any of the top nine in the rankings able to win the tournament and the tour title depending on results. Five-time winner in 2016 and world number two Ariya Jutanugarn and four-time winner this year Kiwi Lydia Ko, currently ranked number one, come in as the dominant players of the year.
Ahead of the Australian Open this weekend Queensland’s Adam Blyth won the NSW Open at Stonecutters Ridge with an interesting dual-caddie strategy seeing him over the line despite dropping six shots in six holes at one stage on Sunday. His partner Nicole Kelsey carried the bag for the opening two rounds before father Stephen took the role on the weekend to help Blyth secure the biggest win of his career.
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. The Jumeirah Golf Estates host the DP World Tour Championship as the final event of the European Tour. With a limited field of 60 players we will try to hone our thoughts for this event on the venue’s Earth Course.
Under 20: Rory McIlroy. With desert golf form and class key McIlroy has both having finished three shots from the lead in January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship won by American Rickie Fowler. The Northern Irishman is also bidding to not only retain his title here but to win the event for the third time.
Under 20: Henrik Stenson. Joint third with McIlroy behind Fowler and won the Open since that tournament in March.
20 to 50: Branden Grace. The South African is adept at Desert golf having won the Qatar Masters in January by two strokes.
20 to 50: Thomas Pieters. The Belgian was second behind Fowler in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and he’s won in Denmark since.
50 to 100: George Coetzee. The best performing South African in Turkey to Open the RTD series suffered a woeful 10 over at one stage in South Africa to through away his chances, and disappoint me, but has a top seven in Qatar to his credit this year.
100 to 200: Andrew Johnston. The Englishman opened with a 66 and ultimately finished T4 in Qatar in January. Since then he’s contended a great deal but has only won once in Spain.
Greens in regulation
After skipping the NSW Open to focus on his European Tour qualifying campaign Ben Eccles is one of the interesting players returning from overseas to take part in the Australian Open at Royal Sydney in Rose Bay this week. The Geelong golfer is joined by Jordan Zunic who left Q School early to play in his home open. Cameron Smith, who finished in T42 in Mexico is back for the Australasian PGA event but aside from the Australian players there is plenty of interest in some of the overseas names.
Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas shows up in Australia after a T10 effort in Mexico and having won in Canada in July. Whilst headliner Jordan Spieth was part of the USA team that won the Ryder Cup Vegas has won an individual stroke play event more recently than Spieth. Even recently Australian veteran Rod Pampling enters the event having won on the PGA Tour earlier this month. Spieth is the class performer in the field but he’s out of form in stroke-play events with only three top ten finishes since July. Even rising star Curtis Luck who has won a host of amateur events in the last two months is a chance of out-performing the American.
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