Golf Capital – Hail to the Spieth, Ryu goes to number one

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Jordan Spieth beat recent PGA Tour winner Daniel Berger with a stunning hole-out in Connecticut. Korea’s So Yeon Ryu won in Arkansas and outsider Andreas Romero triumphed in Germany.

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Opening drive:

What can you say? Jordan Spieth’s sand shot which rolled into the cup on the first playoff hole of the Traveler’s Championship to see off Berger was one for the ages – at this level of tournament at least. Spieth, who turns 24 next month, has now won ten PGA Tour events. That figure is the most by that age of any player since WWII along with only Tiger Woods. Plus Spieth has two Australian Open crowns. A slice of luck late in the day, including some near trips to the water and rebound off a tree on the playoff hole, helped see third-round leader Spieth prevail for his fourth playoff win in his career. The Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour will be staged this week in Maryland.

 

One of the biggest upsets for some time on the European Tour saw Argentina’s Andreas Romero triumph by a stroke over a trio which included Masters champ (and joint third round leader) Sergio Garcia plus Richard Bland and Thomas Detry. Romero, who rose from 837 to 182 in the rankings with the victory, hadn’t triumphed on either the European or PGA Tour since 2008 but has had a handful of lower tier victories in the past decade. The ET tournament this weekend is the Open de France at Le Golf National (which will host the Ryder Cup next year) and was won by Thongchai Jaidee last year. Part of the new juiced up ‘Rolex series’ the event outside Paris is the second of eight events in the series which is an expansion of the old three-legged finals series.

 

The year’s first female major winner So Yeong Ryu tuned up well for the Women’s PGA Championship in Olympia Fields, Illinois, with a two-stroke triumph in Arkansas. The result sees Ryu, the only multiple winner in 2017 on the LPGA Tour, move to top spot in the world rankings. Ryu was the recipient over the rules debacle in the first major of the year – the ANA Inspiration

 

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The second women’s major of 2017 takes place in Illinois with Canadian Brooke Henderson looking to defend her title won in Washington state last year.

 

20 and under : Minjee Lee. The Perth golfer has four top seven finishes in her last five starts – with a disqualification spoiling that record. Lee, 21, was T3 at the year’s earlier major.

 

20 and under: Lexi Thompson. The American buried any thoughts of inability to continue to perform well after the ANA hiccup with a subsequent win last month and two T2 finishes since then.

 

20 and under: So Yeong Ryu. Not only already a major winner this year Ryu, 26, was fourth in this tournament last year – albeit when it was held on the other side of the country.

 

20 to 50: Shanshan Feng. A winner in May in nearby Michigan Feng won six times last year (two of those on the LPGA tour) and has finished in the top 20 each time since her triumph in Ann Arbor.

 

20 to 50: Amy Yang. Yang is one of only two players in the current top ten not to have won a major and had a top ten finish in this major last year. More recently she won in February in Thailand in what was an LPGA event.

 

50 to 100: Charley Hull. Englishwoman Hull is not in the form she had when she won the season-ending event last year however she has had two top 30 finishes in this event to the 21-year-old’s credit.

 

Greens in regulation:

Fellow American Justin Thomas’ calling Spieth’s shot to win the Traveler’s before it happened was probably not that surprising. Twitter is prone to over-hyping and bold predictions but Thomas, who is three months Spieth’s senior, had some great duels in college golf with the world number three. Not only that Thomas, 24, was born in the same month as Berger which means (after Berger’s recent good run) two of the current top 18 were born in April of 1993 – quite the statistic for a single month in one year across the age span of the current top 18 which has about a 19-year age span from youngest (Jon Rahm – 22) to oldest (Henrik Stenson – 41.)

 

Tap in:

“I hate golf” No, I haven’t gone mad. With the return of the brilliant Revisionist History podcast series from popular writer Malcolm Gladwell I plugged in, carefully if not cautiously, to the first episode of the second series recently. ‘A good walk spoiled’ appeared to have the potential to have me reviewing my adoration of Gladwell by the end of it. It didn’t, and it shouldn’t perturb you tuning in either. “This episode is about the problem with golf” states Gladwell and whilst that is somewhat true the primary problem, as he outlines, is the tax breaks afforded private golf clubs in California – which particularly benefit those in Los Angeles. A series of business structure rulings and grandfathered tax breaks related to means the ‘rich white CEOs’ get to enjoy the game in Los Angeles at venues which don’t pay their fair share in property tax despite the fact others have limited access to public green space in the city. Gladwell proclaims “Hopefully by the end of this you’ll hate golf to” and whilst I didn’t the podcast did have me wondering about ways in which some clubs are already changing to be more inclusive and perhaps bring more people to golf courses, but not necessarily to play golf – at least to begin with. Los Angeles, to use a Gladwell-ism is somewhat of an ‘outlier’ in that it is one of only the few major cities without easily accessible major public green space (for instance there is no equivalent of New York City’s Central Park in LA.) Luckily many cities have found a better balance. And there are some clubs already showing great initiative including in Australia. Some are aligned to FootGolf Australia with the modified format taking place after a certain time in the afternoons.  Gladwell’s passion is running and using courses for cross country or parkrun style events provides further exposure and mixed community use of courses which already occurs in Scotland. Some food for thought.

Image via rte.ie

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 16 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 16 of the NRL. Adelaide hosted the Roosters and Melbourne with the Moore Park-based outfit edging home in golden point 25-24 whilst on Sunday Manly beat Cronulla 35-18 to leapfrog the Sharks into fourth on points difference. There were seven games with Souths and Parramatta on the bye.

 

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Brisbane’s tenth win of the season saw them finish round 16 in third after they beat the Raiders 30-20 on Saturday night in Canberra. 2018 Dragons halfback Ben Hunt was crucial to the victory when he entered the game in the first half in place of Kodi Nikorima and combined with veteran pivot Benji Marshall. After Marshall laid on two tries in the first stanza which saw Brisbane trailing 16-14 entering the break Hunt clicked into gear in the second 40 minutes with two tries assists of his own. However it was an astute kicking game that was critical as Brisbane held onto their lead once Matt Gillett scored with 30 minutes to go. Hunt managed to force four dropouts in the second half which saw the Raiders have to defend an extra five sets, tiring them out as they attempted to regain the lead before eventually falling to their ninth defeat of the campaign – already three more than they lost in the regular season last year.

 

South Australia’s Saturday night game might have been a defeat for Melbourne but it continued to be the coming of age for Felisa Kaufusi. The Tongan international has made the right edge spot his own since Kevin Proctor’s departure to the Gold Coast in the off-season. Kaufusi, who has scored seven tries this season, ran for 161 metres (the most of any Storm forward on Saturday night) and held the ball up well for Brodie Croft who raced away to score 12 minutes before the break. Despite the defeat Melbourne have further evidence their right edge spot has a solid, if not better, contributor in the coming seasons.

 

Much has, rightly, been made of the effort of the Storm in Adelaide on Saturday night. Shorn of their three mostly influential players they almost held out the Roosters only to be denied by the ‘home’ side after a late flurry which was capped by Mitchell Pearce’s one-pointer. Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy sent out an inexperienced outfit with an average age of 24 years and two days with only 853 games between them but as statistician David Middleton noted on Twitter they weren’t the least experienced side this weekend. The Newcastle Knights named side averaged 23 years and 235 days with a total of 695 games between them (this would have dropped further with Josh King starting in place of Josh Starling.)  The challenge facing the Knights most weekends is highlighted by such a comparison. Jarrod Mullen’s drugs ban and Trent Hodkinson’s continued exclusion from playing first grade due to form reasons has had a huge impact in this regard. After a stunning first half which saw them lead 28-10 Nathan Brown’s side conceded 22 unanswered points as the Dragons moved into sixth place.

 

A disciplined Warriors effort has pushed them up to ninth on the ladder as they beat the Bulldogs 21-14 despite the absence of Bulldogs-bound 5/8 Kieran Foran on Friday. The Warriors conceded an early penalty goal but after Ken Maumalo scored in the 16th minute Stephen Kearney’s side never relinquished the lead. Now with seven wins this season the Auckland-based outfit seem to be adjusting to the conservative game plan of the former Eels mentor. Heading into the weekend the Warriors had produced 41 fewer offloads compared to last season. This had them with the third lowest of all sides in the competition (Only Newcastle and the Cowboys have less.) This is part of an overall trend in the competition this season as noted by Roy Masters with 59 less offloads overall this season to date compared to 2016. When and where sides offload is important as related to the statistic but it shows the Warriors are not the side they are often perceived to be in regards to offloads.

 

It might come back to haunt them but the decision by the Gold Coast Titans to use their bench sparingly on Friday night when they beat the Tigers 26-14 in Campbelltown was surprising. Despite Neil Henry wanting to get Nathan Peats, who played in the second game of the Origin series two nights earlier, off the rake played the full 80 minutes. This meant bench hooker Pat Politoni went un-used. Bench back John Olive played 15 minutes replacing Anthony Don but Max King’s 54 minutes was the least time on the field for any starting player – a high number with many sides using props for only 40/45 minutes in total during a game. 26-8 leaders until the Tigers crossed late in the contest it’s a surprise Henry wasn’t more keen to spread the load among his players. Especially considering three Peats, Jarrod Wallace and Jarryd Hayne were both coming off Origin and expected to feature in game three. The Titans host the Dragons on Friday night in round 17.

 

Image via smh.com.au

Five Metre Gap – Origin II 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the second game of the State of Origin series. Queensland triumph 18-16 to square the series at 1-all after New South Wales won game one in Brisbane. Unlike our normal column you likely saw the fixture between the Blues and the Maroons but this is what we have noted at Five Metre Gap HQ.

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Game two of the series at ANZ Stadium saw Queensland hit an early lead after an acrobatic four-pointer to Valentine Holmes before the home side ran in three straight tries in 14 minutes. But a second half double to Dane Gagai, plus a flawless three from three kicking display on the night (3/3) from Johnathan Thurston, got Kevin Walters’ side the win. Ironically, in game three last year at the Sydney Olympic Park venue when NSW were 18-14 winners in the dead-rubber Thurston only kicked one from three.

 

Andrew Fifita was the game one hero for NSW with 171 metres from 15 metres but was kept relatively quiet in game two making 95 metres from 12 runs with two tackle breaks. Queensland’s top performer in the forwards was Josh McGuire with 139 metres from 14 runs which also saw the Bronco forward make a match best 52 tackles (joint with Blues hooker Nathan Peats.)

 

In a losing side St George Illawarra custodian Josh Dugan, starting at right centre for NSW, came up with several key plays to help his side retain their lead until Gagai’s 77th minute try. Dugan held Michael Morgan up over the line just before halftime to preserve a 16-6 lead. Dugan switched to fullback in the second half when James Tedesco was removed for a Head Injury Assessment. Dugan halted Cooper Cronk who had broken the Blues’ front line with 11 minutes to go before then snaffling the kick later in that set. Dugan certainly, whilst beaten on the night, had a better evening than right centre Dylan Walker from game two last year – who conceded four penalties in one 17 minute period.

 

As New South Wales had a 10-point lead at the break it was a huge surprise in the second half they didn’t target Queensland playmaker Thurston who appeared to have picked up a severe shoulder injury (possibly a rotator cuff tear according to @nrlphysio on Twitter.) On multiple occasions NSW ran their sets to the left side of their attack as Thurston retreated to defend on the right wing. To go with flick passes out the back from Jarryd Hayne when leading 16-12 the option taking and game manangment by Laurie Daley’s side left a lot to be desired in the second stanza.

 

The Maroons get a chance to win the main series for a third year running in three weeks’ time on July 12 in Brisbane back at Suncorp Stadium. If they do so it will be the sixth occasion Queensland has come from 1-0 down to win the Stage of Origin shield but if NSW win Boyd Cordner will become the second NSW skipper after Danny Buderus to win an Origin series in their first series as captain. In the earlier fixture New South Wales’ Under 18s side, defending a 26-0 win last year, triumphed 35-28 after they came from 18-10 down at the break.

Image via smh.com.au

Golf Capital – Koepka calm in the Hills, new PGA anti-doping regime

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Brooks Koepka become the seventh straight first-time major winner, Brooke Henderson won her fourth LPGA title and Nicholas Fung won his first pro event with victory on the Asian Tour in the Thai holiday spot of Koh Samui.

 

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Opening drive:

Koepka was up on the pace for all the tournament at Erin Hills and pulled clear with a stretch of three birdies from the 14th hole onwards on Sunday as rival Brian Harman had three bogeys in his last six holes. Despite two other birdies in that stretch left-hander Harman played the role of Phil Mickelson (the left-hander who tends to finish second in this tournament) over the last hour or so with Hideki Matsuyama shooting a best of the 66 to share second with the Georgian.

 

A winner in Japan in November Koepka now rises to ten in the rankings but despite his renowned length off the tee it was his putting (only one three-putt all weekend) which really saw him home with a final winning score of -16 272 somewhat unexpected.

 

Like his younger brother Chase is doing now, Koepka played the European Tour’s second-tier Challenge Tour to cut his professional teeth – winning four times between September 2012 and June 2013. The variety of courses on offer saw him hone all aspects of his game. As a result in the 12 majors the 27-year-old has played since the start of 2014 he has only one finish worse than T33 so whilst he doesn’t have a breathtaking array of PGA tour results (one win in 2015 plus a playoff defeat last year) he’s incredibly consistent.

 

After a new professional venue for 2017 it’s back to the usual rotation for the coming US Opens but the experience of the unfamiliar Mid-West venue wasn’t as daunting as had been first feared. Although it did get hairy on Sunday with only 18 players shooting better than par.

 

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Matsuyama was in contention in Wisconsin but didn’t get his major yet. For the European Tour the BMW International Open at the home at the motor vehicle manufacturer takes place at Golfclub Munchen Eichenried which Henrik Stenson won last year having to play 36 holes on the final day.

 

20 to 50: Kiradech Aphibarnrat. In the last two goes at this tournament the Thai golfer has finished T5 and T4 plus he has three top ten finishes in 2017.

 

20 to 50: David Horsey. With three top eight finishes in his last five tournaments the unfashionable Englishman won this event in 2010 and was T7 last year (albeit at a different venues in Cologne) so clearly favours the tournament.

 

20 to 50: Pablo Larrazabal. The Spaniard has four European Tour wins to his credit and half of those are this tournament, 2011 and 2015, so it bodes well for a player who has gone close in 2017 with a T2 and third to his credit so far this year.

 

20 to 50: Thorbjorn Olesen. A final round 73 blew up his chance to win last year in Cologne after three rounds of 67 and last time out he was T4 in Malmo. This is better form than last time heading into this event for the Dane.

 

50 to 100: Renato Paratore. A last start winner in a field of featuring some that haven’t played in a few weeks plus some coming back from a major must see an advantage to the rested, in-form player. From outside the top 400 when he missed the cut at the tournament’s alternate venue last year the Italian is a different player

 

50 to 100: Eddie Pepperell. Even allowing for the return from Wisconsin Pepperell has a strong chance in Germany. His T16 at the Open is the Englishman’s best result in the four majors he has played plus he was eighth two starts before that in Sweden. He has written about how confident he felt at Erin Hills – including out-performing playing partner Sergio Garcia in the final round.

 

Greens in regulation:

Canada’s Brooke Henderson won her fourth LPGA title in two years as she fired a final round 66 which saw her overhaul Lexi Thompson with Michelle Wie joining Thompson in an eventual tie for second. Henderson, a major winner last year in the women’s PGA Championship, hadn’t logged a top five all year so the result in Grand Rapids to win the Meijer LPGA Classic came at the right time for her title defence which will take place in Illinois after this weekend’s Arkansas Championship.

 

Nicholas Fung claimed his first Asian Tour victory after 66 attempts winning the Queen’s Cup in Koh Samui. Fung, 27, got home by a stroke from 21–year-old prodigy Jazz Janewattananond.

 

This week in addition to the LPGA event in Arkansas the PGA Tour Travelers Championship takes place in Connecticut where Scotland’s Russell Knox won in 2016.

 

Tap in:

From October when the next PGA Tour season starts the US game’s authorities have decided to bring their anti-doping procedures more into line with the World Anti- Doping Agency (WADA) code, which includes adding aspects such as adding blood testing. The PGA Tour’s statement outlines updated public reporting measures which include ‘drugs of abuse’ (as they term) plus performance-enhancing violations. As pointed out by the New York Times only three players in nine years have been sanctioned under the watered-down scheme the PGA currently operates. One of that trio, Scott Stallings, self-reported and was never caught by a test.

 

Significantly, with golf’s return to the Olympics recently extended to at least 2024 it comes as no surprise the authorities of the world’s biggest tour have bought themselves further into line with Olympic protocols. Behind the scenes they may have had little choice.

 

Image via nytimes.com

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 15 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 15 of the NRL. With half the teams on the bye the four fixtures on the weekend were won by South Sydney, Melbourne, Cronulla and Parramatta. The Rabbitohs won by 16 points with the Storm getting home by a point, the Sharks by two and the Eels triumphed by 14.

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It was an intriguing evening on Saturday for back-up hookers as first Melbourne and then Cronulla got home in tight contests with a major influence from their replacement rakes. Firstly in the Victorian capital Slade Griffin started at nine for the Storm with Cameron Smith away on Origin duty and provided the crisp pass, despite interference at the ruck, which gave Brodie Croft time and space to knock over the winning field goal. Griffin rotated with Brandon Smith, who scored a try in the match, but the more experienced Griffin was (significantly) sent back onto the field during the golden-point period after he passed a Head Injury Assessment. Storm mentor Craig Bellamy no doubt wanted Griffin’s experience with the Glen Innes-born player having first played top grade on 2013 compared to Junior Kiwi representative Smith, 21, who only debuted in the top grade this season. It worked and the Storm prevailed 23-22 over the Cowboys.

 

Daniel Mortimer’s career as a Sharks player (he joined from the Titans in the off-season) has seen him play more at Henson Park compared to Shark Park but the former Eel was crucial when he entered the fray with 32 minutes to go on Saturday night for Cronulla with the home side 16-4 down. Rookie hooker Jayden Brailey was partially at fault when his opposite Jacob Liddle darted over early in the second period. Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was ropeable and Mortimer was on the field within moments. Brailey played nearly the whole games last weekend against Melbourne. Whilst a change to see Mortimer feature in the second half may have been pre-planned it perhaps wasn’t going to be as soon as it did. Mortimer’s first key attack helped to set-up the first of four second half tries before his kick in behind the Tigers defence saw Jason Bukuya score two minutes from time as the Premiers overhauled Ivan Cleary’s team 24-22.

 

South Sydney rode their luck to stay in the game on Friday night as they completed only nine sets in the first half of their 36-20 win over the Gold Coast and were down 14-0 after 19 minutes. Michael Maguire’s side turned things around to complete 16 sets in the second stanza which saw them notch five tries and keep the Titans scoreless after they were 20-10 down at the interval. Souths defence is still problematic so they have done well to keep a side out for 40 minutes and may have something to build on. Round 10 in the ‘Robbie Farah revenge game’ when they won 28-8 over the Tigers is the only occasion this season Souths have held an opposing side to under double figures.

 

Dragons centre Tim Lafai has had a terrific season to date for St George Illawarra notching up five tries and but the Samoan international had a day to forget as Parramatta ran out winners at ANZ Stadium on Sunday. Despite four tackle busts and a line break Lafai made five errors as Paul McGregor’s side missed a chance to move into fourth spot. Lafai’s five tries are already two more than last season for the 26-year-old so he will he hoping to turn things around against the Knights next Sunday.

 

With Origin two on Wednesday night seeing Queensland needing a win to square the series the Maroons ‘shock’ selection of Tim Glasby perhaps shouldn’t have been seen as that. This column is about giving you some insight into the play and from @league_analyst on Twitter it was noted Glasby is fifth in the NRL overall in ‘On-field plus minus per 80 minutes’ This figure measures points margin for each minute on the park and is then average out over 80 minutes. Glasby is second in his club side the Melbourne Storm for that stat and the veteran of three finals campaigns will have had Queensland skipper Cameron Smith, in particular, in his corner given Glasby’s effective role as a middle forward for the Victorian side. The Storm go well when Glasby is on the field which is what matters to his Storm, and Queensland, teammates. It is worth noting ‘on-field plus minus’ is perhaps not as significant compared to a sport like basketball where a team only has five players on the court at any one time compared to 13 in rugby league but if teams are tracking the figure they are doing so for a reason.

Image via sports.yahoo.com.au

 

America’s Cup: Auld Mug coming back to NZ says two-time Cup-winner Borrows

@hamishneal

“The Kiwis can get it done this time”

The Auld Mug is heading back to New Zealand. That’s the view of 2013 America’s Cup winner, and Kiwi, Kevin Borrows.

 

Borrows, an eight-year veteran of three Cup campaigns, tasted victory with Oracle Team USA last time around in San Francisco in his as role Aerodynamic Analyst/Project Manager but he thinks Emirates Team New Zealand can turn the tables this time on former team-mate Jimmy Spithill’s outfit and take the trophy home from Bermuda.

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“The Kiwis are sailing their boat really well.  Their speed loop (trimmers/helmsman) are the best in the world in high performance boats.”

 

Borrows was, somewhat ironically, one of many Kiwis who were a part of the US-based syndicate in 2013 when they staged one of the greatest comebacks in sport rallying from 8-1 down to prevail 9-8 over Team New Zealand – then lead by Dean Barker. Auckland-born Borrows joined Oracle TUSA in 2008 after a stint with Team New Zealand during the 2007 Cup in Valencia. Borrows since based himself in the Bay Area and after leaving OTUSA at the conclusion of the 2013 campaign founded his own marine technology start-up – eb1 labs, leveraging real time simulation technology to build digital experiences for gaming, education and data analytics.

 

TNZ boat leaders Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will be looking to avenge the Kiwi defeat from 2013, even though the duo were not involved that time around. Just to add to the Kiwi v Aussie spice Victorian Glen Ashby is the TNZ skipper – so Australia can claim a role in either winning boat.

 

As was shown with New Zealand ‘s capsize earlier in the regatta before the start of a race against Ben Ainslie Racing’s UK syndicate nothing is certain.

 

“In my mind the largest risk is break downs” say Borrows. “If the boat stays reliable and they can keep it clean at the start, which they did really well against Artemis then they definitely have the pace.”

 

“In the qualifiers they made mistakes against Oracle and still nearly got it done” Team New Zealand finished second with eight wins, the same amount as Oracle TUSA, but did lose twice to them.

 

Borrows, is not only accomplished in the design aspect of Cup racing but he has a world-renowned record as a sailor himself. He was a world youth champion and has sailed preparation events for his Cup syndicates so his comments about the tactical aspects of the racing come with authority.

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This Kiwi syndicate are bidding to become the second NZ-based team to win outside New Zealand since the crew on NZL 32 did it in 1995 in San Diego. But they will do so with a scoring disadvantage before the finals series commences. As ever there were quirks to the Cup rules and this time around the ‘defenders’ Oracle TUSA competed in (and won) the qualifying rounds for the ‘challengers.’ This meant that they were gifted a point through to the finals series. It’s a rule which has been meet with bemusement, particularly as Oracle TUSA are already the ‘home’ side.

 

And one which does puzzle Borrows to a degree.

 

“The point into their match is a hangover of the defender joining the challenger series, but it is a little counter intuitive to anyone that doesn’t understand the nuances.”

 

The improvement in the black AC70 craft shouldn’t be taken lightly as Borrows was predicting an Oracle v Team NZ final before the qualifiers, but Oracle winning. The American syndicate had a huge jump on the innovation in the mechanical engineering systems last time around in 2013 says Borrows so the Kiwi sailing and improvements in using the technology for the duration of the regatta has seen them improved greatly.

 

One of the interesting innovations this time around has been the addition of the futuristic sounding ‘cyclor’ roles on the Kiwi boat. The Kiwis dispensed with the traditional grinder (arm-powered winch) role and replaced it with a cycling-like system which powers the hydraulic systems on the boat which in turn operates the foils and wingsails.

 

For everything that has happened in recent years with the America’s Cup from sailors getting banned in 2013 to all bar the New Zealand syndicate having a say in the rules for this regatta having Olympic cyclists on a boat maybe isn’t that surprising.

 

The race to seven points begins Saturday (Sunday NZT/AEST) in the Great Sound and if the confidence which Borrows exudes now about Team New Zealand it can see them make their own comeback this time around against USA17.

 

Disclosure: Borrows is one of my best friends from Marlborough Primary School in Glenfield New Zealand. Both of us had dreams of a career in elite sport, one reached them and the other didn’t. I’m grateful he was able to contribute his thoughts on #ac35 over a short e-mail exchange. I’m also grateful he didn’t laugh too much last time he took me out on a boat on Murrays Bay. I’m bad enough at sports which are land-based. Thanks K.

Images via sailworld.com and oracleracingblog.blogpsot.com.au

Golf Capital – Wisconsin’s new major venue as Berger doubles in Memphis

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Daniel Berger go back-to-back in Memphis, Ariya Jutanugarn won for the first time in 2017 to return to the world number one position, plus there was another first-time European Tour winner with Dylan Fritelli’s triumph in Austria.

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Opening drive:

Floridian Berger fired a final round 66 to retain his St Jude Classic crown with a one-stroke win over South African Charl Schwartzel and Whee Kim of South Korea. The trio of 54-hole leaders Stewart Cink, Ben Crane and Rafa Cabrera Bello dropped away earlier in the round and the 2016 winner held his nerve firing four birdies. A dozen player had a legitimate chance to win so Berger did well to prevail.

 

Jutanugarn birdied the first playoff hole to claim the win in Ontario seeing off the challenge of South Korean In Gee Chun and American Lexi Thompson – who held a one stroke lead heading into the final day. Jutanugarn, 21, was prolific in 2016 claiming six wins so it is somewhat of a surprise she took until June to score her first victory of 2017 and see her dislodge Kiwi  Lydia Ko from the world number one ranking. A good spot to be in with the next major (the Women’s PGA) coming up at the end of the month in Illinois.

 

Two-time Challenge Tour winner Fritelli won for the first time on Europe’s top tour after he overhauled a two-stroke deficit heading into Sunday before a par on the last saw the 27-year-old hold off a trio of golfers who finished at 11 under. The South African had countryman Jbe Kruger, England David Horsey and Mikko Korhonen of Finland waiting for him to slip up on the 72nd hole at Atzenbrugg’s Diamond Country Club but his par three gave him the win.

 

 

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Two hopes finished in the top five last weekend as we shift to the second major of 2017 – the US Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. Dustin Johnson won it last year when the tournament was staged in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.

 

20 to 50: Hideki Matsuyama, The Japanese golfer missed the cut in the 2016 US Open but had two other top seven finishes in majors. He has won this year (in February in Phoenix) and remains the highest-ranked player (four) yet to win a major.

 

20 to 50: Thomas Pieters. The Belgian will be suited by the length of the course and the lack of course knowledge shouldn’t be an issue for him as he came fourth at Augusta in his Masters debut. But he’s only played once since then for a T14 on the European Tour at the PGA Championship.

 

20 to 50:  Adam Scott. The Queenslander was fourth in this tournament two years ago. A second round 64 for Scott had him in contention in Memphis and he eventually finished T10. Prior to that he had two top ten finishes in his last four outings.

 

50 to 100: Kevin Kisner. The world number 20 won the Dean and Deluca Invitational last month and followed that up with a T6 finish in his last outing at The Memorial. Kisner must surely rank as one of the most in-form players here. At a new venue for most of the players this must be an advantage.

 

50 to 100: Alex Noren. The Swedish golfer has won five times in the last 12 months to move up to number eight in the rankings. His best result at a major came in the 2012 US Open when he finished T9 in the event played in San Francisco at the Olympic Club.

 

100 to 200: Billy Horschel. A final round 64 saw him finish two shots from the winner in Memphis. In 2013 Horschel was T4 in the Open and since then he hasn’t finished worse than T32 in this major, plus Horschel won in May.

 

Greens in regulation:

The course at Erin Hills, located to the north-east of Milwaukee, for the 117th US Open is a fascinating one. The venue has never hosted a professional event and only a few significant amateur tournaments. In 2011 the Erin venue staged the US Amateur title. The first two rounds played under stroke-play with Erin Hills plus another nearby venue used but the match-play portion (last 64) was at the Open venue. Making it to the last eight was now two-time major winner Jordan Spieth and European Tour regular American Peter Uihlein. The course has some interesting attributes included ‘domed greens’ and some blind approach shots. The latter fact could be an issue with the length of the course and unfamiliarity players have mean this could be a case of long rounds which could frustrate groups as the day wears on, particularly across the first two days.

 

Tap in:

After the rules debacle surrounding Dustin Johnson in 2016 the USGA will be wanting to avoid and similar scenarios this year and it appears they have made the appropriate changes with a focus on timely calls “expedite and decide” as the USGA have said. The course may deliver a great event but Spain’s Jon Rahm has labelled the venue “a links golf course on steroids” so it could be a fun, if not long, few days of viewing. If the USGA got a storybook result any issues over thick rough or other matters could fade away… Wisconsin native Steve Stricker at the age of 50 becomes the first sectional qualifier to win the Open since Lucas Glover in 2009? That would do.

 

Image via cbc.ca