Golf Capital – DJ triumphs in NY, Park continues stellar rookie season

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Dustin Johnson win the first event of the US PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs. Johnson  saw off the challenge of Jordan Spieth whilst another ‘JS’ won with American Julian Suri claiming his first European Tour event. In Canada maiden major winner this year Sung Hyung Park won again in her LPGA rookie season.

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Opening drive

Dustin Johnson won his fourth tournament of 2017 and fifth in 12 months when he edged Jordan Spieth on the first playoff hole at the Glen Oaks course in Old Westbury to win the Northern Trust but early in the final round that result looked unlikely. Already leading overnight by three strokes Spieth knocked in two birdies in the first five holes to give himself a five stroke lead but that evaporated after a double bogey at the sixth when he found water. Flash forward to the 18th (72nd hole) and Johnsons’ clutch putt forced a playoff before a great approach on the 18th (which was the first playoff hole) set up Johnson’s winning birdie.

 

Park, 23 – there’s the that 23/24 age bracket again, won by two strokes from fellow South Korean Mirim Lee in Ottawa to claim the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open for her second title on the LPGA Tour after firing a closing round of seven under which was the best of the day. Park won the Women’s US Open last month in in New Jersey and it’s worth noting in 2016 she was second in the Evian Championship with that major only two week’s away. Park is on track to finish with a terrific rookie season.

 

Duke University graduate Suri won the Made in Denmark in Himmerland with a similarly impressive final round to Park’s in Canada as the American also shot seven under with his final round score of 64 seeing him finish four strokes clear of England David Horsey- who triple-bogeyed his final hole.  Suri, 26, is now on the verge of cracking the top 100 with his victory moving him from 208 to 109 in the rankings. This time last year he was playing Challenge Tour events and was ranked 1499 so it has been some 12 months for the New York native. Interestingly Suri won in the Czech Republic in May on the Challenge Tour and that country hosts the European Tour event this weekend.

 

Player performance notes

 

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Down to 100 players for this week at TPC Boston the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs is the Dell Technologies Championship won last year by Rory McIlroy.

 

20 and under: Jordan Spieth. Bested only by Johnson on the weekend the American has collapsed in tournaments before (eg the Masters in 2016) but he’s incredibly consistent and there is a strong recent history of players doing well in playoff events either winning or placing and winning again in the series.

 

20 and under: Justin Thomas. The American finished T6 and was one of only four players to shoot 69 or better in each round on the weekend but his consistent 68-69-69-69 lacked one low round to challenge the top few but the recent major winner is in form.

 

20 to 50: Adam Scott. The Australian missed last weekend with his wife giving birth to their second child, a son – Byron, and the Queenslander returns to a venue where he has placed in the top ten on four of the last six occasions.

 

50 to 100: Xander Schauffele. The American won the Greenbrier Classic last month and he’s continued to display good form. He did miss the cut at the PGA Championship but a T20 at the Open in his first trip to England plus his T17 on the weekend sees him at a career-high 70 in the rankings after he was 434 this time last year.

 

50 to 100: Bubba Watson. The two-time Masters winner was T10 on the weekend in New York and needed the result to break into the top 100 in the playoff rankings such has been his disappointing season. However Watson showed some signs his for was returning at the Bridgestone Invitational before the top ten finish.

 

100 to 200: Harold Varner III. Going back in on the American after his T20 effort on the weekend in Old Westbury saw him jump into the top 100. Along with Watson he was one of only three players to make up ground into the top 100 from outside that mark on the weekend.

 

Greens in regulation

The LPGA Tour heads to Oregon for the Cambia Portland Classic where Canadian Brooke Henderson is the two-time defending champion. Henderson, 19, started Sunday in Ottawa three shots back after a course record third round of eight-under 63 on Saturday. This weekend for the European Tour it’s the Czech Masters at the Albatross Golf Resort. The event in Prague is significant as it is the first event which counts towards the tally for Ryder Cup selection in the European Team for the event which is back on their soil in 2018 in France – the jockeying for positions to reclaim the title from the Americans begins this week.

 

Tap in

As players seek to progress to the third week of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs last weekend saw 25 players secure a PGA Tour card for next season with the final weekend of regular season play in the USA PGA’ second-tier Web.com tour. Brice Garnett won the Portland Open, a result which saw him claim the web.com money title to go with his first win last month in Utah. The story of the weekend though was the final spot going to Roberto Diaz after Keith Mitchell’s misjudgment on the 18th hole. Mitchell thought he needed an eagle (he only needed a birdie to nab the 25th spot.) Chattanooga native Mitchell blasted to the near green on the par five but then stuck the third shot past the hole chasing the eagle. He missed the birdie putt and now has to try his luck via the web.com’s own playoffs. Significantly from the top 25 two Chinese players, Zecheng Dou and Xinjun Zhang, qualified for the top tour. Dou, 20, is perhaps the most promising of the duo having scored a win on the second-tier tour this season.

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Five Metre Gap -NRL Round 25 2017 + CC Final

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 25 of the NRL. Melbourne moved to 42 points at the top of the ladder as they dispatched the Rabbitohs 64-6 whilst a Roosters win on Saturday night over defending champions Cronulla means Sydney are in pole positions to finish second but Cronulla are out of the top four as it stands with the Eels moving into the top four at the Sharks’ expense.

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Brisbane’s surprising 52-34 defeat at the hands of Parramatta on Thursday night to open the round had people rushing to the record books to see if a top side had conceded such a hiding and gone on to win the competition that year. It’s not 52 points but last year Cronulla did fall 32-18 to the Dragons in round 23 last year six weeks before winning the grand final. In the corresponding round 23 in 2015 the Cowboys were beaten 31-18 by Souths before winning the grand final over Brisbane. Interestingly the week later the Cowboys put 50 points on the Warriors in Auckland. The Cowboys ended up finishing third in the regular season before they won that decider in dramatic circumstances. At the end of this round Brisbane are third.

 

The Broncos suffered a key injury in their eighth defeat of the season and will miss Korbin Sims for the rest of the season after he fractured his right arm. Sims will likely be replaced in the run-on side by Herman Ese,ese who played 33 minutes off the bench. The Newcastle-bound prop did score a try but he only gained 64 metres from eight runs and was responsible for a couple of missed tackles. However if the Auckland-born middle forward can recapture the form of round 24 when he ran for 113 metres in nine runs and was a threat to create second phase play with offloads as Brisbane beat the Dragons he will be a capable replacement for Fijian international Sims.

 

Saturday night’s two-point win for the Roosters over Cronulla 16-14 was a game both sides will do best to forget before the finals in just under a fortnight, even if it meant Trent Robinson’s side  are likely to finish second (they play the Titans in round 26.) The Tricolours made 14 errors and completed at only 66% (21/32.) If not for Paul Gallen conceding a late penalty the game might have moved into extra-time, something both sides would have been keen to avoid ahead of the finals.

 

Sunday’s late game saw the Dragons beat the Panthers 16-14 in Penrith with a late try to Tariq Sims turning the weekend back towards a positive for the family after younger brother Korbin’s injury. Dragon Sims crossed 15 minutes from time to see St George Illawarra re-take the lead after Josh Mansour’s try early in the second half. Sims, who played the entire match, ran for 160 metres from 16 runs plus made 22 tackles. Penrith, North Queensland and Manly make up places six to eight currently with the Dragons hoping they can beat the Bulldogs in round 26 and lift themselves into the top eight.

 

On the weekend the Storm ran in 11 tries to beat South Sydney it was ironic to see a former Storm outside back playing a key role in the one of rugby league’s greatest days as Hull FC won the Challenge Cup. Mahe Fonua, who left the Victorian-outfit at the end of the 2015 season, scored a four-pointer in each half as the Humberside club retained their title in rugby league’s greatest knockout tournament winning 18-14 over Wigan at Wembley Stadium in London. Fonua is returning to the NRL in 2018 to join the Wests Tigers. But the Storm seemed to have gone well without him as wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu each crossed three times (although one was a penalty try allocated to Vunivalu) as Craig Bellamy’s side swept aside Souths. Vunivalu is equal top of the try-scoring ranks with 22 (same as Alex Johnston from Souths) with Addo-Carr on 19 for the season.

 

Image via stuff.co.nz

Golf Capital – USA Solheim Cup triumph, Norris’ wins in Fiji

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw the USA retain the Solheim Cup with a five-point victory whilst Aussie golfer Jason Norris won his first career title as Henrik Stenson snuck home to claim the Wyndham Championship.

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Opening drive

A tenth triumph in the Solheim Cup came easily for the USA in the end in Iowa as the European side was beset by injuries to key players (including England’s Charley Hull) and suffered a 4-0 defeat in the Friday afternoon fourball format – the first time the USA has swept a session in the tournament’s history.

The final 16.5-11.5 scoreline in favour of the USA, captained by Juli Inkster, came as the home side entered the final day with a five-point lead before the Sunday singles were shared 6-6. Christie Kerr is now the highest points-scorer for the USA in Cup history after her 3.5 points topped the tally for the home side and gave her 21 career points in the format. Anna Nordqvist’s 3.5 was the best for the Europeans.

In Fiji a career-revival result for Australian Jason Norris came in the shape of his four-stroke win at the Natadola Bay Golf Course. The victory means the 44-year-old now has exemptions across the tours which sanctioned the event (Asian, Australasia, and Europe) so can choose which events to play. The move only in the last fortnight to quit his job for one last crack at one of the big professional tours has paid off in a huge way for the South Australian who started the tournament ranked 1,238th in the world.

The European Tour’s other event on the weekend saw Spain’s Adrian Otaegui rally from two down with five holes to play in the Paul Lawrie Match Play in Bad Griesbach before beating German Marcel Siem 2 and 1. Siem looked like he was going to seal his first win since 2014 and what would have been his first in his home country.

2016 Open Champion Henrik Stenson fired a final round 64 to see off the challenge of Ollie Schniederjans and win the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. Four players shared the lead on the back nine at one stage before Stenson saluted by one stroke.

Player performance notes

 

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. This weekend it’s the first event of the US PGA Tour’s Fed-Ex Cup series – the Northern Trust (which was last year called The Barclays.)

 

20 to 50: Brooks Koepka. Glen Oaks Golf Club is a new venue and given it’s an elite field event there is some logic in reminding ourselves that Koepka won the US Open at Erin Hills – which was a new venue for the pros earlier in the Northern summer.

 

20 to 50: Patrick Reed. The world number #21 fired an opening round 66 on his way to winning the corresponding tournament last year and Reed was T2 last time out at the PGA. Notably his only win last year was this event and Reed has won at least once every year since 2013.

 

20 to 50: Justin Thomas. The PGA Champion won twice in quick succession at the start of the year and the event in Old Westbury New York offers a good chance.

 

100 to 200: Cameron Smith: After a string of three missed cuts Smith was T7 at Wyndham on the weekend and the Queenslander got long-time coach Grant Field to come over to North Carolina before the tournament which clearly paid dividends.

 

200 to 500: Bryson DeChambeau. A winner last month on tour the American has previously shown an ability to play well at unfamiliar venues. This includes his T2 at the Australian Masters in 2015.

 

200 to 500: Harold Varner III. The American was one of several players to play their way into the Fed Ex Cup playoffs with a T10 finish on the weekend. Now 123rd HVGIII needs a big week to vault into the top 100 so he can move on to TPC Boston.

 

Greens in regulation

After the comprehensive triumph for the USA the LPGA heads to Ottawa for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, a tournament which was a major from 1979 until 2000 when it was replaced by the LPGA on the elite list with the British Open. The European Tour’s Made in Denmark event takes place at the Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort in Farse. It was won by Belgian Thomas Pieters in 2016.

 

After the event in Fiji the Australasian Tour wings it’s way to the Darwin suburb of Palmerston for the Northern Territory PGA Championship next week until a six-week break before the WA Open.

 

Tap in

It was not a win for an Australian as it was in 2016 for Curtis Luck but the US Amateur, a title won by Bryson DeChambeau in 2015, was won by American Doc Redman at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. North Carolina native Redman did even better than Otaegui in Germany winning in the first extra hole of the match-play final against Doug Ghim having been two down with two holes to play of the 36-hole final.

 

Image via lpga.com

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 24 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 24 of the NRL. With still two rounds to go Melbourne Storm secured the minor premiership, and the $100,000 prize-money that goes with it, winning in Newcastle whilst the Raiders defeat at the hands on Penrith in Canberra on Sunday means they are all but out of finals contention unless the Dragons and Manly both lose their remaining two games.

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Melbourne’s minor premiership was confirmed after they beat the Knights 44-12 on Saturday. Despite victories to the Broncos (second) and Roosters (third) the Storm still have a six-point margin at the top of the ladder. Craig Bellamy’s side, in addition to securing the JJ Giltinan Shield gave the chance to young half Brodie Croft to feature again with star playmaker Cooper Cronk rested. Croft scored three tries and laid on another in his fourth NR game so will be well in form if needed during the finals series. But in all likelihood it will be his last game until the start of 2018 with Cronk leaving the club, or retiring, in the off-season.

 

After a run of big forward efforts there was another this weekend as Sharks skipper Paul Gallen ran for 218 metres in fourth-placed Cronulla’s 26-16 triumph in Townsville. The former Blues skipper played all but seven minutes of the match making 36 tackles to go with his 22 runs as Shane Flanagan’s side led 26-6 until two late scores restored some respectability for the home side. Paul Green’s side now lay seventh and face the Tigers in Sydney before hosting the Broncos in round 26.

 

Penrith moved into sixth spot on 30 points after a stirring win in Canberra on Sunday as Tryone May crossed seven minutes from time to seal the 26-22 triumph and in all likelihood  secure Anthony Griffin’s team a finals spot. Since round 18 when they beat Manly they’ve gone unbeaten but until the weekend only once in that period (round 19 when they beat the Warriors) had they not played at home so the draw has been somewhat of a charmed one. Despite the win their was concerns with the defence of  Bryce Cartwright who has recently returned from injury with the edge forward missing six tackles, five of those in the first half after he came on 17 minutes into the contest.

 

Sunday’s other fixture saw Manly squander a chance to improve on their eight spot on the ladder only to suffer a 14-point defeat at the hands of the hitherto hapless Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium. Canterbury, who had only won seven of their 21 games heading into the fixtures, won 30-16 – the only time they have score more than 24 points this season. Manly’s left-edge defence of winger Mat Wright and Brian Kelly was targeted as Des Hasler’s team crossed for six tries. Kelly alone missed six tackles which will be a concern for Manly mentor Trent Barrett.

 

The beneficiary of Manly’s result was the Dragons in particular after St George Illawarra suffered a 24-12 defeat in Brisbane on Friday night. Aside from Kurt Mann’s seven missed tackle Paul McGregor’s side was hugely let down by one of their experienced players with Australian centre Josh Dugan missing five tackles and making four errors. Dugan’s errors directly led to points for the Broncos and cost his side points in possibly one of his worst game this season which leaves the Red V in ninth spot and currently out of the finals. They have games remaining against Penrith and the Bulldogs – both winners on the weekend.

Image via abc.net.au

 

 

Golf Capital – Thomas tops in Quail Hollow, Team USA set to defend Solheim Cup

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw another maiden for the second week running as Justin Thomas won the US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. A tri-sanctioned event in Fiji comes up this weekend as does the feature Solheim Cup with the USA women defending their crown won in Germany in 2015.

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Opening drive:

It was another breakthrough major triumph for the year with Justin Thomas winning in Charlotte by two strokes finishing at eight under two clear of the field. Nine men’s players have won their first major since the start of 2015 proving the depth of the men’s game. The victory is Thomas’ fifth at the PGA Tour level but his first on mainland USA. Two of his other wins were in Hawaii in January this year plus he’s won the CIMB Classic in Malaysia back to back in 2015-16.

 

Not long after Thomas’ stop-then-drop putt on the 10th five players shared the lead at seven under in what turned out to be a compelling finish for the Wanamaker Trophy.

 

Three players finished in a tie for second Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari and Louis Oosthuizen. The latter has now completed a career grand-slam… of finishing second in majors. The 34-year-old South African did win the Open in 2010 but it’s still an odd quirk.

 

Thomas joins good friend Jordan Spieth in winning a major and not it needs only Rickie Fowler and Smylie Kaufman from the close quartet to make their own mark at the top level of the game. Fowler seems to be edging closer but Kaufman didn’t play on the weekend, however he did get engaged.

 

This weekend the PGA’s Wyndham Championship is on in North Carolina whilst the European Tour event in Europe sees Germany host the Paul Lawrie Match Play for the first time at Golf Resort Bad Griesbach.

 

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. After a major winner we have the Fiji International which will be without defending champion Brandt Snedeker who is injured. The tournament features an array of top players from the Asian, Australasian and European Tours.

 

Under 20: Ryan Fox. If the Kiwi produces the form he had in the first three rounds at the PGA until his final day he could register a similar dominant win to Snedeker. He won the Northern Irish Open last year so will be suited if the wind picks up on the exposed course.

 

20 to 50: Michael Hendry. Snedeker strolled to an 11-stroke victory last time at the Natadola Bay Golf Course when the tournament was held in October and Hendry was second. Since then Hendry won the NZ Open and has had two top ten finishes in Japan.

 

20 to 50: Jason Scrivener. The WA golfer finished T35 in the Scottish Open after missing the cut in the irish Open and before that he was T38 in France. Those Rolex Series events are streets ahead of class on this one and the wind on the links courses will set him up well for this tournament.

 

20 to 50: Jeunghung Wang. At 76 in the rankings Wang has slipped a bit since he won the Qatar Masters in January but if he’s fit and has gotten over his missed cut at the PGA his game suits this venue.

 

500 to 100: Jake Higginbottom. If not for a third round 79 the one-time NZ Open winner would have been well in contention last time here but he finished T7.

 

50 to 100: Poom Saksanin. The world #236 is at a career-high ranking and had won two times since October in Asia winner in Asia including earlier this month in India. Plus he’s in that magic age bracket, he’s currently 24.

Greens in regulation:

Looking to retain the biennial crown against the European side the USA host the Solheim Cup in Iowa. Victory at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club would give the USA a 10-5 record over their trans-Atlantic rivals in the history of the event and they enter it with a vastly more experienced team with 36 combined starts between their squad versus 24 for Europe. Lexi Thompson (2) is the only top ten ranked player in the event (highlighting the power balance in the sport) with 13th ranked Swede Anna Nordqvist the top European player. The USA have been beaten only once in seven occasions on home soil but they rode their luck with a final day four-point rally in the match-play giving them a win by one point last time out in Europe and perhaps the lack of true top-liners might end up evening things out again despite the visitors’ inexperience.

Tap in

With news that the just completed PGA Championship will move to the month of May from 2019 onwards it’s interesting that the men’s elite event window, at least in terms of individual tournaments, has been shrunk. Part of this is due to allowing for the Olympic event to have clear space to a degree every four years but it is a major shortening of the window of the top four tournaments. This also does give breathing space to the season-ending events of the USA and European Tours but it would seem a missed opportunity for casual fans to pick up the big action over a longer span in the Northern Hemisphere spring/summer. I’ve noted before a fifth major in Asia might have value. This could be from Japan in the east or the Middle East in the west of the continent. Stage it towards the start or end of the year depending upon when the weather suits. You could also make a case for rotating a major in Europe in late March. The women’s majors now span six months with the ANA Inspiration finishing on the first weekend in April before the Evian Championship which finishes on September 17 this year – still a month away.

 

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Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 23 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 23 of the NRL. The Storm beat the Roosters (third) to extend their lead at the top of the ladder to six points edging them closer to confirming the minor premiership whilst the Broncos (second) beat the Sharks (fourth.) The Knights also won their fifth game of the season but the Tigers won their sixth so Newcastle are still in the wooden spoon slot.

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After Junior Paulo ran for 200 metres in round 22 when the Raiders won, there was a two over ‘200 plus’ efforts this weekend. On Saturday night both Penrith’s Reagan Campbell-Gillard (229 metres) and the Cowboys’ Jason Taumololo (204 metres) broke the double ton as the home side won 24-16. Panther middle forward Campbell-Gillard off the bench played 65 minutes and also made 39 tackles with Taumololo playing all but four minutes of the match making 32 tackles. In a game which saw the home side prevail after visiting North Queensland suffered a spate on injuries Fijian international Campbell-Gillard was a key player.

 

Brisbane finished the weekend in second on 32 points after they beat defending premiers Cronulla 32-10. The Friday night triumph in the Queensland capital had an odd synergy to last year’s premiership-winning campaign for Shane Flanagan’s team as they also lost conceding 32 points in round 23 in 2016 (beaten 32- 18 by the Dragons.) The stretch was part of a period which saw Cronulla lose four of their final five matches to limp into the finals in poor form before a turnaround saw them break their Premiership hoodoo beating the Storm in the decider.

 

The above statistic, and defeat, should perhaps give hope to Roosters fans after they were beaten 16-13 by Melbourne on Saturday night. Now having lost two games on the run after a 36-18 defeat at the hands of Manly in round 22 Trent Robinson’s side have some slight wobbles, however I can’t see them losing two of their next three games given two of those fixtures against are against the Tigers and Titans.

 

Sunday afternoon’s exciting 30-26 win to the Tigers which pushed them two points clear of the Knights on the bottom of the ladder puts Manly (7th – 28 points) further into the finals uncertainty given they could still finish in the top four, or miss out altogether. The Sea Eagles’ defence at Leichhardt Oval was shambolic as they coughed up a 26-18 lead inside the last 20 minutes missing 43 tackles in the match. Hooker Api Koroisau missed six tackles (NB: two weeks ago against Melbourne he missed nine) whilst pivot Blake Green missed five plus forward Frank Winterstein missed six tackles in his second half stint alone. Coach Trent Barrett has a clear issue to focus on over the next few weeks, and Manly’s opponents have some obvious targets.

 

Whilst much talk around the Gold Coast has been focused on the relationship between coach Neil Henry and star fullback Jarryd Hayne the Titans imploded on the field – beaten by the Dragons at Kogarah 42-16 on Sunday with players blasting each other after mistakes, and not letting it go. Former NRL player and Sky Sports Radio host Jimmy Smith relayed an interesting example of this on the Big Sports Breakfast Weekend on Sunday. Smith explained after halfback Ash Taylor at one stage sprayed a kick out on the full teammate Jarrod Wallace spent the next three tackles on the following defensive set lambasting the playmaker telling him what he should have done. It is surprising a Queensland origin representative thinks this is constructive form of criticism. The anecdote came during an interview with the Dragons’ Joel Thompson with the St George Illawarra forward noting their side has been guilty of the same issue this season in dwelling on mistakes several sets after something have occurred. In isolation the Taylor/Wallace incident is not great but if it’s a pattern of behaviour on the field for the Gold Coast it may go a long way to explaining why the Titans have won only seven times this season.

 

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Golf Capital – Kim tames Kingsbarns, Carolina major time

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw a maiden major triumph for IK Kim as Hideki Matsuyama tuned up for the PGA Championship with a WGC victory as outsider Chris Stroud prevailed in a playoff to claim the ‘cuda Championship.

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Opening drive:

Jordan Spieth enters the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow as the most in-form male player in the world but IK Kim won for the third time in two months as she saluted by two strokes at Kingsbarns in Scotland to claim the Women’s British Open. Kim, 29, claimed the win after heading into Sunday leading by six strokes before England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff put together a fine (equal course record) 64 to close the gap but the Saturday buffer proved enough as Kim closed with nine straight pars on a rain-sodden final day near St Andrews.

 

World number three Hideki Matsuyama claimed his second WGC title with a final round 61 (another equal course record) to finish at -16 and win convincingly by five strokes. Matsuyama closed with three straight birdies and finished clear of American Zach Johnson after Johnson and Thomas Pieters shared the third round lead.

 

Similar to Grayson Murray’s win with another PGA event recently Chris Stroud won the Barracuda Championship but it was with a host of topliners missing due to the WGC event. Stroud, 35, broke through for the first time in 290 PGA Tour starts winning via a playoff in the modified stableford tournament seeing off Greg Owen then Ricki Werenski. A reward for persistence for a player once ranked well inside the top 100 but who entered the weekend ranked 413 such was his dip in form since his career high ranking in 2013.

 

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. Quail Hollow is the host for the final men’s major of 2017 as Jordan Spieth aims for a career slam with Jimmy Walker the defending champion of the PGA Championship.

 

20 and under: Hideki Matsuyama. Matsuyama’s triumph on the weekend came about after a new putter was added to his equipment and his confidence will be sky high after Sunday in Ohio. His worst result in a major this year was T14 in the Open and he was T2 in the US Open.

 

20 and under: Rickie Fowler. The American closed with 67-66 at the WGC event and has won at this North Carolina venue before (2012.) This bodes well to break his major duck. Fowler was T5 in the recent US Open.

 

20 to 50: Brooks Koepka. The US Open winner would have to buck a recent trend of first-time winners (more on that later) but players winning two majors in a year has happened recently (2015 to Spieth and 2014 to Rory McIlroy.) Koepka tuned up well with a T17 finish on the weekend.

 

20 to 50: Justin Thomas. Thomas was T7 two years ago at the venue when Rory McIlroy won the tournament and this included a third round 65. Thomas won to start the year in Hawaii and was T9 in the US Open.

 

50 to 100: Thomas Pieters. The Belgian’s driving distance statistics means he is suited here and the world number 23’s T4 in the Masters earlier this year proved a new venue was not something the 25 is put off by. He did drop away to finish T4 after leading into the final day last Sunday.

 

100 to 200: Xander Schauffele. Recent first-time tour winner Schauffele improved over the course of his WGC debut going 70-69-69-68 to finish T13. Schauffele was also T5 at the US Open so isn’t daunted by the company of player despite his inexperience as a professional.

 

Greens in regulation:

Eight of the past 11 major winners were first-time winners of a major so statistically the recent trend plays against the likes of Spieth and McIlroy. Matsuyama is the highest ranked player yet to win a major and Spain’s Jon Rahm who enters the tournament ranked sixth in the world is the next highest without a major. McIlroy does enjoy and affinity with the venue but an array of recent issues including injury, equipment and personnel changes, despite a T5 finish in Akron, means much can go wrong with McIlroy. But he could also win the Wanamaker Trophy by four strokes.

 

Tap in

Outside of the top flight golf events which this column normally focuses on the PGA Tour’s second-tier web.com Tour held great interest on the weekend as NBA star and two-time championship-winner Steph Curry featured in the Ellie Mae Classic as an amateur playing on one of three discretionary invites. As opposed to pro-ams this was a legitimate event and Curry, despite missing the cut, held his own signing for two rounds of 74. TPC Stonebrae, located on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay, hosted the event with Curry exceeding expectations and performing better than other pro athletes have done on average when they have attempted to go around on second-tier events. The use of this discretionary invitation is far better than other recent initiatives. Has anyone told Steph Curry golfers win majors in their 40s? Maybe win five NBA titles and then make the switch permanently? A note to acknowledge the tournament winner Martin Piller who has now won six times on the web.com tour.

 

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