A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Queensland’s Cameron Smith win on the Gold Coast, Dylan Frittelli won in Mauritius plus Rickie Fowler stormed home to secure the Hero World Challenge title beating 17 other players, including Tiger Woods, convincingly.
After three consecutive top five finishes Cameron Smith had the form to win the Australian PGA at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast but needed a playoff to see off Jordan Zunic after they both finished at 18 under.
Sunday’s action started earlier than planned with thunderstorms forecast and that wasn’t the only surprise. Smith had to deal with a heckler before he took a bogey on the last which meant the duo headed down 18 again. Smith, 24, eventually won it on the second extra hole.
American Fowler produced a stunning final round of 61, a course record at New Providence, to win going away by four strokes at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. Tiger Woods returned and finished T9 with rounds of 69-68-75-68 but Fowler was sublime having started the day seven strokes adrift of Charley Hoffman who eventually finished second at 14 under.
Australia didn’t have the only European Tour action with the co-sanctioned event in Queensland’s South-East sharing ET status with the Mauritius Open won by South African Dylan Fritelli. The tournament, also sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour, also had a playoff with Fritelli needing only one extra hole to beat Arjun Atwal. However the Indian will rue the 72nd hole where his lipped out eagle putt would have handed him the title.
The week the Ladies European Tour culminates in the Middle East with the Dubai Ladies Masters taking place whilst the team event, the QBE Shoot-Out, for the PGA Tour occurs at the Tiburon Golf Club which hosted the LPGA’s season-ending event recently.
Player performance notes
Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Randpark Golf Park hosts the Joburg Open which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Sunshine Tour. The large field of 240 will be spread across two courses for the opening two rounds.
20 to 50: Dean Burmester. The Zimbabwean-born golfer has won in South Africa already having claimed the Tshwane Open in March and was T4 in the European Tour’s season-ending event plus he finished T11 when this event was held earlier in the year before it’s move.
20 to 50: Romain Langasque. The Frenchman returned to form finishing third in Mauritius and was T11 at this event in March.
50 to 100: Aaron Rai. The Englishman was T7 when the tournament was in March at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington venue and the following week he won the Kenya Open. Rai missed his last two cuts but was eighth in October in Andalucia.
50 to 100: Ockie Strydom. The South African has three top nine finishes in his last four starts including a T9 last weekend and locals have a terrific record in this tournament.
100 to 200: Jacques Blaauw. The South Africans was T6 at the Tshwane Open in March but he then missed his next eight cuts. He was eighth in a return to form two starts ago on the Sunshine Tour.
100 to 200: Jaco Prinsloo. A winner two starts ago on the Sunshine Tour Prinsloo also won in June at a lower-tier event. With the tournament taking place at a venue which hasn’t hosted a high level tournament in over 15 years and lacking star quality local a player on the rise like the 28-year-old who has climbed 270 places in the rankings since the start of the year to 618.
Greens in regulation
Cameron Smith’s victory on Sunday comparing him to the ‘other’ Cameron Smith who won the Rugby League World Cup on Saturday night when Australia beat England 6-0.
All jokes aside with the ‘other’ Smith (the Golden Boot-winning, Kangaroos skipper that is) the golfing Smith continues an impressive rise. Smith banked about AUD274,331 with his weekend win. Combining the first two events of the 2018 PGA Tour season and all of the 2017 season Smith grossed just short of AUD 4 million (USD3,975,457) on the US PGA Tour.
By way of comparison the NRL title-winning and Queensland State of Origin skipper whose biggest wins are regularly watched by over 1 million Australians, would probably make a maximum of AUD1.5 million when you consider his likely NRL and representative wages. Smith the elder would be known by more Australians than the golfing Smith ten years his junior but his direct playing salary doesn’t reflect that when compared to the now world number 61 golfer.
Prizemoney aside Smith’s twin victories in 2017 have him among a group of five Australians to win a standalone or co-sanctioned tournaments in 2017 across the top two tours – the PGA Tour and the European Tour. Marc Leishman (twice), Jason Norris, Wade Ormsby, and Brett Rumford are the other four. If we stretch it back to the start of the 2017 season across each tour in late 2016 we can add Sam Brazel and Rod Pampling to that list so that makes it seven Australian’s winning worldwide at the elite level in the last year or so. What is notable about that list is the absences… Major winners Jason Day and Adam Scott did not manage a win in 2017 they are currently ranked 12th nd 31st respectively.
The consensus is Tiger Woods put in a better effort at the Hero World Challenge and his three sub 70 rounds would indicate so as would some of his classy eagles. The period he lead the tournament after his ninth hole on Friday was a something to give fans hope for a solid if not necessarily spectacular return in 2018.
Last year Woods was 14 strokes from the winner and this weekend he was ten behind Fowler. Last week we said anything better than last year would be improvement and it was. Whether Woods, who has signaled he will focus his scheduled around playing the majors in 2018, can stand up to the rigors of regular tournament golf as opposed to an 18-player invitational event is a huge question. However this weekend was better than I had anticipated. Wait, I’m starting to believe again… He’s wooing me back dammit!
Back in a few weeks.
Image via smh.com.au