Golf Capital: Li breaks Rory, Ricky Barnes versus tennis

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw a Monday triumph in La Jolla for Jason Day, Rory McIlroy faded in Dubai and Brittany Lincicome won in the Bahamas.

Farmers Insurance Open - Final Round

Opening Drive

It was the third playoff in three weeks on the PGA Tour, and this time it didn’t finish until Sunday as Day and Noren ran out of light five holes into the extra hole contest after they both finished at 10 under with American Ryan Palmer who was eliminated at the first playoff hole. Day needed just the first hole the next day after Noren found the water to claim the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Tiger Woods’ return to a full field event for the first time in twelve months was a measured success. Woods, 42, missed plenty of fairways and this included going six holes at a time not hitting a fairway. The fact he finished T23 is pretty impressive when you consider his poor form off the tee.

 

Rory McIlroy skipped two clear with eight holes to go in Dubai only to see his title hopes evaporate as Li Haotong dropped in four birdies across his last four holes and win the Dubai Desert Classic. Back-to-back birdies for the Ulsterman wasn’t enough as Li finished at an impressive 23 under and won for the first time at this level outside of China. From the Middle East to Malaysia for the Maybank Championship in Malaysia this week. Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti won last year at Saugana Golf and Country Club.

 

Paradise Island in the Bahamas was the location for a successful title defence for Brittany Lincicome who won the Bahamas LPGA Classic, an event truncated by weather to 54 holes. Brooke Henderson led at various stages as the duration of the event looked unsure but it was Shanshan Feng who led at seven under and Lincicome was two back after the second round finished. The tournament finished in darkness on Sunday as Lincicome birdied four of the last five holes. Adelaide hosts the next LPGA event when the ISPS Handa Australian Open begins on February 15.

 

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. “Cheesburger!” It’s the Phoenix Open, with the party hole and all, on deck for the PGA this week. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama is the two-time defending champion at TPC Scottsdale.

 

Under 20: Rickie Fowler. The American is a combined 29 under in this tournament in the last two years with only Matsuyama better. He also won the Hero World Challenge in December.

 

Under 20: Hideki Matsuyama. We’ve already had a player defend a crown from last year this year when Fleetwood won in Abu Dhabi and Matsuyama can get the three-peat here. The last two times he’s won here Matsuyama had missed his previous cut and finished T33 so his T12 at Torrey Pines makes his hopes look even better here.

 

20 to 50: Byeong An. The world number 91 returned to form after two average starts with a T6 in Dubai last weekend. Last year An was sixth here after a prior T49 at the Farmers Insurance but that had come off a T13 in Abu Dhabi so going Middle East to Texas directly this time could help the 26-year-old.

 

50 to 100: Peter Uihlein. A winner in the second-tier Web.com tour season-ending tournaments last year the European Tour regular has registered good effort followed by bad effort (or withdrawal) recently and after missing the cut in San Diego the 28-year-old can improve on a T23 last year elsewhere in Texas when he played the Houston Open

 

200 to 500: Sung Kang. The Korean golfer missed three straight cuts before he was T12 here last year so they fact he’s made his last three cuts leading into his third go around TPC Scottsdale is promising. Scored five top ten finishes last year.

 

Greens in regulation

Before the event in Western Australia the Victorian Open is on this week with Dimitrios Papadotas the defending champion at the Barwon Heads’ 13th Beach Golf Links course for the men’s event. England’s Mel Reid is back to defend her crown from last year for the women’s tournament. The unique dual-tournament comes a week before the second World Super 6 Perth event which was won by Perth’s Brett Rumford last year. Given the variation in these events from the usual it’s good to see Australian authorities and their co-sanctioning partners for these tournaments keeping innovative ideas going even though changes may be controversial early on.

 

Tap in

Anyone for tennis? Or maybe golf? In the case of a career choice for those adept enough at both a report in The Australian on the weekend outlined the gulf in prizemoney across the top few hundred in each sport with tennis lagging behind golf. Setting aside issues of revenue-sharing with tennis players currently seeking more from what tournaments make it was interesting to note the large variance. Chip Le Grand’s piece outlined that the top 1% in tennis get just over 50% of the prizemoney allocation but in golf the figures for both genders is down around 20% allowing for those ranked lower down to make a more comfortable living compared to those in similar rankings in tennis. Le Grand noted the break-even ranking in tennis appeared to be 336 for the men’s tour. In golf Ricky Barnes (as of last weekend ranked 336) offered an interesting comparison. Barnes, yet to win in 411 ranking events has earnt USD 8,990,777 since first paying PGA tour events 16 years ago. Barnes, in this season to date, has earnt USD 163,032. Barnes, 36, is making such a comfortable living he’s established his own foundation. Yes, I’m sure there may be a tax incentive for him to do so but I’d be surprised if any tennis player outside the top 100 would have done similar. Compare Barnes’ prizemoney to tennis where current 336 Daniel Dutra da Silva has earnt USD 169,619 in his career and the contrast is stark. Especially when you consider Dutra da Silva has won 13 futures titles (essentially the fourth tier below grand slams, World Tour events and Challenger tournaments) and Barnes doesn’t event has a web.com win.

Image via golfweek.com

Golf Capital: Spain’s winning double, Tiger back again.

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm salute in Singapore and California, respectively, with Tommy Fleetwood of England winning again in the United Arab Emirates. The LPGA resumes this week also in the Bahamas.

jonrahmblueridejan2018

Opening Drive

The Asian Tour attracted the defending Masters champion for it’s first main stroke-play event of the season and Garcia didn’t disappoint winning comprehensively by five strokes at the Sentosa Golf Club with some tickets to the Open confirmed among those who finished behind the 38-year-old (more on that later.)

 

England’s Fleetwood won for the third time in a year (and it could have been four if not for a lost playoff in Shenzhen in April) when he won the Abu Dhabi Championship by two strokes from Ross Fisher. Fisher co-led coming into the day with Belgian Thomas Pieters who is now 1/5 when leading or co-leading at 54 holes.

 

It was not quite the 78-hole drama of the previous week but Rahm needed extra holes to repel the challenge of Andrew Landry after the American birdied 18 on Sunday to force a playoff at the Career Builder Challenge on the PGA West Stadium Course in La Quinta after they both finished at 22 under. Rahm won it on the fourth extra hole for his fourth triumph in the last 12 months.

 

Staying in the Bear Republic of California the PGA Tour this week sees Tiger Woods return to a full field event for the first time in the States since he missed the cut here last year. The Farmers Insurance Open in 2017 was won by last week’s victor Rahm at the Torrey Pines venue. Woods has claimed a major (the US Open) here plus this event seven times in La Jolla and Woods last won it in 2013. If he makes the cut this weekend it’s a win for his return.

 

The LPGA resumes for the year with the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic at Paradise Island with American Brittany Lincicome the defending champion having won twice here.

 

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The Dubai Desert Classic is the second of the Middle East swing events and Garcia won here last year before claiming the Masters three months later.

 

Under 20: Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman started well when he hit all bar one green in his opening round and finished T3 behind Fleetwood last weekend. He’s good a great record in the Middle East and won here three years ago.

 

20 to 50: Matthew Fitzpatrick. Already a winner in the country as we noted last week. The prospects of the Sheffield native look strong after he claimed a tie for third place with McIlroy last week in Abu Dhabi.

 

100 to 200: Ryan Fox. The Kiwi’s length off the tee will help here but he has mixed results in the UAE. He started brilliantly last year here before fading to finish T63. However he was fourth two weeks ago in the NZ Masters and his run of form in the France, Irish and Scottish Open’s when he went 6-T4-T4 could be a useful pointer given the wind can pick up at this venue.

 

100 to 200: Jeung-Hun Wang. The second of the repeat picks. The 2017 Qatar Masters a champ started off well enough in the UAE finishing T15 last week and the immediate back up here could benefit the Korean.

 

200 to 500: Lucas Bjerregaard. The 2017 Portugal Masters champion won twice last year, the other been the team’s Sixes event, and has the length off the tee which could set him up well here.

 

Greens in regulation

It was a weekend of quality winners with numbers 3, 11 and 18 in the world all saluting. The Asian Tour’s Singapore Open continued a trend of recent star victories in the region as Garcia won with Justin Rose having romped home in the Indonesia Masters late last year. All three weekend winners to go with Rose’s triumph in late 2017 perhaps show this year’s Ryder Cup won’t be a Team USA romp, despite what others are thinking.

 

Tap in

Garcia’s triumph in Sentosa as not only notable for the Spaniard continuing an impressive record of at last one victory every year since 2011 but it saw four players (including on Australian) book a spot at the Open in Carnoustie in July. Thai duo Jazz Janewattananond and Danthai Boonma along with American Sean Crocker got the first three sport as Lucas Herbert claimed fourth on a rankings countback over those not already qualified in the field when he finished T8. Herbert had three consecutive top seven finished in his last few tournaments in Australia this summer. Interestingly, Zimbabwe-born Crocker was T7 in the Australian PGA with Herbert and has risen rapidly in the rankings . Crocker, 21, is currently ranked 540 but could be inside the top 300 by the time the major comes around.

Image via bostonherald.com

Golf Capital – Millar is the man in black, Hawaiian playoff after false alarm

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which has seen Australian Matt Millar claim the second win of his professional career with victory in the New Zealand Masters plus there was plenty going on in Hawaii, and not just on the golf course at the Sony Open.

mattmillarstuffjan218.jpg

Opening drive
The first ‘Black Jacket’ has gone to Canberra’s Matt Millar after the 41-year-old benefitted from the capitulation of overnight leader Daniel Pearce to claim the inaugural New Zealand Masters.

Millar won by four strokes with a final round 67 to finish at 11 under at the Wainui Golf Club after Pearce, who led by two strokes after 54 holes, couldn’t cope with the wind on the final day and fired a final round 78 to drop into a tie for sixth. Millar will now focus on the other Australasian PGA Tour events in the next month or so which start with the Victorian Open from February 1.

80 holes was needed to find a winner in Hawaii with Patton Kizzire beating countryman James Hanh at the sixth extra hole to win the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu after both players finished at 17 under. Kizzire has now won twice in two months on the PGA Tour. The tour returns to the mainland with the Career Builder Challenge at the Stadium Course in La Quinta, California with a few tracks in use before a cut on Saturday.

England’s Chris Paisley won for the first time in six years, and the first occasion on the European Tour, when he beat South African Branden Grace in the SA Open in Gauteng. Paisley’s three-stroke win was unexpected once world number 28 Grace hit the lead over the weekend but Paisley’s final round 66 proved crucial.

In Malaysia Team Europe won the Eurasia Cup after overcoming deficits at the end of play on Friday and Saturday. Winning seven of the first eight singles matches on Sunday to win the team event over the Asian outfit 14-10 at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur. In a good pointer for the Ryder Cup Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrell Hatton each won three from three points available over the three days.

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The European Tour heads to the United Arab Emirates for two events – the first of which is the Abu Dhabi Championships at the Abu Dhabi GC. Englishman Fleetwood won last year.

Under 20: Dustin Johnson. The American has won already this year and was T2 behind Fleetwood here last year so likes the venue.

20 to 50: Matthew Fitzpatrick. The 23-year-old won in the UAE in 2016 and has won four times already on the ET in four different countries. Since his last win in September Fitzpatrick has finished no worse than 19th.

20 to 50: Tyrell Hatton. The Englishman went 3-0 at the Eurasia Cup and if not for a final round 75 which dropped him to T13 would have finished well in contention last year

20 to 50: Thomas Pieters. The Belgian has missed the cut twice here but has also finished second and fourth. Given he scored the decisive singles win for Europe last weekend it might be more of the 2016 Pieters here.

100 to 200: Jeung-Hun Wang. 11th at his course debut last year Wang followed that up by winning the Qatar Masters a few weeks later. He did taper off a bit with 11 missed cuts in 2017 but at 22 has plenty of talent

Greens in regulation 

When is a health scare not a health scare? When it happens to Rory McIlroy apparently. The Northern Irish golfer told James Corrigan of the UK Telegraph about a health check-up which detected “a slight heartbeat irregularity called a flat or inverted T wave” but the world number 11 insisted it wasn’t a heart scare. I’m no doctor but if something has two names it’s at least of some concern, and certainly newsworthy. Especially for a player who has had a range of health and fitness issues in recent years.

Tap in

Kizzire’s victory in Hawaii might actually have been the third most interesting occurrence in the weekend in Hawaii. Players, along with residents and tourists, got a huge shock when a ballistic missile warning which was sent on Saturday. The false alarm notice sent 38-minutes later eased fears and perhaps that helped Kizzire in the playoff. Elsewhere camera operators and technical crew went on strike over pay and conditions which severely limited the TV coverage for the tournament’s final round.
Image via stuff.co.nz

Golf Capital – A number one win to start 2018 plus NZ Masters week

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which has seen world number one Dustin Johnson win in Hawaii plus the New Zealand Masters will take place near Auckland on the Australasian PGA Tour.

djohnsonirishtimesjan2018

Opening drive

Dustin Johnson, one of only a few players to win on multiple occasions in the USA in 2017, got 2018 underway with a huge win in Maui. Johnson shot the best round of the tournament (eight under 65) on the final day. The American capitalised on Marc Leishman’s tumble down the leaderboard on Saturday and went clear on Sunday to finish at 24 under eight strokes ahead of Jon Rahm. The tour stays in Hawaii for the Sony Open this week.

The European Tour resumes with two events this week. Gauteng hosts the South African Open and in Malaysia the Eurasia Cup takes places. The Eurasia Cup sees two 12-man sides from Europe and Asia face off in a Ryder Cup-style event. The biennial tournament takes place at the Garden Course, Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.
Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Honolulu’s Waialae Country Club hosts the Sony Open. After last week’s limited field event it’s a full deck for this PGA Tour event

 

20 to 50: Tony Finau. After opening with a 64 here last year Finau finished T20. He ended 2017 inside the top 16 at five of his last six starts including a second place at the Safeway behind

 

20 to 50: Brian Harman. Four consecutive top eight finishes in Korea, China the USA mainland and China shows Harman’s versatility and he has a bit of course for finishing T20 last year. Has last start third has his at a career-high ranking of 23.

 

20 to 50: Gary Woodland. Owner of three top 13 finishes in his last three goes at this tournament Woodland hasn’t won since 2013 but clearly likes this event.

 

50 to 100: Jamie Lovemark. The American was T4 here last year and has done well at PGA Tour events off the American mainland with a T5 in Korea late last year, but he did miss his next

two cuts.

 

50 to 100: Ollie Schniederjans. With a respectable T27 debut in this event last year Schniederjans went on to post four top tens in his first full year on the tour. He was second to Henrik Stenson in his best result last year at the Wyndham Championship back in August.

 

Greens in Regulation 

As the PGA Tour resumed tour officials announced they will support a fundraising drive for Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle. Facing a third bone marrow transplant for acute myeloid leukemia Lyle, 36, had the condition return in July of last year. Should you wish to support ‘January for Jarrod’ you can do so here. The campaign has already raised over USD 20,000

 

Tap in 

Wainui Golf Club north of Auckland is the venue for the New Zealand Masters which will take place from Thursday. Whilst the Australian Masters hasn’t taken place since Peter Senior’s triumph at Huntingdale in  2015 this event will offer up a pro-am format of sorts. As outlined by pga.org.au 50 amateurs will join the remaining 50 professionals following the traditional second round cut and the professionals will continue to compete for the title, as well as engage in a separate team competition with their amateur partner. 2016 Olympian and European Tour regular Ryan Fox is favourite to win. Interestingly the Australian Masters website is still open with IMG telling us they will announce plans about the future of the event last held in 2015 ‘in the coming months.’ The new direction seems to be taking a while and the hope for another Australian Triple Crown anytime soon seems forlorn.
 

Image via irishtimes.com

Golf Capital – 2018 Begins with Champions plus Rule Changes

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which sees the world’s top golfers return (well at least the male ones that normally play in America.) The action on the European and LPGA Tour is still on hiatus but there has been some interesting rule changes in the last month or so.

lexithompsonjan2018golfdigest

Opening drive

We head into 2018 with Justin Thomas having finished the 2017 season Fed Ex Cup champion and winning his first major with his triumph in August at Quail Hollow in Charlotte in the PGA Championship. England’s Tommy Fleetwood won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour on the strength of victores in Abu Dhabi and France. Across on the LPGA it was Lexi Thompson winning the season-long points race despite a host of disappointments, including the ANA Inspiration penalty debacle. Joining Thompson next year in the LPGA will be England’s Gerogia Hall. The Bournemouth-native won the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit and will play on the LPGA as a rookie in 2018.

 

The ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner was Western Australia’s Brett Rumford who won the inaugural World Super 6 tournament in Perth. As we noted recently Rumford was one of five Australian men to win on a European Tour or PGA Tour event in 2017. Su Oh leads the 2017/18 Australian LPGA Order of Merit but the tour still has the bulk of tournaments, including the Australian Open in February, to take place.

 

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The Plantation Course at Kapalua hosts the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The Maui tournament is limited to the 34 winners of a PGA Tour event in 2017. Four picks here with the limited field.

 

Under 20: Justin Thomas. The American won twice in Hawaii last year, including this event, and comes here in a great run of form at the back end 2017.

 

Under 20: Marc Leishman. It’s hard to gauge form with players resuming for the year but Leishman won twice last year and not many others did. The three in the PGA Tour in the USA that did were elite players – Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.

 

20 to 50: Kevin Kisner. Kisner was one of the players at the President’s Cup who impressed in his debut last year and his victory in May in Texas saw him edge home over top players including Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm.

 

20 to 50: Pat Perez. A winner as recently as October Perez followed that up his victory in Malaysia with a fifth place in South Korea plus he fired a final round 65 for a T3 finish here last year.

 

Greens in regulation

March of last year saw some wider rule changes for golf to be implemented in 2019 but the USAGA and R&A (the two overarching bodies responsible for the rules of the sport) have hit the fast forward button on the remote. By fixing the farce that was ‘call ins’ around rule violations the top levels of golf have acknowledged officially the system was flawed. American Lexi Thompson was, now infamously, penalised from a viewer call in during the end of the ANA Inspiration in April. Thompson had actually made her error on the Saturday but it wasn’t picked up and relayed to her until during the latter stages on Sunday round. A comical situation ensued and Thompson, who was leading by two strokes at the time, went on to lose to So Yeon Ryu in a playoff. It was diabolical that random violations were even considered without consistent application to all players (eg tournament officials watching non-broadcast incidents) but the fact viewers could call in made a mockery of the sport and was an utter garbage use of technology.

 

Tap in

After his return in the Bahamas Tiger Woods I was somewhat upbeat but a recent update from the now 42-year-old has me puzzled. Woods stated he was “very encouraged” by the effort in Albany which saw him beat home some of the games best recent performers including Johnson, Thomas, and Henrik Stenson. However the 14-time major winner hasn’t outlined a schedule which is somewhat odd given we are four months from the Masters starting. For a meticulous athlete to not at least outline the next six weeks seems odd, maybe he  does now but isn’t going to mention anything yet.

In terms of the on-course aspects for his tournament selections based on recent aborted comebacks. The primary issue will be when Woods has to back up in full field events with early tee times. The limited field in the Bahamas meant no early starts and the ‘activated glutes’ saga of early 2015 still puzzles people given he was supposed to be in tournament ready form for the Farmers Insurance Open then. The jury remains out.

 

Image via golfdigest.com