A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw another playoff in the USA this one going to Gary Woodland, plus wins for star Minjee Lee and Tasmanian Simon Hawkes at Barwon Heads as Indian Shubhankar Sharma won in Malaysia.
Three-time LPGA winner Minjee Lee scored a comprehensive five stroke victory in the women’s event of the Victorian Open at 13th Beach Golf Links whilst Tasmanian Simon Hawkes got home after a playoff on a busy Sunday at Barwon Heads. Whilst Lee led at halfway before winning easily Hawkes faced a few challenges on the final day and even though he had a chance to win in 72 holes needed just the first playoff hole to see off Harrison Endycott of New South Wales. Hawkes, who spent part of 2017 playing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, heads to Perth this week and has an Australasian PGA tour card set for the next three years. Lee is short in the betting to salute in the Canberra Classic at Royal Canberra this week – a forerunner to the Australian Open.
The co-sanctioned Maybank Championship in Malaysia finished in a convincing win for Shubhankar Sharma of Indian when the 21-year-old, who also won the Joburg Open in South Africa in December, came from four shots back after the third round to win by two from Spain’s Jorge Campillo. The Spaniard can feel hard done by as most people who lead a golf tournament going into the final day and shot 68 usually win. In this case a ten under 62 from Sharma saw him win at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.
Rickie Fowler followed the recent trend of third round leaders dropping away in this event to finish outside the top ten (T11) as Gary Woodland beat Chez Reavie on the first hole of the playoff at the Phoenix Open after both players finished at 18 under. Woodland’s seven under was the best of the day on Sunday and the 33-year-old won for the first time in five years to move up to 26 in the world. This might seem high for a non-winner but he’s incredibly consistent having had ten top ten finishes since that start of 2016 and missing only seven cuts in 56 events in that period.
Fun fact about the PGA Tour, since the ballistic missile warning false alarm in Hawaii the week of the Sony Open every tournament has gone to a playoff. Make of that what you will.
Player performance notes
Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The big pro-am event at Pebble Beach is the PGA tour feature but the second attempt at the Super 6 format in Perth gets our attention this week. Western Australia’s Brett Rumford prevailed in 2017 in the tournament which follows a stroke-play format until the end of the third round when a further cut it made and 24 players are left to feature in elimination match-play. The top eight after 54 holes get a bye into the second round of the match-play format which are six-hole contests with playoffs on a special shoot-out hole if needed.
20 to 50: Lucas Herbert. Knocked out early in the match-play section last year. Herbert, 22 , was T8 last time out in Singapore when he secured a spot in the British Open . The Victorian was T7 in the Australian PGA in his most recent start in Australia.
20 to 50: Andrew Johnston. The Englishman was a late addition after the withdrawal of Tyrell Hatton and he returns after a T15 two years back under the stroke-play format. A repeat of that gets him into the match-play format and a recent T9 in Abu Dhabi when he resumed for the year is promising.
20 to 50: Jason Scrivener. Another top WA golfer who is close to breaking into the top 150. Scrivener was 208th this time last year when he made the semi-finals at Lake Karrinyup. Scrivener, 28, missed the cut in Malaysia but was T6 in a strong field the week prior in Dubai.
50 to 100: Austin Connelly. The Canadian was ninth last year like Herbert going out having won one of his match-play contests before losing to recent NZ Masters winner Matt Millar in the quarter final. NB: As a recent winner and quarter finalist Millar was on the short-list here
50 to 100 Travis Smyth. Shellharbour’s Smyth won the NT PGA and featured in my thoughts in big events at the back end of 2017 when he recorded three consecutive top 20 finishes highlighted by a T10 at the Australian Open. It shouldn’t be forgotten he was a quarter finalist at the USA Amateur last year in Los Angeles – great experience for the pressure of match-play if he can make it into the top 24.
Greens in regulation
So the SuperBowl was the biggest sporting event in the USA this weekend? The TV ratings may confirm that but the Phoenix Open seems to have found a niche with the single-biggest ever Saturday crowd – a jaw-dropping 216,818 for a tournament total of 719,179 across the week. The No Laying Up podcast reported there was some questionable behaviour on the Saturday with 26 incidents (not necessarily arrests) but you can’t argue when the general admission seating of 37,000 on the stadium hole (the 16th) is full by 7:30am! Nearly four hours before the first group was due through. How are they entertained you ask in that time? The DJ is cranked up to bust out some tunes…Other tournaments are you listening? It might not be everyone’s cup of tea (or can of Budweiser) but if even one per cent of the crowd don’t normally tune into golf watch the next few weeks of action it’s some sort of result for generating new fans.
Hawkes’ and Lee’s respective triumphs in Victoria gained not only attention for the varying degrees of drama and decisiveness but it was noteworthy the events’ equal prizemoney got coverage across plenty of platforms including the Golf Channel. The $650,000 cheque for each section is a rarity for gender equity in sport (and golf itself) but the issue (week-to-week) in golf comes with the fact the men’s and women’s tours are run by multiple organisations. That’s also not likely to change anytime soon in regards to majors. Last week we mentioned the golf versus tennis prizemoney difference regarding individual athletes but one advantage tennis has over golf is each major can determine their prize money due to the fact they are individual entities running all the categories. More joint events at the lower tier might drag up this figure by way of pressure from the bottom up but well done on the Victorian Open for leading the way.
Image via iseekgolf.com