Golf Capital: New PGA winners plus new golf formats

@hamishneal

After a week off (did you miss me?) time for a look at some golf news, thoughts and notes from mid-April. The PGA Tour welcomed two new winners at the top tier as the LPGA debuts a new tournament in San Francisco. Meanwhile two potentially key Ryder Cup players won on the European Tour with Blitz Golf debuting in South Australia on the Australasian PGA Tour’s Pro-Am series.

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Opening drive

The PGA Tour has seven first-time winners this season so far with two more added in the last week. Playing in only his sixth PGA Tour event Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira claimed the plaid jacket with a playoff-victory over Si Woo-Kim of South Korea in the RBC Heritage who was one shot from third round leader Ian Poulter heading into the final day. Kodaira was six from the lead as the final round was started earlier than planned due to storm activity and the 28-year-old took advantage of Kim’s wayward putter.

 

Another first time winner followed after Kodaira’s triumph at Hilton Head when Texan Andrew Landry won the Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. Heading into the final day tied with two-time major winner Zach Johnson Landry, playing only his 32nd PGA Tour event, fired a final round four under 68. Johnson could only manage level par with Sean O’Hair and Trey Mullinax finishing two shots back from Landry’s 17 under.

 

Over in Spain John Rahm won his second European Tour event when he won by two strokes from Ireland’s Paul Dunne at Centro Nacional de golf in Madrid. World number four Rahm has won twice in 2018 in nine starts and has one second place to go with that. The European Tour then headed to Morocco for the Trophee Hassan II and Ladies European Tour event the Lalla Meryem Cup joined the men at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. In another great initiative to join together players at the top level the LET played the venue’s Blue course with the men playing the Red course. Frenchman Alexander Levy edged Alvaro Quiros for his fifth ET win in five years. Swede Jenny Haglund needed a playoff to defeat defending champion Klara Spilkova and Australian Sarah Kemp to claim her first LET title at the age of 24.

 

Over on the LPGA Tour in Hawaii Canadian Brooke Henderson won for the first time since her New Zealand Open victory in October with an comprehensive four-stroke triumph in the LOTTE Championship before this week saw Moriya Jutanugarn finally got her first professional win after 156 attempts. The 23-year-old joins younger sister Ariya Jutanugarn as a top flight winner with the win at the Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles to win the Hugel-JTBC LA Open.

 

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. After going in with Jon Rahm in Spain the European Tour heads to Beijing for the China Open to be staged at the Topwin Golf and Country Club. Last week’s victor Alexander Levy triumphed here in 2017.

 

Under 20: Alexander Levy. Jon Rahm has already shown us in the last few weeks that in form players can win/contend again in quick succession. Before going on to win here last year Levy opened with a 63 so a fast start looks important.

 

Under 20: Kiradech Aphibarnrat. The Thai golfer has missed the cut here but in the event co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour it shouldn’t be forgotten he’s won twice this year (including the World Super 6 in Perth) and has two other top five finishes.

 

20 to 50: Alexander Bjork. The Swede missed the cut at his only go around here in 2017 but was third last week and has two other top 20s this year. He was sixth in Dubai earlier this year, an event won by Haotong Li (2016 CO winner) with Levy (2017 CO winner) fourth so the course should suit Bjork after experience playing the venue.

 

50 to 100: Renato Paratore. The Italian has improved each time out at this event 34-18 and finished just outside the top 20 in Spain two weeks ago.

 

Greens in regulation

This week the PGA Tour sees Australian Cameron Smith return to the site of last year’s triumph when he teamed up with Jonas Blitz to win the Zurich Classic. The team events in New Orleans features some of the same teams from last year but also a few new ones. For example Jason Day teams up with rising Australian star Ryan Ruffels. Granted they do share the same management agency but it’s still good to see Day agreeing to assist Florida-born Ruffels, currently ranked 677, in playing such an event which would be life-changing for the 19-year-old if the duo were to win.

 

After events in Hawaii and Los Angeles the LPGA Tour heads north in California to San Francisco this week for the inaugural LPGA Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced in Daly City. The event starts with Inbee Park having returned to the number one spot for the first time since 2015 having finished in the top three of her last three starts.

 

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Signaling the latest modified golf format Australian authorities introduced Blitz Golf at Glenelg Golf Club on Friday with South Australian Antonio Murdaca prevailing after a four-man playoff followed by a nearest the pin contest when he saw off Central Coast golfer Dimitrios Papadatos. Simon Zybek, the Adelaide property developer who supported the concept, wants to expand the amount of tournaments played in this format but no future dates are set as yet. The $15,000 prizemoney to the winner is a good start for such an event and the 40-player field with a mix of older players (Craig Parry) and new ones (Lucas Herbert) could provide a unique way to take veterans and rising stars around the country. I’d like to see at least one in the next Australian summer. The Australasian PGA Tour heads to Port Moresby Golf Club this week for the SP PNG Open. Queensland’s Cory Crawford won after a mammoth six-hole playoff over Brett Rankin last year.

 

 

Image via golf.com

Golf Capital: Reed’s uncomfortable Augusta glory

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes. American Patrick Reed claimed his first major as he edged home at Augusta by a stroke from Rickie Fowler. Reed, 27, led after rounds two and three before Jordan Spieth threw down a challenge on Sunday with an eight under 64. This week the European Tour returns to the continent in Spain, the PGA Tour is in South Carolina and the LPGA ventures to Hawaii for the LOTTE Championships presented by Hersey.

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Opening drive

After Spieth opened with a 66 many, including me, thought it might be a precession for the 2015 champion but Reed’s 69, 66 and 67 set him up for a three shot lead heading into the fourth round. The former two-time college champion golfer scored a one under 71 as he withheld the late rush of Fowler and Spieth’s run to prevail at August National Golf Club securing the green jacket in the process.

 

Reed moved to number 11 in the world with the triumph and earnt his sixth career title but the day unfolded in predictably exciting fashion. Spieth’s run to come from nine shots off the lead after he started the day T9 with Justin Thomas was nothing short of incredible. Only a bogey on 18 ultimately saw him miss out on second from Fowler. Spieth produced some phenomenal golf and a 64 on Sunday having left shots out on the course only bodes well for a return here in 2019. A reminder his 11th place finish last year is his worst effort at this major.

 

Fowler was a surprise second when, after he bogeyed the fifth, his record in majors would suggest he’d drop away. The Californian proceeded to birdie six of the last 11 holes which made sure Reed didn’t have it an easy walk up 18 nor on the green.

 

Rory McIlroy was the big disappointment on the day as the Northern Irishman started three shots adrift of Reed in second, before getting to within one stroke of Reed early in the round but three bogeys followed mid round as his challenge faded to eventually finish six behind Reed.

 

Elsewhere in the top ten, after nearly causing his ankle serious damage earlier in the week during the par three contest American Tony Finau closed with a 66 for an impressive Masters debut of T10. Australian Cameron Smith (T5) also finished with a 66 and was somewhat forgotten on the coverage from CBS in the states in his second Masters after a T55 two years ago.

 

However Smith’s final round effort was not the only major moment the host broadcaster missed. Spieth’s great run up the leaderboard from nine back had this interesting exchange (captured via the masters.com livestream) with his caddie Michael Greller when deciding what club to use and analysing the conditions before he played his approach shot on 13. Enjoy.

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. We have an interesting event on the European Tour as it heads to Spain for the Open de Espana.

 

Under 20. Jon Rahm. The Spaniard schooled at college in Arizona makes the trek across from the states after his fourth place at the Masters. He won the last sole European Tour event he contested, the season-ending DP Tour World Championship, but it’s a concern he missed the cut last time he played in his home country in October.

 

20 to 50: Paul Dunne. On the cusp of breaking into the top 70 the Irishman was ranked 156th this time last year. Outclassed at the last WGC stroke-play event in Mexico Dunne, 25, has since registered a T5 and T8 on the PGA Tour, the latter in the Houston Open as he was in search of a last gasp Masters spot.

 

20 to 50: Andrew Johnston. Albeit at a different course Johnston is defending champion of this event beating a field that included Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren. The Centro Nacional de Golf club hasn’t hosted an ET event, the Madrid Masters, since in 2009 but Johnston did well at a windy Oman venue when he finished T12 before he was second in the Indian Open.

 

20 to 50: Matt Wallace. The Englishman won in Portugal last year and was victorious last time out when he won the Indian Open beating Johnston in a playoff. With many of those teeing it up have not played since early March it’s worth looking at those who were playing well before the break.

 

Greens in regulation

The victory of Patrick Reed in Georgia was met with muted celebration up 18 and the usual celebrations of a local winner (with the Texan-born player having gone to university in the state) were less than perhaps expected. That is, unless you consider Reed’s chequered university history and current family situation. As outlined here by Alan Shipnuck the golf.com writer touches on several aspects little mentioned in the television coverage of the Masters. Reed has been estranged from his family (parents and sister) since 2012 and was accused of cheating whilst playing college golf. Such were his troubles in college he was kicked out of the University of Georgia for drinking indiscretions. Reed’s parents, Bill and Jeannette, have yet to meet his two children Windsor and Barrett – their grandchildren.

 

The situation is indeed a ‘sad state of affairs’ as pointed out by some on Twitter when I posted Shipnuck’s story on Monday.

 

The value of the report was questioned, so much so Shipnuck wrote a response to why he wrote the story. But you can’t tell Reed’s story of achieving the ultimate in a sport and ignore such a significant story. This is not McIlroy breaking off a relationship with Caroline Wozniacki this is one of the game’s elite excluding his three closest family members of over 20 years since his rise to the professional ranks.

 

Seeing a charismatic player is always fun to watch but their backstory can temper that enthusiasm. Perhaps Reed is similar to Tiger Woods. Enjoy the person as the player, an elite athlete who has made significant physical sacrifices, amongst other things, to perform at the very top of the game for an extended period but leave the rest past the

 

Not knowing Reed’s side of the story (he’s never spoken at length about the disconnection) the last line of Shipnuck’s original piece breaks your heart.

 

“Of course we’re so happy for Patrick,” Jeannette said. She started to add something else but had to stop to cry.

 

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Cristie Kerr seeks a 21st LPGA Tour title when she defends the crown she won in Oahu last year by three stokes as the top women’s tour returns following it’s opening major a fortnight ago. The LOTTE Championship by Hersey is held at the Ko Olina Golf Club and last year saw Kerr overcome a five-shot deficit to win.

 

After the excitement of the Masters the US PGA Tour heads to South Carolina for the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. Wesley Bryan broke through at the top level when he saw off the challenge of Luke Donald here last year.

Image via usatoday.com

 

Golf Capital: Lindberg’s Monday win, Masters open as ever

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes. It’s Masters time but not before the first major for the year went to a playoff as Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg prevailed over Hall of Famer Inbee Park in the ANA Inspiration – the first women’s major of 2018. England’s Ian Poutler inspired final round of 67 came after the 42-year-old started the Houston Open with a one over 73 and became the first person on the PGA Tour to win after ending the first day T123 or worse.

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Opening drive

The drama of the first week of golf majors of 2018 extended to Monday with Pernilla Lindberg prevailing in a playoff over South Korea’s Inbee Park at Rancho Mirage in California.

Lindberg and Park contested four of their eight playoff holes until darkness saw play halted late on Sunday. Park, with Australian caddie Brad Beecher on the bag, must have slept with confidence but Lindberg’s birdie as they played 10 again on Monday at Mission Hills gave the Swede her first victory in 193 LPGA starts (250 career starts) and denied Park an eighth major.

 

It could have been more in the three-person playoff (American Jennifer Song was eliminated early in the playoff on Sunday) as Jessica Korda, the Jutanugarn sisters (Moriya and Ariya) plus England’s Charley Hull all looked playoff chances at stages on Sunday. This was after Lindberg had taken a three-shot lead into the final day.

 

Over in Texas Sunday’s extra-time at the Houston Open saw American Beau Hossler and England’s Ian Poulter in an effective shoot-out for a spot at the Masters. Poulter punched a ticket to Augusta after Hossler chipped from one side of the green into the water as they played 18 for the fifth time last week. This was after the duo finished three clear at -19 of Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and Jordan Spieth.

 

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The Masters field for the first men’s major of 2018 offers a great deal of intrigue as noted last week. Among the big names only US Open champion from last year Brooks Koepka is missing due to injury. Hopefully we’ve got the winner below after getting two of the top four last weekend.

 

Under 20: Justin Rose. The Olympic Gold Medallist has won three times since October. None of those victories were in the USA but the world number five did place third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a T5 the week prior at the Valspar.

 

Under 20: Justin Thomas. The winner of the last major of 2017, the PGA Championship Thomas has won three times since then. The world number two has improved at each of his two Masters starts T39 followed by T22.

 

100 to 200: Rafa Cabrera-Bello. The Spaniard would need to buck recent trends which indicate players need several starts at the tournament to claim the title. However he was 15th two years ago plus RCB ranks second in the ‘proximity to hole’ statistic for 2018 on the PGA Tour. This will be crucial in setting up on the greens in the right spots.

 

100 to 200: Kevin Chappell. Last year’s Texas Open winner has finished in the top three of majors and the Tour Championship before. Coupled with his T7 last year here, which was a vast improvement on his T44 in his only other Masters start in 2012, the California native recently finished T7 at Bay Hill.

 

Greens in regulation

Okay. I didn’t mention them in my preview, let’s talk about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Their form renascence warrants respect as does their record here (seven titles between them at Augusta) but age is against them as 40 plus year-olds aren’t prolific here (or in majors generally). That statistic also culls the list of Paul Casey, 40, who beat Woods to claim the Valspar.

 

Perth Super 6 winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat owns a T15 in his only effort here two years ago and this is the only major he’s really taken to. 2015 champion Jordan Spieth could, possibly, lay claim to four Masters given his run of T2-1-T2 and 11 in four goes here. This year’s edition is incredibly open but forced to make one pick I’d go with Justin Thomas as he seeks to claim back-to-back major titles having also won the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup crown last year.

 

Tap In

In the wake of the ANA Inspiration, and before we get totally consumed by the Masters over the next few days, it should be noted about the positive debut of Australian Hannah Green in her first major. The WA golfer finished T16 in her first LPGA major after a terrific Sunday in California . Putting this in context the 21 year-old had a better major debut than some of Australia’s current top players including Jason Day (T60-2010 Open) and Adam Scott (Cut-2000 Open) but not quite as good as Karrie Webb who was T5 in the ANA Inspiration in her major debut. Green banks USD36,190 for the result which included an impressive final round six under 66.

 

Image via nytimes.com