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.
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.
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.
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