Golf Capital: Molinari claims Claret Jug as Tiger contends on a major Sunday

@hamishneal

Italy scored their first major golf triumph when form golfer Francesco Molinari produced a flawless final round of 69 (two under) to claim the 147th Open as the champion golfer of the year. Molinari got to the lead late in his round on a day which saw Tiger Woods hit the lead in a major on a Sunday – something unthinkable even a few months ago after yet another back surgery. A delayed finish in Kentucky saw Troy Merritt win the Barbasol Championship on the PGA Tour

PGA: The Open Championship - Final Round

Opening drive

Francesco Molinari, 35, made it three wins from his last five tournaments as he edged home by two-strokes at Carnoustie to win the Open with a score of eight under. The history-making win for Italian golf, which at one stage looked like it could finish via a multiple-player playoff, should perhaps not have been surprising given Molinari’s ranking and age average followed recent Open trends.

 

14-time major winner Tiger Woods lead alone as he played the 10th on Sunday in an Open finish which saw the ratings in the USA soar 37 % on last year’s climax. This provided similar TV numbers to Woods’ Open triumphs in 2000 and 2006. Woods went cross country on 11 and 12 dropping three shots in two holes as the solid Molinari wasn’t bothered by the hubbub going on around him.

 

Four players finished back at six under,  former Open winner Rory McIlroy, England’s Justin Rose plus American duo Xander Schaufelle and Kevin Kisner. Back in sixth was Woods, England’s Eddie Pepperell (who shot the nest round of the day – four under 67) and Kevin Chappell of the USA.

 

Interestingly for the final pairing of defending champion Jordan Spieth and Schaufelle they feel 16 minutes behind the schedule and were officially put on the clock by the R&A officials at one stage. For Spieth one wouldn’t have expected that to faze him but he bogeyed 15 and 17.

 

Finally on the winner, typifying the Turin native’s consistency was highlighted by the fact he didn’t make a bogey all Sunday, the only player to do so, and he now rises to a career-high six in the world rankings.

Player Performance Notes

Several big names have elected to stay on in Europe with the European Open at Green Eagle Golf Course in Hamburg Germany this weekend. England’s Jordan Smith won courtesy of a playoff over Alexander Levy of France last year.

 

Under 20: Patrick Reed. The Masters champion ranks top for par five scoring on the European Tour and with five par fives at the Glen Eagle’s North Course. Reed was T19 here last year but did drop off the pace after an opening 68.

 

20 to 50: Nacho Elvira. Following his T12 finish here last year the Spaniard was also T9 a few starts back in Germany in the BMW International Open and seems to do his best work on the European mainland.

 

20 to 50: Aaron Rai. The Englishman was T5 in Germany four starts ago in the same event as Elvira and since then was T9 in the Scottish Open. Wolverhampton-born Rai won the third of the three second-tier titles he claimed in 2017 around this time last year in France.

 

50 to 100: Zander Lombard. The South African flamed out after a strong first round in the Open to shot 82 on Sunday and drop into a tie for 67th but was T6 a few weeks ago in Ireland. Lombard was T5 here last year. But his 14 (!) missed cuts in 19 starts this year suggest boom or bust.

 

Greens in regulation 

Despite the staging of the Open the PGA Tour rolled on with Troy Merritt winning by a stroke in Kentucky to claim the Barbasol Championship. It was a second PGA Tour title for the 32-year old but one of those missing the cut was the story of the tournament.

 

Two-time LPGA major winner Brittany Lincicome missed the cut at the Keene Trace Golf Club venue but improved vastly across the weather-interrupted three days it took for the first two rounds. After an opening round 78 Lincicome fired a one-under 71 which included an eagle hole-out on the 17th to seal a positive foray into the men’s tour. Let’s hope it’s not another ten years until the next such instance of a female player in a PGA Tour event.

 

The LPGA heads to Scotland for the Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane this week. It’s the same venue as the men’s event won by Brandon Stone recently and this tournament was won by Mi Hyang Lee in 2017.

 

This week the PGA heads to Canada for the national open at Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, Ontario won last year by the two-time defending champion Jhonattan Vegas

 

Tap in

Following recent success for young Australian players another, Blake Windred, will look to make history after earning the chance to play at the famous Peeble Beach and Spyglass Hill venues following his qualificatin for the US Amateur.

 

It was a nervous time for the Charlestown 20-year-old who progressed after winning a three-way playoff in Pennsylvania earlier in the week. Windred will head to the west coast after another tournament in Chicago this week.

 

Image via golfweek.com

Golf Capital: Three upsets for 25-year-old trio in rankings shock, Thorp’s Torrey triumph.

@hamishneal

Shock wins for Michael Kim, Brandon Stone and Thidapa Suwannapura across the top tours highlighted the week before the Open at Carnoustie. Such was the unexpected nature of the trios triumphs their combined ranking was 1,010 prior to the weekend. Elsewhere Canberra’s Adam Thorp announced himself on the junior stage winning a feature world junior event in California.

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Opening Drive

 

Brandon Stone, 25, collected the first of the upset victories when he closed in on a European Tour first in winning the Scottish Open. The South African’s final round 60 (10 under) was ever so close to the first ET score of 59 as he won by four strokes at 20 under over column pick Eddie Pepperell at the Gullane course in East Lothian. This was Stone’s fourth professional win but, significantly, the first outside of his home nation.

 

Seoul-born Michael Kim (also 25) was another easy winner with a 27 under score at the John Deere Classic in Illinois to break a 122-tournament winless streak. The first time PGA Tour winner started the day with a five-stroke lead before a bogey-free round of 66 saw him win by eight over fellow American trio Bronson Burgoon, Joel Dahmen, and Sam Ryder plus recent winner Francesco Molinari.

 

Bangkok native Thidapa Suwannapura’s triumph in the Marathon Classic in Ohio saw her become the first Thai golfer not named Jutaugarn to win on tour and came courtesy of her win in extra holes over Brittany Lincicome after the duo finished at 14 under. Completing the set of 25 year-olds Suwannapura (similar to Kim) had gone 120 LPGA starts without a victory. However she does have seven other titles from minor tours in Asia.

Player Performance Notes

 

Located at the Carnoustie Golf Club in Angus Scotland the 147th Open, the third men’s major of 2018, is this week’s focus. ‘Carnasty’ will be familiar even to fringe golfing fans who may have memories of Jean van de Velde’s brutal bunker, burn and water-based disaster in 1999 when he blew a lead on the 72nd hole before falling in a three-man playoff.

 

 

Under 20: Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman is the only player in the field to boast Top five finishes in the last two editions of the Open and recent major winners generally all have a win to their credit earlier in the year.

 

20 to 50: Alex Noren. The course set-up for the Alfred Dunhill Links event can be kinder but the Swede’s course record on this track in 2016 should be noted. He won last time around in France which was his first triumph since May last year. At number 11 he’s got Jon Rahm (5), Rickie Fowler (7) and Tommy Fleetwood (10) the highest ranked players ahead of him yet to win a major.

 

100 to 200: Haotong Li. The Dubai Desert Classic winner was third last year at his Open debut and a respectable T16 at the recent US Open. His last start saw him finish T23 after he opened 66-65 at the Scottish Open. Missing the cut the week prior in Ireland might not be the worst thing for the 22-year-old.

 

200 to 500: Eddie Pepperell. When the Englishman strikes form on links courses he can hold it and if not for a bonkers final round from Stone in Scotland he’d have two wins in his last nine starts. Plenty of bigger name players would snap up that sort of form.

 

Greens in regulation

 

Coming off her playoff defeat Lincicome will become the first LPGA player in a decade to feature in a men’s PGA Tour event when she tees it up in the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky. With the event shorn of the Tour’s best due to the Open Lincicome will feature in the event which includes 2014 Fed Ex Cup winner Billy Horschel. Michelle Wie was the last female player to feature on the PGA Tour and only one of the four female players to tee up in a men’s event has made the cut – multi-sport star Babe Zaharais. The champion Olympic sprinter and javelin winner from the 1932 Games made the cut in the LA Open in 1945. The LPGA’s next event is the Ladies Scottish Open which will also take place in East Lothian as the men’s event did at Gullane Golf Club later this month from July 26.

 

Tap in

 

Whilst eight Australian’s will take to the course at Carnoustie it should not be forgotten about the great week Australian junior golf has had. With players in the mix at key amateur and junior events there was one big success and a near thing at Torrey Pines.

 

Canberra’s Adam Thorp edged home by a single stroke on the South Course at the California venue to claim the IMG-backed Junior World Golf Championships. American Chase Sienkiewicz was second in San Diego to Thorp who will now consider options from at least five colleges. The event, won by Jason Day in 2004 and Tiger Woods in 1991, was also a big result for New South Wales golfer Doey Choi who placed second in the girl’s event, four back from Taiwan’s Tzu-Yi Wang. Choi combined with fellow Sydney-sider Stephanie Kyriacou to win the teams event.

 

Image via golf 365.com

 

 

 

 

Golf Capital: Kim’s record in Wisconsin, Knox and Fox in Irish playoff

@hamishneal

Scotland’s Russell Knox won the Irish Open as links golf clicked into gear in the British Isles this weekend. Over in the USA Sei Young Kim broke an LPGA scoring record in Wisconsin as Kevin Na won for the first time in seven years on the PGA Tour after he triumphed in West Virginia.

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Opening Drive 

County Donegal’s Ballyliffin Golf Club hosted the European Tour’s Irish Open but it probably should have been in Limerick as Inverness-born Russell Knox defeated Kiwi Ryan Fox at the first playoff hole to claim his first Rolex Series win.

 

Fox, who lead after the first round and was up near the lead most of the way, had a chance to win it on the 72nd hole with a putt that lipped out. Knox holed a monster birdie putt to force the playoff having come into the day six shots from the lead – but only two adrift from Fox. With overnight leader Erik Van Rooyen (two over 74) having slipped away Knox and Fox stood alone at 14 under ahead of Jorge Campillo. Knox then holed another huge putt on the 18th to win for the first time in two years. Fox gets a spot in the Open but is still seeking his first ET victory. This week Gullane, about 30 kilometres from Edinburgh, hosts the Scottish Open with final spots on the line for the Open at Carnoustie.

 

­Spain’s Carlota Ciganda signed for a final round eight under 64 to finish at 22 under at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic… but that was only good enough for second as 25-year-old Sei Young Kim claimed a seventh LPGA title in record-setting fashion in Oneida, Wisconsin. Kim surpassed the previous record for a four-day tournament of 27 under which she held jointly with Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam.

 

Seoul-born Kevin Na produced a comprehensive win and then an emotional response to breaking his 167-tournament winless run at TPC Old White in West Virginia. Victory in the A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier (Classic) came after he fired a 19 under score which was five clear of fellow American Kelly Kraft. Na’s other PGA win came in October of 2011in Nevada.

 

Player Performance Notes

Following the playoff quinella we look at the Scottish Open which is the fifth of the eight Rolex Series tournaments this season on the European Tour. Gullane Golf Club located in East Lothian hosts the tournament and Rickie Fowler last won here in 2015 with Rafael Cabrera-Bello the defending champion.

 

20 to 50: Ryan Fox. After last week’s playoff defeat Fox could drop away here but given he rebounded with consistent effort after near misses in France and Ireland this time last year he can play with freedom with the Open spot wrapped up.

 

20 to 50: Russell Knox. It’s rare to go with two column picks in consecutive weeks but Knox’s top ten finish at Gullane in 2015 to go with his winning links forms makes him a very solid prospect.

 

20 to 50: Matt Kuchar. Second to Fowler here in 2015 Kuchar and second in the Open last year. However the Floridian hasn’t won since 2015 but he’s got the experience to thrive here.

 

50 to 100: Eddie Pepperell. The Englishman was fourth here in 2015 and won the Qatar Masters in February at a venue with similar traits to this links venue in Scotland.

 

Greens in regulation

In the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run the defending champion will be taking something out of his gear bag after American Bryson DeChambeau has been told by the USGA that he can’t use a protractor. The NCAA champion from 2015 was barred from using the item (which he might still have kept from college) to check pin locations as it was deemed an ‘unusual device.’ I appreciate his level of detail. Good luck to him in his title defence at Illinois.

 

The LPGA event in Ohio this week (the Marathon Classic) presents an interesting defending champion with IK Kim a four-shot winner here last year. This was weeks before she won the Women’s British Open held at Kingsbarns in Scotland.

 

Tap in

With the (men’s) Open later this month news of an American major making the move was confirmed on Tuesday. To avoid the maelstrom of the start of NFL and College Football seasons in the USA the US PGA Championship has been shifted from August to May to allow an earlier start for the PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup series. This means the three American men’s majors will run consecutively with the Open, next year to be held at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, the final major of 2019.

 

Image via rte.com

Golf Capital: Park’s major double, Irish Open focus in Europe

@hamishneal

Sung Hyung Park added to her 2017 US Women’s Open title winning the Women’s PGA Championship in Illinois via a playoff, seeing off So Yeon Ryu and Nasa Hataoka. Elsewhere there were wins to Francesco Molinari on the PGA Tour and Alex Noren in France on the European Tour.

SungHyunParknytimesjuly2018

Opening Drive 

A dramatic Sunday saw the Women’s PGA Championship going 74 holes as South Korean Sung Hyung Park won at the second playoff hole prevailing over Hataoka (who was eliminated at the first playoff hole) and then Ryu. Park birdied 16 to win the title after a final round 69 got her into the playoff following Ryu’s final round 73 which saw her give up a three-shot lead she had heading into Sunday. Hataoka had been the big mover with a stunning final round of eight under 64 having entered the day five shots adrift.

 

This week the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic returns for a second year on tour. Last year Australian Katherine Kirk won the debut event at the course in Oneida, Wisconsin.

 

Tiger Woods claimed his third top ten of the year and moved to 67 in the world but, like the rest of the field, the 14-time major winner was playing a different tournament for most of the weekend at TPC Potomac as Francesco Molinari won the Quicken Loans Nationals. A comprehensive eight-shot triumph had Molinari (at 21 under) clear of Ryan Armour with Sung Kang a further shot back and Abraham Ancer back in fourth with Woods. Xander Schaufelle is the defending champion at this week’s Greenbrier Classic at the Old White course in West Virginia.

 

It was an Italian winning in America at Maryland but it was nearly the reverse across the tours with American Julian Suri close to victory in France before an 18th hole double bogey allowed Alex Noren to win the Open de France at this year’s Ryder Cup venue – le Golf National near Paris. Noren finished at seven under and benefitted from Suri (who finished second with Russell Knox as did Chris Wood) finding the water on 18 at the third Rolex Series event of 2018. Noren has won every year since 2015 and has moved to 14 in the world rankings.

 

Player Performance Notes

After the Rolex Series event on the continent it’s time for key events in the British Isles which start with the Irish Open at Ballyliffin in County Donegal. Stung after last week’s playoff miss in the USA here is a look at some strong hopes for the links challenge.

 

Under 20: Jon Rahm, The defending champion from last year’s tournament when it was held at Portstewart comes in with similar form to last time. Rahm went missed cut at the US Open before a T10 in France and this year he went missed cut at the Open before T5 last weekend. He’s won three times since that triumph with eight other top ten finishes.

 

20 to 50: Paul Dunne. Winner with Gavin Moynihan of the Golf Sixes in May Dunne was T21 last week in France. He’s also finished in the top ten in Spain and China this year and he will be the local that might not be under that mush pressure this week with Rory McIlroy’s Foundation hosting the tournament.

 

20 to 50: Russell Knox. T2 in this event two years back Knox solidified his return to form with the T2 finish in France on the weekend. Despite the fact he hasn’t won since 2016 the one time top 20 player has bounced back to close to his best with a recent T12 at the US Open.

 

50 to 100: Ryan Fox. This time last year Fox broke into the top 100 on the back of a great trio of results in France followed by the Irish and Scottish Open going 6-T4-T4. The New Zealander was T8 month ago in Italy and plays well at links venues.

 

Greens in regulation

Two-time US Open winner (in 2001 and 2004) Retief Goosen failed, just, to qualify for the latest edition of the US Open recently so he didn’t get a chance to return to the site of his triumph at Shinnecock Hills but the South African will get the chance to improve on his career best finish of T5 in the Open Championship when he tees it up at Carnoustie after qualifying for the third major of the year earlier in the week. Goosen was one of the 12 qualifiers this week across four venues as he came through the 36-hole event at Prince’s in Kent.

 

Tap in

Back to Park’s win and the dramatic finish in Illinois on Sunday was not easily followed in Australia (Monday morning) with Fox Sports making a hash of their coverage of the third women’s major of the year.

 

Foxtel Help attempted to defend their 4pm AEST replay of the final round noting that the tee times were moved up due to the weather. This is true, but NBC still stuck to their same scheduled coverage time (starting at 5am AEST) which took I’m the final holes of regulation plus the playoff. So no adjustment was needed by Fox Sports. It was almost as they never planned to show the round live at all…

 

Two other golf tournaments were on across the multitude of Fox Sports channels. The PGA Tour event won by Molinari plus the US Senior Golf Open (won by David Toms in Colorado.) But how an elite women’s major is not prioritised over both, or at least the Senior Open, is baffling.

 

Like last year’s debacle in the Evian when the final round was also not covered live Fox Sports/Foxtel has again displayed poor programming judgement when it comes to women’s golf majors. It further brings into question the federal government’s decision to give them $30 million to cover women’s sport with no sensible parameters around the use of those funds. Nothing has been produced that, for example, outlines how Fox Sports will be obliged to show at least all the majors live, in full, in the future. Over to you Mitch Fifield.

 

Image via nytimes.com