Golf Capital: Jersey win for the Mad Scientist, Henderson triumphs in Canada

@hamishneal

The ‘Mad Scientist’ (that’s a loving nickname just so you know) Bryson DeChambeau won the first FedEx Cup event of the season – the Northern Trust Open – for his second triumph in 2018, Brooke Henderson scored her fourth win since June last year and Andrea Pavan triumphed in the Czech Masters for his first European Tour triumph since joining the tour six years ago.

 

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Opening drive 

American Bryson Dechambeau won for the third time on the PGA Tour in the final series opening event the Northern Trust Open finishing at 18 under with Tony Finau back in second at the Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey

 

A four shot lead to open the day jumped to six shots quickly for DeChambeau after two opening birdies but it wasn’t until later in the round when the 24-year-old was set for victory at the Paramus venue when he eventually restored the four shot buffer for the win.

 

DeChambeau’s victory enhances his prospects of gaining one of the four captain’s picks for the USA Ryder Cup squad. Outside of the automatic eight the Californian could possibly be grouped with Tiger Woods in some of the pairings if Woods, as expected, is also given a captain’s pick by skipper Jim Furyk.

 

Canadian Brooke Henderson continued her impressive early career racking up win number seven on the LPGA with victory in Saskatchewan at the CP Women’s Open at Wascana Country Club. Still only 20 Henderson now needs only one more victory to tie and two to surpass the records for wins by Canadian in the top flight. Across the LPGA and PGA Tour a few players, including Sandra Post and Mike Weir sit on seven wins. Whilst Weir could add to his total, it’s a long-shot but you never know, Henderson’s record could set the benchmark for some time for Canadian players. The four-stroke victory was an impressive result given Henderson has had to suffer through the loss of close family members this year with the win even more appropriate with her sister Brittany on the bag as the she claimed her national open.

 

Andrea Pavan saw off major winner Padraig Harrington to win the Czech Masters at 22 under after his final round of five under saw him pull clear of Harrington who entered the day in a share of the lead with the Italian. Pavan’s Sunday 67 was enough to see him pull two strokes clear of the three-time major winner.

 

Player performance notes

Following the FedEx Cup opener the four-leg finals series of the US PGA heads to TPC Boston for the Dell Technologies Championship. 100 players feature here with 70 advancing to the following week. Currently 58 players are assured progress to the third leg, the BMW Championship, and Justin Thomas won here in 2017.

 

Under 20: Justin Thomas. The defending champion enters this event having won four weeks ago plus two other top ten finishes at his last two starts.

 

Under 20: Rory McIlroy. The impending change in the FedEx Cup format means the event will only feature at TPC Boston every second year. This move will not amuse the Ulsterman who has two wins and a fifth place from his last six starts here. After a missed cut last year he is due to bounce back and has shown glimpses of form recently.

 

20 to 50: Billy Horschel. 11th then third in his last two starts Horschel, who won two FedEx Cup events in 2014, has credibility at this level. Despite having missed the last two cuts here he was second at the track during that impressive 2014 run and has won the team’s event Zurich Classic this year.

 

20 to 50: Patrick Reed. The Masters winner of earlier this year has gone 4-5-6 in his last three starts here. Reed has also performed well in other big events this year including his fourth at the US Open but he did miss the cut at the year’s final major the PGA.

 

Greens in regulation

Following Henderson’s victory this week the LPGA Cambia Portland Classic the Canadian heads to this event which she has won twice before but was won in 2017 by America Stacy Lewis.

 

From the Czech Republic to Denmark the European Tour’s Made in Denmark tournament, won last year by , will be held at Silkeborg Ry – the home course of European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. This event is the last chance for Ryder Cup team qualification and the Silkeborg Ry Golf Club is a not only new venue for the tour by Bjorn’s boyhood club.

 

The coming summer of golf in Australia offers many exciting events and February’s Victorian Open now has added some potential star-power plus it’s been given a prizemoney boost in the last week or so. The event now offers purse of $1.5 million for both the men’s and women’s tournaments and has had the men’s European Tour join it’s other co-sanctioning bodies.

 

With the World Super 6s in Perth the following week there is a strong prospect several of the big European Tour names would head to Australia for both events.

 

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Following the announcement of the Tiger Woods versus Phil Mickelson match in Las Vegas there has been a range of criticism from various sectors of the golfing community.

 

Whilst the event causes a clash with the World Cup and the Nevada event the tournament in Australia will likely not cross-over greatly (time-wise) with the one-on-one match-up.

 

Some have derided this as an exhibition but that is no more so than some of the other recent innovations in tournament format (even if some of those grant ranking points.)

 

Woods’ emergence and subsequent launch into the sporting stratosphere was the primary reason many of the current players are competing for the prize purses which they are and, as I noted last week, I’m actually hopeful this might spur on more match-up golf so don’t think about this one-off event as a distraction merely a new start to an era of ‘rivalry golf’.

 

Image via richmond-news.com

 

 

Golf Capital: 59 for Snedeker’s Wyndham title, double playoffs and how to re-boot Monday Night Golf

@hamishneal

An historic 59 from Brandt Snedeker set up his win in North Carolina at the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship whilst there were playoffs needed on the LPGA and European Tours before Sung Hyun Park and Paul Waring prevailed in the USA and Gothenberg respectively.

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This week the PGA Tour starts the finals series with the first leg of the FedEx Cup in New Jersey – the Northern Trust Open.

 

Opening drive 

An opening round of 59 (11 under) set the platform for Brandt Snedeker’s 13th career title in winning the Wyndham Championship at the Sedgefield Country Club. Snedeker, 37, finished three shots clear of CT Pan and Webb Simpson at 21 under but didn’t have it all his own way late on the final day with Pan in a share of the lead late on until he double-bogeyed the last and Snedeker caped his triumph with a birdie.

 

Sung Hyun Park won for the third time in 2018 when she beat Lizette Salas after her birdie putt at the first playoff hole got the win in Indiana. Park, who is 25 next month, has now won five times on the LPGA Tour and has returned to the world number one ranking with the win at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

 

Whilst Snedeker’s 59 was historic it was appropriate for England’s Paul Waring winning in Sweden having gone 200 ranking events without having registered a victory until his Nordea Masters breakthrough on the weekend. His 201st event gave him his first triumph after Thomas Aiken chucked his drive on the first playoff hole into the water after both of them finished at 14 under, one clear of Maximilian Kieffer. Waring’s triumph at the Hills Golf Club is another great example of persistence after the 2005 English Amateur winner first started as a professional in 2007.

 

Player performance notes

Brandt Snedeker delivered us back-to-back wins with his Wyndham Championship triumph on the weekend we look to the start of the FedEx Cup at the Ridgewood Country Club in NJ. The venue was last used on tour four years ago.

 

Under 20: Jason Day. Day has gone 5-2 in the last two goes at the Ridgewood track and his last four starts have seen him finish all inside the top 20 (T12-T17-T10-T19) to go with his win in May at the Wells Fargo.

 

Under 20: Brooks Koepka. PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka improved progressively in the finals series last year going T18-T12- 6 over the final three legs so a win in this format seems not far away.

 

20 to 50: Francesco Molinari. Recent weeks on the PGA Tour have taught us winners are winning the big events (somewhat obvious I know) but Molinari appears to be a lock to perform well here given his three wins since the end of May including the Open.

 

50 to 100: Xander Schauffele. Second place at the Open recently Schauffele has a habit of showing up in big events having won the season-ending event last year. The world number 17 was also second at the Players Championship in May.

 

Greens in regulation

This week the European Tour heads to Prague and the wonderfully-named Albatross Golf Resort for the Czech Masters won last year by South African Haydn Porteous.

 

After the recent Canadian foray for the men won by Dustin Johnson the LPGA heads to Saskatchewan for the CP Women’s Open. A worrying prospect for the rest of the field is last week’s winner Park is the defending champion.

 

 

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Last week I delivered somewhat of a mea culpa over the numerous times I’d written off Tiger Woods but there is no doubt the 42-year-old is back after recent weeks and I wonder if a reported one-on-one match-up set to take place with Phil Mickelson in Las Vegas in November could lead to more exhibition style tournaments.

 

‘Tiger Woods’ the book recently released by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian details many aspects of his life thus far in meticulous fashion and one chapter noted the short-lived ‘Monday Night Golf’ match-ups. These match-up events involved Woods playing David Duval initially and over a short period (six years) also included team events. In 2001 Woods and Annika Sorenstam played Duval and Karrie Webb in 2001 with Woods/Sorenstam winning at the first extra hole.

 

Golf’s great rivalries, or even friendships, which currently exist could be used to fire up this concept again. Governed by management and sponsors (a brief return in 2012 saw Woods meet fellow Nike athlete Rory McIlroy played in China) before giving fans the chance to vote on potential match-ups could be an option for marquee games

 

Thinking from an Australian angle playing matches in Perth during summer would be a great time zone fit for the Eastern seaboard. Jason Day versus Adam Scott, Marc Leishman versus Jordan Spieth down here before another tilt at the Australian Open? Any other match-up ideas?
Image via eurosport.com

Golf Capital: Koepka crushes the Tiger party, Iceland’s golfing victory

@hamishneal

American Brooks Koepka rose above the drama on Sunday despite relinquishing his two-shot overnight lead at one stage during the final round before eventually winning the PGA Championship at St Louis. Elsewhere Iceland scored a team golf win, yes there is golf in Iceland, and NBA star Steph Curry had two contrasting rounds on the second-tier tour in the States.

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Opening drive 

 

“Tiger Woods can go back to swinging a golf club “as much as he needs to do” says his agent Mark Steinberg. Wait. What? Woods was almost consigned to the end of his career wasn’t he? No, I am not going down the rabbit hole. I will not watch the footage. Please don’t give me the death-of-career-by-press-release again.”

 

October 18 2017

 

Well that lament was somewhat misplaced wasn’t it?

 

A career-best final round score of 64 for Tiger Woods was the story at the Bellerive Country Club but it was a third career major for fellow American Brooks Koepka who finished at 16 under, two clear of Woods and the rest of the field.

 

On Woods the conversation has most certainly moved from my comments of nine months ago to when the 42-year old’s fused back will carry him to his next victory. It’s a great time to be a golf fan, and a TV executive covering golf.

 

Koepka’s second major triumph of 2018 was the third major he has won in six starts (he missed the Masters due to injury) and bought up his eleventh career triumph.

 

Now up to world number two in the world last week’s column pick Koepka is only the third active player under the age of 40 to win three or more majors. Prolific PGA winner Dustin Johnson has only one major (2016 US Open) to his name but Koepka is a far more dominant figure when it comes to the key tournaments despite the hype around Johnson and still major-less Rickie Fowler who at 29 is older than Koepka.

 

Greens in regulation 

This is the last chance for those on the fringe to make the FedEx Cup finals series event sees the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in North Carolina. Swede Henrik Stenson was the winner last year.

 

Under 20: Webb Simpson. With many of the top liners missing the week after a major Simpson, who was third here last year, comes into the event ranked 12th in the standings. Simpson also won the event in 2011.

 

20 to 50: Sergio Garcia. Since the 2017 Masters triumph Garcia’s progress wouldn’t perhaps be what he would have expected with just one win in Singapore. This season in the Fed Ex Cup rankings he sits at 131st and needs a finish of top 20 or better to make the first event of the finals series. He’s currently ranked 25 in the world, was T8 in France six weeks ago and won here in 2012.

 

20 to 50: Brandt Snedeker. The 2007 winner (albeit at a different venue) has four other top ten finishes in this tournament and has two top eight finishes in his last four starts.

 

20 to 50: Julian Suri. A winner in the Denmark and the Czech Republic last year with the former a European Tour event Suri has finished T19 and (PGA) and T28 (Open) which were his last two starts so is playing well and is close to entering the top 60 in the world – this time last year he was ranked 220.

 

Greens in regulation

Last week we mentioned about the European Golf Team Championships and there were wins for Iceland, Spain, and Sweden at the inaugural event. Iceland claimed the mixed event with Valdis Thora Jonsdottir, Bigir Hafthorsson, Axel Boasson and Olafia Kristinsdottir prevailing in the foursomes stroke play over one of the Great Britain teams at the Gleneagles event. Spain 1 duo of Pedro Oriol and Scott Fernandez beat Iceland at the Glasgow venue to claim the men’s team event whilst the women’s gold medal went to the Swedish duo of Cajsa Persson and Linda Wessberg.

 

Realistically the golf component of the European Championships won’t reach the heights of the athletics and other sports in this now joint event but it can have a place and grow in coming years, particularly given the PGA Championship is going to be moved to earlier in the year as of 2019. This sees a chance to attract bigger names.

 

As an aside look up Jakob Ingebrigtsen – the star of the track and field in Berlin. The 17-year-old Norwegian was the victor in the 1,500 metres and 5,000 metres. Beating his two brothers in the 1,500!

 

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Three-time NBA winner Steph Curry had the crowds excited at the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic with an opening round 71 before he flamed out with a 16 over 86 to end up last in the tournament missing the cut. Featuring in a regular second-tier event and not a pro-am is an example of Curry’s desire to perform at another high level in sport. His return appearance to TPC Stonebrae in San Francisco yielded five birdies across the 36 holes he played. In his two appearances Curry has scored 74,74,71, and 86 for an average of 76.25. That would, obviously, miss the cut most weeks on the tour but the fact Curry is doing this and competing as he did in Thursday is quite incredible when he concentrates on training and playing basketball for 10-11 months per year.

 

This week the LPGA returns to Indianapolis for the (wait for it) Indy Women in Tech Championship Driven by Group 1001 (phew) won last year in convincing fashion by Lexi Thompson. The Australasian PGA Tour heads to Palmerston for the Northern Territory PGA Championship with Wollongong’s Travis Smyth the defending champion.

 

After a brief hiatus form full field events the European Tour’s Nordea Masters takes place at the Hills Golf and Sports Club Course in Gothenburg. Italian Renato Paratore was the victor at the Swedish course last year.

Image via indianexpress.com

 

Golf Capital: Hall gets fame, Thomas wins before PGA defence

@hamishneal

 

On the weekend of the Women’s British Open Georgia Hall won the prestigious crown in Lancashire as American Justin Thomas triumphed in Ohio the week before his US PGA Championship defence.

 

Andrew Putnam and Gaganjeet Bhullar won alternate events for the PGA and European Tour respectively as Putnam won by four points in the Barrcuda Championships’ modified stableford event whilst Bhullar triumphed in the Fiji International.

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Opening drive 

 

Georgia Hall, 22, started Sunday one stroke behind Pornanong Phatlum before her final round of five under 67 saw Hall finish at 17 under two clear of the Thai golfer to claim the Open at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s. Hall took the lead on the 16th with a birdie before Phatlum double-bogeyed 17.

 

Dorset local Hall, the first British winner since Catriona Matthew in 2009, was methodical in her preparation which saw her claim her second title as a professional since the 2016 Victorian Open. Hall consulted Tom Lehman, winner of the 1996 men’s Open at the same venue, to gain in-depth knowledge of the course. It proved an astute move with only three bogeys all week for Hall who shared the win with her father and caddy Wayne.

 

Justin Thomas won for the eighth time in his last 43 starts when he romped home by four shots at the WGC event in Ohio as a great tune-up to this week’s PGA Championship in Missouri when the 25-year-old defends the title he won last year at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.

Thomas dedicated the victory at the Firestone Championship South Course to Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle.

 

India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar secured his first title since last October in Macau winning at the Natadola Bay Golf Club course in Fiji by one stroke on 17 under 274 over Northern Territory golfer Anthony Quayle. New Zealander Ben Campbell and South African star Ernie Eels were back in third.

 

Player performance notes

 

This week we head to the American Mid West for the 100th edition of the PGA Championship at the Bellerive Country Club in St Louis.

 

Under 20: Jason Day. World number Day won the Wells Fargo in May and won this event in 2015. Not only is he a former winner Day owns a record 12 strokes better (at 46 under)) in the tournament since 2013 than any other players. Despite various venues the Queenslander clearly likes the tournament.

 

Under 20: Justin Thomas. It’s simply hard to ignore the form of Thomas given he is also the defending champion. The trend of recent major winners is they have won prior that year and the now world number two has won twice in 2018 with two other top four finishes.

 

20 to 50: Brooks Koepka. The Bellerive Country Club hasn’t hosted a major since the PGA in 1992 and it’s last PGA Tour event was in 2008 so a player used to adapting to a venue would be suited here. Koepka’s dual US Open crowns came under hard circumstances which saw other top-liners fall away plus in recent year’s he’s won around the world in Turkey and Japan.

 

200 to 500: Russell Knox. The Scot won the Irish Open on the British Links swing recently and is very familiar with a variety of tracks. The 33-year-old controversially missed Ryder Cup selection in 2016 despite a PGA Tour win that year. His T12 in the US Open in June helped bring him back into form and it was his best result since a T10 in Hawaii in January.

 

Greens in regulation 

 

The ending in Fiji was as dramatic as it was confusing. Bhullar’s chip for eagle on the 17th looked as if he had joined Quayle in the lead but coming back from the commercial break it was noted a scoring error amended Quayle’s round to nine under and had Bhullar in the lead as he played the last. Mistakes happen but I must admit it seemed unusual the scoring error wasn’t noted in any of the post-tournament reports on the websites of the Australasian, Asian or European Tour – the three tours were jointly hosting the event.

 

Tap in 

 

Wednesday at the famous Gleneagles course in Scotland signalled golf’s latest foray into a teams event with the European Golf Team Championships. Linked to well known European Championships in sports including athletics and rowing golf gets in on the action with medals up for grabs in the multi-sport event which straddles competitions in Glasgow and the German capital of Berlin.

 

Men’s and women’s team match play will take place at the PGA Centenary venue plus a foursomes stroke play mixed team event. The mixed event final is on Saturday with the men’s and women’s events concluding on Sunday.

 

With the PGA Championship on for the men and no LPGA event this week the big names in attendance are primarily female with first-time major winner Georgia Hall and four-time major winner Dame Laura Davies taking part. In fact the English duo will be paired together on the back of Davies having won the Seniors Women’s Open in Chicago last month.

Image via Bournemouth Echo

Jarrod Lyle. He is a winner, and in inspiration.

@hamishneal

This week won’t be the normal column. It seems somewhat irrelevant to run through the usual breadth of golf from across the world on the top tours after the very sad news about Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle. As I write his family has announced in the last 20 hours that the two-time winner on the second-tier tour to the PGA Tour has been placed in palliative care.

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Notes I’ve saved on my phone about wins in the last week for Ariya Jutanugarn, Dustin Johnson, Richard McEvoy and Justin Harding are gone because, well, it doesn’t really seem to matter after the sad news which Lyle’s family confirmed after his third bout of acute myeloid leukaemia.

 

Prior to the Open I noted qualifier Ash Turner, who acquired a rare form of cerebral palsy following an accident as a child, was a great story about overcoming adversity. This week just gone in Germany at the European Open in Hamburg Allen John fired a closing round of 67 to finish second to McEvoy. John was close to a multi-player playoff if not for McEvoy’s late birdie. John, who is German and was playing on a sponsor’s invite is profoundly deaf. He has relied on hearing aids since the age of two and has only 5 per cent of his natural hearing. Stories like this are incredibly uplifting in showing golf can be inclusive and diverse.

 

The Lyle news is just crushing after the great stories about Turner and John.

 

It’s probably not worth much but instead of knocking up some thoughts for the Ladies British Open at Lytham & St Anne’s in Lancashire, and given it’s Donate Life Week in Australia, people may want to join the donation register.

 

Specifically related to Lyle the Victorian is an ambassador for Challenge, an organisation which provides support for children and their families living with cancer of a life-threatening blood disorder.

 

Jarrod Lyle is 36. There is a good chance I picked up a golf club before he did and Wednesday’s news seems so very wrong.