A high-flying weekend of golf in November saw quality winners as Justin Rose restored his spot atop the rankings, Bryson DeChambeau won in Las Vegas and Japan’s rising star Nasa Hataoka triumphed in a home event on the LPGA Tour.
Olympic champion Justin Rose needed 73 holes to prevail in Antayla but his Turkish Airlines Open victory over Haotong Li in a playoff sent him back to the world number one spot. After Li started the day with a three-shot buffer the pair both had a chance to win it in regulation after Li had coughed up his lead by the time the final group made the turn. Rose saw Li three-putt on the playoff hole at the Regnum Carya Golf Club which gave Rose his 23rd professional win at 12th in the European Tour.
American Bryson DeChambeau won for the fourth time in 2018 with a clutch eagle putt on 16 delivering him the Shriner’s Hospital Open in Nevada. Defending champion Patrick Cantlay must have thought he was a fair chance of going back to back until Californian native Dechambeau’s eagle helped lead him to a final round five under 66 and the one-shot win. DeChambeau is not the mad scientist anymore he’s just simply an elite player now ranked number five in the world.
Australian Minjee Lee squandered a chance to win her fifth LPGA title after her six over 78 on Sunday saw her slip to T15 as Nasa Hataoka won by two strokes in the LPGA’s Toto Japan Classic at the Seta Golf Course in Shiga. Hataoka finished at five under 67 for her second win of the year to go with her triumph in Arkansas in June.
Player performance notes
If you’ve backed last week’s two playoff protagonists and Cross Counter in the Melbourne Cup it’s full steam ahead for the Australasian summer of golf. This weekend it’s the penultimate event for the European Tour season with the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa at The Gary Player Country Club.
Under 20: Branden Grace. Despite his lack of form that’s never been an impediment to Grace performing well in this event having gone 1-3-4 in the last three years here. Since 2012 Grace has only had one year (2013) when he has not won at least once.
Under 20: Haotong Li. After showing faith in Justin Rose in recent weeks it makes sense to look to the person he vanquished in the playoff here in Sun City. Li was T4 last year here and is in top shape.
20 to 50: Matt Fitzpatrick. The Englishman was eighth here last year and one of only three players to shot both rounds on the weekend at sub 70. If the European Masters winner can recapture his form of recent weeks he should perform strongly.
50 to 100: Erik Van Rooyen. Another South African, Van Rooyen had a good period around the time of the Open, where he finished T17. This included three top eleven finishes in the UK and Scandinavia. The 28-year-old won twice last year including in South Africa on the Sunshine Tour.
Greens in regulation
Wollongong native Jordan Zunic won in Brisbane on the weekend courtesy of a one-stroke triumph over Rhein Gibson in the Queensland Open at the Brisbane Golf Club. Zunic faltered at various stages after opening his round with a five-shot lead. The Australasian PGA Tour heads to New South Wales this week where Jason Scrivener won in 2017 at Twin Creeks in Penrith.
This week on the PGA Tour the Mayakoba Golf Classic takes place near Cancun in Mexico whilst the LPGA Tour has shifted to Hainan Island, China for the Blue Bay LPGA with the event having started on Wednesday.
The announcement of tour schedules in golf usually passes with little comment, bar the odd quibble about course selection for majors, but the recent confirmation Saudi Arabia appears on the list of European Tour venues in 2019 caused serious consternation in the sporting world.
The move had been flagged some time ago but with the full announcement of the schedule in late October not long after Saudi agents murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey it was, at best poorly-timed, even if it was promoted in scant fashion.
The event at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in the King Abdullah Economic City to the North of Jeddah is rapidly approaching given it starts on January 31 and it is no small-fry event with recent world number one Dustin Johnson and defending US Masters champion Patrick Reed among those to already commit to the tournament.
There are dozens of reasons people could boycott sporting events in certain nations due to government policies and course owners but rarely are sponsorships of sporting tournaments so directly linked to government’s which have undertaken brazen attacks on foreign soil. The Independent’s Tom Kershaw noted recently “The deal to take a tournament to Saudi Arabia for the first time was struck in March 2018 when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia himself, Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, came to London to concrete a deal with European Tour CEO Keith Pelley.” So it is not a tournament which has some minor link to the Kingdom.
Malachy Clerkin in the Irish Times has called on media to boycott the tournament and there are times when ‘grow the game’ is important but ‘be a good human’ always comes before that. It’s also ironic given the week after the Saudi International the Vic Open, one of the most inclusive and progressive golf tournaments in the world, becomes a European Tour event for the first time.
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