Golf Capital – Rory’s Players and more Italian triumphs

@hamishneal

Rory McIlroy won for the first time since March last year during an epic finish at TPC Sawgrass following a breakthrough triumph for Italian Guido Migliozzi at the European Tour’s Kenyan Open.

 

rory-mcilroy-harry-diamond-players-championship-2019-sunday-18th-green-celebration

 

OPENING DRIVE

 

Despite two stunning putts on the 17th by Eddie Pepperell then Jhonattan Vegas plus a resurgence from USA Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy edged home in the Players Championship. McIlroy finished at 16 under one clear of Furyk after carding a final round two-under 70 as the Sunday action round ebbed a flowed on the back nine, highlighted by some of the Island Green heroics.

 

After a string of recent top ten finishes (T6-2-T4-T5-T4) the world number four notched win number 24 in his professional career and his 15th triumph on the PGA Tour at the ‘fifth major.’

 

Heading into the Kenyan Open Guido Migliozzi was ranked 576th in the world but that short-changed his ability with the Vicenza native a three-time winner on the Alps Tour in a 12-month period from September 2017 to late last year. Starting the final round tied with Adri Arnaus of Spain the 22-year-old hit the lead on the 12th and held his nerve to win at only his 14th European Tour start to go with Francesco Molinari’s win the week prior in Florida are we seeing an inspired period in Italian golf?

 

GREENS IN REGULATION

 

This week the PGA Tour returns to Palm Harbour for the Valspar Championship. This was the scene of Tiger Woods’ near win last year only to be foiled by England’s Paul Casey at the Inisbrook Resort’s Cooperhead Course. The LPGA resumes in Arizona with Inbee Park the defending champion at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and completing the top line golf the European Tour heads to Malaysia for the Maybank Championship.

 

TAP IN

 

The final ALPG Tour event of the season takes places this week at the Yamba Golf Club on the NSW North Coast after recent wins to Western Australia’s Whitney Hillier in Brisbane and Floridian Brooke Baker in New Caledonia. American Nelly Korda ($270,000) who won the Australian Open will, unsurprisingly, claim the order of merit title. Sarah Kemp in fourth having yielded $147,118 is the best placed Australian. With four events to go the current men’s PGA Tour of Australasia money list leader is Kiwi Ryan Fox on $279,235 with the fourth placed Wade Ormsby at $140,435. But it is worth noting whilst the money lists might seem relatively equitable at this stage the men’s tour has four remaining events include the Australian PGA Championship plus the Australian Open each with significant purses. There is still a way to go in prize-money equity as we have noted recently given the case of two-time Women’s NSW Open winner Meghan MacLaren.

 

THIS WEEK

 

Valspar Championship

 

Jon Rahm

The Spaniard went against the advice of his caddie on the 11th at TPC Sawgrass and eventually slumped toT12 but prior to that stretching back to the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship he’d only once finished outside the top ten in seven of eight starts including his win in the Hero World Challenge.

 

Kevin Kisner

The world number 50 has five consecutive top 30 finishes and he been in positions for a weekend push only to fall away in recent weeks.

 

Maybank Championship

 

Aaron Rai

With his mother from Kenya it was somewhat of a surprise to see Rai skip the Kenyan Open (which he won on the Challenge Tour) a fair pointer to this venue.

 

Ryan Fox

With the World Super 6 Perth title in the bag Ryan Fox, finally, has a European Tour title, and after a rushed trip to Mexico the Kiwi will be more settled following his T11 in his home open.

 

2019 record:

Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.

Feb 20: Ledioda missed the cut and in Mexico Ancer (T39) was the best of the three.

Feb 27: Best two were Brooke Henderson (T15) after taking an eight on one of the par fives in her opening round and Harrison Endycott T17.

March 6: Matt Millar T23 in NZ was the best result in the tough weather on the South Island.

March 13 Justin Thomas T35 was the best of the TPC Sawgrass four.

 

Image via golfdigest.com

Golf Capital – MacLaren short-changed despite back-to-back wins, plus the glory of Lofoten

@hamishneal

 

England’s Meghan MacLaren won back-to-back Women’s New South Wales Open titles on Sunday as Open Champion Francesco Molinari blasted to a two-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on the PGA Tour. South Africa’s Justin Harding won his first European Tour event at the Qatar Masters as Kiwi amateur Kazuma Kobori won the NZ PGA Championship on his home track at the Pegasus Golf and Sports Club.

 

Meghan Maclaren of England with her trophy

 

Opening drive

 

A stunning eight-under 64 in his final round saw Ryder Cup hero Francesco Molinari set a clubhouse standard relatively early in the final round which the chasing pack failed to match at Bay Hill. The event, which was dominated by Europeans with six inside the top nine, finished in odd circumstances with Molinari eleven groups back and five shots back after the third round before he prevailed over England’s Matt Fitzpatrick and the chasing pack.

 

After her Women’s NSW Open wins in Coffs Harbour last year this year’s title defence for Meghan MacLaren came at the Queanbeyan Golf Club. A great effort to go back to back finishing at 12 under saw MacLaren home by three strokes over Sweden’s Lynn Carlsson and Kiwi Munchin Keh. MacLaren, 24, went eagle-par-birdie over the last three holes to secure the win.

 

It’s just the shame the Women’s NSW Open doesn’t share the same prizemoney or stature as it’s Victorian counterpart where the men’s and women’s events are equal in prizemoney and played on the same course at the same time.

 

Northamptonshire native MacLaren pocketed only AUD22,500 for the victory in Queanbeyan. Jake McLeod’s NSW Open win in November netted him AUD72,000. MacLaren would have to win this tournament TWO MORE times to surpass what McLeod earnt in November. It should also be noted the NSW Women’s Open is co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour and the NSW Open on the men’s tour is not linked to any overseas tour. Something for the golfing bodies and tournament backers of the event to consider for the future, and across the tours for that matter. If the Men’s and Women’s NSW Opens’ can’t be run simultaneously maybe could they at least offer equal prizemoney to match the inclusive standard the Vic Open has set?

 

In Christchurch Kobori’s victory seemed likely after the third round when he lead before eventually finishing at 21 under after a final round three under 69. Kiwi David Smail finished second one shot ahead of Victoria’s Cameron John but collected the first=place prizemoney of NZD125,000 by virtue of Kobori’s amateur status.

 

The Qatar Masters, a European Tour event, went to Justin Harding after he finished at 13 under, two strokes clear of nine (!) players including overnight leader Oliver Wilson. Cape Town resident Harding has been a prolific winner with seven Sunshine Tour victories since 2010 plus two Asian Tour triumphs last year but this is his first ET triumph.

 

Greens in regulation

 

The Kenya Open is elevated to European Tour status as the ET leaves the Middle East for the next few weeks (yes it will eventually get back to Europe.) Nairobi’s Karen Golf Course hosts the tournament which has a somewhat surprising history with the 52-year-old event having the likes of major winners Ian Woosnam and Seven Ballesteros among the victors. After the recent tournaments in New Zealand the Australasian PGA takes a break until the PNG Open in May with the ALPG Tour this week in New Caledonia before a return to Queensland for the AVEO Brisbane Invitational. The LPGA resumes later this month in Arizona.

 

Tap in

 

Tiger Woods is back and it’s the ‘fifth major’ this weekend in men’s golf with The Players taking place on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass with great viewing including the ‘Island Green’ on 17. However, that, and any golf for the next few weeks is going to be hard to top compared to the spectacular viewing of Lofoten Links. This three-minute video from No Laying Up which I saw late one night about a week ago on my smartphone was so good the next day I went and watched in on the big television.

 

‘In the middle of the night, at the edge of the world.’ Enjoy.

 

 

This week

The Players

 

Justin Thomas

Since the start of 2019 Thomas has five finishes of top nine or better and was T11 at this track last year.

 

Francesco Molinari

Twice last year after winning (at the BMW Championship and Quicken Loans National) Molinari contended again finishing second or tied second at his next event so the Open winner has the ability to stay in form.

 

Jordan Spieth

Believe it or not Spieth is now ranked 47, his worst ranking since August 2013. Once T4 in this event early in his career the American must be due to turn around his form.

 

Keith Mitchell

Speaking of in form. After winning the Honda Classic Mitchell ranked 161st only two weeks ago maintained his form to finish T6 at Bay Hill.

 

2019 record:

Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.

Feb 20: Ledioda missed the cut and in Mexico Ancer (T39) was the best of the three.

Feb 27: Best two were Brooke Henderson (T15) after taking an eight on one of the par fives in her opening round and Harrison Endycott T17.

March 6: Matt Millar T23 in NZ was the best result in the tough weather on the South Island.

 

Image via TheLeader.Info

Golf Capital – Mitchell’s first win and Tiger’s pain in the neck

@hamishneal

 

First-time winner Keith Mitchell outlasted some guns of the game, windy conditions in Oman saw the winner (Kurt Kitayama) play 33 holes on Sunday after South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park was the best-performed final round winner of the week when she won in Singapore.

 

keithmitchellvalleymorningstar

 

Opening drive

 

After 96 ranking events Keith Mitchell prevailed in the Honda Classic in Florida over highly credentialed players for his first PGA Tour win (and win anywhere) as a professional at the PGA National track in Palm Beach. Recent winner Rickie Fowler (final round 67) and three-time major winner Brooks Koepka (66) looked like they would feature in a playoff before Mitchell’s four birdies in his last seven holes (including on 18) saw him claim a richly deserved win. There was also a rare Vijay Singh sighting at the age of 56 on the leaderboard.

 

Following his December win in Mauritius American Kurt Kitayama claimed his second European Tour title in quick time with a one-shot victory in the Oman Open. Kitayama ,26, opened his third round on Saturday with a quadruple bogey eight and eventually managed to overhaul a seven-shot deficit. The Californian’s recent rise from Qualifying School in November has been rapid and he showed great determination to win the weather-hit event at Al Mouj Golf.

 

Wodonga’s Zach Murray claimed the 100th New Zealand Open at the Hills Golf Club near Queenstown on the South Island after an opening round 63 put the recent Blitz Golf winner up on the pace immediately. Josh Geary (round of 63 on Saturday) and Ashley Hall (65 on Sunday) both pressed their claims at various stages on the weekend before finishing third and second, respectively.

 

Dual major winner Sung Hyun Park claimed her fourth LPGA title in 11 months, and sixth overall, when she edged home by two strokes over Australian Minjee Lee in the Women’s World Championship. Overnight leader and world number one Ariya Jutanugarn buckled firing a final round four over 75 and Park, three groups back, started her round with three consecutive birdies before signing for a 64 to finish at 15 under. Lee, who it should be noted at the age of 22 has won four LPGA tournaments, would have to be shaking her head at Park’s final round thinking a win for herself was highly likely.

 

In-form Dutchwoman Anne Van Dam claimed the Canberra Classic by three strokes. Heading into final round of the ALPG and Ladies European Tour co-sanctioned event tied for the lead with Slovenia’s Katja Pogacar before defending champion Jiyai Shin also made a run at the title. Eventually finishing at 17 under van Dan,23, now sits inside the qualifying spots for the European side for the Solheim Cup.

 

Greens in Regulation

This week the greens of Queanbeyan Golf Course host the Women’s NSW Open following the event been held in Coffs Harbour last year. England’s Meghan MacLaren is the defending champion of another joint ALPG Tour and LET event. Those heading along to the venue may spot a familiar face on the bag of recent Australian Ladies Classic winner Marianne Skarpnord as her caddie and fiancée is Australian golfer Richard Green.

 

The men’s European Tour has switched the Qatar Masters on the schedule in 2019 and thus the Doha event won see it’s defending champion (Eddie Pepperell) take part but the conditions will likely be typical of a desert golf track whilst in New Zealand the Australasian PGA Tour shifts to north of Christchurch for the NZ PGA Championship at the Pegasus Golf and Sports Club. This was won by Kiwi Ben Campbell last year on the North Island in Palmerston North.

 

Tap in

This week the US PGA heads to Bay Hill but some of the gloss is off the Arnold Palmer Invitational with Tiger Woods out due to a neck injury. Woods had a similar concern prior to the Open last year when he still managed to finish T6 however given his catalogue of recent injuries and surgeries in the last few years it’s not ideal. Especially given this is probably the tournament, outside of majors, Woods would have marked as a focus event in 2019 given he has won it a staggering eight times. I put myself back on the bandwagon last year having previously written off his career but this is at least somewhat concerning as the 43-year-old hunts a 15th major and more big wins.

 

This week

 

Arnold Palmer Invitational

Bryson DeChambeau The world number five didn’t reach his usual lofty standards last time out in Mexico and I expect a bounce back given he was second here last year.

 

Qatar Masters

Lucas Herbert. Am convinced the Aussie is tailor-made for the possible windy conditions in Doha and that effort in Portugal last year to race home at nearly in is still prominent.

 

Adrian Otaegui. Recently beaten in the Perth Super 6 event Otagui was tenth here last year.

 

NZ PGA

Matthew Millar. With some windy weather expected for the first two days the Canberran, who won the NZ Masters last year, can get in front early.

 

2019 record:

Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.

Feb 20: Ledioda missed the cut and in Mexico Ancer (T39) was the best of the three.

Feb 27: Best two were Brooke Henderson (T15) after taking an eight on one of the par fives in her opening round and Harrison Endycott T17.

 

Image via Valley Morning News