Golf Capital: Green’s day at Hazeltine, lederhosen madness in Munich

@hamishneal

 

114th ranked Hannah Green triumphed in the Women’s PGA Championship to claim a maiden major title in what was also her first victory at LPGA level. Green, 22, was engulfed by a clutch of Australian golfers (both rising stars and legends, including Karrie Webb) on the 18th green at the historic Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minneapolis.

 

Elsewhere this week American Chez Reavie said good riddance to an 11-year losing run on the PGA Tour and there was a playoff win in Germany for Andrea Pavan over Matt Fitzpatrick.

 

hannahgreenusatoday

 

Opening drive

 

There was no boulevard of broken dreams at Hazeltine as Green’s historic triumph was only the third time the Women’s PGA winner has gone wire-to-wire after Green fired an opening round four under 68 before finishing at 9 under one clear of 2018 Womens’s PGA victor Sung Hyun-Park.

 

Park birdied the last on Sunday to put Perth native Green under pressure. Green’s key moments came when she birdied 16 before a great up-and-down from the bunker on 18 gave her the one-shot win. The first round effort was of particular note given the wet conditions and Green admitted afterwards she wasn’t prepared for the round properly with not enough wet weather gear. Her boyfriend two-time Australasian PGA Tour winner Jarryd Felton was dispatched to pick up some more appropriate clothing as the tournament rolled on.

 

Despite her three prior wins on the second-tier Symetra Tour Green’s previous best LPGA result was T10 in February’s Australian Open and this is only her second year on the LPGA Tour.

 

Green joins Jan Stephenson and Karrie Webb in elite company as the only Australian LPGA major winners, the last of those came in 2006 when Webb won the Kraft Nabisco Championship – now known as the ANA Inspiration. Green’s career gets a huge boost with a two-year exemption for the LPGA Tour and the winner’s checque of USD577,000 adds to her career prizemoney which was previously USD360,000.

 

Greens in regulation

Aside from the action in Minnesota the PGA Tour saw victory this week for Chez Reavie who prevailed at 17 under to win the Travelers Championship in comprehensive fashion at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut by four strokes over Zach Sucher and major winner Keegan Bradley. Reavie’s only other PGA victory was in the 2008 Canadian Open but he does have two second-tier Korn Ferry (formerly webdotcom) Tour triumphs in 2007 and 2015.

 

In Germany it was drama aplenty with both Matt Fitzpatrick and Andrea Pavan picking up birdies on the the last in the BMW International, Fitzpatrick doing so after having an eagle putt for a win in regulation. Pavan won at the second playoff hole with the result his second win on the ET after his 2018 Czech Masters triumph and has pushed him inside the top 100 to 83 in the world.

 

This week the European Tour heads to Spain giving hope for a form turnaround for tournament host Sergio Garcia at Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Sotogrande.

 

Interestingly the men’s tour heads to the same area of the states the LPGA was for the first Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit which is the first PGA Tour event in the motor city.

 

Whilst the LPGA this week heads to Arkansas for the Arkansas Championship to be staged in Rogers, famed for been home to the first of the meganormous Walmart stores who are sponsoring the event.

 

Tap in

 

During coverage of the BMW International on Thursday I was puzzled for a brief period when I noticed a raft of local fans dressed in lederhosen or dirndl enjoying the action in Munich. Linked to a local holiday those fans got free entry for wearing their traditional dress on the day. A great idea and something other tournaments could embrace. So, this begs the question as to what golfing events should also offer this deal and what counts a ‘traditional’ clothing at some of these venues? Hawaiian shirts at the Sony Open would be a slam dunk, but what about the Australian Open. Answers on a postcard…

 

Not to be outdone in the fan engagement field the tournament organisers in Minneapolis had an array of great initiatives at the Women’s PGA with kids-only sections so the young fans could get an unimpeded view of the action and tournament winner Green herself set the standard when, heading to the back nine she took the time to pay attention to a child who had given her a poem to read before continuing on to win the third women’s major of 2019. Go Hannah with that sort of fan engagement golf viewers and general sports fans won’t be saying ‘whatsername’ for too much longer.

 

This week

 

Arkansas Championship – Pinnacle Country Club, Rogers, Arkansas

Nasa Hataoka

 

The defending champion here finished T14 in Minnesota with a final round of 65 which was the best round of the tournament.

 

Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit Golf Club

Dustin Johnson

 

Despite only one major win Johnson regularly bullies fields into submission wining at leats three tournaments a year since 2016, and he’s won twice this year already with 14 other podium finishes in that period. Word is he’ll go well at this track.

 

Rickie Fowler

The world number 14 has been ‘meh’ in majors and really should have more tour victories overall but he’s won this year in Phoenix and after missing last week might have targeted this after failing to bother the field at the US open finishing T43 despite starting with a 66.

 

Mackenzie Hughes

The Canadian has not featured in the majors this season but has two top 14 finished since May, he blew out the back door to finish T51 in Connecticut after going 64 then 74 before a steady weekend of 69 and 71. Using the same logic as the Fowler pick he’s got some recent low rounds to his credit which have merit.

 

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.

March 20: Went off a week early with Kisner but in the Valspar Jon Rahm was T6 as the best result.

April 4: Matt Jones’ T30 was the best of the four options last week after Rahm’s T6 finish the week prior.

April 11: Xander Schauffele. T2 at his second Masters appearance is impressive a show for the future.

April 17: Brooke Henderson won in Hawaii with Matt Fitzpatrick the best at the RBC Heritage at T39.

May 15: Brooks Koepka won the PGA with Schauffele aiming for a top five finish before faltering like so many on Sunday to eventually finish T16 and 11 shots off the winner.

May 22: Matt Wallace was the best of a rough weekend finishing T41 in Denmark after a promising start.

May 29: Tiger Woods at T9 in Dublin was the best of the weekend four.

June 5: Shane Lowry finished T2 in Canada. This column going well in Canada or with Canadians.

June 13. Brooks Koepka. Solo second, couldn’t quite make it three US Opens in a row.

June 19. Paul Casey continued his good form with a T5 finish in Cromwell but six shots off the winner.

Image via usatoday.com

Golf Capital – Gary wins, Brooks loses but Brooke wins again.

@hamishneal

 

American Gary Woodland completed a home treble of majors in 2019 winning the prestigious US Open by three strokes over the two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka. Woodland finished at 13 under at Pebble Beach whilst on the LPGA Tour it was a Canadian triumph just days after the Toronto Raptors’ ground-breaking NBA title win as Brooke Henderson won the Meijer LPGA Classic by a stroke over American Lexi Thompson.

 

ap-19168056172186

 

Opening drive

 

Pebble Beach witnessed a terrific denouement to the men’s golf majors in the USA for 2019 as Gary Woodland claimed his first major title after a battle with Brooks Koepka who was playing in the group behind him. Woodland entered the final round one clear of Justin Rose but four clear of Koepka. Koepka went on a birdie run in the opening nine and had a glimmer of hope with a few holes to go. However when Woodland managed to have his approach on 14 flick off near the edge of the bunker onto the green and then claim a terrific par on 17 after he chipped from one side of the green down to the next tier before sealing par and the triumph. It wasn’t needed but Woodland’s birdie putt on the last gave the moment a memorable moment with which to end the major. Woodland ranked first in scrambling this week, a statistic which he was 169th for the season heading into the weekend as reported by Justin Ray of the 15th Club.

 

Kansas-born Woodland has been incredibly consistent without been prolific in his career. Since 2011 only once (2012) has he not won or finished second in a ranking event each year and from his four professional wins the recent ones have been of quality, this major and in 2018 he won the Phoenix Open beating Chez Reavie in a playoff.

 

Woodland is now in a position to play with more confidence now that he has developed his work with the flat stick in the last 18 month with coach Pete Cowen. Woodland commented afterwards that Cowen texted him prior to the final round words including “you live for this moment.” Perhaps ominously for his rivals Woodland followed that up with “I think we are only on the tip of this iceberg” Woodland now has as many majors as Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas. Both of whom are considered stars of the game but haven’t kicked on since their maiden major triumphs.

 

Greens in regulation

Away from the west coast of the USA in the mid-west and Michigan Brooke Henderson continued the great week for Canadian sport claiming her ninth LPGA title. At 21 under Henderson equaled a scoring record for the event at the Blyethfield Country Club in Grand Rapids and has now won at least twice each season for the last four years

 

Whilst amateur Viktor Hovland’s effort to finish T12 in the US Open was been lauded it’s worth noting Henderson as a professional has been winning tournaments with monotonous regularity.

Turning 22 in September Henderson has won twice in her last seven starts and heads to the third women’s major of the year – the Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota – with a huge deal of confidence give it is also the only major she has won. Hovland enters this week at the Travelers Championship as a professional for the first time, the Norwegian also turns 22 in September.

 

Tap in

 

After a hiatus due to the American major the European Tour heads to Germany for the BMW International at Golfclub Munchen Eichenried. Matt Wallace is the defending champion at the tournament (albeit a different venue last year) and comes into the event after a strong finish in the US Open where he was T12.

 

The men’s major attention now looks towards Royal Portrush for the Open which starts on July 18 next month at the Ulster track.

 

This week

Women’s PGA Championship, Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota

 

Brooke Henderson

 

A playoff winner of this major in 2016 Henderson, to go with her two wins in 2019, has placed inside the top ten seven times.

 

Jin Young Ko

 

Already a major winner in 2019 Ko was T11 in her only other go around thus far in this major two years ago.

 

Jessica Korda

With top ten finishes in her last two major starts Korda was in contention at the US Women’s Open. Last won in February 2018 in Thailand.

 

Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut

 

Paul Casey

 

The Englishman won the Valspar already this year and has three other top three finishes. At Pebble Beach he finished T21 after closing with a 67.

 

 

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.

March 20: Went off a week early with Kisner but in the Valspar Jon Rahm was T6 as the best result.

April 4: Matt Jones’ T30 was the best of the four options last week after Rahm’s T6 finish the week prior.

April 11: Xander Schauffele. T2 at his second Masters appearance is impressive a show for the future.

April 17: Brooke Henderson won in Hawaii with Matt Fitzpatrick the best at the RBC Heritage at T39.

May 15: Brooks Koepka won the PGA with Schauffele aiming for a top five finish before faltering like so many on Sunday to eventually finish T16 and 11 shots off the winner.

May 22: Matt Wallace was the best of a rough weekend finishing T41 in Denmark after a promising start.

May 29: Tiger Woods at T9 in Dublin was the best of the weekend four.

June 5: Shane Lowry finished T2 in Canada. This column going well in Canada or with Canadians.

June 13. Brooks Koepka. Solo second, couldn’t quite make it three US Opens in a row.

 

Image via cbsnews.com

Golf Capital – Rory and Lexi win, my Pebble Beach moment

@hamishneal

 

Lexi Thompson continued her remarkable career on the LPGA Tour as Rory McIlroy stunned the field in Hamilton, Canada with a final round of 61. All this in the week before two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka looks to maintain his US Open crown as Australia’s Jan Stephenson was elevated to the World Golf Hall of Fame. This year the now third men’s major of the year will be held at the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Club on the Pacific Ocean.

 

lexi-thompson-1560128239

 

Opening Drive

 

A 16th triumph on the PGA Tour for Rory McIlroy came at the re-positioned Canadian Open which now sits a week before the US Open as opposed to it’s previous slot of the week after the Open in the United Kingdom. A stronger field compared to previous seasons saw McIlroy finish at 22 under following a weekend in which he went 64-61 and came from five shots back heading into the weekend before he had a share of the third round lead. A quirky last few holes saw McIlroy go bogey-eagle-bogey as he threatened to fire a 59 on the Hamilton Golf and Country Club track before ultimately winning by seven strokes from Shane Lowry and Webb Simpson.

 

Aside from McIlroy there was plenty of interest in countryman Graeme McDowell who secured a T8 finish, which earned him a spot in the Open to be held at Portrush, his home town. Ironically the 39-year-old won the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, 10 years after Tiger Woods won the 100th US Open at the Southern California venue.

 

In Portugal the funky Golf Sixes was won by Thailand with plenty of dramatic moments during the two-day event at the Otiavos Dunes venue. The climax was Thailand claiming victory via a playoff when Phachara Khongwatmai struck one of his tee shots to close range in the nearest-the-pin competition after six holes and then a playoff over extra holes couldn’t split Khongwatmia and his partner Thongchai Jaidee from English duo Tom Lewis and Paul Waring. Khongwatmai, 20, has pedigree in this format having performed well in the individual Perth World Super 6 event previously.

 

US Women’s Open winner Jeongeun Lee6 nearly won back to back events before Lexi Thompson at 12 under won the Shoprite LPGA Classic by a stroke from the South Korean after an eagle on the 72nd hole. The eagle came after Thompson’s three-putt on the 15th which saw her fall two behind Lee6. The win at the Bay Course, Seaview in New Jersey means Thompson has won every year for the last seven on the LPGA. This week the Meijer LPGA Classic take place at the Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, Michigan.

 

Greens in regulation

 

Three-time major winner Jan Stephenson was elevated to the World Golf Hall of Fame during the week along with three other inductees at the ceremony in Carmel-By-The-Sea in Southern California. Americans Peggy Kirk Bell and Dennis Walters plus South African Retief Goosen. Also acknowledged was Augusta’s Billy Payne, somewhat odd considering his role as a figurehead at the iconic Georgia venue is perhaps not as impactful on the game as others. Payne almost certainly didn’t have to come through any of the adversity or barriers the other inductees went through.  At least Payne was humble enough to acknowledge his award was really about the club itself but administrators of a private club who took until seven years ago to establish female membership are not exactly innovative. Until recently the Masters had the least amount of TV coverage of any major in keeping with the allure and mystic of the venue. Sounds fun, but not exactly innovative or inclusive nor does it ‘grow the game.’

 

Tap in

 

My Pebble Beach story is not one of a fluke par at one of the famous holes like the par three seventh, nor one of spotting someone at the famous Pro Am event in February no mine is of getting close to see the venue before cost and a tour group over-ruled me.

 

In 2002, whilst on a Trek America tour of the west coast of the USA, I was able to pass the venue but not actually travel on the the storied 17-Mile Drive. The fee to take in the drive for a vehicle is now $10.50 but the entry fee (much like a national park) for a van which myself and about 10 or so other travelers was much more back then. I seem to think it was in the range of $45. Much to the chagrin of many of the other trekkers they didn’t want to chip in nor take the time out from the day’s journey to take in the famous site. Despite my protestations (“But it’s where Tiger Woods won by 15 shots! This never happens in a major”) and the fact I’d managed to get one or two of the sports fans on my side the chance to even drive past the holes or visit the clubhouse was lost and I was out voted before we moved on. I guess the lesson is to get your own RV if you are travelling up the west coast of the USA.

 

This week

 

Brooks Koepka

 

Hard to go past Koepka who is bidding for his fifth major triumph in nine starts. A win here would give him a major triumph on each coast this season.

 

Jordan Spieth

 

Since the Byron Nelson where he finished T29 Spieth has gone T3-T8-T7 and if his putter plays ball he can add to his 2015 US Open triumph and two other major triumphs.

 

Shane Lowry

 

I see no reason to divert from the Irishman who has performed admirably in the last month or so and now sits at 32 in the world rankings. Lowry has form at coastal tracks but did miss the cut in the Pro Am here in February.

 

CT Pan

April’s RBC Heritage winner beat a field which say Matt Kuchar, Shane Lowry and subsequent winner Patrick Cantlay all finished in the top three. Last start Pan was T3 behind Kevin Na in Texas.

 

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.

March 20: Went off a week early with Kisner but in the Valspar Jon Rahm was T6 as the best result.

April 4: Matt Jones’ T30 was the best of the four options last week after Rahm’s T6 finish the week prior.

April 11: Xander Schauffele. T2 at his second Masters appearance is impressive a show for the future.

April 17: Brooke Henderson won in Hawaii with Matt Fitzpatrick the best at the RBC Heritage at T39.

May 15: Brooks Koepka won the PGA with Schauffele aiming for a top five finish before faltering like so many on Sunday to eventually finish T16 and 11 shots off the winner.

May 22: Matt Wallace was the best of a rough weekend finishing T41 in Denmark after a promising start.

May 29: Tiger Woods at T9 in Dublin was the best of the weekend four.

June 5: Shane Lowry finished T2 in Canada. This column going well in Canada or with Canadians.

 

Image via spin.ph

Golf Capital – Lee6, six of the best and Cantlay’s Village

@hamishneal

 

A maiden major winner came through a wild weekend in Charleston as Jeongeun Lee6 prevailed in the US Women’s Open as a swashbuckling Patrick Cantlay tamed Muirfield to win the Memorial. Italian Guido Migliozzi added to a diverse career resume with victory in the Belgian Knockout.

 

jlee6irishtimes

 

Opening Drive

 

It had to be… After the pre-event controversy surrounding Tiger Woods’ former swing coach Hank Haney (more on him later) Jeongeun Lee6 finished at six under to edge home in South Carolina on a weekend which saw lightning strike the course at the US Women’s Open. Lee6 was among a clutch of players with a chance to claim the second female major of the season and when Celine Boutier couldn’t find the cup from the green-side bunker on the 72nd hole the win (also her first on the LPGA) was secured. At 23 years of age Lee6 has now recorded eight professional triumphs which is an incredible achievement given the struggles her family has gone through and the fact she only took up the game at the age of 16!

 

Patrick Cantlay’s second PGA Tour win came courtesy of a two-stroke triumph over Adam Scott at the Memorial having seen the American record a final round eight-under 64 to overhaul third round leader Martin Kaymer, who led by four shots after 54 holes. Grabbing the lead on the 11th and Kaymer was sliding before recording a final round even par 72 at Muirfield was enough for Cantlay’s victory.

 

The second Belgian Knockout went to Italian Guido Migliozzi who beat Dutchman Darius van Driel in the six-hole final. Migliozzi was ranked 576th in the world before winning the Kenyan Open in March and has launched himself to 95 in the world now with his second European Tour title at the Rinkven track near Antwerp.

 

Greens in regulation

 

From Belgium to Portugal the European Tour pivots to another format outside the 72-hole stroke-play with Golf Sixes to take place on the Iberian Peninsula.

The event features 16 nation-bases pairs. Two of which (England and Germany) are female teams and after finishing second in the recent mixed event in the Middle East NSW Open winner Meghan MacLaren will be aiming to go one better with her teammate Florentyna Parker.

 

Following the major action in Carolina the LPGA visits Galloway, New Jersey for the LPGA Classic won last year by American Annie Park.

 

After Jack Nicklaus’ close association with Muirfield winner can a local become more famous than singing star Bryan Adams. Yes the PGA Tour heads to Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ontario this week for the Canadian Open.

 

Tap in

Aside from the, what could be categorised as, flippant racism from Hank Haney as a prelude to the US Women’s Open the attitude of the swing guru and his sheer lack of knowledge about the women’s game was intriguing to say the least. Haney, on Sirius XM PGA Tour radio, prognosticated about the coming Open and the probable winner as ‘a Lee.’

 

Given the high turnover of some coaches with certain players in golf it’s odd Haney would choose to virtually wipe out any hopes he has in now working with a large chunk of players in the future. The move would almost make him persona non grass amongst the LPGA’s brightest and any male taking him on would first have to think long and hard about the negative impact this may have on their own reputation.

 

Haney may be happy with the odd analyst spot and at the age of 63 not be seeking a full schedule of coaching as perhaps when he was working with Tiger Woods in his prime but his blunder-wrapped-in-a-stumble attempt to poke fun is, also, much more harmful than he perhaps he thought it was.

This week

 

Canadian Open – Hamilton, Ontario

 

Shane Lowry

With consecutive top eight finishes (including a T8 in the PGA Championship) the Irishman, who won in Abu Dhabi in January.

 

Dustin Johnson

Once had a Masters jacket pinned onto him before a slip Johnson still has ‘only’ one major win but wins strong events on a yearly basis. This pre-US Open field is strong and he won this event last year at Glen Abbey.

 

Golf Sixes – Cascias, Portugal

 

Australia – Scott Hend/Wade Ormsby

Albeit at a different venue Scott Hend made the final of the inaugural event in 2017 with Sam Brazel and the experience pairing with Wade Ormsby is a strong hope here.

 

Ireland – Paul Dunne/Gavin Moynihan

Continuing the Irish theme. Since their win as a pairing in this event last year Dunne has contended in the Super 6 in Perth and placed T4 in Denmark recently. Moynihan has set the world on fire but the return to this format should help him.

 

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.

March 20: Went off a week early with Kisner but in the Valspar Jon Rahm was T6 as the best result.

April 4: Matt Jones’ T30 was the best of the four options last week after Rahm’s T6 finish the week prior.

April 11: Xander Schauffele. T2 at his second Masters appearance is impressive a show for the future.

April 17: Brooke Henderson won in Hawaii with Matt Fitzpatrick the best at the RBC Heritage at T39.

May 15: Brooks Koepka won the PGA with Schauffele aiming for a top five finish before faltering like so many on Sunday to eventually finish T16 and 11 shots off the winner.

May 22: Matt Wallace was the best of a rough weekend finishing T41 in Denmark after a promising start.

May 29: Tiger Woods at T9 in Dublin was the best of the weekend four.

 

Image via irishtimes.com