What a week it was in Portrush with Shane Lowry’s Open triumph, this was followed by the further rise of Jin Young Ko in France as Brooks Koepka won another elite event before another rookie triumphed on the PGA Tour. This week sees the final women’s major of the year – the Women’s British Open.
What craic as the man from County Offaly Shane Lowry finished off a six-stroke triumph as hordes of fans combined in joy for the victory of a ‘local’ in such comprehensive fashion to become the champion golfer of the year at Royal Portrush. After a slashing round on Saturday of eight under 63 Lowry posted 72 on Sunday as Tommy Fleetwood missed a few chances to bridge the gap significantly. The other major story was on Friday afternoon as a gallant 65 from Rory McIlroy wasn’t enough from him to make the cut and the prodigal son missed the weekend. His Friday started in stunning fashion when he sent his opening drive of the tournament out of bounds down the left. The ‘in course’ out of bounds came about as historically that tract of land wasn’t owned by the course and it remained out of bounds when they acquired it. That’s the kind of quirky course history which sets golf apart as an outdoor sport with no uniform venue style. The calls for this ‘needless OB’ to be scrapped are nonsense, it’s meant to be hard, don’t drive it left off the first tee!
Jin Young Ko became the first double major winner of 2019 after her Evian Championship triumph matched her ANA Inspiration victory. Ko overcame a four shot deficit heading into Sunday as the expected push from Sung Hyun Park didn’t materialize and Ko won by two with three players (Shanshan Feng, Kim Hyo-joo and Jennifer Kupcho.) Kupcho’s rise as a contender at this level has been rapid as it was only April when she won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur event at the fames Georgia venue.
Greens in regulation
On the PGA Tour Brooks Koepka won the WGc event in Memphis this weekend but Collin Morikawa, in only his sixth professional tournament, won the Barracuda modified stableford event in Reno. Koepka’s win in Memphis means he has now won seven times since June 2017. Jim Herman also claimed his second career title winning the Barbasol Championship the same week as the Open.
I’m not sure if it’s by accident or by design but there is no men’s European Tour event this weekend which is good as it gives a focus, at least in Europe on the final women’s major of the season. The Women’s British Open this week takes place at Woburn and there is some Australian history to tie to the venue which is notable given Hannah Green’s breakthrough triumph recently – Karrie Webb won this event in 1995 at the same venue, albeit at the time it had yet to be elevated to major status. This didn’t happen until 2001.
In the wake of the Open triumph for Lowry, Jack Nicklaus (majors record-holder) made some interesting comments around the form of Tiger Woods and these highlighted some of the key problems I am starting to have with the new major cycle which runs once a month from April to (mid) July for the men. 18-time major winner Nicklaus noted players who enter this period with injuries or a lack of form have little time to heal or recalibrate and are then left with the end-of-season events.
Nicklaus commented on BBC Radio 5 Live “I’m not sure that that’s really a good thing for the game of golf, to have all your tournaments in about three and a half months. And I don’t think it’s good for the other tournaments on the Tour”
Whilst these events can be lucrative they are not well known and are not lauded to the degree majors are, just ask Billy Horschel who has won a Fed Ex Cup but not yet a major.
The new format is not going away and the solution to this is simple, and something I’ve advocated before, add a fifth major. From a selfish point of view I’d like to see this as the Australian or New Zealand Open but realistically an event in the Middle East during November or February would be more realistic. Tradition is the enemy of progress and if we consider the current men’s top 100; outside of North America and Europe competitors there is currently 23 players not from the strongholds of Europe and North America. Countries like Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and South Korea. Shouldn’t they get some sort of travel advantage at some point for a big event? Or, perhaps more importantly, should they not have to cede home advantage all the time for big events? Unless you are going to expand say the volume of WGC events and/or add bigger purses for the Australian Open’s et al then the marquee period becomes so small for men’s golf in a crowded sporting market.
Quite annoyed I bailed on Lowry after he started well at Lahinch in the Irish Open off the back off great form in the USA but this week we look to the UK for another Open.
Women’s British Open, Marquess Course – Woburn Golf Club, Buckinghamshire
The world number six won there three years ago by three shots and has won six times since. The 2018 US Open winner hasn’t won this year but was fifth in the Evian Championship – her best ever finish in five attempts at that event.
The Australian Open winner from ealier this year has adapted to majors adeptly in recent years without winning, yet. She cracked the top ten for the first time in a major last year US Women’s Open, at this years Women’s PGA she registered a career-major best result of T3. Notably her T25 at Evian was a vast improvement on T61 last year.
After missed cuts in the three other majors this year the Stockport golfer was T22 in France. Law won on the LPGA Tour in March the week after losing a playoff and at 22 in the world is ranked higher than Georgia Hall who is the reigning champion so that goes to show the increased quality of the top English females.
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.
June 26. Mackenzie Hughes finished T21 in Detroit a better result than some of the higher ranked other players with Dustin Johnson missing the cut.
July 3. Shane Lowry finished T34 at Lahinch after a positive start to the tournament.
July 10. One of this week’s picks Eddie Pepperell was T43 in Scotland.
July 17. Henrik Stenson finished T20 at the Open after a promising first few days was somewhat undone by a five under round on Sunday.
Image via lpga.com