All posts by hamishneal

Golf Capital: Shibuno, Ruffels, Garcia and contrived leaderboards

@hamishneal

A golfing fairytale in Buckinghamshire plus a great Australian triumph in the USA have been two highlights in the last few weeks in golf. This week the PGA Tour brings us a contrived finish to the TOUR Championship and FedEx Cup. Time to fly around the world of golf.

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Opening drive

 

We’ve been off the grid at Golf Capital HQ so here are the highlights of the last few weeks in golf:

– 20-year-old Japanase rookie Hinako Shibuno prevailed in the Women’s British Open at Woburn Golf Club on a day when expected runs from more recognised players in the game failed to hit the mark. Shibuno, who had yet to even compete in a professional event outside of her home nation, eventually saw off American Lizette Salas to claim victory.

– JT Poston broke through for his first PGA Tour triumph in winning the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina. An incredible statistic from the win was that Poston went bogey-free for all 72 holes. The first time since a PGA Tour winner has done so since Lee Trevino in 1974.

– The truncated PGA Tour playoffs (aka FedEx Cup series) started with Patrick Reed winning the Northern Trust Open before Justin Thomas won the second leg of the series in Illinois.

– There was only one European Tour event with Thomas Pieters winning the Czech Master. It was his first trumph in here years

– In the two LPGA events since the Women’s British Open Mi Jung Hur won the Ladies Scottish Open. Hur was one of a quartet of players sharing the lead until a stunning back nine saw her notch six birdies.

-On the course but away from scores and leaderboards Bryson deChambeau cemented his position as the ‘face of slow play’ taking 2 minutes and 20 seconds for a putt he missed.

-The squads were confirmed for the major team’s events – the Solheim Cup and President’s Cup with some Captain’s Picks still to come.

 

Greens in regulation 

 

To expand on one of the significant events of the golfing month it’s time to doff our cap to Australian Gabi Ruffels. Ruffels, 19, claimed victory in the US Women’s Amatuer tournament held in Mississippi. Ruffels took the lead for the final time at the 35th of the 36 holes with a birdie on the par three 17th  to defeat Swiss opponent Albane Valenzuela. Many may know of Ruffels family connections with tennis star father Ray and Ryan also a golfer but it was her two caddies, yes two, who formed a key part of the win.

 

Junior college player Blair Stockett took the bag for the final on the Sunday after head coach of the Mississippi State program Justin Silverstein who was caddie to start the tournament had to leave to attend a family funeral. Despite this upheaval in her re-tournament plans the change didn’t phase Ruffels.

 

The win means Australian golfers have now claimed all four USA individual junior and amateur titles, male and female, since 2012. Going back further Nick Flanagan also won the 2003 amateur crown. Quite a record in the last few years

 

Tap in

 

It’s time to ban Sergio Garcia. The 2017 Masters champion flew into an unacceptable rage for the second time in six months at the recent WGC event and yet over three weeks has passed without any major comment from either tour he plays on – the PGA or European Tour. After hacking away at a course in the Middle East in February footage emerged of Garcia this time pulverising a tee box at the TPC Southwind course in Memphis last month. Garcia eventually finished T40, some 15 shots off winner Brooks Koepka, but that was after he had taken a large divot out of the tee box at 16 during his final round. For a 39 year-old to display those sort of actions on a regular basis now without punishment just reinforces his petulant behavior. If not a ban Garcia should at least he subject to losing tournament earnings and have any points wiped from world rankings?

 

If golf can apply penalty shots to Lexi Thompson the day after she had signed for her score in a major why can’t they enforce some sort of ‘ban/fine’ on Garcia?

 

Whilst a golf club getting hurled into a lake or pond can perhaps cause injury to wildlife and the ecosystem Garcia’s actions to wreck the cause definitely cause an impact to other players and course staff.

 

This week

TOUR Championship, East Lake, Atlanta

Last week I took Tony Finau in a ‘One and Done’ PGA Tour tipping competition for my final pick of that season (I didn’t make the virtual top 30.) Now I don’t know if he can overcome the staggered handicap score (see above leaderboard) but he can shoot the lowest for the 72 holes to claims his first big win

 

Mexican Abraham Ancer can also do the same ahead of the President’s Cup in a few months.

 

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.

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.

July 31 Nelly Korda finished T9 at the WBO.

 

Image via pgatour.com

 

Golf Capital: Brooks and Ko win, Jack ponders the men’s majors, Hall defends Open

@hamishneal

 

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.

 

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Opening drive

 

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.

 

Tap in

 

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.

 

This week

 

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

 

Aryia Jutanugarn

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.

 

Nelly Korda

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.

 

Bronte Law

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.

 

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.

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

 

Golf Capital: Frittelli flys to Portrush, Open time again (finally) for NI

 

 

@hamishneal

 

It’s Open week! Delight in the final men’s major of the year, yes, in July as the climax of Links golf will crown the Champion Golfer for 2019 in Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. It comes after a week of worldly wins for a South African and South Korean in the USA plus an Austrian in Scotland. The re-jigged calendar of majors means this is the last men’s major until the 2020 edition of the Masters tees off on Thursday April 9 2020.

 

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Opening drive

 

Not quite the youth of last week’s winner on the PGA Tour Dylan Frittelli, 29, broke through for a first-time PGA Tour triumph claiming the John Deere Classic in Illinois by two-strokes over Russell Henley to claim the final seat in the charter jet to the Open. Frittelli’s final round seven under 64 was nearly usurped by Russell Henley who went low with a ten under round of 61. Frittelli, a two-time European Tour winner in 2017, might be South African but he was a member of a famous college team playing with Jordan Spieth in 2012 when their University of Texas side claimed the NCAA team title.

 

Despite the final major of the year taking place in Northern Ireland this week the PGA Tour is holding the ‘off week’ event in Kentucky this week the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club outside of Lexington.

 

Bernd Wiesberger started Sunday leading the European Tour;s Scottish Open by two strokes and did prevail but only after three extra holes edging out Benjamin Herbert of France after the duo finished two clear of another Frenchman Romain Langasque.

 

In Ohio Sei Young Kim won at 22 under in the Marathon Classic over American Lexi Thompson with Stacy Lewis third. Lewis has now secured three top tens in 12 starts since returning to the tour after having her baby daughter Chesnee in October 2018. The LPGA heads to Michigan for the Great Lakes Bay Invitational to be held in Midland for the inaugural staging of the team’s event which will be the final LPGA event before the next two majors the Evian Championship in France then the Women’s British Open in England.

 

Greens in regulation

 

As well as the great stories linking this week’s favourite Rory McIlroy as one of a few local hopes in the event there are some intriguing links to not only the players but the caddies. If it has not been difficult enough for the rest of the field to challenge Brooks Koepka in the past three years in majors this week Koepka’s caddie is a local Ricky Elliott used to regularly work at the course and has shot a 65 around the course. The Portrush native has worked with Koepka since 2013, the year he won a second-tier Challenge Tour event, so has been with him during the period he has transformed from up-coming player to elite performer. Not only has Elliott played the course hundreds of times so has Harry Diamond the caddie of McIlroy. It is worth noting the course has changed to allow the infrastructure for the Open to be built so two holes (17 and 18) have changed on the Dunlace course the track (one of two at the venue) that will be used this week. Elliott claims as Koepka is a superior player that his personal experience is of little relevance as Koepka ‘is taking different lines’ but the familiarity with some of the quirks has to work in the American’s favour.

 

Tap in

 

The Open is one of my favourite sporting events and that is due in large part to watching one of it’s recent iconic finishes ‘in country’ so to speak. Whilst travelling in 2002 I visited family in Nairn near Inverness in Scotland’s north when further south (nearly four hours south actually) Muirfield in Gullane was the host course for that year’s Open. Two Australian’s Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington were vanquished early in the four-person playoff before Ernie Els saw off Thomas Levet of France to claim his first Open title – he would go on to win another in 2012.

 

Something about watching the climax of a sporting event in that country in ‘real-time’ with the locals is hard to top and possibly the second-best way to experience a sporting event if you aren’t there.

 

This week

 

Henrik Stenson.

 

The trend of recent years has been the winner here has been tagged ‘experienced’ with seven of the last ten victors 35 years or older at the time of their triumph. Stenson, the 2016 winner at Royal Troon and 43 years of age, has subsequent finishes of a respectable T11 and T35 but hasn’t won anywhere since August 2017.

 

Eddie Pepperell.

 

Take way the hoopla about the Englishman’s popularity and Twitter banter he’s a deadest solid golfer having risen from 73nd in the world this time last year to 35th with a British Masters win and impressive T3 at The Players in that period. Not forgetting his semi-inebriated heroics at last years Open when a final round 67 propellled him into a contention and an eventual T6 finish three shots behind Francesco Molinari.

 

As noted last week I don’t mind the prospects of Mexican Abraham Ancer and the fact he played the Irish Open but not the Scottish Open would have meant he’d have plenty of time to get used to the venue which included him playing there on Sunday.

 

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.

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.

 

Image via golf-monthly.co.uk

Golf Capital: Rahm links to Irish win, Wolff hunts in Minnesota, Feng to ten

 

@hamishneal

 

A dramatic finish to the new event in Minnesota on the PGA Tour saw the leaders trade eagles on the 18th before one of the two tours rookie in contention prevailed and Jon Rahm sounded a warning before this month’s Open. Whilst another high-scoring event in the MidWest of the USA saw many of us pondering as to how relevant par was this weekend

 

mattwolffstartribune

 

Opening Drive

 

Spain’s Jon Rahm came from five shots down on Saturday evening to claim his second Irish Open (2017 was the other) and first win of 2019 as he finished at 16 under to win the Irish Open at Lahinch. Ranked number 11 heading into the weekend Rahm, 24, has moved back into the top ten at eight and is the second highest ranked golfer (Bryson DeChambeau at 6) not to have won a major which is a positive sign for the prolific Rahm who has won three tournaments per year in each of the last two years.

 

England’s Andy Sullivan couldn’t match Rahm’s final round 62 to finish T2 with Bernd Wiesberger but it was Rafa Cabrera Bello who really disappointed after gaining a three-stroke lead early in his round before he recorded a two over 38 on the back nine and Rahm raced home with 31 strokes on the back nine to nab the latest Rolex Series event.

 

In Minnesota the 3M Open went to Matthew Wolff in dramatic fashion. Wolff’s final round 65 was capped with an eagle at the last to deny Bryson DeChambeau who had also eagled the last. In addition to this Collin Morikawa lipped out as he tried to force a playoff. The trio had started the day tied for the lead at 15 under par. Wolff’s win saw him finish at 21 under and gives him a PGA spot for the next two seasons plus entry to the 2020 Masters.

 

Wolff’s form figures (T50, T80 and missed cut) hid his potential given he recently claimed the NCAA individual College title after Oklahoma State won the team’s event in 2018. Wolff, 20, joins Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw as the only three players IN HISTORY to win the college crown in the same year they won on the PGA Tour. Notably Morikawa has also only played a five PGA events… How ancient must runner-up Dechambeau feel at 25 with all these youngsters zipping past him!

 

The high-scoring theme continued on the LPGA in mind-bending fashion as winner Shanshan Feng posted 29 under going 64-67-65-63 at Thornberry Creek. A stunning 22 players scored at 20 under or better at the Oneida course in Wisconsin. Incredibly it wasn’t a tournament record with Sei Young Kim winning at 31 under last year. Feng, 29, has now notched 10 LPGA wins in her career and saw off Ariya Jutanugarn who fired one shot ‘worse’ than Feng on Sunday with an eight under 64.

 

Greens in regulation

 

Aside from Jon Rahm’s triumph the other main ‘victors’ at Lahinch were Austrian Bernd Wiesberger plus English duo Robert Rock and Paul Waring who all qualified for next week’s Open at Royal Portrush. This week the links action moves to Scotland. Near the site of last year’s Scottish Open at Gullane the Renaissance Club hosts this year’s Scottish Open at it’s North Berwick home. Last year South Africa’s Brandon Stone won the title and despite local knowledge been the accepted wisdom as to the path to victory only two Brits (Justin Rose and Luke Donald) have won the event since 2011 and it’s 20 years since Colin Montgomerie’s triumph as the last Scot to win the tournament.

 

After some new events in recent weeks the John Deere Classic in Illinois takes place at TPC Deere Run in Silvis. The LPGA stays in the MidWest with the Marathon Classic taking place in Ohio at Highland Meadows. Thai golfer Jasmine Suwannapura broke through for her first LPGA win beating Brittany Lincicome in a playoff last year.

 

Tap in

 

With the men’s Open coming up later this month the R&A have confirmed next month’s Women’s British Open will see a rise in prizemoney up to USD4.5 million. From the total prize-fund USD675,000 will go to the winner which is up from the USD490,000 Georgia Hall claimed last year. This now elevates the British event to the second-highest paying major across the five played for in the women’s game. In the week the USA claimed the Women’s World Cup in France with the surrounding and recent court cases that team has had against their own federation this is another positive step but still well short of the USD1.89 million which will go to the Portrush winner.

 

This week

 

Scottish Open, The Renaissance Club, North Berwick

 

Eddie Pepperell.

The British Masters winner in 2018 backed that up with a T2 at that event this year plus he was T4 in Ireland. Has great form in Scotland finishing in second here last year.

 

Kevin Kisner.

The American contended in the Open last year before finishing T2 behind Francesco Molinari and has already won in 2019 claiming the WGc Match Play title in March

 

Not this week but after the tournament at Lahinch where he opened with 66-67 and eventually finished T19 Mexico’s Abraham Ancer looks an intriguing chance at Portrush. He’s won the Australian Open already in November so has proven adept at winning in conditions he might not have a lot of experience in.

 

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.

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.

 

Image via startribune.com

Golf Capital: Lashley, Bez, SH Park win plus the Rampant Goat of Lahinch

@hamishneal

 

The week after Australian Hannah Green’s triumph at Hazeltine the feel good stories continued in golf with emotional triumphs for Nate Lashley in Detriot and Christiaan Bezhuidenhout in Spain. Both of the winners on the leading men’s tours won in comprehensive fashion whilst Sung Hyun-Park prevailed by a solitary stroke in Kansas on the LPGA Tour. The week links golf at the top level resumes as we get set for this month’s Open.

 

nate-lashley-rocket-mortgage-sunday-18th-hole-walking-tip-cap

 

Opening drive

 

From 346th to now 101st in the world rankings American Nate Lashley won the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic won by an incredible six strokes recording a 25 under at the Detroit Golf Club. Nebraska native Lashley got into the tournament as an alternate and then proceeded to sign for nine-under 63 to rocket (get it) into a lead which he never relinquished after the opening round. It’s great for Lashley given the personal tragedy he faced early in his career but the venue (possibly a pitch and putt course which the locals didn’t tell the PGA about) might not end up an iconic tour venue. Although the fact some of the better players faded into the background certainly made the event interesting.

 

South African Christiaan Bezhuidenhout won at Sergio Garcia’s event in Valedramma to claim the European Tours Andalucia Masters by six strokes (like Lashley) at ten under. Bezhuidenhout finished ahead of a local quartet including Jon Rahm plus Frenchmen Mike Lorenzo-Vera. Bezuidenhout’s first ET title win comes five years after a drug test as an amateur threatened to derail his early career. The now 25-year-old failed a drugs test at the site of this year’s Open Portrush when taking part in the 2014 Amateur event. His nine-month sanction was a result of the use of beta blockers which he took on a regular basis after a childhood accident which saw him drink rat poison at the age of two, this resulted in him developing a stutter and other medical issues which the drugs were aimed at alleviating. As readers, and particularly parents, cringe hopefully the rest of us never encounter a situation like that with those in our care.

 

The LPGA tour in Arkansas saw Sung Hyung-Park claim her second win of 2019 to go with her triumph in Singapore in March. In the scheduled three-round event Park went 66-63-66 to finish at 18 under one clear of American Danielle Kang and fellow Koreans Kim Hyo-Joo and Inbee Park.

 

Greens in regulation

The full glorious nature of the links venues is highlighted by the fact this week’s venue for the Irish Open, the Lahinch Golf Club is known in part not just as the St Andrew’s of Ireland but in recent years the course has become known for a statue of a ‘rampant goat’ near the opening hole. Due to the prevalence of goats in the district their popularity as tame co-occupants of the land at the country Clare site a goat was added to the club crest in 1963 and the statue was a further tribute.

 

If we are to follow-up last week’s column theme about traditional clothes for golfing events what local animals should be depicted in statue form at your local course? Is there a greenkeeper’s dog or another famous animal for a famous course? I’d go for a bear statute at Pebble Beach it is in a national park within the Bear Republic. Although nearby Big Sur National Park doesn’t have bears so maybe a statue of a raccoon? Suggestions on a postcard.

 

Tap in

 

After a 50-year absence it’s a return to Minnesota for the PGA Tour with the 3M Open this week at the TPC Three Cities track in Blaine. The LPGA also stays in the MidWest/Great Lakes area with the Thornberry LPGA Classic in Oneida, won last year by Sei Young Kim.  At mentioned the European Tour heads to Ireland for the local open as the full links season greets the fans. Scotland’s Russell Knox beat Kiwi Ryan Fox in a playoff at Ballyliffin last year.

 

This week

 

A couple for this week.

 

Irish Open, Lahinch Golf Course. Lahinch

Ryan Fox

The playoff defeat last year came at time of terrific form, he was T6 the following week in Scotland. He’s missed five cuts and hasn’t had the volume of play this year but likes these venues.

 

Shane Lowry

A recent pick Lowry was T28 in the US Open last time out and before that had three top eight finishes. A winner already this year in Abu Dhabi Lowry won this tournament ten years ago as an amateur at County Louth Golf Course.

 

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.

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.

 

Image via golfdigest.com

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