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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Jimmy Walker is rekindling old form in Texas
Apr 22, 2018 7:06 AM
 
Jimmy Walker was not much talked about in the lead-up to this week’s Valero Texas Open at the TPC San Antonio. In many respects this is unsurprising. While the 33-year-old impressed in carding a tied-for-20th place finish at The Masters two weeks ago, he has endured a generally underwhelming start to the 2018 campaign. Walker missed three cuts through his first nine starts of the year leading into the Texas Open (a T8 finish at Pebble Beach in February being his only top-10) and has struggled to maintain a consistent level of performance since claiming his maiden major championship title at the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol in August 2016 by a stroke away from the then world No.1 Jason Day. That triumph propelled Walker to a career-high ranking of No.10 in the world and secured him automatic qualification for Davis Love III’s Ryder Cup squad at Hazeltine. Will there be another first-time TOUR winner crowned at the @valerotxopen Sunday? https://t.co/pfCkYPX41W— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 22, 2018 However, he missed seven cuts to just a single top-10 finish through 21 starts in 2017, slumping back outside of the world’s top-60, and his indifferent start to 2018 ensured he arrived in San Antonio this week ranked 88th in the Official Wold Golf Rankings. In this context, it has been enormously heartening to observe the strength of Walker’s performance through the first 54-holes of the Texas Open. The Oklahoma-native suffered a damaging set-back on the par-5 18th hole on Thursday when a wayward drive into the water resulted him carding a double-bogey. However, he still managed to sign for a solid 1-under 71 and he dropped six birdies en route to a 3-under 69 on Friday. Walker’s game went up another level on Saturday. He opened with back-to-back birdies on the par-4 1st hole and par-5 2nd holes and ended a run of eight consecutive pars with another pair of birdies on the 11th and 12th. A dropped shot followed on the par-5 14th; however, he rallied with a birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie finish to sign for a 5-under total of 67. Walker consequently goes into the final round in a tie for fifth and sits within four shots of joint leaders, Zach Johnson and Andrew Landry. In addition to ending a dispiriting two-year trophy drought, a seventh PGA Tour victory would go a long way towards forcing Walker into the reckoning for Ryder Cup selection in the autumn. If Walker’s 2016 triumph at Baltusrol proved anything, its that nothing is impossible in golf. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Sergio Garcia’s malaise deepens at Texas Open
Apr 21, 2018 5:30 AM
 
It was one of the most memorable moments of the 82nd Masters – for all the wrong reasons. Sergio Garcia, defending champion and one of the heavy pre-tournament favourites, was 2-over through the first 14-holes of his opening round and arrived on the par-5 15th tee-box knowing he needed a strong finish to stay within touching distance of the 5-under clubhouse leader, Jordan Spieth. A solid drive left him 150 yards from a perilously positioned nearside pin resting on the cusp of a downward slope towards a narrow stream separating the front edge of the green from the fairway. Predictably, an overly-aggressive second shot failed to stick near to the flag and toppled back down the slope and into the stream. When you are having a rough round like Sergio Garcia you don’t need your driver #ValeroTexasOpen #PGATourpic.twitter.com/cyGiMEWaIr — Always Pressing POD (@alwayspressDFS) April 20, 2018 The 38-year-old attempted virtually the same style of flighted shot on each subsequent occasion, before finally getting one to stay on the green - but his one-putt for a 13 equalled Tom Weiskopf in 1980 on the par-three 12th and Japan's Tommy Nakajima on the par-five 13th in 1978. "I don't know what to tell you," said Garcia. "It's the first time in my career where I make a 13 without missing a shot. Simple as that.” Needless to say the Spaniard did not manage to make to the weekend; indeed, a 6-over second-round of 78 marked only a marginal improvement on his Thursday score of 81. Garcia consequently travelled to Texas this week in search of a form of redemption; and given he prefaced his ignominious MC at Augusta with a run of three consecutive top-10 finishes, he looked good value as 14/1 favourite against a field containing just four other players ranked inside of the world’s top-30: Matt Kuchar (21), Pat Perez (22), Charley Hoffman (26), and Xander Schauffele (28). Indeed, it was only back at the end of January that Garcia claimed his 33rd professional title by five shots away from Satoshi Kodaira and Shaun Norris at the SMBC Singapore Open. The world No.10 started poorly on Thursday, however; back-to-back bogeys on the par-3 7th and par-5 8th holes ensured he was 1-over by the time he reached the turn and spate of infuriatingly profligate putting on the back-nine culminated in him signing for a 2-over total of 74. Garcia’s malaise only deepened on Friday; while he finished strongly with a run of three birdies in his final five holes, he still only managed to break Even for the day and wound-up missing the cut by a stroke. The 10-time PGA Tour champion landed just 20 of 36 greens-in-regulation during his time in San Antonio; he hit only 16 of 28 fairways a ceded almost a full stroke to the average of the field when putting. Garcia remains someway off recapturing the level of performance that propelled him to the green jacket 12 months ago. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Zach Johnson rediscovering best form in Texas
Apr 20, 2018 12:08 PM
 
Zach Johnson was not much talked about in the lead-up to the Valero Texas Open at the TPC San Antonio this week. Such, of course, was entirely understandable. After all, the 42-year-old travelled to the Lone Star State off the back of an indifferent T36-T36-T42 run through his previous three PGA Tour starts at the WGC Match Play, the Masters Tournament and the RBC Heritage Open and has yet to register a single top-10 finish through eight starts in 2018. Indeed, Johnson is winless in almost three years since claiming his second major championship title at The Open at St Andrews in 2015, a barren run that has caused him to slip from 13th in the Official World Golf Rankings as of 31 December 2015, to No.58 as of the beginning of this week. Put simply, the last two years of Johnson’s career have borne all the dismal hallmarks of a player entering into a period of potentially irreparable late-middle-age decline. Moments away from the start of the 2018 Valero Texas Open! pic.twitter.com/92UdU7lEXf— Valero Texas Open (@valerotxopen) April 19, 2018 In this light it has been enormously heartening to observe the strength of his performance through the first 36-holes of the Texas Open; such has rekindled hopes that the modest, quietly spoken Iowan may yet force his way into Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup selection for Le Golf National in Paris this autumn. Johnson got off to a difficult start on Thursday. A run of three bogeys through his first 11-holes immediately put him in jeopardy of missing a first cut of the season; however, his game clicked on the inward stretch. He stitched a 4-iron approach shot to within 4-foot of the flag on the par-5 14th hole before tapping in for eagle and birdied 16, 17 and 18 consecutively to sign for a miraculous 2-under total of 70. The 12-time PGA Tour winner sustained that momentum into Friday. Beginning on the back-nine, Johnson carded five birdies in six holes between the 12th and 17th and birdied the par-4 1st before eagling the par-5 5th on the inward stretch. This scoring has put Johnson in a strong position to end his longest period without a PGA Tour victory since winning The Masters Tournament in 2007 and the veteran can draw a real sense of confidence from the fact that he won the Texas Open consecutively in 2008 and 2009. It is also notable that Johnson had back-to-back top-10 finishes at the RSM Classic and QBE Shootout in November and December and finished 16th at the Valspar Championship last month. He's 21st on the PGA Tour in birdie average at 4.08, 22nd in scoring average at 70.117, and 28th in total driving efficiency at 70. A victory would place him firmly back in contention for a fifth consecutive Ryder Cup start in Paris. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Paul Dunne faces an acid test at Hassan II Trophy
Apr 19, 2018 11:12 AM
 
A British Government minister once famously reflected that ‘a week is a long time in politics’. That being the case, then a year is an eternity in golf. Just take the case of Paul Dunne. The Irishman travels to contest the Hassan II Trophy at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Morocco this week ranked at a career-high No.68 in the world and trades as most bookmakers’ 14/1 favourite to take the title. He finished outright second to world No.4, Jon Rahm at the Open de Espana last weekend (having led after 36 and 54-holes) and prefaced that result with a T5 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship and a T8 at the PGA Tour’s prestigious Houston Open. Indeed, Dunne sits 35th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings and statistically ranks among the fastest-improving players in world golf. Ireland's Paul Dunne in the clubhouse lead in Madrid after registering the lowest 36-hole total of his career https://t.co/eedtBd1gWU pic.twitter.com/RwHjuVtw79— Independent Sport (@IndoSport) April 13, 2018 Such is a far cry from the position that the Co. Wicklow-native occupied upon arriving in Morocco twelve months ago. Dunne had at that stage yet to break into the world’s top-200 and did not even register on the pre-tournament betting markets. The focus was simply on keeping hold of a European Tour playing card. A 1-over opening-round 73, therefore, immediately raised the spectre of yet another demoralising missed-cut; however, the 25-year-old rallied with back-to-back 69s across Friday and Saturday and a level-par final-round 72 was sufficient to force himself into his first ever European Tour play-off against the Italian, Edoardo Molinari. Ultimately Molinari’s greater experience told; Dunne bogeyed the par-5 18th and thus ensured that a par was sufficient for the Ryder Cup veteran to claim a third European Tour title on the first extra-hole. However, Dunne’s game has subsequently gone from strength to strength; he claimed his maiden European Tour title by three-shots away from Rory McIlroy at the British Masters last October and is now in with a real chance of forcing himself into the automatic qualification spaces for the US Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Course in June. “I think it was the first time I was really in that position with three or four holes to play,” Dunne, who was still an amateur when he shared the lead after 54 holes of the 2015 Open at St Andrews, told the Irish Times. “I think I just learned about how best I can handle it. Then I did a good job of that come the British Masters [winning with a closing 61 at Close House] but it was a great experience. “It was great to know that on a tough course like this I could play well and give myself a lead. Obviously it’s much different this year with the greens being changed, but it’s still the same layout from tee-to-green visually so hopefully I can have another good week. “I’m not any more determined than normal. My game has been in good shape for probably five or six weeks now, I’ve been playing some good golf every week. I’m just going to continue what I’m doing and hopefully have another chance to win and see if I can do better.” A victory in Morocco would render Dunne a serious contender for Ryder Cup selection in the autumn; twelve months on from his breakout showing, this week will provide a fascinating test of his capacity to perform under pressure. [Photo Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2018 Valero Texas Open Preview
Apr 18, 2018 1:34 PM
 
After enjoying a string of elite fields over the past few weeks (even Harbour Town was graced by the presence of the world No.1), the PGA Tour reverts to a more ‘regular’ rhythm at the Valero Texas Open at the TPC San Antonio this week. But despite boasting just five of the world’s top-30 players – Sergio Garcia (10), Matt Kuchar (21), Pat Perez (22), Charley Hoffman (26), and Xander Schauffele (28) – there is ample value to be derived from a competitive betting market. Here follows our three best tips for the week. Let's dust ourselves down after the 100/1 Si Woo Kim near miss and focus on this week's Valero Texas Open. Here's my @Betfair preview.https://t.co/i41tB0Egzi— Dave Tindall (@DaveTindallgolf) April 17, 2018 Outright Winner – Sergio Garcia (14/1) As the highest-ranked player in the field, it is little surprise that Garcia trades as marked favourite to take the title. Clearly many punters will be dissuaded from backing the Spaniard in light of his disastrous title-defence at Augusta two weeks ago, where two rounds of 81 and 78 ensured that he missed the cut in spectacular fashion. Garcia’s value is further diminished as a consequence of the fact that he has only once previously featured at the TPC San Antonio, finishing 46th way back in 2010. It cannot be overlooked, however, that Garcia owns a very solid record in Texas, he's a terrific wind player (just see his record at The Open) and, other than his ignominious capitulation at Augusta, he has been performing solidly in 2018. Indeed, Garcia travels to Texas off the back of a run of three top-10s in his last four starts and he claimed his first title of the season at the SMBC Singapore Open in January. Back the world No.10 to atone for his Augusta nightmare with a strong performance in San Antonio. Top-10 Finisher – Charley Hoffman (18/1) The world No.26 is always worth a punt in Texas. Hoffman boasts an exceptional 6-2-13-3-11-11-1-40 record through his last eight starts at the TPC San Antonio, posting a cumulative total of 41-under-par, and he arrives at this event in strong form. The 41-year-old followed-up a characteristically impressive T12 finish at Augusta with a T23 at Harbour Town last weekend and, while he has yet to card a top-10 through 10 starts in 2018 (albeit, he has posted two top-15s), he has missed only a single cut and his form is trending upwards. Back the four-time PGA Tour winner to contend. Outsider – Billy Horschel (50/1) A dark horse here, for sure, and whatever the opposite of ‘consistency’ is, well, Horschel has embodied at the Texas Open, going 74-75-3-MC-3-4-MC through seven starts in San Antonio. But while that record undermines the value in backing Horschel as an outright winner, it does show he possesses the weapons required to contend at this event when on form and it just so happens that the 31-year-old ended a disastrous run of five missed-cuts in six starts with a T5 at Harbour Town last weekend. Back the four-time PGA Tour winner to enjoy one of his ‘good’ years in Texas. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Paul Dunne can draw positives from near miss at Open de Espana
Apr 17, 2018 5:12 AM
 
In the end it just wasn’t to be for Paul Dunne. The Irishman produced two sensational rounds of 66 and 65 to seize the half-way advantage at the Open de Espana, and although his scoring contracted with a 68 on Saturday, he retained a single stroke lead going into the final round. The only problem for Dunne was that his closest pursuant was the in-form world No.4, John Rahm whose every shot at Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid was cheered to the rafters by a raucous home support. Ultimately, Rahm’s quality told. Ireland's Paul Dunne in the clubhouse lead in Madrid after registering the lowest 36-hole total of his career https://t.co/eedtBd1gWU pic.twitter.com/RwHjuVtw79 — Independent Sport (@IndoSport) April 13, 2018 Birdies at the first, second and seventh holes ensured that the 23-year-old led by the time the final pairing reached the turn and he closed out a comfortable two-stroke victory courtesy of a 5-under round of 67. Remarkably, Rahm has now won five times at PGA and European Tour level in just 45 professional starts; not since Tiger Woods won eight events in his first two seasons has a rookie golfer achieved such consistent success at the highest level of the sport. Thus, although Dunne will undoubtedly rue his failure to break 70 on Sunday, he can at least draw solace from the fact that he was beaten by a bona-fide golfing phenomenon. Indeed, the 25-year-old can derive a great many positives from the strength of his performance in Madrid. Dunne, who rose to international prominence when he took a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round of the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews, enjoyed a breakout season on the European Tour last term. In addition to claiming his maiden professional title by 3-shots away from Rory McIlroy at the British Masters at the beginning of October, he was beaten in a play-off against Eduardo Molinari at the Trophee Hasan II in April and carded a further three top-10 finishes. That form catapulted the Irishman to a into the world’s top-80 for the first time in his career and secured a 16th place finish on the Race to Dubai with a total prize money of €1,697,468. His status as one of the fastest improving players in European golf was endorsed when he was selected to represent the Old Continent in at the Eur-Asia Cup in January, and the strength of his performance in Madrid lends weight to the perspective that his form over the last 12 months is no flash-in-the-pan. Up to a career-best 68th in the latest world rankings, jumping eight places from 76th last week, Dunne has a place in the top-60 in his sights ahead of the initial US Open cut-off on May 21st at which point the USGA gives exemptions to all those players inside that mark. A second and final cut-off date for the top-60 falls on June 11th. The Dubliner is headed in the right trajectory; he may well renew hostilities with Rahm on the fairways of Shinnecock Hills Golf Course in June. [Photo Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Jon Rahm seals Open de Espana title to salve Masters angst
Apr 16, 2018 11:34 AM
 
Perhaps inevitably, the scale of Jon Rahm’s achievement in finishing fourth on the occasion of just his second Masters start at Augusta last weekend was commonly overlooked. Indeed, Spaniard sat within two strokes of Patrick Reed’s 15-under total upon reaching the par-5 15th-hole and it was ultimately only an overly ambitious drive into the water that scuppered his hopes of claiming a major championship title. The 82nd Masters thus marked the first time that the 23-year-old has meaningfully contended for a major championship title and we may well come to regard his top-5 finish as a watershed moment in a garlanded career. The sensational nature of Rahm’s two-shot victory away from Paul Dunne at the Open de Espana at Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid on Sunday lends weight to such a perspective. Proud to hold the trophy of the #OpendeEspaña one of the most cherished wins in my career. @EuropeanTour @TaylorMadeGolf @adidasGolf @isagenix @MBUSA @BighornGolfClub #Rolex pic.twitter.com/8IgYGz5Zmn— Jon Rahm Rodriguez (@JonRahmpga) April 15, 2018 Dunne, who claimed his maiden European Tour title at the British Masters last autumn, led Rahm by a shot going into the final-round; however, the home favourite swiftly went about eradicating that advantage with birdies at the first, second and seventh holes. The tournament was eventually decided on the short 17th as Rahm escaped with a par after almost sending his tee shot into the water, the ball just holding up in the rough. Rahm's closest challenger, Nacho Elvira, was not so fortunate as his ball toppled into the green-side lake, a double-bogey 5 destroying his hopes of a maiden victory. Fittingly, Rahm closed with a birdie on the 72nd to secure a third win from just 19 European Tour events, making him the third-fastest player to reach that mark. Sunday’s triumph also renders him just the sixth Spaniard (following golfers of the calibre of Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia) to win the Open de Espana since the tournament achieved European Tour status in 1972. "I'm just happy to play the way I did and to get it done," Rahm told Sky Sports after his third European Tour victory. "It's probably the hardest Sunday I've ever had to play because the amount of crowds I was carrying. "I've been blessed to be national champion with the Spanish Golf Federation many times, European champion and world champion representing them.” Ranked No.4 in the world, Rahm has now won five times across all Tours through just 50 professional starts. Not since Tiger Woods won eight events in his first two seasons has a rookie golfer achieved such consistent success at the highest level of the sport. Rahm better get used to carrying crowds under pressure on tournament Sundays; there’ll be many more such occasions to come. [Image Source: Flickr via JumpyNews Blog blog.jumpynews.com/2017/04/masters-2017-jon-rahm-aiming-t...]
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Sean Donnelly
Luke Donald’s demise deepens at RBC Heritage
Apr 15, 2018 10:03 AM
 
Luke Donald hardly corresponds to the popular image of an athletic phenomenon. At 5-foot-9 and 165-pounds, the Englishman is, in a physiological sense, distinctly average. He is not a long-limbed, lithe and explosive bomber in the mould of Dustin Johnson, nor is he built like a cruiser-weight boxer in the manner of Rory McIlroy or Jason Day. He is, well, normal; and it is precisely that averageness that renders his professional career so remarkable. In an era when continuous improvements in player diets and strength and conditioning training as well as rapid advancements in club and ball technology have effected an exponential growth in driving distances, Donald cut against the grain. He was a short/mid-length hitter, possessed of immaculate ball-striking and exceptional game-management skills, who consistently found a way to beat the best. *PROGRAMMING ALERT*Final round @RBC_Heritage tee times were moved up to avoid weather. Watch our live coverage exclusively streaming now: https://t.co/Ayu2Zy0pgS pic.twitter.com/idH69LramC— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) April 15, 2018 On 29 May 2011, he ascended to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings and he achieved that accolade despite being ranked 165th on Tour in driving distance. As Donald’s friend and PGA Tour counterpart, Russell Knox reflected ahead of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town resort this week, it is deeply unlikely that we will ever see such a feat repeated. “No,” Knox shrugged when asked if Donald’s accomplishment could be replicated in the future. “I think I’m really good at golf and I hate to limit myself and say I couldn’t be No. 1 in the world, but the ball and the clubs just go so straight now I feel like everyone has gained from it but the guys who hit it further and the courses are so long now and the greens are firmer and faster, it’s such a massive advantage to be 320 [yards] plus off the tee.” In retrospect, it seems fitting that it was McIlroy who displaced Donald atop the summit of the world game. The Northern Irishman acceded to the No.1 spot ranked 15th on the PGA Tour for driving-distance and he has only been getting longer in the interim. Donald, meantime, has endured a precipitous fall away from the elite-level of the world game, a decline that can be broadly regarded as proportional with an overall increase in driving-distances. This dynamic was powerfully illustrated as the 40-year-old missed the cut at the RBC Heritage on Friday. Harbour Town is one of the few courses on the regular PGA Tour circuit that places a premium on accuracy and pristine ball-striking over distance, a circumstance endorsed by the fact Donald owns seven top-three finishes at the South Carolina Course since 2008. This year, however, the former world No.1 was unable to even make the weekend, an impressive 4-under second-round 67 insufficient to recoup the five shots he forfeited to par on Thursday. At 196th in the world rankings, Donald’s time competing at the highest level of the world game have long since passed. Sadly, there no longer appears to be a place at the summit of professional golf for those who cannot pound the ball 300-plus-yards off the tee. The game only suffers from the loss of such stylistic diversity. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
DeChambeau seizes half-way advantage at RBC Heritage
Apr 14, 2018 9:20 AM
 
There weren’t a great many positives that Bryson DeChambeau could derive from the experience of participating at the 82nd Masters tournament at Augusta last weekend. Sure, a tied 38th-place finish is nothing to be sniffed at for a 24-year-old golfer making just his second Augusta start; however, DeChambeau is no ‘normal’ emerging PGA Tour professional. Great things have been expected of the Californian ever since he became only the fifth player in history to win both the NCAA Division I championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year (2015), and he meaningfully contended for the green jacket on the occasion of his Masters debut in 2016 (he finished as low amateur in a tie for 21st). DeChambeau initially struggled to adapt to the rigours of the professional game, missing 13 cuts to just three top-10s through the course of his first full season on the PGA Tour. However, he claimed his maiden professional title at the DAP Championship on the Webb.com Tour in the autumn of 2016. He then went on to win his first PGA Tour accolade at the John Deere Classic the following June, where he carded a final-round 65 that included a clutch putt at the 72nd hole that ended up being the difference. Bryson DeChambeau shoots career-low 64, leads by one at RBC Heritage: https://t.co/iw45QhZfKZ pic.twitter.com/OJ1XxkIu2F— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) April 13, 2018 Put simply, then, DeChambeau is no ‘normal’ golfer – the expectation has long been that he would establish himself among the game’s elite and the fact he has yet to break into the world’s top-50 has been popularly regarded as something of a disappointment. It has been heartening, therefore, to observe the quality of the golf that he has produced through the first 36-holes of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town this week. The Southern Methodist University physics graduate got off to a solid start with a 3-under opening-round of 68; on Friday, however, his game clicked. After an eagle, two bogeys and three birdies on the front nine, DeChambeau picked up shots at the 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes to sign for a career-best 7-under 64. He consequently takes a single stroke lead into the weekend away from Ian Poulter and Si-Woo Kim. “Obviously my iron play is incredible, and when I get going I can get hot,” DeChambeau told reporters. “But this course just fits my eye. The shaping of the holes, and just a couple of the doglegs, I’m able to shape shots.” The Californian may well be closing in on a second career PGA Tour title. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Jon Rahm enjoying home comforts following Masters near miss
Apr 13, 2018 10:42 AM
Tags: Masters   European Tour   Jon Rahm   Open de Espana   News  
 
It has been largely overlooked amidst all the fallout surrounding the personal morality of the 82nd Masters champion, Patrick Reed, and the sensational final-round challenges posed by Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler in succession; however, Jon Rahm was in with a real chance of winning at Augusta last weekend. The Spaniard sat within two strokes of Reed’s 15-under total upon reaching the par-5 15th-hole and knew that he needed to go for an eagle to have any meaningful chance of ascending to the top of the 72-hole leaderboard. However, an overly-aggressive drive resulted in him finding the water off the tee and his title-challenge unravelled with a bogey. He ultimately signed for an 11-under total and an outright 4th-place finish. Not a bad week’s work then, you might say – especially for a 23-year-old golfer making just his second Masters appearance. It is a testament to the scale of Rahm’s talent and ambition, therefore, that he departed the 72nd green with a rueful shake of the head. Rahm arrived in Augusta with the firm expectation of winning the green jacket; not even a top-5 finish was an accolade sufficient to be considered palliative. Jon Rahm ended the first day of the Open de Espana just one stroke behind joint-leaders Paul Dunne and Marc Warren. First-round report and highlights ... https://t.co/SdfmRecItG pic.twitter.com/2YAmkkAcjr — Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) April 12, 2018 Still, the experience of posting four birdies and an eagle en route to a 5-under opening round of 67 at the Open de Espana on Thursday must surely have gone some way towards salving the Barrika-native’s disdain. That score moved Rahm to within a single stroke of the overnight lead, and while his scoring contracted on Friday (a double-bogey 6 at the par-4 12th being the principle stumbling block), he remains in firm contention for the title going into the weekend. "It feels great," Rahm told Sky Sports on Thursday. "To be honest I would have taken anything under par given the fact that I played better than I expected, especially off the tee. My long game was amazing. "The driver alone set up two birdies today on 13 when I hit it over the green and seven where I hit it to the front edge of the green. Things like that are obviously a bonus. Hopefully I can keep hitting it tee to green the same way and make a few more putts the rest of the week." Rahm, ranked No.4 in the Official World Golf Rankings, claimed his fourth title in fewer than 50 professional starts in a play-off against Andrew Landry at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January. On the evidence of the opening 36-hole’s play in Madrid, it is only a matter of time before he claims title number five. [Image Source: Flickr via JumpyNews Blog blog.jumpynews.com/2017/04/masters-2017-jon-rahm-aiming-t...]
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Sean Donnelly
Danny Willett’s malaise set in stark relief following Masters missed-cut
Apr 12, 2018 11:35 AM
Tags: Masters   Patrick Reed   News   Danny Willett  
 
You could have been forgiven for having missed it amid all the hype and excitement that followed the conclusion of the second-round of the 82nd Masters at Augusta National last weekend. Not only did defending champion, Sergio Garcia slump to his second consecutive missed-cut at a major championship in humiliating fashion, Tiger Woods squeaked into the Saturday field by a single stroke despite shooting a 3-over 75, while one Mr. Patrick Reed carded a second successive round in the 60s to surge to the top of the 36-hole leaderboard. But simmering just below the surface of these headline-grabbing narratives, one significant yet scantly reported storyline emerged: Danny Willettt missed his second Masters cut-mark in succession. Now, on the face of it, there was nothing much to this story. Danny Willett isn't going to apologize for winning a green jacket: https://t.co/ALx46wLDd4 pic.twitter.com/IpBf45tmzb— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) April 6, 2018 Willett arrived in Georgia ranked 332nd in the Official World Golf Rankings; he had missed 12 cuts to just a single top-10 through 27 starts over a 16 month period and was winless at all levels of the sport in over two-years. Indeed, Englishman had opened his 2018 campaign with a run of four MCs through six starts; to put it politely, he was not considered among the front-runners to claim the green jacket. Consequently, few eyebrows were raised when he followed-up a 3-over opening round of 75 with a 76 on Friday in order to miss the cut; damningly, the Sheffield-native carded 10 bogeys and a double through just 36-holes in Georgia. And yet, just 24-months had passed since Willett capitalised on Jordan Spieth’s infamous capitulation at the twelfth during the 80th Masters in order to claim his maiden major championship in sensational style by three-shots away from the Texan courtesy of a 5-under closing-round 67. That triumph, coming just two months after Willett claimed his fourth European Tour title at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, propelled the Englishman into the world’s top-10 for the first time in his career and made him a dead-cert for Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup squad in the autumn. No one could have foreseen the precipitous decline in fortunes that Willett has subsequently endured and, sadly, his slump show few signs of abating. The player spoke in the lead-up to the Masters of how he was swinging the club “pain-free” and felt confident that it was just a matter of time until fans are once again able to enjoy “the real Danny Willett”. The slap-dash, error-strewn character of his performance in Georgia belied such confident rhetoric; Willett remains some way off rediscovering the heights he achieved two-years ago. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Fowler departs Augusta with confidence, despite yet another near-miss
Apr 11, 2018 4:01 AM
Tags: News   Masters   Rickie Fowler   Patrick Reed  
 
It was no surprise to see Rickie Fowler at the front of the que of fellow professionals waiting to congratulate the freshly-crowned Masters champion, Patrick Reed by the eighteenth-green last Sunday. After all, the Californian has had bountiful experience in toasting old college rivals and fellow US Ryder Cup teammates on major championship triumphs of late. It was Justin Thomas last summer at the PGA Championship, Jordan Spieth at The Open before that, Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open even before that. He has seen his share of victory speeches, and it's got to be getting a bit old. And yet, there he was again at Augusta, always the bridesmaid and never the bride, despite birdying the eighteenth-hole en route to an exceptional 5-under final round and a 14-under-par total. That kind of score, nine years out of ten, would be sufficient to claim a green jacket. Watching Rickie Fowler walk off the 18th hand-in-hand with his girlfriend just reminded me of one of sport's greatest ever photos #TheMasters pic.twitter.com/VivkWIZwsv — Sam Barker (@sambarkersport) April 8, 2018 Fowler was exceptional over the weekend. A slow start of 70-72 left him seven strokes out of the lead at the halfway mark and with a lot of ground to cover. A bogey-free, 7-under 65 on Saturday, however, immediately thrust him back into contention for the title, albeit with five shots to recoup going into the final day. "I mean, I'm a ways back," the world No.6 brooded on Saturday night - a reflection marked by an air of concession. The first seven holes on Sunday endorsed that sentiment. Augusta National can punish over-exuberance and recklessness; however, Fowler was too conservative, failing to create meaningful birdie chances as he carelessly dropped a shot at the par-4 fifth-hole. On the par-5 eighth-hole, however, the breaks came off and his game clicked; Fowler shot a bogey-free 6-under through his final 11-holes going back into the clubhouse and surged to within a stroke of the lead. "It's going to hurt, but I try and look at things more as glass-half-full," the four-time PGA Tour winner reflected after finishing in outright second. "Obviously, I want to be the one standing on top after the four rounds, but this is, if anything, it's a step forward and makes me feel better about going forward into our next major, the U.S. Open. It's going to be fun. I feel like this is a year to knock off our first." One has to admire the 29-year-old’s optimism. Sunday marked the occasion of his eighth top-five finish in a major championship and third runner-up. As ESPN Golf’s Bob Harig notes, that's as many top-fives as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have claimed since 2011 and more than anyone else. But, of course, they have since celebrated major titles while he still waits. Fowler is simply too good a player not to win a major, and although question-marks linger regarding his ability to close-out victories under pressure (he has parleyed just one of six 54-hole PGA Tour leads into victories), the nature of his comeback performance at Augusta suggests that it is only a matter of time until he makes a breakthrough. [Photo Source: Flickr under CC]
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