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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Social media hype proves Tiger remains golf’s biggest draw
Oct 24, 2017 2:37 AM
 
If ever golf’s continuing dependency on the unrivalled media profile of Tiger Woods was set in relief, it has been over these past seven days. On the course, the top-level of the professional game has served up no shortage of compelling storylines. On the PGA Tour, Justin Thomas secured his sixth victory in 25 starts in a play-off at the CJ Cup in South Korea. The 24-year-old, who has claimed the US PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup title in the past three months, now sits at No.3 in the world rankings, behind only Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth. Based on his recent run and how the OWGR formula works, Thomas might move higher on that list before he ever drops lower. In Europe, meantime, the Masters champion Sergio Garcia continued his outstanding 2017 campaign by claiming his third victory of the year by a stroke away from Dutchman, Joost Luiten at the Andalucía Masters. Back in the world’s top-10, the 37-year-old looks well placed to defend his title at Augusta after the winter break. But despite these developments, the leading story on most of the biggest US golf sites this morning has nothing to do with what has been going on inside the ropes on the world’s two biggest Tours. No, the focus is instead on a 41-year-old who hasn’t completed 72-holes of competitive golf since tying for 10th at the Wyndham Championship back in the autumn of 2015. Return of the Stinger. #starwars pic.twitter.com/R7srIDGXjl — Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) October 23, 2017 Over the previous fortnight, even the most celebrity-averse golf fan cannot have helped noticing the drip-drip of Tiger Woods swing videos that have been popping-up on social media. The 14-time major champion missed the cut on the occasion of his PGA Tour comeback at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January and was forced to withdraw from the Dubai Desert Classic the following week owing to a back-spasm. He has not played since. In April, Woods underwent his third major back surgery in a two-year period and many commentators doubted whether we would ever see him return to the course. The spate of social media videos that he has posted over the previous fortnight, however, suggests he is nearing a renewed attempt at a comeback. The excitement of fans and the golfing media is, of course, understandable; Woods can, after all, be legitimately considered the greatest player ever to lift a golf club. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to feel as though some of the adulation that has greeted Tiger’s latest attempt at hitting a Stinger shot might be better directed towards developing talent such as Justin Thomas. At 41, Woods is in the twilight of his career, even if his body does allow him to return to the competitive circuit. Golf needs to start getting its head around the idea that the player who has done more than any other to popularise the sport over the past three decades is on his way out. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Sergio Garcia completes victory at home tournament in Spain
Oct 23, 2017 9:47 AM
 
Better late than never, eh? A full six years have passed since Sergio Garcia beat his countryman, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, to the inaugural Andalucía Masters by a single stroke back in October 2011. The tournament subsequently fell into abeyance, only to be revived this year courtesy of a sponsor’s association with Garcia’s charitable foundation, and the host made sure he lived-up to his headline billing by producing his strongest performance in over six months en route to claiming his third victory of the season. Garcia’s campaign fell into something of a lull after he claimed his maiden major championship title at The Masters in April. He made only 13 appearances over the subsequent six months and arrived in Andalucía off the back of a run of two missed cuts and just a single top-10 in six previous starts. This indifferent run of form caused him to slip outside of the world’s top-10 for the first time in over a year. A return to home soil, however, appears to have catalysed a revival in form for the Spaniard. He shot seven birdies en route to a 5-under opening round of 66 to grab a share of the overnight lead, and while his scoring contracted with a level-par 71 on Friday, the same was true for the rest of the field, and he ultimately started the final round a single shot clear of Dutchman, Joost Luiten and England’s Daniel Brooks at 8-under. Congratulations @TheSergioGarcia - the #AVM2017 Champion! pic.twitter.com/fVEtbJm7cT — The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 22, 2017 After seeing that lead quickly wiped out when Brooks birdied the second, Garcia responded with a birdie on the par-five fourth and ended the front nine in style by using a fairway wood to hole from the fringe for a birdie on the ninth. Bridies on 10 and 11 followed as the host established a three-shot lead; however, hopes he might saunter to the title were dashed when bogey on the 12th opened the door for Luiten to draw level atop the leaderboard courtesy of birdies on 13 and 15. A three-putt bogey on the 16th, however, stymied the Dutchman’s momentum, and when both players birdied the 17th, Luiten knew he needed to produce something special to force a play-off at the last. He was ultimately unable do anything better than make par on the 18th, paving the way for Garcia to seal victory by a stroke. With this win, Garcia has returned to the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings and looks well placed ahead of a winter break leading into his Masters defence. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Justin Thomas lays down 2017/18 marker at CJ Cup
Oct 22, 2017 8:46 AM
 
As statements of intent go, this one was pretty emphatic. Justin Thomas arrived at Nine Bridges Golf Course for the CJ Cup in South Korea this week fresh off the back of an underwhelming T17 finish at the CIMB Classic, a tournament he had won in each of the previous two seasons. The indifferent nature of the world No.4’s performance in Malaysia prompted many commentators to ponder whether he was emulating the negative example set by his close friend and collegiate-level rival, Jordan Spieth, during the 2015/16 wrap-around period. Spieth, who became only the sixth golfer ever to win the Masters and the U.S. Open consecutively in 2015, suffered badly during the first-half of the 2016 campaign owing to the manner in which he overloaded his wrap-around schedule. The Texan had played in South Korea, China, Australia, Abu Dhabi, the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Singapore by the time the PGA Tour season properly restarted with the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. He subsequently admitted to having privileged lucrative appearance fees over the long-term health of his golf game. 598-yard par 5.@JustinThomas34's drive ...461 yards (member's bounce included).#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/B9KttVZsPn— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 21, 2017 Such an impulse is, of course, entirely understandable. Then 22, Spieth had just enjoyed his breakout campaign at the elite-level of professional golf and stood as one of the hottest names in world sport – who wouldn’t be tempted to ‘cash in’ on such vogue standing? The fact that Thomas had returned to the PGA Tour circuit within a week of having claimed the 2016/17 Player of the Season award, consequently prompted many commentators to speculate whether he, too, was prioritising profit over his physical recovery. The uncharacteristically sloppy nature of his display at the CIMB Classic appeared, albeit briefly, to substantiate such analyses. The 24-year-old managed 21 birdies on a relatively easy course and lost more than stroke on the average of the field when putting in Kuala Lumpur. The trip to Korea, however, triggered an immediate return to form. He shot 10 birdies en route to a 9-under opening round 63 at Nine Bridges and recovered from a 2-over 72 on Friday to seize a share of the 54-hole lead courtesy of a third-round 70. Thomas’ title hopes were dealt a serious blow when he double-bogeyed the 550-yard par-5 No. 3 hole and he needed to produce a clutch-birdie on the last in order to force himself into a play-off against the veteran Australian, Marc Leishman, after bogeying the 17th. Replaying the par-5 18th, the pair both made par on the first extra hole before Leishman gambled and lost on his next attempt at the 568-yard final hole, finding the water after trying to reach the green in two. Thomas, of course, birdied to take the title – his sixth in the last 12 months ­– and with it he draws ever closer to the summit of the world rankings. "I'm so pumped," Thomas reflected. "I probably wasn't very fun to be around those first two days. I was just glad I finally got back to myself being patient these last two days." [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Garcia Looks To Return To Winning Ways In Andalucía
Oct 21, 2017 5:12 AM
 
When Sergio Garcia stroked in a 12-foot birdie putt to claim the 81st edition of the Masters Tournament on the first sudden-death play-off hole by a stroke away from Justin Rose, the stage seemed set for the Spaniard to build on his belated elite-level breakthrough by swiftly establishing his credentials as a multi-major champion. There was sound logic underpinning such predictions. Garcia, of course, was already recognised as one of the greatest golfers of his generation. He had won 30 times across all Tours in 18 years on the professional circuit; he had represented Europe with distinction at six Ryder Cups, and famously totalled 23 top-10 finishes at major championship level before making his long-awaited breakthrough at Augusta. Many commentators consequently felt that the Masters triumph would liberate Sergio and enable his play to ascend to an even higher-level. This has not worked out to script. Magnificent albatross helps Joost Luiten hold off Sergio Garcia & take the halfway lead at Valderrama Masters https://t.co/uFbSnWp1dh pic.twitter.com/GRatXuVcpD— The42.ie (@The42_ie) October 21, 2017 A variety of high-profile extra-curricular activities –including a wedding and the touring of his green jacket around a variety of high profile international sporting events – appeared to render top-level golf something of an afterthought for the 37-year-old. Indeed, he has only made 13 appearances across all Tours since winning the Masters, and while he has not faired particularly poorly during this period, missing only two cuts, he only once seriously contended for a title at the BMW International Open in Germany in June when he tied for second. Indeed, he arrived at Sotogrande Golf Course for the Andalucia Valderrama Masters (a tournament hosted by Garcia’s own charitable foundation) this week with two missed cuts and just a single top-10 to his name in six previous starts. This indifferent run of form has caused Garcia to slip outside of the world’s top-10 for the first time in over a year, a decline set in sharp relief by the fact that fellow Spaniard, Jon Rahm (22), is presently positioned in the ranking Garcia himself occupied immediately after his Masters triumph: world No.5. In this context it has been heartening to see glimpses of Garcia returning to form during the first 36-holes in Andalucía. He shot seven birdies en route to a 5-under opening round of 66 to grab a share of the first round lead, and while his scoring contracted with a level-par 71 on Friday, the same was true for the rest of the field, and he starts the weekend just a single shot back from surprise leader, Joost Luiten. A victory on Sunday would position Garcia well ahead of a winter break leading into his Masters defence. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Reed aiming to begin 2017/18 season with a flourish in Korea
Oct 20, 2017 10:35 AM
Tags: CJ Cup   Patrick Reed   News   pga tour  
 
The 2016/17 PGA Tour season was generally kind to American golf. Not only did the Stars and Stripes romp to their seventh consecutive Presidents Cup triumph in New Jersey in October; Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas ensured that three of the four biggest titles in professional golf reside in American hands, while the development of young players such as Tour Championship winner, Xander Schauffele, hints towards a bright future. One striking omission from this list of positives US golf fans can draw from the season just past, however, is any significant improvement in the fortunes of a player long tipped as a major champion in waiting, Patrick Reed. The Texan rounded off the 2015/16 campaign riding the crest of a wave. He claimed his fifth PGA Tour title by a stroke away from Emiliano Grillo and Sean O'Hair at The Barclays during the FedEx Cup play-off series and, in September, he played a pivotal role in helping the United States to their largest Ryder Cup victory in three decades at Hazeltine Indeed, Reed finished last season positioned 8th in the Official World Golf Rankings and many commentators tipped him as the player best-placed to disrupt the Spieth-McIlroy-DJ-Day axis currently dominating the elite-level of the sport. Top 3 shots from Round 1:• JT• Patrick Reed• JT pic.twitter.com/djHBlDqine— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 19 October 2017 This has not gone to script. For although a record of four top-10s, including a runners-up finish at the PGA Championship, through 28 starts is nothing to be sniffed at, it is striking that Reed missed five cuts through the 16/17 campaign and is now winless in over a year since the Barclays. This decline was set in sharp relief as the Texan travelled to inaugurate his 2017/18 season at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges Golf Course in Korea ranked behind players of the calibre of Francesco Molinari and Pat Perez in 23rd in the Official World Golf Rankings. Positives can, of course, be drawn from the impressive nature of the start that Reed has made in Korea. He hit 12 of 14 fairways, landed 15 greens in regulation, and carded eight birdies en route to a 6-under opening round on Jeju Island. While his scoring contracted following a level-par 72 on Friday, the same was true for the rest of the field and he will begin the weekend just three shots back from 36-hole leader, Luke List. Ultimately, Reed’s overall form is far from disastrous; however, his precipitous slide down the world rankings over the past 12 months provides clear evidence that he is being bypassed by his rivals. It is imperative that the 27-year-old gets winning again soon. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Two eagles underpin 63 for CJ Cup leader Thomas
Oct 19, 2017 9:30 AM
 
Well, that didn’t take long did it? Much of the build-up to the 2017/18 PGA Tour-season opening Asian Swing was dominated by discussion over whether it was wise for the recently crowned 2016/17 Player of the Year, Justin Thomas, to launch into the new campaign so early. Memories were evoked, for instance, of Jordan Spieth’s overloaded schedule during the 2015/16 wrap-around calendar. The Texan had played in South Korea, China, Australia, Abu Dhabi, the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Singapore by the time the PGA Tour season properly restarted with the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. 29 on the front for @JustinThomas34 ...WITH A BOGEY! pic.twitter.com/axLHaADDyL— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 19, 2017 When he teed it up at the Northern Trust Open, he was already complaining of physical and mental exhaustion; he finished the season majorless and behind Jason Day and Rory McIlroy at the summit of the world rankings. It was a lesson Spieth clearly learned from ahead of his enormously successful 2016/17 campaign. Between the end of the Presidents Cup and the beginning of the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur last week, Thomas had less than a seven-day break. The uncharacteristically sloppy nature of his performance en route to a T17 finish in a tournament he won in each of the last two years seemed to lend weight to the contention that the 24-year-old should have taken more time off. Indeed, despite hitting over 70 per cent of fairways and greens in regulation in Malaysia, Thomas only managed 21 birdies on a relatively easy course and lost more than stroke on the average of the field when putting. It is in this context that the emphatic nature of Thomas 9-under opening round 63 at the CJ Cup in Korea this afternoon came as something of a surprise. Starting on the back nine, the world No.4 eagled both par-5 holes to make the turn in 29 at Nine Bridges Golf Club. He cooled off on the front nine, but birdied his final hole for the 63, hitting 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation. "It was a weird day," Thomas said. "It started off with a really badly played bogey and then I went on a seven-hole stretch where I kind of went unconscious and that was pretty much most of my round." Thomas’ PGA Tour rivals might well come to be regard this performance as an ominous omen for the season ahead. He will start the second round three shots clear of 6-under, Chez Revie. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tiger Woods tweets video of driver swing
Oct 18, 2017 10:11 AM
Tags: Tiger Woods   News   pga tour  
 
Ever heard of Chinese water torture? It’s essentially a process in which water is slowly and repeatedly dripped on to a person's forehead, allegedly making the restrained victim insane. Avid PGA Tour fans might be able to identify shades of the technique when reflecting upon the protracted nature of Tiger Woods’ return to professional golf. For the third time in eight days, Woods posted a video to Twitter of himself taking a golf swing -- in his Sunday red, no less. And hitting a driver. The 41-year-old underwent a complex ‘fusion’ surgery in April in an attempt to resolve a recurring lower-back problem that has essentially rendered the last two years of his career a write-off. KABOOM BABY! @TigerWoods Y’ALL! pic.twitter.com/hoToPtYYqT— Rick Shiels PGA (@RickShielsPGA) October 15, 2017 Speaking to the media in his capacity as vice-captain for Team USA at the Presidents Cup two weeks ago, Woods refused to clarify whether he has been conferred medical clearance to return to the course and confided that his practice sessions were restricted to 60-yard pitch-shots. On 7 October, however, he uploaded a video of himself hitting a full shot to social media. Three days later, he posted video from a clinic he held with PGA Tour player Kevin Chappell at the Tiger Woods Invitational in California, a charity event that supports his foundation. Other video surfaced from that day in which Woods hit numerous full shots as part of the clinic. Then came yesterday’s clip of Woods hitting a driver in his Sunday Best. This footage is significant owing to the fact that golfers recovering from any sort of long-term injury generally stagger their recuperation by resuming training with pitching and chip-shots before gradually progressing through the bag and hitting the longer clubs. The technique further looked impressive: characterized by an evenly-balanced swing-plane, torsion across the core and lower-black, and a full and fluid follow-through. In other words, it’s not the kind of swing one would associate with a golfer who has just returned from a six-month injury lay-off. Still, it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves; to temper excitement, one need only cast their minds back 12 months ago to when Tiger made his first comeback at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. The hearts of golf fans across the world were set racing as he carded a tournament-leading 17 birdies across 72-holes, a stat that more than mitigated a disappointing third-from bottom finish. Few could have foreseen the Bahamas event being regarded as the peak of his return; since then, things have only gone downhill. For less than a week on from missing the cut on the occasion of his PGA Tour comeback at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January, Woods was forced to withdraw from the Dubai Desert Classic owing to a back-spasm after signing for a five-over-par 77 which left him outside the top 120. He has not played since, and a string of high-profile public humiliations (including an arrest for Driving Under the Influence in June) have made talk of a PGA Tour return appear more romantic than ever. There are positives to be drawn from this latest clip for sure, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Paul Casey’s Barren Spell Drags On To A New Season
Oct 17, 2017 1:07 AM
Tags: Paul Casey   CIMB Classic   News   pga tour  
 
The start of a new golfing season inevitably brings about a raft of new resolutions, aims, ambitions and targets for the players populating the top-level Tours. Be it winning majors and pushing for automatic Ryder Cup inclusion or simply retaining one’s playing card, most PGA Tour and European Tour professionals will have laid out a concrete set of objectives for the 12 months ahead. In the context of a golfer such as Paul Casey, it is not difficult to guess the ambition that tops the list. Sure, ‘win a major’ will be on there somewhere – the former world No.3 surely stands as one of the three or four best practicing golfers who has yet to triumph at the highest level of the sport. ‘Earn Ryder Cup inclusion’ will be listed, too. Paul Casey's @CIMBClassic:Round 1: +5Rounds 2-4: -19Golf is a funny game. pic.twitter.com/Php0BfN9SQ— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 15, 2017 Indeed, Casey would have qualified for automatic selection to Darren Clarke’s 2016 squad for Hazeltine were in not for the fact that he failed to complete and adequate number of events on the European circuit. Now that the European Tour’s new, reforming CEO, Keith Pelley, has relaxed eligibility criteria, he is well placed to contend for selection for the 2018 event at Le Golf National in Paris. But top of Casey’s ‘to do’ list at the beginning of the 2017/18 season must surely be to simply win a tournament. Remarkably, the 40-year-old remains winless since claiming his 17th professional title by a stroke away from Simon Dyson at the KLM Open back in the autumn of 2014. In more than 75 subsequent top-tier starts over the previous three years, he has simply been unable to get over the line for title No.18. This circumstance is rendered all the more agonising as a consequence of the fact that, since taking up full time PGA Tour membership in 2015, Casey has been producing some of the best golf of his career and has been a consistent top-10 presence across all levels of the sport. He carded 10 top-10s, including four top-3s in 2015; he posted eight top-10s including three top-3s in 2016 and just recorded his ninth top-10 finish in 22 starts in 2017 at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last weekend. Casey produced some exceptional golf in Kuala Lumpur and the fact that he completed his closing 54-holes in 19-under served only to render his uncharacteristically sloppy 5-over opening round 77 all the more frustrating. On form, Casey remains one of the most accomplished technical performers in world golf; what he lacks in distance he more than makes up for in terms of shot-variety and iron-play. However, his persisting inability to press-home strong final round positions is developing into a serious cause for concern and the longer such droughts go on, the harder they become to break. Here’s hoping Casey makes some headway on that 2017/18 ‘to do’ list soon. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tyrrell Hatton snatches dramatic victory at the Italian Open
Oct 16, 2017 7:57 AM
 
Tyrell Hatton began 2017 riding the crest of a wave. Having started the previous year ranked outside of the world’s top-100, he posted a remarkable nine top-10 finishes in addition to claiming his maiden European Tour title at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last October in order to finish the campaign ranked inside of the world’s top-25. The Buckinghamshire-native, who qualified for the 2010 Open Championship as an amateur, was consequently tipped by many commentators as the young European golfer to watch in 2017. He started the season impressively, posting top-17 fishes in each of his first five starts, including a T3 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and two T4s at the Honda Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. BACK-TO-BACK!@TyrrellHatton wins the #ItalianOpen pic.twitter.com/6EaAkpExL2— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 15, 2017 A missed-cut at The Masters, however, stymied Hatton’s progress and he went on to miss five cuts in a row between the US Open at the start of June and The Open in late July. A seventh missed cut at the US PGA Championship (making it four MCs in four starts at the majors) in August caused him to slip outside the top-30. This form mitigated a sink or swim circumstance for Hatton: either he would capitulate, continuing missing cuts and the end the year back outside of the top-50, or rally and remind everyone just why he started the year ranked as one of the best 25 golfers in the world. The fight-back began with a T3 finish at the European Masters on the occasion of his first start after Quail Hollow; it accelerated with a T8 the British Masters at Close House Golf Course in Newcastle in early October and culminated in a successful defence of his Alfred Dunhill Links title a fortnight ago. On Sunday, things got even better for Hatton: he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to move to 21 under and eclipse joint clubhouse leaders Ross Fisher and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in order to claim his third European Tour accolade at the Italian Open in Monza. The 25-year-old started the final round two shots back from countryman, Matt Wallace, and carded a sensational run of five birdies in his last seven holes coming into the clubhouse. That a closing round 63 was not enough for Ross Fischer to take the title is perhaps the finest testament to the outstanding quality of Hatton’s display. With this victory Hatton has soared to a new career-high rank of No.17; he leads the Race to Dubai, up from 11th; and is strongly positioned to qualify automatically for a Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National next autumn. That he elected to celebrate his Italian Open triumph with a Burger King is further a fine testament to his sense of perspective. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Pat Perez begins 2017/18 campaign with a bang in Malaysia
Oct 15, 2017 9:30 AM
 
Google the phrase ‘journeyman athlete’ and the following definition pops-up: “an athlete who is technically competent but unable to excel.” Were the term to be included in an academic dictionary, the name Pat Perez may well be invoked as the section-ending example. Perez arrived at the TPC Kuala Lumpur to begin his 2017/18 season at the CIMB Classic this week ranked 31st in the Official World Golf Rankings; he posted a solid record of four top-10s through 24 starts during the 2016/17 campaign and recorded an impressive 15th place finish in the FedEx Cup. Yet, prior to 2016 Perez looked destined to go down in golfing history as one of the many PGA Tour professionals who failed to translate an outstanding array of technical gifts into consistent top-level success. He won once through the course of his first 376 starts on the PGA Tour at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, 12 years after turning professional way back in 1997. It felt like the then 40-year-old's career was shaping up to be one big "What if?" But after undergoing shoulder surgery before beginning the 2016-'17 season, something has clicked for the Arizona native, and it's brought out the best golf of his life when he needed it most. He claimed his second PGA Tour title by two strokes away from Gary Woodland at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba last November, and after ascending to a career-high world ranking atthe end of the 2016/17 season, he has started the new campaign by claiming his third top-level title by four strokes away from Keegan Bradley at the CIMB Classic. Perfect Pat! Pat Perez wins the @CIMBClassic! It's his 3rd PGA TOUR victory and moves him into 2nd in the #FedExCup standings.#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/tE0FIj6JxV — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 15, 2017 This was a vintage performance from Perez, who seized the second-round advantage in Malaysia and simply never looked back. 6, 7 and 8-under rounds across Thursday, Friday and Saturday made sure he started Sunday four strokes clear of last month’s Tour Championship winner, Xander Schauffele, and a 3-under front-nine was sufficient to ensure a level-par back-took the title with room to spare. "I knew I had to stay on the gas here because guys are playing so good and you can go low any day, I was expecting someone to shoot 63 or something like that," said Perez, who finished with a score of 24-under 264, two strokes shy of Justin Thomas 72-hole CIMB record of 26-under. "I'm just such a different person than I was 17 years ago, even like, five years ago," he said. "I'm learning how to play the game, I'm learning how to play my own game, stay within myself, that kind of stuff. I'm a late-bloomer." Response to Perez’s achievement must, of course, be tempered by recognition of the fact that the CIMB Classic is a far-cry from the US Open, just as the TPC Kuala Lumpur is antithetical to Augusta. However, he did overcome the world Nos.3 and 4, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas to take the title and, ensconced in the world’s top-30, he looks well placed to push for Ryder Cup inclusion next autumn. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Xander Schauffele picks-up where he left off at the CIMB Classic
Oct 14, 2017 10:22 AM
 
Amidst the inevitable glut of ‘season review’ articles that spring-up across the golfing internet around this time every year, one personality occupied more column inches than any other when it came to recapping the 2016/17 PGA Tour campaign: Justin Thomas. This circumstance, of course, is entirely understandable. Thomas won five times last season, including at both FedEx Cup Play-Off level (the Dell Technologies Championship) and at a major championship (the US PGA), and ascended as high as No.4 in the world rankings after almost doubling his total career-earnings courtesy of claiming the $10 million FedEx prize cheque last month. In the fullness of time, however, golfing historians may yet come to reflect on the 2016/17 season as the campaign in which Xander Schauffele came to golfing maturity. Schauffele, who won five times as an amateur out of San Diego State University, only turned professional in 2015 and only earned his PGA Tour playing card courtesy of a 15th-place finish at the Web.com Tour Finals last November. #CIMBClassic Latest: Pat Perez (-13) takes a slender lead into the weekend in Kuala Lumpur with Xander Schauffele (-12) hot on his heels. pic.twitter.com/hUg3G52EMc— The Caddy's Review (@TheCaddysReview) October 13, 2017 The quality and consistency of his performances over the past 12 months, however, have belied that tender pedigree. The 23-year-old rose to national prominence after shooting a bogey free 6-under-par 66 en route to a top-5 finish on the occasion of his major championship debut at the US Open at Erin Hills in June; the following month, he claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory by a single stroke away from Robert Streb at the Greenbrier Classic. He then catapulted himself to the fringe of the world’s top-30 by shooting four rounds in the 60s en route to claiming the Tour Championship at East Lake by a stroke away from Justin Thomas. Celebration of Schauffele’s achievement was inevitably tempered by a semblance of doubt regarding his ability to sustain his 16/17 form over the long-term. After all, he would not be the first talented collegiate golfer to excel during his maiden campaign on the PGA Tour before fading into relative obscurity. The early signs, however, are extremely encouraging. Schauffele has inaugurated his 2017/18 campaign alongside defending champion, Thomas at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur this week and a 17-under, 65-67-67, 54-hole scorecard leaves him within four strokes of the leader, Pat Perez, in outright second going into the final round, 11 shots clear of Thomas. The California-native thus looks extremely well placed to potentially begin the new season with a trophy; his performance augurs extremely well for the year ahead. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas Pieters Begins Decisive Campaign Positively In Malaysia
Oct 13, 2017 4:29 AM
 
After the gruelling, 90-hour off-season that followed Team USA’s emphatic President’s Cup triumph last week, the 2017/18 PGA Tour season has restarted with vigour at the CIMB Classic at the TPC Kuala Lumpur. World Nos.3 and 4, Hideki Matsuyama and defending champion, Justin Thomas, head-up an uncharacteristically strong wrap-around field in Malaysia and each started solidly with 5-under and 2-under rounds respectively, albeit they both sit some way back from the 13-under, 36-hole lead set by Pat Perez ahead of their second rounds. But perhaps the most compelling narrative to emerge from the first two rounds played in Kuala Lumpur is the progress of one Mr Thomas Pieters. The 25-year-old shot six birdies en route to an impressive 4-under opening round of 68 and sat 9-under for the tournament by the time he reached the turn on Friday. He looks extremely well placed to contend for what would be a maiden PGA Tour title on the weekend. The fact that Pieters still remains in search of a debut victory on US soil is likely to come as a surprise to those American golf fans who witnessed his rise to stardom at the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine 12-months ago. We can watch this over and over again @Thomas_Pieters @CIMBClassic pic.twitter.com/tBzrss5lIR— Asian Tour (@asiantourgolf) October 12, 2017 The Belgian only narrowly beat Luke Donald to the final captain’s pick after claiming his third European Tour title of the season just a day before Darren Clarke confirmed the wildcards, and his low-profile in the US was attested to by the fact that the home support neglected to ‘boo’ him until the singles session. However, Pieters quickly emerged as one of the few positives European fans could salvage from the scraps of the wreckage of Hazeltine. He partnered partnering four-time major champion, Rory McIlroy, to three consecutive victories in team-play across Friday and Saturday, and he rounded off an astonishingly accomplished debut with an emphatic 3&2 singles victory against world number 21, J.B. Holmes, to finish the week as Europe’s top points scorer. Pieters consequently began 2017 feted as the rising force of European golf, and while he has achieved impressive results – he finished outright second to world No.1, Dustin Johnson, at Riviera in February and managed to tie for fourth on the occasion of his Augusta debut at the Masters in April, for instance – he missed seven cuts in 18 starts across all Tours and is winless in over a year. Indeed, Pieters’ stagnation ­­– his ranking has slipped from 23rd as of 1 January 2017 to 33rd as of the beginning of this week ­– has been set in sharp relief by Jon Rahm’s remarkable ascent to the top-5 of the world rankings since turning pro last June. The 22-year-old Spaniard won at both PGA Tour and European Tour level this year and has decisively displaced Thomas as the Great White Hope of European golf. All this has conspired to leave the Genk-native in a somewhat anomalous position; in the spotlight, for sure, but also slightly overlooked. His opening 36-holes in Malaysia suggests he remains determined to wrest the spotlight back from Rahm in 2018. [Photo Source: Flickr under CC]
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