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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Can Martin Kaymer make up for lost time in 2022?
Jan 16, 2022 4:54 AM
Tags: European Tour   News   Martin Kaymer   pga tour  
 
Martin Kaymer’s career has long been a source of bewilderment among avid golf watchers. The German looked ideally poised to establish himself as Rory McIlroy’s principal rival for the world number one spot after claiming his second major championship title in the space of four-years at the US Open in 2014, winning by eight strokes away from Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler. That victory established Kaymer firmly as a force in the world’s top-10; indeed, his pristine ball-striking, penetrating iron play and impressive length off the tee suggested that he possessed all of the physical and technical attributes required to thrive at the elite-level of the sport for a sustained period. But as has been well-documented, Kaymer’s form deteriorated dramatically in the seven seasons following his triumph at Pinehurst. Indeed, he has not won subsequently on any tour and less than two years have passed since he lost his PGA Tour playing card and plummeted outside of the world’s top-200. The 37-year-old has since recovered impressively from that nadir. In 2020, he clocked six top-10 finishes, including a narrow runner-up to John Caitlin at the Andalucía Masters, to climb back into the world’s top-100. In 2021, he again finished third to Caitlin at the Austrian Open in April and before placing second to Viktor Hovland at the BMW International in Munich in June. Back inside the world’s top-80, and ranked No.49 in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, some were even discussing the two-time major winner as a potential outsider for Ryder Cup inclusion as one of European captain, Padraig Harrington’s wildcards. There are good moments and not so good moments in life, but then, there are those moments, that are indescribable. Incredible Mother makes incredible child, our Son, Sam Kaymer @_irenescholz_ @ Düsseldorf, Germany https://t.co/8TUFuHvtcd— Martin Kaymer (@MKaymer59) January 15, 2022 As it transpired, Kaymer was required, ultimately to content himself with a vice-captaincy berth for the massacre at Whistling Straits. He missed more cuts (3) than he managed top-20 finishes (2) through his final 11 starts of the season and consequently slipped back outside of the top-100. The former world No.1 has since announced that he will miss the first two months of the 2022 season following the birth of his first child with partner Irene Scholz. Kaymer expects to become a father in January at home in Germany and says he’s looking to live in Florida with his family after the baby is born. “Our child will be born in Germany and I won’t play any tournaments for three months and only start again in March,” Kaymer told Golf Magazine. He added that “commuting between America and Europe just hasn’t worked for me,” so he’s looking to live in the U.S. on a permanent basis, along with a change in training to focus more on what he sees as the strengths in his game. Whether Kaymer will ever recover to the level of performance he produced in 2014 is doubtful; however, there have been enough flashes of brilliance over the last 18-months to allow us ponder the possibility that he may still return to the winners’ circle. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2022 Sony Open Betting Preview: 3 Tips for the Title
Jan 13, 2022 9:50 AM
 
The build-up to the 2022 PGA Tour season proper continues in Hawaii this week as the pros pitch-up at Waialae Country Club for the Sony Open. Unlike the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua last week, the Sony Open is a full field event so there is value aplenty in the pre-tournament betting market. This blog recommends three of the best value investments available on the betting market for the event. Outright Winner: Marc Leishman (22/1) A week on from setting a new PGA Tour low scoring record en route to winning the Sentry Tournament of Championsby a stroke away from world No.1 Jon Rahm, it is perhaps unsurprising that Cameron Smith trades as an 11/1 favourite to double-up in Waialae. After all, the 28-year-old won the Sony Open in Hawaii two years ago and, newly ranked inside of the world’s top-10 for the first time in his career, he can be expected to be brimming with confidence. That said, back-to-back wins are a rarity on the PGA Tour and no player has successfully defended the Sony Open since Jimmy Walker (2014-15). For that reason, my money is inclined towards another Aussie this week: Marc Leishman. A 10th place finisher in Kapalua seven days ago, the 38-year-old has registered three top-10 finishes in his last five PGA Tour starts and has further finished inside the top-10 on four previous occasions at Waialae. Thus, although nine months have passed since Leishman partnered Smith to a sixth PGA Tour accolade at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, it is clear the world No.33 is due a victory and he looks a dead-cert to contend in Hawaii this week. We’ve crushed on him ever since “Dark Angel” but Jensen Ackles is, well…. “Supernatural” #sonyopenhawaii #proam pic.twitter.com/AtLUGdYCcT— Sony Open in Hawaii (@SonyOpenHawaii) January 13, 2022 Top-10: Kevin Kisner (35/1) Fourth two years ago and top five in 2017 and 2018, Kevin Kisner possesses the course form of a bona-fide contender at the Sony Open this week. The 37-year-old claimed a fourth career PGA Tour victory at the Wyndham Championship in August, and while he endured a disappointing end to the 2021 season (missing a cumulative nine cuts through 23 starts), he arrives in Waialae off the back of a solid T8 finish at Kapalua last week. Back the world No.39 to contend. Outsider: Chris Kirk (66/1) A shot out of a playoff last year, Chris Kirk has posted three other top fives at the Sony Open and must be considered an outside contender at Waialae. While the world No.99 is winless in over six years since claiming his fourth PGA Tour victory at Colonial in 2015, he managed four top-10s last term and looks good value to place this week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Cameron Smith sets PGA Tour record to win Tournament of Champions
Jan 11, 2022 6:09 AM
 
It is a testament, ultimately, to the outrageous high quality of golf produced at last week’s PGA Tour curtain raiser at Kapalua that, despite notching an incredible record low 34-under on a 72-hole par, the Tournament of Champions still wasn't decided until Cameron Smith’s final hole Sunday. But a birdie on 18 wrapped up Smith’s final-round 65 (eight-under) for a single stroke victory away from world No.1, Jon Rahm in Hawaii. The Aussie hit eight birdies on the day, including four over the final six holes, to keep his competition at bay. Strikingly, he needed every one of those shots to secure victory, for Smith was far from the only golfer in the field at Kapalua to exceed Ernie Els’s record low 72-hole PGA Tour scoring record, one that had stood for 19-years. Rahm did, too. And so did Matt Jones. 34-UNDER Lowest score in PGA TOUR history. Cameron Smith wins the @Sentry_TOC, his fourth win on TOUR. pic.twitter.com/wEYol5QCwE— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 10, 2022 "Unreal round," Smith reflected. "Something I’ll never forget.” Smith made eight birdies including one on the 18th in a bogey-free round but was never more than two shots ahead on Sunday as Rahm (66) remained in contention and Jones backed up a 62 a day ago with an even more remarkable 18 holes to set a PGA Tour record for the lowest two-round score. Jones’s round included holing out for eagle on the 13th and a 4-foot eagle putt on the 15th as he made multiple eagles for the second successive day. But Smith, a two-time winner of the teams event in New Orleans, was not be denied as he held his nerve once again in Hawaii to add to his maiden individual success at the Sony Open two years ago. “I was just trying to hit one shot at a time, I know that sounds cliche,” he said. “We spoke about it earlier in the day that we wanted to get to 35 under. We missed it by one so in that sense disappointing but happy to come away with the W.” The victory sets up Smith for a big year, having now won on tour for three successive seasons. “I feel like I had a really good rest. I didn’t play much in the fall and actually did some work on my swing and it came out,” he said. Established inside of the world’s top-10 for the first time in his career, the onus is now firmly on Smith to build on the momentum generated in Kapalua in the months ahead in attempt to consolidate that status by the year’s end. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
What Can We Expect from Jordan Spieth in 2022?
Jan 9, 2022 10:19 AM
Tags: News   Texas Open   pga tour   Jordan Spieth  
 
There was no shortage of standout moments during the 2021 PGA Tour season. From Hideki Matsuyama becoming the first Asian-born golfer to win the Masters in April and Phil Mickelson establishing himself as the oldest major winner upon triumphing at the US Open in May, to Jon Rahm claiming his first major at the US PGA Championship in June and Rory McIlroy winning a 20th PGA Tour title in November, the golfing year was stacked with big storylines. But when the history of the 2021 golfing season comes to be written, Jordan Spieth’s two stroke victory over Charley Hoffman at the Texas Open in April may well be regarded as the most consequential event. The golf’s back and I’m here for Spieth talking to balls again. God bless Jordan. Giving it the oh Mikey, the minute he hits this one. We need Spieth cam pic.twitter.com/bjExKiPRmm — The Editor (@FPL_Editor) January 7, 2022 The former world No.1, as is well known, endured a shocking slump in form in the years following his third major triumph at 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in 2017. He managed just six 10 top-10 finishes in over 50 starts during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns and missed three times as many cuts (6) as he recorded top-10 finishes through 20 starts in last term. Upon making his first start of the 2021 campaign at Torrey Pines in January, a second-round 75 meant he missed the cut by a single shot and his world ranking tumbled to No.92. To observe that he was locked in a vicious cycle was an understatement. Then, almost out of the blue, he carded three rounds in the 60s, including a sensational third-round 61, en route to a tied-fourth finish at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix. The following week, he signed for rounds of 65 and 67 to finish tied-third at the Pebble Beach Pro-AM. He proceeded to tie-15th at the Genesis Invitational and fourth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and recovered from an indifferent Players Championship performance (T48) with a tied-ninth finish at the WGC Match Play event in Austin. Restored to the cusp of the world’s top-50 and back contending regularly at the business end of PGA Tour leaderboards, the 28-year-old had legitimately begun to refer to his ‘slump’ in the past tense. All he required to truly re-establish himself among the sport’s elite was a victory; the significance of his triumph in San Antonio can only be understood fully in that wider context. The three-time major winner’s form tailed-off somewhat after his victory in Texas. While he contended at The Masters a fortnight later (T3) and came even closer at The Open at Royal St George’s in July, finishing as a runner-up to Collin Morikawa, he would end the season, ultimately, back outside of the world’s top-10 and he failed to make any serious impact at the Ryder Cup or FedEx Cup. Nevertheless, 2021 will be remembered as the year in which Spieth re-established himself decisively as a serious contender on the PGA Tour. He may well return to the major championship winners’ circle in 2022. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
What Can We Expect From Rory McIlroy in 2022?
Jan 8, 2022 9:55 AM
 
It is a testament, ultimately, to the outrageously high standards Rory McIlroy established during his first decade as a professional golfer, that his 2021 campaign felt like something of a disappointment. To put this into context, Rory won twice on the PGA Tour in 2021, claiming a third career Wells Fargo title at Quail Hollow in May before bouncing back from a deeply disappointing Ryder Cup defeat by winning a landmark twentieth PGA Tour trophy at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas in November. To put these accomplishments into context, only one player – Patrick Cantlay, the PGA Tour Player of the Year who claimed four titles – won more than McIlroy on the PGA Tour in 2021, and the Northern Irishman further joined Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper and Arnold Palmer as only the sixth golfer to reach 20 PGA Tour victories before the age of 33. Re-established firmly inside of the world’s top-10 by the close of the year, there seemed, at first glance, to be little one could fault regarding the evolution of his campaign. But scratch a little beneath the surface and it doesn’t take long to see that a lot went wrong in Rory’s game in 2021. Recent uncharacteristic emotional outbursts, such as his post-Ryder Cup interview and shirt-ripping exploits at the DP World Tour Championship, dramatized vividly the extent of his frustration at the technical shortcomings that blighted his performances throughout the year. In the aftermath of Bryson DeChambeau’s thumping victory at the 2020 US Open, McIlroy embarked on a controversial (and, in hindsight, enormously misguided) attempt to match the American’s revolutionary swing-speed experiment. Most significantly, this project entailed a temporary separation from long-time swing coach, Michael Bannon, and the inauguration of a new relationship with the much-esteemed Pete Cowen. The results were not good. 353 yard carry. Full send from @B_DeChambeau. pic.twitter.com/t0YlYTPY2c— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 7, 2022 While McIlroy succeeded ending an eighteen-month trophy drought at Quail Hollow, the accuracy of his approach play thereafter declined precipitously and, in addition to failing to contend at any of the season’s four majors or the FedEx Cup, he slumped outside the top-15 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in over a decade. Indeed, it is revealing that McIlroy led the strokes-gained putting statistic during a tournament week on the PGA Tour for just the second time in his career en route to claiming his second title of the season at the CJ Cup in November. Meantime, his strokes-gained approach to the green was measured at -3.630, ranking him 67th in the 70-man field. This means that the four-time major winner was losing 3.6 shots to field with his approach play - something unthinkable for a winner on the PGA Tour, so his otherworldly putting performance was covering a multitude of technical sins. To put this statistic further into perspective, McIlroy's -3.630 number is the lowest (worst) of all time from a winner since records began in this category on the PGA Tour (stretching back 600 measured PGA Tour events). To observe that this style of performance is unsustainable in the long-term is an understatement and it is imperative that McIlroy recovers a semblance of consistency in his approach play if he is to have any meaningful chance of contending regularly for elite PGA Tour honours in 2022. The fact that McIlroy won twice while playing badly in 2021 is, ultimately, a sign of strength; but, as rising stars such as Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland increasingly rival and outperform the Dustin Johnson/Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas generation at major level, the margin for error will only continue to narrow for the big events. McIlroy must rediscover accuracy and composure with iron in hand to compete seriously on the PGA Tour in 2022. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
5 Golfers to Watch in 2022: #1 – Viktor Hovland
Jan 7, 2022 10:53 AM
 
The 19th Hole continues its build-up to the 2022 campaign by counting down 5 young golfers to watch out for in the season ahead. If 2021 was the year in which Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa decisively consolidated their status as leading lights of a new generation of PGA Tour stars, 2022 may well be the year when Viktor Hovland joins them. After turning pro following Low Amateur finishes at both the Masters (T32) and US Open (T12) in 2019, the former World Amateur No.1 finished the campaign with eight successive top-16 finishes, including a fourth-place finish at the Wyndham Championship. Already ranked inside of the world’s top-100, the now 24-year-old looked strongly placed to move up a gear in 2020 and he realised that promise emphatically. Hovland claimed his maiden PGA Tour accolade on the occasion of just his tenth such appearance at the Puerto Rico Open in February 2020, chipping in for eagle on the par-5 15th and racing in a 30-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th for a one-stroke victory over Josh Teater. Not a bad way to start 2022 for the three-time PGA Tour winner.Viktor Hovland has an early one-shot lead at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. pic.twitter.com/Cja5lKPyrw— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) January 6, 2022 Equally impressive was the manner in which the Norwegian picked up where he left off upon returning to the course following the COVID-19 lockdown. He finished 3rd behind Morikawa and Justin Thomas at the Workday Charity Open in July and wound out the year by draining a nerve-jangling 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th to claim his second PGA Tour title at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, before tying for 3rd at the DP World Tour Championship the following week. Firmly ensconced inside of the world’s top-15 at the close of 2020, the onus was always on the Oslo-native to crack the top-10 in 2021, and boy did he. In addition to claiming a maiden European Tour accolade by two strokes away from Martin Kaymer in June, before debuting for the Old Continent at the Ryder Cup in September, he successfully defended his Mayakoba Classic accolade on the PGA Tour in November and rounded-out the year by claiming a fifth professional title at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge charity event in December. Hovland ultimately finished 2021 ranked No.7 in the Official World Golf Rankings, having made the cut in 22 of 24 starts worldwide, and became only the fifth European player since World War II to win multiple PGA Tour titles before turning 24, joining Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Rahm. Devoid of a top-10 finish at major championship level, expect Hovland to remedy that deficit in 2022. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
5 Golfers to Watch in 2022: #2 – Talor Gooch
Jan 2, 2022 6:49 AM
Tags: News   Talor Gooch   pga tour  
 
The 19th Hole continues its build-up to the 2022 campaign by counting down 5 young golfers to watch out for in the season ahead. There was no shortage of drama during the Fall of the 2021 campaign. Rory McIlroy earned his historic 20th PGA Tour victory. Hideki Matsuyama added a win in his homeland to his reign as Masters champion. Max Homa won for the third time in less than three years. Young stars Sam Burns, Sungjae Im and Viktor Hovland added to their impressive PGA Tour resumes, while Lucas Herbert claimed his maiden US title at the Bermuda Championship. But perhaps the most significant, long-term development that obtained during the final quarter of the 2021 season was Talor Gooch’s achievement in claiming a maiden PGA Tour title courtesy of a three-stroke victory over McKenzie Hughes at the RSM Classic in November. The first quarter of the PGA 22 season had new names scale personal highs.@TalorGooch, who won 2.29 mil last season, crossed the mark in just 6 events this season! He leads the earnings charts and rightly so, given his performances in the CJ Cup and RSM Classic, which he won! pic.twitter.com/oNbLfR6EER— ScoutX (@OfficialScoutX) January 1, 2022 The Midwest City-native had been tipped for great things ever since representing the prestigious Oklahoma State golf team at the All Americans as a collegiate athlete. However, he missed in his first two attempts at Q-School, playing mini-tours and the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada instead. In his third Q-School attempt, a tough start to his final round of second stage left him wondering if he’d need to get a job at Best Buy to fund his career. However, Gooch didn’t give up. He played on the Web.com Tour in 2017 and won his first professional title the News Sentinel Open. That triumph provided the platform from which he secured a sixth-place finish on the regular season money list to earn his maiden PGA Tour card. He retained that status in each of the subsequent two seasons and an impressive run of nine top-25s through 18 starts in 2020 enabled him surge inside the top-100 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career. From there, the 30-year-old has scarcely looked back and has swiftly gone about attempting to fulfil the grand expectations that abounded his game as a collegiate-level athlete. After having his appendix removed in the midst of the 2018 season and starting 2019 with conditional status, he finished third at the Farmers Insurance Open. Only Justin Rose, the reigning FedExCup champion and World No. 1, and Adam Scott beat Gooch that week. He tied Hideki Matsuyama, while McIlroy, and Jon Rahm and Jason Day finished directly behind him. Gooch then went on to finish fifth at this year’s Players Championship, the tournament with the game’s strongest field, behind only Justin Thomas, Lee Westwood, Bryson DeChambeau and Brian Harman. And earlier this fall, Gooch shot a final-round 62 in the CJ Cup to get in the mix with McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and his fellow Oklahoma State alum, Rickie Fowler. Indeed, Gooch had six rounds of 64 or better during the PGA Tour’s Fall season; no one else had more than three. One of those came in the RSM’s final round, where he shot an impressive 64 after starting the day with the first 54-hole lead of his Tour career. Gooch, consequently, will tee-off for the 2022 campaign at a career-high No.32 in the Official World Golf Rankingsand at the summit of the FedEx Cup standings. He is a player who appears poised to reach a new level in both performances and results in the year ahead. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
5 Golfers to Watch in 2022: #2 – Matthew Wolff
Jan 1, 2022 12:30 PM
 
The 19th Hole continues its build-up to the 2022 campaign by counting down 5 young golfers to watch out for in the season ahead. When Matthew Wolff birdied the challenging par-4 18th hole at Winged Foot Golf Club to take a two-stroke lead into the final-round of the 140th US Open in September 2020, he seemed poised to fulfil the major-level expectations that have accompanied him since his collegiate success at Oklahoma State University. An NCAA champion in 2018, Wolff claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory within a month of turning professional the following summer, defeating Colin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau by a stroke to clinch the 3M Open title in Minnesota. He was to finish his maiden season on the PGA Tour ranked inside of the world’s top-100 and, following a slow start to the 2020 campaign, his form picked up strongly after the COVID-19 lockdown. Wolff broke into the world’s top-60 courtesy of a runner-up finish at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July; the following month, he carded four rounds in the 60s to finish fourth on the occasion of his US PGA Championship debut at Harding Park. It was unsurprising, therefore, to observe the 21-year-old contend seriously for the US Open title at Winged Foot and there was every reason to suspect he would parley his 54-hole advantage into a maiden major championship title. As it turned-out, of course, Wolff was unable to get the job done. He shot a final-round 75 to finish even par and in solo second, six behind Bryson DeChambeau (67), who shot the low round of the day by three. However, he rounded-out the season ranked 9th and 14th in the FedEx Cup and Official World Golf Rankings respectively and seemed destined to build on that momentum in 2021. Bout time! pic.twitter.com/q2ut70z8NE— Matthew Wolff (@matthew_wolff5) November 14, 2021 Once more, this did not work out to plan. Indeed, Wolff managed just three top-20 finishes through the course of his first 15 starts in 2021, slipping outside of the world’s top-40. While he impressed, for instance, in tying for fifteenth at the US Open in June, a well-documented mental health struggle led some pundits to worry he may prove unable to cope with the increased expectations generated by his breakout campaign the previous year. However, Wolff caught fire towards the end of the year. He carded a second runners-up finish in as many seasons at the Shriners Children’s Open in October to climb back inside the world’s top-40 and rounded-out the campaign with T5 and T11 finishes at the Mayakoba Classic and Houston Open respectively to finish the year back inside the top-30. This surge provides a strong platform on which to build in 2022. Indeed, it is striking that just as Wolff leads the PGA Tour in scoring average and ranks fourth in Strokes Gained: Total, he also boasts the fastest clubhead speed: his 125.11 MPH average is 11 MPH above the Tour average. Expect him to return to the winners’ circle next year. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
5 Golfers to Watch in 2022: #3 – Thomas Pieters
Dec 30, 2021 12:35 PM
 
The 19th Hole continues its build-up to the 2022 campaign by counting down 5 young golfers to watch out for in the season ahead. There was a time, not long ago, when Thomas Pieters was the coming force, not just in European golf, but in the world game. The Belgian, an NCAA champion out of the University of Illinois, was the toast of the golfing world upon concluding his representative debut as a controversial late wildcard inclusion at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, a status he secured upon winning his third European Tour title at the Danish Open just a month before the team event. He partnered European figurehead and four-time major champion, Rory McIlroy to three consecutive victories in team-play across Friday and Saturday, and rounded off an astonishingly accomplished debut with an emphatic 3&2 singles victory against the then world number 21, J.B. Holmes. Pieters was, in short, one of the few positives European fans could derive from an otherwise deeply demoralising 17-11 defeat, and an exceptional run of T2, T5 and T4 finishes at the Genesis Open, WGC-Mexico and The Masters through the first four months of 2017 appeared to substantiate the commonplace perspective that the then 26-year-old was a major champion in waiting. He would finish the year at No.36 in the Official World Golf Rankings and seemed strongly positioned to push towards the top-10 in the coming season. However, Pieters proved surprisingly unable to sustain his ascent subsequent to the highs of 2016/17. He didn’t win at all in the process of slumping outside of the world’s top-70 in 2018, and while he rallied impressively to claim the Czech Masters title the following year, he would finish both 2019 and 2020 ranked outside of the world’s top-80. The Antwerp native’s form scarcely improved in 2021; indeed, he arrived at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course to contest the Portugal Masters in early November at No.126 in the world rankings, having missed a cut (4) more than he had registered top-10 finishes through 20 starts across all Tours since the beginning of the year. Just as in 2018, he had not even been mentioned as a potential wildcard inclusion for the European Ryder Cup squad. However, a blistering 6-under third-round 65 saw Pieters surge to the summit of the 54-hole lead in Portugal, four strokes clear of the chasing pack, alongside Matthieu Pavon of France. On Sunday, a 3-under 68 proved sufficient to finish two-shots clear of Pavon atop the leaderboard, thus ending a 30-month European Tour trophy drought. Pieters would round-out the year with a solid 15th place finish at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Three weeks out from his 30th birthday, Pieters has five European Tour titles to his name and sits 65th in the Official World Golf Rankings; that, by any measure, is a successful haul for the first the decade of a professional career. 2022 marks the inauguration of Pieters’ second decade on the European Tour and this blog expects that he will surpass his career-best ranking of No.23 before its end. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
5 Golfers to Watch in 2022: #4 – Sungjae Im
Dec 24, 2021 10:13 AM
Tags: News   Sungjae Im   pga tour  
 
The 19th Hole continues its build-up to the 2022 campaign by counting down 5 young golfers to watch out for in the season ahead. If one went in search of a definition for ‘meteoric rise’ in the context of professional golf they may well encounter an image of Sungjae Im in the relevant dictionary. Named Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year in 2018, the Korean led the PGA Tour in cuts made (26) during his debut season the following year. He finished 19th in the season-long FedEx Cup standings and then compiled a 3-1-1 record for the International team in the President’s Cup, including a Sunday singles match victory over the then reigning US Open champion, Gary Woodland. He was richly deserving of the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ award with which he was conferred in November 2019. In light of this success, it might come as a surprise that Im had held off on investing in any kind of home in the US before claiming his maiden PGA Tour victory, relying instead on an endless stream of anonymous hotel rooms and Ubers. PGA TOUR: Shriners Children's Open - Sunjae Im claimed his second Tour win. The South Africans finished; Louis Oosthuizen T14 (-15). Highlights, follow the link https://t.co/DE3urBW7qF pic.twitter.com/M69cAB2P4d— SA Golf Trader (@SAGolfTrader) October 11, 2021 This peculiar circumstance was remedied last March when Im, making just his fiftieth PGA start at the Honda Classic in Florida, birdied two of his last four holes to claim his first victory. The following week, the 22-year-old finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and led the FedExCup points race as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and shut down part of the season. He rounded out a banner campaign with a tied-second place finish at November’s deferred Masters tournament and finished the year inside of the world’s top-20. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Im struggled to sustain this form into the early stages of the 2021 campaign; indeed, an indifferent run of results thorough the spring and summer caused him to slip outside of the world’s top-30 as recently as August. However, the Jeju-native surged back into form with a tied-third finish at the BMW Championship in early September and, in October, he claimed his second PGA Tour title at the Shriners Children's Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. Remarkably, Im hit 62 of 72 greens in regulation on his way to a dominant four-shot victory at the Shriners, crystallising the penetrating iron play that has rendered him one of the hottest young golfers on the PGA Tour. To put that figure into context, since 1990, only 4% of PGA Tour winners have hit at least 86% of their greens in regulation for the week. Im finishes 2021 ranked No.26 in the Official World Golf Rankings; expect him to threaten the top-10 next term. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
5 Golfers to Watch in 2022: #5 – Joaquin Niemann
Dec 22, 2021 12:35 PM
 
The 19th Hole continues its build-up to the 2022 campaign by counting down 5 young golfers to watch out for in the season ahead. Joaquin Niemann has long appeared destined to enjoy a distinguished career at the highest level of professional golf. A former World Amateur No.1, Niemann forfeited U.S. Open and Open Championship exemptions to turn professional in the summer of 2018 and swiftly earned full PGA Tour status upon registering four top-10 finishes in his first eight PGA Tour appearances. Significantly, he was only the third golfer, following Jordan Spieth (2013) and Jon Rahm (2016), to bypass the Web.com Tour Finals completely and earn a PGA Tour playing card after starting the season without any status. With characteristic panache, he vindicated this lofty status by winning on the occasion of his first start of the 2019/20 season at the Military Tribute at Greenbrier Golf Club in West Virginia, signing for four rounds in the 60s to defeat Tom Hoge by six strokes. Joaquín Niemann bogeys the first playoff hole and has been eliminated. That's his lone bogey this week and first in 77 (!) holes. pic.twitter.com/NAxUXwFI7m — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 4, 2021 By winning in White Sulphur Springs, Niemann became the first PGA Tour winner from Chile, and the youngest international PGA Tour winner since 1923. That victory further catapulted him inside of the world’s top-50 and assured him of a spot in Ernie Els’ Presidents Cup team for December 2019. Following the COVID-19 lockdown, Niemann’s enjoyed a solid 2020 campaign. He posted six top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish at the BMW Championship, to finish the year inside of the world’s top-50. Significantly, he consolidated that status in 2021, opening the year with back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and Sony Open, before adding a third second-place finish of the campaign at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July. Indeed, Niemann will finish the year ranked inside of the world’s top-30 for the first time in his career, having posted six top-10s in 28 starts across all tours. And while he will feel an understandable sense of frustration at his inability to parley any of his three runner-up finishes into a second PGA Tour title, the trajectory of his overall results remains clear. Performance in the majors is an issue for the Chilean. Indeed, in 11 previous such starts since debuting at the US Open in 2017, he has missed five cuts and has yet to crack the top-30. Nevertheless, 2021 was the first season in which Niemann contested all four major championships, and in addition to avoiding succumbing to a single cut mark, he recorded a career best T30 at the US PGA and a T31 at the US Open. The trajectory of travel, therefore, is promising. Possessed of exceptional distance and accuracy off the tee (12th in SG off the tee), a penetrating iron game (32nd in SG tee to green) and a solid putting stroke (56th in SG putting), Niemann has all the physical and technical raw materials to thrive on the PGA Tour. Expect to see him rise far higher than his present world ranking in 2021; top-20 must be a target for the close of 2022. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Struggling Jason Day derives positives from strong showing at QBE Shootout
Dec 15, 2021 7:41 AM
Tags: Marc Leishman   QBE Shootout   News   Jason Day   pga tour  
 
In the end, it was not to be for Jason Day. The former world No.1, winless in almost four years since claiming his 12th PGA Tour title at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2018, took a three-shot lead into the final-round of QBE Shootout event at Tiburon Golf Club in Florida last week, where he played alongside countryman, Marc Leishman. Though unsanctioned by the PGA Tour, victory in the team event provided Day with an invaluable opportunity to build confidence heading into a 2022 campaign in which he will seek to reverse a dire run of form that has seen his standing in the world game deteriorate precipitously. The Aussie initially slipped outside of the world’s top-10 off the back of a winless 2017 campaign, and while he impressed in claiming two PGA Tour titles the following year, a winless, injury plagued 2019 season caused him to slip outside of the world’s top-50. Things did not improve greatly for the 33-year-old during the course of a tumultuous, COVID-impacted 2020 season, and a deeply indifferent run of eight missed cuts in 18 starts across all tours in 2021 has caused him to tumble outside of the world’s top-100 for the first time since breaking into that elite band more than a decade ago. It was in this context that victory alongside a long-time friend and countryman at an event such as the QBE Shootout had the potential to prove so significant for Day. As it transpired, it was not to be for the Australian pairing; an outstanding 12-under final-round of 60 by Jason Kokrak and Kevin Na proved sufficient for a three-shot victory, with Day and Leishman obliged, ultimately, to content themselves with a tie for third. Nevertheless, the 34-year-old could derive great optimism from the experience of having recorded his best finish since winning The Challenge: Japan Skins more than two years ago. "Jason Day was all everything...I do believe he can get it back"After a solid week for Jason Day at the QBE Shootout, our own Jason Sobel wonders what it will take for him to get back to the top of the game.@JasonSobelTAN I @JDayGolf I @QBEshootout pic.twitter.com/Sum6xJRCGq— SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio (@SiriusXMPGATOUR) December 13, 2021 “It was nice to be able to come into a week like this and try a few things with my swing,” Day said. “Even though it’s competitive rounds, I can get in there and see how the changes are going. Playing with Leish is always fun. We’ve been good mates for a while now and it was a nice way to end the year.” Day hasn’t set his tournament schedule for the first part of 2022 yet but has his eye on a few events. “I’ll probably play some on the west coast, I just don’t really know right now. I’m going to take some time off and then really try and work these swing changes out and hopefully come into the new year, start playing some better golf”, the former major winner reflected. “The only thing that takes care of it is winning, so I’m really trying to focus on trying to get back to getting my game in a spot where I’m confident and then the next step is to go out there and win and win more often. That’s one thing that I’m trying to accomplish this next coming year,” he added. “I feel pretty happy with how things are progressing. I’ve just got to keep working on it and just be patient with it and let things kind of unfold on themselves and hopefully through the patience I get that nice delayed gratification and I start showing some good results here soon.” One can only hope the Queenslander is successful in his quest to recover to the level that propelled him to the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings in 2016. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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