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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Patrick Cantlay: A deserved PGA Tour Player of the Year
Sep 23, 2021 2:51 AM
Tags: Ryder Cup   Jon Rahm   Patrick Cantlay   News   pga tour  
 
When in October 2017 Jordan Spieth was asked to assess the career prospects of a then little-known former Walker Cup colleague named Patrick Cantlay, he replied unhesitatingly that: "He's extremely talented. He's going to work his way up into the top-10 in the world, in my opinion." Knowing what we know now, of course, this statement seems unremarkable but, at the time, it was far from clear whether Cantlay would ever realise the extraordinary physical and technical potential he demonstrated in winning the Haskins Award and acceding to the summit of the World Amateur Golf Rankings while at UCLA. For although Cantlay made early waves upon turning professional in 2012, winning on the Webb.com Tour to the PGA Tour the following season, a series of lower-back problems, allied to the traumatic death of his close friend and caddie, Chris Roth, in a hit-and-run incident, stymied his ascent. Inside the mind of @Patrick_Cantlay. pic.twitter.com/0VgkmECfZP— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 7, 2021 Indeed, Cantlay did not strike a ball in anger on the PGA Tour for more than two years prior to returning to the professional circuit mid-way through the 2017 campaign and, less than a month after Spieth’s public declaration of faith in the future trajectory of his career, he won his maiden PGA Tour title at the Shriner’s Hospital Open. Talk about picking up from where you left off. From there, Cantlay has scarcely drawn breath in the process of fulfilling and exceeding Spieth’s prophecy. By the end of 2018, he had already established himself inside of the world’s top-20; a victory at the Memorial Tournament in the summer of 2019 enabled the 29-year-old to push into the top-10 for the first time in his career and a further triumph at the Zozo Championship in late 2020 ensured he retained that elite status into the present season. Indeed, it has been 2021 that has seen Cantlay give fullest expression to his extraordinary talents, winning three times on the PGA Tour, including twice in the season-ending play-offs to claim the FedEx Cup, thus securing automatic qualification to the US Ryder Cup team and establishing himself inside the top-3 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Revealingly, the players listed as runner-up on the occasion of Cantlay’s three victories read: Collin Morikawa (world No.2), Bryson DeChambeau (world No.7) and Jon Rahm (world No.1) – talk about beating the best. In this context, it seems wholly fitting he has been recognized by his peers as the PGA Tour’s foremost performer in 2021; the stage seems set for the Californian to copper-fasten his elite status by claiming a maiden major title in 2022. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Max Homa wins Fortinet Championship, continues PGA Tour ascent
Sep 20, 2021 2:48 AM
 
Ever since winning the individual NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship as a 21-year-old back in 2013, Max Homa was tipped to achieve big things in the professional game. He went on to make his major championship debut as an amateur at the US Open later that year before partnering Justin Thomas, among others, to an emphatic 17-9 Walker Cup victory. Less than a month later, he turned pro and, despite tying for ninth on the occasion of his debut at the Frys.com Open, he initially struggled to parley his exceptional amateur credentials on to the professional stage. Indeed, Homa did not graduate to the PGA Tour until 2015 and had to return to the Webb.com Tour the following year. Upon returning to the PGA Tour in 2017, he made just two of 17 cuts playing those events in 61-over par and dropping outside of the top 1,000 in the world. After a further season on the Webb.com Tour in 2018, he returned to the PGA Tour in 2019 ranked No. 836 in the world and missed each of his first six cuts of the campaign. At 27, Homa looked destined to be remembered as one of the many prodigiously gifted young amateurs who proved incapable of transferring his enormous technical potential into results on the biggest stage. Then, at the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship, something clicked and altered radically the subsequent trajectory of his professional career. After opening with a strong 69-63-70 to force his way into outside contention for the title, alongside luminaries such as Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, he signed for a 4-under closing round 67 for a three shot victory. MAX HOMA CLUTCH PUTT WITH THE STACHE! pic.twitter.com/6q6h1JhWlE— Pardon My Take (@PardonMyTake) September 20, 2021 In addition to surging inside of the world’s top-200 for the first time in his career, that win transformed Homa’s attitude. He went on to finish the season ranked inside of the top-150 and has since succeeded in establishing himself as a regular contender on the PGA Tour. He defeated Tony Finau in a playoff to win his second PGA Tour title against an elite field at the Genesis Open at Riviera in February 2021 and, on Sunday, he produced a sensational back-nine comeback to win a third PGA Tour title at the Fortinet Championship by a single stroke. Three shots behind Maverick McNealy with seven holes left, Homa holed out from the rough from 95 yards for eagle on the par-4 12th. He followed that with a birdie on the par-4 13th. The 30-year-old former University of California player tapped in for another birdie on the par-5 16th and ran in an 18-footer on the par-4 17th. He parred the par-5 18th to finish at 19-under 269. “Yeah, I think I've always struggled a bit with confidence and walking around like I'm the man out here,” Homa said. “When I'm out here playing with people like Rahm and Phil and DJ and Rory and JT and Berger and all the guys,” he added, “I see that, yes, there's a level of excellence that's incredible, but it's not – I don't feel like I'm chasing a ghost.” Up to a career-best No.31 in the world, Homa has strong foundations on which to build ahead of the 2022 campaign. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Will Zalatoris: A deserved PGA Tour Rookie of the Year
Sep 17, 2021 9:23 AM
 
When Will Zalatoris was eliminated by two strokes at the First Stage of the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Q-School, he could have been forgiven for growing bitter and losing focus. Just under a year had passed since he was featured on a comically stacked Walker Cup team alongside Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ among others (he went 3-1 in a 19-7 drubbing). By the time the Dallas-native missed out on the Korn Ferry Q-School, most of his teammates had progressed to the PGA Tour, with some of them entering into the winners’ circle. It would only be human to feel a little stirring of resentment in such a circumstance; some might even succumb to despondency. Zalatoris, however, responded proactively. Working alongside coaches such as Troy Denton and Josh Gregory, he spent months revamping his putting stroke and, once satisfied, proceeded to chase Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifiers. By 2019, he succeeded in regaining full playing privileges. By the summer of 2020, he’d consolidated his status as the premier player below PGA Tour-level. Indeed, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent suspension of promotion and relegation between the PGA and Korn Ferry Tours, he would have been plying his trade at the highest level of the professional game months ago. As it happens, Zalatoris found himself in a unique scenario that is unlikely to be duplicated in the PGA Tour’s modern era. His future is bright.@WillZalatoris is the 2021 Rookie of the Year. pic.twitter.com/uRP9lj8He4— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 13, 2021 After a sparkling 2020 Korn Ferry Tour campaign that included seven consecutive top-15 finishes and a victory at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes, he would have normally secured Tour membership via The 25 last August. But because the 2020 and 2021 Korn Ferry seasons were merged together, he started the last PGA Tour campaign as a non-member and required consistent results to secure his long-term status. And boy, has he earned them. Indeed, in the 12 months since he tied for sixth on the occasion of his major championship debut at the US Open at Winged Foot last September, he has consolidated his status as one of the highest-potential young golfers in the world. In 25 PGA Tour starts in 2021, he posted eight top-10s and 14 top-25s—including a solo second at Augusta National, where he finished one back of Hideki Matsuyama in his bid to become the first player to win on the occasion of their Masters debut since 1979. In addition to rising inside of the top-30 of the Official World Golf Rankings, Zalatoris has been conferred with the PGA Tour’s coveted Arnold Palmer Rookie of the Year award, following in the illustrious footsteps of all-time, historic greats such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm. “I’m ecstatic”, Zalatoris told Golf Digest. “I went to Wake Forest on the Arnold Palmer Scholarship, so winning an award with Mr. Palmer’s name on it is not lost on me. If you’d have told me I’d be PGA Tour rookie of the year for 2021 when in April 2020 it looked like I was going to have to spend two years on the Korn Ferry Tour, that’s a pretty cool spot to be in.” It seems only a matter of time until the 25-year-old claims a maiden PGA Tour accolade. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Ryder Cup: Henrik Stenson named as fifth vice-captain
Sep 16, 2021 12:57 PM
 
In the end, it was not to be for Henrik Stenson. The Swede, who has endured several seasons in the elite-level wilderness since claiming his 21st professional title at the Wyndham Championship in 2017, briefly threatened to resurrect a stagnating career and force himself into European captain, Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup selection for Whistling Straits at the end of the month. While Stenson triumphed at the unofficial Hero World Challenge event at the end of 2019, he is winless in over three seasons on the PGA and European Tours, and a dismal run of six missed-cuts to zero top-10 finishes through 14 starts during a pandemic-impacted 2020 campaign caused him to slip outside of the world’s top-60 for the first time in over a decade. Moreover, any hopes of a rapid recovery during the opening months of the 2021 season were dispelled when the Gothenburg native missed 11 cuts inside of his first 16 starts, plummeting outside of the world’s top-200. But just as Stenson’s Ryder Cup hopes looked to have vanished decisively, he produced three rounds in the 60s en route to his first top-five finish in over two seasons at the Czech Masters. At the Omega European Masters the following week, he shot a final-round 63 to finish in outright third. Making his third start in as many weeks at the Italian Open in Rome a fortnight ago, he fired an opening-round 64 en route to a T15 finish; suddenly, he was being discussed, alongside Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, as a veteran forerunner for one of Harrington’s three wildcard selections. However, Stenson was, ultimately, unable to render his case for selection irresistible with a strong performance at the European Tour’s season-ending BMW PGA Championship, carding just a single round under 70 en route to a T30 finish. And, following Shane Lowry’s late collapse at Wentworth and Bernd Wiesberger’s surge into automatic qualification, Harrington only had recourse to two veteran wildcard selections; Garcia and Poulter made the cut, Rose and Stenson seemed destined to view the event on television. .@henrikstenson's game plan today #BMWPGA | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/mIHh2dmjwM— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 11, 2021 However, whatever initial disappointment the 45-year-old may have endured would have been partly assuaged when he was announced last week as Harrington’s fifth and final vice-captain for Whistling Straits, placing him firmly on the roster for a future captaincy berth. “It’s a great honour to get the call and to be involved with Team Europe”, Stenson reflected. “I’ve been part of five Ryder Cup teams in the past and to be given the opportunity as a vice-captain to help Europe’s quest to retain the Ryder Cup is exciting. “Padraig called me on Monday morning and it was not a long conversation. I accepted straight away and I assured him that myself, along with the other vice-captains are there to help and assist him and the team in any way we can.” In winning three points from three matches at his fifth and likely final Ryder Cup appearance as a player in Paris three years ago, Stenson demonstrated his enduring value to European golf. The Swede bids fair to establish himself as a fine captain in the years ahead. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Justin Rose misses out as European Ryder Cup picks named
Sep 14, 2021 10:32 AM
 
When Shane Lowry reached the turn at the BMW PGA Championship Wentworth Golf Club last Sunday, 1-under for the day and positioned comfortably at fifth on the leaderboard, both he and European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington must have been feeling rather content with life. With Lee Westwood having already signed for a dismal final-round 77, slumping to 71st on the leaderboard, the path was clear for Lowry to copper-fasten his inclusion in the European Ryder Cup squad for Whistling Straits by securing the final automatic qualification spot. Unquestionably, such an outcome would have suited Harrington rather well. Lowry, after all, has been one of the most consistent European performers in 2021 (finishing top-10 at The Players Championship, the US Open and the Memorial Tournament), and for all there is to recommend players such as Victor Perez, Bernd Wiesberger and Daniel MacIntyre, none has managed to win on US soil. Facing-up against the strongest US selection in Ryder Cup history on a bomber’s course in Wisconsin, Harrington needs players with proven big-game temperament. Lowry, a major champion and WGC-winner, ticks that box, and his automatic qualification would have freed Harrington to include big name veterans, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, as captain’s picks. But things never turn out quite so simply in golf: no sooner did the stars appear to be aligning for Harrington than Lowry bogeyed the 14th and followed that with a double-bogey, ending the tournament at 12 under and in 17th place. That slump created an opening for Wiesberger, to seal the final automatic qualification spot courtesy of a 20th place finish, leapfrogging Lowry in the European points standings. This put Harrington in the invidious position of needing to accommodate four elite-quality golfers – Lowry, Garcia, Poulter and Rose – in just three remaining roster positions. Someone was going to have to miss out and, ultimately, it was Rose who was overlooked. Lovely to finish! Amazing to hear the sounds of home crowds enjoying themselves! Thank you so much for the support out there. @BMWPGA @bmwgolfsport pic.twitter.com/XhcoBvorWR — Justin ROSE (@JustinRose99) September 12, 2021 As this blog reported previously, the five-time Ryder Cup veteran has struggled badly for form since claiming a 10th PGA Tour victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2019, slumping outside of the world’s top-40 and missing out on the 2021 FedEx Cup playoff series entirely. While the former world No.1 and US Open champion impressed in signing for a final-round 65 and a fourth-place finish at Wentworth, only a victory would have been sufficient to ensure his automatic inclusion and Harrington determined, ultimately, that he had not done enough to warrant wildcard selection ahead of Poulter or Garcia. “You can only blame yourself if you don’t get in and don’t get picked”, Rose reflected ahead of the announcement on Sunday evening. “You know, we’ll see, but if I don’t get picked, good luck to the lads.” [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
BMW PGA winner Billy Horschel 'gutted' at Ryder Cup snub
Sep 13, 2021 5:00 AM
 
When in 2014 Billy Horschel won the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship consecutively en route to becoming the first player to claim the season-ending FedEx Cup play-off series while ranked outside of the world’s top-20, it seemed only a matter of time until he made a breakthrough at major championship level. The Floridian had, after all, been earmarked for success by PGA Tour insiders ever since qualifying for the 2006 US Open as a 17-year-old; he went on to post a 3–1 record for the victorious US Walker Cup team the following year and turned pro in 2010. Best celebratory dinner I can think of! Cheers @_DeclanRice @Noble16Mark #BMWPGA COYI ⚒⚒ pic.twitter.com/qANq7Hv6f4 — Billy Horschel (@BillyHo_Golf) September 12, 2021 By the end of 2013, Horschel had already collected his maiden PGA Tour prize at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans by a single shot away from D.A Points after tying for fourth at the US Open. The fact that he directly outshot players of the calibre of Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy in order to win the FedEx the following season seemed to confirm an ability to transfer his enormous amateur-level talents on to the professional stage. In addition to affording the then 27-year-old a fat, $11 million winners cheque, the playoff victory propelled Horschel up as high as 12th in the Official World Golf Rankings and ensured that he would be a regular fixture at major championship level. But instead of kicking-on towards the summit of the rankings, Horschel’s progress stalled. Three seasons would pass before he claimed a fourth PGA Tour accolade at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic in the summer of 2017, and while he added a further bauble alongside Scott Piercy at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans the following season, he had long since ceased to be regarded as a coming force at the highest level of the professional game. But then, in March this year, the Florida-native returned to the winner’s circle in spectacular circumstances following a 2&1 victory over Scottie Scheffler at the WGC-Match Play in Austin to surge back into the world’s top-20. And while Horschel’s form tailed-off over the summer, prompting US Ryder Cup captain, Steve Stricker to exclude him from his 12-man roster for Whistling Straits next month, the player provided his prospective captain with a forceful rejoinder at the BMW PGA Championship last week. Horschel was tied for first in a group at 18 under par as he stood over his third shot at the par-5 18th at Wentworth but produced a sensational wedge shot for a nailed-on birdie to complete a sizzling round of 7-under 65 for a single stroke victory over Englishman Laurie Canter, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who shot a superb closing 64. Unsurprisingly, the Ryder Cup was towards the top of the newly-crowned champion’s mind. “I was a little gutted I didn’t get a call this week,” Horschel said after his triumph. “I didn’t think the call was going to say I made the team, but I was a little gutted I didn’t get a call to say, ‘Hey, you know, you didn’t make the team.’ In my mind, I thought I’d at least get that. So, there was a little more added motivation this week for that.” Consolidated back inside of the world’s top-20, Horschel possesses firm foundations from which to push on towards the top-10 by the end of the year. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Patrick Reed absent as Steve Stricker confirms Ryder Cup picks
Sep 10, 2021 5:16 AM
Tags: Ryder Cup   Patrick Reed   News   Steve Stricker  
 
Though neither side will notch any points until the Friday morning foursomes commence on 24 September, watching US Captain, Steve Stricker announce his six wildcard picks this week, it was difficult not to feel a semblance of momentum ebb in Europe’s direction ahead of the 42nd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. Of course, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler are players of a calibre sufficient to strike fear into the heart of any European golf fan, particularly when paired with an automatic qualification roster reading: Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay. However, the conspicuous absence from the home roster of one Mr Patrick Reed is an undoubted boon to Europe’s chances. Since making his debut at Gleneagles in 2014, Reed has represented his country at three successive Ryder Cup, accruing a remarkable eight points from a possible 11 in order to earn the affectionate moniker, ‘Captain America’ among supporters. Furthermore, although the barrel-chested Texan’s notoriously strong personality has, in the past, catalysed tensions in the US dressing room, he equally thrives on the stadium atmosphere of the event and has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to channel opposition supporter opprobrium into grandstand performances. Put simply, Reed is as close as any player available to Stricker comes to guaranteeing points; however, speaking ahead of the Tour Championship, the former Masters winner revealed that he had been recently "battling for my life" in Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas after being diagnosed with double pneumonia. "First couple days they were sitting there telling me that make sure you text your family quite a bit, talk to your family, because you just don't know. I mean, this is not good. We're not in a good spot right now,'' Reed said. Ready for takeoff! Next stop: #Tokyo2020Love the support from everyone - thank you!!! #TeamUSA @USAGolf @grindworksUSA @hublot @Titleist @cbdmd_usa @epmplus @easypost pic.twitter.com/Lwo3AsFX8s— Patrick Reed (@PReedGolf) July 27, 2021 "With how the hospitals are these days because of COVID-19 and everything that's going on, it doesn't matter what's going on. They won't allow people in there, so it's only you in there. So I'm sitting there and those first two days the only thing that was going through my mind is, I'm not going to be able to tell my kids goodbye. I'm not going to be able to tell them I love them. I'm not going to be able to tell my wife that I love her and give her a hug.'' Indeed, Reed has only mustered two starts in the last two months and Stricker regrettably concluded that the 31-year-old lacked the competitive sharpness required to warrant wildcard inclusion. “That was a very, very difficult call,” Stricker said. “Kind of lost sleep over that one. He’s a tremendous competitor. He brings a lot to match-play golf. His record here at the Ryder Cup is pretty darned good. It was a very difficult call. It wasn’t an easy one. It was just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of play that led to our decision down the stretch. I apologised many times to him and just wanted to make sure that he knew it was a very difficult decision.” Reed’s absence undoubtedly damages the competitive spectacle of the event; however, European fans cannot be blamed for omitting a small sigh of relief. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Shane Lowry seeking to seal Ryder Cup spot at BMW PGA Championship
Sep 9, 2021 2:06 AM
 
To an elite-level sportsman, not to mention a major champion, dealing with pressure is an everyday part of the job. However, Shane Lowry would hardly be human were he not feeling a little extra heat heading into the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this week. For in addition to the natural level of pressure attendant to competing the European Tour’s flagship event – with €1 million and upwards of 60 Official World Golf Ranking points on offer for the winner – Lowry occupies the final automatic qualification spot for the European Ryder Cup squad. But with qualification points doubling ahead of this week’s tournament at Wentworth, there are at least a dozen players in with a shout of leapfrogging him in the standings, including Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, Victor Perez of France, Robert McIntyre of Scotland, and Sergio Garcia of Spain. The Irishman, consequently, knows that a strong performance is his best defence against needing to rely on a captain’s pick for inclusion in the European selection at Whistling Straits. "Shane is in the hot seat, there's a number of players who can push their way into the team and a lot of points to play for this week," said European captain, Padraig Harrington, who will name his three wild cards a few hours after the tournament finishes on Sunday. "We wanted a bit of drama at the end and a bit of excitement, so yeah, it's going to be an interesting week. There's a lot of scenarios that we probably could sit down and go through at this stage, but we're going to have to wait till maybe Friday evening before we start looking at that a bit more." Great days golf with 3 legends today… @Robbie9Fowler @AP_McCoy @Ruby_Walsh @BMWPGA pic.twitter.com/wnHN0OCoe8 — Shane Lowry (@ShaneLowryGolf) September 8, 2021 Lowry, for his part, is focused on the job at hand and can draw confidence from the fact that he has recorded a runner-up finish (2014) in addition to four further top-10s through 11 starts at Wentworth, missing just a single cut. “Obviously I’m here and probably have a few people gunning for me this week but I’m in a great position. I’ve worked very hard this year to get there,” said Lowry. I’ve spent definitely the last five, six years trying to make a Ryder Cup team. So I feel like I’ve got a great opportunity this week and I’m looking forward to going out and trying to do it. “I’ve had some decent success around here and I’ve shot some good scores and played some good rounds. I’ve not quite won around here but I’ve not been far away a couple of times and hopefully I can give it a bit of a run this week,” While Lowry remains winless since claiming his maiden major championship title at 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush, he has shown strong, consistent form in 2021, consolidating his position inside of the world’s top-50. Since tying for eighth at the Players Championship in March, he has gradually rediscovered something approaching his best form. He finished tied-21st at The Masters, he tied-9th at the RBC Heritage, he finished 4th at the US PGA Championship, he tied-6th at The Memorial Tournament, he tied-12th on the occasion of his Open Championship title defence at Royal St George’s, and more recently went T11-T26 through two FedEx Cup playoff starts. With a major title and a WGC victory on his resume, Lowry is unquestionably the most distinguished European golfer of his generation who has yet to represent the old continent at a Ryder Cup. Regardless of the points race, a solid performance at Wentworth this week should be sufficient to assure him of wildcard selection. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Italian Open: Nicolai Højgaard follows twin brother Rasmus in claiming European Tour victory
Sep 7, 2021 3:57 AM
 
As sibling rivalries go, those that obtain between twins are notoriously intense. With just seconds separating the pair at birth, and with both being possessed of a profound physical resemblance, child psychologists have long observed how twins internalize the impetus to distinguish oneself socially from a very early stage and tend to measure social progress and recognition against one another. This compelling psycho-familial dynamic was dramatized vividly on the European Tour last week when Nicolai Højgaard sunk a birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the Italian Open, just seven days after his identical twin brother, Rasmus drained a similar clutch birdie on the 18th to win the European Masters in Switzerland. Talk about keeping-up pace with one’s siblings. The 20-year-old started the day one ahead and cancelled out a three-putt bogey at the second by holing a 12-foot birdie at the fifth and adding a close-range birdie at the 11th, only to lose outright lead by carding back-to-back bogeys from the 14th. The fast-improving Pole, Adrian Meronk had charged from six behind after pitching in for eagle from off the 11th green and back-to-back birdies over his next two holes, with pars over the closing stretch seeing him set the target at 12 under. However, Højgaard held his nerve impressively to birdie the 18th and close out a single-stroke victory over Meronk and England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who had also birdied the last for a closing 71, narrowly missing out on a first European Tour title since November 2019. Nicolai Højgaard wins the #DSOpendItalia! pic.twitter.com/P6eZIrJ1q4— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 5, 2021 "I was getting emotional after the last putt," Hojgaard told Sky Sports. "I could see my caddie, my girlfriend, Rasmus and his girlfriend. It has been a perfect week. To finish it off like this, the week after Rasmus won, is perfect. "It's been such a tough day. I've been through every emotion in my body and brain. It's what I've dreamed of. It's what I've been working hard on all year and all my life so I'm really pleased with it. "I've been nervous many times before but nothing like it [on 18]. I couldn't almost move the putter to be honest. I'm really happy and can't wait to celebrate." Unsurprisingly, it marked the first time in European Tour history that brothers have won back-to-back tournaments and, significantly, Nicolai made his breakthrough on the very course where the 43rd Ryder Cup is set to be staged in 2023, the redesigned Marco Simone course just outside Rome. Revealingly, the Dane, now ranked a career-best No.182 in the Official World Golf Rankings, exactly 100-spots behind Rasmus, expressed optimism that he and his brother could represent Europe at the event. "In a couple years I could definitely see myself playing the Ryder Cup" Nicolai added after collecting the winner's check for 485,000 euros ($575,000). "That's one of my biggest dreams -- to win the Ryder Cup. Not just to participate but to win ... and I would love to come here to Rome in '23." "Me and my brother would love to play together," Nicolai said. "We've been doing that back home when we're playing events. So that's definitely a goal of ours and I can't wait to come back." It will be fascinating to observe how the Danish pairing’s fledgling careers progress. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Patrick Cantlay Denies Jon Rahm to Secure $15m FedEx Cup Victory
Sep 6, 2021 3:03 AM
 
There’s no standard or ideal way to win a golf tournament. Whether you close-out a wire-to-wire advantage or capitalise on the final-round capitulation of a runaway leader, all that matters, ultimately, is the name on top of the leaderboard come Sunday evening. Indeed, the only strategic imperative underlying tournament victories at every level of golf – from captain’s cups to major championships – is that you keep yourself in contention toward the summit of the leaderboard as the event enters its closing stages. But although the only detail that counts in calculating prize money and ranking points is the name of the winner, one cannot deny that the character of the winning performance has a key determining impact in shaping popular reception of the event. And, as career-defining victories on the PGA Tour go, they seldom tend to get more spectacular than that achieved by Patrick Cantlay at the FedEx Cup playoff-ending Tour Championship at East Lake last weekend. The 29-year-old teed-off for the event with a two-stroke lead after surging to the summit of the FedEx Cup standings courtesy of victory at the BMW Championship the previous week. Three rounds in the 60s were, consequently, sufficient to ensure he began the final-round with his two-shot advantage intact, though he was trailed closely by world No1, Jon Rahm. With third-place, Justin Thomas a further three shots back, the race for the title was always going to be between the top two. Cantlay moved three ahead with a birdie on the second but Rahm closed to within one with a birdie on the fifth as the American had a three-putt bogey. Back-to-back wins and a #FedExCup title! @Patrick_Cantlay has put the @PlayoffFinale on ice. pic.twitter.com/wLvvPp8HDw — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 5, 2021 That was as close as the Spaniard got though. He was again within one when Cantlay bogeyed the 17th but his birdie on the par-five closing hole was matched by the American who held on for the biggest win of his career. "I just kept telling myself to focus and lock in and I did a great job of that”, Cantlay reflected. "It was definitely different than any other week. It was the longest lead I've ever held. "But I just tried to stay, day after day in the present, and I did an amazing job of that this week because the last couple days I made some mistakes I don’t usually make and I was able to really centre myself and hit a lot of good shots when I needed to. "Jon and I had distanced ourselves from the field and it was like a one-on-one match play feel, and I think it will be great practice for the Ryder Cup." With this victory, Cantlay has now won six times on the PGA Tour in the last five years and, consolidated firmly inside of the world’s top-five, only Rahm, Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa are positioned above him in the Official World Golf Rankings. Conspicuously, Cantlay is the only member of that elite band who has yet to claim a major title; his primary target for the 2022 campaign, therefore, seems clear. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Henrik Stenson keeps Ryder Cup hopes alive with strong start in Rome
Sep 3, 2021 5:00 AM
 
To reflect on the trajectory of Henrik Stenson’s career in the three years that have passed since the 41st Ryder Cup in Paris is to meditate on the caprice and perversity that characterises elite level golf. Stenson, who began the 2018 campaign ranked inside of the world’s top-10, was in strong form upon arriving at Le Golf National to represent Europe in his sixth career Ryder Cup. The former Open Champion had finished inside of the top-6 at both The Masters and US Open in the preceding months, and while he failed to add to his 21 professional titles, a run of eight top-10 finishes to just two missed-cuts through 20 appearances rendered his starting position in captain, Thomas Bjorn’s squad an inevitability. The Swede went on to partner Justin Rose to two victories from two in team golf before dispatching Bubba Watson 5&4 in the Sunday singles session. He, consequently, joined teammate, Francesco Molinari as one of only two players in the field to depart Le Golf National with a 100% winning record following a 17.5-10.5 victory. His status as one of the foremost players in world golf remained, at that stage, uncontested and he was still regarded among the favourites to contend for major championship honours looking ahead to the 2019 campaign. But in a fashion depressingly analogous to that of Molinari, Stenson’s form has nosedived in the three seasons since the Paris Ryder Cup to the extent that he is in a race against time to make a seventh representative appearance for Europe at Whistling Straits next month. While the Swede triumphed at the unofficial Hero World Challenge event at the end of 2019, he is winless in over three seasons on the PGA and European Tours, and a dismal run of six missed-cuts to zero top-10 finishes through 14 starts during a pandemic-impacted 2020 campaign caused him to slip outside of the world’s top-60 for the first time in over a decade. Moreover, any hopes of a rapid recovery during the opening months of the 2021 season were dispelled when the Gothenburg native missed 11 cuts inside of his first 16 starts, plummeting outside of the world’s top-200. Congratulations partner! @ANNIKA59 #USSeniorWomensOpen pic.twitter.com/v0Pgulh51y— Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) August 2, 2021 But just as Stenson’s Ryder Cup hopes looked to have vanished decisively, he produced three rounds in the 60s en route to his first top-five finish in over two seasons at the Czech Masters. At the Omega European Masters the following week, he shot a final-round 63 to finish in outright third. Making his third start in as many weeks at the Italian Open in Rome on Thursday, he carded seven birdies in a flawless opening 64 to grab a share the clubhouse lead with Min Woo Lee and Kalle Samooja. “Once again I think I played a good round of golf,” Stenson said afterward. “More than anything I feel like I am in a good frame of mind to play golf and to try and get the best score out of my game. There is still more to wish for, but we’ve got to take the positives and keep working on the rest.” In addition to surging back inside of the world’s top-150, Stenson has forced himself back on to European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington’s wildcard radar ahead of the Wisconsin event at the end of the month. Indeed, on present form, he can conceivably make a stronger case for inclusion than other veterans vying for a captain’s pick, such as Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter. A victory in Rome this weekend might just render Stenson’s wildcard credentials unignorable. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka vs DeChambeau feud reaches nadir as PGA Tour intervene
Sep 2, 2021 12:49 AM
 
And so, with a grim sense of inevitably, the unbecoming feud that has in recent months captured the imagination of the golfing world slumped to a new nadir as PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan determined it appropriate to intervene publicly. Just days after Bryson DeChambeau reacted angrily to a cry of "Great job, Brooksy", a reference to Brooks Koepka, following a narrow playoff defeat to in the BMW Championship, Monahan said that "pent-up demand" to watch live sport during the coronavirus pandemic had played out in an "ugly way", and clarified that the PGA Tour would be adopting a zero-tolerance attitude towards those who taunt players. "We have to be intentional about our expectations for fan behaviour and I believe our fan code of conduct does that," Monahan added. "By coming to a PGA Tour event, you're expected to contribute to a welcoming and safe environment by refraining from and reporting any unsafe, disruptive, or harassing behaviour. "Comments or gestures that undermine the inclusive and welcoming nature of the game will not be tolerated, nor will any harassment of players, caddies, volunteers, officials, staff or other spectators. Fans who breach our code of conduct are subject to expulsion from the tournament and loss of their credential or ticket." A ball from @B_DeChambeau left this kid in pure disbelief. pic.twitter.com/ct6QFpzRs3— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 28, 2021 Asked specifically if shouting "Brooksy" at DeChambeau would constitute harassment, Monahan said: "Yes, and the reason I say yes is the barometer that we are all using is the word respect, and to me, when you hear "Brooksy" yelled or you hear any expression yelled, the question is, is that respectful or disrespectful? "That has been going on for an extended period of time. To me, at this point, it's disrespectful, and that's (the) kind of behaviour that we're not going to tolerate going forward." The bad blood between DeChambeau and Koepka goes back several years. In January 2019, Koepka was one of several golfers to criticise DeChambeau for slow play. The animosity stepped up last year when DeChambeau, famous for his work in the gym, joked about Koepka’s physique. Koepka responded by tweeting: “You were right @b_dechambeau I am 2 short of a 6 pack!” along with a photo of his four major trophies. DeChambeau had not won a major at the time but has won last year’s US Open since. Relations between the pair sunk to a new low at the US PGA Championship at Kiwah Island in June, when leaked video of an unaired Golf Channel interview hit social media, highlighting the visible contempt in which Koepka holds his rival. Since then, public and media interest in the conflict has grown exponentially and fans at several events have been ejected for taunting DeChambeau with cries of “Brooksy”, a behaviour Koepka controversially incentivized with an offer of free beer. As this blog reflected previously, the feud undermines the culture of mutual, gentlemanly respect that distinguishes golf and it has had a profound deleterious impact of DeChambeau’s performances. The sooner it is resolved, the better for the sport. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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