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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
2018 Open Championship Betting Preview
Jul 18, 2018 11:34 AM
 
The PGA and European Tour golfing elite converge at the mouth of the Barry Burn for The Open at Carnoustie this week. Here follow our top-three tips for the tournament. Outright winner: Dustin Johnson (16/1) It is difficult to dispute Dustin Johnson’s status as favourite for this one; 16/1 is a short but fair price. The 34-year-old opened 2018 with a bang following an eight-stroke victory away from an elite field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, and although a cold putter cost him dearly over the final 36 holes at the US Open last time out (he finished third), he won by six shots away from Andrew Putnam at the St Jude Classic the previous week. Indeed, Johnson has top-10ed in eight of his 12 starts across all Tours this season, missing zero cuts; he is a massively underrated links player with three top-10s to his name in nine starts at The Open (including a runners-up finish in 2011), and ranks inside of the PGA Tour’s top-20 in both strokes-gained putting (18th) and strokes-gained tee-to-green (1st) in 2018. If the world No.1 hits top-gear at Carnoustie it is difficult to envisage any of his rivals stopping him. 10 gloves, rain gear, snacks, and 1960s quarters. Explore all the essentials (and non-essentials) Dustin Johnson and Austin Johnson have in the bag at #TheOpen: https://t.co/mSI3jiIay5 pic.twitter.com/DNVsgmtj4g — TaylorMade Golf (@TaylorMadeGolf) July 16, 2018 Each-way bet: Henrik Stenson (33/1) Henrik Stenson has endured a comparatively fallow period since claiming his maiden major championship title in sensational style by three shots away from Phil Mickelson at the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon. While a 2017 record encompassing three top-10s, three top-threes and a single stroke victory away from Ollie Schniederjans at the Wyndham Championship is nothing to be sniffed at, it is striking that Stenson fell from fourth down to ninth in the Official World Golf Rankings and went CUT-CUT-T11-T13 at the majors. On the face of it, Stenson’s position has continued to deteriorate. Indeed, he will travel to the second major of the season at Carnoustie ranked No.17 in the world, his lowest spot since first cracking the top-10 back in 2013. Nevertheless, there is reason for Stenson fans to feel optimistic regarding the veteran’s chances at The Open. The 42-year-old arrives in Scotland off the back of a sensational run of four top-sixes through his last seven starts, finishing no lower than T23 (including a T5 at The Masters and a T6 at the US Open) and he owns four previous top-three finishes at The Open Championship. The Swede is always there or there about at the big events and looks well-placed contend in relatively benign weather conditions. Outsider: Ian Poulter (80/1) Ian Poulter’s playoff victory over Beau Hossler at the Houston Open in April couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. The 42-year-old battled back from a 1-over opening round of 73 with three consecutive scores of 67 or better to force his way into a play-off before ending a six year trophy drought on the first extra-hole. Thanks to his win, Poulter jumped from No. 109 to No. 20 in the FedExCup standings (he now is No. 26) and earned a two-year exemption to the PGA Tour, carrying him through the 2019-20 season. Indeed, 16 starts this season Poulter has recorded five top-10 finishes, rising back inside of the world’s top-30, and he owns three top-10 finishes at The Open, including runners-up in 2008 and a T3 in 2013. As outsider bets go, few represent better value than Poulter. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Question-marks linger over Fowler following Scottish Open
Jul 17, 2018 11:02 AM
Tags: Rickie Fowler   Scottish Open   News   The Open  
 
Media response to last week’s Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club has understandably focused on champion, Brandon Stone’s brush with history. For in addition to surging from three-shots down to claim a top-tier European Tour event when ranked outside of the world’s top-300, Stone came within inches of becoming the first player ever to sign for a 59 in a 72-hole stroke-play event. Ultimately, the South African needed to content himself with a 10-under final round of 60 and the bonus prize of a spot at this week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie; but perhaps the most significant take away was Rickie Fowler’s failure to convert a strong 54-hole position into a tournament victory. Fowler arrived in Scotland trading as a heavy 10/1 favourite to reclaim the title he last won in 2015. The initial signs were promising; he dropped five birdies and an eagle en route to a 6-under opening-round 64; he signed for a 4-under 66 on Friday, and recovered from an error-strewn front-nine to rescue a 2-under 68 on Friday. That scoring left the world No.7 dangerously positioned within a single stroke of the unknown Swede, Jens Dantorp’s 13-under, 54-hole lead; a first victory of the season appeared very much on the cards. Rickie Fowler's 458-yard drive. pic.twitter.com/OVssyI82rU— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) 14 July 2018 But when push came to shove on Sunday, Fowler was nowhere to be seen. He started brightly with a birdie on the par-5 second-hole; however, he fell back to Even following a bogey on the par-4 fourth and was already slipping out of contention by the time he reached the turn at 1-under. Two further birdies followed on the back-nine, mitigated by a bogey on the par-4 fourteenth, leaving the Californian to sign for a 2-under total and a T6 finish, six shots shy of Stone’s winning score. No player can blamed for being beaten by a peerless performance such a Stone’s; however, Fowler’s never remotely threatened to contend, and had the Ryder Cup star gained meaningful momentum on the front-nine, there is fair reason to doubt whether Stone would have been able to enjoy quite the low-scoring round he did. Indeed, Fowler’s disappointing weekend scoring at Gullane must be understood in the broader context of a consistent pattern of underperformance when under pressure at high-profile events. The Californian has recorded more than twice as many runners-up finishes (15) as he has tournament victories (6) on the PGA and European Tours in nine seasons as a professional and, at 29, his continuing inability to capitalise on strong Sunday positions is increasingly coming to resemble a form of psychological complex. Until Fowler demonstrates a consistent ability to score low under pressure, one struggles to see him getting over the line at major championship level. Don’t expect this pattern to alter drastically at Carnoustie. [Photo Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Stone lays down Open Championship marker at Gullane
Jul 16, 2018 3:14 PM
 
It is ultimately a testament to the outstanding quality of Brandon Stone’s final-round at the Standard Investments Scottish Open that he departed the 18th green with a rueful shake of the head. Just minutes earlier the 25-year-old stood over a 10-foot birdie putt that, if converted, would have rendered him the first player ever to sign for a round of 59 at a 72-hole European Tour event. The ball looked to have honed-in on the correct line and trundled dangerously close to the hole, only to veer left at the last moment and slide agonisingly past the cup. Stone sunk to his haunches, clasped his hands to his mouth and looked to the heavens before tapping in for a par and heading back to the clubhouse. It wasn't all bad for the South African golfer, though. After all, Stone’s 10-under final-round of 60 was still comfortably sufficient to seal a four-shot victory away from Eddie Pepperell at Gullane Golf Club, earning him a third professional title of his career — the first outside his native country — and the bonus prize of a qualifying spot in next week's British Open just up the east coast at Carnoustie. For the first ever @EuropeanTour 59....#ASIScottishOpen #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/cT6dETlehk— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) 15 July 2018 "When that thing went home, the emotions came flooding," the three-time Sunshine Tour winner reflected. "I had to really struggle to keep it in. It's been a long 18-month journey making a few changes, but the swing felt incredible today, the putting even better and the mental state was flawless. "A day when you shoot 60 and win the Scottish Open is something I'm going to hold dear to my heart for a very long time." This was a vintage performance from Stone, who trailed the surprise 54-hole leader, Jens Dantorp by three heading into the final-round. Back-to-back birdies on the par-4 first and par-5 second holes immediately thrust him into contention for the title; further dropped shots at the fifth and ninth-holes ensured he reached the turn within touching distance of the lead. It was on the inward stretch, however, that his scoring really ignited; he dropped four shots in six holes between the tenth and fifteenth before converting a 40-footer for eagle on the sixteenth to effectively seal the title. A birdie on either of the final two holes, of course, would have etched Stone’s name into the European Tour history books. Ultimately, it was not to be; but back up to the fringes of the world’s top-100, the South African can still hope to mount an outsider’s challenge at Carnoustie in a four-days’ time. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tyrrell Hatton strengthens Ryder Cup credentials at Scottish Open
Jul 15, 2018 9:02 AM
 
It already feels an age ago, admittedly, but cast your mind back to the December/January wrap-around period for a moment and try to recall the young PGA and European Tour professionals you saw tipped for a ‘big’ 2018. John Rahm was a prominent name, of course; Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau slightly less so. However, one of the most ubiquitous tips was one Mr. Tyrrell Hatton. There was sound logic underpinning this perspective. Hatton won twice and carded four further top-20 finishes during his final six starts in 2017, successfully defending his Alfred Dunhill Links title by three shots away from Ross Fischer at St Andrews in October before winning his third European Tour title by a stroke away from Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Fischer at the Italian Open the following week. A little fun at @GullaneGolfClub @ScottishOpen pic.twitter.com/gLd1arVR6t— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowler) July 14, 2018 Indeed, Hatton totalled nine top-10s through 25 starts in 2017 and finished the season at a career-high of No.16 in the Official World Golf Rankings. It seemed only a matter of time until the 26-year-old gate-crashed the top-10 and claimed a breakthrough at World Golf Championship or perhaps major championship-level. The initial signs were promising. Hatton opened 2018 with a T15-T3 run during the European Tour’s middle-eastern swing; an MC followed on the occasion of his seasonal debut on the PGA Tour at the Honda Classic, however, he then went on to shoot three-rounds under 70 en route to a T3 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship, one stroke shy of joining of Justin Thomas and Phil Mickelson in the play-off. That result, Englishman’s highest-ever finish at WGC-level, catapulted him up to No.13 in the OWGR; the grandiose prophecies of the wrap-around period looked poised to be vindicated. But after Mexico, Hatton’s form dried-up; he missed four cuts and failed to finish higher than T9 in seven subsequent starts, tumbling back outside of the world’s top-20. Suddenly his hopes of making a Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National in Paris this autumn appeared gravely diminished. Then came an exceptional return to form at a brutal US Open at Erin Hills (T6) and a solid T16 at the French Open, a dynamic that has continued in Scotland over the previous three days. Indeed, the Buckinghamshire-native tees-off for the final round of the Scottish Open within two shots of Jen Dantorp’s surprise 13-under lead and, regardless of who takes the title on Sunday, he looks poised to be a serious contender for the Claret Jug at Carnoustie next week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Molinari can dream of belated major breakthrough at Carnoustie
Jul 14, 2018 6:20 AM
 
As preparations for Open Championships go, a severely weather-delayed John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois is perhaps not ideal. But whatever transpires across the next two days at the storm-hit, TPC Deere Run, Francesco Molinari can travel to Carnoustie next week with bona fide hopes of claiming a maiden major championship triumph in his fifteenth season on the professional circuit. The Italian, who arrived in Illinois trading as a 12/1 second-favourite with the bookies, shot eight birdies en route to a six-under opening-round 65; on Friday, meantime, he signed for a 66 to draw to within five-shots of Michael Kim’s surprise 16-under 36-hole total. Then, of course, the storms hit, disrupting play; but given Kim is winless in 84 career PGA Tour starts, there is fair reason to doubt he will be able to sustain such scoring when the pressure comes on during the weekend rounds. Molinari looks as well placed to pounce as any member of a relatively week field and, frankly, it would feel fitting were he to arrive in Scotland next week fresh off the back of a victory. “I had a dark period in my golf career ... I couldn’t stand on a tee and know if it was going 50 (yards) left or 50 right." 2008 @CudaChamp winner @ParkerMcLachlin is contending @JDCLASSIC.https://t.co/UKgFc8kfB2 — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 14, 2018 Molinari is presently enjoying one of the richest veins of form in his entire career. He started 2018 slowly, missing two cuts and failing to post a single top-10 finish through the course of his first 10 starts of the season. But since MC-ing at The Players Championship at Sawgrass in May, his scoring has caught fire. He shot three rounds under 70 en route to claiming his fifth European Tour title by two strokes away from Rory McIlroy at the BMW Championship at Wentworth; the following week, he finished within a stroke of Thorbjorn Olesen’s winning total at his home Open in Italy. A solid, T25 finish at a gruelling US Open at Shinnecock followed before he won his maiden PGA Tour title by six shots at the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac in Maryland at the beginning of this month. This form has catapulted Molinari into the top-15 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time since 2010; he is firmly in contention for both the European and PGA Tour order of merit titles and has effectively rendered himself a dead-cert for inclusion in Thomas Bjorn’s Ryder Cup squad for Le Golf National. Frankly put, Molinari is one of the form players in world golf at present, particularly on the putting green, and there is little reason to doubt his capacity to vie with the game’s elite for the Claret Jug at Carnoustie. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Can Spieth defend his Open crown?
Jul 13, 2018 10:44 AM
 
When historians come to reflect on Jordan Spieth’s Open Championship triumph at Royal Birkdale last year, the pivotal moment will be identified, not as when he salvaged a spectacular par after driving his ball 100 yards to the right of the fairway on the par-4 13th, or even as when he drained a 35-foot putt for an eagle at 15, but as when he chipped-in from a greenside bunker to defeat Daniel Berger in a play-off at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, two weeks before traveling to England. After all, Spieth arrived at the Travelers off the back of an indifferent run of form encompassing one top-10 and three missed-cuts in 10 starts. He ceded eight shots to Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose during the final round of the Masters en route to a drab, T11 finish and finished 17 shots off champion, Brooks Koepka, at the US Open at Erin Hills. It was that stunning, last-gasp triumph at TPC River Highlands that transformed Spieth’s 2017 from a solid if unspectacular campaign into a banner season, laying the foundation for his victory at Royal Birkdale two-weeks later. The 24-year-old could have been forgiven, therefore, for hoping for a similar catalytic-effect upon returning to River Highlands to defend his Travelers crown last weekend. Once more, Spieth arrived in Connecticut in search of his first win in a number of months; once more, he was in desperate search of a return to form in time to contest The Open. Jordan Spieth will look to repeat at The Open Championship July 19-22 Current World Ranking: 6 2018 Master’s finish: 3rd 2018 US Open finish: Cut #PGATour pic.twitter.com/NzBg862vLe — IKE Golf (@IKEGolfOfficial) July 9, 2018 Unfortunately, on this occasion, no catharsis was forthcoming; a 7-under opening round of 63 immediately thrust him into contention for the title; however, he was unable to break 69 through the subsequent 54-holes and ultimately slumped to a T42 finish, 13-shots shy of Bubba Watson’s winning total. Spieth consequently travels to Carnoustie to attempt to defend his Open title next week ranked outside of the world’s top-5 for the first time in the guts of two-years; he has failed to card a single top-20 finish in six starts since challenging at The Masters and has registered as many missed-cuts (4) as he has managed top-10 finishes through 16 starts this season. Put simply, the Texan remains some way off recapturing the form that propelled him to three majors in three seasons between 2015 and 2017, a circumstance embodied in a 173rd (out of 200) strokes-gained putting rank on the PGA Tour. Until Spieth rediscovers some semblance of consistency on the greens, it is extremely difficult to envisage him snapping a year-long trophy drought. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
How McIlroy has restored the Irish Open to an elite-level
Jul 12, 2018 12:29 PM
Tags: Irish Open   European Tour   Rory McIlroy   News  
 
Rory McIlroy undoubtedly departed the Irish Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club last week harbouring a few regrets. Once more the Northern Irishman submitted a superlative performance from tee-to-green and, once more, an inconsistent putting stroke conspired to undermine his progress, limiting him to an indifferent T33 finish. But although McIlroy travels to Carnoustie for next week’s Open Championship with a great many technical issues to sort-out, he can at least reflect positively on the conclusion of his four-year tenure as Irish Open host and sponsor. After all, when the telecommunications company 3 switched its main sporting sponsorship from golf to soccer following the 2010 Irish Open at Killarney, the tournament seemed in terminal decline. While the intervention of a series of short-term sponsors such as Fáilte Ireland and the Northern Irish Tourist Board ensured that the competition continued to function from one year to the next, funding was significantly reduced. The quality of golfer contesting the Irish Open diminished a rate commensurate with the size of its prize-pot and the tournament consequently lost heavily in prestige. Course is magnificent. Amazing crowds as always for an Irish Open and I’m sure we’ll get the tournament that everyone at Ballyliffin’s hard work deserves pic.twitter.com/Zpa08J1ExI— Darren Clarke (@DarrenClarke60) July 4, 2018 The 2010 event had a purse of €3 million which was halved to €1.5 million in 2011, at which point the tournament was relegated to the financial level of events like the Trophée Hassan and the Johor Open. By 2012, the European Tour needed to intervene directly in order to keep the competition alive, propping up the prize-fund to €2 million in 2013 and 2014. Then came the transformative intervention of Rory McIlroy, Dubai Duty Free and the charitable Rory Foundation in 2015. Immediately the prize purse shot-up to €4 million, media attention was heightened, the quality of the field improved and a sense of optimism returned to the tournament. Indeed, McIlroy personally recruited former world No.4, Rickie Fowler; four-time major winner, Ernie Els, and reigning Masters champion, Sergio García to compete in 2015. “He saved the thing single-handedly,” Paul McGinley reflected when asked for his thoughts on the standing the Irish Open ahead of taking over the running of the event from McIlroy next year. “It’s finally getting back to its best.” Last week’s tournament epitomised this revival; for although only five of the world’s top-50 were present in Donegal, the Irish Open’s field was considerably stronger than that contesting the Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour and the European event boasted a more lucrative prize-pot. In 2015, McIlroy pledged a desire to see the Irish Open “go from strength to strength”; he has emphatically fulfilled that ambition and can travel to Lahinch in 12-months’ time with a lighter work-load, confident in the knowledge he prevented a cherished national institution from vanishing. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2018 John Deere Classic Betting Preview
Jul 11, 2018 11:00 AM
 
The PGA Tour travels to TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois for the John Deere Classic this week; here follows our three top tips for the tournament. 1: Bryson DeChambeau, 10/1 It wouldn’t take a genius to identify DeChambeau as the outstanding favourite in this week’s field. After all, the 24-year-old claimed his maiden PGA Tour title at this event 12-months ago, triumphing by a stroke away from Patrick Rodgers, and he returns to defend his crown in the midst of an exceptional run of form. For in addition to registering five top-10s, including a runners-up finish at Bay Hill and a T3 at Harbour Town, through the course of his first 16 starts of the season, DeChambeau won his second PGA Tour event at Memorial last month and he finished ninth at the Travelers last time out, rising up as high as No.22 in the world. To celebrate a busy weekend of golf at CDGA member clubs, we’re giving away tickets to the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS and the John Deere Classic. Simply RT this tweet & follow us on Instagram (cdgagolf) by 1 p.m. CDT tomorrow, 7/11, to enter the random drawing. pic.twitter.com/8agEBJ1kBg— CDGA (@CDGAGolf) July 10, 2018 10/1 is by no means short for a player in this kind of form. 2: Francesco Molinari, 12/1 Should DeChambeau falter in Silvis, Francesco Molinari looks extremely well-placed to capitalise on a very open field. The Italian claimed his maiden PGA Tour title by six shots at the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac in Maryland at the beginning of this month; in June, meantime, he won his sixth European Tour accolade by two strokes away from Rory McIlroy the BMW PGA Championship and finished second at the Italian Open. At No.16 in the world, Molinari is one of the form players in top-level golf and looks a serious threat for the title. 3: Zach Johnson, 16/1 At first glance, Zach Johnson looks short this week. After all, the 42-year-old is winless almost three years since claiming his second major championship title at The Open at St Andrews in 2015, a barren run that has caused him to slip from 13th in the Official World Golf Rankings as of 31 December 2015, to No.49 as of the beginning of this week. He does, however, arrive in Illinois off the back of an encouraging T12-T19 run through the US Open and the Travelers Championship and boasts an exceptional 2-21-3-1-2-2-3-34-5 record at the John Deere through the last nine seasons. As each way bets go, one struggles to conceive of a better value option than Johnson this week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Knox reignites Ryder Cup hopes with Irish Open victory
Jul 10, 2018 12:47 PM
 
When Russell Knox claimed his second PGA Tour title by a single stroke away from Jerry Kelly at the Travelers Championship two-years ago, it seemed only a matter of time until he gate-crashed the sport’s elite. After all, the River Highlands triumph came less than a year after Knox made his PGA Tour breakthrough in spectacular fashion at the at the 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai; it marked the occasion of his sixth professional title in six seasons from 2010, and catapulted him up as high as No.18 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Furthermore, the victory appeared to render the Scot a dead-cert for Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup squad; were it not for the fact that his WGC triumph came at a time when he was not a European Tour member, the Travelers Championship would have guaranteed him automatic selection. But after being controversially overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild-card at Hazeltine in September 2016, Knox entered into a period of protracted and deeply worrying decline. MASSIVE.Russell Knox wins the 2018 #DDFIrishOpen pic.twitter.com/4fmhDuS7oK— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 8, 2018 A run of 13 missed-cuts to just two top-10s through 29 starts in 2017 cause him to drop down as low as No.77 in the Official World Golf Rankings. A run of five missed-cuts through his first 12 starts in 2018, meantime, caused him to slip outside of the top-130 as recently as 3 June. By that point, a spot on Thomas Bjorn’s Ryder Cup squad for Le Golf National this autumn seemed less a remote ambition than a chimera; the 33-year-old was beginning to look in danger of losing his playing-card. Then came a sudden return to form with a T12 at the US Open at Shinnecock Golf Club; three weeks later, he posted a final-round 65 en route to a T2 finish at the French Open. Knox consequently arrived at Ballyliffin Golf Club in Co. Donegal for the Irish Open last week ranked 89th in the world and with a moderate air of momentum gathering around his game. The Scot opened with a solid, 1-under 71 on Thursday; however, 3 and 4-under rounds of 69 and 68 across Friday and Saturday thrust him firmly into contention for the title; indeed, he teed-off on Sunday in a tie for third, five shots shy of Erik van Rooyen’s surprise 54-hole lead and one behind New Zealander Ryan Fox and Swede Joakim Lagergren. A 3-under front-nine, allied to van Rooyen’s collapse, provided Knox with a surprise opening to push for the title and he arrived on the 18th knowing a birdie would force a play-off with Fox. He promptly went on to drop a 40-foot-birdie on his 72nd hole to force the tournament to over-time and repeated the trick on the first extra hole to end an agonising two-year trophy drought in sensational fashion. Back up to No.49 in the world, Knox has a real chance of avenging the disappointment of 2016 by qualifying for Bjorn’s side for Paris. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Na ends trophy drought in style at Greenbrier
Jul 9, 2018 12:41 PM
Tags: Kevin Na   Greenbrier Classic   News   pga tour  
 
Golf, as players of all levels know, is a sport that rewards patience and persistence; an ability to sacrifice short-term satisfaction in pursuit of long-term goals and to maintain perspective in the wake of bitter disappointment is an essential prerequisite to success. This is as true over the course of the longue durée of an elite-level career as it is in the context of individual holes, rounds and tournaments. Just take the case of Kevin Na at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier on Sunday. The Korean arrived at White Sulphur Springs ranked No.65 in the Official World Golf Rankings, and although a run of four top-10s in 16 starts in 2018 signalled something of a return to form (most notably tying for second at the Genesis Open in February, two shots behind Bubba Watson), seven-years had passed since he claimed his maiden PGA Tour title by two-strokes away from Nick Watney at the Shriners Hospital for Children’s Open back in October 2011. It's been a long time coming. Kevin Na claims his second career PGA TOUR victory at @GBRMilitary.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/ajckd8c5mF— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 8, 2018 Indeed, Na had made well over 100 PGA Tour starts since claiming his breakthrough victory, posting three dozen top-10 finishes, without claiming a second title. Any player could be forgiven for allowing his head to dip when faced with such enduring frustration over such a sustained period of time. Na, however, persisted; on Sunday, he was rewarded for his patience. Starting the final-round one stroke behind co-leaders Harold Varner and Kelly Kraft, Na birdied six of his first 10 holes to open a big lead on the Old White TPC; from there, he cruised cancelling out a bogey on the par-4 11th with a birdie on the par-3 16th to close-out a 6-under 64 and a five-shot victory away from Kraft. "My putter got hot," the 34-year-old reflected upon reaching the clubhouse. "The first day the putter felt awful, and (then) it just clicked. Every time I got over the ball it felt great, and everything felt like it was going in." In addition to ending an agonising, seven-year trophy drought, Na has climbed back into the top-50 of the world rankings; furthermore, a lucrative $1.31 million winner's paycheck has propelled him more than 40 spots up the FedEx Cup standings to No. 18. Na’s triumph at Greenbrier is a lesson in persistence and the virtues of never allowing one’s head to drop or one’s motivation to diminish. For that alone, irrespective of the outstanding quality of his golf, his victory was richly deserved. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Willett displays signs of revival at Irish Open
Jul 8, 2018 5:28 AM
 
It may well be a case of too little, too late for Danny Willett at the Irish Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club in County Donegal this week. The 30-year-old closed-out his third-round with a sensational run of five birdies in seven holes; however, a double-bogey on the par-4 second allied to a bogey on the par-4 eighth ensured that he could ultimately only sign for a 3-under total of 69 and remains six-shots shy of the 28-year-old South African, Erik Van Rooyen’s 14-under, 54-hole lead. But although it remains deeply unlikely that Willett will be able to recoup such a sizeable deficit on Sunday, it is enormously heartening to see the Englishman back in contention for a top-level title after 18-months in the golfing wilderness. Willett reached a career-high of No.9 in the Official World Golf Rankings after claiming his maiden major championship title by three-strokes away from Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood at the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta; however, he subsequently slumped to 442nd in the rankings after suffering numerous injuries and a loss of form. Course is magnificent. Amazing crowds as always for an Irish Open and I’m sure we’ll get the tournament that everyone at Ballyliffin’s hard work deserves pic.twitter.com/Zpa08J1ExI— Darren Clarke (@DarrenClarke60) July 4, 2018 Indeed, the five-time European Tour winner arrived in Donegal off the back of his ninth missed-cut in 12 starts at the French Open and traded outside of 100/1 to end an agonising, 18-month trophy drought in the lucrative, £5.3million event. A 4-under opening round 68, however, immediately thrust Willett into contention for the title and two subsequent rounds of 70 and 69 means that he remains a live threat going into the final 18-holes, a circumstance that has not evaded the notice of European Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjorn. “It’s been tough to see somebody that good struggle for that amount of time but today was the Danny Willett of old and it’s nice to see,” Bjorn, who carded a 71 to finish level par, told Press Association Sport. “When you’re in that situation the Ryder Cup and all those things are so far from your mind, you’re working on a project that goes from day to day. Having two days like this is important, now comes the hard part of going the next two and enjoying it because you’ve done all the hard work to get back to here.” Clearly Willett remains a massive long-shot for inclusion in Paris; however, a victory in Ballyliffin on Sunday would rocket him back up the world rankings and provide the confidence required to contend at The Open and US PGA Championship. A fit and in-form Willett would be an enormous asset to the old continent in their quest to reclaim the title they lost in Hazeltine two-years ago. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Xander Schauffele in contention for repeat triumph at Greenbrier
Jul 7, 2018 7:36 AM
 
It already feels an age ago, admittedly, but cast your mind back to the December/January wrap-around period for a moment and try to recall the young PGA Tour professionals you saw tipped for a ‘big’ 2018. John Rahm was a prominent name, of course; Daniel Berger, slightly less so. However, one of the most ubiquitous tips was one Mr. Xander Schauffele. There was sound logic underpinning this perspective. The 24-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 last June; the following month, he claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory by a single stroke away from Robert Streb at the Greenbrier Classic. One of our favorite Phil/fan interactions of 2017 happened at Greenbrier. pic.twitter.com/qP9DksB9fX— Skratch (@Skratch) July 5, 2018 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. Indeed, Schauffele finished 2017 ranked No.25 in the world and given his exceptional rate of progress through his first year on the PGA Tour, there was good reason to suspect he would soon emulate the example of Rahm by pushing into the world’s top-10. This has yet to materialise. For although the Californian has posted some truly exceptional results, not least three rounds in the 60s en route to a T2 finish at The Players Championship and a T6 at a brutal US Open, he has missed more cuts (4) than he has registered top-10 finishes (3) through 16 starts in 2018 and he arrived in West Virginia to defend his Greenbrier title this week ranked No.24 in the world, one spot higher than was the case six-months ago. Progress, then, has slowed-up, and while Schauffele remains very much in contention at Old White TPC – two 4-under rounds of 66 leave him five-strokes shy of Kelly Kraft’s surprise 13-under, 36-hole lead – it seems increasingly unlikely that he will be able to force himself in David Love III’s Ryder Cup squad for Le Golf National in Paris this autumn. Indeed, he is only one of five players ranked in the top 30 at The Greenbrier. The others are Bubba Watson (No. 13), Phil Mickelson (No. 20), Webb Simpson (No. 21) and Brian Harman (No. 26). Five from the top 15 in the FedEx Cup are competing. Schauffele’s inconsistent 2018 form only serves to set the achievements of his counterparts like Rahm and Justin Thomas in sharper relief. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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