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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Cink wins Safeway Open, first title since 2009 Open
Sep 14, 2020 7:40 AM
 
When Stewart Cink bested Tom Watson in a dramatic four-hole aggregate playoff at the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry to claim his maiden major title, he appeared set to establish himself as a regular winner at the highest level of the professional game. After all, the then 36-year-old had spent 40 weeks in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking from 2004 to 2009, reaching a career best ranking of 5th in 2008, and Turnberry marked the occasion of sixth PGA Tour victory. The following month, he helped the United States to secure a 19​1⁄2–14​1⁄2 victory at the President’s Cup at Harding Park and he would go on to represent the Stars and Stripes at a fifth consecutive Ryder Cup the next year. Simply put, this time a decade ago Cink was a bona fide member of the PGA Tour elite and it seemed the only direction in which his golfing fortunes were trending was upwards. Golf, however, is a most capricious game and a combination of injuries, loss of form, and significant personal problems (notably, his wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2016) meant that the Alabama native was never to capitalise fully on the momentum generated by his success at Turnberry. Indeed, in 10 seasons after 2010, he registered just a single top-three finish worldwide and ceased to contend meaningfully at major championship level. His son on the bag. His wife by his side. A win @StewartCink's family will never forget. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/bXNGMyXcy4 — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 14, 2020 Inevitably this slump in form exerted a profound, deleterious impact on Cink’s world ranking, and he arrived at Silverado Springs to contest the Safeway Open last week positioned No.300. Needless to say, he didn’t count among the favourites to snap a decade-long trophy drought at the PGA Tour’s 2020/21 season-opener. But just as golf’s capriciousness can effect a precipitous slide down the rankings, the same characteristic can yield Phoenix-like narratives of redemption. We witnessed just that as Cink produced a stellar final round 65 to win the Safeway Open in California by two shots. The 47-year-old followed up a third-round 65 with another equally-impressive seven-under on Sunday to finish 21-under for the tournament and secure his first victory since the 2009 Open. Entering the final round tied for seventh, Cink took little time to continue his surge up the leaderboard as he carded four birdies on the front nine. His momentum carried over into the back nine, with four more birdies proving enough to overcome a bogey on the 17th and keep him ahead of runner-up Harry Higgs. Cink paid tribute to the help he received through the week from his son and caddie Reagan. He told the Golf Channel: "It's been a blast. Reagan's a great kid to be around. He knows the game in and out like a PGA Tour player himself and he did a great job keeping me positive and keeping me loose out there and we just had a really great time from the get-go." Back up to No.151 in the world rankings, the onus is now very much on Cink to push for a return to the top-100 over the coming months. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
John Daly diagnosed with bladder cancer
Sep 11, 2020 4:23 AM
 
There is a lot that goes into the making of a golfing legend. Sublime talent and consistent success, of course, are prerequisites; however, the profiles of those players who have exerted the most profound influence over the sport are imbued with an added significance. Some derive this enhanced status by virtue of an innate charisma – think Arnold Palmer or Seve Ballesteros, for instance. Some stand out for their historic significance – think of Tiger Woods smashing through the race barrier at the 1997 Masters. Others go down in history purely for the record-obliterating nature of their success (Mr. Nicklaus springs to mind). However, there is always an alternative route to enduring notoriety and it is a testament to the zealousness with which John Daly went about earning the nickname, ‘Wild Thing’ that the former Masters champion, Fuzzy Zoeller, reportedly had to fork out $150,000 as a consequence of losing an old bet that Daly would not make it to his fiftieth birthday. Daly is one of only a handful of PGA Tour stars to transcend his sport and he became commonly known outside of golfing circles. Part of this derived from his unquestionable talent and a remarkable capacity to hit the ball long distances. Indeed, it is frequently overlooked that Daly is a double-major champion and a former member of the world’s top-25. According to a report, two-time major winner John Daly has announced he's been diagnosed with cancer. https://t.co/FZ45axudQz— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) September 11, 2020 However, the Californian’s fame also derived in large-part from a long record of bad-behaviour connected to drinking, fast-food, drugs, gambling, lawsuits, failed-marriages and poor sportsmanship. Regrettably, Daly’s hard living ways appear to have caught up with him and it was revealed last week that he has been diagnosed with bladder cancer. While medics gladly detected the disease early, he may need further surgery if it returns. The 54-year-old American told Golf Channel the cancer was discovered during an appointment related to kidney stones. "(The doctor said) it doesn't look like any stones are in there. But unfortunately, you have bladder cancer," Daly said. "After I did the CT I was fixing to sip on my Diet Coke I got from McDonald’s and he said, 'Don’t drink anything. We have to get you back in here and get this cancer out of you.’" Daly underwent surgery to remove the cancer but said there was an 85% chance it could return, which would require more surgery. "Luckily for me they caught it early, but bladder cancer is something that I don’t know all the details," he said. Here’s hoping ‘Wild Thing’ can make a full recovery. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Xander Schauffele shot the best score of the Tour Championship, but says DJ 'deserved' victory
Sep 10, 2020 3:50 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Xander Schauffele. Three seasons on from claiming his second PGA Tour title at the Tour Championship, the 26-year-old again posted the lowest 72-hole total at East Lake, signing for four rounds in the 60s en route to what would typically be a three-stroke victory over Scottie Scheffler. However, this was not a normal tournament. Perhaps with Schauffele’s spoiling of Justin Thomas’ inauguration as the 2017 FedEx Cup champion in mind, the PGA Tour introduced a new, staggered-start format for the Tour Championship last year. Under the new system, players are handicapped based on FedEx Cup points earned during the season; thus, the FedEx Cup leader tees off at East Lake on 10 under par, while the second seed starts on eight under. The third seed tees off at seven under and so on down to the fifth seed at five under. Seeds 6-10 begin at −4; seeds 11-15 begin at −3; and so on, down to seeds 26-30, who start at level par. Schauffele consequently teed-off for the tournament seven shots behind FedEx Cup leader, Johnson on three under par, and although he fired the best score of the 30 competitors at East Lake (265; 15-under), he had to settle for a share of second place with Thomas. Strikingly, the four-time PGA Tour winner could not have been more gracious in appraising the worthiness of Johnson’s ultimate title triumph. The PGA Tour should be embarrassed that their announcers never once mentioned that Xander Schauffele was -15 this week. He should get credit for a PGA Tour win.1. Schauffele -152. Scheffler -12T3. Johnson -11T3. Thomas -115. Hatton -10 https://t.co/FJtrGFUyjl— Brad Hoiseth (@BradHoiseth) September 7, 2020 "DJ deserves to win," said Schauffele after a closing 66 saw him finish on 18 under, three behind the champion. "He won the first one, tied first in the second, and I don't know where he finished here, but he obviously is playing great golf, and I think that's what the Play-Offs are all about. "He had two bogeys in a row there, and he made a really important par putt on nine, which isn't surprising," he added. "I just wasn't able to put enough pressure on him. I birdied 11 and 12, and then I bogeyed 13 and then he parred. That was a big swing. He's here to win the tournament. He made that putt, which I didn't. That was a pinnacle moment I think." Despite the disappointment of being denied a second Tour Championship accolade, Schauffele can draw real confidence from the clinical nature of his performance in Atlanta. In addition to hitting 30 of 56 fairways off the tee and 50 of 72 greens in regulation, he ranked inside of the tournament’s top-20 in all of the major strokes gained (SG) metrics, including SG off the tee (5); SG approaching the green (17); SG around the green (11); SG putting (2); and SG total (1). Indeed, Monday marked the occasion of Schauffele’s first 72-hole victory since he claimed the Tournament of Champions title in January 2019 and, gladly, the Official World Golf Ranking uses the true leaderboard to allocate points at East Lake and he has consequently returned to the top-10 at No.7. The San Diego native will be one to keep an eye on at Winged Foot this weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tour Championship: Dustin Johnson claims three-shot win to clinch FedExCup
Sep 8, 2020 4:37 AM
 
Over the past couple of years it has been a truism to observe that Dustin Johnson is the most outrageously naturally gifted golfer of his generation, but that he is undermined by a conspicuous brittleness under pressure. High profile capitulations at the majors, such as at the 2010 US Open and US PGA Championships at Pebble Beach and Whistling Straits respectively, and at the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay, led many to conclude that a fragile competitive temperament would always prevent Johnson from accumulating a trophy haul commensurate with his technical and physical abilities. Indeed, the 36-year-old’s talent is such that his consistent success at PGA Tour (10 wins), World Golf Championship (6 wins) and FedEx Cup (6 wins) level over the past 13 seasons served only to set the paucity of his achievement at major championship level (1 win) in relief. World number one Dustin Johnson claimed a three-shot victory at the PGA Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.In full: https://t.co/fZeWGUikuy pic.twitter.com/Pms93ArAAG— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 8, 2020 But watching Johnson stride confidently down East Lake’s 18th fairway during the final-round of the Tour Championship on Monday, having held off challenges from world Nos. 3 and 7, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele to seal his 26th professional title and a maiden FedEx Cup triumph, it was difficult not to wonder whether he has developed a newfound steeliness under pressure. The world No.1 teed-off for the final-round with a five-stroke lead and showed no sign of nerves early on as he rattled in a 20-footer for birdie at the third and picked up further shots at five and six to keep his closest rivals, Thomas and Schauffele, a comfortable distance behind him. However, Johnson faltered at the seventh after a blocked drive left him unable to go at the green with his second, he missed a six-foot putt for par at the next and he needed a good stroke from similar range on the ninth to avoid a third straight bogey. Back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12 consequently enabled Schauffele to draw to within two strokes of the lead, but Johnson rallied with a series of crucial par-saving putts on the back nine, including one from outside 20 feet on the 13th, to maintain his slender advantage approaching the par-5, 72nd hole where he bisected the fairway with a 337-yard drive en route to a birdie and three-shot victory. Johnson told the Golf Channel: "This is a difficult golf course so no lead is really safe. I knew I was going to have to come out and play really well. I got off to a really good start, missed a couple of putts on the back side but hit the fairways when I needed to coming down the stretch. The guys gave me a good fight today. "I wanted to be a FedEx Cup champion, it's something in my career I would like to be and I’m very proud of the way I’ve played, especially over the last four tournaments." In his last four starts against elite, FedEx Cup play-off level fields, Johnson has held four 54-hole leads, winning twice and finishing as a runner-up on two occasions, and was deservedly awarded the PGA Tour’s Play of the Season accolade on Monday evening. He will deservedly start next week’s US Open at Winged Foot as a heavy favourite for the title. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Andalucía Masters: John Catlin denies Martin Kaymer at Valderrama
Sep 7, 2020 6:08 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Martin Kaymer. Winless in six years since claiming his second major championship title at the 2014 US Open , the former world No.1 teed-off for the final-round of last week’s Andalucía Masters within two strokes of John Catlin’s overnight lead. Two birdies inside of the opening four holes swiftly moved the German into a share of the lead and he remained within a stroke of Catlin as the final pairing turned on to the back-nine. A two-shot swing at the par-three 12th saw Catlin find trees off the tee on his way to a bogey and Kaymer strike a stunning approach to almost tap-in range, with both players then dropping a shot at the next after missing close-range efforts to save par. However, Kaymer lost his narrow advantage when he failed to get up and down from the sand to save par at the 15th, and missed birdie chances at 16 and 17 ensured the final pairing reached the 72nd tee-box in a share of the lead. American John Catlin wins first European Tour title as Martin Kaymer misses out https://t.co/79PgHJs975 pic.twitter.com/eUYwq5xu85— Pro Golf Network (@ProGolfNetwork1) September 6, 2020 Ultimately, Kaymer left his long par-save chip from the fringe a fraction short at the 18th after a poor bunker shot, with the bogey allowing Catlin to secure his victory by lagging his birdie attempt to within a foot of the cup and tap-in his winning par. In addition to becoming first American winner at Real Club Valderrama since Tiger Woods in 1999, Catlin has risen almost 100 places up the Official World Golf Rankings to No. 145 and secured a two-season exemption on the European Tour. "I think it's still kind of setting in," Catlin told Sky Sports. "The nerves were going nuts the whole round. This is a very difficult golf course, the greens were firm and fast and the wind was no easier than it had been the previous three days. "I don't think it's quite sunk in that I've finally actually won but that was my goal at the start of 2019 to win on the European Tour, so to have actually accomplished that is pretty hard to put into words." Kaymer, meantime, was obliged to content himself with an outright runner-up finish and, a week on from finishing a stroke outside a play-off at the ISPS HANDA UK Championship, such a near miss is sure to sting. However, the 35-year-old can draw real confidence and optimism from his performances over the past fortnight, not least owing to the fact those results ended a run of three consecutive missed-cuts at the Qatar Masters, the Barracuda Championship and the US PGA Championship. Indeed, Sunday marked the occasion of Kaymer’s fourth top-10 finish in nine starts in 2020, a record that would be the envy of many players ranked inside the top-50. Back up to No.88 in the Official World Golf Rankings, there is sound reason to expect the two-time major champion to snap his trophy drought in the near future. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Generational churn risks Fowler being rendered obsolete
Sep 6, 2020 8:01 AM
 
It is a profound irony that as golf’s media profile has declined at a rate commensurate with Tiger Wood’s competitive prowess, the elite level of the PGA Tour has arguably never been more thrillingly competitive. While Rory McIlroy was able to dominate the sport briefly in the immediate aftermath of Wood’s initial demise around 2011, the emergence first of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, and later of Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka meant that the Northern Irishman’s reign at world No.1 was never too long lived. Now, a new generation of golfers under the age of 25 are beginning to threaten those, such as McIlroy, Koepka and Thomas, who are in the late twenties and early 30s. In July, Jon Rahm unseated McIlroy atop the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings upon claiming his 11th titlein just three-and-a-half seasons as a professional at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. The 24-year-old has since gone on to win again at the BMW Championship, defeating Dustin Johnson in a thrilling play-off, and it seems only a matter of time before he claims a maiden major championship accolade. Collin Morikawa, meantime, has already gotten over the line at major championship level. The 23-year-old produced one of the greatest drives in the history of the US PGA Championship to eagle Harding Park’s par-4 16th hole and win the Wannamaker Trophy by two strokes away from Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson in July. He has since leapfrogged players of the calibre of Adam Scott, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau to reach No.5 in the world rankings. Indeed, Morikawa has already won three times in just 18-months on the PGA Tour and qualified comfortably for the Tour Championship at the conclusion of his first full season on the professional circuit. "You guys staying out of trouble?" @RickieFowler has a special way with his fans. #TOURVault pic.twitter.com/iJ4UEEOuJM— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 1, 2020 Viktor Hovland, too, is deserving of mention as a coming force at the highest level of the professional game. A former World Amateur No.1, Hovland claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory at the Puerto Rico Open in February and he has already cracked the world’s top-30. Possessed of exceptional distance and accuracy of the tee, penetrating iron-shots and a solid putting stroke, the Norwegian possesses all the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive on the PGA Tour and has already been name-checked by European captain, Padraig Harrington as a serious contender for Ryder Cup inclusion. The list of these golfers under the age of 25 who are beginning to pressure the elite-band goes on and on. World No.35, Matthew Wolff, 20-years-old and the winner of the 3M Open last July, is also surely deserving of recognition, as are rising stars such as the five-time European Tour winner and world No.17, Matthew Fitzpatrick (24) and the 2020 Honda Classic winner and world No.27, Sungjae Im (22). Lost in all this is the name, Rickie Fowler, once synonymous with youthful promise and ambition. The charismatic Californian top-fived at all four majors in 2014 and was a near permanent presence inside of the world’s top-10 from then until 2018. It seemed only a matter of time until he claimed one of the sport’s biggest trophies. But after a second winless season in three, the 31-year-old is on the brink of slipping outside of the top-40, and with players of the calibre of Rahm, Morikawa, Hovland, Wolf, Fitzpatrick and Im now rivalling the likes of McIlroy, Koepka and Thomas at the majors, he faces a tough task in seeking to re-establish himself as an elite presence on Tour. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Sergio Garcia in need of reboot for bumper 2020/21 season
Sep 4, 2020 5:57 AM
Tags: Masters   European Tour   Sergio Garcia   News   pga tour  
 
When Sergio Garcia repudiated two decades of major championship anguish by claiming his maiden such title at the 2017 Masters, the stage seemed set for the Borriol-native to kick-on and belatedly establish himself as a multi-major champion. Garcia, of course, was already recognised as one of the greatest golfers of his generation. He had won 30 times across all Tours in 18 years on the professional circuit; he had represented Europe with distinction at six Ryder Cups, and famously totalled 23 top-10 finishes at major championship level before making his long-awaited breakthrough at Augusta. Many commentators consequently felt that the Masters triumph would liberate Sergio and enable his play to ascend to an even higher-level. Such predictions, regrettably, have not come to fruition; indeed, the Spaniard’s form in the two-and-a-half seasons following his Masters triumph can only be characterised politely as underwhelming. For although he retained his Andalucía Masters title in 2018 and claimed a sixteenth European Tour accolade at the KLM Open last September, he has missed eight cuts and has failed to finish higher than 21st in 12 major championship appearances since winning the Masters, and needed to rely on a captain’s pick to earn a spot on the most recent European Ryder Cup squad. Furthermore, in 12 starts across all Tours in 2020, he has managed just a single top-5 finish (at the RBC Heritage Open), and a deeply indifferent T32-T32-T35-MC-T66 run through his previous five appearances on the PGA Tour resulted in him missing out on the FedEx Cup play-off series for the second time in the last three years. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the 40-year-old’s standing in the world game has declined precipitously; indeed, he presently sits 44th in the Official World Golf Rankings and is on course to fall outside of the top-50 for the first time since first breaking into that elite band as a rookie more than a decade ago. 66 FEET for the WIN! UNBELIEVABLE putt from @JonRahmPGA to claim @BMWChamps in a playoff! #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/DktJRjZLoj— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 30, 2020 Indeed, on the handful of occasions when Garcia’s name has appeared on the frontpage of the sports newspapers in recent months, it has tended be for all the wrong reasons. Headlines such as “Sergio Garcia continues to be mired in controversy” and “Latest Sergio outburst raises further questions about conduct" reflect vividly the deleterious impact a series of high-profile temper tantrums arising from poor play have had on his reputation. On form, Garcia remains one of the finest technicians in the world golf and, as a player who has always derived his principal competitive advantage from the quality of his shot-making rather than raw power of the tee, he is arguably better placed than many to remain competitive into his 40s. However, it is clear that Garcia’s focus has wavered since he belatedly got over the line at Augusta three years ago and, as his physical faculties decline, he cannot afford to yield any advantage at all to his younger rivals. If the 40-year-old is to retire with a major championship trophy haul even vaguely commensurate with his outrageous level of natural ability, it is imperative he gets his mind back focused entirely on golf ahead of a bumper 2020/21 campaign. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
PGA Tour reveals plans for a crammed 2021 calendar
Sep 3, 2020 7:21 AM
 
From the moment the novel COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic ground the global sporting calendar to a halt back in March, attention shifted swiftly to the project of getting organised professional competition restarted behind closed-doors. In the context of professional golf, the Players Championship was the first to go, abandoned after just 18-holes on 13 March. Its suspension was followed swiftly thereafter by the cancellation of a swathe of US PGA and European Tour events, including The Open Championship; the postponement of each of the three US majors until later in the year, and the rearrangement of the Ryder Cup to 2021. Ultimately, professional golf resumed behind closed doors with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas on 11 June and, even allowing for a handful of positive tests, the resumption of competitive play has largely gone off without a hitch. Indeed, golf, as a naturally “socially distanced” sport that does not rely on raucous spectators to generate an atmosphere, has thrived during the pandemic, drawing record viewership in the absence of NFL and NBA action. But for all the success professional golf has had in resuming action following the lockdown, the question of how US PGA and European Tour administrators plan to tackle the backlog of events that have been pushed to 2021 remains open. Last week, US PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, provided some clarity on the issue. A 66-FOOT PUTT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP!ICE COLD FROM JON RAHM (via @PGATOUR) pic.twitter.com/67FSPUq0Ng— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 30, 2020 Addressing the media in Atlanta, Monahan announced that a "super season" of 50 events in 2020-21, including six majors and the Olympic Games. The US Open and the Masters will be played in September and November respectively in 2020 as well as on their traditional dates in 2021, in addition to 11 other tournaments which were not rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The men's Olympic golf competition will take place from 29 July to 1 August at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Japan. "We are excited to present the full 2020-21 PGA Tour schedule, a 'super season’ of 50 fully-sponsored events and capped off by the 15th edition of the FedEx Cup play-offs," Monahan said. "If you’re a golf fan, this is a dream season with more significant events than ever before, including the Olympic Games. "Building our schedule is always complicated, but never more so as over the past several months as we continue to navigate challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. We appreciate the extensive collaboration with our title sponsors, tournament organisations and golf’s governing bodies that has brought us here, to the exciting conclusion of an extraordinary 2019-20 season this week, and on the brink of a season of 50 events, beginning next week." The 2020-21 season begins next week with the Safeway Open, followed by the rescheduled US Open at Winged Foot. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matsuyama shows signs of revival at BMW Championship
Aug 31, 2020 4:54 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Hideki Matsuyama. The 28-year-old captured a single stroke overnight lead following the first-round of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields last week and recovered from a 3-over Friday scorecard to grab a share of the lead alongside Dustin Johnson going into Sunday. In the event, Matsuyama was unable to parley his strong 54-hole position into a sixth PGA Tour title. He reached the turn within touching distance of the lead after completing the front-nine in one-under in challenging, windy conditions. However, a bogey on the par-4 eleventh hole stymied his progress, and while he rallied to pick up a further shot at the par-5 fifteenth, he could ultimately only sign for a 1-under 69, finishing two strokes outside the play-off contested by Johnson and Jon Rahm. "I couldn't control all of my shots like I wanted, but I was able to stick it out and reap the rewards," the Japanese star brooded upon returning to the clubhouse. "It made me realize even more how important power is to winning and its given a lot of aspects of my game to work on." WHAT A PUTT.Dustin Johnson drains a birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff at the BMW Championship(via @PGATOUR)pic.twitter.com/8RrxClyiLi— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 30, 2020 Matsuyama can, however, console himself with the fact that, as one of the top 30 points scorers in 2019/20, he has advanced to the final leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, for the seventh year in a row. Furthermore, he has climbed back inside the top-20 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in over a year. Of greater long-term significance, however, is the fact that Matsuyama was back contending for a top-level PGA Tour title at all. The former world No.2 is winless in over three years since claiming his fifth PGA Tour accolade at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio in August 2017, and he has long since ceased to be a regular fixture inside of the world’s top-5. Matsuyama missed as many cuts as he made top-10s (3) in 25 starts worldwide in 2018, and while he mounted a minor recovery the following year, posting nine top-10 finishes, he finished the season winless and ranked back outside of the top-20. In 13 starts in 2020 leading into last week’s tournament in Illinois, he had as many missed cuts to his name (2) as he had top-10 finishes. It was tremendously heartening, therefore, to witness Matsuyama once more vying with the PGA Tour elite for top-level honours. Possessed of impressive length off the tee, pristine ball-striking abilities and a consistent putting stroke, he retains all of the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive at the business end of the professional game. Major titles remain a realistic aspiration for Matsuyama and, teeing off at East Lake Golf Course with an adjusted score of 4-under this week, six shots behind FedEx Cup standings leader Johnson, he could yet make an impact at the Tour Championship. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rahm defeats Johnson in thrilling play-off to win BMW Championship
Aug 31, 2020 1:51 AM
 
When Dustin Johnson converted a devilish, double-breaking 45-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green to a force a play-off against Jon Rahm at the BMW Championship on Sunday, you could almost hear the PGA Tour’s marketing team beginning to drool. For at the end of a most challenging week at Olympia Field, with scoring always close to par on the 2003 US Open venue, the world’s No. 1 and 2 ranked players had emerged at the summit of a decorated leaderboard. Consequently, they were primed to do battle in a high-profile, high-stakes, winner-takes-all pay-off. What more could a marketing department ask for? In the event, the play-off delivered even more social media gold. Johnson knocked a safe second to the heart of the green, while Rahm's approach from the rough on the right bounded past pin height and settled at the back of the putting surface, leaving him with a huge task just to get down in two putts for par. However, in scenes evocative of Rahm's maiden win at Torrey Pines in 2017, the world No 2 got the pace and line just right and celebrated wildly as his ball dropped into the centre of the cup from 63-feet before Johnson's attempt to extend the contest came up short. A 66-FOOT PUTT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP! ICE COLD FROM JON RAHM (via @PGATOUR) pic.twitter.com/67FSPUq0Ng — SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 30, 2020 Johnson, who stormed to an 11-shot victory at the Northern Trust Open a fortnight ago, was ultimately obliged to console himself with the fact that he remains a spot ahead of Rahm at the summit of both the FedExCup standings and the Official World Golf Rankings as the regular PGA Tour season concludes with the Tour Championship this week. He will consequently start the chase for the $15 million bonus at East Lake at 10-under par, two ahead of Rahm, the No. 2 seed. "I knew how good DJ has been playing. I was expecting nothing else," Rahm reflected after collecting his second victory of the season for his 11th professional title. "I was fully confident it was going to come into a playoff and hoping to win it. Never did I think I would make another 50-, 60-footer, a couple of breaks in there, to end up winning it." This was a vintage performance from Rahm who began the final-round three-strokes shy of the 54-hole lead Johnson shared with Hideki Matsuyama. The Spaniard started brightly, carding birdies at two of his first four holes, but that looked to be a fruitless effort when Johnson birdied three of the first five to race to four-under par. But last week's runaway Northern Trust winner showed his first signs of frailty when he bogeyed the eighth and 10th, while Rahm dropped four further strokes on the back-nine to reach the clubhouse with a single-stroke lead. Though Johnson got back to within a shot of the leader when he safely two-putted for a welcome four at the long 15th and ultimately forced a play-off, the day was to be Rahm’s. We are poised for a thrilling FedEx Cup finale at East Lake this weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
With first child on the way, family takes precedence over golf for McIlroy
Aug 30, 2020 11:18 AM
 
Ever since winning the 2014 US PGA Championship at Valhalla, thereby joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as only the third golfer ever to win four majors by the age of 25, Rory McIlroy has been tipped to achieve sporting immortality. Possessed of exceptional power off the tee and preternatural technical ability, many commentators tipped the Northern Irishman to become the most decorated major champion of all-time. The fact then that, six years on from his victory at Valhalla, McIlroy has yet to add to his major trophy haul, has fomented a torrent of speculation as to why he has ceased winning at the highest level. Some see the issue as technical, emphasising the 31-year-old’s notoriously flaky putting-stroke as the nub of his problems on lightning-fast major championship greens. Others foreground the ever-increasing competitiveness of the PGA Tour as the principal reason why he could never dominate as many had imagined, highlighting the emergence of younger rivals, such as Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm. However, there remains a significant constituency of pundits who perceive McIlroy’s inability to win regularly at major championship level as arising from a shortcoming in his mentality. In this analysis, he is seen as too well-adjusted or well-rounded a character and as lacking in the ruthlessness and singular focus on winning that animated Woods, for example. The word is out, @McIlroyRory and his wife Erica are expecting their first child soon: https://t.co/k4idnIBlDP pic.twitter.com/yw1JPa141N— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 29, 2020 Many commentators point to McIlroy’s absence from the 2015 Open Championship as a case in point. The then world No.1 missed the tournament after breaking his ankle while playing football with friends in Belfast just days before the event. It was, indeed, difficult to envisage a figure like Woods ever jeopardising his participation in a major in such a fashion and, unapologetic, McIlroy avowed subsequently that ‘there are more important things in life than golf tournaments’. The same dynamic was evident subsequent to McIlroy’s third-round performance at the BMW Championship last week. The 18-time PGA Tour winner told reporters that he and his wife, Erica, are expecting the birth of their first child imminently and that he was perfectly prepared to skip to the Tour Championship at East Lake to share in the moment. "We're about to be parents very soon, so we're obviously super excited," he said. "Yeah, we've been sharing the news with friends and family, obviously, but I didn't think it was something that I really particularly needed to share out here. It's a private matter, but we're really excited and can't wait for her to get here." "I’m happy to skip the Tour Championship just depending on what happens," he added. "I'm going to play in many more Tour Championships and it's only going to be the birth of your first child once. That trumps anything else." Regard it as a mental shortcoming or evidence of a balanced personality, it is clear that McIlroy has never allowed winning PGA Tour events to be the singular focus of his life. Perhaps that is the reason why, though he will never win as many events as Woods, he has always seemed a far better adjusted and well-rounded personality. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
PGA Tour remains Mickelson’s focus after Ozarks National victory
Aug 29, 2020 12:43 PM
 
When Phil Mickelson followed-up a 3-over opening-round 74 with a 68 on Friday to miss the cut at the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago, he could have been forgiven for taking his foot of the gas and resting in preparation for the US Open at Winged Foot next month. After all, the early exit in Boston ended prematurely his quest for a maiden FedEx Cup triumph and the five-time major winner has already made seven starts since competitive golf resumed on the PGA Tour at Fort Worth on 11 June. However, Mickelson, who turned 50 in June, has never been one take the quiet route, and instead of returning home to Florida, he opted for a detour to Ozarks National Golf Club in Ridgedale, Mo., to make his Champions Tour debut in the Charles Schwab Series. This trip was undertaken with the expressed intention of working on some shots in a competitive atmosphere and “building a little momentum” ahead of the US Open. The result was rather spectacular. “Give me the driver.” - @PhilMickelson pic.twitter.com/mGG5lZM5e6— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) August 25, 2020 He carded a closing 66 at Ozarks National last Sunday to finish 22 under par, four shots clear of Tim Petrovic. The five-time major winner's total of 191 equalled the tour’s 54-hole scoring record previously recorded by five players, most recently Rocco Mediate in 2013. He posted a tournament-leading driving average of 323.7 yards and provided one of several highlight-reel shots by using the same club in the second round to escape from under a tree, with the ball perched on pine straw and bark. Put simply, he was box-office. The world No. 54’s drawing power was illustrated vividly by the fact Golf Channel saw a ratings increases of 150 percent on Monday and nearly 300 percent on Tuesday for its coverage of the PGA Tour Champions compared to programming in the same time period (6-8 p.m. EDT) the prior four weeks. Tuesday’s coverage, meantime, was the most-watched Tuesday telecast since Golf Central Live during the 2019 Masters. "I really had a great time," Mickelson told the Golf Channel. "It’s fun for me to compete. I got to shoot scores and compete and the competition here is really strong and it was fun for me to get off to a good start and play well." However, fans and pundits should be leery of concluding that, in light of his success at the Ozarks, Lefty may now be content to focus his attentions on the Champions Tour. Only last month Mickelson finished T-2 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude, where he became the first player age 50 or older to finish in the top five in a WGC event. Last year, he won a record-tying fifth title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Amfor his 44th PGA Tour victory, and the year before he broke a winless streak of almost five years by defeating reigning FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas in a playoff at the WGC-Mexico Championship. On form, Mickelson retains the capacity to outscore leading PGA Tour players who are half his age. The veteran enjoyed his Champions Tour debut in the Ozarks, but it should not be understood to signal a watershed moment in his career. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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