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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Matsuyama’s dip continues at CJ Cup
Oct 20, 2018 10:12 AM
 
A year is a long-time in golf. This time 12 months ago Hideki Matsuyama was riding the crest of a wave. He claimed his second PGA Tour title of 2017 (following on from the Phoenix Open in February) by five shots away from Zach Johnson at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on 6 August, he tied for fifth at US PGA Championship the following week and rounded out the year with a T5-T50-5-T5 run through his final four events. This form catapulted the Japanese star up as high as No.2 in the Official World Golf Rankings and he finished the year within touching-distance of Dustin Johnson in the No.1 spot. Frankly put, it seemed only a matter of time until he made a long overdue breakthrough at the highest level of the world game. As the headline of this blog suggests, however, things have not exactly worked-out to plan. Brooks Koepka takes big lead into final day at CJ Cup https://t.co/X3IGoz7OYG— Irish Times Sport (@IrishTimesSport) October 20, 2018 The 26-year-old started 2018 brightly with a T4 finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the occasion of his first start of the calendar year; but after tying for twelfth at the Farmers Insurance Open on his next start, he ceased to meaningfully contend for PGA Tour honours. Indeed, Matsuyama made 16 consecutive starts between the Farmers Insurance Open in January and the Northern Trust Open in August without registering a single top-10 finish, and while he avoided missing more than three cuts during this run, he never once threatened to add to his collection of 14 professional titles. Most dispiritingly, he failed to top-10 at any of the season’s four major championships, following up a 19th-place finish at The Masters with a T16-CUT-T35 run through the US Open at Shinnecock, The Open at Carnoustie and the US PGA Championship at Bellerive. Unsurprisingly, this run has exerted a profound deleterious impact on the Ehime-native’s competitive standing; indeed, he arrived on Jeju island in South Korea for the CJ Cup this week ranked 20th in the world – his lowest position since first breaking into that elite-band five-years ago. Of course, circumstances could always be worse, and Matsuyama did threaten a return to form courtesy of top-five finishes at the Dell Technologies Championship and the Tour Championship during the FedEx Cup play-off series. However, he never contended for either title and, 54-holes into the CJ Cup, he looks as far away from regaining his best-level as ever. Matsuyama thrilled the Asian media with a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Saturday; however, he prefaced that scorecard with a 2-over 74 on Friday and remains a full eight shots back from third-round leader, Brooks Koepka. With a victory on Sunday, Koepka will accede to the world No.1 spot for the first time in his career; less than a year has passed since Matsuyama sat six spots above the American in the world rankings. It is imperative he abates this slump swiftly in order to push back towards the summit of the world game in 2019. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka targeting world No.1 spot at CJ Cup
Oct 19, 2018 11:00 AM
Tags: Brooks Koepka,   CJ Cup   News   Scott Piercy  
 
Brooks Koepka could have been forgiven for approaching this week’s CJ Cup in South Korea with a somewhat more ‘relaxed’ attitude than that with which he would normally engage a PGA Tour event. After all, just a week has passed since the 28-year-old was rightly conferred with the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award following an outstanding campaign that saw him climb from No.8 to No.2 in the Official World Golf Rankings. In June he became the first golfer in more than three decades to retain the US Open title at Shinnecock in June; two-months later he shot a pair of 66s on the weekend to set a 72-hole PGA Championship scoring record on his way to holding off Woods by two strokes at Bellerive. Following on a deeply demoralising Ryder Cup experience marred by the traumatic accidental blinding of a spectator as well as a high-profile bust-up with teammate and friend, Dustin Johnson, one could not have blamed Koepka for engaging cruise control through the final three months of the year and focusing on the majors to come in 2019. That, however, is the logic of the common fan and runs fundamentally to counter to the psychological approach that has taken Koepka from non-descript, PGA Tour-bomber as of 1 January 2016 to one of the foremost practitioners in world golf today. Do you want to practice like the pros? Brooks Koepka's coach breaks down how, and explains why practicing with a purpose is key.https://t.co/tmxwVyvcMx — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) October 19, 2018 The three-time major winner arrived in Korea off the back of an impressive T7 finish at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and began his title push modestly with a 1-under opening round comprising four birdies and three bogeys. That score left him three shots shy of the overnight lead and in need of a big Friday performance in order to force himself into contention. Well, when the chips are down the experience of the last 10 months suggests that Koepka is well placed to bounce-back with a big answer and his scoring ignited during the second-round. He birdied four of his first eight holes to surge to the front of the leaderboard before finding trouble at the ninth when a hooked tee-ball sailed out of bounds. Nevertheless, the world No.3 scrambled effectively to rescue a bogey and produced two further birdies on twelve and fourteen to retake the lead before closing-out a sensational round with an eagle at the par-5 eighteenth. "I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun," Koepka said. "My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it, like, caveman golf -- you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it." Koepka trails surprise 36-hole leader, Scott Piercy by a single shot heading into the weekend and knows victory would elevate him to the summit of the world rankings. He’ll have no shortage of motivation over the final two rounds. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Willett’s quest for consistency goes on at CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges
Oct 18, 2018 10:35 AM
Tags: Masters   CJ Cup   Ryder Cup   Danny Willett   pga tour  
 
When Danny Willett tapped-in for par on the final-hole of his opening-round at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges Golf Club in South Korea on Thursday to sign for a 3-under 69, one could almost hear the British golfing media beginning to salivate. With all four majors, the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup behind us, wrap-around calendar PGA Tour events such as the CJ Cup rarely generate the kinds of storylines that appeal to a lay sporting audience. Simply put, there are too few elite players performing at their best level to attract the kind of attention on which all forms of sports journalism ultimately depend. In this context, Willett’s apparent return to form on Jeju Island provided UK golf writers with an attractive narrative arch on which to base their attempt to draw fans into reading about the opening day of the CJ Cup. #RT @PGATOUR: Back-to-back-to-back birdies. Danny Willett finished his Thursday at THE CJ CUP only shot back from the lead. pic.twitter.com/rPGM0a1Ujc — VISIT GolfCodeWeekly.com WINFREEGOLF NEAR YOU (@hashtaggcw) October 18, 2018 One shot back from early leader, Chez Reavie, the 31-year-old is ostensibly strongly placed to attempt to end a two-and-a-half-year trophy drought dating back to his seminal major championship breakthrough at the 2016 Masters tournament at Augusta. The difficulty with this line of analysis, however, lies in the fact that we have seen it all before. On four separate occasions within the past four months, Willett has strung together a handful of good rounds at events outside of America, triggering a hyperbolic response in his home media regarding an ‘overdue return to the top-table’ of world golf. The first such incident was at the Italian Open in early June. The Englishman surged to the top of the overnight leaderboard courtesy of a 5-under opening-round 65; however, three subsequent sub-70 scorecards were ultimately only good enough for a tie for eighth. Further optimism was generated courtesy of a T6 finish at the Irish Open later in the month before a T19-T24 run through the Scottish Open and The Open Championship in July prompted the Independent of London to declare that Willet had emerged from ‘pitch black’ into the light. There can be no debating the fact that the last few months have witnessed a serious uptick in form for Willett who began 2018 with a calamitous run of nine missed-cuts through his opening 12 starts of the season. Such undoubtedly provides a bona-fide source of hope for future success. However, the Sheffield-native remains comfortably outside of the top-300 in the Official World Golf Rakings for a reason having carded six times as many missed-cuts (12) as he has produced top-10s since the beginning of the year. Willett deserves praise for a strong start in Korea, but until he proves capable of sustaining such form across 72-holes, commentators would be well-advised to exercise caution when evaluating his development. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Brooks Koepka: an understated but warranted Player of the Year winner
Oct 17, 2018 11:50 AM
Tags: Brooks Koepka,   Tiger Woods   News   FedEx Cup   pga tour  
 
It was perhaps the most revealing vignette to emerge from the FedEx Cup play-off ending Tour Championship at East Lake last month. Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Keegan Bradley were all on the pre-tournament interview schedule Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of the Tour Championship, most for good reason. After all, Bradley had just ended a six season trophy drought at the BMW Championship the previous week; DeChambeau had won the first two Playoffs events; Schauffele was the tournament’s defending champ; Thomas was the reigning FedEx Cup champ; Rose had just ascended to No.1 in the world; DJ had just been displaced from No.1 in the world; Finau had just been called-up to the Ryder Cup squad; and Tiger…well, Tiger is Tiger. A conspicuous absentee from that star-studded procession of media speakers, however, was the outstanding player of the 2018 PGA Tour season and the frontrunner for the coveted Player of the Year award, Brooks Koepka. @BKoepka talks with media ahead of his 2018-19 debut at THE CJ CUP in Korea.Brooks on superstitions: pic.twitter.com/RrQ984ATEg— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 17, 2018 The 28-year-old became the first golfer in more than three decades to retain the US Open title at Shinnecock in June; two-months later he shot a pair of 66s on the weekend to set a 72-hole PGA Championship scoring record on his way to holding off Woods by two strokes at Bellerive. Koepka consequently ascended to a career-high position of No.2 in the Official World Golf Rankings and arrived at East Lake with a realistic chance of taking top-spot. In this context, his absence from the pre-tournament press circuit was extremely difficult to fathom. Did he even notice? Did he care? You bet'cha. “[The media] has their guys they wanna talk to,” Koepka is reported to have said away from a press conference. “I’m not one of them and that’s fine.” “Come Sunday, I won’t forget it when everyone wants to talk to me because I just won. I don’t forget things.” Of course, this plan for retribution didn’t work-out in the end; consecutive 1-over rounds of 73 across Thursday and Friday ensured that he was effectively out of the running for the title before the weekend began. The comment, nevertheless, is revealing of the fact that an anomalously low public profile continues to function as a source of inspiration for Koepka, a circumstance that has not gone unnoticed by his coaching staff. Koepka endured a somewhat sour end to 2018; in addition to taking just 1.5 points from four starts at the Ryder Cup, reports of a late-night bust-up with teammate and supposed friend, Dustin Johnson leant weight to reports of chronic dysfunction in the US camp. Nevertheless, the past 10 months have positioned Koepka strongly to emerge as the most decorated major-level golfer of the Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas generation and he richly deserved his Player of the Year accolade. Koepka’s Tour rivals had better hope the media begin taking notice of his exceptional talents. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Harrington seeking to capitalise on strong form in Valderrama
Oct 16, 2018 11:10 AM
 
When Lee Westwood last Wednesday stated that, "I think Padraig Harrington is the ideal candidate for the captaincy. I'd prefer to do it in Rome if possible", the Irishman could have been forgiven for easing his foot off the competitive accelerator. After all, Westwood’s comments effectively cleared the way for Harrington to assume the Ryder Cup captaincy at the 2020 event at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, and while no committed professional can ever fully purge himself of competitive desire, the Dubliner may well have been tempted to put his personal career ambitions on hold for the next two-years to ease into the impartial observer role that he will be expected to undertake as European captain. In Harrington’s case, this would have inevitably encouraged a tentative glance forward towards a contented semi-retirement on the Seniors Tour upon hitting 50 in 2021. But Harrington, as any serious golf watcher knows, is not a “normal” golfer; long possessed of an almost pathological impulse to continuous improvement and relentless striving, he barely even acknowledged Westwood’s comments and maintained a steely focus on finishing 2018 strongly. Ryder Cup: Lee Westwood backs Padraig Harrington for 2020 European captaincyWhat about Constantino Rocca as captain ???Makes sense to me ! ⁦@RyderCupEurope⁩ https://t.co/z7Bp7XEQnF— Mark Mouland (@moulieontour) October 10, 2018 In fact, far from easing his foot off the competitive accelerator, he doubled-down on it and added more events to his calendar in an effort to qualify for the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship. This process begins at the Valderrama Masters in Spain on Thursday. “I’m just outside the automatic qualifying spots for the Turkish Airlines Open, so I need to make a few more points to get to Turkey”, Harrington stated. “It’s a great opportunity for me to go to a course [in Valderrama] I’m very familiar with, and get a bit of sun on my back too. I’m looking forward to it. My form has been good. Hopefully I can play well and get the points that I need.” The rationale behind Harrington wanting to get to Turkey has all to do with the Race to Dubai. Currently 86th on the European Tour money-list, the three-time major winner needs to break into the top 70 players if he is to earn an automatic place in the field for the upcoming, big-money Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya, which is also a Rolex Series tournament ($7 million purse) and one of the run-in events to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. There is good reason to suspect the veteran is capable of pulling this trick off. Harrington struggled badly in the early part of the season, missing 12 cuts through 18 starts in the process of tumbling outside of the world’s top-340. A runners-up finish at the Czech Masters in late August, however, proved transformative and he has since gone on to finish fifth at the KLM Open, seventh at the Alfred Dunhill Links and T22 at the British Masters. Fit and motivated, Harrington can never be discounted on European soil; he may struggle to adapt to the political nature of the Ryder Cup captaincy. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
British Masters: Eddie Pepperell wins second European Tour title
Oct 15, 2018 5:09 AM
 
Eddie Pepperell was not much talked about in the lead-up to the British Masters at Walton Heath in London last week. Attention was instead understandably focused on the title aspirations of top-15 players and Ryder Cup stars such as Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari. This circumstance, of course, was in no way surprising. While Pepperell has enjoyed something of a banner season through the first 10 months of 2018, his success has flown largely under-the-radar, overshadowed by the resurgence of Tiger Woods, the major successes of Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy’s enduring struggles on the putting green. It bears restating, therefore, that the Londoner began 2018 ranked outside of the world’s top-100, and while he had impressed in winning the Challenge Tour’s Allianz Open Côtes d'Armor Bretagne within a year of turning professional in 2011, he had yet to make breakthrough at European Tour-level and had never meaningfully contended at the highest-level of the sport. I have no words, only a special picture. Thank you all so much. pic.twitter.com/oEQdgy8VhB— Eddie Pepperell (@PepperellEddie) October 14, 2018 It is in this context that Pepperell’s single-stroke victory away from countryman, Oliver Fisher at the Qatar Masters in February was so significant. In addition to granting the 27-year-old a maiden European Tour accolade, the victory catapulted him inside of the world’s top-100 and suddenly provided him with an outside shot at Ryder Cup qualification. A slight tail-off followed with consecutive missed-cuts at Open de Espana and the Trophee Hasan II; however, his form stabilised in the early summer and he came within a hair’s breadth of winning again at the Scottish Open in July after signing for a 6-under-par final-round 64. That result secured the Englishman a spot in his home Open at Carnoustie the following week where he secured a hugely impressive 6th place finish courtesy of a 5-under closing-round 67. A second victory, then, was firmly on the cards, and when Pepperell secured a three-shot 54-hole lead at Walton Heath on Saturday, he looked exceptionally well-placed to pin it down. Pepperell’s overnight lead was reduced to just a single stroke when playing partner, Alexander Bjork completed the front nine in 34 and the Englishman three-putted the ninth - the hole at which he had a hole-in-one on the opening day. But he moved three clear again on the 10th after holing an eagle from 122 yards and ultimately signed for a level-par 72 to claim the title by two strokes away from Bjork. "I am over the moon," Pepperell told Sky Sports. "It was such a tough day with the conditions. I didn't swing well from the get-go. It was an absolute grind." Up to No.33 in the world, the Oxford-native is strongly placed to push for Ryder Cup inclusion at the 2020 event in Wisconsin. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Leishman lays down 2019 marker at CIMB Classic
Oct 14, 2018 11:09 AM
 
In the end it wasn’t even close. Marc Leishman teed-off for the final-round of the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur in a three-way share of the lead with America’s Gary Woodland and India’s Shubhankar Sharma. He finished it alone atop the leaderboard, five-shots clear Emiliano Grillo, Charles Hadley and Bronson Burgoon, having mixed eight birdies with a lone bogey en route to a 7-under-par 65. Put simply, he left them for dust. Leishman started out in the manner he intended to go on with four birdies in his first five holes, before turning in another long birdie putt on the ninth for an outward total of 31. He extended his lead further courtesy of a cool, 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 10th, and while a sloppy bogey on the 13th threatened to stymie his momentum on the inward stretch, he rallied with a 16-foot birdie on the 16th and converted from 12-feet at the last to end a year-long PGA Tour trophy drought in exceptional style. "A lot of things happen for a reason and I feel like that was one of them." Marc Leishman was emotional following his victory at the @CIMBClassic. Find out why https://t.co/2quk5ZGP6l pic.twitter.com/pFznQMrFTQ— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) October 14, 2018 Leishman finished the tournament at 26-under par, well clear of the chasing pack, and while he could have been forgiven for indulging in an element of self-congratulation in the aftermath of such an emphatic performance, his attention swiftly turned forward towards his final two starts of the season: the World Cup and the Australian PGA. “It had been over a year since I had won,” Leishman said. “I had a few chances and hadn’t capitalised. So I am playing Korea next week, the World Cup later in the year and the Australian PGA. “I want to win something else before the end of the year.” With this victory Leishman, who started the week ranked No.24 in the world, returns to the top-20, and while the CIMB may not be the most high profile event on the PGA Tour calendar, Sunday’s triumph stands to provide the Queenslander with a crucial sense of confidence and momentum as he bids to claim a maiden major championship title in 2019. The 34-year-old enjoyed something of a breakout season last term, ending a five-year trophy drought at Bay Hill in the Spring before claiming his third PGA Tour title at the BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup play-offs. A major title is the next logical step for Leishman and, reflecting on the year that followed Justin Thomas’ triumph in Kuala Lumpur in 2016, the portent seems optimistic. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Shubhankar Sharma tied for lead at CIMB Classic
Oct 13, 2018 10:01 AM
 
Shubhankar Sharma was not much talked about in the lead-up to the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week. Media attention naturally focused on the title aspirations of world No.4, Justin Thomas; on world No.26, Marc Leishman’s quest to end a year-long trophy drought and on Paul Casey’s attempt to transfer a strong Ryder Cup performance into regular, PGA Tour success. Such, perhaps, is to be expected when a 22-year-old ranked outside of the world’s top-100 and hailing from a country, India, with almost no elite-level golfing history, pitches-up in a field containing seven major champions and over a dozen players positioned inside of the world’s top-50. However, Sharma’s modest world ranking and low media profile belies his ability inside of the ropes and, 54-holes into the Malaysian event, he has provided the world’s media with an emphatic reminder of his qualities. The Indian enjoyed a steady rise up the OWGR after turning pro and acceding to the Asian Tour in 2013. He surged up to 226 in the world after claiming his maiden European Tour title at the Johannesburg Open by three shots away from Erik van Rooyen last December; a two-stroke victory away from Jorge Campillo at the Maybank Championship in February, meantime, propelled him inside the top-80. 2018 CIMB Classic: Shubhankar Sharma joins Gary Woodland and Marc Leishman at the top https://t.co/w4QurDgYuc pic.twitter.com/xFMeKZBua4— NFL Fan (@NFL_Commentary) October 13, 2018 Sharma then went on to grab international headlines after seizing the outright 54-hole lead at the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, before a poor final-round culminated in a T9 finish. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Delhi-native’s form dried-up as a consequence of the physical and psychological toll exerted by his near-miss in Mexico; while he tied for seventh at The Indian Open the following week, he was a group stage causality at the WGC-Match Play and missed three consecutive cuts at the Houston Open, The Masters and the Texas Open. Indeed, Sharma has missed 11 cuts, failing to card a single top-10 finish through 18 starts on all Tours since tying seventh at his home Open in March and consequently arrived in Malaysia this week ranked back outside of the world’s top-100. In this context, it has been enormously heartening to observe the Indian recapture something approaching his best form through the opening three rounds in Kuala Lumpur. He started solidly with a 5-under 67; it was on Friday, however, that he really caught fire with an 8-under 64. A cool, 6-under 66 on Saturday, meantime, ensures he will tee-off for the final round level with Gary Woodland and Marc Leishman atop the leaderboard. Victory would provide Sharma with an invaluable sense of confidence and momentum as he seeks to re-establish himself inside of the world’s top-100 in 2019. [Image Source: Take News via Flickr ]
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Sean Donnelly
Leishman seeking to end season on high at CIMB Classic
Oct 12, 2018 12:20 PM
 
Marc Leishman began the 2018 PGA season riding the quest of a wave. The Aussie, who ended a five-year trophy drought by claiming his second PGA Tour title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last Spring, finished out the 2017 campaign with a stunning 3-W-T27 run through his final three starts of the year in the FedEx Cup play-off series. In addition to winning one of the biggest events of the season at the BMW Championship by five strokes away from Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose, he ascended to a career-high position of No.12 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Indeed, Leishman ended 2017 as the highest ranked Australian golfer in the professional game, sitting comfortably above former world No.1s and major champions, Adam Scott and Jason Day, and he looked extremely well placed to break his major duck and crack the top-10 in 2018. But golf, as practitioners of any level will be bitterly aware, rarely goes to script, and while 2018 has by no means been a catastrophe for the 34-year-old, it seems safe to avow that it has not panned out in the manner that he might have wished. 2018 CIMB Classic: Marc Leishman, Gary Woodland flirt with 60 to take co-lead after Round 2 https://t.co/dk8XzBWh7k pic.twitter.com/f0Xfu8LxHy— NFL Fan (@NFL_Commentary) October 12, 2018 Leishman started the year with impressive consistency, posting five top-10 finishes through the course of his first 12 starts. This run encompassed a career-best T9 finish at Augusta and a narrow runners-up placing at the Byron Nelson, an event he really should have won after posting a 10-under opening-round 61. It was ultimately a Sunday afternoon capitulation that cost him the title as he missed-out by three-strokes to the talented 22-year-old, Aaron Wise who was making just his twelfth PGA Tour start. Indeed, that near-miss at Trinity Forest appeared to exert a profound deleterious impact on the Aussie’s psychological state for he subsequently endured a sharp dip in form. In three subsequent starts, he tied 62nd at Memorial, tied 45th at the US Open and missed just his third cut of the season at the Travelers Championship. He has yet to recover to the level he achieved in the spring. For 12 starts on from the Byron Nelson, Leishman has not managed a single top-10 finish and arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the CIMB Classic this week ranked back outside of the top-20 for the first time in the guts of a year. In this context, it has been enormously heartening to observe the three-time PGA Tour champion recapture something approaching his best game through the course of his first 36-holes in Malaysia. He shot five birdies en route to a 4-under opening-round 68; it was on Friday, however, that he really caught fire, dropping 10 birdies in order to sign for a bogey-free 62. Leishman consequently heads into the weekend level with Gary Woodland atop the leaderboard; victory would go a long way to restoring the Aussie’s confidence ahead of a pivotal 2019 campaign. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Justin Thomas three off early lead at CIMB Classic
Oct 11, 2018 12:55 PM
Tags: Justin Thomas,   CIMB Classic   News   pga tour  
 
The CIMB Classic is hardly the most glamorous tournament in professional golf. Established as recently as 2010, staged on overly-generous golf courses in Kuala-Lumpur, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the competition embodies many of the least desirable traits that have come to define the dreaded ‘wrap-around’ period on the PGA Tour calendar. Nevertheless, when historians come to reflect on the already decorated career of Justin Thomas in decades to come, efforts to explain the precipitous nature of his ascent to the world No.1 spot will focus, not on his performances at the US PGA Championship or the FedEx Cup, but on his achievements at the CIMB Classic. After all, it was in Kuala Lumpur three-years ago that Thomas claimed his maiden PGA Tour title by a stroke away from the former Masters champion, Adam Scott, thereby climbing from No.62 to in the Official World Golf Rankings to the top-30 for the first time in his career. 12-months later, he repeated the trick, holding off Hideki Matsuyama by three strokes to claim his second PGA Tour win and break briefly into the world’s top-20. More significantly, that triumph laid the foundations for what may well come to be regarded as the defining season in Thomas’ career. Eidan wanted @JustinThomas34's autograph.He didn't know @JustinThomas34 wanted his, too.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/ARo6aRjYKC— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 10, 2018 For within two starts of his victory in Malaysia, the Kentucky-native claimed PGA Tour titles three and four at the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii; six-months later he won his maiden major championship title at the US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow and rounded out a banner year by claiming the Dell Technologies Championship en route to lifting the FedEx Cup. He was rightly named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year for 2017. 2018 has been more trying for Thomas; while he ascended briefly to the world No.1 spot in early spring and won twice at the Honda Classic and at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he failed to contend meaningfully at any of the season’s four major championships and looks set to finish the campaign behind Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka at No.4 in the world rankings. He further has the bitter disappointment of a crushing Ryder Cup defeat in Paris to reconcile. In this light, it seems safe to assume there are other places Thomas would rather be than Kuala Lumpur this week, attempting to regain a tournament he has won twice in the last three seasons. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old dropped eight birdies en route to a 6-under opening round 66 at the CIMB Classic to draw to within three strokes of the surprise overnight lead established by Bronson Burgoon. Given Thomas’ past history in Malaysia, a season-ending victory would proffer an unsettling omen for his PGA Tour rivals ahead of the 2019 campaign. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Paul Dunne seeking return to form for British Masters defence
Oct 10, 2018 12:50 PM
 
A year is a long time in golf. This time 12-months ago Paul Dunne travelled to contest the British Masters at Close House Golf Course in Newcastle upon Tyne positioned 188th in the Official World Golf Rankings; he remained winless through two and a half full seasons on the European Tour circuit, and seemed poised to go down in history as a byword for squandered potential – the amateur who seized a surprise share of the 54-hole lead at the 2012 Open Championship only to capitulate under pressure during the final round. One year on, Dunne cuts a very different figure. Comfortably seated inside of the world’s top-100, the 25-year-old is a lock to qualify for the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in the emirate next month and harbours realistic hopes of pushing for Ryder Cup qualification for the 2020 event in Wisconsin. Simply put, Dunne’s epic, three-stroke victory away from Rory McIlroy in Newcastle last year transformed him from European Tour journeyman into bona-fide contender; indeed, a T2 finish at the Spanish Open followed by a T7 finish at the China Open in the early summer briefly catapulted him inside of the world’s top-65. Paul Dunne hoping to rediscover form in British Masters defence https://t.co/TDOCiKCyBv— Irish Times Sport (@IrishTimesSport) October 9, 2018 But despite this progress, Dunne travels to Walton Heath Golf Club to defend his British Masters crown this week with a number of concerns. While he can rest assured of a spot at the Tour Championship in a manner that countrymen, Shane Lowry (66th) and Pádraig Harrington (95th) can only envy, at 51st in the money-list, he has not allowed himself a great deal of margin for error. Furthermore, an indifferent run of four missed cuts in his last five tournaments – missing out at the US PGA, European Masters, KLM Open and Alfred Dunhill Links and only surviving into the weekend at the Portugal Masters ­­– has exerted a profound deleterious impact on his world ranking. Indeed, the Greystones native travels to Walton Heath ranked 98th in the world, his lowest position since cracking the top-100 a year ago, and he has missed nine cuts through 21 starts across all Tours in 2018, almost double the amount he missed in 28 starts last season (5). “It’s a big event at a great time of the year, just before the end of the season Rolex Series events”, Dunne confided in the Irish Times’ reporter, Colin Reid. “With it having a good purse and a good field, it makes such a difference no matter what you’re vying for, whether it’s top-25 or top-60 in the Race to Dubai, or to keep your card. There’s a lot on the line.” A lot on the line, indeed; golf is a most capricious enterprise, particularly at the elite-level of the professional game, and success can vanish as fleetingly as it arrived. It is imperative Dunne halts his slide down the world rankings quickly: Walton Heath would be an ideal venue at which to inaugurate such an enterprise. [Photo Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Kevin Tway breaks PGA Tour duck at Safeway Open
Oct 9, 2018 12:45 PM
 
Kevin Tway was not much talked about in the lead-up to last week’s Safeway Open at Silverado Resort in Napa Valley, California; slated at the lower end of a field containing players of the calibre of Patrick Cantlay, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore and Joaquin Niemann, why should he have been? The Oklahoma State University graduate has spent most of his first seven seasons on the professional circuit residing firmly in the shadow of his father, Bob – an eight-time PGA Tour winner who claimed the 1986 US PGA Championship by two-strokes away from Greg Norman. While Kevin demonstrated precocious talent in winning the Oklahoma Class 6A individual title in 2006 and 2007 before qualifying for the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines as a 20-year-old, he initially struggled to translate a stellar collegiate record into senior-level success upon belatedly turning pro in 2011. Indeed, it was not until 2013 that he claimed his first professional title at the Albertsons Boise Open (defeating Spencer Levin on the first playoff hole with a birdie) en route to finishing fifth on the Web.com Tour’s regular season money list to earn a 2014 PGA Tour card. However, a dismal run of 14 missed-cuts through 22 starts in his maiden season on the PGA Tour ensured a swift return to the Webb.com circuit the following year and he would not regain elite-level playing privileges until the end of 2017 when a run of top-five finishes at high-profile events including the Valero Texas Open, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Wells Fargo Championship propelled him into the top-60 of the FedEx Cup standings. First PGA Tour win for Kevin Tway. #CowboyUp pic.twitter.com/uhH0M6YHct— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) October 8, 2018 Even before the Safeway, 2018 had been set to go down as a banner campaign for Tway. In addition to tying for fifth at the Fort Worth Invitational and tying sixth at the Travelers Championship, he tied ninth at the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship and missed only five cuts in 25 starts on the PGA Tour. That record propelled him from No.191 in the Official World Golf Rankings at the beginning of the year to No.129 as the start of last week, and he performed with a swagger befitting of a top-100 golfer en route to seizing a share of the 14-under 54-hole lead in Napa alongside Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Moore. It was on Sunday, however, that Tway really came of age, capitalising on Snedeker’s back-nine collapse with clutch birdies on holes 16 and 17 to force his way into a three-man play-off featuring Snedeker and Moore. After twice matching Moore with birdies on the par-5 18th, he claimed his maiden PGA Tour accolade on the third extra-hole following 10-foot birdie on the par-4 10th. Up to No.85 in the world, the future looks bright for the 30-year-old. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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