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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Jordan Spieth on Rickie Fowler: ‘It’s impossible to struggle in silence’
Mar 6, 2021 6:46 AM
 
It may not surprise you to learn that just two places separate Jordan Spieth from his friend and Ryder Cup colleague, Rickie Fowler in the Official World Golf Rankings. After all, the pair have spent most of the last decade contending and winning at the highest level of the US PGA Tour. More likely to raise an eyebrow are the names of those golfers separating them in the rankings: Adam Long, an 11-season veteran with just a single PGA Tour title to his name, and Erik van Rooyen, a 31-year-old South African who’s victory at the 2019 Scandinavian Masters remains his banner accomplishment. Suffice to say, at world Nos. 62 and 65 respectively, Spieth and Fowler remain some way off re-establishing themselves at the summit of the professional game. But while both players are struggling to rediscover the form and confidence that enabled them win regularly on the PGA Tour between 2010 and 2020, Spieth has managed to acquire two things that Fowler presently lacks. The first is an invitation to next month’s Masters; the second is positive momentum. When Spieth, a three-time major champion and former world No.1, missed the cut on the occasion of his first start of 2021 at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, he slumped outside of the world’s top-90. However, he roared back into form with tied-fourth and tied-third place finishes at the Phoenix Open and Pebble Beach Pro-Am in early February, and while his scoring tailed-off slightly at last weekend’s Genesis Invitational (T15), he has legitimately started to use the past tense when referring to a recent ‘dip’ in his career. Birdie-birdie start to Round 2 for @RickieFowler. #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/unkjCeVlC0— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 5, 2021 Fowler, by contrast, remains in search of answers. The 32-year-old is winless since in two full seasons since claiming his fifth PGA Tour accolade at the 2019 Phoenix Open, and after missing four times as many cuts (8) as he registered top-10 finishes (2) in 2020, he has picked-up where he left off in 2021, missing two cuts and failing to finish higher than 20th in his first five starts of the season. It is now more than a year since he finished inside of the top-10 at a PGA Tour event. Speaking in advance of last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Spieth told reporters that he sees similarities when looking at his close friend — particularly trying to make changes under big-time scrutiny. “The most difficult thing about struggling is when you’ve had a lot of success and therefore it’s almost impossible to struggle in silence, in darkness, and get your work done in the dark,” Spieth said. “There’s just going to be so much noise around and so much emphasis on results versus the true understanding of what your end goal is — and how much time that can take in golf.” “We saw a nonhuman in Tiger Woods be able to make massive changes quicker than what is probably realistic for just about anybody else,” he added. “I think that that can sometimes hurt the quickness of jumping to conclusions to people, and so I think publicly, struggling publicly when you’re somebody like Rickie, it makes it hard, so blocking out the noise is so important and sticking to what you’re doing is so important and having a team around you that can tell you that.” Here's hoping that Fowler can emulate Spieth in rediscovering the form that once rendered him one of the most captivating performers on the PGA Tour. Last weekend’s made cut at Bay Hill is a start. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Branden Grace returns to winners’ circle at Puerto Rico Open
Mar 4, 2021 4:32 AM
 
There are innumerable ways to win a golf tournament, from grinding out a wire-to-wire victory, to pouncing upon the final-round imprecision of panicky leader. But if you were to poll all 250 card-carrying PGA Tour professionals on the best way to seal a victory, rest assured 99% would give you the same answer: by draining clutch eagle and birdie putts on the back-nine on Sunday. Branden Grace had the privilege of living-out that particular fantasy in order to claim his second PGA Tour victory at the Puerto Rico Open last weekend, posting a spectacular eagle-birdie finish to deny Jhonattan Vegas on the 72nd hole. World No. 175, Vegas was looking good for a playoff at worst when he made his eighth birdie of the final round at the last to card a 65 and take the clubhouse lead on 18 under. However, Grace launched a huge drive down the par-four 17th and holed out from a greenside bunker for a thrilling eagle-two to draw level at the summit of the leaderboard with a hole to play. Five weeks ago, @BrandenGrace lost his father.Today was an emotional win @PuertoRicoOpen. pic.twitter.com/5lq8knytZg— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 28, 2021 Most impressively, he capitalised fully upon that position at the last, confidently draining a four-foot putt birdie putt to clinch his first victory since prevailing at his home South African Open last January. Grace’s victory was significant for a multitude of reasons. In addition to securing a two-year PGA Tour card exemption and climbing from 147th to 83rd in the updated world rankings, the win came less than two months after his father, Peter, died from Covid-19 and marked, therefore, a fitting tribute to one of the golfer’s major formative influences. “It was an emotional day”, Grace reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. “I thought about him a hell of a lot and especially the last tee shot. I was really struggling the last hole, because I knew he was looking over me. I knew he was guiding me. And I know he is in a better place now, but we miss him dearly. It’s been a great way to [end] a tough time that we have had the last couple of months.” Grace’s victory in Puerto Rico has the potential to transform the trajectory of his career. The Pretoria native exploded into the popular golfing consciousness on the back of 4th and 3rd place finishes at the U.S. Open and the U.S. PGA Championship in 2015; by the time he claimed his maiden PGA Tour accolade at the RBC Heritage event at Harbour Town Golf Club in April 2016, it seemed just a matter of time until he made a breakthrough at major-level. However, his form has declined precipitously since 2018, and while he ended a three-year trophy drought at the South African Open last January, the unevenness of his performances is reflected by the fact that he missed 13 cuts and registered just two top-10 finishes in 27 subsequent appearances, slumping down the world rankings. Established back inside of the world’s top-100 and assured of US PGA Tour participation for the next two seasons, Grace possesses a solid platform on which to build in the year ahead. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tributes to Tiger as Morikawa wins at the WGC-Workday Championship
Mar 2, 2021 4:32 AM
 
Ultimately, it was fitting that in a week when Tiger Woods was to the forefront of everybody’s mind, Collin Morikawa emulated one of Tiger’s signature achievements in becoming only the second player in PGA Tour history to win both a major championship and World Golf Championship event before turning 25. The 24-year-old, who claimed his maiden major championship title at the US PGA Championship last August, signed for a final-round 69 at the WGC-Workday Championship in Florida on Sunday to finish 18 under par, three shots clearof Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland and Billy Horschel. This was a vintage performance from Morikawa, who demonstrated impressive psychological resilience in recovering from an unconvincing start to seal a banner victory in empathic fashion at The Concession Golf Club. The Berkley alum had opened up a five-shot lead with seven birdies in eight holes on Saturday before two late bogeys, both gallingly at par-fives, reduced his advantage to two, and a bogey at the second in his final round opened the door a little wider for an elite chasing pack. However, he responded with three birdies in five holes between the 5th and the 9th and added another at the 12th. With his closest rivals unable to sustain their challenges, Morikawa kept his composure and negotiated the final six holes in relatively stress-free pars to seal a comfortable victory that pushes him up to a career-high No.4 in the Official World Golf Rankings. It is surely only a matter of time before he begins breathing down Dustin Johnson’s neck in a push for top spot. Tiger Woods was touched as players wore reds shirts and black pants to honor him on Sunday pic.twitter.com/472xdUPqnF— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 1, 2021 "What a week, it just shows that I can come out here and compete," Morikawa reflected upon successfully converting the first 54-hole lead of his career. “It sets me up really well for the season ahead.” Interestingly, he also revealed that he received short-game tips from former major champions, Mark O'Meara and Paul Azinger in preparation for the Florida event. Morikawa ranked No.190 out of 250 players on the PGA Tour for Strokes Gained: Putting and knew that even a marginal improvement on the greens could enable him to convert his outstanding approach play into lower scores. "I've been working on so much over the last couple of weeks and tips from Mark O'Meara and Paul Azinger got me through this week," he said. "My game felt so good and I'm so excited right now. Mark was helping me with the putting, obviously it's been a big change to the saw grip, as he calls it. And then I talked with Azinger for a while about chipping, And that saved my life this week." If Morikawa can maintain such accuracy on the putting surface over the long-haul, we can expect to see him return to the winners’ circle regularly in 2021. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Has Rickie Fowler missed his window to win a major?
Feb 28, 2021 5:33 AM
 
‘Always the bridesmaid but never the bride’; this old saying reflects accurately Rickie Fowler’s relation to golf’s four most prestigious tournaments. Ever since becoming the first golfer in history to top-five at every major in a single season without winning one in 2014, the Californian has been possessed of the air of a "nearly-man". While he impressed in winning top-tier PGA Tour events such as The Players Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship the following season, rising as high as No.4 in the Official World Golf Rankings, he has proven peculiarly unable to transform his exceptional physical and technical qualities into consistent success, especially at major championship level. Indeed, Fowler’s record of five career victories on the PGA Tour is wholly incommensurate with his outstanding level of physical and technical ability; that he has only converted two of eight career 54-hole leads into PGA Tour victories lends credence to the claim that his progress has been stymied by a persistent psychological brittleness. BirdieBirdieBirdie@RickieFowler is off to a hot start. #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/1XPbYmWtFW— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 21, 2021 The extent of the 32-year-old’s stagnation is set in sharp relief when one compares the evolution of his career over the past seven years with that of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas (both aged 27). Where the 2015 Players Championship remains Fowler’s signature victory, Spieth and Thomas have amassed two FedExCups, four major titles and 20 overall PGA Tour wins since 2014. With long-suffering players of the calibre of Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia all having claimed a maiden major championship victories in recent years, Fowler stands as a conspicuously prominent figure in the much-maligned ‘best practicing player without a major championship’ category. While for most of the last seven seasons, one could rationalise Fowler’s narrow-misses by emphasising the positive aspects of his ability to contend consistently for PGA Tour honours, recent results have rendered such a perspective untenable. The Oklahoma State alum is winless since in two full seasons since claiming his fifth PGA Tour accolade at the 2019 Phoenix Open, and after missing four times as many cuts (8) as he registered top-10 finishes (2) in 2020, he has picked-up where he left off in 2021 season missing two cuts and failing to finish higher than 20th in his first five starts of the season. Indeed, Fowler travels to Bay Hill to contest the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week ranked 65th in the Official World Golf Rankings, his lowest position since April 2010, and he is consequently in serious danger of missing out on Masters qualification for the first time in over a decade. Fowler has until 4 April either to win a PGA Tour event or climb his way back inside of the world’s top-50 – otherwise he will be deprived of an Augusta National tee-time. At 32 and tumbling down the world rankings, he can ill afford to squander further opportunities to break his major duck. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
WGC-Workday: Brooks Koepka seizes slender lead over Collin Morikawa
Feb 27, 2021 5:53 AM
 
If a week is a long time in politics, then four weeks is an eternity in golf. A month after snapping a second set of irons in frustration at his poor form, Brooks Koepka is strongly placed to secure a second win in three events at the WGC-Workday Championship in Florida. The four-time major champion mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey on his way to a six-under second-round 66 at The Concession Club, taking him to 11 under four the tournament – one stroke clear of US PGA champion, Collin Morikawa, as well as Billy Horschel and Cameron Smith. This was a vintage performance from Koepka, who was side-lined for much of the first two months of the 2020-21 season with knee and hip injuries. Starting the day a shot behind overnight leaders, Matt Fitzpatrick and Webb Simpson, he birdied the first and holed a 15-footer to save par at the fourth before following a tap-in gain at the seventh by converting from 20 feet at the next. He maintained a comparably impressive rate of scoring on the back-nine, splashing out of the sand to four feet to pick up a shot at the 12th before carding back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 to move into the outright lead. He briefly pulled two clear of the chasing pack after getting up and down from the sand to pick up a shot at the par-five 17th, but carded his only bogey of the day after going long of the green on the final hole. Koepka was the dominant force on the PGA Tour between 2017 and 2019, winning back-to-back US Opens as well as two US PGA Championships to consolidate his position at the summit of the world rankings. However, a combination of fitness struggles and a loss of form meant that he needed to endure an 18-month drought prior to winning the Waste Management Open in Phoenix three weeks ago. Looking at the weekend like @WGCWorkday @RickyElliott pic.twitter.com/aIXHWJ3ydC— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) February 27, 2021 The 30-year-old snapped one set of irons over his knee after missing the cut at the Mayakoba Golf Classic last December and another following an early exit from the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January. Speaking to Sky Sports Golf after seizing the halfway lead in Florida, he reflected, "All that just came from frustration in not seeing the results, that's all it is. You can be playing good and the results just aren't there. I felt like I'd been working so hard over the last...basically from the (FedEx Cup) play-offs. "I haven't been home for more than 25 days since TPC Boston (in August). Just been out in San Diego training, trying to do everything right and I'm starting to see those results now." Just over a month out from the opening major of the season, Koepka’s return to form is an ominous sign for the rest of the PGA Tour. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Car crash leaves Tiger’s Masters dreams in tatters
Feb 25, 2021 12:02 PM
Tags: Masters   Tiger Woods   News   Genesis Open   pga tour  
 
Ever since the spring of 2014, when discogenic degeneration in Tiger Woods’ lumbar spine emerged as a chronic issue, predicting the 15-time major champion’s playing schedule has been a fool’s pursuit. Woods, as is well known, underwent four back surgeries over varying severity in the six years leading up to his seminal victory at the 2019 Masters. Most significantly, in April 2017, he committed to an anterior lumbar interbody fusion in which a herniated lumbar disc was removed from his spine entirely and replaced by a cage, packed with bone graft, which is secured between his lumbar vertebrae with screws. Since the fusion surgery, no event outside the majors has been a guarantee for Tiger, and following last December’s announcement that he underwent a fourth microdiscectomy surgery, it remained unclear when he would make his first appearance of 2021. Asked at last week’s Genesis Open whether he expected to contest the Masters in April, he replied: "God I hope so. I've got to get there first. A lot of it is based on my surgeons and my doctors and my therapists and making sure that I do it correctly. This is the only back I've got, so I don't have much more wiggle-room left there." Thankful and hopeful. From The Concession, players reflect on the news of Tiger Woods' car accident. pic.twitter.com/ojXeySq72R— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 24, 2021 Many fans and pundits pinpointed the Honda Classic (18-21 March), played just a few miles from Tiger’s Florida home on the PGA National course, to be the most likely venue for a comeback. However, news that emerged on Tuesday evening that Woods underwent major surgery on his right leg following a “high-speed” single-car accident outside Los Angeles has put paid to any hopes he might contend for the Masters. As part of the procedure, Woods’ right leg was stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia. Screws and pins were used to stabilize the bones in the foot and ankle. A surgical release of the covering of the muscle was also performed to relieve pressure due to swelling. The impact of the accident on his already fragile lumbar spine remains to be seen. Orthopaedic surgeons interviewed by Reuters suggested that, based on the information so far available, the 15-time major winner could return possibly within a year. However, there remain a great many variables that complicate such optimistic predictions, not least the impact of the accident of Woods’ psychology. In light of Tuesday afternoon’s events, we may well have seen the last of Woods contending for major championship honours. However, even a cursory glance at the condition of Tiger’s car following the crash reminds us that he was fortunate to survive. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Genesis Invitational: Homa edges out Finau in play-off
Feb 23, 2021 6:16 AM
Tags: Max Homa   News   Tony Finau,   Genesis Open   pga tour  
 
In the end it was not to be for Tony Finau. The world No.13, as is well known, remains winless since claiming his maiden PGA Tour accolade at the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open five seasons ago. Since then, he has accumulated 37 top-10 finishes, including eight runner-up placings, without managing to win. For context, that’s more than double the second-most top-10 finishes recorded by a PGA Tour professional in the same time period (Kevin Streelman, Tommy Fleetwood and Ben An all share an ignominious second-place with 16). Coming off the back of consecutive, agonising second-place finishes at the Farmers Insurance Open and Saudi Open, Finau briefly appeared poised to end his draught at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club last weekend. The 31-year-old stormed up the leaderboard with a round-of-the-day 64 (7-under) to seize outright hold of the clubhouse lead. When the overnight leader, Max Homa squandered a 3-foot birdie-putt to win the tournament on the 72nd hole, the staged seemed set for Finau to strike a killer-blow in the play-off. Since Tony Finau's lone TOUR win at the 2016 @PuertoRicoOpen: 37 top 10s21 top 5s8 runner-up finisheshttps://t.co/YpswpX71iI— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 22, 2021 However, Finau missed an eight-foot birdie-putt to win the tournament on the first extra-hole, and when he failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker at the par-three 14th, the second extra hole, Homa’s two-putt regulation par proved sufficient to seal a second-career PGA Tour victory. “I don't know if I could ever do anything cooler in golf than this,” Homa beamed upon returning to the clubhouse. “Just for me, for my caddie Joe, we were raised 25 miles north of here. Tiger Woods is handing us a trophy, that's a pretty crazy thought. We grew up idolizing him, idolizing Riviera Country Club, idolizing the golf tournament. To get it done, it's almost shocking, but it feels like it just can't be topped. “Obviously wasn't a very good putt, but it broke a little more than I would have liked it to for a three-footer”, he added in reference to his missed-cut on the 72nd hole. “I just was a little nervous, honestly. This tournament means a lot to me.” Up to a career-high No.38 in the Official World Golf Rankings, the onus now is on Homa to build upon his achievement at Riviera by developing into a more consistent winner at the highest level of the professional game. The 30-year-old, who starred at the University of California before turning professional back in 2013, ranked outside of the world’s top-1000 as recently as 2019 and has generally struggled to translate his exceptional collegiate performances on to the elite stage. For Finau, meantime, the excruciating wait for second PGA Tour title wears on. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas’ struggles deepen following missed cut at Genesis Open
Feb 21, 2021 6:12 AM
 
When Justin Thomas travelled to Maui to defend his Tournament of Champions title on 10 January, he had every reason to feel optimistic regarding the season ahead The 27-year-old won twice and had four further top-3 finishes 2020, – notably defeating Phil Michelson and Brooks Koepka at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in August – and rounded out a difficult year with six consecutive top-15 finishes, including a fourth-place finishes at the deferred Masters Tournament in November. With Jordan Spieth in the doldrums, and the form of players like Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm contracting, the stage seemed set for Thomas, restored to No.3 in the world rankings, to establish himself as Dustin Johnson’s principal rival for the world No.1 spot. But elite level sport is nothing if not unpredictable, and the trajectory of Thomas’ season, perhaps even his career, altered radically during the third-round of the Tournament of Champions when he reacted to missing a short, 4-foot birdie putt by muttering a homophobic slur under his breath. Unluckily, perhaps, for the player the absence of any spectators was sufficient to ensure his transgression was picked-up by the greenside microphones – inevitably, the backlash was significant. Riviera doesn't play favorites.Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas missed the cut.Collin Morikawa and Bubba Watson are battling near the cutline on @PGATOURLIVE. pic.twitter.com/1ahzUDcLnu— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 19, 2021 Despite issuing a prompt and wholehearted apology upon returning to the clubhouse, the clothing brand Ralph Lauren, Thomas’ principal sponsor, determined to end its long-time relationship with the player, declaring his actions “inconsistent with our values.” Comparable indignation was articulated by a range of LGBTQ commentators and journalists, as well as by disappointed fans on social media. Thomas has since held formal discussions with his other leading sponsors — Titleist, FootJoy and Citi Bank are among those listed on his official website — and has committed to undergo behavioural training in a bid to restore his reputation. Inevitably the media storm generated by Thomas’ transgression at the Tournament of Champions, an event at which he wound-up finishing third, has had an impact on his performances. He missed his first cut in 14 starts on the occasion of his next appearance at the European Tour’s HSBC Championship event in Abu Dhabi. While he recorded a solid tied-13th finish at the Waste Management in Open in Phoenix a fortnight later, he proved emphatically unable to consolidate that progress at the Genesis Open at Riviera last weekend. The former US Open winner made a double-bogey six at the eighth hole of the opening round, four-putting from 33 feet, and never meaningfully recovered his composure on the firm and fast greens in Los Angeles. He signed for two rounds of 77 and 73 to miss the cut by a full seven shots. Needless to say, these performances are out of keeping with the regular quality of Thomas’ output and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that his focus and motivation has been compromised as a consequence of the controversy that befell him in Maui. The subsequent trajectory of Thomas season will depend heavily on his capacity to compartmentalise the nadir of Kapalua and restore focus fully on his golf. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rory McIlroy named chair of PGA Tour player advisory council
Feb 18, 2021 11:05 AM
 
Say what you like about Rory McIlroy, but don’t say that he’s afraid to speak his mind. In an era when most sports stars are more concerned to safeguard corporate sponsorship revenue than articulate a position of moral principle, the Northern Irishman has long stood out as a rare example of an athlete willing to air an opinion on politically contentious issues. From human rights and climate change, to Donald Trump and COVID-19, the 31-year-old is marked by an admirable willingness to proffer an opinion on divisive and sensitive topics. McIlroy is equally willing to speak truth to power on golfing matters. Just last month, for instance, he labelled the R&A and USGA's flagship Distance Insights Project (DIP) "a waste of time and money". Responding to the authorities’ proposal to curtail driving distance by limiting club and shaft lengths McIlroy highlighted how such measures risked compromising amateur golfers’ enjoyment of the sport. .@McIlroyRory Read more: https://t.co/FEyjtpFp2W pic.twitter.com/BamaF2m8RO— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) February 16, 2021 It seems fitting, therefore, that the Northern Irishman was this week elected chairman of the PGA Tour’s player advisory council for 2021. Defeating the American, Kevin Streelman and the Scot, Russell Knox in a ballot of PGA Tour professionals, McIlroy is the first international player to serve on the policy board, an institution dating back to 1969. The four-time major champion had previously stood for the role without success, but retained a belief that he can bring his considerable experience and influence to bear to improve the sport. "The PGA Tour announced today that Rory McIlroy has been elected chairman of the player advisory council (PAC) by the tour's membership for the 2021 calendar year," read a PGA Tour statement. The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the PGA Tour policy board (board of directors) and commissioner Jay Monahan on issues affecting the tour. "Rory McIlroy, who prevailed over Russell Knox and Kevin Streelman, will succeed Jordan Spieth as a player director on the PGA Tour policy board next year, serving a three-year term (2022-2024). "He will join James Hahn (2020-22), Charley Hoffman (2021-23) and Kevin Kisner (2020-22) on the policy board. McIlroy will become the first international player to serve on the policy board, which dates back to the tour's first season in 1969." Winless since claiming his 18th PGA Tour title at the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions in China, the world No.7 has opened the 2021 campaign with three consecutive top-20 finishes. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Daniel Berger eagles the last hole to seal two-shot victory at Pebble Beach
Feb 16, 2021 10:46 AM
 
There are many different ways to win a golf tournament; from grinding out a wire-to-wire victory, to pouncing upon the final-round imprecision of panicky leader. But if you were to poll all 245 card-carrying PGA Tour professionals on the best way to seal a victory, rest assured 99% would give you the same answer: by draining a clutch eagle putt on the 72nd hole. Daniel Berger had the privilege of living-out that particular fantasy in order to claim his fourth PGA Tour victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last weekend. Having finished his third round with a double-bogey seven after blocking his drive out of bounds, the 27-year-old arrived on Pebble’s famous par-5 18th tee in a share of the lead alongside Maverick McNealy, who was secure in the clubhouse at 16 under par. However, Berger capitalised fully upon an easier final round tee-position as he followed a perfect drive with a 250-yard second to 30 feet. The resulting eagle putt had just enough pace to reach its destination as he provided a grandstand finish to sign for a seven-under 65 and an18-under 270 total. Stay patient. Work hard. Daniel Berger shares the key to his win on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/E05NqXZ5OC— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) February 15, 2021 "One of the best finishing holes I've ever played," said a relieved champion after a superb response to his faltering finish in the third round. "Obviously, with everything that happened on Saturday, hitting that ball out of bounds, to step up there and hit a great drive and then one of the best three-woods I've ever hit in my life and then to make that putt is just as good as it gets for me. "I think today really solidified my position as one of the best golfers out here and I just need to continue to do the things I've been doing and I feel like there's no limit to what I can accomplish." This was a vintage final-round performance from Berger, who was regarded by many as having lost his way after claiming the prestigious 2015 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award. However, he enjoyed his best-ever season on the PGA Tour in 2020, snapping a three-year trophy drought at the Charles Schwab Challenge to climb back inside the world’s top-20, and last weekend’s victory indicates that he may yet fulfil his early career promise by becoming a regular winner on the PGA Tour. McNealy finished with a 66 to take second place at 16 under, one stroke ahead of Patrick Cantlay (68) and third-round leader Jordan Spieth (70), who was coming off his best result in nearly a year - a tie for fourth place in the Waste Management Phoenix Open last week. Spieth, who won the 2017 Pebble Beach event for one of his 11 career PGA Tour victories, hasn't been victorious since claiming the 2017 Open Championship. His third-place finish at Pebble Beach marks just his second top-10 finish since he tied for ninth at Pebble Beach in 2020 and his second top-20 result since the Memorial last July. Spieth appears on course to follow Berger in returning to the PGA Tour winners’ circle in the near future. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Missed Pebble Beach cut illustrates challenge facing Phil Mickelson
Feb 13, 2021 10:41 AM
 
When Phil Mickelson closed with a 6-under final-round of 65 to claim his 44th PGA Tour victory at the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he appeared strongly positioned to re-establish himself at the highest level of the professional game. For in addition to ending an 18-month trophy drought, the AT&T triumph catapulted the veteran back inside of the world’s top-20 and indicated that he would be a strong contender to complete a Career Grand Slam when the PGA Tour returned to Pebble for the US Open in June. As it turned-out, however, such early-season optimism was misplaced and Mickelson proved incapable of sustaining or, indeed, recapturing the level of performance he produced at Pebble in February. In 16 starts across all Tours following his victory, he missed eight cuts and failed to produce a single top-10 finish. In addition to missing-out on the FedEx Cup-ending Tour Championship at East Lake, he slipped outside of the world’s top-40, and wound-up 16th on the Presidents Cup points list, eight-places behind Patrick Cantlay in the final automatic qualification spot. "Paul, that's a 9 ... I'm kind of crushing the par 5s right now."Phil Mickelson takes the scenic route on No. 18 at Pebble Beach. pic.twitter.com/JNHWXMT2Np— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 12, 2021 Things scarcely improved during the pandemic-hit 2020 campaign. While Mickelson made headlines with a T3 finish at Pebble and a T2 finish at the St Jude Championship either side of the spring lockdown, he ultimately wound-up missing eight cuts through 18 starts and tumbled back outside of the world’s top-60. Indeed, the most eye-catching storyline to emerge from Lefty’s 2020 season was the fact that he won on the occasion of each of his first two starts on the Champions Tour; many consequently pondered whether his energies might be most productively spent competing on the over-50s circuit. The disappointing nature of Mickelson’s beginning to the 2021 season has lent further weight to that perspective. Arriving at Pebble Beach to contest the annual Pro-Am last week off the back of a missed-cut and two tied-53rd finishes, he combined a two-over 74 on Spyglass Hill with a disastrous eight-over 80 on Pebble to miss the cut. Remarkably, nine of his second-round strokes came on Pebble’s famous 18th hole, where he hit two balls into the Pacific Ocean. On form, Mickelson retains the technical skill and tactical imagination to rival the world’s best. However, such performances are, regrettably, becoming fewer and further between and it appears increasingly the case that the Champions Tour provides the most appropriate environment in which he can express his talents. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Justin Rose exhibits signs of revival in Saudi Arabia
Feb 11, 2021 12:43 PM
 
When Justin Rose birdied two of his last four holes en route to a two-stroke victory over Adam Scott at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2019, he appeared positioned strongly to consolidate his position atop the world rankings. Rose, it bears restating, won five times across the PGA and European Tours in 2017 and 2018 and spent much of the second half of 2018 trading places with Brooks Koepka in the world No.1 and 2 spots. While Koepka ultimately finished 2018 at the summit of the rankings, the emphatic nature of the Rose’s at Torrey Pines indicated he would retain his role as Koepka’s principal rival in the short-to-medium term. Indeed, many predicted he would add a long overdue second major championship title at the upcoming Masters Tournament. As it turned out, however, Rose wound up missing his first cut mark in 14 starts at Augusta National at the 2019 Masters and, frankly, his form never really recovered. 2020 marked the occasion of the Englishman’s first winless season in over a decade and, while he impressed with top-3 finishes at the Singapore Open and Charles Schwab Challenge either side of the COVID-19 lockdown, he wound up missing three times as many cuts (9) as he mustered top-10 finishes through 19 starts and slumped outside of the world’s top-30 for the first time since 2009. Fun filming this with @robbeckettcomic and @RomeshRanga at the @BMWPGA https://t.co/3v1DGYK2yX — Justin ROSE (@JustinRose99) February 11, 2021 Inevitably such a severe contraction in form obliged the 40-year-old to engage in a period of deep, critical self-reflection. First thing to change was his partnership with the equipment manufacturer, Honma. Rose ceased using the Japanese manufacturer’s clubs last March and the split was made official in May. Next, he ended an 11-year collaboration with swing coach, Sean Foley in a search for fresh ideas to revivify his game. To label these measures drastic would be an understatement. But while neither move precipitated an immediate uptick in results, the evidence of Rose’s display on the occasion of his second start of the 2021 campaign in Saudi Arabia last week indicates they may be beginning to yield belated results. The 11-time European Tour winner carded four rounds in the 60s at the Emirates Golf Course en route to a tied-second place finish alongside Tony Finau, two strokes shy of Dustin Johnson’s winning total. Taking into account strength of field, it was Rose’s best result since finishing third at the 2019 US Open. Afterwards the Englishman spoke of steady improvement and "growing his game" during three weeks on the European Tour in the Middle East. “I still feel like the best is in me,” he added; “but it doesn’t get any easier. You look at the stats on tour and how many 40+ guys are competing and it does get fewer and fewer, but I think I can surprise myself still.” The signs from Saudi certainly lend weight to his optimism. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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