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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
After 7 years, Matteo Manassero returns to the winner's circle
Sep 25, 2020 7:50 AM
 
When in June, 2009 Matteo Manassero became the youngest ever winner of the British Amateur Championship at the age of 16 and went on claim the Silver Medal for Low Amateur at the Open at Turnberry just over a month later, finishing in a tie for 13th, he seemed destined to join Rory McIlroy at the forefront of a new generation of European golfers vying to overtake Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings. Possessed of impressive length off of the tee, penetrating approach-play and a solid putting stroke, the Verona native commanded all of the physical and technical raw materials required to develop into a regular winner at the highest level of the professional game. Perhaps even more importantly, he seemed to have the patient, hard-working mentality that is a hallmark of the finest elite athletes in any discipline. It is notable, for instance, that even after ascending to the top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings in the autumn of 2009, Manassero resisted the allure of sponsors, agents’ promises and hefty cheques in order to retain his amateur status until he finished high school. When he did finally turn professional the following year, he established himself as both the youngest player ever to make the cut at the Masters Tournament (finishing as Low Amateur in a tie for 36th), and the youngest ever winner on the European Tour, upon claiming the Castello Masters in October 2010. He would go on to claim European Tour victories in each of the subsequent three seasons, consolidating his position inside of the world’s top-50, and it appeared only a matter of time before the then 20-year-old made a breakthrough at major championship level. However, in six seasons after claiming the biggest victory of his fledgling career at the European Tour’s flagship BMW Championship event at Wentworth, Manassero’s game went into a tailspin, a slump precipitated by a combination of injuries, loss of form and foolhardy technical experimentation. In 2014, he could only manage two top-10s as the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles came and went. The following year things got worse as he only made five cuts in 22 starts, falling to 167th in the Race to Dubai. Matteo Manassero is a winner again. The 27 year old Italian won on the @AlpsTourGolf today, his first professional victory since winning the @BMWPGA at Wentworth in 2013. Manassero, once ranked in the top 30 in the world as a teenager, is currently ranked 1,805th. pic.twitter.com/1DTuruqbuG — GOLFTV (@GOLFTV) September 19, 2020 He managed one top ten in 2016 – third place at the Hero Indian Open – and in 2018, after finishing 122nd in the rankings, he found himself out of exemptions and at Qualifying School trying to forge a path back to the Tour. The same pattern repeated last November: on both occasions, he was cut after four rounds, only beating two players in the field. The former world No.25 consequently arrived in Tuscany to contest the Toscana Open on Europe’s third-tier Alps Tour last week ranked No. 1705, having missed 23 cuts in his preceding 25 starts. Needless to say, such a severe slump would be sufficient to drive many, less mentally resilient practitioners to retirement. However, Manassero’s diligence was rewarded richly as he went on to end a seven-year trophy drought on home soil. The 27-year-old set the pace with an eight-under 63 and added a second-round 66 on Friday, before signing for a final-round 65 and a single-stroke victory at 19-under-par. Back up inside of the world’s top-1000, the Italian has time on his side in his quest to re-establish himself at the top-end of the European game. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Winged Foot may spell end of US Open road for Phil Mickelson
Sep 24, 2020 5:44 AM
Tags: US Open   Tiger Woods   Phil Mickelson   News   Winged Foot   pga tour  
 
As a six-time runner-up requiring only a US Open victory to become just the sixth golfer in history to achieve a coveted career Grand Slam, Phil Mickelson has endured no shortage of heartbreak at America’s oldest major. Indeed, each of Lefty’s near misses tells a story. In ’99 at Pinehurst, there was the pager and the looming birth of his first child. Three years later at Bethpage he was, in truth, little more than a supporting character for Tiger Woods, and in ’04 at Southern Hills, he ran into a South African buzz saw named Retief Goosen (a 71st-hole double bogey didn't help, either). In ’09 at Bethpage he finished second to Lucas Glover, but was anointed the “people’s champion” by the New York masses. But it was at Winged Foot, 14 years ago, where Mickelson endured his ultimate U.S. Open heartbreak. Leading by a stroke on the 72nd tee, he hit a corporate tent, a tree and finished with a double bogey, one stroke behind champion, Geoff Ogilvy. After being beaten up and battered by Winged Foot, it’s nice to find out @ForWellness doesn’t just help my mind and body, it comforts my ego and soothes my hurt soul. Orders ship Monday pic.twitter.com/CTcfR6528D— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) September 19, 2020 There was, consequently, a poetic quality to Mickelson’s return to Winged Foot last week to mount what was conceivably his final, serious assault on the US Open trophy. Regrettably, it didn’t pan-out in the fashion that sporting romantics around the world were hoping. The 50-year-old inspired fleeting hope of a title push when he recovered from poor drives to birdie the first two holes of his opening-round. However, his notorious inaccuracy off the tee soon took a toll as he was repeatedly forced to play his second shot out of Winged Foot’s punishingly thick rough. Over his next 34 holes, Mickelson would make only one further birdie, and rounds of 79 and 74 were seven too many to secure a weekend tee-time. As the veteran tumbles precipitously down the world rankings (he’s now No.56) and has begun competing on the Senior’s Tour, it is possible we may never see him contest a US Open again. The United States Golf Association will surely make a case to grant Mickelson a special exemption for Torrey Pines and the 121st staging but the man himself has previously been adamant he would accept no such “charity”. The other entry future route for Mickelson, who turned 50 in June, would be via senior competitions, by which point he surely could not be considered a US Open contender. “I don’t know,” Mickelson replied when asked whether we had witnessed his last US Open round. Either way, as golf fans, we must begin to reconcile the fact that Lefty’s decade-long quest for a career slam is unlikely to come to a happy resolution. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Oosthuizen revives hopes of major success at US Open
Sep 23, 2020 3:55 AM
 
Okay, let’s face it: Louis Oosthuizen is not exactly what a sports fan would naturally refer to as a ‘captivating personality’. He is not one for flashing photos of fancy houses, hi-spec sports cars, luxury yachts or expensive watches-up on Instagram; he keeps his private life, well, private; and his interviews tend to be short, sharp and to the point. Oosthuizen is, in other words, a consummate professional and one could make a persuasive case that his low-key personality off the course is mirrored by the measured, steady and highly consistent character of his play on it. It felt oddly fitting, therefore, that when the South African broke one of Jack Nicklaus’ longest-standing records during the opening-round of last week’s US Open at Winged Foot, he did so in the most casual, understated fashion imaginable. A major move from @Louis57TM #USOpen pic.twitter.com/4FmBuJJ4pX— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 19, 2020 Oosthuizen’s 3-under Thursday total of 67 marked the occasion of his eighth career 67-or-better round at a U.S. Open, good for the most by any player in the history of the tournament. Characteristically, he did not stop to speak with reporters upon returning to the clubhouse, meaning that his historic round was dismissed by many as merely another solid round by one of the PGA Tour’s most consistent veteran performers. Ultimately, the 37-year-old was unable to parley his strong opening-round performance into a third major championship title. Following-up a four-over Friday total of 74 with a two-under third-round 68, he teed-off for the final day within four strokes of Matthew Wolff’s 54-hole lead. However, two bogeys in punishing conditions on the outward nine meant that he was playing catch-up from the off and, despite converting a 12-foot birdie at the last, he was obliged to sign for a 3-over 73 and an outright third-place finish on 2-over for the tournament (282). In characteristically gracious fashion, Oosthuizen acknowledged the tough conditions and stated that it looked like DeChambeau was playing on a different course on his own. "I probably have to look at the finish more than anything else. Finishing third in a major is always great," said Oosthuizen following his final round on Sunday. "Yeah, I mean, it was going to be tough. You could see early on what Bryson and Matt (Wolff) were going to do, and Bryson is playing his own little golf course at the moment. "This golf course definitely showed its teeth today with the firmness of the greens and the fairways and the wind, and it was just tough." Back inside of the world’ top-20, Oosthuizen’s strong performance at Winged Foot renews hope that he may yet add third major to his collection before retirement. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Wolff can draw confidence from near miss at US Open
Sep 22, 2020 5:38 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Matthew Wolff. The 21-year-old, making only his second major championship appearance, matched the lowest score ever at Winged Foot in a major, signing for a 5-under third-round 65 to take a two-shot lead from Bryson DeChambeau into the final-round of the 120th US Open. All the promise Wolff demonstrated so richly upon claiming his maiden professional title on the occasion of just his third PGA Tour appearance last July appeared to be coming to fruition. He was poised to become the first player to win a US Open on his tournament debut in 107 years. As it turned out, however, the California native was obliged to content himself with a narrow runner-up finish as DeChambeau stormed to his first major accolade in emphatic fashion, winning by six shots. Lowest U.S. Open rounds at Winged Foot2020 Matthew Wolff (65) 2020 Justin Thomas (65) 2020 Matthew Wolff (66)2020 Patrick Reed (66)2020 Thomas Pieters (66)1984 Fuzzy Zoeller (66) pic.twitter.com/XyUbYQ3JLe— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) September 19, 2020 Wolff started solidly with consecutive pars; however, bogeys on the par-3 3rd and par-4 5th ensured that DeChambeau led upon reaching the sixth tee-box. Wolff, who dropped a further shot at the 8th, managed to stay within one of the leader when he matched DeChambeau's eagle at the 9th, but further dropped shots at the 10th and 14th left Wolff four behind with four to play. A double-bogey at 16 ended his title hopes, and two closing pars added up to a 75 and an overall score of level par, which he was understandably proud of on one of the toughest courses in major championship golf. Indeed, the newly-crowned world No.18 was keen to emphasise the upsides of his performance upon returning to the clubhouse. "A bunch of positives," was how Wolff described his week in New York. "You can't take Bryson out because obviously he won, but shooting even par for four rounds at Winged Foot is pretty exceptional. I think the last couple of US Opens that they've had here, I think five over or so has won. "I played really tough all week. I battled hard, and things just didn't go my way. But for my first US Open, second place is something to be proud of and hold your head up high for. I'm just excited to learn from this experience, and it's definitely not the last time that I'm going to be in this spot." In just 30 starts as a professional, Wolff owns a victory, two runner-up finishes and four further top-10s. It is difficult to dissent from the player’s perspective that it is only a matter of time before he is back contending during the final round of a major. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
US Open: Bryson DeChambeau storms to six-shot victory at Winged Foot
Sep 21, 2020 12:04 PM
 
Bryson DeChambeau has been the talk of the sporting world since the PGA Tour returned from its COVID-19 enforced hiatus in June. He arrived to contest the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas on 11 June carrying 20 more pounds of muscle than earlier in the year, and he had already made headlines in late 2019 for piling on 25 pounds in advance of the Presidents Cup last December. All this bulking-up, of course, was undertaken with the intention of increasing club-head speed and, ultimately, the distance he is capable of hitting the ball off the tee. In that respect the 27-year-old’s muscle-building experiment has been a resounding success. Amazing feeling after so much hard work has gone into this transformation of my game and outlook. Thank you to my fans, team and sponsors for sticking with me. And thank you to the @USGA, @usopengolf and Winged Foot for an incredible test. So honored to have won my 1st major here pic.twitter.com/75OEogzMtc— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) September 21, 2020 He tied for third at the Charles Schwab Challenge, before finishing eighth at the RBC Heritage and tying for sixth at the Travelers Championship. The following week, he defeated Matthew Wolff by three strokes to claim a sixth PGA Tour title at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, prompting a slew of sensational media headlines about how his rapid physical transformation threatened to reshape the sport. Golf.com, for instance, ran an editorial entitled: ‘Bryson DeChambeau has transformed himself. But will he also transform the game?’ CNN struck a similar tone, asking: ‘Is Bryson DeChambeau irreversibly changing golf?’ Such prophecies seemed hyperbolic when the Californian went on to miss two cuts and register just a single top-10 finish in his next seven starts, slipping back to the fringe of the world’s top-10. During the final round of the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club on Sunday, however, he belatedly fulfilled the hype, singing for a 3-under 67 to claim an empathic six-stroke victory away from Matthew Wolff. This was a vintage performance from DeChambeau, who teed-off with a two-shot deficit to Wolff’s 54-hole lead and produced the tournament’s only sub-par final-round to seal his maiden major championship title. Indeed, he is the first player since 1955 to win any tournament with the only sub-par score in the final round, and just the fourth ever to do it. Up to No.5 in the Official World Golf Rankings, his ascent seems sure to continue. South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, was a distant third on two-over par, one stroke ahead of American Harris English after both fired 73 on Sunday. American Xander Schauffele, still seeking his first major title, shot 74 and settled for fifth on four-over, his fourth top-six finish in four US Open starts. Oosthuizen could do nothing but tip his cap to DeChambeau. “I think he’s busy settling his own little way of playing, in the sense of I don’t think they can set up (a course) for him, to be honest, without really doing something. I don’t know what they can do because he is hitting it so far. He’s so strong out of the rough, and probably one of the best putters out there . . . .. hats off to him for what he’s doing, he went out on this journey and he’s pulling it off. He’s playing great golf,” the South African concluded. It is difficult to disagree. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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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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