Let us know what you think about the site, we would love to hear from you:

Login Here

   Sign Up Now »
Email Address
Password
Keep Me Logged In
Forgot Password?
You are currently logged into Facebook. You can use your facebook account to login or signup
Login/Sign Up

Sign Up Now

   Login Here »
Email Address
Password
Confirm Password
Username
Phone Number
Captcha Image
By signing up you agree to our Terms Of Use
You are currently logged into Facebook. You can use your facebook account to login or signup
Login/Sign Up

Forgot Password

Email Address

19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
McIlroy puts talk of mental fragility to bed at Players Championship
Mar 18, 2019 1:21 PM
 
This was a long time coming. Rory McIlroy arrived at TPC Sawgrass for The Players Championship last week off the back of five top-six finishes in five starts in 2019; furthermore, in 24 starts since claiming his 14th PGA Tour title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last spring, he had featured in nine final-round final-pairings without managing to claim a victory. Of course, this lengthy sequence of near-misses persuaded some, more opportunistic commentators that McIlroy had lost his ability to close-out high profile victories under pressure; however, such perspectives were never persuasive given the Northern Irishman’s pedigree as a multiple major championship winner and former world No.1. The reality was always far more complex, and when a golfer of McIlroy’s calibre consistently places himself in title contention on Sunday afternoons, it is inevitable that victories will come. On Sunday, the breakthrough finally arrived at Sawgrass; back up to No.4 in the world, McIlroy looks extremely well-placed to join Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan as only the sixth player in the history of the sport to claim all four major championship titles by winning The Masters next month. Such a great week at @theplayerschamp! Proud of the way I battled Saturday and Sunday. Thanks for the support on a very special St. Patrick's Day! pic.twitter.com/i8oy5C8sla— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) March 17, 2019 This was a vintage performance from McIlroy who began the final day level with Ryder Cup teammate, Tommy Fleetwood a single shot behind Jon Rahm’s 54-hole lead, but who wound-up chasing Jim Furyk’s sensational 15-under total established via a 5-under closing-round of 67. The 48-year-old former Ryder Cup captain was one of the last players to qualify for the strongest field in golf and he came extraordinarily close to springing one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport. Indeed, McIlroy needed to battle-back from a nightmare double-bogey at the par-4 fourth-hole in order to reach the turn at 1-over for the day, and surged back into contention for the title courtesy of back-to-back birdies on holes 11 and 12. A careless bogey on the 14th threatened to derail his title charge, and McIlroy looked to be in serious trouble after driving into a bunker on the par-4 15th-hole. However, he produced a spectacular 6-iron recovery shot from 180-yards to set-up a 15-footer for birdie which he duly converted to retake a share of the lead before, two-putting for birdie on the par-5 16th to take a single shot advantage. Two pars playing his way back into the clubhouse ultimately proved sufficient to claim what has the potential to be one of the most significant victories of his career; he signed for a 2-under 68 and a 16-under total. “I stayed patient,” McIlroy reflected. “My previous experiences this year helped me to play really well down the stretch. All those earlier chances helped me today. On the 18th tee I just said to myself, ‘One good swing.’ This is very special.” “I think I can make the next 10 years even better than the previous 10 years,” the four-time major champion concluded. “That’s what my motivation is.” His triumph on Sunday sends out an ominous message for the rest of the Tour. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
Rahm seeking to lay down major marker at Sawgrass
Mar 17, 2019 9:44 AM
 
It is a testament, ultimately, to the extraordinarily high standards Jon Rahm has established for himself since turning professional back in the summer of 2016 that the last 10 months of his career have felt like something of a lull. The Spaniard, who took-up full-time PGA Tour membership after finishing as Low Amateur at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, claimed his maiden professional title at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2017, and won twice more on the European Tour before the year was out: at the Irish Open in June and at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November. He further consolidated his elite status in the first half of the 2018 season, defeating Andrew Landry in a play-off at the CareerBuilder Challenge to establish himself firmly inside of the world’s top-5. It seemed just a matter of time until the Spaniard claimed a maiden major championship title. But despite top-5ing at both The Masters and US PGA Championship last summer, Rahm failed to add to his haul of six professional titles and finished the season on the brink of falling back outside of the world’s top-10. Indeed, his victory at the Tiger Woods Foundation-hosted charity event, the Hero World Challenge last November appeared to illustrate vividly Rahm’s frustrating inability to close-out big tournament victories, even when performing at the top of his game. The final round of the Players will be a battle between European Ryder Cup teammates.Jon Rahm leads by one shot over Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood at TPC Sawgrass: https://t.co/253RaFE5pz pic.twitter.com/52liy8NVRz— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) March 17, 2019 It has been tremendously gratifying, therefore to witness the 24-year-old recapture something approximating his best form at The Players Championship at Sawgrass this week. Rahm arrived at the Pete Dye designed track off the back of five top-10 finishes in six starts in 2019 and immediately thrust himself into contention for the title courtesy of 3-under opening-round 69. The Basque-native went a further shot lower on Friday, signing for a 68, before seizing a single shot lead at the summit of the 54-hole leaderboard courtesy of a sensational, 8-under 64 on Saturday. He will consequently tee-off for the final-round with a slender advantage away from Ryder Cup teammates, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm at 15-under for the tournament. This was a vintage performance from Rahm, who hit nine of 14 fairways and 14 greens in regulation in the process of signing for the best scorecard of the week so far; remarkably he required only 30 strokes to navigate his way around Sawgrass’ devilishly challenging back-nine. “I don’t know what my scoring average has been on Saturday over the last two years but I think I’ve beat it by quite a bit,” said Rahm. “It was a great day. I didn’t miss many shots out there. The only bogey today I made was at the 6th and it was after a good shot that landed a foot from the hole. So it was one of those days.” He will require some beating come Sunday afternoon. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
Fleetwood seizes control at The Players, McIlroy two back
Mar 15, 2019 3:23 AM
 
Last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill marked something of a milestone in the evolution of PGA Tour golf: it was the first elite tournament ever contested on US soil in which each of the top-five finishers hailed from Europe. The opening-round performances of Ryder Cup teammates, Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy at The Players Championship on Thursday suggest that we could be set to witness a similar scenario play-out at Sawgrass this week. Fleetwood established an early marker for the tournament, signing for a 7-under 65, and as conditions and scoring began to worsen in the mid-to-late afternoon, he seemed assured of taking the outright lead into the Friday morning session. However, he was ultimately reeled-in by the four-time PGA Tour winner, Keegan Bradley with Rory McIlroy another two strokes back in a tie for fifth courtesy of a bogey-free 65. Tiger Woods had only one par on the back-nine as he returned an erratic 70, but Justin Rose's bid to reclaim the world No 1 ranking from Dustin Johnson got off to a bad start as he stumbled to a 74 which included a triple-bogey at the first and a double-bogey at the fifth. There were no such problems for Rose’s countryman, Fleetwood, however. The 28-year-old squandered a convertible birdie opportunity on the par-5 eleventh, his second-hole, but recovered with a sensational up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the twelfth before parring his way to the turn at 1-under. It was on the back-nine that Fleetwood’s scoring really took-off. He birdied the par-4 first and par-5 second consecutively before dropping his fourth shot of the day on the par-4 fifth-hole. A par followed on the sixth before he closed his round with a stunning run of three consecutive birdies into the clubhouse. Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar making the island green at TPC Sawgrass look easy today. pic.twitter.com/87lSn7GgjG— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) March 14, 2019 The three-time European Tour winner hit 10 of 14 fairways on Thursday; he landed 16 of 18 greens in regulation and led the tournament for strokes-gained from tee to green, ranking 14th for strokes-gained putting. If he can sustain that level of performance across the weekend, he will be difficult to stop. "I played really well all day apart from I hit a poor tee shot on 14 and got away with it," Fleetwood told Sky Sports. "The course doesn't make you feel very comfortable at all, you are always a semi-bad shot from struggling to make par. It's one of the courses that's the ultimate test in golf. "I've played well here in the past and if I drive it well that's a massive key for me. Driving is a strength for me normally and if you put it in play all the time in general you have a big advantage." One player who might fancy his chances of disrupting Fleetwood, however, is McIlroy. The Northern Irishman arrived at Sawgrass off the back of five consecutive top-6 finishes and clearly enjoyed the chance to be more aggressive on a course playing softer and longer than when the PGA Tour's flagship event was played in May. Able to unleash his driver far more often than in his previous appearances, the former world No.1 cruised to the turn in 33 before adding further birdies at the second and fifth. He ultimately signed for what was just his second-ever bogey-free round at The Stadium course; his first win of the season is just around the corner. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
Schauffele seeking to establish Masters marker at Sawgrass
Mar 14, 2019 3:59 AM
 
TPC Sawgrass is not the sort of course that a PGA Tour professional can afford to take lightly. Conceived by the legendary design-duo, Pete and Alice Dye in 1980, Sawgrass swiftly established a reputation as one of the most arduous tournament tracks in the professional sport, an uncompromising 7,192-yard behemoth characterised by lightening-fast, undulating greens; pinched, winding fairways; thick, unforgiving rough; hidden, waste bunkers; off-camber tee-boxes; and blind tee-shots. Put simply, it is not the kind of course at which a debutant can reasonably expect to roll-up and make an immediate impact. It is reflection, therefore, of the remarkable ease with which Xander Schauffele has adapted to the rigours of top-level, PGA Tour golf that he made precisely such an immediate impact on the occasion of his Players Championship debut at Sawgrass 12-months ago. After opening with back-to-back 68s across Thursday and Friday, the 25-year-old recovered from a somewhat disappointing third-round 71 with a 5-under 67 on Sunday to earn a share of second-place, four strokes behind winner, Webb Simpson. 8:32 a.m. – Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas1:27 p.m. EST – Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reedhttps://t.co/aXfCf7v92I— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) March 13, 2019 “I felt like it was just a week where things slowly started to click, ball-striking wise,” Schauffele reflected. “It was just one of those weeks where I had a bad attitude early and sort of turned it around. It just kind of shows what a good attitude can do, just because I feel like if you talked to my team on Tuesday or Wednesday night, it wasn’t looking too pretty.” Revealingly, the San Diego native concluded by asserting his readiness to replicate his achievements from the previous summer (when he won the Greenbriar Classic and the TOUR Championship either side of a top-5 finish at the US Open) by finishing the season on a high. “It’s just good golf,” Schauffele said. “I feel like I’m just starting to come into whatever form you would call it, and looking forward to some more tournaments.” Five-months later, he won his third PGA Tour title in just two seasons as a professional at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in a play-off against Ryder Cup wild-card rival, Tony Finau. In January, meantime, he added a fourth, claiming the prestigious Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua by a stroke away from Gary Woodland. Indeed, Schauffele arrives at Sawgrass for his second crack at winning the Players Championship this week off the back of a run of two victories and six top-25 finishes in his last eight starts. Unsurprisingly, this form has catapulted him inside of the world’s top-10 for the first time in his career and his big-tournament mentality is attested to by the fact that he has managed three top-sixes in the space of just seven major championship starts, tying for second at The Open at Carnoustie last summer. Schauffele must, therefore, be considered a bona-fide contender for one of the biggest tournaments in golf this week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
Fleetwood targets belated PGA Tour breakthrough at Sawgrass
Mar 14, 2019 3:38 AM
 
It is a testament to the precipitous rise in Tommy Fleetwood’s international golfing profile, and a concomitant increase in his and others’ competitive expectations, that last week’s third-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill came as something of a disappointment. This blog, it is worth recalling, had tipped Fleetwood to win Arnie’s event at odds in excess of 20/1, and he appeared on course to pay-in on that pricing until a 4-over third-round 76 scuppered his momentum. He ultimately closed with a 4-under 68 to finish in a tie for third-place, three strokes shy of Ryder Cup partner, Francesco Molinari. That near-miss will undoubtedly have stung Fleetwood. The Stockport-native claimed his maiden European Tour title six-years ago at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles; however, it was only in 2017 that he rose to international prominence after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the HNA Open de France in the process of breaking into the world’s top-15 for the first time in his career. Fleetwood went on to retain the HSBC Championship the following year and posted 10 further top-10 finishes in order to breach the world’s top-10. He further starred at the Ryder Cup in Paris, claiming four points from five matches as Europe regained the trophy they lost so emphatically at Hazeltine two-seasons previously. Tommy Fleetwood has victory in mind at a lush Sawgrass https://t.co/z8qGY9UMc5 via @IrishTimesSport — Irish Times Sport (@IrishTimesSport) March 14, 2019 Nevertheless, the 28-year-old has yet to claim a maiden PGA Tour title on American soil, and last week’s disappointment at Bay Hill will ultimately need to be filed painfully alongside his runners-up finish at the US Open at Shinnecock last year as ‘one that got away’; a tournament in which he produced the best golf of the week but failed to walk away with the title. Speaking to the Guardian’s Ewan Murray ahead of The Players Championship at Sawgrass, he was keen to emphasise his determination to prevent such a circumstance recurring. “Last week was the most confident I’ve felt on the golf course. I played some really good stuff”, Fleetwood reflected. “But winning is hard, you have to put it all together over four days in different conditions. Hopefully I can get the knack of it eventually.” The Englishman can, however, draw solace from the manner in which Sawgrass is shaping-up this week; noticeably lush and with the random element of fiery greens and fairways now – in theory – removed, the narrow, angular and technical Pete Dye-designed track looks ideally suited to an expert target-golfer such as Fleetwood. “If I drive it like I normally do then it’s a big advantage round here because if you are always in play, it’s scoreable after that. A lot of the tee shots are difficult so if I can do that well and be aggressive then hopefully I can do enough other things right to be up there.” Indeed, there is good reason to expect that Fleetwood will be seriously in contention come Sunday afternoon: he tied seventh on the occasion of Sawgrass debut 12-months ago and seems ideally placed to improve on that showing this week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
2019 Players Championship betting tips: Back Sergio at 33/1
Mar 12, 2019 4:52 PM
 
Back in its traditional March slot after a 12-year absence, a revamped PGA Tour schedule intensifies with The Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass this week, an event that many fans, players and pundits around the world regard as the sport’s unofficial, fifth major title. Here follows our top-three bets for the tournament. Outright Winner: Sergio Garcia (35/1) Rory McIlroy trades as most bookmakers’ heavy, 12/1 favourite to win this week and it is not difficult to see why. The 29-year-old carded his fifth top-six finish in five starts in 2019 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last week and has three top-10 finishes to his name through his last six starts at Sawgrass. It cannot be overlooked, however, that McIlroy missed his fourth cut in nine career starts at The Players last year and has failed to win as part of the last pairing out on a PGA Tour Sunday nine times in the last 14-months. In this respect, odds of 12/1 on a McIlroy victory seem extremely short; much the same can be said of 14/1 options, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. Johnson, for instance, has never done better T12 at The Players (2016) and was 17th at Sawgrass 12-months ago. Thomas, meantime, arrives at the Pete Dye-designed track off the back of an indifferent T30 finish when defending at the Honda Classic two-weeks ago, and while he impressed in tying third at Sawgrass in 2016, he was T75 in 2017 and T11 12-months ago. #THEPLAYERS “Juggling” Championship with @Optum and @Jaxhealth pic.twitter.com/x4WUyw0430 — Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) March 12, 2019 In this regard Sergio Garcia represents attractive value in the outright winner’s market as a 35/1 option. The Spaniard generated a deserved torrent of negative publicity for his wild behaviour in Saudi Arabia last month; however, that media frenzy has detracted from the quality of golf he has been producing since rediscovering his best level at the Ryder Cup last autumn. Indeed, Garcia’s form record read 7-1-2-9-6-7-3 prior to the DQ in Saudi Arabia and he arrives in Sawgrass off the back of a T6-T9 run through the WGC-Mexico and the Honda Classic. Garcia won the Players back in 2008 and has since recorded four top-10 finishes on the Florida track – back him for victory. Top-10: Xander Schauffele (28/1) This is an excellent value investment. Schauffele tied second at Sawgrass on the occasion of his Players Championship debut 12-months ago so he clearly loves the course. The value in backing the 25-year-old is enhanced when one accounts for the fact that he has won twice and posted six top-25s in his last eight competitive starts. Outsider: Martin Kaymer (150/1) Kaymer’s career has stalled badly since he claimed his second major championship title at the US PGA in 2014; however, he won the Players Championship as a 100/1 shot five-years ago and demonstrated an enduring ability to contend at the highest level of the sport with three top-10s in 2018. The German is worth backing as an outsider. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
McIlroy’s final group blues go on in Bay Hill
Mar 12, 2019 1:04 PM
 
Another week, another bitter, near-miss experience for Rory McIlroy at the highest-level of the PGA Tour. The final-round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday marked the occasion of the ninth time over the past 14 months the 29-year-old played well enough to earn a place in the final group, only to see someone else celebrating a victory. He did win at Bay Hill a year ago but came from well back in order to do so. It remains the 14-time PGA Tour winner's most recent triumph. Depressingly, therefore, it seems safe to suggest that McIlroy must be getting used to such disappointments; indeed, Bay Hill was his fifth top-6 finish in five starts in 2019, and he has formed part of three final-groupings. Of course, the player himself was keen to ram-home the positives on Sunday, stressing how these final-pairing start times are a testament to the strength and consistency of his performances. “My Sundays haven't been what I would have liked, but I'm putting myself in that position, so good golf is good golf, I keep saying that, at the end of the day,” McIlroy said. “It was a tough day, tough to get it close to the hole. I feel like I really didn't play that badly. I missed a couple of shots, but I felt like I was hitting good shots to 30 feet all day and it's hard to sort of shoot a score.” There is clearly a great deal of logic underpinning these perspectives; indeed, no analysis of what happened at Bay Hill on Sunday is complete without accounting for the exceptional quality of champion, Francesco Molinari’s performance. "I understand there’s more to life than winning golf tournaments. A lot more.”Is this the one thing Rory McIlroy needs to do before he can win again while playing in the final group? https://t.co/4NobiX991H pic.twitter.com/ouzfQ7vspH— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) March 12, 2019 Despite brutally tough course conditions, the Italian somehow managed to produce a bogey-free 8-under 64 to triumph by two-strokes from Matt Fitzpatrick (who he trailed by five at the beginning of the day); that only three of his eight birdie putts were from inside 10-feet illustrates vividly the arduousness of the course set-up (no one could get close to the cups) and the outrageous quality of the champion’s putting. Indeed, Molinari capped what was arguably the greatest competitive round of his career with a Tiger-esque, 45-footer for birdie on the 18th. But even accounting for the extraordinary quality of Molinari’s winning performance, it cannot be overlooked that McIlroy never really put himself in a position to contend on Sunday, and he began the final day four shots clear of the Italian in outright second. The Northern Irishman briefly seemed poised to seize control of the tournament after converting from 30-foot on the par-4 2nd-hole to grab a share of the lead with playing partner, Fitzpatrick; however, frustrating bogeys at seven and 15 in amongst a string of pars dashed any hopes the former World No.1 had of defending his title and sealing a 15th PGA Tour accolade. He ultimately signed for a level-par 72 and a three-way share for sixth, four strokes shy of Molinari’s winning total. A 68 would have been good enough to force a play-off and it is striking that 10-players managed to match that score or go lower on Sunday. Thus although Molinari’s brilliance and the difficulty of the course conditions go someway towards explaining McIlroy’s timidity on Sunday, they do not account fully for his ongoing inability to convert strong 54-hole positions into tournament victories. Indeed, it is revealing that McIlroy began the final-round at the head of the PGA Tour with respect to the strokes-gained tee-to-green stat, making up more than 2.5 strokes per round on the field; he further gained almost a full five-strokes to the average of the field when signing for a 66 at Bay Hill on Saturday. On Sunday, however, he was bang on the average of the field with respect to strokes-gained tee-to-green and ceded over two shots to the field with putter in hand. This marked statistical deviation from one round to the next suggests pressure played a key role in determining the world No.6’s performance on Sunday; until McIlroy rediscovers a capacity to produce his best golf under pressure, one struggles to imagine him adding to his standing career total of four major championship titles. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
Molinari storms to two-shot triumph at Arnold Palmer Invitational
Mar 11, 2019 3:17 AM
 
Any of you who had quietly disregarded Francesco Molinari’s banner 2018 campaign as a flash-in-the-pan had better think again. The Italian overcame a five-shot deficit to Matthew Fitzpatrick’s 54-hole lead in order to claim his first PGA Tour title of the season at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on Sunday and, with that victory, he has laid down a serious marker ahead of the major championship campaign. Molinari enjoyed an outstanding 2018 season. In addition to claiming his fifth European Tour title at the BMW Championship at Wentworth, he won his first PGA Tour title by six shots at the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac, and captured maiden major championship accolade at The Open Championship at Carnoustie. The 36-year-old then rounded out the year by becoming the first player ever to post a 5-0-0 record in helping Europe to victory at the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National and was duly awarded the European Tour’s Player of the Season accolade. 72nd hole ... from 44 feet.@F_MOLINARI IS CLUTCH!He takes the lead by TWO!#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/cCRqqtcPAq— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 10, 2019 The nature of his final-round performance at Bay Hill on Sunday suggests he has no plans to allow his level to drop in 2019. Molinari signed for a sensational, bogey-free 8-under 64 to triumph by two-strokes on Sunday; that only three of his eight birdie putts were from inside 10-feet illustrates vividly the arduousness of the course set-up and the outrageous quality of the champion’s putting. It seems appropriate, therefore, that he capped his round and, ultimately, his victory with a 45-foot birdie effort on the 18th. His five-shot comeback was the largest at Bay Hill since Tiger Woods in 2009, which he won with a birdie from 15 feet on the 18th hole. Remarkably, Molinari played the final 28 holes on a fiendishly difficult course without a bogey. "He's obviously holed a lot of putts to do that because you can't get close to these pins," Matt Fitzpatrick reflected after signing for a 71 to finish second. "There's no way he's knocked it to 6 feet on every hole. But he played very, very well to shoot that, and hat's off to him." Indeed, Molinari gained over four strokes to the average of the field when putting on Sunday and led the entire tournament for strokes gained off the tee; such provided a solid statistical foundation for a triumph that would have made Arnie proud. "Coming from Italy, we weren't exposed to that much golf," Molinari said. "Obviously, Arnie was such a global icon, and this tournament was one that we watched, my brother and myself, at home many times _ watching Tiger making that putt on 18. So it's still a bit unreal to think that I've done kind of the same today." Molinari finished at 12-under 276, his fourth victory in his last 17 starts over nine months. The Italian will be a force to be reckoned with at the majors in 2019. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
McIlroy’s mentality to undergo litmus test at Arnold Palmer Invitational
Mar 10, 2019 11:15 AM
 
There are two sides to every story; ostensibly antithetical perspectives arising from every narrative that attest to one fundamental, immutable truth: nothing is so simple as it seems. Take, for instance, the curious case of Rory McIlroy and his performances in last-group-out on Sunday pairings. The Northern Irishman carded three birdies in his final four holes going back into the clubhouse on Saturday in order to sign for a stunning 6-under third-round 66 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and will consequently tee-off for the final-round within a single-stroke of overnight leader, Matt Fitzpatrick. Sunday, therefore, will mark the occasion of the third time in five starts in 2019 that McIlroy has formed part of the final pairing out during the final-round of a PGA Tour event, and his ninth such appearance since the beginning of 2018. "Filthy."This is crazy good from @McIlroyRory.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/dlSlHP8fhd— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 9, 2019 Clearly, these statistics attest to a remarkable level of consistency on McIlroy’s part; any player slated as part of the final group out on a tournament Sunday is in with a serious shout of winning the title. However, the 29-year-old has not managed to win from such a position since claiming the Irish Open on the European Tour back in 2016 and remains winless coming from behind to triumph at Bay Hill 12-months ago. Indeed, McIlroy formed part of the last pairing out on Sunday at the Dubai Desert Classic, the Masters, the BMW PGA Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the Open Championship and the Dell Technologies Championship last year and failed to win a single one of those tournaments. He has not won as the part of a final-round, final-pairing on the PGA Tour since sprinting clear of the chasing pack to win the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship by seven shots. In this regard, it is clear that McIlroy’s performances in last-group-out on Sunday pairings can be read in two contrasting perspectives: either as a sign of remarkable consistency, or as a concerning symptom of psychological brittleness. Ultimately, there is a large element of truth in both analyses and Sunday will reveal much about the world No.6’s competitive mentality leading into The Masters. There can be no doubt that McIlroy possesses all of the physical and technical attributes required to win around Augusta; indeed, he has top-10ed on the occasion of each of his last five consecutive starts at The Masters. However, question-marks remain regarding his capacity to produce his best golf under the full glare of the media spotlight as part of a final-pairing out on Sunday; any such fragility is likely prove fatal at Augusta, and it has been a long time since McIlroy demonstrated the kind of competitive grit that propelled him past Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler to win the 2014 US PGA Championship at Valhalla. Sunday will reveal much about how the Northern Irishman’s psychological game is evolving in the lead-up to Augusta. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
Mickelson unsure he will partake at Players Championship
Mar 9, 2019 2:08 PM
 
It is exceedingly rare to observe a PGA Tour professional finish his opening-round within three-shots of the overnight leader only to go on to miss the cut on Friday; however, Phil Mickelson managed precisely that feat at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill this week. The 48-year-old dominated the Thursday evening headlines at Bay Hill after signing for a 4-under opening-round 68 comprising seven birdies. While he trailed the first-round leader, Rafa Cabrera-Bello by three going into Friday, his swashbuckling, right-handed attempt to play a ball wedged-in underneath the bottom of an out-of-bounds fence en route to a double-bogey on the par-4 10th-hole embodied the joie de vivre that has long rendered Lefty one of the most loved personalities on Tour. On Friday, however, things went very badly wrong. Hitting just seven of 14 fairways off the tee and nine of 18 greens in regulation, Mickelson racked-up three bogeys, two double bogeys and just a single birdie en route to signing for a 6-over 78 and consequently missed the weekend cut-mark by a single stroke. From T3 to just outside the current cut. 68-78 for Phil Mickelson at the @APInv. Now he waits. pic.twitter.com/1KC6rObuQB — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 8, 2019 Damningly, the five-time major winner ceded over two strokes to the field on the greens during the second-round and averaged less than 300-yards off the tee for the first time all season. Significantly, the ignominious nature of Mickelson’s second-round display at Bay Hill has raised question-marks in the player’s head regarding the logic of honouring his commitment to contest next week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. “I’m going to go play a practice round Tuesday, I’ll play nine and take a look and, I mean, I want to play it, so I would most likely — but if I hit it like this, it’s pointless, so I have to figure something out,” Mickelson said after his round. He explained his reluctance to commit to the Players in reference to his present form as well as a long-running distaste for the Sawgrass course. Mickelson has remarked frequently that he does not know how he won The Players Championship back in 2007 -- the first time it was played in May (this year it has moved back to a March date). In fact, in 25 appearances at Sawgrass, Mickelson has just three top-10s and has missed the cut nine times, including in five of the past six years. “When you go to Augusta, I feel like I don’t have to be perfect, and so I end up making better swings, I hit a lot more good shots and my misses are playable,” he said. “And then you get out here, and the fairways are tight, the rough is thicker, and then I start to steer it and I start to make some horrific swings. I haven’t hit some of the shots I hit today in a long time, but when I get a little steery and don’t swing, I try to guide it, I hit some terrible shots. The Players is a place you can make some steery swings.” While Mickelson’s withdrawal from The Players would undoubtedly come as a source of severe disappointment to the tournament organisers and fans, it would also be in keeping with his stated aim to play fewer than 20 events in 2019 in order to better protect his body over the course of a long season. For example, he skipped his hometown Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego earlier this year, a tournament he had played 28 straight times. Whatever decision Lefty makes, it is clear his game needs a lot of work if he is to contend at the Masters at Augusta next month. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
Cabrera-Bello finds top-gear at Arnold Palmer Invitational
Mar 8, 2019 1:16 PM
 
Rafa Cabrera-Bello entered into the 2019 campaign with something of a point to prove. The Spaniard enjoyed an enormously successful 2018 season, posting six top-10s in addition to two top-threes through the course of 29 starts across all Tours, surging back inside of the world’s top-30 in the process. Thus although he remained winless since claiming his third European Tour title at the Scottish Open in July 2017, he looked a dead-cert to be selected ahead of his woefully out-of-form countryman, Sergio Garcia as one of Thomas Bjorn’s two wild-cards for the Ryder Cup in Paris. As it turned out, of course, Cabrera-Bello was controversially overlooked for selection in favour of Garcia, and while the latter ultimately did a great deal to justify his selection at Le Golf National (taking three points from four matches in helping Europe to a 17½-10½ victory), most players, pundits and fans agreed that Cabrera-Bello, a Ryder Cup player in 2016, had a right to feel aggrieved. Indeed, it was difficult not to conclude that Cabrera-Bello’s peculiarly low-key public profile had played a significant role in persuading Bjorn to favour Garcia for his fourth and final wild-card selection. After Round One of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rafa Cabrera-Bello leads the field at 7-under, two strokes ahead of Keegan Bradley. Hear from the leaders below pic.twitter.com/qEbLfBSFXU— Courtney Jasmin (@CourtneyWESH2) March 7, 2019 To prevent such a circumstance from recurring, it is essential Cabrera-Bello begins making a bigger name for himself; the emphatic nature of his beginning to the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill this week suggests the player is conscious of this reputational imperative. The 34-year-old started sloppily with a bogey on the par-4 opening-hole; however, he rallied with a tap-in birdie at the par-3 second-hole before birdying the fourth, fifth and sixth holes consecutively to move to three-under. Cabrera Bello put together another remarkable run of birdies on the back-nine that included consecutive putts from the 30-foot range. The rest of the Spaniard's putts were from 6 feet or closer, a statistic that attests to the penetrating accuracy of his approach play. Indeed, despite hitting just eight of 14 fairways off the tee on Thursday, Cabrera-Bello landed 13 greens in regulation and ranked top-five for the tournament in both strokes-gained tee to green and approaching the green. He signed for a 7-under opening-round 65 to take a two-stroke lead away from Keegan Bradley (67) into Friday. Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson, Patrick Rodgers and Billy Horschel all signed for 68s. "I really didn't know what to expect," said Cabrera Bello, who is making his Bay Hill debut this week. "I know how nice and tough the course is, and I think it's a course with many, many daunting shots. So I feel the more you play it, probably the better. So I wasn't really having much high expectations as opposed to just getting out there and playing my golf." A victory at Bay Hill would go a long way towards ensuring the Spaniard an enhanced profile in the eyes of the European Tour elite. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

Sean Donnelly
Jason Day out of Arnold Palmer Invitational with back problem
Mar 7, 2019 12:24 PM
 
There was good reason to feel optimistic regarding Jason Day’s chances of contending at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida this week. After all, the Aussie claimed the eighth of his 12 career PGA Tour titles at Bay Hill by a single stroke away from Kevin Chappel in 2016 (shortly thereafter acceding to the world No.1 spot) and bookended that victory with a run of three straight top-25 finishes on the Orlando course. Remarkably, this formidable track-record includes a stretch of 10 straight sub-par rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The sense of expectation accompanying Day’s slated appearance at Arnie’s event was further heightened as a consequence of the impressive nature of his opening to the 2019 campaign. The 31-year-old tailed-off badly after claiming his second title of the 2018 season at the Wells Fargo Championship in May; however, he finished the previous term in promising fashion with a T5-T11 run through the CJ Cup and WGC-HSBC Champions event during the wrap-around period and has exhibited further signs of recapturing his best level. His status for next week's Players Championship is still unknown.https://t.co/r6yKR3krkm — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) March 7, 2019 Day began 2019 solidly with a 13th-place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, a performance featuring an enormously impressive final-round 66. He has since gone on to tie for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and tie for fourth at Pebble Beach in his most recent start in early February. Put simply, Day looked to be building-up an ideal competitive rhythm in advance of the first major championship of the season at Augusta in April, rising from No.14 to No.11 in the world rankings. But then misfortune struck, and with a vengeance. The former world No.1 took to the course at 07.54am this morning alongside Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter in one of Thursday’s marque groupings; however, it quickly became apparent that he was not performing at his physical peak. Beginning on the back-nine, Day bogeyed his first hole (the par-4 10th) before rinsing his drive on the par-4 13th en route to a double-bogey. He showed some signs of fighting back following a birdie on the par-3 14th hole, but by the time he strode off the 15th green after making a solid, two-putt par it was obvious that he was in severe physical difficulty. It was at this point Day took the shock decision to withdraw from the tournament after just six-holes. "My back was sore when I was practicing from Tuesday to Saturday, and I was going to practice on Sunday, but I woke up and couldn't really walk or sit in the car,'' said Day, who has a history of back issues. "I was on a dose pack to try and get the inflammation out of it and that didn't get any better. "I saw a physio here and tried to do as much work as I possibly could to get ready for this week. I couldn't play at 100 percent today, so I just wanted to see if I could get out there and it may have loosened up. But unfortunately it didn't, so I had to pull out.'' Hearteningly, however, Day said he hoped to be ready to play next week's Players Championship, an event he won in 2016. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
0 Comments

GolfSmash Bloggers

Sean Donnelly
Blog Posts: 1141
crudbay
Blog Posts: 90
OfficialGolfSmash
Blog Posts: 38
CLTheGolfer
Blog Posts: 33
Matt Martin
Blog Posts: 10
MattRistine
Blog Posts: 6
Darren DeYoung
Blog Posts: 6
Anyagolf
Blog Posts: 4