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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: BMW Championship

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Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Matt Wallace seizes Wentworth lead, establishes early Ryder Cup marker
Sep 20, 2019 2:28 AM
 
As tough Ryder Cup selections go, European captain, Thomas Bjorn’s decision to overlook Matt Wallace for a wildcard spot for the 2018 event at Le Golf National was at the more painful end of the spectrum. Wallace, after all, had won three-times in 2018 and had vastly outperformed the flagging veteran, Sergio Garcia in the qualifying race. Nevertheless, Bjorn elected to prioritize experience over form in his selections and Garcia ultimately played a crucial role(3 points from 4 matches) in helping the Europeans to an emphatic 17½ points to 10½ victory over the USA. Wallace’s response to this disappointment? To work even harder. ‘I’ll be practising day and night to make sure I don’t miss out on the next one,’ the Londoner declared in response to Garcia’s selection. ‘Next time I’ll be on that plane.’ It felt significant, therefore, that the 29-year-old struck two crisp blows to three feet at the difficult opening hole when the qualifying process for next year’s team began at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Thursday. Nor did he relent thereafter, following up that opening birdie with four more and an eagle for a 7-under bogey-free 65. He will consequently take a single stroke lead into the second-round beginning on Friday morning. Reflecting upon his performance in a post-round press-conference, Wallace professed a belief that he is starting to reap the benefits from his decision to split with long-time caddie Dave McNeilly last month. Rory McIlroy has revealed he negotiated a deal with the European Tour to retain his membership after being initially unable to play the required number of events.— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) September 18, 2019 "It was the hardest decision I've had to make in my career. He's done so much for me," said Wallace, who has carded five top three finishes this year, including an outright 3rd at last week's KLM Open in the Netherlands. "Sometimes you need to make those hard decisions to go forward. I felt like it was the right one and it is producing some good stuff at the moment. "I played the first seven or eight holes as good as I possibly could and showed my all-round game by grinding out the last few holes. "I'm very happy. Whenever you can get off to a start like that it builds your confidence and just follows on from last week in Holland." Nevertheless, Wallace has a lot of work left to do in his quest to end a year-long European Tour trophy drought at Wentworth with Spaniard Jon Rahm and Swede Henrik Stenson positioned dangerously on six-under. Former world No.1, Justin Rose is a shot further back on minus-five. Wallace need not concern himself with the competitive threat posed by Rory McIlroy, however; after a strong start, the world No.2, shot a calamitous back-nine 42 to slip 11-strokes behind the overnight lead. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Cantlay aiming to finish banner year on a high at the Tour Championship
Aug 22, 2019 2:05 AM
 
When Patrick Cantlay made four consecutive birdies between holes 7 and 10 during the final-round of the BMW Championship at Medinah last week, whittling Justin Thomas’ six-stroke lead down to just two, he appeared poised to ram home his advantage on the back-nine and claim a second victory of the season. As it turned-out, of course, Thomas rallied in impressive fashiondown the home straight, birdying four of his final eight holes to secure a three-stroke victory. Propelled to the summit of the FedEx Cup standings, he will consequently tee-off for the reformatted Tour Championship at East Lake this week at 10-under par, two-strokes clear of Cantlay in second. The next three in the standingsare World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, who starts at seven under, Patrick Reed at six under and Rory McIlroy at five under. Many commentators have dismissed the new handicap structure as an anti-competitive gimmick, serving only to ensure that the winner of the Tour Championship also triumphs in the overall FedEx Cup standings, regardless of their 72-hole total in East Lake. Betfair, for instance, calculatedthat Thomas’ average score around East Lake is 67.22 with par set at 70; multiply that over four rounds and he'd finish at -11.12. Add in his -10 start and it takes Thomas to -21.12. It is difficult to see any of the other 29 players in this week’s field overhauling such a deficit, a circumstance reflected in Thomas’ pre-tournament odds as a 2/1 favourite to win the FedEx Cup. Justin Thomas is a fucking machine. Example #1: pic.twitter.com/CfIjmd5eOF— From The Back Tees (@fromthebacktees) August 17, 2019 But given the intensity of the pressure Cantlay exerted on Thomasduring the final-round at Medinah last week, it would be hasty to write the Tour Championship off entirely. 2019 has been a banner season for Cantlay, who has belatedly begun to fulfil the expectations generated by his accomplishment in winning the Haskins Award and acceding to the summit of the Amateur World Rankings while at UCLA. Indeed, it was principally injury that prevented the Californian for rising immediately to the elite-level of the professional game in the manner of a Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth. The 27-year-old suffered a stress fracture in his lower back in 2013 and the effects lingered through 2014. It prevented him from playing at all in 2015 and 2016. With his health restored and a revamped swing designed to lessen the stress on his back, Cantlay re-joined the PGA Tour in 2017, winning the Shriners Hospital for Children Open, and has been a model of consistency over the past two seasons. Indeed, Cantlay has one victory in 2019 -- a big one at the Memorial Tournament-- and nine top-10 finishes in 20 starts. He had two top-10s in the majors – T-9 at the Masters and T-3 at the PGA Championship -- and ranks second on the PGA Tour with respect to Strokes Gained: Total. “It was a solid year to get here,” Cantlay reflected in a press conferenceon Wednesday. “Happy to be in the spot I’m in.” “The new format kind of leads people to talk about it … running somebody down just because of how it starts and how abnormal it is,” he added. “I’m just thinking about doing my best on this golf course this week. Then come Sunday, I’ll look at the leaderboard and see where I’m at and maybe change the idea in my head of what it’s like. All that matters is how you finish given the new scoring.” 2019 has been Cantlay’s best season as a professional, and if any player can overhaul Thomas at the summit of the Tour Championship leaderboard to claim the FedEx Cup this week, it’s him. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas poised for FedEx Cup double following BMW Championship victory
Aug 20, 2019 1:08 AM
 
When Justin Thomas bogeyed the par-5 10th hole during the final-round of the BMW Championship on Sunday, seeing the six shot lead with which he began the day whittled down to just two by a resurgent Patrick Cantlay, he appeared poised once more to fold under pressure. The 28-year-old arrived in Medinah Golf and Country Club off the back of a deeply indifferent run of formcomprising just a single top-10 finish (a T9 at the Scottish Open) in 12 starts since the end of February, and he was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors during the early summer. While a wrist injury that prevented him from contesting three key events during the late spring (including the US PGA Championship) undoubtedly had a role in this declining run of results, it is striking that he travelled to Illinois ranked No. 170out of 200 PGA Tour professionals for Strokes Gained: Putting. His Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Approaching the Green stats, by contrast, placed him second and third on Tour respectively. Put simply, Thomas’ struggles appeared more psychological than technical. When he ceded four shots to his playing partner, Cantlay within the opening 10-holes of the final-round at Medinah, therefore, the competitive momentum of the tournament appeared to be ebbing only in one direction. Indeed, Cantlay made four birdies in a row between holes seven and 10 and there was little reason to suspect his rate of scoring would dissipate on the back-nine. Let's do this Captain @TigerWoods! So excited to make the #USTeam again & compete in the @PresidentsCup. pic.twitter.com/x7sOX5mU74— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) August 19, 2019 As it turned-out, however, Cantlay was unable to gain further on Thomas on the homeward stretch and the leader rallied in emphatic fashion, birdying four of his final eight holes to close out a comfortable, three-shot victory. In addition to surging to the summit of the FedEx Cup standings courtesy of a $1.665 million prize-cheque, the world No.5will begin next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake with a two-stroke lead away from Brooks Koepka and consequently has a big chance to seal a second FedEx Cup victory in the space of just three seasons. “I can certainly say a thousand percent I’ve never slept on a Wednesday lead,” Thomas reflectedof his impending first-round lead at East Lake. “I truly have no idea what to expect,” he added with a shrug. “There's nobody in the history of this sport that has experienced it so nobody knows. I don't know if it's going to be weird or … it's going to be different, I know that but I don't know. There's so many variables and questions I have and this and that. If I birdie the first hole what am I at? I don't know. Do I shoot a score, do I not? Whatever. “Again, I know that I'm in a lot better position than I was at the start of the week. I just have to be grateful and thankful for that." If the emphatic nature with which he finished his final eight holes on Sunday is anything to go by, Koepka and Co., face an uphill struggle in attempting to unseat Thomas at the summit of the leaderboard next week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Woods keeps Tour Championship hopes alive in Medinah
Aug 18, 2019 10:11 AM
 
Tiger Woods has built his career upon confounding doubters. From becoming the youngest golfer ever to win a major championship title at The Masters at Augusta in 1997 to ending an 11-year major championship trophy droughtat the same venue this past spring, the 43-year-old has throughout his professional career, demonstrated a consistent ability to defy popular expectations. This defiant mentality is ultimately what underpinned Woods’ greatest achievement: that of taking-over a sport marked by a dark history of class, race and gender-based oppression. The 15-time major winner is once again out to upset the odds at the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country club this week. Woods arrived in Illinois off the back of a deeply indifferent run of formcomprising just a single top-10 finish and two missed-cuts in an injury-ravaged stretch of five starts since winning the Masters in April. In addition to slipping outside of the top-5 of the Official World Golf Rankings, the veteran has also slumped down as far as No.38 in the FedEx Cup points race, leaving him in real danger of missing out on entry into the 30-man field that will comprise the playoff ending Tour Championship at East Lake next week. Five birdies today.@TigerWoods is trying to book a return trip to the @playofffinale. #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/e8N913oysN— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 17, 2019 Put simply, he required a big performance at Medinah to have any chance of defending his Tour Championship titlein Atlanta. Fortunately, the Illinois course was the site of two of his major victories: the 1999 and 2006 US PGA Championships. Woods started slowly, signing for back-to-back 1-under rounds of 71to languish 10-shots behind the halfway leader, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. Many fans consequently determined his chances of reaching East Lake to be over. On Saturday, however, he rallied, shooting a bogey-free 5-under 67to reignite his hopes of advancing into the season-ending playoff event. Playing alongside world No.2, Dustin Johnson (72), he tallied just 27 putts, his fewest of the week, and was six-for-six in scrambling. He is 14-strokes shy of Justin Thomas’ emphatic 21-under lead in a tie for 31st; however, he sits within three-shots of a four-man group presently tied for ninth and requires a T11 finish or better to climb back inside of the FedEx Cup’s top-30. A low score on Sunday could well push Woods into the East Lake draw. “I shoot 60, it should be right,” Woods said to laughterwhen asked what would be required of him on Sunday to reach Atlanta. “I figured I'm going to have to do something in mid-60s for two straight days there. Left myself pretty far behind after the first two rounds. What's more amazing is how many guys are under par on this golf course. There isn't one person over-par. “Who would have guessed that going into this week?” he continued. “We all thought this was one of the more tough and bigger ballparks and the whole field is playing well. There's normally a few guys that are struggling. The entire field playing well is something that we're all pretty surprised at.” Here’s hoping Woods can surprise us once more on Sunday. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas sets new course record to seize 6-stroke lead at Medinah
Aug 18, 2019 6:12 AM
 
Justin Thomas endured a frustrating second-round at the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country Club in Illinois yesterday afternoon. The 28-year-old captured the attention of the world’s golfing media upon signing for a course-record equalling 7-under opening-round 65. On Friday, however, he proved incapable of consolidating his advantageatop the leaderboard, combining six birdies with three-bogeys en routeto a 3-under 69 that left him two-strokes shy of Hideki Matsuyama’s 12-under halfway advantage. Once more, the flakiness under pressure that has kept Thomas winless in over a year since capturing his ninth PGA Tour title at Firestone last summer appeared set to stymie his push for a title. Indeed, it is striking that where the former world No.1 ranks third on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approaching-the-Green and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, he sits at No. 170out of 200 measured professionals with respect to Strokes Gained: Putting. On Saturday, however, Thomas rallied in emphatic fashion. Opening with a sensational run of five consecutive birdies, the 2017 FedEx Cup winner added a pair of eagles on the back-nine and shattered the course record at soft, vulnerable Medinah with an 11-under 61to take a six-shot lead at 21-under into the final round of the BMW Championship. Justin Thomas is unstoppable today.He holed this one for EAGLE and a five-shot lead. pic.twitter.com/EFNilMuhiD— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 17, 2019 Thomas hit 5-wood to 2 feet for an eagle on No. 10, holed out from 180 yards with an 8-iron on No. 16 and made eight birdies to turn a tight race into a one-man show. All of a sudden, the Kentucky native appeared to have rediscovered the technical élan that propelled him to the summit of the Official World Golf Rankingsas little as 18-months ago. "I felt good about my game for a while, and you don't know when something like this going to happen," Thomas said. "We've all been talking the last couple of weeks that I'm due to have one, and it's nice when it happens." "It's weird,'' he added. "It's been an odd season just because I've missed three tournaments (due to injury). But the difference with this season and any other season is I'd won. I'm playing just as good as any other year, for sure. "Everything is pretty similar, but just putting it better. The frustration was more so then. Now it's just understanding that it's golf and it's going to happen. Might be tomorrow, might be in Asia (later this fall), might be in 2021. I don't know when it's going to happen. But I know I've put in -- me and my team have put in-- the proper work that we're prepared when we are put in that situation, and that situation is [Sunday].'' Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay sit in a tie for second-place at 15-underthrough 54-holes with Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini a stroke further back in third. Jon Rahm also remains in contention at 13-under, while Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama has slipped nine-shots behind Thomas after signing for a 1-over 73 on Saturday. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matsuyama sets course record, takes lead at BMW Championship
Aug 17, 2019 7:46 AM
 
Hideki Matsuyama was not much talked about in the lead-up to the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country Club in Illinois this week. After all, the 27-year-old is winless on the PGA Tour since claiming his fifth such title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two-years ago and has not recorded a top-5 finish since tying for third at the Farmers Insurance Openat the end of January. Indeed, Matsuyama has managed only five top-10s in 20 starts worldwide since the beginning of the calendar year and has consequently slumped from a career-high rankingof No.2 in the world down as far as No.32. Furthermore, at No.33 in the FedEx Cup points-racehe was in serious danger of missing out on a spot in next week’s season-ending playoff event at East Lake: The Tour Championship. Put simply, Matsuyama arrived in Illinois on Monday in dire need of a strong performance to reignite a stagnant campaign. The Ehime-native started solidly, carding three birdies en routeto an opening-round of 69, a score that left him four strokes shy of the overnight lead shared by Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak. On Friday, however, his game clicked into top-gear. New course record. Hideki Matsuyama takes the lead at the BMW Championship after carding a bogey-free 63. pic.twitter.com/bVN6JUYwiq— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 16, 2019 Beginning with a successful 30-foot birdie-putt on the par-4 opening-hole, Matsuyama added a further four birdies in a remarkable five hole stretch between the fourth and eighth to reach the turn at 5-under. He moved 7-under for the day following back-to-back birdies on the par-4 twelfth and par-3 thirteenth holes and closed with another clutch of birdies on seventeen and eighteen to sign for a 9-under 63. Matsuyama will consequently tee-off for the weekend with a single-stroke advantage at the summit of the leaderboard over Patrick Cantlay (67) and Tony Finau (66). Justin Thomas, meantime, made six birdies to offset three bogeys in his round of 69, leaving him two shots behind. In addition to achieving his lowest score of the season, Matsuyama tied the second-lowest round of his PGA TOUR career. Oh, and his 63 is also the lowest score ever shot in competition at Medinah No. 3, a course that’s been around since 1923. The previous course record was 65, set by Tiger Woods and Mike Weir at the 2006 PGA Championship and tied Thursday by first-round co-leaders Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak. Cantlay, Finau and Thomas are all assured of being among the top 30 who advance to the Tour Championship next week, where everyone in the field will have a shot at winning the FedEx Cup and the $15 million prize. Matsuyama, too, is now strongly poised to feature at East Lake. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas ignites to seize early lead at BMW Championship
Aug 16, 2019 4:45 AM
 
Prediction is a mug’s game. This blog dedicated its Thursday morning postto previewing Justin Thomas’ hopes of ending a year-long PGA Tour trophy drought at the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country Club in Illinois. The 28-year-old arrived into the second event of the playoff series with just a single top-10 finish to his name in 10 starts since the end of March, and while he is the second best performing player yet to win in 2019 (he ranks No.15 in the FedEx Cup standings, just two spots behind the also winless Tony Finau), he has slumped to the fringes of the world’s top-10and was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors during the early summer. Put simply, Thomas was in serious need of a big performance in Illinois to have any chance of salvaging a victory from what has been a deeply frustrating campaign, one hampered by a wrist injury that side-lined him for part of April and all of May. Well, cometh the hour, cometh the man; Thomas avoided registering a single bogey en routeto a 7-under opening-round of 65 at Medinah on Thursday, a score matched only by the in-form Jason Kokrak. He will consequently tee-off for the second-round with a single-stroke leadaway from Americans Patrick Cantlay, Jim Furyk, Joel Dahmen, Lucas Glover and Brandt Snedeker are tied for third after signing for 66 on Thursday. Despite having the "worst warmup" of his life, Justin Thomas tied the course record at Medinah on Thursday. He's tied for the lead at the BMW Championship: https://t.co/1Ou7g3WE48 pic.twitter.com/1V27JfXRd1 — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 15, 2019 Defending FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose bogeyed the last to finish on a four-under 68, level with world number one Brooks Koepka, who started the tournament in first place, and Patrick Reed, who won The Northern Trust last week.Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, who started the week third in the FedEx Cup standings, is a shot further back on three under alongside compatriot Graeme McDowell. Thomas hit nine of 14 fairways and 12 greens in regulation on Thursday, but was a perfect six-for-six in scrambling. His last hole was emblematic of his day, as his third shot from the greenside bunker clanked off the flagstick and left him a par putt of just over four feet, which he made. Perhaps most significantly, the 2017 FedEx Cup winner gained 1.816 strokes to the average of the field when putting to rank 11th in Strokes Gained: Puttingout of a 70-man field. The stat is particularly striking when one accounts for the fact that putting has consistently undermined Thomas’ exceptional tee-to-green play in 2019. Indeed, he arrived in Illinois ranked third on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approaching-the-Green and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. When it came to Strokes Gained: Putting, however,he ranked No. 170out of 200 measured professionals. If the former world No.1 can maintain his current level of scoring with the flat-stick across the weekend, a second career FedEx Cup triumph may well be in the offing. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas seeking to salvage winless season at BMW Championship
Aug 15, 2019 4:14 AM
 
Justin Thomas struck an upbeat, confident tone when addressing the assembled press on the occasion of his last big media set-piece in the lead-up the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis at the end of July. The 28-year-old arrived into the final WGC event of the year in the midst of a deeply indifferent run of formcomprising just one top-10 finish (a T9 at the Scottish Open) in 10 starts since the end of February, and he was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors during the early summer. The WGC-Memphis and FedEx Cup playoff events, he avowed, provided an ideal opportunity to end a difficult season on a high. “Every event's very important over the course of the entire year, but it definitely is now because you're running out (of time) … I really feel like I'm trending in the right direction,” Thomas said from TPC Southwind. Justin Thomas' extended Round 1 highlights.#ASIScottishOpen #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/gltLxWtNxH— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 11, 2019 “I don't play golf for money, I don't play golf for anything other than trying to win, and that's all I'm trying to do. But I’m 17th (in the FedExCup) while missing a major and two events that I feel like I had a really, really good chance to win. So no, it's been very far from a failure of a season or a bad season. “I still have a lot of positives to show from this year and we have four or five really big events left in the season on golf courses that I feel like can suit my game if I'm playing well. We could have another great end of the season.” One cannot fault the world No. 10’s attitude; however, the early phases of his optimistic end of season vision have not worked out to plan. He shot a level-par final-round 71 en route to an indifferent T12 finish in Memphisand replicated the same result at the opening playoff event in New York last week, again failing to break par in one of his two weekend rounds. Putting has been the root-cause of Thomas’ struggles in 2019; the nine-time PGA Tour winner ranks third on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approaching-the-Green and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. When it comes to Strokes Gained: Putting, however, he ranks No. 170out of 200 measured professionals. Thomas consequently arrives in Illinois for the BMW Championship at Medinah this week under real pressure to contend seriously for a title. For although he ranks comfortably inside the top-30who will comprise the field at the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake, it is striking that he has not managed a top-three finish since tying for second at the Genesis Open in February. He is consequently on the cusp of dropping outside of the world’s top-10. Here’s hoping the Kentucky native can rediscover his best level when it matters most over the weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 BMW Championship betting tips - back Rahm at 16/1
Aug 14, 2019 4:40 AM
 
The build-up to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake intensifies this week as the top-30 in the 2018/19 FedEx Cup points race travel to Medinah Country Club in Illinois to contest the BMW Championship. Here follows our top-three tips for the tournament. Outright winner: Jon Rahm (16/1) The market can’t separate world Nos. 1 and 3, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy at 10/1 going into this one; however, I am happy to swerve them both. Koepka was at his domineering bestin coming from a stroke behind McIlroy to win the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational by three-shots at the end of July; however, he looked back to his usual, non-major self in tying for 30th at Liberty National last week and, as the player himself has indicated previously, he struggles to motivate himself properly to win regular Tour events. Koepka possess all of the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive on a bomber’s course such as Medinah, but given he is already assured of a starting spot at next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake (when the $15m prize-pot is really on the line), I am unconvinced the FedEx Cup points leaderwill be adequately motivated to produce his best golf in Illinois. Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy tee off at 11:48 a.m. ET on Thursday at Medinah Country Club.All of the tee times for the BMW Championship: https://t.co/iijmo9OcpD pic.twitter.com/SBjcqDjtr3— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 13, 2019 My reservations regarding Rory McIlroy are similarly psychological. Like Koepka, the Northern Irishman has enjoyed an outstanding seasoncomprising victories at The Players Championship and the Canadian Open in addition to 11 further top-10 finishes, including a T6 in New York last week. Indeed, the 30-year-old is having one of the greatest PGA Tour seasons since performances were systematically tracked and measured. He is one of only nine playersever to average 2.18 strokes gained per round (or better) since the statistic was invented in 2004 and is close to equalling Tiger Woods’ record of 3 strokes-gained from 2007. It is noteworthy, however, that seven of the other nine players to match Rory’s performance level in 2019 won a major, and given the psychological brittleness he demonstratedin the opening-round of the Open Championship at Portrush and in the final-round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational last month, it is difficult to trust his ability to perform under pressure. In this context, Jon Rahm looks an extremely attractive investment as a 16/1 shot. The Spaniard ended a 14-month trophy drought by winning the Irish Openat the beginning of July and arrives at Medinah in the midst of an exceptional run of form reading T3-T2-W-T11-7-T3through his last six starts. He has the form, distance off the tee and deftness around the greens required to excel at Medinah and is overdue a fourth PGA Tour title. Top-10 Marc Leishman (70/1) Marc Leishman is a four-time PGA Tour winner; he claimed his maiden playoff titleat the BMW Championship at Conway Farms two-seasons ago (by five strokes away from Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose) and has recorded four career top-six finishes at major championship level. Put simply, the world No.24 is an elite level talent; so why, then, is he trading as long as 70/1 to triumph as part of a 70-man field? The answer is some very mixed form. The dim view is that he's missed two of his last three cuts and was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors. And yet, the positive spin is that, in his last six starts, Leishman has a top five at Memorial and a top three at St. Jude - again, both on highly-respected courses. Leishman tends to thrive against elite opposition on tough courses – he is worth an each-way bet this week. Outsider: Ian Poulter (80/1) Poulter took four points from five starts in propelling Team Europe to a seminal, come-from-behind Ryder Cup victory at Medinah back in 2012 and arrives into Illinois in strong form with two top-10s in his previous two starts.He is good value to contend this week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Why Justin Rose is a worthy world No.1
Sep 18, 2018 12:53 PM
 
As ascensions to the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings go, Justin Rose’s was hardly the most propitious. The 38-year-old held a single stroke lead away from Keegan Bradley upon reaching the par-4 18th-hole at the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club last weekend and teed-off confident in the knowledge that a regulation par would be sufficient to claim a crucial victory in the FedEx Cup play-off race. He found the fairway comfortably with a 3-wood off the tee; an undercooked approach-shot, however, left him with a tricky 15-footer for par which came up just short of the hole. Rose had somehow snatched a play-off from the jaws of victory and, visibly reeling as a consequence of his profligacy during regulation-play, he bogeyed the 18th again on the first extra-hole, handing Bradley his first PGA Tour title in six seasons. The following morning, it was confirmed that Rose had supplanted Dustin Johnson at the summit of the world rankings. Justin Rose ... for the win ... pic.twitter.com/eRYqLVnCgS— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 10, 2018 Inevitably, the downbeat nature of the Englishman’s finish at the BMW Championship dampened reception of his achievement; however, those questioning Rose’s worthiness as a world No.1 on the basis of two poor holes at Aronimink would do well to reflect on the machine-like consistency that has underpinned his rise. Rose finished 2016 ranked outside of the world’s top-10 for the first time since he cracked that elite-band five-years previously, and while his 2016 campaign will always be remembered fondly for his seminal triumph over Henrik Stenson at the Olympic Games in Brazil, he managed only one top-three in 19 PGA Tour starts and failed to contend at any of the season’s four majors. Many commentators consequently began to ponder the Ryder Cup stalwart’s potential longevity at the summit of the world game. In 2017, however, Rose’s game reached a new level; in addition to losing in a play-off at The Masters, he won the WGC - HSBC Champions event and the Turkish Airlines Open consecutively in November and rounded-out the year with a third triumph at the Indonesian Open. Indeed, the Johannesburg-native finished 2017 with three victories, three runners-up placings and nine further top-10s through 25 starts and he has scarcely allowed his level to dip since. After all, the BMW Championship marked the occasion of Rose’s third runners-up placing in 2018; he claimed his ninth PGA Tour victory at the Fort Worth Invitational in May and has carded six additional top-10s through 17 starts, missing only one cut. He will consequently tee-off at this week’s season-ending Tour Championship behind only Bryson DeChambeau in the FedEx Cup points-list. The Englishman’s destiny, therefore, lies firmly in his own hands; if Rose wins at East Lake, no-one can prevent him from winning the season-long PGA Tour spoils. Indeed, a top-three finish is likely to be enough to land this cherished accolade, which comes with the most lucrative cheque in the game. It would be a fitting way for Rose to end a sensational 24-months of relentlessly consistent golf – he is a worthy world No.1. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Finau worthy of Ryder Cup wildcard
Sep 14, 2018 12:33 PM
 
In the end it was a case of too little, too late for Xander Schauffele. The 24-year-old, who exploded into the popular golfing consciousness upon claiming the Tour Championship at East Lake last September, briefly fired the race to secure US Ryder Cup captain, Jim Furyk’s fourth and final wild-card selection with a frisson of excitement at the BMW Championship last week. Schauffele’s stunning 7-under opening-round 63 was inevitably overshadowed by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods’ accomplishment in signing for 62s; however, he claimed the outright 36-hole lead following a 64 on Friday and entered into a rain-delayed final-round within a shot of Justin Rose’s slender, 17-under lead. Victory would surely have rendered Schauffele a ‘lock’ for the US Ryder Cup squad’s final wildcard slot, but while most captains would envy Furyk for having an agonising decision simplified in such decisive fashion, it was difficult not to feel as though Schauffele’s late surge in form functioned principally to complicate a well-established plan – a plan to select Tony Finau. That Tony Finau has underwhelmed since claiming his maiden PGA Tour title at the Puerto Rico Open in March 2016 is undeniable. A dream come true!! Incredibly honored to be a part of @RyderCupUSA! Excited to join the team and do whatever it takes to help us bring home a victory!! Thanks to Captain Jim Furyk for believing in me and to all the fans for their support. I’m truly humbled. #GoUSA #RyderCup pic.twitter.com/E9qR4S7KnP— Tony Finau Golf (@tonyfinaugolf) September 10, 2018 Blessed with exceptional length off the tee, a solid iron game and consistency on the greens, he looked to possess all the physical and technical raw materials to emerge as a consistent winner at the highest level of the professional sport. Over two-years on, Finau remains stuck on one top-level triumph; however, a run of seven top-10s, including a T5 at the US Open and two runners-up finishes at The Genesis Open and the Northern Trust Open, through 20 starts in 2018 marks a major improvement on last season and suggests it is only a matter of time until he wins again. Indeed, Finau travelled to Philadelphia for the BMW Championship last week fresh off the back of a 2-T4 run in his first two Play-Off events and a T8 finish at Aronimink ultimately propelled him up to a new career-high ranking of No.15 in the world. On form, therefore, the 29-year-old possessed every claim to be handed a Ryder Cup debut; only a Schauffele victory could scupper Furyk’s plans. In the end, Furyk was spared the invidious task of needing to separate the in-form Finau from a victorious Schauffele; as occurred at The Open in July, Schauffele’s scoring dried-up under pressure on a back-nine on Sunday and he ultimately finished a shot outside the play-off contested between Rose and champion, Keegan Bradley. Furyk duly confirmed Finau as the last of his wildcard picks alongside Bryson DeChambeau, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Ultimately, it is difficult to begrudge Finau his selection; however, Schauffele’s near-miss at Aronimink does illustrate vividly the razor-thin margins that separate elation from acute disappointment in professional golf. Win or no, play-off place or no, Schauffele performed exceptionally at the BMW Championship and would have been well worth a place in Furyk’s team. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy’s putting woes return to undermine him at Aronimink
Sep 12, 2018 12:56 PM
 
Damningly, Rory McIlroy is probably getting used to the feeling of departing big golf tournaments with an acute sense of regret. The 28-year-old bookended an indifferent, 1-under second-round 69 with two outstanding scores of 62 and 63 at the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club last week and consequently started Sunday within a shot of Justin Rose’s 17-under lead. With that elusive putter hot and the driver typically booming, the stage seemed ideally set for McIlroy to banish the ghosts of a frustrating summer and recapture the form that propelled him to a fourteenth PGA Tour title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March. From the perspective of European Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjorn, such a confidence-restoring triumph could scarcely have come at a more opportune moment. When push came to shove, however, McIlroy’s scoring dried-up; a 2-under 68 left him two shots outside of the play-off contested by Rose and winner, Keegan Bradley and he ultimately departed Philadelphia ruing a considerable missed opportunity. Indeed, one need only glance at the Northern Irishman’s Sunday statistics to glean just how much he left out on the course. Calling the captain. Here is what happens when @RyderCupEurope players share a BMW... #BMWCHAMPS #DRIVENBYPASSION pic.twitter.com/2cRnln6rxU — Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) September 9, 2018 He hit 17 greens in regulation and had a birdie putt on every hole, including one from the fringe. He made just two of them. Eight of his 13 birdie putts were inside 15 feet, and the one had made as an 11-inch tap-in. In a round where he was brilliant from tee-to-green, McIlroy took 32 putts and ceded 2.7 strokes to the average of the field on the greens. To put that figure into context, he gained more than three-strokes to the average of the field when shooting 63 on Saturday. He has a week off to work on his putting before resuming tournament play at next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta but, simply put, such a fluctuation in putting figures from one round to the next is deeply unbecoming of a top-10 player in the world and cannot but severely corrode a golfer’s confidence. McIlroy ranks ninth on the PGA Tour for strokes-gained off the tee in 2018; he 16th for strokes gained around the green; 10th for strokes-gained approaching the green and sixth in strokes-gained total. And yet, when it comes to strokes-gained with a putter in hand, he languishes outside of the top-60. With eight top-10s on top of a tournament victory in 2018 (including a T5 at The Masters and a T2 at The Open), McIlroy has, by any normal standards, enjoyed a stellar year; and yet, regardless of what happens in Paris at the end of the month, it will conclude with a lingering sense of regret. The fact remains that if McIlroy was putting at a level even vaguely commensurate with his approach play, top-10s such as last week’s, would be categorised as victories. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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