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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: FedEx Cup

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Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Jason Day in scrap to secure Presidents Cup spot following FedEx Cup failure
Aug 30, 2019 1:32 AM
Tags: News   pga tour   Tiger Woods   Jordan Spieth   Jason Day   FedEx Cup  
 
Watching Rory McIlroy hold the FedEx Cup title aloft following his victory at the Tour Championship last weekend, it was difficult not to reflect on a few notable absentees from the season-ending event. Defending champion, Tiger Woods, of course, was the highest-profile player who failed to make it to East Lake; however, the extent of the former world No.1’s injury struggles since claiming a fifteenth major championship title at The Masters rendered his absence unsurprising. Similarly, Jordan Spieth’s failure to make it into the top-30 of the season-ending FedEx Cup standings for a second consecutive season cannot have surprised anyone who watched the three-time major winner fail consistently to string four decent rounds of golf together for the best part of 18-months. The 19th Hole explored the statistical factors underlying the Texan’s struggles in yesterday’s blog. Indeed, more surprising than either of these absences was that of the Jason Day who had been a cornerstone of the Tour Championship field in each of the last seven seasons. Indeed, the failure of the former US PGA champion to progress into the field at East Lakesets the extent of his decline over the previous 12-months in sharp relief. Jason Day hopes Australian Open gives him a lift https://t.co/vBYzA4SI1p— Malay Mail (@malaymail) August 22, 2019 Day began 2019 in solid fashion, recording top-5 finishes at the CJ Cup, the Farmers Insurance Open and the Pebble Beach Pro-Am leading into a tied-fifth finish at The Masters Tournament in April. However, his performances and results declined dramatically in the aftermath of his impressive showing at Augusta. Indeed, in 11 subsequent starts across all ToursDay managed just a single top-10 finish, missing four cuts, and an indifferent MC-T52 run through the first two FedEx Cup play-off events at the Northern Trust Open and BMW Championship confirmed that he would be watching the Tour Championship on television. "It was just a very, very below average season," Day told AAPafter a poor final round at Medinah two weeks ago. "It's been a while since I missed Tour Champs, so that's disappointing." Winless in over a year since claiming his 12th PGA Tour title at the Wells Fargo Championship last May, Day has slipped back outside of the world’s top-20 for the first time since breaking into that elite band six years ago. The fact that he has split with three caddies over the previous nine-months, most recently Steve Williams, further underlines the growing sense of crisis in his camp. Indeed, the former world No.1 is now dependent on wild-card selectionto feature in the Presidents Cup in December. Until Day rediscovers some sense stability in his set-up outside the ropes, one struggles to envisage him reproducing his best golf within them. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tour Championship absence illustrates the depth of Spieth’s struggles
Aug 28, 2019 2:00 AM
 
To miss out on the FedEx Cup playoff-ending Tour Championship once is misfortune; to miss it twice is carelessness. Say what you like about the FedEx Cup’s lack of history and prestige, the crass sums of money offered in compensation for the fact, and the undue competitive weight afforded to playoff events; however, it does offer a fairly accurate gauge of the best performing PGA Tour professionals across the course of a season. In this context, Jordan Spieth’s failure to finish inside the top-30 of the FedEx Cup points-racein order to qualify for the Tour Championship for the second season in a row is a source of real concern. Just two years have passed since the Texan outscored Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas in order to win his third major championship title and 11th PGA Tour accolade by the age of 24 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. Last week, he needed to watch from his couch as those same players vied for the biggest prize pot in golf. How does one even begin to account for the precipitous nature of Spieth’s decline during the past 24-months? Take the journey with @JordanSpieth on the path to becoming Champion Golfer of the Year Watch in full the new series for free — The Open (@TheOpen) August 20, 2019 Raw statistics give some indication. In 2018 the principal cause of Spieth’s struggles was putting, the aspect of his game that, more than any other, propelled him to the summit of the sport between 2015-17. The same cannot be said of the 2019 campaign; indeed, the 25-year-old has enjoyed his strongest-ever season with the flatstick. AsGolf Digestpoints out, Spieth has gained .862 strokes on the field per round this season, meaning he averaged making up more than three shots per tournament just with his flatstick. Spieth will finish second to Denny McCarthy's eye-popping .926, which is the second-best figure in the past 10 seasons—trailing only Jason Day's record-best 1.130 in 2015-2016. Spieth’s putting numbers would have led the Tour in three of the past four seasons and constitute a significant improvement over the last two seasons when he finished 48th (.278) and 123rd (-.034) respectively in strokes gained/putting. No, the key underlying cause of Spieth’s indifferent form in 2019 has been his ball-striking, which has long been regarded as the weakest aspect of his game. Indeed, the Texan has managed career worstsin strokes gained/off-the-tee (180th at -.452) and strokes gained/approach (147th at -.198) over the past eight-months. Perhaps most worryingly, his scoring has fallen off most severely during weekend rounds when the pressure is on, a circumstance that hints at a newfound psychological brittleness. Indeed, Spieth would be the fourth best performing player on Tour in 2019 if tournaments ended after 36-holes, ranking ninth and first respectively for first and second-round scoring average. When the pressure ramps-up over rounds three and four, however, he capitulates, ranking 170th on Tour for third-round scoring average and 187th for Sunday scoring. This trend was illustrated vividly at the Wyndham Championshipat the end of July when Spieth followed-up a 64-67 on Thursday and Friday with a 77 on Saturday to miss the third-round cut. There were others. Spieth shot 77 on Sunday at Portrush and 76 on Sunday at Pebble Beach. There was the 74-75 weekend at Hilton Head. Ditto at the AT&T Pebble Pro-Am. And of course the Sunday 81 at the Genesis Open, which took him from T4 to T51. He declined to speak to reporters after that one. Until the Texan rediscovers an average level of competency from tee-to-green it is a struggle to envisage him recapturing the competitive ruthlessness and coolness under the pressure that rendered him a serial winner through the first five-years of his professional career. Here’s hoping Spieth can resurrect his game during the off-season, for the longer these kinds of slumps endure, the more difficult they become to reverse. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Why McIlroy, not Koepka, was a fitting FedEx Cup winner
Aug 27, 2019 4:14 AM
 
There are a great many reasons to be critical of the FedEx Cup. From its obscene $15m prize-pot, to the bizarre new handicap system introduced in the playoff-ending Tour Championship, the event simply lacks the sense of pedigree and prestige required to capture the popular golfing imagination in the manner of a major championship. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the FedEx Cup system, however, is the undue competitive weight afforded to playoff events in the points-race. Thus, players like Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas, having achieved almost nothing through the course of the first seven months of the season, can contend for the overall prize-pot simply by virtue of having won the Northern Trust Open and BMW Championship respectively. The FedEx markets itself as an order-of-merit style event that tests players across the length of a season to reward the most consistent performers; by conferring an undue competitive advantage on those who find form an opportune point in the season, the current points structure undermines any claim to season-long relevancy. It is a testament, therefore, to Rory McIlroy’s strength of character that despite needing to start the Tour Championship six-strokes behind the FedEx Cup points leader, Thomas, the most consistent performer in the 2018/19 PGA Tour season still departed Atlanta with the coveted, $15m prize cheque. This fan *probably* didn't think he'd end up with Rory McIlroy's ball in his pocket.pic.twitter.com/y83igWpjP7— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 22, 2019 In 19 starts through the course of the 2018/19 campaign, McIlroy has recorded 14 top-10 finishes, missing just two cuts, for a 75% top-10 finish record. To put that statistic into context, only two other PGA Tour professionals matched his hit-rate in more than half their starts. Furthermore, Rory won three times – at The Players Championship in March, at the RBC Canadian Open in June, and at East Lake last weekend – and top-10ed at both the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black and at the US Open at Pebble Beach. Indeed, in terms of pure technical performance, this has been McIlroy’s best ever season on the PGA Tour. The 30-year-old has gained 2.55 strokes to the average of the field in 2019: that’s the number of shots he beat the field by per round this season. Officially, it’s known as Strokes Gained: Total. To calculate it, just subtract McIlroy’s score from the field’s scoring average each day. McIlroy’s mark this season is the highest of this decade, beating his own performance in 2012 (+2.41). It’s also the highest single-season mark by anyone not named Tiger Woods since the PGA Tour began systematically tracking and measuring the statistic in 2003. Traditionalists may roll their eyes at this point; indeed, there can be no doubt that Brooks Koepka’s record of three wins (including a major and a WGC event) and four top-fours at major level outweighs McIlroy’s campaign in the Player of the Season contest. However, McIlroy has been more consistent than Koepka in 2019 and is consequently a fitting FedEx Cup champion. “I think it is my best overall season’, McIlroy said. We talk about consistency; that attitude and consistency, day in, day out, I think that’s what you’ve seen over the course of this year, and hopefully will continue to see going forward. “Sometimes emotion has worked against me, and that’s the real reason that I maybe don’t show as much out there as I used to. “ don’t want to get too high and I don’t want to get too low. “If I needed to get emotional and get really riled up, this isn’t the sport to do that. I’m not a football player. It’s golf, and you sort of need to try to be pretty even-keeled the whole way through.” Such even-headedness could make a crucial difference as McIlroy bids to return to the major winner’s circle in 2020. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy ends 2018-19 season on a fitting high with Tour Championship victory
Aug 26, 2019 2:01 AM
 
"It's amazing how different things can be in a year," Rory McIlroy reflected upon claiming an unprecedented $15m prize-cheque following his victory at the Tour Championship on Sunday afternoon. 12-months earlier, the Northern Irishman was an overlooked bystander as Tiger Woods celebrated the missing piece of his comebackby winning at East Lake; this time all the fan and media adulation was reserved for him. Of greater significance than the $15m winner’s cheque was the fact that McIlroy appeared to have rediscovered his bounce and swagger in Atlanta. The only cause for regret as he birdied the 18th to close-out an emphatic four-stroke triumphaway from Xander Schauffele was the fact that the Masters is a full seven months away. "I must say, I didn't enjoy that walk last year like everyone else did," McIlroy said when asked how his performance this year compared to last when he failed to make an impact as part of the final group alongside Woods. "I never took the fight to Tiger." Thank you to all the fans from around the world for your incredible support throughout the season especially those in Atlanta this week. It truly means so much to me. Now it’s time to celebrate! https://t.co/TChzWyr6uX— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) August 26, 2019 More important than avenging his no-show against Woods, however, was the fact that McIlroy overcame a single-shot 54-hole deficit to defeat final-round playing partner, Brooks Koepka on Sunday. McIlroy was subject to some vituperative media commentary when he surrounded a one-shot 54-hole lead of his own to lose to Koepka as part of the final pairingat the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis last month. Many analysts judged the tame nature of the 30-year-old’s defeat to crystallize the psychological flakiness perceived widely to underlie his five-season major championship trophy drought. “Going up against the No 1 player in the world today, he got one over on me in Memphis and I wanted to try to sort of get some revenge”, McIlroy said. “The final round in Memphis hurt a little bit. I didn’t take it to Brooks at all. “To play like that alongside Brooks and get the win, win the FedExCup, yeah, it’s awesome. It’s amazing how different things can be in a year.” McIlroy and Koepka were neck-and-neck up until the seventh-hole where a three-shot swing shifted the competitive momentum of the event irrevocably in the Northern Irishman’s favour. McIlroy made a 25-foot birdie, while Koepka lost his tee shot in the trees and made double-bogey. There were consecutive two-shot swings on the back nine, and then it was a matter of holding off Schauffele. McIlroy was four shots ahead until back-to-back bogeys on holes 15 and 16threatened to derail his title push; indeed, he was on the verge of watching his lead shrink to one when he holed an 8-foot par putt on the 16th. Schauffele had to settle for pars, and McIlroy finished with back-to-back birdies to close-out an emphatic and richly deserved triumph. He was the only player to break par all four days and his 13-under total 267 was better than anyone else in the 30-man field. Back up to No.2 in the world; sometimes the cream really does rise to the top. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Six hospitalised after lightning strikes Tour Championship
Aug 25, 2019 4:38 AM
 
Lightning struck during the third-round of the FedEx Cup playoff-ending Tour Championship at East Lake on Saturday, and not in a good way. With world Nos. 1, 3 and 5, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, jockeying for position at the summit of an elite leaderboard, casual observers could be forgiven for assuming that any journalistic reference to electricity striking the course in Atlanta related strictly to golfing performance. On Saturday, however, age-old warnings regarding the perils of sheltering on exposed fairways during electrical storms were powerfully substantiated as six spectators were hospitalizedafter lightning struck a tree. NBC just showed a lightning strike out at the #TOURChampionship at East Lake that injured possibly 4. This is a slow motion shot of their coverage. Wow! pic.twitter.com/0Z1ARb6a8q — Craig Lucie (@CraigLucie) August 24, 2019 Speaking on the American broadcaster NBC, PGA Tour rules official, Mark Russell statedthat “their injuries do not appear to be life threatening”; however, a marquee golf event had already been overshadowed by a scene involving sirens and brief panic. Appropriately, the tournament was suspended for the rest of the afternoon and evening, with play to resume at 8am on Sunday. Stark damage to the bark of a tree hinted at the severity of the strike. Russell said officials were aware of possible thunderstorms but elected not to change the tee-times. “When one did form right over the top of us we suspended play immediately,” he said. Indeed, the players had been removed from the course at 4.17pm with lightning in the vicinity. As is typical, spectators generally remained on the grounds. A Tour statementexplained what transpired next. It read: “At 4.45pm there were two lightning strikes at East Lake Golf Club; a tree near the range/15 green/16 tee was hit and debris from that strike injured four people. “EMT [Emergency Medical Technicians] tended to those fans and two others immediately and transported them from the property via ambulance for further medical attention. Our latest report is that their injuries do not appear to be life threatening.” Professional golf tournaments became far more vigilant about stopping play amid the threat of lightning after two spectators were killed at separate major championships in the United States in 1991: at the US Open at Hazeltine in Minnesota and at the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in Indiana. But as the Tour’s rules official, Mark Russell stated when pressedon whether Saturday’s play should have been postponed in light of reports that there were thunder storms in the vicinity: “I think if we did that [amended starting times] every time we had a possibility of thunderstorms in the south-east, we’d do that basically every time we played golf.” Play will resume at 8am with Thomas a single stroke aheadof Koepka and McIlroy at 12-under through 5-holes. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka, McIlroy and Thomas poised for weekend shootout at the Tour Championship
Aug 24, 2019 5:45 AM
 
Say what you like about the revised format of the FedEx Cup-ending Tour Championship at East Lake; however, one cannot dispute the fact that the new handicap scheme has ensured a stellar leaderboard going into final weekend of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season. At 13-under-par, world No.1, Brooks Koepka leads world No.3, Rory McIlroy and world No.5, Justin Thomas by a single stroke at the halfway point, with world Nos. 11 and 21, Xander Schauffele and Paul Casey still in contention for the title at 11-under and 9-under respectively. Sure, one can argue the competitive integrity of the event is compromised as a consequence of the fact that McIlroy (66-67)will tee-off for the third-round in a tie for second, despite having completed the opening 36-holes in a shot less than Koepka (67-67) and in five strokes fewer than Thomas (70-68). Nevertheless, we are set for a scintillating weekend’s golf. Indeed, it was principally only a storm delaythat stymied the momentum of Koepka and Thomas on Friday, right as they appeared set to pull clear in the chase for the $15 million FedEx Cup prize cheque. Koepka, for instance, carded three birdies in a row between holes six and eight before the weather intervened to halt play as he turned on to the back-nine. Remerging after a 90-minute delay, the four-time major winner struggled to regain his touch and ultimately didn’t make a birdie on the inward stretch until the par-5 18th. There, he hit a 5-iron from 239 yards to 8 feet behind the hole. He had to settle for a two-putt birdie, a 3-under 67 and a one-shot lead. Because he started the tournament at 7 under par as the No. 3 seed, he was at 13-under going into the weekend. How many strokes would Brooks Koepka give an average golfer to play against him at East Lake? ...A lot. pic.twitter.com/xqXf6eIR7f — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 21, 2019 Thomas, meantime, was 3-under when the blower sounded to halt play; upon re-emerging, he played his final 10 holes in 1 over for a 68. "The lead is always nice, so I'll take that," Koepka said. "The rain delay kind of killed any momentum I had. I didn't feel like I had any good golf shots after the rain delay, but that's part of golf. Everybody's got to deal with the same thing." Indeed, McIlroy was the only notable, top-level player to buck that particular trend; the Northern Irishman was three off the lead upon resuming his round with three holes to play and finished birdie-birdie to sign for a 3-under second-round of 67. McIlroy expressed scepticismregarding the handicap format leading into the Tour Championship, stating a press-conference on Wednesday that reporters could "come back to me Monday and I'll tell you whether it's worked or not.'' Speaking to the media after his round on Friday, however, he struck a far more conciliatory tone. “It feels totally normal,” said McIlroy. “It feels like a normal Tour Championship. If you play well, you’re in those last groups every day.” If the 30-year-old can maintain his present rate of scoring through the weekend, a second FedEx Cup title in the space of three seasons may well beckon. [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 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
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
Abraham Ancer lays down PGA Tour marker at Liberty National
Aug 13, 2019 4:37 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Abraham Ancer. The 28-year-old caught the eye of the international golfing media upon signing for a 6-under 65 during the second-round of the Northern Trust Open at Liberty National Golf Club in New York last Friday and teed-off for the final-round in outright second, just a single stroke behind Patrick Reed’s 54-hole lead. Ancer started brightly; playing in the final group of a PGA Tour event for just the second time in his career, he seized sole control at the top of the leaderboardcourtesy of a birdie on the par-4 third-hole. However, a costly bogey on the challenging par-3 fourth stymied his early sense of a momentum and a sloppy bogey on the par-5 sixth ensured he was playing catch-up to Reed and Jon Rahm for the rest of the day. Nevertheless, a pair of clutch birdies on the par-4 sixteenth and seventeenth-holes ensured the Mexican teed-off on 18 within a shot of Reed’s lead. Both players found the fairway off the tee but Ancer hit his approach to 43 feet and couldn’t make his tying birdie attempt. He parred, and so did Reed, securing the one-shot win. A giant dream is going to come true this year for Abraham Ancer. He's going to become the first Mexican golfer to compete in the Presidents Cup: https://t.co/D1uCgjcqxG pic.twitter.com/ylu6eyvmHD — Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) August 12, 2019 Inevitably Ancer departed the eighteenth green possessed of an acute sense of disappointment. Indeed, PGA Tour statistics indicate that he led the field in Strokes Gained: Off the tee (1.490) and Strokes Gained: Tee to green (3.430), and ranked tenth and twelfth respectively for Strokes Gained: Around the green and Approaching the green. Put simply, Ancer was the best performing player in the fieldlast week and after his initial sense of disappointment subsided, he could draw real confidence from the quality of his performance. “When I finished I was a little down because I didn’t get it done and I feel like I played good,” said Ancer, who is trying to become the third native Mexican playerto win on PGA Tour since 1970. “But then getting all this news that I’m going to the Tour Championship, playing the majors, going to the Masters, all that, I was like, Man, this is not too bad. I’m extremely happy, proud of the way I performed today, and like I said, I’m going to keep going. I still obviously want that W, but really proud with all the boxes that I checked off today.” Ancer, who claimed his second professional titleat the Australian Open last autumn, started last week ranked 67th in the FedEx Cup points race; his runner-up finish to Reed has catapulted him up as high as eighth, and given all of the top-30 after next week’s BMW Championship qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake, he is extremely well positioned to secure the automatic Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship qualification that accompanies participation in the Tour Championship. “I’m extremely proud of where I’ve come from and how I’ve been able to get all the way to the big stage, which is the PGA Tour and competing for events this big,” said Ancer, who won $999,000 on Sunday. “I’m playing against the best PGA Tour players in the world. The best 125 are here. Yeah, it means the world to me. I’m living the dream. This is what I dreamt about when I was a little kid and I couldn’t be luckier.” The more practices, it seems, the luckier he gets. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Reed ends 16-month trophy drought at Northern Trust Open
Aug 12, 2019 5:05 AM
 
December’s Presidents Cup weighed heavy on Patrick Reed’s mind upon arriving at Liberty National Golf Club to contest the Northern Trust Open last week. After all, the New York venue was the site of one of Reed’s finest representative performances at the 2017 Presidents Cup where he posted a 3-1-1 record to help ease the hosts to an emphatic victory against the International squad. More pertinently, he arrived at Liberty National requiring a serious uptick in form to have any chance of forming a part of US captain, Tiger Woods’ team for the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia in December. Reed, as has been documented widely in the media over the past few days, has struggled to recapture his best form since claiming his maiden major championship title at the Masters last April. Indeed, in 21 starts since the beginning of 2019, he managed just two top-10 finishes and slumped from a career-high ranking of world No.7 down as far as No. 24. He is consequently in a scrap with a number of highly promising young players to earn one of captain, Tiger Woods’ four wildcard selections for the US Presidents Cup team; at No. 17 in the overall standings, he had a lot of work to do to convince Woods of his potential worth to the team. In this context, his single-stroke victory over Abraham Ancer on Sunday felt doubly significant. For in addition to ending a 16-month PGA Tour trophy drought and catapulting Reed back inside of the world’s top-15, his playoff victory has moved him from 17th in the Presidents Cup standings to 12th -- one spot ahead of Woods -- and he would likely make the team with another victory at Medinah. Short of that, of course, Reed would need to rely on an at-large selection from Woods; however, he has rendered himself very difficult to overlook for inclusion. "For me, it's just continue playing good golf and that will all take care of itself,'' Reed said."If Tiger wants to call me, he knows I'll always call him back. I'm not going to bug him. If I continue to go out there and play good golf, I know he's going to make the right decision on picking four guys that he feels are best for the team at the end of the day.'' This was a vintage performance from Reed; indeed, his apparent unflappability as leader was deeply redolent of the psychological robustness he demonstrated in closing out a two-shot, 54-hole lead at the Masters two-years ago. The 29-year-old started shakily, pairing three birdies with three bogeys on the front-nine to slip two strokes behind Jon Rahm upon reaching the turn; however, he rallied with three straight single putt holes — one for par, two for birdies — that allowed him to overtake the Spaniard at the summit of the leaderboard and fend off Ancer’s challenge coming down the stretch. “It’s been a little too long,” said Reed. “What better place to do it than here. It’s definitely a good time to get a `W.“’ Up to No.2 behind Brooks Koepka in the playoff standings, Reed’s hopes of claiming the $15m prize-cheque at East Lake are very much alive. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 Northern Trust Open Round 2 Takeaways: Spieth surges as Tiger withdraws
Aug 10, 2019 5:48 AM
 
1.Johnson and Spieth set up thrilling shootout These players formed the focus of yesterday’s blogand the emphatic nature of their second-round performances has served only to intensify the shine of the editorial spotlight. Johnson teed-off on Friday within a single stroke of Troy Merritt’s surprise, 9-under overnight lead, and a sensational run of three birdies in his final six holes on Friday enabled him to sign for a 4-under 67, seizing a single stroke leadgoing into the weekend. Most strikingly, perhaps, the 34-year-old closed with an approach to 8 feet on the 489-yard 18th and ranks second and third respectivelyfor strokes-gained tee-to-green and approaching the green through the opening 36-holes. “I’ve got a lot of control with the golf ball and hitting a lot of really nice shots and rolled in a couple putts today which is nice, but still feel like I left quite a few out there,” Johnson said. “I’m in a good position heading into the weekend, and if I can keep swinging the way I am, I think it’s going to be a good weekend.” More details on Tiger Woods' WD from @TheNTGolf prior to his second round this morning: https://t.co/38nbu9i36A pic.twitter.com/nkD3HxR4g0— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) August 9, 2019 Intriguingly, Jordan Spieth is the player best-placed to disrupt Johnson’s march towards a fifth FedEx Cup playoff series victory. The 26-year-old caught the eye of the world’s golfing media courtesy of a 5-under 66 on Thursday, and he consolidated with a spectacular 7-under 64 on Fridayto draw to within a shot of DJ’s lead. It cannot be overlooked, however, that the Texan was on the same 36-hole score (131) going into the weekend at the Wyndham Championship last week, where he carded a third-round 77 to miss the 54-hole cut. Indeed, the three-time major winner ranks 10th and 2nd respectively for first and second-round scoring on the PGA Tour in 2019; when it comes to Saturdays and Sundays, however, he ranks 149th and 195th respectively. The third-round will reveal much regarding the seriousness of Spieth’s title ambitions. 2.Tiger withdraws It was difficult not to experience a sense of concern upon hearing confirmation that Tiger Woods had withdrawnform the Northern Trust Open just two-hours before teeing-off for the second-round. “Due to a mild oblique strain that led to pain and stiffness, I have to withdraw from the Northern Trust,” Woods said in a statement. “I went for treatment early Friday morning, but unfortunately I’m still unable to compete.” The 42-year-old was in obvious physical discomfort as he laboured to a 4-over opening-round of 75on Thursday and, in many respects, yesterday’s announcement of his withdrawal came as a relief. Frankly, he should never really have started this tournament. It cannot be overlooked, however, that Tiger has never recovered to full fitness since winning the Masters in April. This latest setback will only fuel anxieties regarding the long-term viability of his PGA Tour career. 3.Reed channels Captain America Patrick Reed has not enjoyed a profitable 2019 campaign. In 21 starts since the beginning of the year, the six-time PGA Tour winner has managed just two top-10 finishes and remains winless since claiming his maiden major championship title 18-months ago. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the truculent Texan has slipped outside of the world’s top-20and languishes far outside the automatic President’s Cup qualification spots. With a host of quality players vying for one of captain, Tiger Woods’ wild-card picks, he is by no means assured of selection. It has been heartening, therefore, to witness the 29-year-old experience something of a return to form at Liberty National this week, stitching together back-to-back 69sto draw to within two-shots of the halfway lead. Captain America may well still earn himself a place in Woods’ team. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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