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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: FedEx Cup

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Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Hudson Swafford claims one-shot win at Corales Championship
Sep 29, 2020 3:58 AM
 
Hudson Swafford was not much talked about in the lead-up to last week’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. Three seasons have passed since the former world No.75 claimed his maiden PGA Tour accolade at the CareerBuilder Challenge at PGA West; during that time, his progress has been stymied by persistent injury struggles. First a rib ailment knocked him out for 10 weeks during the 2018 season. Then, just as he was beginning to regain form and confidence the following year, he was obliged to have a broken bone removed from the bottom of his foot. Inevitably, such lengthy spells on the sidelines effected a precipitous slide down the Official World Golf Rankings. Indeed, Swafford arrived in the Dominican Republic last week at No. 341 in the world, having recorded just two top-10s in over 50 starts during the previous three seasons. Contesting the wrap-around of the 2020/21 campaign on a major medical extension, he had only a few starts left to regain his playing status for the coming season. Put simply, Swafford looked a man destined to return to the Webb.com Tour. It was tremendously heartening, therefore, to watch him survive a back-nine scare to claim a narrow victory at the Corales Championship last week. Congratulations to @CoralesChamp winner @Hud_swafford as he earns his second @PGATOUR victory. pic.twitter.com/zn9DOzn5I5— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) September 27, 2020 Trailing by two at the start of the final-round, Swafford led by four shots upon reaching the turn. Then came what seemed a heart-breaking capitulation. He made double bogey on the 13th hole and dropped another shot on 15. When he stood on the 17th tee, he was tied for the lead with Mackenzie Hughes and Tyler McCumber, who was in the house at 17 under. That’s when Swafford hit a perfect 6-iron to 10 feet and poured in the putt to go one ahead. After a misjudged lag putt on the final green, he nailed an 8-footer for par to secure the one-shot victory. Talk about clutch golf. “I was just envisioning my shot at 17 on PGA West when I stepped up on the 17th green,” Swafford reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. “(My caddie) said, ‘You know, this is just a three-quarter 6-iron, you've been hitting your 6-iron great all day, all week, just hit one more. It's a 190, just do it,’ and I hit a beauty, then solid putt and went right in.” Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year's Corales was a full-point FedExCup event. In addition to securing a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and climbing as high as No.165 in the OWGR, therefore, the 33-year-old secured invitations to the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Players, Championship, the Masters and the US PGA Championship. Not a bad week’s work and a richly deserved element of good luck for a player who has struggled badly in recent seasons. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Xander Schauffele shot the best score of the Tour Championship, but says DJ 'deserved' victory
Sep 10, 2020 3:50 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Xander Schauffele. Three seasons on from claiming his second PGA Tour title at the Tour Championship, the 26-year-old again posted the lowest 72-hole total at East Lake, signing for four rounds in the 60s en route to what would typically be a three-stroke victory over Scottie Scheffler. However, this was not a normal tournament. Perhaps with Schauffele’s spoiling of Justin Thomas’ inauguration as the 2017 FedEx Cup champion in mind, the PGA Tour introduced a new, staggered-start format for the Tour Championship last year. Under the new system, players are handicapped based on FedEx Cup points earned during the season; thus, the FedEx Cup leader tees off at East Lake on 10 under par, while the second seed starts on eight under. The third seed tees off at seven under and so on down to the fifth seed at five under. Seeds 6-10 begin at −4; seeds 11-15 begin at −3; and so on, down to seeds 26-30, who start at level par. Schauffele consequently teed-off for the tournament seven shots behind FedEx Cup leader, Johnson on three under par, and although he fired the best score of the 30 competitors at East Lake (265; 15-under), he had to settle for a share of second place with Thomas. Strikingly, the four-time PGA Tour winner could not have been more gracious in appraising the worthiness of Johnson’s ultimate title triumph. The PGA Tour should be embarrassed that their announcers never once mentioned that Xander Schauffele was -15 this week. He should get credit for a PGA Tour win.1. Schauffele -152. Scheffler -12T3. Johnson -11T3. Thomas -115. Hatton -10 https://t.co/FJtrGFUyjl— Brad Hoiseth (@BradHoiseth) September 7, 2020 "DJ deserves to win," said Schauffele after a closing 66 saw him finish on 18 under, three behind the champion. "He won the first one, tied first in the second, and I don't know where he finished here, but he obviously is playing great golf, and I think that's what the Play-Offs are all about. "He had two bogeys in a row there, and he made a really important par putt on nine, which isn't surprising," he added. "I just wasn't able to put enough pressure on him. I birdied 11 and 12, and then I bogeyed 13 and then he parred. That was a big swing. He's here to win the tournament. He made that putt, which I didn't. That was a pinnacle moment I think." Despite the disappointment of being denied a second Tour Championship accolade, Schauffele can draw real confidence from the clinical nature of his performance in Atlanta. In addition to hitting 30 of 56 fairways off the tee and 50 of 72 greens in regulation, he ranked inside of the tournament’s top-20 in all of the major strokes gained (SG) metrics, including SG off the tee (5); SG approaching the green (17); SG around the green (11); SG putting (2); and SG total (1). Indeed, Monday marked the occasion of Schauffele’s first 72-hole victory since he claimed the Tournament of Champions title in January 2019 and, gladly, the Official World Golf Ranking uses the true leaderboard to allocate points at East Lake and he has consequently returned to the top-10 at No.7. The San Diego native will be one to keep an eye on at Winged Foot this weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matsuyama shows signs of revival at BMW Championship
Aug 31, 2020 4:54 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Hideki Matsuyama. The 28-year-old captured a single stroke overnight lead following the first-round of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields last week and recovered from a 3-over Friday scorecard to grab a share of the lead alongside Dustin Johnson going into Sunday. In the event, Matsuyama was unable to parley his strong 54-hole position into a sixth PGA Tour title. He reached the turn within touching distance of the lead after completing the front-nine in one-under in challenging, windy conditions. However, a bogey on the par-4 eleventh hole stymied his progress, and while he rallied to pick up a further shot at the par-5 fifteenth, he could ultimately only sign for a 1-under 69, finishing two strokes outside the play-off contested by Johnson and Jon Rahm. "I couldn't control all of my shots like I wanted, but I was able to stick it out and reap the rewards," the Japanese star brooded upon returning to the clubhouse. "It made me realize even more how important power is to winning and its given a lot of aspects of my game to work on." WHAT A PUTT.Dustin Johnson drains a birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff at the BMW Championship(via @PGATOUR)pic.twitter.com/8RrxClyiLi— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 30, 2020 Matsuyama can, however, console himself with the fact that, as one of the top 30 points scorers in 2019/20, he has advanced to the final leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, for the seventh year in a row. Furthermore, he has climbed back inside the top-20 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in over a year. Of greater long-term significance, however, is the fact that Matsuyama was back contending for a top-level PGA Tour title at all. The former world No.2 is winless in over three years since claiming his fifth PGA Tour accolade at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio in August 2017, and he has long since ceased to be a regular fixture inside of the world’s top-5. Matsuyama missed as many cuts as he made top-10s (3) in 25 starts worldwide in 2018, and while he mounted a minor recovery the following year, posting nine top-10 finishes, he finished the season winless and ranked back outside of the top-20. In 13 starts in 2020 leading into last week’s tournament in Illinois, he had as many missed cuts to his name (2) as he had top-10 finishes. It was tremendously heartening, therefore, to witness Matsuyama once more vying with the PGA Tour elite for top-level honours. Possessed of impressive length off the tee, pristine ball-striking abilities and a consistent putting stroke, he retains all of the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive at the business end of the professional game. Major titles remain a realistic aspiration for Matsuyama and, teeing off at East Lake Golf Course with an adjusted score of 4-under this week, six shots behind FedEx Cup standings leader Johnson, he could yet make an impact at the Tour Championship. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rahm defeats Johnson in thrilling play-off to win BMW Championship
Aug 31, 2020 1:51 AM
 
When Dustin Johnson converted a devilish, double-breaking 45-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green to a force a play-off against Jon Rahm at the BMW Championship on Sunday, you could almost hear the PGA Tour’s marketing team beginning to drool. For at the end of a most challenging week at Olympia Field, with scoring always close to par on the 2003 US Open venue, the world’s No. 1 and 2 ranked players had emerged at the summit of a decorated leaderboard. Consequently, they were primed to do battle in a high-profile, high-stakes, winner-takes-all pay-off. What more could a marketing department ask for? In the event, the play-off delivered even more social media gold. Johnson knocked a safe second to the heart of the green, while Rahm's approach from the rough on the right bounded past pin height and settled at the back of the putting surface, leaving him with a huge task just to get down in two putts for par. However, in scenes evocative of Rahm's maiden win at Torrey Pines in 2017, the world No 2 got the pace and line just right and celebrated wildly as his ball dropped into the centre of the cup from 63-feet before Johnson's attempt to extend the contest came up short. A 66-FOOT PUTT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP! ICE COLD FROM JON RAHM (via @PGATOUR) pic.twitter.com/67FSPUq0Ng — SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 30, 2020 Johnson, who stormed to an 11-shot victory at the Northern Trust Open a fortnight ago, was ultimately obliged to console himself with the fact that he remains a spot ahead of Rahm at the summit of both the FedExCup standings and the Official World Golf Rankings as the regular PGA Tour season concludes with the Tour Championship this week. He will consequently start the chase for the $15 million bonus at East Lake at 10-under par, two ahead of Rahm, the No. 2 seed. "I knew how good DJ has been playing. I was expecting nothing else," Rahm reflected after collecting his second victory of the season for his 11th professional title. "I was fully confident it was going to come into a playoff and hoping to win it. Never did I think I would make another 50-, 60-footer, a couple of breaks in there, to end up winning it." This was a vintage performance from Rahm who began the final-round three-strokes shy of the 54-hole lead Johnson shared with Hideki Matsuyama. The Spaniard started brightly, carding birdies at two of his first four holes, but that looked to be a fruitless effort when Johnson birdied three of the first five to race to four-under par. But last week's runaway Northern Trust winner showed his first signs of frailty when he bogeyed the eighth and 10th, while Rahm dropped four further strokes on the back-nine to reach the clubhouse with a single-stroke lead. Though Johnson got back to within a shot of the leader when he safely two-putted for a welcome four at the long 15th and ultimately forced a play-off, the day was to be Rahm’s. We are poised for a thrilling FedEx Cup finale at East Lake this weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
With first child on the way, family takes precedence over golf for McIlroy
Aug 30, 2020 11:18 AM
 
Ever since winning the 2014 US PGA Championship at Valhalla, thereby joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as only the third golfer ever to win four majors by the age of 25, Rory McIlroy has been tipped to achieve sporting immortality. Possessed of exceptional power off the tee and preternatural technical ability, many commentators tipped the Northern Irishman to become the most decorated major champion of all-time. The fact then that, six years on from his victory at Valhalla, McIlroy has yet to add to his major trophy haul, has fomented a torrent of speculation as to why he has ceased winning at the highest level. Some see the issue as technical, emphasising the 31-year-old’s notoriously flaky putting-stroke as the nub of his problems on lightning-fast major championship greens. Others foreground the ever-increasing competitiveness of the PGA Tour as the principal reason why he could never dominate as many had imagined, highlighting the emergence of younger rivals, such as Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm. However, there remains a significant constituency of pundits who perceive McIlroy’s inability to win regularly at major championship level as arising from a shortcoming in his mentality. In this analysis, he is seen as too well-adjusted or well-rounded a character and as lacking in the ruthlessness and singular focus on winning that animated Woods, for example. The word is out, @McIlroyRory and his wife Erica are expecting their first child soon: https://t.co/k4idnIBlDP pic.twitter.com/yw1JPa141N— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 29, 2020 Many commentators point to McIlroy’s absence from the 2015 Open Championship as a case in point. The then world No.1 missed the tournament after breaking his ankle while playing football with friends in Belfast just days before the event. It was, indeed, difficult to envisage a figure like Woods ever jeopardising his participation in a major in such a fashion and, unapologetic, McIlroy avowed subsequently that ‘there are more important things in life than golf tournaments’. The same dynamic was evident subsequent to McIlroy’s third-round performance at the BMW Championship last week. The 18-time PGA Tour winner told reporters that he and his wife, Erica, are expecting the birth of their first child imminently and that he was perfectly prepared to skip to the Tour Championship at East Lake to share in the moment. "We're about to be parents very soon, so we're obviously super excited," he said. "Yeah, we've been sharing the news with friends and family, obviously, but I didn't think it was something that I really particularly needed to share out here. It's a private matter, but we're really excited and can't wait for her to get here." "I’m happy to skip the Tour Championship just depending on what happens," he added. "I'm going to play in many more Tour Championships and it's only going to be the birth of your first child once. That trumps anything else." Regard it as a mental shortcoming or evidence of a balanced personality, it is clear that McIlroy has never allowed winning PGA Tour events to be the singular focus of his life. Perhaps that is the reason why, though he will never win as many events as Woods, he has always seemed a far better adjusted and well-rounded personality. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
PGA Tour remains Mickelson’s focus after Ozarks National victory
Aug 29, 2020 12:43 PM
 
When Phil Mickelson followed-up a 3-over opening-round 74 with a 68 on Friday to miss the cut at the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago, he could have been forgiven for taking his foot of the gas and resting in preparation for the US Open at Winged Foot next month. After all, the early exit in Boston ended prematurely his quest for a maiden FedEx Cup triumph and the five-time major winner has already made seven starts since competitive golf resumed on the PGA Tour at Fort Worth on 11 June. However, Mickelson, who turned 50 in June, has never been one take the quiet route, and instead of returning home to Florida, he opted for a detour to Ozarks National Golf Club in Ridgedale, Mo., to make his Champions Tour debut in the Charles Schwab Series. This trip was undertaken with the expressed intention of working on some shots in a competitive atmosphere and “building a little momentum” ahead of the US Open. The result was rather spectacular. “Give me the driver.” - @PhilMickelson pic.twitter.com/mGG5lZM5e6— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) August 25, 2020 He carded a closing 66 at Ozarks National last Sunday to finish 22 under par, four shots clear of Tim Petrovic. The five-time major winner's total of 191 equalled the tour’s 54-hole scoring record previously recorded by five players, most recently Rocco Mediate in 2013. He posted a tournament-leading driving average of 323.7 yards and provided one of several highlight-reel shots by using the same club in the second round to escape from under a tree, with the ball perched on pine straw and bark. Put simply, he was box-office. The world No. 54’s drawing power was illustrated vividly by the fact Golf Channel saw a ratings increases of 150 percent on Monday and nearly 300 percent on Tuesday for its coverage of the PGA Tour Champions compared to programming in the same time period (6-8 p.m. EDT) the prior four weeks. Tuesday’s coverage, meantime, was the most-watched Tuesday telecast since Golf Central Live during the 2019 Masters. "I really had a great time," Mickelson told the Golf Channel. "It’s fun for me to compete. I got to shoot scores and compete and the competition here is really strong and it was fun for me to get off to a good start and play well." However, fans and pundits should be leery of concluding that, in light of his success at the Ozarks, Lefty may now be content to focus his attentions on the Champions Tour. Only last month Mickelson finished T-2 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude, where he became the first player age 50 or older to finish in the top five in a WGC event. Last year, he won a record-tying fifth title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Amfor his 44th PGA Tour victory, and the year before he broke a winless streak of almost five years by defeating reigning FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas in a playoff at the WGC-Mexico Championship. On form, Mickelson retains the capacity to outscore leading PGA Tour players who are half his age. The veteran enjoyed his Champions Tour debut in the Ozarks, but it should not be understood to signal a watershed moment in his career. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Finau battling to prevent 2020 becoming another lost season
Aug 22, 2020 8:26 AM
 
Ever since defeating future PGA Tour star, Daniel Summerhays in the Utah State Amateur Championship final back in 2006, Tony Finau has been earmarked to achieve big things at the highest level of the professional game. Thus, when he went on to claim his maiden PGA Tour title at the Puerto Rico Open in a play-off against Steve Marino in March 2016, just eighteen months after winning his first professional title on the Webb.com Tour at the Stonebrae Classic, his ultimate progression to the elite-level of the PGA Tour seemed assured. In many respects Finau has gone on to fulfil such lofty expectations. He has registered seven top-10 finishes at major championship-level since making his first such start at the 2015 US Open; in 2018, he carded eight top-10s and four runners-up finishes in the process of breaking into the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings; and just two years have passed since Jim Furyk selected him as a wild-card for the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris after he finished ninth in the points-race. The PGA DFS Picks SuperDraft Cheatsheet | The PGA Championship | Tony Finau and morehttps://t.co/3z2j3WJa2l— Awesemo PGA DFS (@AwesemoGolf) August 19, 2020 In simple terms, Finau bears all the hallmarks of a bona fide member of the PGA Tour elite and, in 14 starts across all Tours in 2020, he has produced an impressive record of six top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the Phoenix Open in February and a T4 at the US PGA Championship at Harding Park a fortnight ago. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the 30-year-old arrived at TPC Boston to contest the FedEx Cup play-off opening Northern Trust Championship last week ranked No. 23 in the points race and No. 15 in the Official World Golf Rankings respectively. There remains, however, a significant shortcoming in Finau’s PGA Tour resume: he hasn’t managed to win since that triumph in Puerto Rico four-years ago and has consequently acquired the unenviable reputation of a competitor marked by psychological frailty. This is the context in which Utah-native’s failure to convert 54-hole leads at the Phoenix and 3M Opens this season need to be understood. Indeed, he now holds the PGA Tour record (31) for the most top-10 finishes in a four-year period without a win and any expectation that he might challenge for FedEx Cup honours was dented badly last week when he crashed out of the Northern Trust Open at the halfway stage. Finau possesses all of the physical and technical raw materials required to win regularly at the highest level of the professional game; indeed, he ranks 29th, 10th and 17th respectively for strokes gained off the tee, from tee to green and approaching the green on the PGA Tour in 2019/20. In this context it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the principle obstacle preventing Finau from filling his enormous potential on Tour is psychological. Until he figures out a way to think himself around that mental block, his career may remain a byword for decorated disappointment. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Woods battles back pain as FedEx Cup hopes fray
Aug 22, 2020 5:18 AM
 
Assessing Tiger Woods’ chances ahead of any PGA Tour event is fraught with difficulty. For although one can reference all the standard signifiers of a player’s hopes of contending – current form, course record, strokes gained stats, and so on – there is always a crucial variable rendering his likelihood unpredictable: his body. Woods, as is well known, has undergone three major spinal fusion surgeries in the last six years and is constantly battling against the threat of spasms and tightness in his back and neck. The spectacular nature of his come-from-behind victory at the Masters last April demonstrated that he retains the ability to outscore leading golfers half his age; however, his capacity to exercise such technical supremacy is always circumscribed by his declining fitness. “The dots for tomorrow are definitely like today,” Woods said. “The guys are going to go mostly low. So hopefully I’m one of those guys that tears the golf course apart.” He will tee off at 8:30 a.m. ET. - TGRhttps://t.co/faYdsIDxg2— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) August 21, 2020 Indeed, Woods has only played five events since equalling Sam Snead’s record 82 career victories on the PGA Tour last October, and has played just twice since golf returned from COVID-19 lockdown in early June, tying 40th at the Memorial Tournament and 37th at the US PGA Championship before skipping the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis a fortnight ago. He consequently arrived at TPC Boston to contest the play-off opening Northern Trust Open last week ranked 49th in the FedEx Cup points race, 19-spots outside the elite-band who will progress into the Tour Championship next month. There was little shortage of social media panic, therefore, when the 43-year-old was filmed holding cold water bottles to his neck and rubbing his upper back ahead of his opening round in Boston. Once more, it seemed injury was set to stymie the 15-time major champion’s pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ overall major record (18). However, Woods was keen to downplay fears that his season may come to a premature end, explaining that he had "pretty hot oils" applied to his neck to help keep his spine loose for the playoff opener. "My lower back is used to it. It's accustomed to it. We do it all the time just so I can get loose," said Woods. "I decided to put some up on my neck, and it's not as tolerant as my lower back, so it gets awfully hot." "As soon as you heat up, the whole idea is to keep my spine loose," he added. "My spine is not what it used to be and never will be." Woods ultimately performed solidly in Boston and remains in the hunt for a spot at East Lake, a venue where he won two years ago. However, the threat of a spinal flare-up lurks just below the surface of every Woods performance, and regardless of how refined the technical execution of his swing may be, one can never be sure his body will sustain him over 72-holes. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Herman shocks field, wins Wyndham Championship
Aug 17, 2020 2:09 PM
 
To observe that Jim Herman was unfancied going into last weekend’s Wyndham Championship in North Carolina would be an understatement. Winless in over a year since claiming his second PGA Tour accolade at the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky last July, the 42-year-old arrived at Sedgefield Country Club off the back of 27 missed-cuts in his previous 40 starts, a disastrous run that had caused him to slip outside of the world’s top-300. At No.192 in the FedEx Cup standings, Herman required either a win or a runner-up at the Wyndham Championship to extend his 2019/20 PGA Tour season into the play-offs. Suffice to say, there weren’t many travel agents preparing to sell him plane tickets to Boston on Monday morning. Today’s PGA Tour Winner, 42- year old Jim Herman credits President Donald Trump for 'little bit of good luck' at this week’s Wyndham Championship.Thanks @realDonaldTrump for inspiring others to reach for their dreams. pic.twitter.com/6zxG0Jwaqg— Mark Gonsalves (@MarkCongressGA7) August 16, 2020 How plans change. The world No. 318 birdied three of his last four holes to make the cut on Friday (63) and then carded a third-round 61 to get within four strokes of half-way leader, Si Woo Kim. On Sunday, he took his game to another level, signing for a seven-under 63 and a single-stroke victory over Billy Horschel. “You get old pretty quick out here with the young guys. They make you feel inadequate off the tee and especially long irons. it's mentally frustrating. To overcome it all and get here for a third time is pretty amazing”, Herman reflectedupon returning to the clubhouse. "Obviously you don't expect 61 or 63 on a regular basis, but when you need it, there was nowhere else to go but deep," he added. "You weren't going to be able to just get around 18, four under wasn't going to do it today. "So 61 was great yesterday to get me back in the picture. The rain obviously helped out for scoring, you could fire at most pins, and the greens were perfect. Yeah, 61-63, some of the best golf I've ever played. Best golf I've played in my life obviously. Last summer was pretty close, but these two rounds, pretty special." Herman started brightly on Sunday, draining a magnificent 30-footer for birdie at the first and he struck an expert approach to set up a tap-in at the fourth, before jumping up the leaderboard by holing a 60-foot eagle at the par-five next. He cancelled out a bogey at the sixth by rolling in a 15-footer at the eighth to reach the turn in 31, with further birdies at the 13th and 15th putting him into a share of the lead. Horschel, playing in the group behind, matched the birdies at the 13th and 15th but failed to get up and down from the rough to save par at the 16th, allowing Herman to edge ahead by converting from four feet at the 17th. He parred 18 to close out a famous single-stroke victory. Remarkably, Sunday marked the occasion of Herman’s third victory in the space of just 10 career top-10 finishes. For all the veteran may lack in consistency, he more than makes up for in execution. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
What can we expect from Rory McIlroy in 2020?
Jan 3, 2020 7:01 AM
 
If a week is a long time in politics, then a decade is an eternity in golf. Cast your minds back to the end of 2009; Rory McIlroy had yet to play in a Ryder Cup or win a major and Tiger Woods’ hegemony at the elite-level of the world game appeared nigh-on impregnable. Ten years on, McIlroy has amassed 27 professional titles, including four major championships; he has won four Ryder Cups, three Race to Dubai titles, and two FedEx Cups; and has spent more than 100 weeks at the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. The Sunday Times, meantime, have named McIlroy the UK’s wealthiest sports star in each of the past three years, estimating his personal fortune at approximately £148m, including more than $50m in PGA Tour prize money alone. The 30-year-old has thus accomplished more in the space of a decade than most elite athletes can reasonably dream of achieving over the course of a career. It is a testament, therefore, to his outrageous level of natural talent that one cannot help but reflect upon the first half of his career with an air of disappointment. After all, by the time McIlroy claimed his second US PGA Championship at Valhalla in 2014, he was just the third golfer in the history of the sport to amass four major titles before the age of 25. Only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods had previously achieved such a feat, a circumstance that set the history-making significance of the Northern Irishman’s early career accomplishments in sharp relief. Not unreasonably, many commentators were convinced he would go on to surpass Nicklaus’ record 18 major championship titles. Rory McIlroy says he learned a great deal from missing the cut at the Open Championship. Watch here https://t.co/9mJjhge1lT pic.twitter.com/WQQh4I2ZaX— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 29, 2019 In the five seasons since triumphing at Valhalla, however, McIlroy has not added to his major championship trophy haul. While he has won just about every other notable event, from the The Players Championship to the Tour Championship, he has failed consistently to produce his best golf in the tournaments that, fairly or not, determine players’ legacies. As a consequence he has been displaced decisively atop the summit of the world rankings by a string of younger rivals; indeed, it is noteworthy that in the five-years since McIlroy last won a major title, Jordan Spieth (25), Justin Thomas (25) and Brooks Koepka (28) have amassed a combined eight such honours. And yet, McIlroy’s astounding accomplishment in winning four times on the PGA Tour in 2019, including the FedEx Cup title and Jack Nicklaus award for Player of the Season, indicates that there is cause for optimism that he may fulfil his promise to make the second half of his career even more successful than the first. McIlroy entered 2019 with plenty to prove, ranked eighth in the world and stuck in a logjam of elite players who could each break out in any given week. He delivered early and often, cobbling together a remarkably consistent year that featured two more victories than missed cuts and one in which a top-10 result began to feel commonplace. When he was on, like a final-round 61 to blitz the field at the RBC Canadian Open, it felt like a 2014 flashback. His achievement in defeating Koepka as part of the final pairing out at the Tour Championship in August, meantime, indicated that he is poised to lay the gauntlet down to the world No.1 in 2020. “The last 18 months, I’ve been very settled. I’ve been comfortable with everything, my game, my equipment, my body’s been healthy,” McIlroy reflated after winning the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China in October. “I feel like this year compares to 2014, 2015, but I don’t see any reason why I can’t go ahead and have an even better year next year.” That is an ominous sentiment for McIlroy’s elite PGA Tour colleagues. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
What can we expect from Justin Rose in 2020?
Dec 28, 2019 11:34 AM
 
When Justin Rose birdied two of his last four holes en route to a two-stroke victory over Adam Scott at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, he appeared positioned strongly to consolidate his spot atop the world rankings in 2019. Rose, who won five times across the PGA and European Tours in 2017 and 2018, spent much of the second half of last year trading places with Brooks Koepka in the world No.1 and 2 spots. While Koepka ultimately finished 2018 at the summit of the rankings, the emphatic nature of Rose’s victory at Torrey Pines indicated he would retain his role as Koepka’s principal rival into 2019. This expectation was reflected by the fact that Rose started the 2019 Masters tournament as most bookmakers’ favourite to claim a long overdue second major championship title. A 3-over opening-round 75, however, immediately stymied his hopes of contending for the tournament and he ultimately wound-up missing the cut for the first time in 14 starts on the Georgia track. Inevitably, perhaps, the disappointment of Augusta exerted a profound deleterious impact on Rose’s form and, in 17 subsequent starts across all Tours, he managed just two top-5 finishes. In addition to slipping down as far as No.8 in the rankings, he finished 26th in the FedEx Cup points race (an event he won in 2018), and effectively round-out the year as a dot in Koepka’s rear-view mirror. World No. 8-ranked and defending Farmers Insurance Open champion Justin Rose committed Friday to the 2020 tournament set for Jan. 22-26 at Torrey Pines Golf Course. https://t.co/NsZmxGBFwU — KUSI News (@KUSINews) December 27, 2019 By the standards of 99% of the PGA Tour, of course, Rose’s 2019 campaign could be reflected upon as an outstanding success; the difficulty, of course, is that Rose belongs to that esteemed 1% who measure progress solely in terms of elite titles. In this regard, the 11-months that followed Torrey Pines were deeply underwhelming, prompting some commentators to ponder whether we have already seen the best of the 39-year-old at the highest level of the world game. The 19th Hole holds out hope for Rose’s long-term future at the top end of the PGA Tour. For although the Englishman was 67th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee in 2019 (his worst showing in that statistic since 2007), he finished a career-high 17th in Strokes Gained: Putting (+0.50), having being ranked outside the top 100 in that statistic in 2014, 15, 16 and 17. This latter statistic is far more significant given Rose has spent much of the last 15-years ranked inside the top-25 of SG: Tee-to-Green golfers on the PGA Tour and is widely regarded as one of the most accurate and consistent ball-strikers the sport has ever seen. Put simply, accuracy off the tee and approach-play has never really been an issue in Rose’s game; consequently, it seems fair to regard the decline in his tee-to-green play over the last 10-months as a temporary blip rather than a symptom of long-term decline given the dramatic improvement in his putting since 2018. If Rose can get his approach play back to anything near his normal level in 2020 and maintain the kind of putting form he has exhibited over the previous two years, there is every reason to envisage him contending consistently at the highest level of the sport. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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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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