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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
2019 Open de France betting tips: Back Pieters for the title at 16/1
Oct 16, 2019 2:26 AM
 
The Race to Dubai intensifies as the European Tour elite on converge on Le Golf National in Paris for the French Open this week. Here follows our top three betting tips for the tournament. Outright Winner: Thomas Pieters (16/1) Alex Noren fronts the betting market at 10/1 this week and it’s not difficult to understand why. The Swede claimed his 10th European Tour title at this event twelve-months ago, climbing briefly into the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings, and went on to claim two points from three matches when representing Europe at the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in the autumn. That said, Noren has struggled badly since the turn of the year, missing five cuts while failing to register a single top-10 finish in 22 starts across all Tours, and he has consequently slumped outside of the world’s top-50. Odds of 10/1 consequently appear extremely short, whatever the strength of his pedigree in Paris. In this regard, Thomas Pieters appears a significantly more attractive investment at 16/1. The big-hitting Belgian failed to qualify for last year’s Ryder Cup and has largely struggled to recapture the form that enabled to play a starring role for Europe at Hazeltine in 2016. Next week we will be hosting the 103rd Open de France and the albatros course is in immaculate conditions, even in October. Thanks to a dedicate and passionate team. @legolfnational @Amundi_FR @ffgolf @EuropeanTour pic.twitter.com/TrVJ286PbF— Alejandro Reyes (@Reyes_golf) October 13, 2019 However, the 27-year-old has finished T31,T13 and T16 through the course of his last three starts at Le Golf National and he arrives in Paris on a high after snapping a three-year winless streak at the Czech Masters in August. Back up to No.82 in the world, Pieters represents value at 16/1. Top-10: Matthew Southgate (40/1) The Englishman, ranked No.137 in the world, came within a hair’s breadth of winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a few weeks back and owns four further top-10s through 22 starts across all Tours in 2019. In addition to this strong form, Southgate boasts a solid track-record at Le Golf National, having previous carded 11th and 5th place finishes on the Parisian course. He is worth backing as an each-way shot. Outsider: Nicolas Colsaerts (100/1) One never knows quite what to expect from Nicolas Colsaerts. This blog understood the Belgian’s achievement in ending a five-year European Tour trophy drought at the 2017 Turkish Open to signal the beginnings of a top-level revival; however, this has emphatically not come to pass. Indeed, the former Ryder Cup star travels to Paris ranked outside of the world’s top-400 and has managed just a single top-10 finish in 24-starts in 2019, missing seven cuts. That said, Colsaerts caught the eye in Spain at the beginning of the month with a final-round 64 en route to a T17 finish, and showed flashes of his best level in signing for rounds of 66 and 65 at Wentworth and the Dunhill Links respectively. He also shot a 69 in Rome last Saturday. There tends to be one tournament a year when Colsaerts strings four strong rounds together and it could well click for him in Paris. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Lanto Griffin claims shock victory at Houston Open
Oct 15, 2019 1:25 PM
 
Okay, let’s cut right to the chase; you know and I know that the real golfing season ended with Rory McIlroy’s sensational, come-from-behind FedEx Cup victory at the Tour Championship at East Lake last month. And for all of the media hype designed to ‘big-up’ the Presidents Cup and the Asian Swing, every sensible golf fan knows that the 2019/20 PGA Tour season proper will begin when the golfing elite tee-it-up at Torrey Pines at the end of January. But although the autumn/winter wrap-around period might fail to set the pulses of fans or the highest-ranking pros racing, it does provide a significant opportunity for mid-to-lower tier golfers to generate some serious cash and make significant strides up the Official World Golf Rankings. The rapidly-improving professional fortunes of Lanto Griffin embody this parable. The Virginia Commonwealth University graduate spent most of the first decade of his professional career between the PGA Tour Latinoamérica and the Korn Ferry Tour, and when he did briefly hold a PGA Tour playing card during the 2017/18 campaign, a run of 13 missed-cuts in 26 starts swiftly ensured his return to the Challenger ranks. Indeed, Griffin has conceded publicly that he concerned quitting upon losing the playing card he had worked 10-years to earn; however, he rallied with a strong 2018/19 campaign on the Korn Ferry Tour to reclaim his spot at the highest level of the sport courtesy of a sixth-place Order of Merit finish, and he has scarcely looked back since. Lanto Griffin has landed! @TheLanto61 claims his first PGA TOUR victory at the @HouOpenGolf.He's the third first-time winner this season.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/hSZW6eF7sm— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 13, 2019 The 31-year-old finished inside of the top-20 in each of the first four PGA Tour events of the new season – Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, the Sanderson Farms Championship, the Safeway Open and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open – to gain a firm foothold towards the summit of the early FedEx Cup race. On Sunday, he effectively secured a play-off spot by claiming his maiden PGA Tour title at the Houston Open. Griffin teed-off for the final-round with a single-stroke lead away from fellow Korn Ferry Tour grads, Scott Harrington and Mark Hubbard; but despite never having previously finished inside of the top-10 at a PGA Tour event, he closed-out his lead with the coolness of a seasoned winner. Griffin birdied the first hole and added three more on the front nine. Even after losing his lead with a bogey at the par-4 11th, his belief never wavered. He drained an astonishing 33-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th to regain a single stroke lead at the summit of the leaderboard and parred his way into the clubhouse. In addition to climbing to the fringes of the world’s top-100, Griffin has secured a two-year PGA Tour playing exemption and is assured of a spot in the Tournament of Champions, The Players Championship and The Masters in 2020. Griffin’s success illustrates vividly the importance of the wrap-around calendar for those seeking to establish themselves on the PGA Tour. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
MacIntyre departs Rome with regrets after yet another near-miss at Italian Open
Oct 14, 2019 1:21 PM
 
When Robert MacIntyre converted a deceptively challenging, 5-foot, downhill putt to save par on the final-hole of his third-round at the Italian Open in Rome last Saturday, he appeared strongly positioned to claim a maiden European Tour title. After all, MacIntyre’s 7-under Saturday total of 64 moved him to within a single stroke of Matthew Fitzpatrick’s 54-hole lead at Olgiata Golf Club, and it has long seemed just a matter of time before the Scot claimed a breakthrough title at the highest-level of the European game. In 21 starts since claiming his European Tour playing card at the end of 2018, MacIntyre had carded five top-10 finishes to just five missed-cuts; significantly, this run included runners-up finishes at The British Masters and Danish Open in May, and at the Porsche European Open in Switzerland last month. Such form functioned to catapult the Scot more than 150-places up the Official World Golf Rankings, from No.247 as of 31 December 2018, to No.86 upon arriving in Rome, and the remarkable maturity and consistency of the former Walker Cup player’s performances have already caught the eye of Europe’s 2020 Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington, who avowed that he would be "very happy" were the youngster his way into the team at next year's tournament. Greg - Bob put the driver away Me -Greg I got this Up and down round to say the least but we go again tomorrow pic.twitter.com/pgabfYshBs— Robertmacintyre (@robert1lefty) October 10, 2019 With three near-misses to his name already in 2019, therefore, MacIntyre’s strong opening 54-holes in Rome made him appear strongly poised to claim an overdue breakthrough on the European Tour, establishing himself as an early front-runner to form a part of Harrington’s contingent at Whistling Straits. This, regrettably, did not work out to plan for the 23-year-old, whose game never really caught fire on Sunday. An early birdie on the par-4 fourth-hole was swiftly cancelled-out by a bogey on the sixth, and when he dropped two further strokes in the space of four holes between the 10th and 13th, he had effectively played himself out of contention. MacIntyre rallied with consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th to break even for the day; however, he was ultimately obliged to content himself with a tied-fourth finish, five-strokes shy of Bernd Wiesberger’s winning total. Were the 2019 European Tour campaign to end tomorrow, MacIntyre, ranked 7th in the Race to Dubai, could reflect contentedly on a remarkable debut campaign that has outstripped the wildest expectations of even the most optimistic Scottish commentators. But for a player possessed of the young Oban-native’s decorated amateur pedigree and grand professional ambitions, it will also be tinged with a hint of regret given the number of winning opportunities he has allowed to slip from his grasp. Time is undoubtedly on MacIntyre’s side; however, such repeated squandering of title opportunities has the capacity to generate a negative momentum, and the longer such waits for a European Tour breakthrough drag on, the tougher they can become to break. Here’s hoping he gets across the line in one of the final four events of the season, beginning with the French Open in Paris next week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Bernd Wiesberger wins Italian Open to lead Race to Dubai
Oct 14, 2019 2:14 AM
Tags: None
 
As comebacks from long-term injury lay-offs go, few have been as eye-catchingly successful as that of Bernd Wiesberger over the past 12-months. The Austrian’s 2018 season ended abruptly after just seven starts when he was compelled to undergo surgery on a long-term wrist-injury late last April. Devoid of proper tournament practice in almost a year, he was predictably slow to regain form upon making his return for the beginning of 2019, missing five cuts through the course of his first nine starts. By the time he tied for 70th at the British Masters in early May, he had slumped outside of the world’s top-370. It came as something of a surprise, therefore, when Wiesberger ended a two-season trophy drought at the Danish Openthe following week, shooting a final-round 66 to defeat Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre by a single-stroke. Just over a month later, he finished as a runner-up to Jon Rahm at the Irish Open at Lahinch, and went on to claim his sixth career European Tour accolade at the Scottish Open at Renaissance Club in North Berwick on the occasion of his next start. Suddenly Wiesberger was enjoying his best ever season on the European Tour, and he added another chapter to this remarkable tale at Olgiata Golf Club in Rome on Sunday, shooting a sensational, bogey-free, 6-under 65 to claim his third victory in the space of six months at the Italian Open by a stroke away from England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick. Inches from tying things at the top...Fitzpatrick now needs to birdie 18 to tie Wiesberger.#ItalianOpen #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/jnOZKOpnV9— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 13, 2019 This was an exceptional performance from Wiesberger, who teed-off for the final-round with a three-shot deficit to Fitzpatrick’s 54-hole lead. However, a sensational run of four birdies in five holes between No.5 and No.9 catapulted him to the summit of the leaderboard upon reaching the turn, and when Fitzpatrick sent his tee shot out of bounds on route to double-bogeying the par-5 ninth-hole, he appeared extremely strongly positioned to close-out his advantage. Fitzpatrick rallied with three back-nine birdies; however, Wiesberger responded with two dropped shots of his own on the par-3 14th and 16th holes to maintain a slender, single-stroke lead going into the clubhouse. Fitzpatrick, putting with the flagstick in, saw his eagle chance from 10 feet at the 17th out spin out of the cup and he could only par the final hole, enabling Wiesberger to celebrate his seventh European title. “Amazing, isn’t it? It’s been a great summer for me”, he reflected upon receiving a €1m winner’s cheque. “I’ve had a lot of good golf showing and lovely progress coming back after last year. I’m just enjoying my time out there, enjoying getting back into these situations.” Significantly, Sunday’s victory has further catapulted the 34-year-old from third to first in the Race to Dubai, supplanting Rahm in the top spot. “To be honest I’ve played really well in the right events, obviously in Ireland and the Scottish and here this week, which obviously helps,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about what’s ahead of us in these next four events.” Wiesberger’s next start will be at the French Open at Le Golf National in Paris next week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Fitzpatrick seeking to make history after claiming Italian Open lead
Oct 13, 2019 5:02 AM
 
In five seasons as a professional golfer, Matthew Fitzpatrick has grown accustomed to the taste of champagne. Ever since winning the British Boys Amateur Championship and the US Amateur Championship in consecutive years in 2012 and 2013, the Sheffield native has been tipped for elite-level success. Indeed, his transition to the European Tour after turning professional at the beginning of 2014 was as seamless as any young athlete could hope reasonably to expect. Fitzpatrick claimed his maiden professional title by two-strokes away from Søren Kjeldsen, Fabrizio Zanotti, and the recently crowned Open champion, Shane Lowry at the 2015 British Masters, and has since gone on to amass four further titles at the highest level of the European game, most recently defeating Lucas Bjerregaard in a play-off to retain the Omega European Masters last September. Looking to become the youngest Englishman in European Tour history to 6 wins, today's a big day for @MattFitz94.#ItalianOpen #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/SZAU5GKFGl— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 13, 2019 On Sunday, he will attempt to surpass illustrious predecessors such as Sir Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose by becoming the first Englishman to win six European Tour titles before his 26th birthday. Fitzpatrick will tee-off for the final-round of the Italian Open at Olgiata Golf Club in Rome with a single stroke lead away from the American rookie, Kurt Kitayama at 13-under-par through 54-holes. Another rookie, Robert MacIntyre of Scotland, sits in outright third at 11-under, while Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and England’s Matt Wallace remain in contention at 10-under. Certainly, the psychological grit Fitzpatrick demonstrated in overcoming a sloppy front-nine to seize sole control of the third-round leaderboard indicates he is well placed to triumph on the European Tour for a fifth consecutive season. The 25-year-old began Saturday with a single stroke lead and threatened to render his advantage untouchable upon draining a 10-foot birdie effort on the opening hole. However, that early momentum was squandered following an uncharacteristic bogey on the par-3 second and, by the time he registered his second bogey of the day at the par-4 10th-hole, he had slipped three-shots behind the lead. It was at this point that the world No.31 rediscovered the touch that propelled him to the halfway lead in Rome, and after getting back level for the day with a birdie on the 13th, he birdied 15, 16 and 17 consecutively to re-establish a one-stroke lead going into the final-round. “I was one-over for the day but didn’t think I was swinging it badly at all,” Fitzpatrick said. “I mentioned as much to Billy [Foster, his caddie] and he told me just to stay patient. That put me back on track and to finish the way I did was great.” ''To put myself one in front gives me a little bit of help,'' he added. ''I'm just looking forward and I'm ready to go already. ''Coming down the hill on the 12th it didn't feel like I should be 1 over. I didn't hit as many good shots as I would have liked around the turn so that cost me a little bit and put me back. To finish the way I did was great.'' If Fitzpatrick can start Sunday in the manner he finished on Saturday, his advantage will be rendered swiftly unassailable. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Pavan seeking to maintain upward momentum at Italian Open
Oct 12, 2019 6:54 AM
 
From time to time, every sport produces its prodigies: those adolescents preternaturally possessed of all the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive at the highest-level of their discipline. Tiger Woods, of course, typified this dynamic in golf. Winning three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles as well as the NCAA individual golf championship as a teenager, it had long been clear the Californian would achieve great things upon acceding to the professional ranks. It consequently came as little surprise when he claimed his maiden major championship title at the 1997 Masters as a 21-year-old, becoming the tournament's youngest ever winner. With Woods, the question was never ‘if’ he would win a major, it was simply a question of ‘how many’ he would win. But as compelling as such narratives can be to follow, there is a comparable thrill to be derived from witnessing the unexpected accomplishments of a ‘late-bloomer’, an established athlete who peaks in mid-career and achieves belated success. The career of Andrea Pavan may be assessed productively as a part of this later designation. Rome, Italy - have you ever been?What a place.#ItalianOpen #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/SjZ2W2DkMb— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 12, 2019 The Rome-native had been tipped for great things ever since winning the Italian Amateur Strokeplay Championship in 2005 at the age of 16; he subsequently formed part of the victorious Texas A&M team at the 2009 NCAA Men's Golf Championship. Four Italian junior circuit titles and a runners-up finish at the European Amateur were to follow. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that when Pavan elected to turn professional in 2010, many commentators expected him to transition seamlessly to the senior ranks in the manner of Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth. This did not work out to plan; indeed, Pavan spent most of his first five seasons as a professional on the Challenger Tour, scrapping to earn the playing card that would enable him to compete alongside the old continent’s elite. The immense potential he demonstrated as an amateur level golfer seemed destined to remain unfulfilled. Since graduating to the European Tour at the end of 2017 ranked No.757 in the world, however, the 30-year-old has risen almost 700 places up to his current spot of No.65 and has further developed into a consistent contender at the highest level of the sport. Pavan won his maiden elite-level title by two-strokes away from Padraig Harrington at the D+D Real Czech Masters last August, en route to finishing 34th in the Race to Dubai, and claimed a second European Tour accolade at the BMW International Open in June, beating Matthew Fitzpatrick at the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. The Italian arrives at Olgiata Golf Club in his native Rome this week with six top-25 finishes to his name through the course of his last seven starts, notably a T3 at the Czech Masters, and he sits positioned dangerously at No.25 in the Race to Dubai standings. A maiden home victory on the European Tour would be an ideal way for Pavan to round-off a banner season, and such an accomplishment could not fail to draw the attention of Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington as qualifying for the 2020 event at Whistling Straits heats-up. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Molinari seeking to kick-start revival at Italian Open
Oct 9, 2019 2:26 PM
 
When Francesco Molinari converted a 7-foot birdie putt on Augusta’s par-5 8th hole to re-establish the two-stroke lead with which he began the final-round of the 2019 Masters Tournament in April, he seemed strongly placed to secure victory. The Italian, after all, arrived at Augusta as one of the form players in the world game. He won the BMW-PGA Championship and the Quicken Loans National in the lead-up to claiming his maiden major championship title at The Open at St Andrews the previous July, and warmed-up for the Masters by claiming his third PGA Tour title in sensational fashion at Bay Hill in March. In the 18-months leading up to the Masters, therefore, Molinari exhibited all the hallmarks of a golfer possessed of the extraordinary psychological resilience that sets multi-major champions apart; he did not appear liable to squander a two-stroke Masters lead with nine-holes to play, whether he had Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson breathing down his neck or not. Then came a pair of bizarrely uncharacteristic mistakes that cost Molinari the tournament and appear to have resulted in the accretion of significant psychological scar-tissue. He landed shots in the water on the 12th and 15th holes for two double-bogeys that dropped him from the lead into a tie for fifth, two shots behind winner, Tiger Woods. Two career wins Top six finishes since 2016Francesco Molinari has an excellent record in the #ItalianOpen. He's 14/1 to win it this year.https://t.co/hHsiPkBt0y— betway (@betway) October 9, 2019 Such a high-profile capitulation would be sufficient to shake any player’s confidence; however, few could have anticipated the weight of the emotional toll the Masters appears to have exerted on Molinari. Indeed, the 36-year-old has not managed a single top-10 finish on any Tour in 11-starts since his back-nine collapse at Augusta, and while he has demonstrated admirable consistency in missing just a single cut during that period, this contraction in form has had a deeply deleterious impact on his competitive standing. In addition to slipping outside of the world’s top-10 for the first time since breaking into that elite category following his Open triumph last July, Molinari is sandwiched between Victor Perez and Li Haotong at No.20 in the Race to Dubai standings, an accolade he won at a canter 12-months ago. The Italian’s achievement in posting a remarkable 5-0-0 record at the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National is beginning to feel like a very long time ago, indeed. It is in this context that Molinari’s performance at the Italian Open in Olgiata Golf Club in Rome this week feels so significant. The six-time European Tour winner boasts an exceptional record in his homeland – having won the Italian Open twice in 2006 and 2016 before finishing as a narrow runner-up 12-months ago – and the tournament would appear to provide him with an ideal opportunity to recapture his best form against an average field in a sympathetic environment. Speaking to the media ahead of a solid T23 finish on the occasion of his first start of the new 2019/20 PGA Tour season at the Safeway Open two-weeks ago, Molinari hinted that the significant reforms made to major championship calendar last year are at the root of his declining form over the past six-months. Such scheduling factors may well have played a significant role in the Italian’s form; however, it is difficult not to feel as though he has yet to fully get over the trauma of the back-nine at The Masters. A victory in Rome this would provide an ideal tonic. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 Italian Open betting tips: Back Lowry for the title at 20/1
Oct 8, 2019 2:08 PM
 
The European Tour elite converge on Olgiata Golf Club in Rome for the Italian Open this week, which marks the fifth Rolex event of the 2019 Race to Dubai Season. Here follows our top three betting tips for the tournament. Outright Winner: Shane Lowry (20/1) Paul Casey, Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari lead the betting market this week at 9/1; 11/1 and 14/1 respectively and there is sound good reason to consider investing in each and every one of the frontrunners. Casey, for his part, arrives in the Italian capital off the back of a solid eleventh-place finish on the occasion of his most recent start at Wentworth and less than a month has passed since he claimed his second title in the space of just six months at the at the Porsche European Open in Hamburg, a result prefaced by a T3 finish at the Tour Championship at East Lake. Indeed, Casey boasts two wins, four top-threes and three further top-10 finishes through 22 starts in 2019 and possesses the technical élan required to thrive on a shot-maker’s course such as Olgiata. Rose is less appealing as an 11/1 option, for although his laser-accurate approach play also aligns well with the challenge posed by Olgiata, he has not meaningfully contended for a title since claiming his tenth PGA Tour title at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and has only managed a single top-10 finish in 11 starts since finishing a distant third at the US Open in July. Home favourite, Molinari is certainly an intriguing proposition at 14s. A runner-up at this event 12-months ago, the Torinese won the Italian Open twice in 2006 and 2016 (albeit on different courses) and travels to Rome off the back of a solid T14 finish on the occasion of his last European Tour start at the BMW PGA Championship and a T23 at the Safeway Open – his first event of the new PGA Tour season. That said, Molinari, who won his third PGA Tour title at Bay Hill in March, has never meaningfully recovered from his capitulation on the par-3 16th during the final-round of The Masters in April, and given he is without a top-10 finish in his past 11 starts, 14/1 looks short. Shane Lowry @shanelowrygolf on the low of Carnoustie 2018 to Open Champion at Portrush 2019 #latelate pic.twitter.com/xEyj3dKD0f— The Late Late Show (@RTELateLateShow) October 4, 2019 In this context, Shane Lowry appeals as a 20/1 shot. While The Open champion has no real pedigree to speak of on Italian courses, he arrives in Rome on solid form off the back of back to back top 15s at the BMW PGA and Dunhill Links and will be highly motivated to claim a third title of the season after being displaced at the summit of the Race to Dubai by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard’s victory in Madrid last week. With two high-profile titles and two further top-threes to his name in 18-starts this term, Lowry has been Europe’s form player in 2019 and he will be determined to have that status reflected in the final Order of Merit standings. The Irishman further possesses all the physical and technical qualities to thrive on Olgieta: he leads the European Tour in SG: Total, and ranks 7th Stroke average, 9th GIR and 10th putts per round. Top-10: Matt Wallace (30/1) Wallace didn’t pull up too many trees in tying for 51st on the occasion of his Italian Open debut in Milan 12-months ago; however, there is good reason to invest in the Englishman making a significant improvement on that showing at Olgiata. Three of Wallace’s six Alps Tour wins came in Italy on parkland courses analogous to that on which he will compete in Rome this week, and while he has not quite recaptured the form that propelled him to three European Tour titles in 2018, the world No.26 has carded five top-5s in 23 starts over the past 10-months. A fifth professional title is long overdue. Outsider: Nicolas Colsaerts (200/1) One never knows quite what to expect from Nicolas Colsaerts. This blog understood the Belgian’s achievement in ending a five-year European Tour trophy drought at the 2017 Turkish Open to signal the beginnings of a top-level revival; however, this has emphatically not come to pass. Indeed, the former Ryder Cup star travels to Rome ranked outside of the world’s top-400 and has managed just a single top-10 finish in 23-starts in 2019, missing seven cuts. That said, Colsaerts caught the eye in Spain last week with a final-round 64 en route to a T17 finish, and showed flashes of his best level in signing for rounds of 66 and 65 at Wentworth and the Dunhill Links respectively. A runner-up at the Italian Open 10-years ago, he is worth backing as an outsider in Rome. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Spieth faces uphill battle to make Presidents Cup team
Oct 7, 2019 2:50 PM
 
Say what you like about Jordan Spieth, but don’t accuse him of a refusal to confront competitive realities. Speaking to the media after finishing in a tie for 37th-place on the occasion of his final start of the 2018/19 campaign at the BMW Championship in August, the 26-year-old conceded forthrightly that his hopes of representing the United States at a fourth consecutive Presidents Cup in Melbourne in December hang in the balance. Spieth, of course, struggled badly during the 2018/19 campaign, registering just a single top-three finish (at the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in June) in 21 starts across all Tours, while missing three cuts. The Texan is winless in two full seasons since claiming his third major championship title at The Open at Royal Birkdale in July 2017, and in addition to missing out on qualification to the Tour Championship for the second year running, he has slipped outside of the top-30 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Will Tiger Woods win a Major next year? pic.twitter.com/zPKfDZw5Yh— Golf Monthly (@GolfMonthly) October 5, 2019 It is unsurprising, therefore, that Spieth finished 19-places behind Patrick Cantlay in the eighth and final automatic qualification spot to the 2019 US Presidents Cup squad and will consequently need to produce a strong run of form during the wrap-around calendar to have any chance of persuading US captain, Tiger Woods that he is deserving of one of four wildcard selections. “At some point, I’ll touch base with him [Woods] and see what he’s thinking,” Spieth said. “I believe by that time I will have gotten myself back to the level of play that I expect out of myself. “But at the same time, being in my shoes, I don’t necessarily deserve it, but I also feel I can definitely help the team out a lot. But that’s how I’m supposed to think. We’ll see what happens. If there’s something he wants me to do in order to make the team, yes, that would definitely impact what I do. Making those team events is a significant goal every year for me.” Spieth will have an opportunity to impress Woods when he contests the CJ Cup in South Korea and the Zozo Championship in Japan in consecutive weeks in mid-October and although his weekend scoring was among the worst on Tour in 2018/19, he can derive real confidence from the fact that he enjoyed his strongest ever season on the greens. Spieth gained an average of 0.862 strokes on the field per round when putting in 2018/19, meaning he made up more than three shots per tournament just with his flatstick. He further led the Tour with respect to putting average, one-putt percentage, average distance of putts made, putts per round, and putts made from 10 to 15 feet. This proficiency on the greens provides the Texan with a strong foundation on which to mount a revival during the fall, and if he can string together a strong sequence of results in Asia later this month, he will re-establish himself firmly on Woods’ radar ahead of the final, 12-man squad announcement after the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions event in November. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Kevin Na seals play-off victory at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Oct 7, 2019 2:38 PM
 
There is more than one way to win a PGA Tour event; contesting the final-round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas on Sunday, Kevin Na adopted one of the more circuitous routes. The 36-year-old moved two-strokes clear of defending champion, Patrick Cantlay at the summit of the 54-hole leaderboard courtesy of a sensational, 10-under third-round of 61 and looked to be cruising to a second career Shriners Hospitals for Children title when he reached the 10th tee-box with a three-shot lead following a solid, 2-under front-nine. From there, however, things got interesting; Na registered a disastrous triple-bogey on the par-4 10th to enable Cantlay to draw back to within a stroke of the lead, and while he retained that advantage through the subsequent five-holes, a sloppy bogey after hitting into the water on the par-5 16th hole appeared to have handed the tournament to Cantlay, who made birdie to move a shot clear with two to play. The drama didn’t end there, however; hitting into the lakeside green on the par-3 17th, Cantlay’s tee-shot spun back into the water, and his ultimate bogey enabled Na move back into a share of the lead courtesy of a regulation par. After Cantlay barely missed his birdie chance to win on the 18th green, the duo headed back to the 18th tee for a playoff. Kevin Na ... doing the Kevin Na.Walking in playoff birdie putts. #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/yv6uuoqqUh— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 7, 2019 On 18 for the first extra hole, both players found the fairway and gave themselves makable birdie putts: Cantlay from 10 feet, 2 inches, and Na from 9 feet, 5 inches. Cantlay drained his first to put the pressure on Na, who answered. It was on the second extra hole, however, that sloppy play was finally punished decisively; a three-putt from Cantlay from 45 feet, the second one from just inside 6 feet, enabled Na to claim his second victory of the season courtesy of a regulation par. Cantlay was runner-up for the second straight year in Las Vegas, where he earned his first PGA Tour victory two years ago. It was an ignominious end to a bizarrely low-scoring tournament; Pat Perez was alone in third at 21 under. “The 10th was hard to shake it off, but I made some great putts coming down the stretch,” Na reflected. “I was just grinding, grinding everything I can to make that putt. I'm sure my emotions showed that.” With three victories to his name in his las 30 starts, including two in 2019, Na further indicated he retains hope of earning a captain’s pick from Tiger Woods for the Presidents Cup in December. “I'm hoping he texts me. If not, I'm going to be texting him,” Na quipped. “You know, during the Playoffs I had the birth of my second child where I missed the BMW Championship. I was injured quite a bit last season. I only played 19 events, which is six to seven short of my normal.” The clutch nature of Na’s performance on Sunday suggests Woods could do a lot worse than to consider him. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rahm seizes control of Race to Dubai following Open de España victory
Oct 6, 2019 3:52 PM
 
Rory McIlroy drew a lot of flak for his comments criticising the manner in which the European Tour sets up its coursesat the Alfred Dunhill Links championship a fortnight ago. Indeed, the Northern Irishman was quick to concede that a Pro-Am event staged across three courses is unrepresentative of the general level of play on the Tour and that he could have expressed his concerns in a more timely and respectful fashion. However, there was more than just a kernel of truth in McIlroy’s comments, and, sadly for Keith Pelley and company, the emphatic nature of Jon Rahm’s victory at the Open de España on Sunday substantiated his basic contention that European Tour courses no longer present a sufficient competitive challenge for the world’s finest players. Rahm, defending the title he won for the first time 12-months ago, opened up a five-stroke lead away from fellow Spaniards, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Samuel Del Val, courtesy of a stunning third-round 63 on Saturday; his eventual triumph never looked in doubt during the final 18-holes. Jon Rahm doing Jon Rahm things @DubaiDutyFree pic.twitter.com/SbahzsykvG— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 5, 2019 An eagle on the par-4 fifth followed by a run of three birdies in four holes between Nos. 7 and 10 ensured that he was 10-shots clear at the summit of the leaderboard upon reaching the 11th tee-box. It was ultimately only fast finish by Cabrera-Bello that prevented an even more convincing triumph for Rahm. The former Ryder Cup player, ranked No.38 in the world, birdied five of his last six holes to add a gloss of respectability to final scoreline; however, the gap in quality between Rahm and the rest of the field was painfully apparent to all those present at the historic Club de Campo Villa de Madrid. Rahm’s 5-under final-round 66 took him to a total of 22-under-par (262), five shots better than runner-up, Cabrera-Bello. Del Val, was third, at 15under par. With Adri Arnaus T-4 and former Masters champion, Sergio Garcia amongst a five-strong pack tied for seventh, it was quite a week for the home players. “In front of a home crowd, it's always really hard for me to keep everything under control and to play the weekend that I did for them, it's always really fun,” said Rahm, who plays most of his golf on the PGA Tour. “I can't wait to come back next year and hopefully do it three times. It was unlike anything else. Spanish crowds love golf, they love us coming back. It's hard to believe how many people come out here.” “It might not be the strongest field yet but it's always really hard for me to keep everything under control and to play the weekend that I did for them is always really fun. I can't wait for next year to come back and hopefully do it three times.” Significantly, Sunday’s victory gave Rahm a fifth European Tour title in just his 39th start, surpassing the record for a Spanish player set by Seve Ballesteros, who reached the milestone on his 49th appearance. It has also elevated the 24-year-old above Shane Lowry atop the Race to Dubai standings, leaving him positioned strongly to become the first Spaniard to win the Order of merit since Ballesteros in 1991. Rahm’s next start will be at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on 21 November, the final event of the 2018/19 European Tour season. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rahm positioned strongly to retain Open de España title following third-round 63
Oct 6, 2019 6:34 AM
 
Three Spaniards sit atop the Open de España leaderboard with 18-holes to play at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid; however, the race for the title really isn’t close. Jon Rahm, the No. 5-ranked player in the world, traded as short as 3/1 with many bookmakers to defend the title he won by two-strokes away from Paul Dunne 12-months ago; on Saturday, he gave a powerful demonstration why his pre-tournament odds were so short, carding eight birdies and an eagle en route to a sensational 8-under third-round 63. At 17-under-par through 54-holes, he will take a five-stroke lead away from countrymen, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Samuel Del Val (12-under), into the final-round; Sweden’s Jens Dantorp sits in outright third on 11 under, with England’s Steven Brown, Scot Calum Hill and Welshman Jamie Donaldson all 10 shots off the lead. Extensive highlights of Jon Rahm's 66 #BMWPGA #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/af06n9x0rJ — The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 19, 2019 This was a vintage performance from Rahm, who claimed his first victory of 2019 at the Irish Open at Lahinch in July. Remarkably, the defending champion was two shots off the lead at the turn following back-to-back bogeys on holes No. 8 and 9; however, he required only 28-shots to complete the back-nine in arguably the greatest hour-and-a-half of golf he has produced in three decorated seasons as a professional. The 24-year-old carded five birdies in six-holes between the 10th and 15th to storm back to the summit of the leaderboard and holed-out from 200-yards on the par-4 16th to render his advantage virtually unassailable. Suddenly, Open champion, Shane Lowry’s grip on the Race to Dubai title has begun to look extremely precarious. “I’ve never teed up with such a lead,” Rahm reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. “Every time I’ve teed off it’s been a one-shot lead or tied for the lead so it’s going to be a little bit of a different story. “I don’t know what the challenge is going to be. I have a real good chance to defend this title, I’m feeling good so hopefully I can keep doing what I’ve been doing. It’s just one of those days where everything was going good for me on that back nine.” In 22-starts across all Tours in 2019, Rahm has registered a victory, four top-three finishes and nine further top-10s, missing only three cuts, and he contended at both The Masters and the US Open. One struggles to envisage a golfer of his calibre failing to parley a five-stroke, 54-hole advantage into a ninth professional title on Sunday afternoon. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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