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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
McIlroy turns attention to Augusta following birdie-fest at Zozo Championship
Oct 27, 2020 10:52 AM
 
No golfer has been unaffected by the onset of the novel COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic; however, it is difficult to argue that any player has been more negatively impacted by the disruption than Rory McIlroy. The 31-year-old arrived at TPC Sawgrass to contest the Players Championship in March as the form player in world golf. He had recorded top-5 finishes in each of his first five starts in 2020 and boasted a record of 12 top-10s, including two tournament victories, in 16 starts since missing his most recent cut at The Open Championship last July. Restored to the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings, he looked ideally placed to contend for a career Grand Slam at the Masters in April. Then, of course, the coronavirus intervened and the PGA Tour ground to a halt. The Players Championship was abandoned after just 18-holes and more than two-months would pass before McIlroy returned to the course at the Charles Schwab Challenge at the beginning June. Inevitably, perhaps, the astonishing momentum he had built-up over the backend of 2019 and the opening months of 2020 dissipated. In 12 starts since returning to the course, the Northern Irishman has managed just two top-10 finishes (a T7 and T8 at the Tour Championship and US Open, respectively) and has fallen down to fifth in the Official World Golf Rankings. Devoid of the form and confidence that animated his performances during the first part of the year, many commentators have disregarded his hopes of snapping a six-year major championship trophy drought at The Masters at Augusta in a fortnight’s time. The player, however, is more optimistic. 197 yards ➡️ 2 feet. @McIlroyRory is dialed-in. pic.twitter.com/tHLKulbXpX— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 25, 2020 For although, at first glance, there is little encouraging about McIlroy’s T17 finish at the Zozo Championship in California last week, an event in which he languished eight strokes behind Patrick Cantlay’s tournament-winning total, once one digs into the stats a little, there is genuine cause for optimism. The former world No.1 posted a career-best 29 birdies over 72 holes at Sherwood Country Club in California, and although he littered his card with eight bogeys and three double-bogeys, he expressed confidence that is easier to cut-out errors than to produce effective attacking golf in the first instance. "Just limiting the mistakes more than anything else," said McIlroy when asked what he will be working on ahead of next month's Masters. "I don't think it's anything technical, but yeah, mostly just I've sort of compounded errors this week a little bit, and last week as well. "I think it's easier to eradicate bogeys than it is to find birdies," he added. "I've played tournaments where I feel like all I can do is make pars, which is not a bad thing, but at the end of the day, that's not what's going to give you chances to win tournaments. "I'd much rather the bad spells are a little more like this, a little more up and down, at least you're having the good holes and giving yourself chances for birdies. The bad stuff then, that's easier, I think, to get rid of." McIlroy travels to Augusta seeking to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods as only the sixth golfer in the history of the sport to claim all four major titles. If he can produce an attacking display such as that which he executed in California last week, and minimise his propensity for sloppy errors, he would position himself well to claim a long overdue green jacket. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Ross McGowan ends 11-year trophy drought at Italian Open
Oct 27, 2020 6:20 AM
 
To observe that Ross McGowan was not much fancied leading into last week’s Italian Open in Brescia would be an understatement. The Englishman arrived at Chervo Golf Club off the back of recording his ninth missed-cut in 17 starts in 2020 at the Scottish Championship a fortnight ago and appeared firmly on course to surpass the 13 and 14 missed-cut tallies he recorded in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Indeed, McGowan was winless at all levels of the professional game in 11 years since defeating Mikko Ilonen by three-strokes to claim the 2009 Madrid Masters title, a prolonged decline in form that had caused the former world No.63 to slump back outside of the top-550. At 38, the former English Amateur champion and University of Tennessee graduate’s European Tour career locked to be winding down to an ignominious end. It is for this reason that McGowan’s shock, single-stroke victory over Laurie Canter and Nicolas Colsaerts in Brescia last weekend was greeted so warmly by so many of his colleagues. Former world No.1 One, Lee Westwood, for instance, wrote on Twitter: "Absolutely delighted for @RossMcGowan !!! Finished 2nd to me in Dubai in 2009 then lost his game a little bit. Has persevered and got the rewards today. Could not be happier for you Ross." After 11 years and 15 days, @RossMcGowan is a winner again on the European Tour #ItalianOpen pic.twitter.com/AxlaFd8VQQ— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 25, 2020 This was, indeed, a hard-earned and richly deserved triumph for McGowan, who holed out from a bunker at 16 and converted a 22-foot putt for the winning birdie at the last with a play-off seeming inevitable. The Englishman teed-off for the final-round in a share of the lead alongside countryman, Canter, and both struggled for consistency on the front-nine. McGowan, for instance, pulled his tee shot to the short fifth into water and ran up a double-bogey five only to get both shots back with a brilliant, morale-boosting eagle at the next. Both players picked up their scoring on the back-nine in order to tie the clubhouse leader, Colsaerts, who had birdied his final-hole to move to 18-under. Colsaerts, a former Ryder Cup player, took to the driving range to warm-up for an inevitable-seeming play-off as the final-pairing reached the par-5 18th. But it was then McGowan converted one of the best putts of the week to end a gruelling, decade-long trophy drought on the European Tour. “I can’t believe it,” McGowan reflected upon collecting the trophy. “I’m still trying to gather my words really. I hit the ball terrible today, but the putter kept me in it. My emotions were all over the place. After the double bogey on the fifth [where, after many extra waggles on the tee betrayed his uncertainty, his 3-iron found water left of the green] I felt like I had to birdie the [par-5] sixth. So to make eagle there was a big boost “The tee shot on 16 was a shocker,” he added. “And the second shot wasn’t much better. But when I holed from the sand that gave me a bit of belief. To roll the putt in on 18 was magical, too.” Back up inside of the world’s top-250 and guaranteed European Tour status for the coming two-years, Sunday’s win in Brescia provides McGowan with firm foundations from which he can push to reclaim his status inside the top-100. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Cantlay edges Rahm and Thomas to win Zozo Championship
Oct 26, 2020 10:34 AM
 
Is Patrick Cantlay a devotee of the 19th Hole blog? Just over a fortnight has passed since this column laid a gauntlet down to Cantlay, challenging him to rediscover the form that put him within a hair’s breadth of winning the 2019 Masters Tournament. Highlighting the extent of the 28-year-old’s struggles since he claimed a second PGA Tour title at the Memorial Tournament in last June, the 19th Hole expressed doubt regarding his ability to recapture his top level of performance in time to contend once more for the green jacket at Augusta. On Sunday, he responded emphatically; overcoming Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas to win the Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club by a stroke. This was a vintage performance from Cantlay, who began the final-round three strokes behind Thomas’ overnight lead (-19) and two off Rahm in outright second place. Sunday was billed widely as a Thomas-Rahm shootout as the world Nos. 2 and 3 were set to do battle to overhaul Dustin Johnson atop the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. Cantlay had other ideas. Beginning with a sensational run of three birdies inside of his opening four holes, Cantlay immediately surged toward the summit of the leaderboard and picked up further shots at the sixth and ninth-holes (mitigating a bogey on the par-3 eighth) to reach the turn in the outright lead. With Rahm, Thomas and Lanto Griffin struggling to create birdie chances behind him, Cantlay kept the pressure on and vaulted three clear of the field when he picked up a further four shots in five holes from the 11th, and another looked likely as he had lob-wedge in hand from the fairway for his third to the par-five 16th. However, a sloppy bogey provided the chasing pack with an opening, and while Cantlay closed with consecutive pars for a 65, Rahm needed just a single birdie over the final two holes to force a play-off. However, the Spaniard was too aggressive with his 15-foot putt on the penultimate green, and too tentative with his 20-footer at the last to leave Cantlay celebrating his third PGA Tour title. To add insult to injury for Rahm, Thomas birdied the 72nd to move into a share of second place and consequently denied the Spaniard the world No.1 spot for another week. “I played really well. I feel like I have been playing well for a while and this week it just kind of all came together every day,” Cantlay said. “Obviously I started today a few back, but I knew I had to go out and make a bunch of birdies. And today was actually the only day I made a bogey, but offset it with enough birdies. “I think it’s just validation of all the hard work. I put in a lot of work and try to do the right things all the time, so when it all does come together, it’s really rewarding because it’s all that hard work paying off.” Back inside of the world’s top-10, Cantlay must once more be regarded as a serious contender for the Masters. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Joburg Open returns to European Tour after three years
Oct 25, 2020 11:55 AM
 
The year 2020 has not been easy on any sport. From Association Football and the Olympic Games to Formula 1 and the National Hockey League, no discipline or sporting institution has escaped the ravages of COVID-19 and the enduring absence of spectators at events across many jurisdictions continues to exert enormous financial pressures on administrators. Golf, of course, has been no exception to this rule. The outbreak of pandemic in March ground the entire professional game to a halt for over two months; indeed, it wasn’t until the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas on 11 June that play resumed tentatively behind closed doors and events continue to be cancelled and postponed. But although the US PGA Tour has suffered gravely as a consequence of COVID-19, the pandemic has undoubtedly hit the European Tour hardest. The financial resources available to the old-world circuit have always paled in comparison to the riches of its US counterpart. Indeed, it was striking that when the PGA Tour triumphantly announced its plans for a phased reopening in April, the European Tour retained a deathly silence. Leaked emails subsequently revealed that Chief Executive, Keith Pelley had been privately warning staff and players of slashed prize funds, a loss of luxury cars and a dramatically altered competitive landscape when play finally resumes. Some commentators even pondered whether the most enduring institutional legacy of the pandemic would be to precipitate the long-mooted unification of the two organisations, thus creating a Formula 1-style World Tour. Good to see Joburg Open back on the schedule @EuropeanTour @Sunshine_Tour. Congrats to everyone who’s made this happen. @RandparkGolf is a wonderful venue and also a great supporter of @ElsForAutism_SA pic.twitter.com/YscjgH0M8m— Ernie Els (@TheBig_Easy) October 21, 2020 The European Tour, of course, has long since resumed regular season play and, while doubts persist regarding the organisation’s long term financial viability, Pelley and company received a welcome boost last week following confirmation that the lucrative Johannesburg-based Joburg Open will return to the old world circuit next month. The tournament first teed off in 2007 and produced an impressive array of winners, including Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel and multiple European Tour winners, Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Andy Sullivan and Darren Fichardt. However, it has not been contested on the European circuit since Shubhankar Sharma’s victory in 2017 when the City of Johannesburg elected to absorb the event into the South African Open Championship on the Sunshine Tour. Confirmation that the tournament, with its associated TV and sponsorship revenues, is returning to the European Tourat a time of acute financial privation will come as a real boost to the old world circuit. “We have a wonderful relationship with the Sunshine Tour stretching back over many years and this co-sanctioned tournament is another example of that”, Pelley said. “I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Johann Rupert, Thomas Abt, Selwyn Nathan and everyone at the Sunshine Tour for their commitment in making this happen, in addition to the mayor and the City of Johannesburg for their help and support.” The Joburg Open will be played at the Randpark Golf Club from 19 to 22 November, as the first of a series of tournaments co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Sunshine Tour. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Mickelson may benefit for focusing on Champions Tour
Oct 21, 2020 8:47 AM
 
Around this time a year ago the 19th Hole pondered whether the Champions Tour beckoned for Phil Mickelson. Then 49 and on the verge of slumping outside of the world's top-50 for the first time in more than a decade, there was growing evidence that the autumn of Lefty's career may be better spent dominating the seniors’ circuit than struggling against the twenty-somethings who are increasingly monopolising success on the PGA Tour. Now Mickelson, it became swiftly apparent, was never likely to be a fan of this particular perspective. Indeed, the five-time major winner made clear that he would be unwilling to rely on Champions Tour success or exemptions as a means of perpetuating his presence on the PGA Tour. Furthermore, performances such as his victory at Pebble Beach last February, or his T2 finish at the WGC FedEx St. Jude in August, illustrate that, on his day, he remains capable of outscoring elite golfers half his age. @PhilMickelson captures another one!Lefty cards a 65 to win @DECCGolf. pic.twitter.com/os1LygbZnC— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) October 18, 2020 Nevertheless, such results are becoming increasingly rare for Mickelson. In 18 starts since the beginning of the year, the veteran has managed just two top-10 finishes while missing eight cuts, most recently carding rounds of 79 and 74 en route to a humiliating Friday exit at the US Open at Winged Foot. He has consequently slumped outside of the world's top-50 and, frankly, does not appear poised to re-establish himself inside of that elite band in the near future. On the Champions Tour, by contrast, Lefty's fortunes have been extremely promising. He carded four rounds in the 60s en route to an emphatic four shot victory over Tim Petrovic at Ozarks National on the occasion of his Champions Tour debut in August. Making his second seniors circuit start at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic last week, he won again, becoming only the third golfer in the history of the Champions Tour to win in each of their first two starts. The 44-time PGA Tour winner overturned a three-stroke deficit during the final day of the 54-hole event, posting a seven-under 65 to end the week on 17 under and pull clear of overnight-leader Mike Weir. With a stroke average of 65 after two tournaments, as well as an average driving distance of 312 yards and a greens in regulation percentage of 80, he looks capable of dominating the Champions Tour in a manner never seen before. The question Mickelson must answer is whether he would prefer to devote his attention to overhauling Hale Irwin’s record 45 seniors tour wins or continuing to compete on the PGA Tour. With two Champions Tour wins to his name in two starts, the answer may no longer be as apparent to the 50-year-old as it seemed last autumn. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Adrian Otaegui claims four-shot victory at Scottish Championship
Oct 20, 2020 4:28 AM
 
Adrian Otaegui was not much fancied in the build-up to last week’s Scottish Championship at Fairmont St Andrews. On the face of it, this circumstance may seem odd. The Spaniard, after all, is two-time winner on the European Tour and ranked inside of the world’s top-70 as recently as 2018. Faced against a comparatively weak field headed by the veteran world No.42, Lee Westwood, there would seem to have been little reason why Otaegui couldn’t reasonably expect to contend for the title. Dig a little deeper, though, and there was fair reason to be sceptical of the 27-year-old’s chances. It is significant, for instance, that both his previous European Tour triumphs came in match play events (in 2017 at the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play and in 2018 at the Belgian Knockout) and he arrived in Fyfe off the back of recording his fifth missed-cut in 17 starts across all tours in 2020. Indeed, Otaegui’s professional fortunes have declined significantly since he triumphed in Antwerp two years ago. He missed the cut in more than half of his 30 starts in 2019, slumping outside of the world’s top-300, and arrived at Fairmont St Andrews at No.248 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Suffice to say, a maiden European Tour stroke-play triumph didn’t seem immediately forthcoming. But fortunes change quickly in sport and, in the space of 72-holes of near flawless golf on the Aberdeenshire coast, Otaegui succeeded in both ending an eighteen-month trophy drought and catapulting himself back to the fringes of the world’s top-150. Analysing Adrian Otaegui's set up with the putter via @TheSwingIndex pic.twitter.com/KAcWN39cAX— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 19, 2020 He began the tournament with a 62 on Thursday and ended his title pursuit with a Sunday 63, overcoming a four-shot deficit thanks to eight birdies over an 11-hole stretch to finish atop the leaderboard at 23 under, four shots ahead of 54-hole leader, Matt Wallace (-19). “I had no expectations this morning, really. I just wanted to go out there, play well and shoot as well as possible. I mean, if you told me I was going to shoot 63 this morning, I wouldn’t believe it,” Otaegui reflected in an interview with the European Tour website. “Everything went well, I played very well, I felt very well, I was very focused and I holed some good putts. It’s been a very good week and especially today was a very good day to finish that week. I feel so happy. To be able to win in Scotland, especially here in St. Andrews, the home of golf, it means a lot to me.” “Stroke play is my favorite way of golf, I think it’s the proper way,” Otaegui concluded. “You have to play very solidly and very consistently all four rounds, which I think I did. I’m very happy to be able to win stroke play as well, my third win on the European Tour.” It was a good week’s work for the Spaniard. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Kokrak overcomes Schauffele to claim first PGA Tour win at CJ Cup
Oct 19, 2020 7:14 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Xander Schauffele. The world No.7 arrived at Shadow Creek Golf Club to contest the CJ Cup last week as many commentators’ favouriteto claim a sixth PGA Tour title. Leading the Tour in Strokes Gained: Total in 2020, the 26-year-old has just a single sub top-25 finish to his name since February and would have won the Tour Championship in September had it been structured as a standard 72-hole, stroke play event. Consequently, when Schauffele signed for an 8-under second-round 64 to take a three-stroke lead into the weekend, the whole event seemed to be playing out to form. However, the favourite’s scoring slowed-down on Saturday, enabling Russell Henley to seize a surprise three-stroke 54-hole lead away from Schauffele, Tyrrell Hatton, Lanto Griffin and Jason Kokrak. With Schauffele one of the form players in world golf and Hatton fresh off the back of a victory at Wentworth, few would have envisaged that Kokrak would be the player to prevail from a congested chasing-pack. Jason Kokrak earned his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the CJ Cup: https://t.co/3L4aMHfhgQ pic.twitter.com/RzInKS0WxG— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) October 19, 2020 The 35-year-old arrived at Shadow Creek off the back of a missing his eighth cut of the season on the occasion of his previous start at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and he had managed just two top-10 finishes in 19 starts across all tours since the beginning of the year. Indeed, Kokrak was winless in eight seasons since joining the PGA Tour in 2012, and while he had previously triumphed twice on the Korn Ferry Tour, a maiden victory at the elite level of the professional game did not seem immediately forthcoming. This was a circumstance reflected in his pre-event Official World Golf Ranking of No.53. It was in this context that Kokrak’s ultimate victory in Vegas came as such as surprise. He carded eight birdies in a bogey-free final-round 64 to finish on 20 under par, two ahead of his playing partner, Schauffele, who held at least a share of the lead for large parts of Sunday. Putting was at the heart of Kokrak’s success at Shadow Creek; indeed, he converted 11 putts from further than 10 feet away through 72 holes, including a 20-footer at the 10th on Sunday which really swung the event in his favour. "With the greens being firm, fast and quite a bit of break around these holes, if you don't have the right speed, you're not going to make a lot of putts," said the Canadian, who had four consecutive birdies on the front nine and credited his caddie with helping pick "great reads." "Game plan was simple, to hit fairways," he added. "I made some nice putts on the front nine and a couple par saves here and there, but I couldn't be happier.” Kokrak's long-awaited breakthrough came in his 233rd PGA Tour start and secures him an invite to next year's Masters and PGA Championship, with the win also lifting him inside the world's top 30 for the first time. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Cantlay in a race to rediscover form in time for the Masters
Oct 18, 2020 5:32 AM
Tags: Masters   CJ Cup   Russel Henley   Patrick Cantlay   News   pga tour  
 
When Patrick Cantlay carded three successive rounds in the 60s en route to a T4 finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, he looked set pick up in 2020 where he left off the previous season. 2019 was a banner campaign for Cantlay, who belatedly began 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. In addition to claiming a long overdue second PGA Tour title at the Memorial Tournament, he had two top-10s in the majors – T-9 at the Masters and T-3 at the PGA Championship -- and acceded to a career-high No.6 in the Official World Golf Rankings. The emphatic nature of Cantlay's performance at Kapalua was consequently understood by many commentators as a statement of intent; it seemed only a matter of time before he made a breakthrough at the highest level of the sport. Such lofty predictions have not come to pass. Indeed, Cantlay arrived in Las Vegas to contest the CJ Cup last week off the back of a deeply indifferent run of form comprising just two top-10 finishes (a T7 at the Workday Open and a T8 at the Shriners Open) in 12 starts since Kapalua. Patrick Cantlay (+1800) has made 110 feet of putts his front nineexcluding a 47-footer from off the green @betsstats He’s currently 3 back of the lead #BarstoolSportsbook pic.twitter.com/7tQI15Az6F— Bet The Greens (@betthegreens) October 8, 2020 Inevitably, this lengthy spell of poor play has exerted a profound deleterious impact on the Californian's standing in the Official World Golf Rankings. Having started the year at No.6 following his victory at Memorial, Cantlay teed-off at the CJ Cup at No.14, reflecting poor T43 finishes at both the US PGA Championship and the US Open over the past six weeks. The two-time PGA Tour winner did little to improve his lot at Shadow Creek. While he demonstrated impressive resilience in recovering from a sloppy double-bogey on the par-5 fourth-hole during to sign for a 1-under opening-round 71, he failed to break par on Friday and double-bogeyed the fourth again on Saturday en route to a shameful 2-over 74. Cantlay consequently teed-off for the final-round of the CJ Cup with a 16-stroke deficit to 54-hole leader, Russell Henley and failed to make any significant inroads on Sunday. Putting has been central to the Californian’s woes; he travelled to Las Vegas ranked outside of the PGA Tour’s top-100 in Stokes Gained: Putting, and despite hitting over 70% of fairways and landing more than 72% of green in regulation at Shadow Creek, he lost almost four strokes to the average of the field on the putting green. Until Cantlay rediscovers form and confidence with the putter, it is extremely difficult to envisage him contending for major championship honours in 2020. The countdown to Augusta may just be moving too fast for a player many had fancied as an outsider for the green jacket at the beginning of the year. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Australian Open cancellation shows COVID-19 remains a threat to golf
Oct 16, 2020 8:49 AM
 
And so the novel COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the global golfing calendar. The Players Championship was the first to go, abandoned after just 18-holes as the true gravity of the pandemic began to dawn on major international sporting bodies. Swiftly thereafter, the PGA Tour announced the cancellation of a swathe of regular season events, while Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, confirmed that for the first time since 1945, the Masters would not take place in the second week of April. The USGA followed suit, confirming that the US PGA Championship and US Open would be postponed until the end of the summer, while the 149th Open Championship was pushed back to 2021. Of course, a semblance of normality has since resumed. While fans have yet to return to line the fairways of the world’s greatest courses, the show has largely gone on in an orderly fashion since PGA Tour golf resumed in June. Collin Morikawa, for instance, produced one of the greatest US PGA Championship performances in recent history to claim the Wannamaker trophy in early August, while Bryson DeChambeau bludgeoned Winged Foot into submission to win the US Open last month. Already the attention of the world’s golfing media is trained on Augusta and the tantalisingly novel prospect of a November Masters; in a strange way the regular rhythms of the professional game appear to have resumed. It's with regret that we announce three of the Aussie summer of golf’s premier events will not go ahead.Read more https://t.co/zUQroLqylc pic.twitter.com/dqDbErl41d— Golf Australia (@GolfAust) October 15, 2020 However, last week’s confirmation that the Australian Open has been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War provided a chastening reminder that COVID-19 remains a serious, ongoing threat to the professional golfing calendar. In a joint announcement, the PGA of Australia, ALPG Tour and Golf Australia confirmed that the men's and women's Australian Open and the PGA Championship, all due to be played in February, will now no longer take place. It will be the first time since 1945 that the men's Open, won previously by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Rory McIlroy, will not tee off. "It's unprecedented and a real blow for Australian golf and its fans," PGA of Australia chief executive Gavin Kirkman said. "We have collectively spent months in exhaustive consultation with all relevant authorities and our sanctioning partners to try to find a way to stage all three events safely. “But even with multiple contingency plans, it has reached a point where decisions have to be made and this, regrettably, is the one we've had to take. We look forward to bringing all three tournaments alive again when they return as normal for summer 2021-22." Australia has closed its international borders to most travellers as part of its effort to suppress the coronavirus pandemic, and although PGA officials considered a raft of options to deal with the restrictions, including players entering a hub and competing while serving a strict quarantine period, no solution proved viable. Ultimately the cancellation of Australian golf’s flagship events remind us of the fragility of the PGA Tour’s return in the context of COVID-19, setting the ongoing threat posed by the virus in sharp relief. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Spain to host Solheim Cup in 2023
Oct 16, 2020 5:52 AM
 
As historic golfing countries on the European continent go, Spain surely ranks among the greatest. After all, the Iberian state can lay claim to a proud history of producing some of the most aesthetically pleasing playersthe sport has ever seen. From Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal and Miguel Ángel Jiménez, to Sergio Garcia, Pablo Larrazábal and Jon Rahm, Spanish golf has grown synonymous with pristine ball-striking, shot-making artistry, flair and creative-invention. In more recent decades, female Spanish golfers have continued this tradition. Carlota Ciganda Machiñena, for instance, won twice and claimed the Ladies European Tour (LET) Order of Merit, Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year titles in her debut season in 2012. She has since gone on to amass four further victories across the LET and LPGA circuits, most recently claiming the 2019 Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open on home soil, and boasts an impressive 6-6-4 (W-L-H) record through four Solheim Cup appearances. For the first time ever the #SolheimCup is heading to Spain & will be staged @FINCACORTESIN in 2023 @SolheimCupEuro @SolheimCupUSA #VamosGirls pic.twitter.com/TJRH6Xju1m— The Solheim Cup (@TheSolheimCup) October 13, 2020 Similarly, Azahara Muñoz Guijarro has won six times across the LET and LPGA Tours through the course of a decorated, 11 season professional career and has established herself as a nigh-on permanent presence inside of the world’s top-50. Beatriz Recari owns four elite professional titles, as well as a 3-1-0 Solheim Cup record, while Paula Martí owns three LET titles and has ranked inside of the world’s top-10. With Spanish female golfers increasingly prominent at the top end of the world rankings, this week’s announcement that Spain will host the Solheim Cup for the first time when the event returns to Europe in 2023 felt fitting. The world-renowned championship course at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia has been selected as the biennial event heads to a sixth different European country after Scotland, Germany, Ireland, Wales and Sweden. "We are delighted to announce Spain as the host nation for the 2023 Solheim Cup when it returns to European soil for the 18th edition of this major international team golf event," said Ladies European Tour chief executive Alexandra Armas. "The tournament will not only enhance the country's reputation as an elite golfing nation but the Costa del Sol as a must-visit destination, which will help to inspire the next generation of children to take up the game." Next year's Solheim Cup will be staged in Toledo, Ohio in September with Team USA aiming to reclaim the trophy they lost on the last green in the final match of the singles at Gleneagles. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matthew Wolff seeking to avenge disappointments at CJ Cup
Oct 15, 2020 10:48 AM
 
When Matthew Wolff carded three eagles in the space of five sensational holes during the third round of the Shiners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin last week, he looked odds-on to claim a second PGA Tour victory. Given the Shriners Open marked the occasion of Wolff's first start after surrendering a two stroke, 54-hole US Open lead to Bryson DeChambeau last month, few were expecting the 21-year-old to rebound strongly in a lower profile event. However, that stunning third round 61 moved him to within two strokes of Martin Laird's overnight lead, and an impressive Sunday total of 65 ensured he formed part of a three-man playoff. Ultimately, Wolff was unable to triumph in Las Vegas, as Larid's birdie on the second extra hole ended a gruelling, seven year PGA Tour trophy drought. However, the Shriners marked the occasion of Wolff’s third runner-up finish in the space of just three months, and it is only a matter of time before he adds to his maiden PGA Tour victory at 2019 3M Open. Eagle for Wolff. @Matthew_Wolff spins it in from 115 yards to get to -13.#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/i9cFJXxPR3— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 10, 2020 This week's CJ Cup, moved from its annual spot in South Korea to Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, may provide an ideal venue. While Wolff will be required to overcome an elite field, one comprising 20 of the world's top-25 golfers (minus the COVID positive world No.1, Dustin Johnson), many key aspects of his game align well with the Tom Fazio-designed track. Indeed, Wolff stands out as one of the best all round performers on the PGA Tour this season. He ranks fifth, third and second respectively for strokes gained approaching the green, strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained total. Furthermore, the world No.12 appears to have remedied the inconsistency with putter in hand that so undermined him last term; at TPC Summerlin last week, for instance, he ranked 15th for strokes gained putting, gaining over four strokes to the average of the field with the flat stick. Perhaps even more impressively, he sits 44th in the strokes gained putting stats for the season to date having ranked outside of the top-150 in 2019. With a tournament victory and three runner-up finishes to his name in the space of just 31 PGA Tour starts, it is clear that Wolff possesses all the physical and technical raw materials required to develop into a consistent winner at the highest level of the professional game. A victory over a top-class field such as that which is slated to tee-up at Shadow Creek this week would constitute a real statement of intent. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tyrrell Hatton lays down marker with victory at Wentworth
Oct 13, 2020 9:25 AM
 
When in March Tyrrell Hatton tapped in a 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Bay Hill to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by a stroke away from Marc Leishman, it seemed only a matter of time before he broke into the elite band of the professional game. After all, Bay Hill marked the occasion of Hatton's maiden triumph on the US PGA Tour; coming just four months after he prevailed in a record six-man play-off to seal a fourth European Tour title at the Turkish Airlines Open, the emphatic nature of his victory over an elite field in Florida signalled to many his game had ascended to a new level. Some even discussed him as a dark horse for the Masters in April. It was at that point, of course, that COVID-19 intervened to ground the global sporting calendar to halt, an otherworldly occurrence that threatened to scupper the progress of in-form athletes the world over. Amazing win at Wentworth for @TyrrellHatton, who should be mic’d up every time he tees it up. pic.twitter.com/ELWAhsjeMa— Skratch (@Skratch) October 11, 2020 But unlike rivals, such as Rory McIlroy, Hatton picked up much as left his off following the resumption of PGA Tour golf in June. The 28-year-old marked his return to the course with successive top-5s at the RBC Heritage and Rocket Mortgage Classic. He further concluded a solid FedEx Cup play-off campaign by shooting the fifth-lowest 72-hole score at the Tour Championship at East Lake. At Wentworth on Sunday, he bounced back from a missed cut at the US Open by claiming a fifth European Tour title at the flagship BMW PGA event. This was an exceptional performance from Hatton, who began the final-round in Surrey with a three stroke lead away from a congested chasing pack. However, the home favourite saw his overnight lead disappear quickly when Victor Perez - playing in the group ahead - followed a birdie-two at the second by holing a 20-foot eagle at the par-five fourth. Indeed, the pair were tied upon reaching the turn and it was ultimately only Perez's sloppy bogey on the 17th that enabled Hatton to pull away at the summit of the leaderboard. He closed with a birdie on the par-5 18th for a four-shot victory and his third career Rolex Series accolade. “It’s unbelievable,” he told Sky Sports. “This was a goal of mine to win this tournament in my career and part of me is sad I didn’t get to experience the crowds, but it’s just amazing to win this trophy.” Up to No.10 in the world for the first time in his career, the onus is now firmly on Hatton to push towards major success. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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