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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: Jon Rahm

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Date CreatedMost Popular

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
Generational churn risks Fowler being rendered obsolete
Sep 6, 2020 8:01 AM
 
It is a profound irony that as golf’s media profile has declined at a rate commensurate with Tiger Wood’s competitive prowess, the elite level of the PGA Tour has arguably never been more thrillingly competitive. While Rory McIlroy was able to dominate the sport briefly in the immediate aftermath of Wood’s initial demise around 2011, the emergence first of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, and later of Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka meant that the Northern Irishman’s reign at world No.1 was never too long lived. Now, a new generation of golfers under the age of 25 are beginning to threaten those, such as McIlroy, Koepka and Thomas, who are in the late twenties and early 30s. In July, Jon Rahm unseated McIlroy atop the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings upon claiming his 11th titlein just three-and-a-half seasons as a professional at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. The 24-year-old has since gone on to win again at the BMW Championship, defeating Dustin Johnson in a thrilling play-off, and it seems only a matter of time before he claims a maiden major championship accolade. Collin Morikawa, meantime, has already gotten over the line at major championship level. The 23-year-old produced one of the greatest drives in the history of the US PGA Championship to eagle Harding Park’s par-4 16th hole and win the Wannamaker Trophy by two strokes away from Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson in July. He has since leapfrogged players of the calibre of Adam Scott, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau to reach No.5 in the world rankings. Indeed, Morikawa has already won three times in just 18-months on the PGA Tour and qualified comfortably for the Tour Championship at the conclusion of his first full season on the professional circuit. "You guys staying out of trouble?" @RickieFowler has a special way with his fans. #TOURVault pic.twitter.com/iJ4UEEOuJM— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 1, 2020 Viktor Hovland, too, is deserving of mention as a coming force at the highest level of the professional game. A former World Amateur No.1, Hovland claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory at the Puerto Rico Open in February and he has already cracked the world’s top-30. Possessed of exceptional distance and accuracy of the tee, penetrating iron-shots and a solid putting stroke, the Norwegian possesses all the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive on the PGA Tour and has already been name-checked by European captain, Padraig Harrington as a serious contender for Ryder Cup inclusion. The list of these golfers under the age of 25 who are beginning to pressure the elite-band goes on and on. World No.35, Matthew Wolff, 20-years-old and the winner of the 3M Open last July, is also surely deserving of recognition, as are rising stars such as the five-time European Tour winner and world No.17, Matthew Fitzpatrick (24) and the 2020 Honda Classic winner and world No.27, Sungjae Im (22). Lost in all this is the name, Rickie Fowler, once synonymous with youthful promise and ambition. The charismatic Californian top-fived at all four majors in 2014 and was a near permanent presence inside of the world’s top-10 from then until 2018. It seemed only a matter of time until he claimed one of the sport’s biggest trophies. But after a second winless season in three, the 31-year-old is on the brink of slipping outside of the top-40, and with players of the calibre of Rahm, Morikawa, Hovland, Wolf, Fitzpatrick and Im now rivalling the likes of McIlroy, Koepka and Thomas at the majors, he faces a tough task in seeking to re-establish himself as an elite presence on Tour. [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
Cameron Champ struggling to recapture best form
Aug 22, 2020 6:34 AM
 
When Cameron Champ birdied his 72nd hole to claim a second PGA Tour title at the Safeway Open in California last September, he seemed poised to consolidate his status as a coming force at the highest level of the professional game. Coming less than a year he won his maiden PGA Tour honour at the Sanderson Farms Championship, Champ’s victory over a decorated field in Napa appeared to signal he was set to contend for major honours. Possessed of prodigious length of the tee, a solid iron game and a consistent putting stroke, there was little reason to doubt his capacity to rival other twenty-something golfers, like Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa, in competing for the game’s biggest tournaments. PGATOUR: The leader by one point.Cameron__Champ is on top after a birdie at No. 15. pic.twitter.com/uSNUWSLftk— William EVS (@PGAGolfChat) August 20, 2020 This, frankly, has not worked out to plan. Indeed, Champ arrived at TPC Boston to contest the FedEx Cup play-off opening Northern Trust Open last week ranked outside of the world’s top-70 and he was in need of a strong performance to progress into next month’s Tour Championship at East Lake. An opening-round bogey on the par-5 second hole, immediately thrust Champ on to the back-foot, and while he recovered impressively with a birdie on the next he was ultimately unable to pick-up a further shot through the rest of the day, bogeying the 17th en route to 1-over 71. On Friday he again started sloppily, bogeying the first to leave himself in real danger of missing the cut. He rallied strongly with four birdies in his next five-holes and moved four-under for the day courtesy of a further birdie on the 10th. However, three consecutive bogeys from the 11th catapulted him back towards the foot of the leaderboard, and consecutive birdies to finish ultimately proved insufficient to save him from missing the cut by a stroke. At No.20 in the FedEx Cup race, Champ remains in with a strong chance of qualifying for East Lake and he provided a vivid demonstration of his talents upon securing a top-10 finish at the US PGA Championship at Harding Park a fortnight ago. Indeed, that result was sufficient to earn him a spot in the US Open field for Winged Foot at the end of the month. However, Champ has now missed four-times as many cuts (4) as he has registered top-10 finishes in 12 starts across all tours in 2020 and has still not risen higher than No.68 in the Official World Golf Rankings. The 25-year-old possesses many of the physical and technical qualities required to thrive at the highest level of the sport. But with the 26-year-old, Rahm ranked No.1 in the world and the 23-year-old, Morikawa a newly crowned major winner, it may be time to reappraise what we expect Champ’s career trajectory to look like. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy struggling to recapture top form ahead of PGA Championship
Aug 2, 2020 9:04 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, the astonishing momentum he had built-up over the backend of 2019 and the opening months of 2020 had dissipated. The Northern Irishman shot a final-round 74 en route to a frustrating T32 finish on the occasion of his first start back at Colonial. He bookended strong middle-rounds of 65 and 66 with a 72 and a 70 at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town the following week, finishing tied for 41st, and, despite carding four rounds in the 60s at the Travelers Championship at TPC Southwind, he was unable to crack the top-10, finishing tied for 11th. At the Memorial Tournament a fortnight ago, he failed to sign for a single round under 70 and slumped to a T32 finish on foot of a 6-over final-round 78. #RoryMcIlroy Hitting his drive on #12 at the #wgc #tpcsouthwind #memphis in 2019 into the drink but still carding a 62 on the day #pga pic.twitter.com/BiR2szNgwr— Jorby6 (@jorby88_) July 31, 2020 Suffice to say, then, McIlroy was not performing at the peak of his powers upon arriving at TPC Southwind to contest the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational last week. This circumstance was illustrated vividly by the fact that Jon Rahm had displaced him at the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. Devoid of a top-10 finish in six starts since returning from lockdown, the 31-year-old conceded that he would need four solid rounds at TPC Southwind to restore confidence and momentum ahead of the opening major of the season at TPC Harding Park the following week. This did not come to pass; indeed, McIlroy effectively played himself out of the tournament upon signing for a 3-over opening-round of 73. While he rallied impressively with a 66 on the Friday, a second 73 on Saturday killed that any hope he had of salvaging a top-10. When golf shutdown in the middle of March, McIlroy traded as the outstanding favourite to win the first major of the season at Augusta. Four months on, one struggles to make a case for the four-time major winner contending seriously for the Wannamaker Trophy in San Francisco. COVID-19 has not been a friend of any golfer, but McIlroy seems to have suffered from the suspension of play more than most. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Jon Rahm survives scare to win The Memorial and move to world No 1
Jul 20, 2020 1:31 PM
 
Fortunately, from the point of view of Jon Rahm, there’s more than one way to win a golf tournament. The Spaniard took a four-stroke lead into the final round of The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio last week and, upon he reaching the turn, a fourth PGA Tour victory seemed a formality. After opening with four-straight pars prior to a 50-minute lightening delay, he rolled in an eight-footer at the fifth and added a two-putt birdie at the seventh. Bogeys at holes six and eight from Rahm’s principal challenger, Ryan Palmer ensured the Basque-native moved eight-shots clear going into the back-nine. But then, in the space of a remarkable five holes, Rahm saw his eight-shot advantage cut to just three. A bogey on the 10th signalled a change of momentum, and the 25-year-old suffered a double bogey on the 11th before losing another stroke on the 14th. Palmer, meantime, gained a stroke at the 12th and appeared poised to orchestrate a remarkable comeback. The shot of the tournament Jon Rahm leads by 4 at Jack’s Place pic.twitter.com/kVIMH7W5wY— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) July 19, 2020 It is a testament, therefore, to Rahm’s temperament that, after consolidating with a par on 15, he executed the shot of the day at the 16th, holing-out a 30-yard approach shot for birdie. While that score would be regrettably overturned for a rules violation after the round, and filed as a double-bogey, it swung the tournament firmly back in Rahm’s favour. Palmer’s bogey on 17 assured the Spaniard of a three-stroke victory sufficient to elevate him above Rory McIlroy to the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career. "I stay on competition mode for a little longer than I would like sometimes, and I process things so much later. I'll probably wake up tomorrow morning and still not have it processed," Rahm told reporters. "I'm incredibly proud to sit here and be the Memorial tournament champion, win an event on the PGA Tour four years in a row, number one in the world. "There's a lot of accomplishments today that are hard to believe I've done so early in my career." Ever since turning professional following a Low Amateur finish at the 2016 US Open, Rahm appeared destined for the elite. A former world amateur No.1, he won his maiden PGA Tour title on the occasion of just his 12th professional appearance and, less than a year on from becoming only the second Spaniard in history after Seve Ballesteros to claim the European Tour Order of Merit title, he has become the second Spaniard after Seve to top the world rankings. Don’t be surprised to see Rahm claim a maiden major title before the year is out. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Response Premier Golf League proposals crystallises generational shift on PGA Tour
Mar 23, 2020 7:29 AM
 
Recent moves to establish a breakaway international golf tour have the potential to effect the most fundamental restructuring of the professional game since the institutionalisation of the PGA Tour in 1929. Funded principally by Saudi investors, the Premier Golf League (PGL) hoped to coax the sport’s biggest stars away from the PGA and European tours with eye-watering sums of guaranteed cash and a model akin to Formula One. Plans included 18 tournaments per year, of 54 holes, and a team element. Discussion over the proposal dominated the start of the golfing year. Five-time major winner, Phil Mickelson called the idea “intriguing” and met with the PGL’s key figures at the Saudi International in January. 15-time major winner, Tiger Woods confirmed he had been approached and conceded, "We're still looking at it", while the former world No.1, Justin Rose admitted coyly that: "There are a lot of incentives for the guys to be interested." It is surely no coincidence that Woods and Rose share an agent, Marc Steinberg. We should have known better than to challenge @TigerWoods to a shot shaping challenge... pic.twitter.com/PzF2zWJGS9 — GOLFTV (@GOLFTV) March 17, 2020 One by one, it seemed, golf’s biggest personalities were being drawn away from the sport’s traditional competitions, or were at least willing to use the PGL as what Mickelson referred to crudely “leverage,” in negotiations with the PGA and European tours. Then in mid-February, Rory McIlroy delivered a body-blow to the project, stating conclusively that he has no interest taking part. “The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it,” the world No 1 reflected. “Money is cheap, money is the easy part. It shouldn’t be the driving factor. Look, for some people it is and we’re professional golfers and we’re out here playing golf to make a living, but at the end of the day I value my freedom and my autonomy over everything else.” Two weeks later, he introduced a moral dimension to the debate, highlighting both his personal sense of obligation to the PGA Tour and reservations regarding the funding sources behind the PGL. “I’d like to think I’m quite a loyal person”, McIlroy said. “I think the PGA has given me a platform to showcase my skills, build my brand and turn me into this golfer and athlete…[Also,] I didn’t really like where the money was coming from either and I wanted to be the first one to speak out against it.” McIlroy’s emphatic rejection of the PGL precipitated a sea change in the tenor of public discourse surrounding the proposals. Shortly after discussing the project with McIlroy, world No.2 Brooks Koepka stated: “I am out of the PGL. I’m going with the PGA Tour. I have a hard time believing golf should be about just 48 players.” World No.3, Jon Rahm struck a similar note the following week, saying: “I think what I’m going to do is focus on just the PGA Tour. At the end of the day I’m a competitor, I’m a PGA Tour member and I’m going to stay that way.” Conspicuous in all this is the fact that where Mickelson, Woods and Rose are all aged 40 or over, none of McIlroy, Koepka or Rahm is older than 30. Clearly, all three of the younger players remain convinced their long-term professional fortunes are best served on the PGA Tour. Woods and Mickelson did more than anyone to transform the PGA Tour into the commercial behemoth that it is today. It is arguable, therefore, they are perfectly entitled to walk away from the cash-cow they helped to create to pursue even greater riches on a breakaway tour. However, golf, perhaps more than any other sport, derives its identify and competitive shape from a strong collective memory of the game’s history and traditions. This is particularly the case with respect to the majors which function as a timeless benchmark of success, enabling us to accurately weight and measure the achievements of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer against those of Woods and McIlroy, and so on. It would be great shame, therefore, if the parting contribution of Woods and Mickelson is to weaken the patiently woven intergenerational fabric from which professional golf derives its culture and identity. When McIlroy said he didn’t want to be on “the wrong side of history” when the dust settles on the PGL proposals, he demonstrated a moral insight and integrity that appears sadly to be lacking in some of the foremost golfers of the preceding generation. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Reed silences critics with big win at WGC-Mexico
Feb 24, 2020 5:21 AM
 
Previewing the WGC-Mexico Championship, this blog reflected that one of the most compelling storylines to emerge at Chapultepec would be the nature of Patrick Reed’s response to a recent spate of high-profile public criticism. The week began with Brooks Koepka stating that he thought Reed had cheated in the Hero World Challenge event in the Bahamas last December; it continued with former CBS broadcaster, Peter Kostis suggesting he had seen Reed improve his lie on multiple occasions over the years; and, remarkably, it concluded with Reed managing to block out all the noise to seal an impressive single stroke victory over Bryson DeChambeau in Mexico. Ultimately, the emphatic nature of Reed’s victory amidst a torrent of unfathomable public criticism reflects his extraordinary capacity to thrive under conditions of adversity. From being dismissed from the University of Georgia for allegedly cheating and stealing from teammates, to exploding the US Ryder Cup dressing-room in Paris in 2018, the Texan’s career has been dominated by controversies. Sunday confirmed Reed’s extraordinary capacity to produce his best golf when the world is seemingly lined-up against him. For in addition to a hostile gallery, Reed was obliged to overcome many of the best golfers in the world in order to claim his second WGC title in Mexico. Of the contenders, which included World No. 1 Rory McIlroy; Jon Rahm, who with a victory had a chance to get to No. 1; Justin Thomas, who was looking for his second victory in two months; and Bryson DeChambeau, it was Reed who was the only one not to make a bogey, at least when it truly mattered. His only hiccup came on the final hole, where he arrived with a two-stroke lead and could afford it, signing for a 4-under closing-round 67. DeChambeau had briefly separated himself from the field with birdies at the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. Yet Reed refused to go away; the former Masters champion pulled a stroke back at the 12th and carded three consecutive birdies on the 15th, 16th, and 17th to move two strokes clear following DeChambeau’s bogey on the 17th. A bogey on the last was consequently sufficient for a narrow victory. 72 holes. 98 putts Patrick Reed set a World Golf Championship record for one putts at the #WGCMexico last week. pic.twitter.com/njlwkYKwpE — GOLFTV (@GOLFTV) February 24, 2020 “I felt like I had something to prove to myself coming into this week because I feel like I’ve been playing some really solid golf and just haven’t quite gotten over that hump to get the W,” Reed said. “I knew all I needed to do was continue to try to improve on my golf game, but at the same time just block out all the noise, no matter what it was. “I feel like I’ve been able to do that really well throughout my career, and growing up I’ve always been able to kind of, when I get inside the ropes around the golf course, just focus on what I need to do, and that’s play golf.” Back inside of the world’s top-10, Sunday’s victory has effectively assured Reed of his place in the US Ryder Cup squad for Whistling Straits. Mr Koepka may wish to begin preparing himself early for an uncomfortable reunion. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rahm travels to Phoenix with world No.1 spot in reach
Jan 29, 2020 12:05 PM
 
It’s a good thing Jon Rahm’s golf is better than his math. The Spaniard teed-off for the final-round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last week with a single stroke lead away from a crowded chasing pack. However, a disastrous run of four bogeys inside his opening five holes meant that he was playing catch-up for most of the round. The Spaniard demonstrated admirable resilience to claw his way back into contention on back-nine, and a birdie on No. 17 combined with a Marc Leishman bogey in the group ahead meant that he headed to the 18th tee at 13 under, one shot off the lead. But speaking to reporters after the round, Rahm revealed that he didn't look at another scoreboard the rest of the way. That meant he was unaware of Leishman's 72nd-hole birdie: the shot that moved the Aussie two strokes ahead of Rahm, thus obliging the Spaniard to make an eagle - not a birdie – on the last to force a playoff. Rahm reached the par-5 green in two and barely missed a lengthy eagle putt before turning to caddie Adam Hayes expecting to prepare for overtime. "When Adam told me the news, he's like, 'Hey, good try.' I'm like, 'What do you mean? We're in a playoff,'" Rahm said. "He's like, 'Nope, (Leishman) birdied 18.' And I didn't hear any roars or anything, so I just assumed he parred." "I wouldn't have changed anything. I hit a great drive and a great second shot," he concluded. "The putt, that's a tough putt. You can't just ram it by 10 feet by, it's just not going to go in. So I did hit it with trying to make it with perfect speed, thinking a two-putt would get into a playoff." Wednesday is a BIG day at #thepeoplesopen! Check out what's in store and find out what time everyone tees off tomorrow for the Celebrity @Annexus Pro-Am!Pairings https://t.co/XkH0CY9pBq pic.twitter.com/G0AwQDtogB— WM Phoenix Open (@WMPhoenixOpen) January 29, 2020 Gladly, the 25-year-old has an opportunity to avenge his misfortune at the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale this week; indeed, he trades as a 7/1 favourite to claim his fourth PGA Tour accolade. With event form figures reading 5-16-11 and current form figures reading 8-6-5, since he returned to action following the festive break (and remember, he finished runner-up to Henrik Stenson at the Hero Challenge before Christmas), it's difficult to critique the shortness of his odds. Significantly, Rahm tees-off in Phoenix confident in the knowledge that a victory has the potential to propel him to the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career, provided that the current world No. 1 Brooks Koepka finishes worse than solo fourth or a three-way tie for third at the Saudi International. With 10 victories to his name in just three full seasons as a professional, it is possible to make a persuasive case for Rahm to be considered the form player in world golf. It is a matter of time until he reaches the No.1 spot and, on current form, he is well capable of achieving that feat before the end of the week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Leishman establishes 2020 marker with victory at Torrey Pines
Jan 28, 2020 12:23 PM
 
If at first you don’t succeed then try, try again. Marc Leishman has had his fair share of frustrations at Torrey Pines Golf Club in recent years, with two runners-up finishes to his name and more top-10s than he would care to remember. While such high placings are, of course, encouraging when assessed as standalone accomplishments, it is easy to grow despondent in the face of repeated near-misses and to assume that the win will never come. Thus, when Leishman teed-off for the final-round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday with a four-stroke deficit to leader, Jon Rahm as part of a crowded chasing-pack spearheaded by Rory McIlroy, it seemed safe to assume that he would be obliged to settle for yet another high-placing at Torrey Pines with no trophy. Clearly, such a spirit of compromise never entered into the Aussie’s head, and where McIlroy bogeyed three of the first four holes, and Rahm four of the first five, Leishman dropped seven shots inside of his opening 13 holes to establish a lead he never appeared likely to relinquish. Marc Leishman wins the Farmers Insurance Open. It's his fifth PGA TOUR victory. pic.twitter.com/hdaQVYsRLA— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 26, 2020 He went even par the rest of the way, chasing a bogey on 17 with a closing birdie at the par-5 18th to sign for a 7-under closing-round 65 and a single stroke victory over Rahm. Rahm, for his part, rallied impressively on the back-nine and birdied each of his final three holes, his long eagle putt at the last coming up just a few inches short. Remarkably, despite hitting only three fairways, Leishman made over 150-feet of putts on Sunday and finished the final-round at +4.78 in Strokes Gained: Putting, the second-best single-round performance of his career, trailing only the third round of the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. “I putted as good as I’ve probably ever putted today”, Leishman reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. “I made some good birdie putts early and then some great par saves later. They’re probably even more important than the early ones.” “I feel pretty lucky I was able to win hitting it in some of the spots I hit it today,” he added. “This feels pretty amazing. I wasn’t expecting this at the start of the day. (I’m) elated. A bit of extra practice early in the week on the putting green really paid off.” Leishman has now won four times in his last three seasons on the PGA Tour; back inside of the world’s top-20, he appears dangerously placed to break into the top-10 for the first time in his career before the season is out. And if he maintains the accuracy with the putter he displayed in Torrey last week, a long overdue maiden major championship title may well be on the cards. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy targeting a return to No.1 spot at Torrey Pines
Jan 23, 2020 4:03 AM
 
There are presently five golfers who can lay persuasive claim to be considered the best player in the world. The Official World Golf Rankings, of course, say it’s Brooks Koepka and, with four major titles to his name over the last three seasons, it’s difficult to contradict the algorithm. However, it is possible to put forward a compelling case for the 2016 US PGA Champion, Justin Thomas, who’s triumph at Kapalua a fortnight ago marked the occasion of his third victory in his last eight starts. Depending on how you rate the competition on the European Tour, you could make an argument for Jon Rahm, who has won nine time across all Tours since turning professional in 2017. And let’s not forget a certain Mr Woods who tied Sam Snead’s record 82 PGA Tour victories on the occasion of his last competitive start in Japan in November. Perhaps the strongest case of all, however, belongs to Rory McIlroy. He’s coming off a season that included four victories (including at The Players Championship and the Tour Championship), a FedEx Cup title, the PGA Tour Player of the Year award, top 10s in 17 of his 25 starts and the best strokes gained/overall average on the PGA Tour since 2009. McIlroy, then, has established himself as a model of elite-level consistency over the past 12-months, but he still hasn’t done enough to make his supremacy official by overtaking Koepka at the summit of the rankings. Rory McIlroy promises to throw off the shackles in bid to break Major droughthttps://t.co/VEYWPCr0m6 pic.twitter.com/qkdYFDvjLv— Independent Sport (@IndoSport) January 23, 2020 That could change at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open. With a victory at Torrey Pines, the 30-year-old can reclaim the No. 1 ranking in the world, a spot he’s held for 95 weeks but not since September 2015. Indeed, six different players – Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and Koepka – have enjoyed stints at top-spot since McIlroy last did so. “It’s been a goal of mine for a while,” McIlroy told Golf Digest on Tuesday. “Winning four times last year, I closed the gap a little. There was a point in the middle of last year where I was, like, four points behind Brooks. And then, once I won the Tour Championship and then in China [WGC-HSBC Champions], I kind of saw that gap closing. Then it sort of became, ‘Huh, I’m actually close.’ ” Certainly, Koepka’s recent injury struggles have helped the narrow the gap. The American tied for 34th on the occasion of his first competitive start in three months at last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour and will tee it up next at the Saudi International. Should Koepka perform strongly in the gulf, it’s conceivable he and McIlroy could pass the No. 1 ranking between each other, in the manner that Koepka, Rose and Johnson did during the first half of 2019. “It’s a very volatile system,” McIlroy said. “It can move up and down very quickly, and I didn’t know I was going to get a chance this early.” 12-months on from tying for fifth at Torrey Pines, the Northern Irishman will not be wanting for motivation to open his 2020 campaign with a victory. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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