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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: Northern Trust Open

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Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
PGA Tour remains Mickelson’s focus after Ozarks National victory
Aug 29, 2020 12:43 PM
 
When Phil Mickelson followed-up a 3-over opening-round 74 with a 68 on Friday to miss the cut at the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago, he could have been forgiven for taking his foot of the gas and resting in preparation for the US Open at Winged Foot next month. After all, the early exit in Boston ended prematurely his quest for a maiden FedEx Cup triumph and the five-time major winner has already made seven starts since competitive golf resumed on the PGA Tour at Fort Worth on 11 June. However, Mickelson, who turned 50 in June, has never been one take the quiet route, and instead of returning home to Florida, he opted for a detour to Ozarks National Golf Club in Ridgedale, Mo., to make his Champions Tour debut in the Charles Schwab Series. This trip was undertaken with the expressed intention of working on some shots in a competitive atmosphere and “building a little momentum” ahead of the US Open. The result was rather spectacular. “Give me the driver.” - @PhilMickelson pic.twitter.com/mGG5lZM5e6— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) August 25, 2020 He carded a closing 66 at Ozarks National last Sunday to finish 22 under par, four shots clear of Tim Petrovic. The five-time major winner's total of 191 equalled the tour’s 54-hole scoring record previously recorded by five players, most recently Rocco Mediate in 2013. He posted a tournament-leading driving average of 323.7 yards and provided one of several highlight-reel shots by using the same club in the second round to escape from under a tree, with the ball perched on pine straw and bark. Put simply, he was box-office. The world No. 54’s drawing power was illustrated vividly by the fact Golf Channel saw a ratings increases of 150 percent on Monday and nearly 300 percent on Tuesday for its coverage of the PGA Tour Champions compared to programming in the same time period (6-8 p.m. EDT) the prior four weeks. Tuesday’s coverage, meantime, was the most-watched Tuesday telecast since Golf Central Live during the 2019 Masters. "I really had a great time," Mickelson told the Golf Channel. "It’s fun for me to compete. I got to shoot scores and compete and the competition here is really strong and it was fun for me to get off to a good start and play well." However, fans and pundits should be leery of concluding that, in light of his success at the Ozarks, Lefty may now be content to focus his attentions on the Champions Tour. Only last month Mickelson finished T-2 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude, where he became the first player age 50 or older to finish in the top five in a WGC event. Last year, he won a record-tying fifth title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Amfor his 44th PGA Tour victory, and the year before he broke a winless streak of almost five years by defeating reigning FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas in a playoff at the WGC-Mexico Championship. On form, Mickelson retains the capacity to outscore leading PGA Tour players who are half his age. The veteran enjoyed his Champions Tour debut in the Ozarks, but it should not be understood to signal a watershed moment in his career. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Finau battling to prevent 2020 becoming another lost season
Aug 22, 2020 8:26 AM
 
Ever since defeating future PGA Tour star, Daniel Summerhays in the Utah State Amateur Championship final back in 2006, Tony Finau has been earmarked to achieve big things at the highest level of the professional game. Thus, when he went on to claim his maiden PGA Tour title at the Puerto Rico Open in a play-off against Steve Marino in March 2016, just eighteen months after winning his first professional title on the Webb.com Tour at the Stonebrae Classic, his ultimate progression to the elite-level of the PGA Tour seemed assured. In many respects Finau has gone on to fulfil such lofty expectations. He has registered seven top-10 finishes at major championship-level since making his first such start at the 2015 US Open; in 2018, he carded eight top-10s and four runners-up finishes in the process of breaking into the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings; and just two years have passed since Jim Furyk selected him as a wild-card for the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris after he finished ninth in the points-race. The PGA DFS Picks SuperDraft Cheatsheet | The PGA Championship | Tony Finau and morehttps://t.co/3z2j3WJa2l— Awesemo PGA DFS (@AwesemoGolf) August 19, 2020 In simple terms, Finau bears all the hallmarks of a bona fide member of the PGA Tour elite and, in 14 starts across all Tours in 2020, he has produced an impressive record of six top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the Phoenix Open in February and a T4 at the US PGA Championship at Harding Park a fortnight ago. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the 30-year-old arrived at TPC Boston to contest the FedEx Cup play-off opening Northern Trust Championship last week ranked No. 23 in the points race and No. 15 in the Official World Golf Rankings respectively. There remains, however, a significant shortcoming in Finau’s PGA Tour resume: he hasn’t managed to win since that triumph in Puerto Rico four-years ago and has consequently acquired the unenviable reputation of a competitor marked by psychological frailty. This is the context in which Utah-native’s failure to convert 54-hole leads at the Phoenix and 3M Opens this season need to be understood. Indeed, he now holds the PGA Tour record (31) for the most top-10 finishes in a four-year period without a win and any expectation that he might challenge for FedEx Cup honours was dented badly last week when he crashed out of the Northern Trust Open at the halfway stage. Finau possesses all of the physical and technical raw materials required to win regularly at the highest level of the professional game; indeed, he ranks 29th, 10th and 17th respectively for strokes gained off the tee, from tee to green and approaching the green on the PGA Tour in 2019/20. In this context it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the principle obstacle preventing Finau from filling his enormous potential on Tour is psychological. Until he figures out a way to think himself around that mental block, his career may remain a byword for decorated disappointment. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
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
Woods battles back pain as FedEx Cup hopes fray
Aug 22, 2020 5:18 AM
 
Assessing Tiger Woods’ chances ahead of any PGA Tour event is fraught with difficulty. For although one can reference all the standard signifiers of a player’s hopes of contending – current form, course record, strokes gained stats, and so on – there is always a crucial variable rendering his likelihood unpredictable: his body. Woods, as is well known, has undergone three major spinal fusion surgeries in the last six years and is constantly battling against the threat of spasms and tightness in his back and neck. The spectacular nature of his come-from-behind victory at the Masters last April demonstrated that he retains the ability to outscore leading golfers half his age; however, his capacity to exercise such technical supremacy is always circumscribed by his declining fitness. “The dots for tomorrow are definitely like today,” Woods said. “The guys are going to go mostly low. So hopefully I’m one of those guys that tears the golf course apart.” He will tee off at 8:30 a.m. ET. - TGRhttps://t.co/faYdsIDxg2— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) August 21, 2020 Indeed, Woods has only played five events since equalling Sam Snead’s record 82 career victories on the PGA Tour last October, and has played just twice since golf returned from COVID-19 lockdown in early June, tying 40th at the Memorial Tournament and 37th at the US PGA Championship before skipping the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis a fortnight ago. He consequently arrived at TPC Boston to contest the play-off opening Northern Trust Open last week ranked 49th in the FedEx Cup points race, 19-spots outside the elite-band who will progress into the Tour Championship next month. There was little shortage of social media panic, therefore, when the 43-year-old was filmed holding cold water bottles to his neck and rubbing his upper back ahead of his opening round in Boston. Once more, it seemed injury was set to stymie the 15-time major champion’s pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ overall major record (18). However, Woods was keen to downplay fears that his season may come to a premature end, explaining that he had "pretty hot oils" applied to his neck to help keep his spine loose for the playoff opener. "My lower back is used to it. It's accustomed to it. We do it all the time just so I can get loose," said Woods. "I decided to put some up on my neck, and it's not as tolerant as my lower back, so it gets awfully hot." "As soon as you heat up, the whole idea is to keep my spine loose," he added. "My spine is not what it used to be and never will be." Woods ultimately performed solidly in Boston and remains in the hunt for a spot at East Lake, a venue where he won two years ago. However, the threat of a spinal flare-up lurks just below the surface of every Woods performance, and regardless of how refined the technical execution of his swing may be, one can never be sure his body will sustain him over 72-holes. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Abraham Ancer lays down PGA Tour marker at Liberty National
Aug 13, 2019 4:37 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Abraham Ancer. The 28-year-old caught the eye of the international golfing media upon signing for a 6-under 65 during the second-round of the Northern Trust Open at Liberty National Golf Club in New York last Friday and teed-off for the final-round in outright second, just a single stroke behind Patrick Reed’s 54-hole lead. Ancer started brightly; playing in the final group of a PGA Tour event for just the second time in his career, he seized sole control at the top of the leaderboardcourtesy of a birdie on the par-4 third-hole. However, a costly bogey on the challenging par-3 fourth stymied his early sense of a momentum and a sloppy bogey on the par-5 sixth ensured he was playing catch-up to Reed and Jon Rahm for the rest of the day. Nevertheless, a pair of clutch birdies on the par-4 sixteenth and seventeenth-holes ensured the Mexican teed-off on 18 within a shot of Reed’s lead. Both players found the fairway off the tee but Ancer hit his approach to 43 feet and couldn’t make his tying birdie attempt. He parred, and so did Reed, securing the one-shot win. A giant dream is going to come true this year for Abraham Ancer. He's going to become the first Mexican golfer to compete in the Presidents Cup: https://t.co/D1uCgjcqxG pic.twitter.com/ylu6eyvmHD — Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) August 12, 2019 Inevitably Ancer departed the eighteenth green possessed of an acute sense of disappointment. Indeed, PGA Tour statistics indicate that he led the field in Strokes Gained: Off the tee (1.490) and Strokes Gained: Tee to green (3.430), and ranked tenth and twelfth respectively for Strokes Gained: Around the green and Approaching the green. Put simply, Ancer was the best performing player in the fieldlast week and after his initial sense of disappointment subsided, he could draw real confidence from the quality of his performance. “When I finished I was a little down because I didn’t get it done and I feel like I played good,” said Ancer, who is trying to become the third native Mexican playerto win on PGA Tour since 1970. “But then getting all this news that I’m going to the Tour Championship, playing the majors, going to the Masters, all that, I was like, Man, this is not too bad. I’m extremely happy, proud of the way I performed today, and like I said, I’m going to keep going. I still obviously want that W, but really proud with all the boxes that I checked off today.” Ancer, who claimed his second professional titleat the Australian Open last autumn, started last week ranked 67th in the FedEx Cup points race; his runner-up finish to Reed has catapulted him up as high as eighth, and given all of the top-30 after next week’s BMW Championship qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake, he is extremely well positioned to secure the automatic Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship qualification that accompanies participation in the Tour Championship. “I’m extremely proud of where I’ve come from and how I’ve been able to get all the way to the big stage, which is the PGA Tour and competing for events this big,” said Ancer, who won $999,000 on Sunday. “I’m playing against the best PGA Tour players in the world. The best 125 are here. Yeah, it means the world to me. I’m living the dream. This is what I dreamt about when I was a little kid and I couldn’t be luckier.” The more practices, it seems, the luckier he gets. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Reed ends 16-month trophy drought at Northern Trust Open
Aug 12, 2019 5:05 AM
 
December’s Presidents Cup weighed heavy on Patrick Reed’s mind upon arriving at Liberty National Golf Club to contest the Northern Trust Open last week. After all, the New York venue was the site of one of Reed’s finest representative performances at the 2017 Presidents Cup where he posted a 3-1-1 record to help ease the hosts to an emphatic victory against the International squad. More pertinently, he arrived at Liberty National requiring a serious uptick in form to have any chance of forming a part of US captain, Tiger Woods’ team for the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia in December. Reed, as has been documented widely in the media over the past few days, has struggled to recapture his best form since claiming his maiden major championship title at the Masters last April. Indeed, in 21 starts since the beginning of 2019, he managed just two top-10 finishes and slumped from a career-high ranking of world No.7 down as far as No. 24. He is consequently in a scrap with a number of highly promising young players to earn one of captain, Tiger Woods’ four wildcard selections for the US Presidents Cup team; at No. 17 in the overall standings, he had a lot of work to do to convince Woods of his potential worth to the team. In this context, his single-stroke victory over Abraham Ancer on Sunday felt doubly significant. For in addition to ending a 16-month PGA Tour trophy drought and catapulting Reed back inside of the world’s top-15, his playoff victory has moved him from 17th in the Presidents Cup standings to 12th -- one spot ahead of Woods -- and he would likely make the team with another victory at Medinah. Short of that, of course, Reed would need to rely on an at-large selection from Woods; however, he has rendered himself very difficult to overlook for inclusion. "For me, it's just continue playing good golf and that will all take care of itself,'' Reed said."If Tiger wants to call me, he knows I'll always call him back. I'm not going to bug him. If I continue to go out there and play good golf, I know he's going to make the right decision on picking four guys that he feels are best for the team at the end of the day.'' This was a vintage performance from Reed; indeed, his apparent unflappability as leader was deeply redolent of the psychological robustness he demonstrated in closing out a two-shot, 54-hole lead at the Masters two-years ago. The 29-year-old started shakily, pairing three birdies with three bogeys on the front-nine to slip two strokes behind Jon Rahm upon reaching the turn; however, he rallied with three straight single putt holes — one for par, two for birdies — that allowed him to overtake the Spaniard at the summit of the leaderboard and fend off Ancer’s challenge coming down the stretch. “It’s been a little too long,” said Reed. “What better place to do it than here. It’s definitely a good time to get a `W.“’ Up to No.2 behind Brooks Koepka in the playoff standings, Reed’s hopes of claiming the $15m prize-cheque at East Lake are very much alive. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Reed seizes 54-hole lead at Northern Trust Open
Aug 11, 2019 4:48 AM
 
Patrick Reed was not much talked about in the lead-up to the Northern Trust Open at Liberty National Golf Club in New York this week. For although the Texan has a history of early playoff-series success, having won the now defunct Barclays tournament in 2016, he has struggled badly to recapture the form that propelled him to a maiden major championship triumph at the Masters last April. Indeed, he never managed to capitalize upon the competitive momentum that his triumph at Augusta should have generated. Reed consolidated his Masters victory with a pair of top 10s, then a solo fourth in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock. But he began to struggle after that week, and those struggles bled over into the 2018-'19 season. Indeed, in 21 starts since the beginning of the year, the six-time PGA Tour winner has managed just two top-10 finishes and has slumped from a career-high ranking of world No.7 down as far as No. 24. He is consequently in a scrap with a number of highly promising young players to earn one of captain, Tiger Woods’ three wildcard selections for the US Presidents Cup team and, at No.50 in the FedEx Cup standings, he found himself in mild danger of missing out on the 70-man field that will compose next week’s BMW Championship. Put simply, Reed was in dire need of a strong performance at Liberty National. "Any time you can ease your mind and you have clear focus, you're able to go out there and execute and play better golf."Taking some time off after the PGA is proving to have been the right choice for Patrick Reed.https://t.co/xHFFG0TcYE— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 11, 2019 Fortunately, for fans of the pugnacious Texan, he has rediscovered a semblance of his best level in New York; indeed, three sub-70 rounds of 66-66-67 ensure that he will take a one-shot lead over Abraham Ancer (-13) into Sunday. It is noteworthy, however, that players of the caliber of Brandt Snedeker (-12), Jon Rahm (-12), Danny Willett (-11), Harold Varner III (-11), Justin Rose (-11) all remain firmly in contention for the title. The 29-year-old has landed 33 of 42 fairways at Liberty National; he has hit 39 of 54 greens in regulation and ranks inside of the tournaments top-20 for strokes-gained off the tee (3), from tee to green (2), approaching the green (18), around the green (15) and putting (26). It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that he leads the field with respect to strokes-gained total at 11.758. Reed’s decision to collaborate with legendary swing-coach, David Leadbitter in the wake of a disastrous missed-cut at the Valspar Championship at Copperhead in March has undoubtedly been central to this return to form. He hasn’t missed a cut since the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in June and has since posted two top-10 finishes, including one at last month’s Open Championship. Indeed, in seven starts leading into the playoffs, his form read: T-30, T-5, T-23, 10th, T-12 and T-22. It still wasn't quite all there, so Reed made a major equipment change last Sunday at the Wyndham Championship that could end up paying off in a big way. "I changed golf balls to a new golf ball that's a little softer (Reed switched to a 17 Pro V). I was hitting so many three-quarter shots, that's normally my go-to and I'm watching 9-irons release 30 feet. I'm like, well that's not good. That being said, I went to a little softer, a little higher launching golf ball on Sunday last week and next thing you know, I shoot 7-under there and come here, -5, -5, -4. It's going the right direction. I feel like I'm doing a lot of things well. I just need to go out and give myself opportunities." With 18-holes to play at Liberty National, Reed is ideally placed to return to the winners circle. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 Northern Trust Open Round 2 Takeaways: Spieth surges as Tiger withdraws
Aug 10, 2019 5:48 AM
 
1.Johnson and Spieth set up thrilling shootout These players formed the focus of yesterday’s blogand the emphatic nature of their second-round performances has served only to intensify the shine of the editorial spotlight. Johnson teed-off on Friday within a single stroke of Troy Merritt’s surprise, 9-under overnight lead, and a sensational run of three birdies in his final six holes on Friday enabled him to sign for a 4-under 67, seizing a single stroke leadgoing into the weekend. Most strikingly, perhaps, the 34-year-old closed with an approach to 8 feet on the 489-yard 18th and ranks second and third respectivelyfor strokes-gained tee-to-green and approaching the green through the opening 36-holes. “I’ve got a lot of control with the golf ball and hitting a lot of really nice shots and rolled in a couple putts today which is nice, but still feel like I left quite a few out there,” Johnson said. “I’m in a good position heading into the weekend, and if I can keep swinging the way I am, I think it’s going to be a good weekend.” More details on Tiger Woods' WD from @TheNTGolf prior to his second round this morning: https://t.co/38nbu9i36A pic.twitter.com/nkD3HxR4g0— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) August 9, 2019 Intriguingly, Jordan Spieth is the player best-placed to disrupt Johnson’s march towards a fifth FedEx Cup playoff series victory. The 26-year-old caught the eye of the world’s golfing media courtesy of a 5-under 66 on Thursday, and he consolidated with a spectacular 7-under 64 on Fridayto draw to within a shot of DJ’s lead. It cannot be overlooked, however, that the Texan was on the same 36-hole score (131) going into the weekend at the Wyndham Championship last week, where he carded a third-round 77 to miss the 54-hole cut. Indeed, the three-time major winner ranks 10th and 2nd respectively for first and second-round scoring on the PGA Tour in 2019; when it comes to Saturdays and Sundays, however, he ranks 149th and 195th respectively. The third-round will reveal much regarding the seriousness of Spieth’s title ambitions. 2.Tiger withdraws It was difficult not to experience a sense of concern upon hearing confirmation that Tiger Woods had withdrawnform the Northern Trust Open just two-hours before teeing-off for the second-round. “Due to a mild oblique strain that led to pain and stiffness, I have to withdraw from the Northern Trust,” Woods said in a statement. “I went for treatment early Friday morning, but unfortunately I’m still unable to compete.” The 42-year-old was in obvious physical discomfort as he laboured to a 4-over opening-round of 75on Thursday and, in many respects, yesterday’s announcement of his withdrawal came as a relief. Frankly, he should never really have started this tournament. It cannot be overlooked, however, that Tiger has never recovered to full fitness since winning the Masters in April. This latest setback will only fuel anxieties regarding the long-term viability of his PGA Tour career. 3.Reed channels Captain America Patrick Reed has not enjoyed a profitable 2019 campaign. In 21 starts since the beginning of the year, the six-time PGA Tour winner has managed just two top-10 finishes and remains winless since claiming his maiden major championship title 18-months ago. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the truculent Texan has slipped outside of the world’s top-20and languishes far outside the automatic President’s Cup qualification spots. With a host of quality players vying for one of captain, Tiger Woods’ wild-card picks, he is by no means assured of selection. It has been heartening, therefore, to witness the 29-year-old experience something of a return to form at Liberty National this week, stitching together back-to-back 69sto draw to within two-shots of the halfway lead. Captain America may well still earn himself a place in Woods’ team. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Northern Trust Open: Round One Takeaways
Aug 9, 2019 2:03 AM
 
Dustin Johnson poised for strong finish to season It is one of the great peculiarities of the contemporary PGA Tour that Dustin Johnson has won four career post-season playoff events without ever claiming the FedEx Cup. Indeed, such anomalies informed the Tour’s decision to reduce the playoff series down from four events to three, thereby ensuring players who win in the final month of the season have a better chance of claiming the overall title. Johnson could well be set to reap the rewards of this reform at East Lake, having signed for a bogey-free 8-under opening-round of 63to draw to within a shot of Troy Merritt’s surprise, 9-under overnight lead. That said, seventeen members of the elite, 125-man field shot 66 or betteron Thursday and players of the calibre of Jon Rahm and Kevin Kisner are tied for third at 7-under. Simply put, DJ still has a lot of work to do to claim a fifth career playoff title on Sunday. Rory and Brooks are fed up with slow play on Tour. https://t.co/3wGZnW8JLd— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) August 8, 2019 Rory produces, despite his struggles Remarkably, given the slap-dash nature of his opening-round performance at Liberty National, Rory McIlroy is one of those 17 golfers lingering dangerously behind Merritt and Johnson after signing for an opening-round 66. The Northern Irishman arrived in New York eager to atone to for a difficult Julycomprising an infamous capitulation in front of his home support at The Open and a glib final-round defeat at the hands of world No.1, Brooks Koepka at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis. He started poorly, bogeying his first-hole (the par-4 10th) and struggled badly with his normally immaculate approach play (ranking 74th for strokes-gained on approach). Indeed, the four-time major winner hit only 11 greens in regulation despite landing 11 of 14 fairways. Nevertheless, an eagle on the par-5 13th-hole, allied to five further birdies, ensured he signed for a 6-under 65 and will tee-off on Friday within three-strokes of the lead. If McIlroy can bring his tee-to-green game up to its regular level over the weekend, he could be set to finish an exceptional season on a high. Can Spieth sustain his momentum? Whisper it, but Jordan Spieth, precariously positioned at No.70 in the FedEx Cup standings, could be set to make a surge this week after signing for a 5-under 66 on Thursday. But as anyone who watched the Texan sign for third-rounds of 77 in Portrush and Memphis last month knows, it is at the weekends he tends to struggle most. Damningly, the three-time major winner ranks 10th and 2nd respectively for first and second-round scoring on the PGA Tour in 2019; when it comes to Saturdays and Sundays, however, he ranks 149th and 195th respectively. The weekend will provide a real test of the Texan’s mentality. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 Northern Trust Open betting tips - back Webb Simpson for the title at 25/1
Aug 8, 2019 1:54 AM
 
The FedEx Cup playoff series gets underway with the Northern Trust Open at Liberty National Golf Club in New York this week with only the top-70 competitors progressing into the next phase at the BMW Championship. Here follows our top three bets for the tournament. Winner: Webb Simpson (25/1) It may be the playoff event with the largest field, and it may vary location; however, even a cursory glance at the past winners’ list confirms that the cream tends to rise to the top at the Northern Trust Open. Bryson DeChambeau, for instance, was in the midst of his banner season upon claiming his maiden playoff title at the Northern Trustlast year and had already won at Memorial a couple of months earlier. Dustin Johnson was winning for the fourth time in 2017 when he lifted the trophy two years ago; Patrick Reed was on a run of five top 13s in his previous six events before taking the title in 2016, while Jason Day had won in two of his previous three starts, including the USPGA, when he won the Northern Trust in 2015. Striking, too, is the fact that all five of these winnersranked inside the tournament’s top-5 for strokes-gained tee-to-green upon winning the Northern Trust, while their strokes-gained putting statistics varied wildly. This statistic indicates that elite ball-striking, far more than precise putting, is what determines success in the playoff opener. Accounting for the salience of form and ball-striking in determining the outcome of this event, Webb Simpson stands out as exceptional value as a 25/1 shot in the outright winner’s market. The 2012 US Open champion arrives in New York off the back of an exceptional run of three runners-up finishes in his previous five starts, including at the WGC-FedEx St Jude and at the Wyndham Championship over the past three weeks, and he has only missed a single cut all season. With respect to form, therefore, Simpson ticks all the relevant boxes and his chances of contending this week are further enhanced when one accounts for the fact that he ranks top-15 on the PGA Tourfor strokes-gained tee-to-green and strokes-gained approaching the green. A rank of 11th for strokes-gained putting isn’t going to hurt his chances either. Due to a heavy rain storm that came through the Jersey City area on Wednesday evening, Liberty National gates will open three hours later than previously scheduled for the first round of The Northern Trust. Round 1 tee times, however, will remain the same. https://t.co/MhLBvYrizC pic.twitter.com/yzrJc2XdBs — Golf Central (@GolfCentral) August 8, 2019 Thus although the 33-year-old is winless since claiming The Players last autumn, he looks an excellent price to claim his first victory of the season on Sunday. Top-10: Tommy Fleetwood (25/1) Again, form and ball-striking are central to this selection. Fleetwood arrives in New York off the back of a 2-T4 runthrough his previous two starts at The Open and the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational and he ranks top-15for strokes-gained off the tee and tee-to-green on the PGA Tour in 2019. Outsider: Danny Willett (100/1) The former Masters champion snapped his mid-career slump in emphatic fashionat the DP World Tour Championship last November, and while he has been unable to add to his impressive collection of silverware in 2019, he has managed to climb back to the fringes of the world’s top-50. Willett has three top-12s to his name in his last five starts, including a T6 finish at The Open, and he ranks inside of the European Tour’s top-30 in all the major ball-striking stats. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
DeChambeau seeking to recapture play-off magic at Liberty National
Aug 7, 2019 2:09 AM
 
Like any major change to a sporting schedule, the PGA Tour’s decision to stage its five biggest events in five consecutive monthsbetween March and July has created division among fans and players. Beginning with The Players Championship in March, the PGA Tour and R&A now stage each of golf’s four majors by the middle of the summer, running from the Masters in April, the US PGA Championship in May, the US Open in June and The Open in July. Some players, such as Brooks Koepka, profess to thrive on the sense of excitement and momentum generated by the experience of contesting five high-profile events in succession; others, such as Justin Rose, feel the new dispensation renders adequate rest and preparation an impossibility. But regardless of one’s perspective on the changes made to the major schedule, almost all the pros have endorsed the PGA Tour’s decision to condense the season-ending FedEx Cup playoff series into three events over three consecutive weeks in August, combining the Dell Technologies Championship and Northern Trust Open into a single event. In addition to bringing the season to an earlier end, enabling fatigued players to jet off on holiday while the sun is still shining, the new structure gives those pros who win playoff events a better chance of claiming the whole, $10m prize-pot. Dialing in. Comment below with playlist recs for this week in NY. @bose #soundsport free pic.twitter.com/e4ZGTbUsJd— Bryson DeChambeau (@b_dechambeau) August 7, 2019 It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that Bryson DeChambeau has been one of the most vocal advocates of the new structure ahead of the Northern Trust Open at Liberty National this week. The 25-year-old won the first two of four FedEx Cup playoff events a year ago, but still didn’t win the $10 million prize at the end of the “postseason.” “It’s a great thing that they have it only being three weeks rather than four,” DeChambeau saidbefore heading out for a nine-hole practice round on Tuesday. “It’s a long stretch. I mean, I did win two of them [last year] and still didn’t win the FedEx Cup playoffs. That still champs me, but it is what it is.” Indeed, DeChambeau is in need of an uptick in formas the season enters its closing stretch. The five-time PGA Tour winner has missed four cuts and registered just two top-10 finishesin nine starts since tying for 29th at The Masters and has yet to be assured of automatic qualification to the US President’s Cup team. The top 8 on the U.S. points list following next week’s BMW Championship automatically qualify for the team, which puts DeChambeau, who is seventh on the list, in a precarious position. “I think that [captain Tiger Woods] knows that I'm a good enough player to be on the team,” said DeChambeau, who was paired with Woods at last year’s Ryder Cup. “You could have one of the best players in the world and have a terrible stretch for a few weeks, and it's like, 'OK, is it really warranted? Should he be going?'" “I also feel like winning [on the European Tour] in Dubai[at the Omega Desert Classic in January], it didn't count at all. That kind of stinks. It counts in the world rankings,” he said. “You've got a guy that goes over and plays once and wins, it's like, that should kind of count, you would think. But as of right now, I have to work a little harder. But it's OK. I'm used to it. I'm used to having to work harder.” DeChambeau tees-off at 12.44pm New York time alongside Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood on Thursday. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Why Cantlay is a player to watch-out for in the FedEx Cup Play-Offs
Aug 6, 2019 2:02 AM
 
It is a testament, ultimately, to the outrageous quality of Patrick Cantlay’s performances through the first eight months of 2019 that few commentators have cited him among the favourites to contend for the FedEx Cup Play-Off title. The 27-year-old travels to New York’s Liberty National Golf Club for the Northern Trust Open this week positioned 20th in the overall play-off standings; with the top-70 progressing into the BMW Championship in a fortnight’s time, he is strongly positioned to make it all the way to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in September. Furthermore, on current form, Cantlay would seem to be in with a strong chance of contending for the lucrative, $15m Play-Off prize pot. In 14 starts this season, the former amateur No.1 has recorded six top-10 finishes and claimed his second PGA Tour victoryby two-strokes away from the former Masters champion, Adam Scott at The Memorial Tournament in June. He led the Masters with two-holes to play in April (after signing for a third-round 62), before capitulating under pressure, and went on to finish third at the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black the following month, before tying for 21st at the US Open at Pebble Beach. Dialed in.Patrick Cantlay is 2-under through three holes.#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/srLzaefsDA— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 28, 2019 Indeed, in statistical terms, Cantlay is having one of the greatest PGA Tour seasons since performances were systematically tracked and measured. He is one of only nine playersever to average 2.18 strokes gained per round (or better) since the statistic was invented in 2004. For the record, seven of the other nine are major champions, and it is only a matter of time until he claims a long-overdue maiden major title. He sits 11th on the PGA Tour for strokes-gained off the tee, 3rd for strokes-gained tee-to-green, 11th for strokes-gained approaching the green, and 27th for strokes-gained putting. Only Rory McIlroy betters him in the overall strokes-gained statistic, another player enjoying an all-time great statistical season who has failed to convert such consistency into a major title. Ever since claiming the Haskins Award as the most outstanding college golfer in his freshman term at UCLA in 2011, Cantlay has been tipped for great things; indeed, his form over the previous two seasons suggests that, were it not fora combination of injury and personal tragedy, he would have a similar profile to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Cantlay is a major champion in waiting and a win at a Play Off event is a natural next step for him; don’t back against the world No.10 replicating last year’s Northern Trust winner, Bryson DeChambeau by completing the Memorial/Northern Trust double. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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