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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Woods keeps Tour Championship hopes alive in Medinah
Aug 18, 2019 10:11 AM
 
Tiger Woods has built his career upon confounding doubters. From becoming the youngest golfer ever to win a major championship title at The Masters at Augusta in 1997 to ending an 11-year major championship trophy droughtat the same venue this past spring, the 43-year-old has throughout his professional career, demonstrated a consistent ability to defy popular expectations. This defiant mentality is ultimately what underpinned Woods’ greatest achievement: that of taking-over a sport marked by a dark history of class, race and gender-based oppression. The 15-time major winner is once again out to upset the odds at the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country club this week. Woods arrived in Illinois off the back of a deeply indifferent run of formcomprising just a single top-10 finish and two missed-cuts in an injury-ravaged stretch of five starts since winning the Masters in April. In addition to slipping outside of the top-5 of the Official World Golf Rankings, the veteran has also slumped down as far as No.38 in the FedEx Cup points race, leaving him in real danger of missing out on entry into the 30-man field that will comprise the playoff ending Tour Championship at East Lake next week. Five birdies today.@TigerWoods is trying to book a return trip to the @playofffinale. #QuickHits pic.twitter.com/e8N913oysN— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 17, 2019 Put simply, he required a big performance at Medinah to have any chance of defending his Tour Championship titlein Atlanta. Fortunately, the Illinois course was the site of two of his major victories: the 1999 and 2006 US PGA Championships. Woods started slowly, signing for back-to-back 1-under rounds of 71to languish 10-shots behind the halfway leader, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. Many fans consequently determined his chances of reaching East Lake to be over. On Saturday, however, he rallied, shooting a bogey-free 5-under 67to reignite his hopes of advancing into the season-ending playoff event. Playing alongside world No.2, Dustin Johnson (72), he tallied just 27 putts, his fewest of the week, and was six-for-six in scrambling. He is 14-strokes shy of Justin Thomas’ emphatic 21-under lead in a tie for 31st; however, he sits within three-shots of a four-man group presently tied for ninth and requires a T11 finish or better to climb back inside of the FedEx Cup’s top-30. A low score on Sunday could well push Woods into the East Lake draw. “I shoot 60, it should be right,” Woods said to laughterwhen asked what would be required of him on Sunday to reach Atlanta. “I figured I'm going to have to do something in mid-60s for two straight days there. Left myself pretty far behind after the first two rounds. What's more amazing is how many guys are under par on this golf course. There isn't one person over-par. “Who would have guessed that going into this week?” he continued. “We all thought this was one of the more tough and bigger ballparks and the whole field is playing well. There's normally a few guys that are struggling. The entire field playing well is something that we're all pretty surprised at.” Here’s hoping Woods can surprise us once more on Sunday. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas sets new course record to seize 6-stroke lead at Medinah
Aug 18, 2019 6:12 AM
 
Justin Thomas endured a frustrating second-round at the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country Club in Illinois yesterday afternoon. The 28-year-old captured the attention of the world’s golfing media upon signing for a course-record equalling 7-under opening-round 65. On Friday, however, he proved incapable of consolidating his advantageatop the leaderboard, combining six birdies with three-bogeys en routeto a 3-under 69 that left him two-strokes shy of Hideki Matsuyama’s 12-under halfway advantage. Once more, the flakiness under pressure that has kept Thomas winless in over a year since capturing his ninth PGA Tour title at Firestone last summer appeared set to stymie his push for a title. Indeed, it is striking that where the former world No.1 ranks third on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approaching-the-Green and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, he sits at No. 170out of 200 measured professionals with respect to Strokes Gained: Putting. On Saturday, however, Thomas rallied in emphatic fashion. Opening with a sensational run of five consecutive birdies, the 2017 FedEx Cup winner added a pair of eagles on the back-nine and shattered the course record at soft, vulnerable Medinah with an 11-under 61to take a six-shot lead at 21-under into the final round of the BMW Championship. Justin Thomas is unstoppable today.He holed this one for EAGLE and a five-shot lead. pic.twitter.com/EFNilMuhiD— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 17, 2019 Thomas hit 5-wood to 2 feet for an eagle on No. 10, holed out from 180 yards with an 8-iron on No. 16 and made eight birdies to turn a tight race into a one-man show. All of a sudden, the Kentucky native appeared to have rediscovered the technical élan that propelled him to the summit of the Official World Golf Rankingsas little as 18-months ago. "I felt good about my game for a while, and you don't know when something like this going to happen," Thomas said. "We've all been talking the last couple of weeks that I'm due to have one, and it's nice when it happens." "It's weird,'' he added. "It's been an odd season just because I've missed three tournaments (due to injury). But the difference with this season and any other season is I'd won. I'm playing just as good as any other year, for sure. "Everything is pretty similar, but just putting it better. The frustration was more so then. Now it's just understanding that it's golf and it's going to happen. Might be tomorrow, might be in Asia (later this fall), might be in 2021. I don't know when it's going to happen. But I know I've put in -- me and my team have put in-- the proper work that we're prepared when we are put in that situation, and that situation is [Sunday].'' Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay sit in a tie for second-place at 15-underthrough 54-holes with Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini a stroke further back in third. Jon Rahm also remains in contention at 13-under, while Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama has slipped nine-shots behind Thomas after signing for a 1-over 73 on Saturday. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matsuyama sets course record, takes lead at BMW Championship
Aug 17, 2019 7:46 AM
 
Hideki Matsuyama was not much talked about in the lead-up to the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country Club in Illinois this week. After all, the 27-year-old is winless on the PGA Tour since claiming his fifth such title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two-years ago and has not recorded a top-5 finish since tying for third at the Farmers Insurance Openat the end of January. Indeed, Matsuyama has managed only five top-10s in 20 starts worldwide since the beginning of the calendar year and has consequently slumped from a career-high rankingof No.2 in the world down as far as No.32. Furthermore, at No.33 in the FedEx Cup points-racehe was in serious danger of missing out on a spot in next week’s season-ending playoff event at East Lake: The Tour Championship. Put simply, Matsuyama arrived in Illinois on Monday in dire need of a strong performance to reignite a stagnant campaign. The Ehime-native started solidly, carding three birdies en routeto an opening-round of 69, a score that left him four strokes shy of the overnight lead shared by Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak. On Friday, however, his game clicked into top-gear. New course record. Hideki Matsuyama takes the lead at the BMW Championship after carding a bogey-free 63. pic.twitter.com/bVN6JUYwiq— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 16, 2019 Beginning with a successful 30-foot birdie-putt on the par-4 opening-hole, Matsuyama added a further four birdies in a remarkable five hole stretch between the fourth and eighth to reach the turn at 5-under. He moved 7-under for the day following back-to-back birdies on the par-4 twelfth and par-3 thirteenth holes and closed with another clutch of birdies on seventeen and eighteen to sign for a 9-under 63. Matsuyama will consequently tee-off for the weekend with a single-stroke advantage at the summit of the leaderboard over Patrick Cantlay (67) and Tony Finau (66). Justin Thomas, meantime, made six birdies to offset three bogeys in his round of 69, leaving him two shots behind. In addition to achieving his lowest score of the season, Matsuyama tied the second-lowest round of his PGA TOUR career. Oh, and his 63 is also the lowest score ever shot in competition at Medinah No. 3, a course that’s been around since 1923. The previous course record was 65, set by Tiger Woods and Mike Weir at the 2006 PGA Championship and tied Thursday by first-round co-leaders Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak. Cantlay, Finau and Thomas are all assured of being among the top 30 who advance to the Tour Championship next week, where everyone in the field will have a shot at winning the FedEx Cup and the $15 million prize. Matsuyama, too, is now strongly poised to feature at East Lake. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas ignites to seize early lead at BMW Championship
Aug 16, 2019 4:45 AM
 
Prediction is a mug’s game. This blog dedicated its Thursday morning postto previewing Justin Thomas’ hopes of ending a year-long PGA Tour trophy drought at the BMW Championship at Medinah Golf and Country Club in Illinois. The 28-year-old arrived into the second event of the playoff series with just a single top-10 finish to his name in 10 starts since the end of March, and while he is the second best performing player yet to win in 2019 (he ranks No.15 in the FedEx Cup standings, just two spots behind the also winless Tony Finau), he has slumped to the fringes of the world’s top-10and was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors during the early summer. Put simply, Thomas was in serious need of a big performance in Illinois to have any chance of salvaging a victory from what has been a deeply frustrating campaign, one hampered by a wrist injury that side-lined him for part of April and all of May. Well, cometh the hour, cometh the man; Thomas avoided registering a single bogey en routeto a 7-under opening-round of 65 at Medinah on Thursday, a score matched only by the in-form Jason Kokrak. He will consequently tee-off for the second-round with a single-stroke leadaway from Americans Patrick Cantlay, Jim Furyk, Joel Dahmen, Lucas Glover and Brandt Snedeker are tied for third after signing for 66 on Thursday. Despite having the "worst warmup" of his life, Justin Thomas tied the course record at Medinah on Thursday. He's tied for the lead at the BMW Championship: https://t.co/1Ou7g3WE48 pic.twitter.com/1V27JfXRd1 — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 15, 2019 Defending FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose bogeyed the last to finish on a four-under 68, level with world number one Brooks Koepka, who started the tournament in first place, and Patrick Reed, who won The Northern Trust last week.Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, who started the week third in the FedEx Cup standings, is a shot further back on three under alongside compatriot Graeme McDowell. Thomas hit nine of 14 fairways and 12 greens in regulation on Thursday, but was a perfect six-for-six in scrambling. His last hole was emblematic of his day, as his third shot from the greenside bunker clanked off the flagstick and left him a par putt of just over four feet, which he made. Perhaps most significantly, the 2017 FedEx Cup winner gained 1.816 strokes to the average of the field when putting to rank 11th in Strokes Gained: Puttingout of a 70-man field. The stat is particularly striking when one accounts for the fact that putting has consistently undermined Thomas’ exceptional tee-to-green play in 2019. Indeed, he arrived in Illinois ranked third on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approaching-the-Green and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. When it came to Strokes Gained: Putting, however,he ranked No. 170out of 200 measured professionals. If the former world No.1 can maintain his current level of scoring with the flat-stick across the weekend, a second career FedEx Cup triumph may well be in the offing. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas seeking to salvage winless season at BMW Championship
Aug 15, 2019 4:14 AM
 
Justin Thomas struck an upbeat, confident tone when addressing the assembled press on the occasion of his last big media set-piece in the lead-up the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis at the end of July. The 28-year-old arrived into the final WGC event of the year in the midst of a deeply indifferent run of formcomprising just one top-10 finish (a T9 at the Scottish Open) in 10 starts since the end of February, and he was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors during the early summer. The WGC-Memphis and FedEx Cup playoff events, he avowed, provided an ideal opportunity to end a difficult season on a high. “Every event's very important over the course of the entire year, but it definitely is now because you're running out (of time) … I really feel like I'm trending in the right direction,” Thomas said from TPC Southwind. Justin Thomas' extended Round 1 highlights.#ASIScottishOpen #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/gltLxWtNxH— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 11, 2019 “I don't play golf for money, I don't play golf for anything other than trying to win, and that's all I'm trying to do. But I’m 17th (in the FedExCup) while missing a major and two events that I feel like I had a really, really good chance to win. So no, it's been very far from a failure of a season or a bad season. “I still have a lot of positives to show from this year and we have four or five really big events left in the season on golf courses that I feel like can suit my game if I'm playing well. We could have another great end of the season.” One cannot fault the world No. 10’s attitude; however, the early phases of his optimistic end of season vision have not worked out to plan. He shot a level-par final-round 71 en route to an indifferent T12 finish in Memphisand replicated the same result at the opening playoff event in New York last week, again failing to break par in one of his two weekend rounds. Putting has been the root-cause of Thomas’ struggles in 2019; the nine-time PGA Tour winner ranks third on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approaching-the-Green and second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. When it comes to Strokes Gained: Putting, however, he ranks No. 170out of 200 measured professionals. Thomas consequently arrives in Illinois for the BMW Championship at Medinah this week under real pressure to contend seriously for a title. For although he ranks comfortably inside the top-30who will comprise the field at the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake, it is striking that he has not managed a top-three finish since tying for second at the Genesis Open in February. He is consequently on the cusp of dropping outside of the world’s top-10. Here’s hoping the Kentucky native can rediscover his best level when it matters most over the weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 BMW Championship betting tips - back Rahm at 16/1
Aug 14, 2019 4:40 AM
 
The build-up to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake intensifies this week as the top-30 in the 2018/19 FedEx Cup points race travel to Medinah Country Club in Illinois to contest the BMW Championship. Here follows our top-three tips for the tournament. Outright winner: Jon Rahm (16/1) The market can’t separate world Nos. 1 and 3, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy at 10/1 going into this one; however, I am happy to swerve them both. Koepka was at his domineering bestin coming from a stroke behind McIlroy to win the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational by three-shots at the end of July; however, he looked back to his usual, non-major self in tying for 30th at Liberty National last week and, as the player himself has indicated previously, he struggles to motivate himself properly to win regular Tour events. Koepka possess all of the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive on a bomber’s course such as Medinah, but given he is already assured of a starting spot at next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake (when the $15m prize-pot is really on the line), I am unconvinced the FedEx Cup points leaderwill be adequately motivated to produce his best golf in Illinois. Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy tee off at 11:48 a.m. ET on Thursday at Medinah Country Club.All of the tee times for the BMW Championship: https://t.co/iijmo9OcpD pic.twitter.com/SBjcqDjtr3— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 13, 2019 My reservations regarding Rory McIlroy are similarly psychological. Like Koepka, the Northern Irishman has enjoyed an outstanding seasoncomprising victories at The Players Championship and the Canadian Open in addition to 11 further top-10 finishes, including a T6 in New York last week. Indeed, the 30-year-old 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 and is close to equalling Tiger Woods’ record of 3 strokes-gained from 2007. It is noteworthy, however, that seven of the other nine players to match Rory’s performance level in 2019 won a major, and given the psychological brittleness he demonstratedin the opening-round of the Open Championship at Portrush and in the final-round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational last month, it is difficult to trust his ability to perform under pressure. In this context, Jon Rahm looks an extremely attractive investment as a 16/1 shot. The Spaniard ended a 14-month trophy drought by winning the Irish Openat the beginning of July and arrives at Medinah in the midst of an exceptional run of form reading T3-T2-W-T11-7-T3through his last six starts. He has the form, distance off the tee and deftness around the greens required to excel at Medinah and is overdue a fourth PGA Tour title. Top-10 Marc Leishman (70/1) Marc Leishman is a four-time PGA Tour winner; he claimed his maiden playoff titleat the BMW Championship at Conway Farms two-seasons ago (by five strokes away from Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose) and has recorded four career top-six finishes at major championship level. Put simply, the world No.24 is an elite level talent; so why, then, is he trading as long as 70/1 to triumph as part of a 70-man field? The answer is some very mixed form. The dim view is that he's missed two of his last three cuts and was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors. And yet, the positive spin is that, in his last six starts, Leishman has a top five at Memorial and a top three at St. Jude - again, both on highly-respected courses. Leishman tends to thrive against elite opposition on tough courses – he is worth an each-way bet this week. Outsider: Ian Poulter (80/1) Poulter took four points from five starts in propelling Team Europe to a seminal, come-from-behind Ryder Cup victory at Medinah back in 2012 and arrives into Illinois in strong form with two top-10s in his previous two starts.He is good value to contend this week. [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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