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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Willett targeting redemption at DP World Tour Championship
Nov 17, 2018 12:43 PM
 
If ever the term ‘false dawn’ could be applied accurately to a professional golfer’s season, Danny Willett’s 2018 campaign is surely the most appropriate example. Ever since a combination of injuries and loss-of-form conspired to knock the 2016 Masters champion off the golfing map, the British sports media have been eager to pen the ‘Willett is back’ or ‘Willett redemption’ headline. The Sheffield-native has certainly tantalised his home press in recent weeks; indeed, on six separate occasions over the past five months, Willett has strung together a handful of good rounds at events outside of America, triggering a hyperbolic response in his home media regarding an ‘overdue return to the top-table’ of world golf. The first such incident was at the Italian Open in early June. The Englishman surged to the top of the overnight leaderboard courtesy of a 5-under opening-round 65; however, three subsequent sub-70 scorecards were ultimately only good enough for a tie for eighth. Further optimism was generated courtesy of a T6 finish at the Irish Open later in the month before a T19-T24 run through the Scottish Open and The Open Championship in July prompted the Independent of London to declare that Willett had emerged from ‘pitch black’ into the light. This narrative was strengthened following a T23-T7 run through the CJ Cup in Korea and the Turkish Airlines Open in October. In the mix...Final group with @PReedGolf tomorrow @DPWTC #DPWTC pic.twitter.com/vR1QX8LT54 — Danny Willett (@Danny_Willett) November 17, 2018 There can be no debating the fact that the last few months have witnessed a serious uptick in form for Willett who began 2018 with a calamitous run of nine missed-cuts through his opening 12 starts of the season. Such undoubtedly provides a bona-fide source of hope for future success. Nevertheless, the five-time European Tour winner arrived in Dubai for the season-ending Tour Championship this week ranked comfortably outside of the world’s top-250 and had not strung together 72 top-level holes in well over a year. The international jury consequently remained sceptical regarding the extent of his much-mooted return to form. 54-holes into the Dubai event it seems clear that even the most doubtful commentators may be obliged to reappraise their attitude to Willett’s long-term competitive prospects. The former world No.9 reached the half-way stage within two strokes of Matt Wallace’s 11-under lead; on Saturday, however, his game went up another gear as he produced five birdies en route to a 4-under 68. Willett will consequently tee-off for the final round level with reigning Masters champion, Patrick Reed on 14-under. “I don’t think tomorrow could be a bad day regardless or it could compare to some of the bad days I’ve had,” Willett reflected. “There’s not many negatives. You pitch up tomorrow, if you don’t play well, you don’t play well. You go back out, see the kids, you come back out in January and see what happens. Yeah, I’m in a nice place. Whatever happens on Sunday, it seems clear Willett will remain a force on the European Tour in 2019. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Fleetwood keeps Order of Merit hopes alive in Dubai
Nov 16, 2018 12:52 PM
 
When Francesco Molinari signed for a 4-under opening-round 68 at the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeriah Golf Estates in Dubai on Thursday, the stage seemed set for the Italian to round-out a banner year by claiming both a seventh European Tour accolade and the 2018 Race to Dubai title. After all, the Italian arrived at the Earth Course more than 1 million points clear of second-place, Tommy Fleetwood in the Race to Dubai standings, confident in the knowledge that he will claim his maiden European Tour Order of Merit title with a fifth-place finish or better. Fleetwood, meantime, needs to win in order to have a chance of catching the 36-year-old in the overall points standings. The assured nature of The Open champion’s opening-round suggested he had every intention of rounding out a spectacular 2018 campaign by claiming his fourth title of the year. But golf, as practitioners of all levels will be only too painfully aware is a most capricious sport: where one day every shot a player hits turns to gold, the next he cannot hole a putt for love nor money. Molinari experienced a transformation in form along these lines in Dubai this afternoon. Tommy Fleetwood has moved into contention to retain his Race to Dubai title. Read https://t.co/rIEzsHJGod pic.twitter.com/Ya9teAuYP0 — BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 16, 2018 The Italian started brightly, adding to his overnight lead from Fleetwood with a birdie at the second, but lost his way after the turn with bogeys at the 13th, 15th and 16th and ultimately signed for a 1-over 73, slipping down as low as 22nd on the leaderboard. Molinari’s anguish was undoubtedly heightened by the ruthlessness with which Fleetwood capitalised on his misfortune to force himself back into contention for the Race to Dubai title. The world No.10 holed from 30 feet on the first and added another long putt on the eighth for birdie to reach the turn at 2-under. He briefly took a share of the lead with good approaches at the 10th and 11th, before another birdie at the 15th capped a good day for the Englishman, who signed for a 5-under 67 to draw to within three shots of the outright 36-hole leader, Matt Wallace who carded a 65. Rory McIlroy, who has won this event twice in the last 10-years, sits level with Fleetwood at 8-under at the half-way stage. "It's still a very difficult task to win the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. "I've had chances and missed them so am still trying to knock on that door and win a tournament, the same as everybody is. "There's so many different things going on, but the situation is pretty black and white. Just keep going and put everything into it for another two days." We are certainly set for a thrilling finale to a compelling season. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
DP World Tour Championship: Francesco Molinari leads Tommy Fleetwood at Dubai season-ender
Nov 15, 2018 1:26 PM
 
It is a testament to the enduring grip Rory McIlroy continues to exert over the European golfing consciousness that despite trailing Race to Dubai leader, Francesco Molinari by almost 2 million points heading into the season-ending DP World Tour Championship this week, news of his impending switch to the PGA Tour dominated the build-up to the event. One of the great virtues of top-level sport, however, is that once the action does get going, media attention very quickly shifts back to those who warrant it; fittingly, the best two performers of the European Tour campaign sit close to the top of the overnight leaderboard – Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. Molinari and Fleetwood, of course, stole the hearts of the world’s golfing public under the moniker ‘Moliwood’ at the Ryder Cup in Paris last month, taking four points from four in team-play across Friday and Saturday to propel Thomas Bjorn’s European squad to an historic triumph. Molinari, who claimed his maiden major championship title at The Open at Carnoustie in July, then went on to defeat Phil Mickelson 4&2 in the Sunday singles session to complete a clean-sweep of five wins from five appearances, and he teed off at The Earth Course at Jumeriah Golf Estates this afternoon confident in the knowledge that he will win the European Tour's Race to Dubai if he secures a finish of fifth or better. Francesco Molinari's opening round at the DP World Tour Championship: Six birdies Ten pars Two off the lead.#RaceToDubai pic.twitter.com/hjFWUXFAB8 — bet365 (@bet365) November 15, 2018 Fleetwood, meantime, needs to win the title to have a chance of catching the Italian in the overall points standings. The course of the opening-round’s play has certainly shifted competitive momentum in Molinari’s favour, albeit marginally. Despite bogeying two of his final four holes going back into the clubhouse at Jumeirah Golf Estates, the world No.6 signed for a 4-under 68; in addition to drawing to within two-strokes of the surprise overnight leaders, Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui, that score keeps him a shot ahead of Fleetwood, who joined pre-tournament favourite, McIlroy in signing for a 3-under 69. Defending champion, Jon Rahm and former Masters champion, Danny Willett are all that separate Molinari from the summit of the leaderboard at 5-under. "It's only Thursday so there are so many things that can happen. Both of us did not hit the ball our best but we managed to scramble well and close out two decent rounds”, Molinari reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. "I did a good job of thinking shot by shot and that's what I need to do. I don't think there is any benefit to thinking about what-ifs. It's too early." Play resumes at 03.45 GMT and it is difficult not to view Molinari as dangerously poised to close out his banner season with a victory. It would be a fitting way for the European No.1 to round-out a spectacular year. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rory McIlroy seeking to recover Midas touch in the desert
Nov 14, 2018 1:35 PM
 
Rory McIlroy’s preparation for the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai this week has been less than ideal. His confirmation at a press conference on Tuesday that he will focus his playing schedule on the U.S. PGA Tour next season and remains undecided whether he will contest the minimum four events required to retain European Tour membership has sparked myriad accusations in the European press, ranging from avarice to treachery. McIlroy’s hopes of ending the season with a victory would seem to be further undermined when accounts for the more straightforward, material fact that he is struggling for form. Winless in over six-months since claiming his only title of 2018 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March, he has not cracked a top-5 since finishing as a runner-up to Francesco Molinari at The Open in July and finished T54-T21 in two starts at the HSBC Championship and Nedbank Challenge since underperforming at the Ryder Cup. Indeed, McIlroy is winless on the European Tour since claiming the Irish Open in dramatic circumstances in May 2016, and while he has come close with runners-up finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic, the BMW PGA and the British Open this term, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he has lost the clinical edge he possessed as world No.1. Why Rory McIlroy switched drivers after three rounds last week. https://t.co/r5n9etBOLU pic.twitter.com/rTZWFYBFii— Jonathan Wall (@jonathanrwall) November 14, 2018 The European Tour Order of Merit standings set this circumstance in stark relief: McIlroy, who has won the Race to Dubai title three times in the last six seasons, trails Molinari by almost 2 million points going into the final event of the campaign. But even allowing for the adverse conditions informing McIlroy’s preparations, there is reason to suspect that he might confound expectations and contend at Emirates Golf Club come Sunday. After all, the 29-year-old has played the Earth Course on eight previous occasions, and in addition to winning by two strokes from Justin Rose in 2012 and by a stroke away from Andy Sullivan in 2015, he's never been worse than 11th. His last visit, in 2017, saw him card his first and only over-par round, from which he responded by climbing from 55th of 60 players after day one to ninth at the conclusion, out-scoring the winner but for Thursday. In total he's registered 31 rounds of par or better in 32 on the Earth Course and his scoring average is a superb 68.2. It is also notable that McIlroy has won the Dubai Desert Classic twice in the past 10 seasons (2009 and 2015) to post a cumulative record of four wins in 16 career starts in the City of Gold. “It’s a golf course I have had so much success on,” admitted McIlroy of the Greg Norman-designed track. “I’m very familiar with the place and looking forward to it. If there’s any course or any place in the world where I can get a bit of confidence from, it’s Dubai.” McIlroy’s 2018 has been characterised by a bewildering and often-times infuriating inconsistency; it is notable, for instance, that he finished second at Wentworth after missing the cut at Sawgrass and tied-second at The Open after a missed cut at the US Open. He may well snap back into top-gear on a course he loves this weekend to round out a trying campaign on a high. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Rory McIlroy to step back from European Tour next season
Nov 13, 2018 12:41 PM
 
After months of speculation, Rory McIlroy confirmed this afternoon that his playing schedule will focus on the U.S. PGA Tour next season and he remains undecided whether he will contest the minimum four events required to retain European Tour membership for 2019. Speaking at a press-conference ahead of the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai this afternoon, the 29-year-old explained that he had reassessed his 2019 calendar as a result of a radical shake-up in the global schedule that sees the U.S. PGA Championship switch from its traditional slot in August to May. In contrast to the European Tour which has shifted a majority of the Rolex series events to the back-end of the year (the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, for instance, has moved to September), the PGA Tour has frontloaded its 2019 schedule (the FedEx Cup playoffs will conclude in August, just five weeks after The Open) and McIlroy is firmly of the opinion that by focusing his game on America he can enhance his hopes of ending a four-year major championship drought. “I am starting my year off in the States and that will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there”, the world No.7 said. “I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week-in and week-out and for the most part of the season that is in America. Thoughts on Rory potentially missing the Irish Open and playing only twice on European Tour in 2019? https://t.co/nBmUTMlHyS — Golf Weekly (@GolfWeeklyOTB) November 13, 2018 “If I want to continue to contend in the majors and to continue my journey back towards the top of the game, then that’s what I want to do. Right now that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don’t fulfil my membership next year, it’s not a Ryder Cup year so it’s not the end of the world. “I am always going to want to play the Ryder Cup, so if that does happen so be it and I will try and make the Ryder Cup team the year after.” There can be little arguing with the logic underpinning McIlroy’s decision. For the first eight months of 2019 all the best fields and all the most lucrative events will be centred on America; it consequently behoves any golfer aspiring to major championship success to focus his attentions on the PGA Tour. The Northern Irishman’s decision will, however, have profoundly adverse consequences for the European Tour which has long struggled to keep its best talent from defecting to the PGA Tour on a full-time basis. McIlroy’s announcement on Tuesday may ultimately accelerate the momentum that appears to be gathering behind a long-mooted PGA-European Tour merger. In golf, as in all walks of life, economic forces tend ultimately to prove decisive. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matt Kuchar earns first PGA Tour win in over four years in Mexico
Nov 12, 2018 12:41 PM
 
Matt Kuchar was not much talked about in the lead-up to the Mayakoba Golf Classic at El Camaleón Golf Club in Playa del Carmen last week. After all, the 40-year-old was winless in over four seasons on the PGA Tour and travelled to Mexico off the back of a deeply indifferent MC-T60-T43-T28-T57 run through his previous five starts. Indeed, Kuchar had missed more cuts (5) than he had made top-10 finishes (4) through the course of 25 starts across all Tours in 2018, and while he impressed, for instance, with a T5 finish at the Phoenix Open and a T9 finish at the Open Championship, it is striking that he had not managed a single top-three finish in over a year. Put simply, the US Ryder Cup veteran had ceased to contend meaningfully for top-level PGA Tour accolades and had consequently tumbled from world No.15 as of 1 January 2018 to No.40 as of the beginning of last week. Early this week Matt Kuchar hired a local caddie. His nickname is "El Tucan."Today they won @MayakobaGolf.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/xavAnqM5qw— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) November 11, 2018 But golf, as practitioners of all levels will be only too painfully aware is a most capricious sport: where one week a player cannot hole a putt for love nor money, the next every shot he hits turns to gold. Kuchar experienced a transformation in form along these lines in Mexico last week. The Florida native got off to an exceptional start in Mexico, signing for consecutive 7-under rounds of 64 to seize a 2-shot 36-hole lead. He expanded that advantage to four going into the final day following a 6-under third-round 65 and closed out a single-shot victory away from Danny Lee courtesy of a closing-round 69. Of course, the practical nature of his victory was far less assured than the above narrative suggests; indeed, Kuchar bogeyed holes 14 and 15 consecutively on the way back to the clubhouse on Sunday, and when Lee converted a 20-foot birdie-putt on the 16th to draw within a shot of the lead, the tournament seemed destined to enter into a play-off. Lee, however, was unable to break par on either of his final two holes, paving the way for Kuchar to end a deeply frustrating trophy drought in impressive style. "I didn't want a 3-footer on the last hole," Kuchar said. "I was hoping to have a three- or four-shot lead for some wiggle room. But man, that felt awfully good. "My 2018 wasn't what I wanted. This is a high note. It's an amazing thing to get a win. I go from 'hola' to 'aloha.' I'm pretty excited about that." Kuchar qualifies for the Sentry Tournament of Champions to start 2019 at Kapalua – the veteran is a welcome addition to the field. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Westwood rolls back the years to claim Nedbank title
Nov 11, 2018 11:54 AM
 
Based on the general tenor of his press coverage since tanking at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, the inattentive golf fan could have been forgiven for thinking that Lee Westwood had long since retired. After all, on the rare recent occasions when his name has popped-up in contemporary news media, it has generally been in the context of articles speculating on who the next Ryder Cup captain might be, or listicles ranking the five best golfers never to have won a major. Over the past two seasons Westwood had, to all intents and purposes, ceased to be a going concern at the highest level of the professional sport and looked to be inching towards a potentially lucrative career on the Seniors Tour. It came as no little surprise, therefore, when on Sunday afternoon, the 45-year-old mounted a spectacular back-nine renaissance to end a four-year trophy drought at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in South Africa. Westwood arrived in Sun City ranked No.119 in the Official Wold Golf Rankings, having missed as many cuts through 18 starts since the beginning of the year as he had registered top-10 finishes (3). Nevertheless, a runners-up finish at the Made in Denmark Open in September and a T5 at the Andalucía Masters three weeks ago suggested he was beginning to rediscover something akin to his best form. After four years, six months and 22 days, Lee Westwood is back in the winner's circle on the European Tour. pic.twitter.com/r6B0ZcsdqQ— bet365 (@bet365) November 11, 2018 The Englishman started solidly with a 1-under opening-round 71 in South Africa; however, back-to-back 69s across Friday and Saturday ensured he began the final-round within three strokes of the overnight lead held by the in-form Sergio Garcia; home favourite, Louis Oosthuizen was just a single stroke further back. Westwood got off to a spectacular start on Sunday, eagling the par-5 second-hole to draw level with Garcia at the summit of the leaderboard after the Spaniard bogeyed his first, and it was ultimately Oosthuizen who would emerge as the Englishman’s principal rival for the title, until three dropped shots over the last four holes saw him fade from contention. Indeed, it was on the back-nine that Westwood really pulled away from the chasing pack, posting five birdies in seven holes between the 11th and 17th to close out a three-shot victory for his 24th European Tour title, the eighth most of all time, and a third at the Nedbank Golf Challenge after previous wins in 2010, when he was ranked the No.1 golfer in the world, and 2011. "I'm a bit emotional," a tearful Westwood told reporters. "You are never sure if you can do it again. And I needed to. "I'm getting old, I did one for the old men today. You reach 45 and don't know what to expect. But I've always felt comfortable playing this golf course. This one is very special." It is perhaps still too soon to rule out the possibility of the veteran making a long overdue major breakthrough in 2019. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Oosthuizen closes in on Garcia for Sun City title
Nov 10, 2018 12:16 PM
 
Louis Oosthuizen was not much talked about in the lead-up to the Nedbank Golf Challenge at The Gary Player Country Club in Sun City this week. After all, the 36-year-old is winless in over two years since claiming his eighth European Tour title at the ISPS Handa Perth International in February 2016; he further arrived in South Africa off the back of a deeply indifferent run of having carded just a single top-10 finish in his previous 10 starts. Indeed, Oosthuizen has missed more cuts over the past 10 months (4) than he has registered top-10 finishes and has not finished higher than fifth in 21 starts across all Tours, going T12-T16-T28 in his three major appearances (he did not feature in the US PGA Championship owing to injury). Inevitably this underwhelming form has exerted a deeply negative impact on the former Open champion’s competitive standing; indeed, he has fallen almost 20 places down the Official World Golf Rankings since the beginning of the year to his present position of No.39, and he has long since ceased to pose a threat to Francesco Molinari at the summit of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings. In this context, it has been heartening to witness something of a late-season renaissance from Oosthuizen during the first 54-holes of the Nedbank Challenge. For 17 holes it was a grind for Louis Oosthuizen. And then he made birdie on 18 as Sergio Garcia bogeyed, and the South African could finally smile after a frustrating day.Learn More https://t.co/fROodZTfrb#NGC2018 #AfricasMajor #StrokeOfGenius pic.twitter.com/bJEdMz7rKP— SunInternationalGolf (@golfatsun) November 10, 2018 The home-favourite began the week in impressive fashion, pairing five birdies with two bogeys en route to a 3-under 69, and while he remained someway back from overnight leader, Sergio Garcia, who shot a 64, he would reduce that deficit considerably over the subsequent two rounds. On Friday, Oosthuizen overcame a double-bogey on the par-4 eighth hole with an eagle on the par-5 10th and carded five additional birdies to sign for a 5-under 67. On Saturday, meantime, he responded to playing-partner, Garcia’s bogey on the par-4 18th with a birdie of his own and will consequently tee-off for the final round within a single shot of the Spaniard’s 54-hole lead. "It was a very big three for me, given the way I was playing. A two-shot swing on the last is great going into the final round," said Oosthuizen. "Mentally it was a very big putt for me after a really lucky break with the ball rolling all the way down to the hole from the fringe. I'm ecstatic that I'm just two behind. "From the get-go today I couldn't do anything really, but I quickly realised that it was a day to not play myself out of contention. "I had to take pars with the wind all over the place and I was very glad to finish level-par. I just wasn't really giving myself good enough birdie opportunities." Oosthuizen could well be set to end his winless run in spectacular fashion on Sunday afternoon. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Grillo poised for impact at Mayakoba Golf Classic
Nov 9, 2018 5:24 AM
 
Emiliano Grillo was not much discussed in the lead-up to the Mayakoba Classic at El Camaleón Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, Mexico this week. The lion’s share of media attention was instead focused on the title aspirations of US Ryder Cup stars and top-15 players such as Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau. In many respects this circumstance was entirely understandable. Grillo, after all, remains winless in over three seasons since claiming his maiden PGA Tour title at the Frys.com Open in the Autumn of 2015, and while he threatened to establish himself at the elite-level of the professional sport off the back of an exceptional 2016 campaign (comprising five top-10s, including two runners-up finishes through 30 starts), he has struggled to maintain such form over the last two years. Indeed, Grillo finished 2016 ranked No.25 in the Official World Golf Rankings; he teed-off in Playa del Carmen on Thursday at No.50. Nevertheless, there was cause for optimism regarding the 26-year-old’s chances of contending at El Camaleón this week. After a bogey-free opening round 64, Matt Kuchar holds a share of the lead at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He's looking for his first worldwide win since 2015: https://t.co/Jb4lNGbka0 pic.twitter.com/CdQZhvGZgz — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) November 9, 2018 While his present world ranking clearly falls far short of the levels he attained in 2016, he is up 23 places since the beginning of the year and has recovered from a slow start to the season to card three top-15s in his last six starts. Significantly, this run encompasses a T7 finish at the Dell Technologies Championship in the FedEx Cup Play-Offs, a T2 finish at the CIMB Classic in Korea and a T14 finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai two weeks ago. The threat posed by the Argentine in Mexico was further enhanced by the fact that he top-10ed at El Camaleón Golf Club in each of the previous two seasons and with President’s Cup qualification on the line, he still has plenty to play for in 2018. Grillo thus arrived into the Mayakoba Classic under the radar; the emphatic nature of his 6-under opening-round 65, however, ensures that he won’t retain such low-pressure, clandestine status for too much longer. The Florida-resident got the ball rolling with consecutive birdies on the par-4 second and third holes, while further dropped shots on the par-5 fifth and par-4 ninth ensured that he was already 4-under upon reaching the turn. Three birdies followed on the opening five holes of his back-nine before he carded his only bogey of the day on the par-4 16th. Grillo ultimately signed for a 6-under 65 and will consequently tee-off for the second-round within a shot of joint-leaders, Matt Kuchar, Dominic Bozzelli and PGA Tour rookie, Kramer Hickok. The weekend will provide the Argentine with an exceptional opportunity to return to winning ways. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy seeking to pile pressure on Molinari in Sun City
Nov 8, 2018 11:53 AM
 
Suffice to say, the 2018 European and PGA Tour season has not played out in the manner that Rory McIlroy would have liked. Coming off the back of a deeply frustrating 2017 campaign marred by a recurring rib injury, 2018 was widely pitched as the year in which a fully fit and psychologically replenished McIlroy would rediscover the form that propelled him to four major titles in three years between 2011 and 2014 and reclaim the world No.1 spot. The campaign started brightly with consecutive top-three finishes in the Middle East in February; in March, meantime, he ended an 18-month PGA Tour trophy drought in spectacular fashion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. But since squandering a promising 54-hole position at The Masters in April (signing for a deeply demoralising final-round 74), the Northern Irishman has struggled to contend consistently at the highest-level of the sport. Indeed, he has not managed a single top-three finish since finishing as runner-up to Francesco Molinari at The Open Championship at Carnoustie in July and travels to The Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa for the Nedbank Golf Challenge this week off the back of a dismal T54 finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Rory McIlroy's 2018 season has been an up and down one, to say the least, but he is hoping to finish strong as the @EuropeanTour makes its way down the home stretch.https://t.co/CiYhBaJNMC pic.twitter.com/wHiU2cPgU5— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) November 7, 2018 Inevitably this indifferent form has had a deeply negative impact on McIlroy’s competitive standing. In addition to slipping outside of the world’s top-5 last week, he trails Race to Dubai leader, Francesco Molinari by almost 2 million points and knows that he must win in South Africa to have any chance of claiming a fourth European Tour Order of Merit title. "I have to play really well this week to give myself a chance, even half a chance going into next week, and that's what I'm going to try and do," said McIlroy, who sits eighth in the Race to Dubai standings. "I'm going to need some great golf over the next two weeks, but we'll see what happens this week." It is a testament to the extent of the 30-year-old’s struggles that even back-to-back victories at the Nedbank and the DP World Tour Championship would leave him short in the points-standings should Molinari finish second on his own or tied with one other at next week's season-ending event in the desert. McIlroy could consequently be forgiven for teeing-off in Sun City with one eye already trailing on 2019. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2018 Mayakoba Golf Classic Betting Tips
Nov 7, 2018 4:52 AM
 
The PGA Tour heads to El Camaleón Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for the Mayakoba Golf Classic this week. Previously contested as an opposite field event to the WGC Match Play in the Spring, the Mayakoba Classic switched to its present wrap-around slot five-years ago. With a rapidly increasing prize-pot up for grabs as well as FedEx Cup points and a spot in the US Masters for the winner, it is no surprise that the event is attracting increasingly formidable fields. Outright winner: Rickie Fowler (8/1) Rickie Fowler leads the betting market this week as an 8/1 shot and there is a lot to recommend investing in the world No.9, even at such short odds. Fowler carded his lowest ever PGA Tour round (a 63 on Sunday) en route to a T4 finish on the occasion of his first start of the 2018/19 campaign at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas last week, a result he prefaced with a 17-12-8-7 run through his last four stroke-play starts of the 17/18 season in the FedEx Cup Play-Offs. Indeed, Fowler registered six top-10s and a runners-up finish at the US Masters through 21 starts last term, and while he remains winless since claiming his fourth PGA Tour title at the Honda Classic in the Spring of 2017, the nature of his debut at Mayakoba 12 months ago suggests he is strongly placed to end his drought this weekend. Fowler opened with a 65 at El Camaleon last year and shot three consecutive 67s across the weekend to finish in outright second, a single stroke behind surprise champion, Patton Kizzire. 5. Si Woo Kim4. @tonyfinaugolf 3. @GaryWoodland 2. @GrilloEmiliano 1. @RickieFowler The full list of Power Rankings for the @MayakobaGolf https://t.co/Ygrdq3FGd2— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) November 6, 2018 With 14/1 shot, Jordan Spieth still wildly out of form (he tied 55th in Las Vegas last week and failed even to qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake) and 12/1 option, Tony Finau winless since claiming the Puerto Rico Open two years ago, it is difficult to look past Fowler. Simply put, the 29-year-old is the only elite player in the field possessed of strong form and a formidable course pedigree; this is an event he should win. But as a record of four home soil wins in a decade suggests, a should win is no guarantee with Fowler and the conscientious punter might be better served by casting his eye down the odds table and investing in the each-way market. Outsider: Abraham Ancer (35/1) The first Mexican golfer to reach the World’s Top 100 following a tied 4th finish at the Shriners Open last week, Abraham Ancer is stripping it at the moment. The 27-year-old has finished 4th at the Quicken Loans National; 5th at the Canadian Open; T7 at the Dell Technologies Championship; T5 at the CIMB Classic; and T4 at the Shriners, all within the course of his last 11 starts, and he tied for 9th at Mayakoba 12 months ago. In form and highly motivated to perform in front of a raucous home crowd, Ancer looks an ideal investment to register what would be his seventh top-10 finish of the calendar year. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Patrick Cantlay has yet to hit top-gear on PGA Tour
Nov 6, 2018 5:14 AM
 
When Patrick Cantlay claimed his maiden PGA Tour title in a play-off against Germany’s Alex ńĆejka and Korea’s Kim Meen-whee at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin 12 months ago, he seemed ideally placed to fulfil long untapped potential and ascend to the elite-level of the professional sport. The Californian had, after all, been tipped for great things since claiming the Haskins Award as the most outstanding college golfer in his freshman term at UCLA in 2011; earlier that year, he qualified for the U.S. Open at Congressional through the regional pools and signed for a second-round 67 en route to a Low-Amateur, T21 finish. Cantlay, in short, seemed destined for great things and he claimed his maiden professional title on the Webb.com Tour within a year of turning pro in 2012. By 2014, he had already earned PGA Tour playing privileges. A sequence of serious lower-back problems, however, stymied this ascent; he made just five starts in 2014 and only regained a level of fitness sufficient to return to the PGA circuit in mid-2017. Bryson DeChambeau won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Sunday, less than 24 hours after injuring himself while ringing a siren at a Vegas Golden Knights game. https://t.co/z2Vq2w0FW8 pic.twitter.com/wnFIauWDJ5— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) November 5, 2018 A remarkable run of four top-10s, including two top-threes, ensured he qualified for the FedEx Cup play-off series and his victory at TPC Summerlin ensured he finished the year ranked No.38 in the Official World Golf Rankings. It seemed as though he had gotten his career back on track and was ideally placed to make-up for lost time. To describe the season that followed as a disappointment would be an overstatement. Cantlay produced six top-10s through 22 starts on the PGA Tour in 2018 prior to arriving in Las Vegas to defend his Shriners title last week. While he failed to contend meaningfully at major championship-level (CUT-T45-T12-T27), he did succeed in breaking into the top-20 of the world rankings for the first time in his career and was a going concern for Ryder Cup inclusion. Nevertheless, there remains an air of unfulfilled promise around Cantlay, a player memorably described by Jordan Spieth as the most talented of his generation. This sentiment was set in sharp relief on Sunday as Bryson DeChambeau produced a stunning eagle on the 16th-hole of his final-round to move a stroke ahead of the defending champion at the top of the leaderboard before parring his way into the clubhouse to claim his fourth title of the year. Cantlay had produced four outstanding sub-70 rounds in Las Vegas to get to 20-under par through 72-holes; he landed 36 of 56 fairways off the tee; he hit 63 greens-in-regulation and led the tournament in strokes-gained putting. Nevertheless, he came up a single stroke short on the final leaderboard, a ‘close but no cigar’ dynamic that is threatening to become a metaphor for the 26-year-old’s career. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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