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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Schauffele makes hay as Woods & McIlroy stall at BMW Championship
Sep 9, 2018 2:24 AM
 
All good things come to an end; after making a blistering 8-under-par start to the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania on Thursday, neither Tiger Woods, nor Rory McIlroy proved capable of maintaining such scoring into the weekend. Where McIlroy displayed impressive psychological fortitude in grinding-out a 1-under second-round 69 despite playing far below his best level, Woods squandered a glorious opportunity to seize sole ownership of the 36-hole lead following a calamitous bogey-bogey finish that culminated in a level-par 70. "That round today was easily 6, 7 under par," the 14-time major-winner reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. "It turned into even par which is not what I needed to do today. Everyone is going low and birdies should be had." Tony Finau looked like a safe bet for the final Ryder Cup spot, but Xander Schauffele can complicate things: https://t.co/JS5YnVxoRU pic.twitter.com/MLczA0hWCt— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) September 7, 2018 At four and five shots off the half-way lead respectively, both players remain firmly in contention for the title; however, the second-round served to set the hastiness of those prophesying a dramatic Woods-McIlroy Sunday shootout in sharp relief. Indeed, by far the most significant storyline to emerge from Friday’s play was the exceptional performance of Xander Schauffele. The 24-year-old recovered from an opening-hole bogey to card a stunning 7-under opening-round 63; on Friday, meantime, he posted seven birdies en route to a 6-under 64. His 13-under 127 is the lowest 36-hole score of his career and he consequently takes a two-shot lead away from Englishman, Justin Rose into the weekend. Such a display could hardly have come at a more opportune moment for Schauffele; the world No.20 failed to qualify for a US Ryder Cup debut via the points system and was overlooked for selection when captain, Jim Furyk announced the first three of his four wildcards on Tuesday. Next Monday, however, Furyk is obliged to finalise his 12-man squad for Le Golf National and, on the evidence of the last two day’s play, he will be hard-pressed to overlook Schauffele for selection, even despite Tony Finau’s strong recent form. "I have thought a lot more about the Ryder Cup the past couple of weeks and I'm sort of in a position where I feel like a win is the only way I'd even be in consideration," Schauffele said. "Tony (Finau) is the guy right now. He just shot 64 as well. He's not making it easy on anyone else trying to get on that team. So hats off to him for playing really well." One cannot discount the possibility of a Schauffele victory. Just 12 months have passed since the Californian announced himself to a global audience by claiming his second PGA Tour title at the Tour Championship at East Lake by a stroke away from Justin Thomas; he has since gone on to crack the world’s top-20 and has managed three top-5s at the majors over the past two years, finishing tied-second to Francesco Molinari at The Open in July. This blog has long rated Schauffele one of the brightest young talents in world golf; he would not appear out of place as a part of Furyk’s star-studded team. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship betting tips
Sep 25, 2019 4:18 AM
 
The Race to Dubai intensifies this week as the European Tour elite head to the home of golf, the Old Course at St Andrews, to contest the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Here follows our top three betting tips for the tournament. Outright winner: Shane Lowry (18/1) It is difficult to contest Rory McIlroy’s status as heavy, 11/2 favourite to win this one. Just four-weeks have passed since the 30-year-old claimed his third PGA Tour victory of the calendar year at the Tour Championship at East Lake, a triumph he followed-up with a narrow play-off defeat at the European Masters in Switzerland, and he boasts a sensational record of 15 top-10 finishes in 18 starts in 2019. The value in backing the Northern Irishman is further enhanced when one accounts for the fact that he has finished as a runner-up at the Alfred Dunhill Links on three previous occasions (2009, 2011 and 2014), and while he disappointed in signing for a 2-over opening-round 74 at Wentworth last week, he demonstrated impressive grit to salvage a T9 finish courtesy of an exceptional final 54-holes (69, 65, 67). That said, McIlroy exhibited obvious signs of fatigue in each of his two previous starts in Switzerland and in Surrey and it is difficult not to feel as though his mind is already being drawn to Torrey Pines in late January and the beginning of the Masters build-up. Set against a strong field featuring the in-form world No.5, Jon Rahm (7/1); former world No.1, Justin Rose (14/1) and Ryder Cup star, Tommy Fleetwood (16/1), it is difficult not to regard odds of 11/2 as short. Indeed, Fleetwood finished second at The Open at Royal Portrush three-months ago and has twice previously finished as a runner-up at St Andrews; the value one attaches to his odds of 16/1 this week is ultimately going to be determined by how easily one reconciles the fact that the Englishman is winless in well over a year. Nothing short of phenomenal, @padraig_h #DunhillLinks pic.twitter.com/BI6fzLYjnP— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 24, 2019 In this regard Shane Lowry attracts as an 18/1 shot. A links specialist, the Irishman, of course, claimed his maiden major championship triumph at Portrush in July and ended a six-week injury lay-off with an impressive T11 finish at Wentworth last week. The value in backing the Offaly-native is further enhanced when one accounts for the fact that he finished in the top 25 at the Dunhill Links for five consecutive seasons before missing the cut last term, notably tying for third and sixth-place. A victory would greatly strengthen his lead away from Rahm at the summit of the Race to Dubai standings. Top-10: Tyrrell Hatton (30/1) 2019 has not been kind to Tyrrell Hatton; winless in two-years since claiming his third European Tour title at the Italian Open in October 2017, the 27-year-old has missed double the number of cuts (6) that has recorded top-10 finishes (3) in 21 starts across all Tours and has consequently fallen to the edge of the top-50 of the Official World Golf Rankings. That said, Hatton won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship consecutively in 2017 and 2018 and finished as a narrow runner-up to the Dane, Lucas Bjerregaard last season. He is consequently reasonable value to contend at odds as long as 30/1. Robert MacIntyre (50/1) As debut European Tour seasons go, few have been as spectacular as that of Robert MacIntyre. Three runners-up finishes allied to a remarkable T6 showing at The Open in July have catapulted the Scot from No. 247 in the world as of 1 January 2019, to No.96 as of the beginning of this week. Indeed, at 15th in the Race to Dubai standings, he retains an outside chance of topping the Order of Merit. A 2nd place finish at the British Masters at Hillside in May demonstrated MacIntyre’s significant ability as a links golfer, a talent underlined by the strength of his performance at Portrush. He is worth backing to contend at a generous price this week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2018 Farmers Insurance Open Golf Betting Tips
Jan 24, 2018 1:21 PM
 
The PGA Tour travels to Torrey Pines Golf Club in sunny California for the 66th edition of the Farmers Insurance Open this week, with all eyes on the returning former world No.1, Tiger Woods, after almost a year out of the professional arena. Here we offer our three best value bets for the week. Outright winner: Jason Day (20/1) Only five players trade shorter than Day to win this week: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose and Mark Leishman. Unsurprisingly, Rahm trades as 7/1 pre-tournament favourite. The Spaniard claimed his fourth title in just 39 professional starts at the Career Builders Challenge last weekend, ascending as high as No.2 in the Official World Golf Rankings and his form book reads 1-2-1 through his last three starts. However, the Spaniard has yet to win consecutively at any level of the sport (a notoriously difficult feat to achieve) and, in this context, it is difficult to make a case against swerving him at such a short price. Walked 9 holes w/ Tiger, JDay and DeChambeau this morning at Torrey Pines. Woods showed flashes of brilliance w/ some rust evident. JDay’s thoughts on Tiger’s return https://t.co/uqJWWxGFlM— Evin Priest (@EvinPriest) January 23, 2018 At 20/1, Day represents far better value for money. The Aussie endured a frustrating, trophyless 2017 campaign that saw him fall from the summit of the world rankings down as far as 14th, and he remains winless since claiming the Players Championship back in May 2016. However, he has not finished lower than T25 once in his last eight starts, carding four top-10s, a stat that indicates a clear return to form, and he possesses an exceptional record at Torrey Pines. Indeed, he won this event in a four-man play-off in 2015 and, having just turned 30, it is difficult not to feel as though a fully fit and focused Day is poised to make big revival in 2018. Top-10 Finisher: Tiger Woods (5/2) Call me romantic, but I can feel this in the water. This blog was as sceptical as anyone regarding the long-term viability of a Tiger Woods comeback; however, the quality and consistency of the golf he produced in the Bahamas las November was of a calibre sufficient to encourage us into a reappraisal. For in addition to outscoring three of 2017’s four major champions, Spieth, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka en route to a solid, T9 finish, Tiger carded three rounds under 70 and finished the week with two eagles on top of a 17-birdie haul. Perhaps most significantly, the 42-year-old looked happy to be back competing and appeared to swing with a fluidity and élan unseen since he claimed his 79th PGA Tour accolade at the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational. Woods has claimed eight career victories at Torrey Pines, including four on the spin between 2005 and 2008; he owns the 10-under course record of 62, and claimed the most recent of his 14 major crowns on the course back in 2008. If the veteran is going to thrive on any course against an elite field this season, it’s at Torrey. Top-10 Finisher: Charles Howell III (4/1) Charles Howell arrives in California off the back of T20 finish on the occasion of his most recent outing at Career Builder last week and he prefaced that result with a T4-T15-T19 run through the OHL Classic, WGC-HSBC Champions event and CJ Cup in the later stages of 2017, totalling five top-10s, including two runners-up placings, through 23 starts in 2017. The world No.65 is thus in good form and boasts an incredible record at Torrey Pines, with seven top 10s that include three runner-up finishes. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Honda Classic full of surprises as Koepka and Fowler miss cut
Mar 1, 2020 3:26 AM
 
There has been no shortage of talking points through the opening 54-holes of the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens this week. Tommy Fleetwood is on the cusp of claiming his maiden PGA Tour victory. The 29-year-old birdied four of the closing six holes at PGA National on Saturday for a three-under 67 and a single-stroke lead following an attritional day which yielded only 11 sub-par rounds. American Brendan Steele, who led by one overnight, carded a 71 to sit one behind the lead on four under on a day when no player in the final five twosomes broke par. Significantly, Fleetwood is tailed closely by veteran countrymen, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, at the top end of the leaderboard. Westwood, of course, arrived in Florida in strong form having followed up his victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November with a triumph at the DP World Tour Championship last month. It is not overly surprising, therefore, that the 46-year-old has continued rolling-back the years with three strong rounds at Palm Beach Gardens. Tommy Fleetwood leads Honda Classic after three rounds https://t.co/jL9ktKu9gf pic.twitter.com/GGcm2tPGov — Andy Vermaut (@AndyVermaut) March 1, 2020 Donald, by contrast, is winless at all levels of the professional sport since claiming his 17th career victory at the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament on the Japan Golf Tour in 2013 and arrived in Florida at No.456 in the Official World Rankings. Indeed, a combination of injuries and severe loss of form have conspired to ensure that Donald, a former world No.1, has managed only seven top-10 finishes across all Tours over the previous five seasons, and he confided previously in the Daily Telegraph’s golf correspondent, Peter Corrigan, that he has considered retiring. It is in this context that the 42-year-old’s achievement in drawing to within two-strokes of Fleetwood’s overnight lead is so remarkable. A victory on Sunday has the potential to transform Donald’s late career trajectory and the player professed to be inspired by Westwood’s recent success. "Lee has obviously proven that age is just a number," he added. "He's been playing great lately, a win in Abu Dhabi not so long ago, and seems to be very consistent week in and week out. Obviously I've had a little bit of a lean period the last couple years, but just seeing those guys continue to grind and continue to fight and do well, you know, it's nice to see, and certainly it motivates me." World Nos. 2 and 25, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler will be considerably less optimistic going into the weekend. Koepka hit four shots into the water over two rounds and racked up three double bogeys and a triple. He signed for consecutive 74s to finish well outside the cut line. Rickie Fowler (76-68), the 2017 Honda champion, Justin Rose (72-74) and defending champion Keith Mitchell (75-72) also missed the cut, as did the winner of last week’s Puerto Rico Open, Viktor Hovland (77-73). In a week filled with surprises, the closing round of the Honda Classic seems set to excite. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Cabrera-Bello the victim of Bjorn’s Ryder Cup wild-card gamble
Sep 5, 2018 12:19 PM
 
“I’ve done everything I can,” Rafa Cabrera-Bello reflected after carding a final-round 68 en route to an impressive tied-seventh-place finish at the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston last week. He continued: “I love the Ryder Cup. It would be a huge honour to represent my continent again. And I would be 100% available if he needs me. I do understand it’s a difficult pick because there are lots of good players outside. But I feel like, if he was trying to see if I was in form or not, this week proves that I am.” Cabrera-Bello certainly had a strong case for inclusion. An impressive 2.5 points-haul on the occasion of his representative debut at Hazeltine two-years ago was one of the few positives European golf fans could derive from an emphatic 17-11 defeat, and while he remains winless since claiming his third European Tour title at the Scottish Open last July, it is significant that he finished within touching distance of automatic Ryder Cup qualification on the World Points list. Indeed, last week’s top-10 in Boston marked the occasion of his sixth such finish through 26 starts in 2018, a run that includes a T3 at the WGC-Mexico and a T10 at the US PGA Championship. Even more significantly, it elevated him above countryman, Sergio Garcia in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career, up to No.29. "It's like a football team going without their captain."Bjorn's second pick is Sergio Garcia.#RyderCup https://t.co/r3ruVVVCiR pic.twitter.com/AQJAX67cvm— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 5, 2018 There was considerably more than national pride at stake in this sea-change. Garcia, as was widely reported in the lead-up to this afternoon’s squad announcement, was Cabrera-Bello’s principal rival for captain, Thomas Bjorn’s fourth and final wild-card pick. Veteran performers, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson were all virtually assured of selection despite failing to qualify on merit; however, the case for Garcia’s inclusion was gravely compromised in light of the remarkable slump in form to which he has succumbed since missing the cut on the occasion of his Masters defence at Augusta in April. In 11 starts since tanking at the Masters, Garcia has managed just a single top-10 finish, missing seven cuts, including at all four of the season’s major championships. Inevitably this disastrous run has exerted a profound deleterious impact on his competitive standing; he departed Augusta ranked No.9 in the world; this week, he is outside of the world’s top-30 for the first time in over a decade. Nevertheless, Bjorn took the bold decision to include Garcia in his squad ahead of Cabrera-Bello, a circumstance revealing perhaps of the significance of the former Masters champion’s top-10 finish at the French Open in June, a tournament held on this year’s Ryder Cup course, Le Golf National in Paris. It may well be the case that Bjorn’s decision pays off, that Garcia rediscovers the form that has enabled him to amass 22.5 points for Europe across eight previous tournaments and the last six troubled months of the Spaniard’s career fade into irrelevance. However, the decision is a significant gamble and Cabrera-Bello has every right to feel aggrieved. [Photo Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Fleetwood Underlines Ryder Cup Credentials In Paris
Jun 29, 2017 11:15 AM
 
The 41st edition of the Ryder Cup remains over a year away, but as Tommy Fleetwood departed the 18th green at Le Golf National after having signed for a bogey-free, 4-under opening round 67 at the HNA Open de France on Thursday, he could have been forgiven for having let his mind wander ahead to September 2018 when Europe will host America on the same course in Paris. If the tournament were taking place tomorrow, there can be little doubt that Fleetwood would form an important part of Thomas Bjørn’s team. In 14 starts since the beginning of the year, the Englishman has posted six top-10s, including two runners-up finishes; a 4th-place finish at the US Open at Erin Hills and a victory at the prestigious Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January (he finished a stroke clear of world No.1 Dustin Johnson and Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal). This form has catapulted Fleetwood more than 70 places up the Official World Golf Rankings, from 99th at the beginning of the season, to 21st as of the start of the week. The quality of his opening day performance in Paris suggests that he may surge even higher come Sunday night. The 26-year-old hit 10 of 14 fairways on Thursday; he landed 14 greens in regulation and required just 30 putts to complete his round. Such stats substantiate his impressive rankings of 11th for driving accuracy on the European Tour and third for greens in regulation. The best of @TommyFleetwood1's opening 67 in under three minutes pic.twitter.com/7iChWXbfEM — The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) June 29, 2017 It is a testament to the calibre of the golf produced during the first 18-holes that Fleetwood will begin the second round a shot behind clubhouse leaders Nathan Kimsey, also from England, and Sweden's Alexander Bjork. "It's brilliant, I played lovely”, Fleetwood said. "When you are playing really well and hitting the spots you want to hit you feel like you can make a score, but it's one of those courses where it's so difficult that I was lucky I didn't really get out of position all day and you have to make the most of it. "It's a great event and great having people like Jon (Rahm) come and play. Everybody loves this course and says it's one of the best of the year." To devout European Tour-watchers, Fleetwood’s flourishing has come as no surprise. The Southport native had been earmarked by many as a potential Ryder Cup player after a number of notable amateur performances, including finishing runner-up at the 2008 Amateur Championship and playing in the 2009 Walker Cup. Upon turning professional in 2010, Fleetwood became the youngest player to win the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2011, aged 20 and 290 days, and he made his European Tour breakthrough at the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. On current form, it is a struggle to envisage Fleetwood being absent from Bjorn’s squad in Paris next year. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Russell Knox Targets Home-Turf Revival
Jun 28, 2017 11:24 AM
 
When Russell Knox claimed his second PGA Tour title by a single stroke away from Jerry Kelly at the Travelers Championship twelve months ago, he seemed poised to break into the game’s elite. After all, the River Highlands triumph came less than a year after Knox made his PGA Tour breakthrough in spectacular fashion at the at the 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai; it marked the occasion of his sixth professional title in six seasons from 2010, and catapulted him up as high as No.18 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Furthermore, the victory appeared to have made the Scot a dead-cert for Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup squad; were it not for the fact that his WGC triumph came at a time when he was not a European Tour member, the Travelers Championship would have guaranteed him automatic selection. But since being controversially overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild-card, last September Knox’s form entered into a period of gradual decline. He finished 2016 solidly with six top-20s in his final eight starts of the season after the Travelers; however, the much-vaunted push towards the world’s top-10 that many commentators predicted would characterise Knox’s 2017 has yet to occur. Scot no.1 @rooknox joins @henrikstenson in #HeroChallenge @DundonaldLinks @AAMScottishOpen!! FREE entry https://t.co/t8vIKM10pa pic.twitter.com/PkjMOyxh1X — Matt Wilkinson (@MattWilkoTV) June 27, 2017 Indeed, 15 starts since the turn of the year, he has yet to register a single top-10 finish. Even more damningly, he has missed seven cuts, including at both major championships, and could only manage a T62 when defending his title in Connecticut last week. Knox is, frankly, a shadow of the player we witnessed outscore world-class fields just twelve months ago: he ranks 98th on the PGA Tour for strokes-gained off the tee; he is 96th for strokes-gained approaching the green and 165th for strokes-gained putting. The player has since confided in BBC Golf’s Kenny Crawford that he is hoping that a return to the European Tour might catalyse a resurgence in form. "Maybe after last year being so incredible for me, it was inevitable there was going to be a slight downturn," Knox told BBC Scotland. "I haven't played as well, but I don't feel any different, to be honest. I don't feel my game has dropped any. "Golf's a funny old game as everybody knows; the line is so small between playing well and not playing well. Right now I'm just not getting the most out of my rounds. "I'm hitting the ball well, I've maybe just got to take care of a few more putts and avoid the silly mistakes that creep in. I'm very optimistic that things are going to turn around very soon." Here’s hoping the world No.44 can rediscover his top-form in the near future. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Woods & McIlroy ignite with 62s at BMW Championship
Sep 7, 2018 4:23 AM
 
If after Tuesday’s squad announcements there were any golf fans still struggling to get excited for the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris at the end of the month, they were surely purged of their scepticism on Thursday. After all, the opening round of the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania bore witness to one of the most compelling afternoons of the PGA Tour season as two Ryder Cup heavyweights – one American, one European – stormed to the top of the overnight leaderboard courtesy of two blistering, 8-under rounds of 62. Beginning from the back-nine 11.30am, Tiger Woods completed his first-nine holes in just 29 strokes; he landed nine of 14 fairways, 16 greens-in-regulation and gained 2.215 strokes to the average of the field when putting in order to race into a comfortable lead away from playing partners, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. Indeed, Woods’ 62 was his best PGA Tour scorecard in five-years and he finished the day ranked second in strokes-gained approaching the green; second in strokes-gained tee-to-green and sixth in strokes-gained putting. Significantly, this marked improvement in scoring coincided with Tiger’s reversion to his tried-and-tested Scotty Cameron putter; the 42-year-old laboured to a T24 at the Dell Technologies Championship with a new TaylorMade prototype putter in play, one that looks similar to the Cameron but that has grooves on the face much like the mallet-like putter he had been using. It is clear the 14-time major winner benefitted from returning to the club with which he has enjoyed the majority of his success. Still. Watching. Co-leader @TigerWoods didn't slow down for a minute today @BMWChamps. pic.twitter.com/SpAbirOcfB — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 7, 2018 "I've hit hundreds of millions of putts (with the Cameron), I've had it since '99,'' Woods said. "I've hit putts with it. My body just remembers it. When I got away from it, and back when I was using the Nike putter, I'd always bring it out and hit putts with it. Sometimes it works but it just feels very familiar to me.'' But as astonishing as Woods’ performance was, it looked for a long time as though Rory McIlroy was primed to supplant him atop the leaderboard. The 28-year-old arrived in Pennsylvania off the back of an indifferent T50-T12 run through his opening two FedEx Cup play-off events; however, he caught fire with an astonishing burst of six straight birdies from the 18th through the fifth to get to 9 under par on his round. His momentum was rudely stymied as a consequence of two sloppy bogeys on the seventh and eighth, but he rallied with a birdie at the ninth to tie Woods atop the leaderboard. "If someone had given me a 62 on the first tee this morning I would have taken it,'' McIlroy said. "So, it's a great way to start the golf tournament. My game feels obviously in really good shape. There's a lot of good signs out there. My approach play, my wedge play has been much better. I putted well. Basically did everything well and looking forward to getting back out there early in the morning and trying to get it going again.'' With two of the biggest names in world sport level atop a star-studded leaderboard, we seem poised for a fascinating weekend of golf. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Garcia’s Ryder Cup wildcard is a calculated gamble
Sep 6, 2018 6:55 AM
 
Reflecting on European Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjorn’s decision to award his fourth and final wild-card pick to the wildly out-of-form, Sergio Garcia ahead of world No.29, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, this blog argued that Cabrera-Bello has every right to feel hard done by. After all, the 34-year-old posted four sub-70 rounds en route to carding his sixth top-10 finish of the season at the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston last week, leapfrogging Garcia in the world rankings for the first time in his career. Garcia, by contrast, has not carded a top-10 finish since tying for eighth at the French Open in June and failed even to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-off series. In terms of form, there was no contest between the two Spaniards: Bjorn simply had to select Cabrera-Bello. But Ryder Cup wild-card picks, as we all know, can never be predicated on form alone; epi-performative factors such as pedigree, experience, reputation and squad-harmony must all be accounted for when taking such a decision. And when assessed in the broader perspective of squad composition/balance, it is possible to construct a strong case for Garcia’s inclusion. In the first instance, there is the pedigree factor. With 22.5 points amassed through eight previous Ryder Cup starts dating back as far as his debut in 1999, Garcia stands as one of the most decorated golfers from either side of the Atlantic in the tournament’s history. He claimed two points from a possible three in the context of a disastrous team performance at Hazeltine two-years ago and amassed 4.5 points for the old continent in 2004, averaging just under three points per start. WATCH: Rory McIlroy Francesco Molinari and Jon Rahm have welcomed the inclusion of Sergio Garcia in the European Ryder Cup team for the clash against Team USA later this month. #BelieveInBlue https://t.co/NrLOz4S25q pic.twitter.com/bMpsLh2L2M— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) September 5, 2018 Perhaps most crucial is the Spaniard’s efficacy as a team-performer, a rare quality in golf. In 23 foursomes and fourball matches to date, Garcia has only lost six times and the importance of his steadiness in such formats is accentuated owing to the fact that five members of Europe’s eight automatic qualifiers – Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen – have never played in a Ryder Cup before. In this context it is striking that in selecting Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey as his wild-cards, Bjorn added a cumulative total of 20 Ryder Cup starts to his squad, with the experience of Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari and Rory McIlroy propping-up the automatic qualification roster. Indeed, it was perhaps ultimately experience that swung this decision in Garcia’s favour. Bjorn analogised the prospect of contesting a Ryder Cup without the 38-year-old to a soccer-team playing devoid of its captain, and for all the impressive achievements of Cabrera-Bello and Matt Wallace over the last few months, neither player possesses the Garcia’s gravitas. Here’s hoping the Spaniard can perform at a level commensurate with the faith Bjorn has invested in his talents. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Woods, Mickelson and DeChambeau complete a formidable Ryder Cup squad
Sep 8, 2018 1:26 AM
 
Writing for Golf.com last November, Alan Shipnuck, the doyen of American golf journalists, proffered a rather bold prediction. “The Ryder Cup is dead”, Shipnuck declared; “you just don't know it yet.” “The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefiting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era”, he predicted, “will roll to victory in 2018 in Paris”. Such will set the stage for “a decade-plus of blowouts”, sapping the event of all intrigue and rendering it a hollow shell of the competition that has captured the transatlantic golfing imagination for much of the last twenty-years. Watching US Ryder Cup captain, Jim Furyk confirm 14-time major winner, Tiger Woods; five-time major winner, Phil Mickelson and the newly-crowned world No.7, Bryson DeChambeau as his first three wild-card selections on Wednesday, it was difficult not to reflect upon Shipnuck’s prophecy with a deep sense of foreboding. We’ll see you in Paris!@PhilMickelson @b_dechambeau @TigerWoods pic.twitter.com/SscUZHs0ah— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 4, 2018 Every two-years, it seems, we are inundated with a slew of commentary exalting the US Ryder Cup squad as the greatest such representative unit ‘of all-time’. The analytical utility of inter-generational comparisons in any sport, of course, is deeply dubious; but regardless of the ultimately unprovability of such claims, it is possible to construct a very strong argument that such is the case this time around. In Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas, the Americans boast each of the world’s three highest-ranked players in their starting roster; add-in Rickie Fowler, DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth and they have six of the top-10, with Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson making it nine of the top-20 (the inclusion of Tony Finau or Xander Schauffele as wold-card No.4 should round that out to 10 of the top-20). Indeed, the US Ryder Cup squad boast a cumulative three majors (Reed – The Masters; Koepka – the US Open and US PGA) and 10 regular PGA Tour titles over the last eight months alone; in Koepka and DeChambeau they possess the outstanding senior and young players of the season and, taking historic major titles into consideration, the States have 29 to Europe’s eight. Woods, of course, makes the telling contribution in this respect and it is the former world No.1’s presence that renders Furyk’s selection so complete in its formidableness. Despite failing, thus far, to end his five-season PGA Tour trophy drought, the 42-year-old has arguably been the sport’s standout performer in 2018. Returning from a potentially career-ending back-injury, Woods has carded five top-10s through 16 starts, missing only two cuts; he finished second at the Valspar Championship, sixth at The Open and second at the US PGA Championship; and has risen from No.656 in the world on 1 January 2018 to No.26 as of the beginning of this week. On paper, this is by some distance the most decorated, experienced and technically complete US squad in Ryder Cup history; fortunately, from a European point-of-view, the game is not played on paper. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Spieth Lays Down Marker At Travelers Championship
Jun 23, 2017 12:53 PM
 
We’re almost exactly half-way through the 2016/17 PGA Tour season and, suffice to say, the campaign hasn’t panned out in the manner a player of Jordan Spieth’s pedigree would have hoped. While the Texan’s overall season statistics are exceptional ­— a run of three top-3s and a tournament victory (at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February) in 14 starts since the turn of the year is has moved him up as high as 6th in the FedEx Cup stakes — it is striking that all but one of his five top-10 finishes came in smaller events during the December-January wrap-around period. Indeed, in 10 starts since the season properly got underway at the Genesis Open at Riviera on 16 February, Spieth has managed just a single top-10 finish (a T2 at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational last month), missing three cuts. Crucially, this run has encompassed the first two major championships of the season, and after ceding eight shots to Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose during the final round of the Masters en route to a drab, T11 finish, he finished 17 shots off champion, Brooks Koepka, at the US Open last week. Spieth has now started in five majors since his infamous capitulation on the par-3 12th at Augusta last spring without carding a top-10 finish. It is in this context that Jordan Spieth’s sensational 7-under opening round at the Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands signalled such a welcome return to form. Function over form has helped Spieth rekindle his old magic on the greens, and it could be just the start: https://t.co/nNQCdQrjM4 pic.twitter.com/LkpEJ8ZxBh— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) 23 czerwca 2017 The world No.6 had never previously managed to contest the Travelers; however, when he finally arrived in Connecticut earlier this week his caddie, Michael Greller observed that the course was “tailor made for you.” It didn’t take long for Spieth to figure out what everyone was talking about, as he rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the first hole and zoomed to the top with a 63 in the afternoon. Despite hitting only eight of 14 fairways off the tee, Spieth landed 15 greens in regulation, ranking fourth for strokes gained approaching the greens and second for strokes gained tee to green. And while a strokes-gained putting rank of 30th suggests that the 23-year-old has yet to rediscover his best form with the flat-stick, it is striking that his conversion rate from 10 feet is 55.5 percent, which is 10th on the PGA Tour, and his putting average (1.716) ranks third. Spieth will start the second round one shot clear of Johnson Wagner and Bratt Stegmaier. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
US Open Must Be Tougher To Recapture Old Acclaim
Jun 22, 2017 11:04 AM
 
Through the course of its 122 year history, the US Open has cultivated a hard-earned reputation as the most physically, mentally and technically challenging of the golf’s four major championships. Played on gruelling, 7,000 yard-plus courses characterised by high cut primary-rough; pinched fairways and radically undulating greens, the tournament has grown synonymous with tight scoring at or around par by the leaders. Indeed, par is usually set at 70, except for on the very longest courses. Thus although the lightening-fast greens of Augusta and the punishing weather conditions characteristic of Open Championship golf pose enormous challenges, only the US Open has historically been able to lay persuasive claim to pushing the sport’s elite to their limits year on year. The number of multiple Masters champions attests to the fact that even players with the limitations of a Bubba Watson can ‘hack’ Augusta, while, when the winds are down, some of the toughest Open courses can resemble target-practice for the sport’s finest practitioners. In this context fans and players have every right to feel aggrieved at the manner in which the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills Golf Club in Wisconsin panned-out. Wisconsin skies are easy on the eyes. What a way to end the week at Erin Hills. pic.twitter.com/nMxd2YCXAj— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 19, 2017 For although there can be no faulting the quality of the golf that Brooks Koepka produced en route to winning his maiden major championship title by a full four strokes away from tied runners-up, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman, it was striking just how easy the tournament played. It is notable, for instance, that Koepka's winning total of 16 under par equalled the tournament record set by Rory McIlroy in 2011 while seven players finished in double digits under par. Only McIlroy and Tiger Woods [2000] had done so previously. Furthermore, a total of 31 players finished under par, surpassing the record of 28 at Medinah in 1990, while Justin Thomas shot a final-round 63 which equalled the lowest score in major history and was the first 9-under-par round in the U.S. Open. Reflecting on Erin Hills and Chambers Bay, the site of the 2015 US Open, for instance, Shane Lowry argued that the tournament organizers, the USGA, would do well to return the tournament to more traditional locations. "It [Erin Hills] didn't play how I would have liked," said Lowry. "I'd have liked to see it play tougher, firmer, faster -- if you got a windy day like Sunday with a firm course it would have been carnage out there, but that's what I would have liked. "People were talking about which type of U.S. Open do you prefer, and an Oakmont and a level-par winning score is the type of U.S. Open I like.” It is, of course, legitimate to point out that Lowry is far from what one would call a neutral commenter on this matter. The Offaly-native finished in a tie for 47th at Erin Hills after having taken a 4-stroke lead into the final round of the 2016 US Open at Oakmont. However, it is difficult to dissent from the crux of his argument: the US Open happens but once a year and fans are entitled to expect the tournament to push the sport’s elite to the very limits of their capacity. Two of the last three venues have failed in this regard and the fact that the USGA have already announced the more traditional venues of Shinnecock Hills and Pebble Beach for the 2018 and 2019 events suggests that fan and player criticism has reached the summit of the decision-making chain. Photo Source: Flickr under CC
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