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Tour Mash: Leishman surges with late eagle, Lehman outlasts Stricker

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Weird weather, crazy bounces, low rounds and dramatic duels came together during the third week of March across golf’s professional tours. For a schizophrenic month that’s part lamb and part lion, it’s par for the course. Let’s mash it up and savor the flavor!

PGA Tour: Arnold Palmer Invitational falls Leishman’s way

In the first Arnold Palmer Invitational after The King’s passing last September, Marc Leishman survived a wild final round. He finished 11-under par, good for a one-stroke victory over third-round leaders Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman. Rory McIlroy and Tyrrell Hatton were a shot further back in a tie for 4th.

Hoffman had a wretched start to his day, making four bogeys in a five-hole stretch for an outward 39. The Californian rallied with 34 on the inward half, but a 17th-hole bogey ended his run at the trophy. Kisner began well, 2-under on the day through seven holes. His final 11 holes counted three bogeys and zero birdies, and that was simply not enough to finish the job at hand.

It was left to Leishman to take charge, and the Australian was up to the challenge. A 16th-hole eagle vaulted the 2015 Open Championship runner-up to the top, where his fourth-round 69 earned him his second PGA Tour title, and his first in five years.

Winning WITB: See what clubs Leishman used

PGA Tour Champions: Conquistadores Classic to resurgent Lehman

Although he finished in third place alone, for the first time in a while, the ageless Bernhard Langer was not a factor in a PGA Tour Champions event. Langer’s Sunday 65 moved him 11 spots higher on the leaderboard, but it served as a mere appetizer for the battle that ensued between veteran and rookie.

Tom Lehman and Steve Stricker, familiar foes from their PGA Tour days, went head to head (and back and forth) as each tried to claim the inaugural Tucson Conquistadores Classic. For Stricker, Tucson marked his PGA Tour Champions debut, and he came out firing as if he owned the place. Lehman would not go away, though; he turned in a 66 in round three. Stricker’s engine was leaking oil over the closing stretch, as the 2017 U.S. Presidents Cup captain closed with two bogeys in his final three holes. Lehman played the same stretch at 2-under and placed the winner’s helmet (his 10th PGA Tour Champions victory) on his 58-year-old head.

LPGA Tour: Nordqvist finds Founders Cup victory especially sweet

It’s not easy to follow a 61, but Anna Nordqvist found her groove on Sunday at the LPGA Founder’s Cup. A day after making nine birdies and an eagle in a 11-under effort, the Swede was able to hold off a passel of challengers and claim her 7th LPGA Tour title. The 2016 U.S. Open runner-up had final-round 68 for 25-under overall, two shots clear of Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun and Stacy Lewis.

Ha Na Jang had 10 birdies of her own on Sunday for 63 and a fifth-place tie (up 21 spots from day three) and many took a run at Nordqvist, the overnight leader. Five birdies over her first 17 holes gave the Swede a three-shot cushion, and a safe bogey at the last produced the final margin of victory. While Jutanugarn and Chun are stars on the rise, Lewis was once again frustrated in an attempt to claim a tour title (33 months since her last victory) and reassert herself as a regular winner.

LET: World Ladies Championship to Hae Rym Kim

For 2017 at least, the World Ladies Championship was a Korean affair. Nine of the top-10 golfers hailed from the Asian country, with only England’s Georgia Hall (in a three-way tie for third place) breaking the run. Hae Rym Kim gutted out a two-hole playoff win over Seon Woo Bae after both tied for first at 14-under, three clear of the field.

Kim was the overnight leader as Sunday dawned, but she was forced to make birdie at the last to prolong the event. On the first playoff hole, Kim looked to be finished after taking a drop from an unplayable lie, but she had the fortitude to extend matters another hole with an unexpected and impressive par. At the second playing of the par-five finisher, Kim made birdie from 4 feet after Bae was just wide from 6 feet. Just like that, Kim became the fourth consecutive Korean golfer to hoist the victor’s trophy.

PGA Tour Latinoamerica: Stella Artois Open Cut Short

It was an up-down-up week for PGA Tour Latinoamerica in Guatemala. A four-tourney bonus sponsored by Bupa Global was announced, beginning with this week’s Stella Artois Open. Next, the Jamaica Classic at Cinnamon Hill was added to the season schedule.

Unfortunately for the players stationed in Antigua, Guatemala, high winds forced the cancellation of the final rounds. The tournament was declared unofficial, as only one round was in the books. Prize money was distributed to the 139 professionals in the field, with Chile’s Christian Espinoza capturing the top share after an electric 62 on day one. Second prize went to Danny Ballin’s 65 (USA) while seven golfers tied for third at 66.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Sims

    Mar 20, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Congratulations Marc Leishman…take care of that Beautiful family we see pictured with you…..keep winning trophy’s for those little boys.

  2. Ronald Montesano

    Mar 20, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Ha, Ha. Well done, Jack Nash.

  3. Jack Nash

    Mar 20, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Jonny Miller might have titled this piece, “Lehman didn’t Choke”.

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Tour News

5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

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Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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Spotted at Shinnecock: #RVLife, superb staff bags, stellar stampings

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We’re on the famed grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the second major of the year. With the U.S. Open returned to such a visually and historically rich venue, it may be a bit tough to focus on equipment.

Nevertheless, we spotted some cool stuff, Tuesday, as the players move ever closer to the second major of th eyear.

Let’s get to the photos.

#RVLife propronent, Jason Day’s putter cover is incredible.

Michael Greller displays an essential caddie skill…

Face of Tiger’s wedge. Do these look like standard TaylorMade MG grooves to you?

Greatest side panel on a bag ever?

Who isn’t happy to see “Woods” on USGA tournament signage?

Shintaro Ban’s unique dot stamping is, well, money.

A look at the Bridgestone U.S. Open staff bag and headcovers.

Kenny Perry: Still gaming R7 irons.

Scott Gregory with some solid wedge stamping.

What is this lead taped and war torn beauty?

All our photos from Tuesday

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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