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
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 19, 2017
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
It was a 2-man show at the @tucsonclassic.
And Tom Lehman barely edged good friend Steve Stricker, who was making his debut. pic.twitter.com/nn34dvYpO4
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) March 20, 2017
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
— LPGA (@LPGA) March 20, 2017
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
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) March 19, 2017
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
— PGATOURLA (@PGATOUR_LA) March 19, 2017
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.