This was the week of “you can go home again” for two professionals golfers, but shamefully, not a third. Curious? Let’s mash.
LPGA Tour: ANA Inspiration is Ryu’s second major title
— LPGA (@LPGA) April 3, 2017
For a long time on Sunday, five of the world’s top players were in the thick of the race with no clear resolution in sight. Michelle Wie (6th), Christie Kerr (7th) and Ariya Jutanugarn (T8) all made runs this week, but lacked the consistency to make a true run at the title. Closer still were Suzann Pettersen, Minjee Lee and Inbee Park, all tied for third at 13-under par, one slim shot from a playoff.
And there was a playoff that should have never been, but we’ll address that in the next section. Both Lexi Thompson (2014 champion) and So Yeon Ryu (2011 U.S. Open winner) birdied the par-5 closer to reach 14-under. Off they went to overtime.
On the first extra hole, Ryu made birdie and claimed the right to leap into Poppy’s Pond, adjacent to the final green.
LPGA Tour: 2nd Major Decided By Television. Enough Already!
For the second time in two years, a major championship was decided by television. In 2016, Anna Nordqvist was assessed a two-stroke penalty for grazing a single grain of sand in her backswing. The naked-to-the-human-eye contact came courtesy of the high-speed, slo-motion cameras used at golf telecasts. On Sunday, Lexi Thompson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for improperly replacing her ball on Saturday, and another two strokes for incorrectly signing her scorecard. As a result, Thompson’s massive, back-nine lead was eliminated… in the name of what, I ask?
Our statement regarding Lexi Thompson penalty. pic.twitter.com/bQrlIFrebQ
— LPGA (@LPGA) April 3, 2017
This latest fiasco brought back memories of Dustin Johnson and the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Fortunately for the USGA, Johnson was able to overcome the undue assessment of strokes and claim the major that was rightfully his. Thompson was not as fortunate. The penalty ultimately cost her the outright victory, thrusting her into a playoff that she lost.
It is my position that television review should be placed in the hands of rules committees at events. Those officials should not field calls from fans across the globe. No other sport allows outside interference in the determination of its outcomes and golf should take immediate steps to remedy this. The notion of the viewing public as bully has gone on long enough. LPGA and other tours/ruling bodies, it’s time to take action.
PGA Tour: Henley bags 3rd PGA Tour title at Shell Houston Open
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 2, 2017
The shadow hanging over the Houston Open each year is the final invitation to the Masters. In this year’s edition, three golfers with no invitation were in the mix with one who needed a win to affirm his position in a certain echelon.
Russell Henley trailed third-round leader Sung Kang by four strokes as the day began. Henley hoped to return to the winner’s circle after two winless years on the PGA Tour. Kang had never won on the PGA Tour and sought the same invitation as Henley. Also in contention was Luke List, a one-time Masters participant and a zero-time PGA Tour winner, and Rickie Fowler. List lurked but never took the lead. Fowler had the lead on Saturday but gave it back late. More on that one later.
On Sunday, Henley teed it up and won it. He made 10 birdies on the day with a double bogey (9th) and bogey (18th) for a score of 20-under, but he had enough of a cushion over Kang to win by three.
Winning WITB: See Henley’s clubs
After opening 65-63, Kang lost his comfort with low scores and finished 71-72. The performance was good enough for him to finish 2nd for the first time in his career. List (68) and Fowler (70) tied for 3rd at -16, one behind Kang.
PGA Tour: Will Rickie ever be a consistent winner on Tour?
Rickie Fowler played himself out of another PGA Tour title over a six-hole stretch at Houston. He was tied with Sung Kang late Saturday but bogeyed the 17th hole, then four-putted the 18th for double bogey. Suddenly down by three shots, Fowler needed a strong Sunday start to settle the nerves and reaffirm his role as contender. Instead, a par-double-par-bogey start dropped Fowler farther back and the four-time tour winner finished four back of the top spot.
Fowler plays himself into contention with regularity, but more often than not he finds a way to not take the title. It happened in Phoenix in 2016 and again at Houston this week. Yes, Fowler did win six weeks ago at the Honda Classic, his fourth PGA Tour title. Wins at the Wells Fargo Championship (2014), the Players Championship (2015) and the Deutsche Bank Championship (2015) are also impressive, but it just feels like he should have so many more.
Fowler’s potential has been limitless in his eight years on Tour, but he’s trending more toward that of a tour pro who might have been elite but wasn’t. Here’s hoping he proves us wrong.
PGA Tour Champions: MGR Classic again to Jimenez
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) April 3, 2017
For much of this year’s Mississippi Gulf Resorts Classic on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, Miguel Angel Jimenez appeared in search of consistency while Gene Sauers seemed poised to add to his win total. Come Sunday, things got more confusing before they cleared up.
Sauers was 2-over through his first nine holes, then went on a back-nine birdie run, making five in nine holes. Unfortunately for Sauers, he countered his six birdies with five bogeys and ended the day at 13-under. Fortunately, he still had a glimmer of hope.
Jimenez found his form on Sunday, making five birdies against one bogey through 17 holes. With two strokes in hand, the Spaniard reached the par-4 closer in three, then three putted for double bogey. Just like that, the two men headed off to a playoff. Sauers found a greenside bunker while Jimenez hit the putting surface. Moments later, the Spaniard drained his 18-foot putt for a fourth Champions Tour win.
Closing fast but running out of holes were rookie Steve Stricker and veteran Bernhard Langer. Both finished one shot out of the playoff at 12-under. Stricker had eight birdies for 65 on Sunday, while Langer had a clean card with 5 birds for 67.