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Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Recap: Throwdown under the Towers

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Hitting the wall. These are the first words that spring forth in my mind as I recall the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; the action seemingly following a pre-established plan that appeared as logical as can be, before tumbling over in a final round twist. The blueprint was simple: take the defending champion – resurgent South Korean Na Yeon Choi – add her fellow countrywoman who can do no wrong having finished on the podium six straight times – Inbee Park – to the mix and let the former run ahead as the latter assumes her role of paramount chaser. A mid-round burst and an unplayable lie, nevertheless, would net World No.5 Inbee Park her second victory on Tour this year.

Choi’s title defense begun like any golfer would envision it to, namely with a blemish-free round that still provided enough aggression to distance one’s self from the pack early. Despite the fact that the current World No.3’s four front-nine alone would have been enough to lodge her within the top-6, the always dangerous on the Oriental belt Karrie Webb was able to match her stride for stride late en route to a Thursday 65. Usually, this could have meant added pressure heading into the weekend, but the only one that seemed to climb was the barometric one as Choi used Webb’s proximity only seemed to spark the South Korean on Day 2.

Moving day was more of the same for Choi as a third-straight sub-70 round took her to 13-under, but more importantly, within arms reach of a second-straight Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. The kicker, though, was Park’s sudden push – a six-birdie scorcher that started on the 12th hole – after lurking around a few strokes back during the two previous rounds.

On Sunday, Choi seemed poised early on as her adversary strong debut – Park shaving off strokes on 2nd and 3rd – left her unfazed; the 2011 champion even answering with a pair of birdies of her own. The turn, however, made sure to earn its namesake; Choi’s blunder on 9th followed by Park’s highlights on 10th and 11th. From that point, with the tide shifting, one could picture the outcome rather easily. The final nail was struck when Choi’s tee shot on 17th not only found the front greenside bunker, but also dug itself right against the lip, leaving the South Korean no choice but to take an unplayable lie. Instead of two triumphs at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club for Choi, it was two victories in six tournaments for Inbee Park.

Click here for more discussion in the “LPGA/ladies golf talk” forum.”

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Monday’s Photos from the 2018 Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,110 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes defending-champion Rickie Fowler, 2017 FedEx Champion Justin Thomas, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who’s making his first PGA Tour start of 2018. Also in the field is Tiger Woods, who committed to play in the event just last week. Woods is coming off a disappointing missed cut at the 2018 Genesis Open.

Last year, Fowler won by four shots over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland, despite playing his final round in 1-over par.

Check out our photos from the 2018 Honda Classic below!

Monday’s Photos

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

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Tour Rundown: Bubba is back (from near retirement)

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The California cruise on the PGA Tour came to an end at Riviera, as it always does. Tiger Woods played poorly over the George Thomas classic, as he always does. Oh, and Bubba Watson showed why he is not in the ranks of ballers Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland. Big wins were earned from Australia to Florida, by 22 year olds and 41 year youngs. Our tour rundown runs gathers results from five unique tours, and breaks each triumph down for you. Have a glance at this week’s Tour Rundown.

Watson returns to form with third Genesis Open win

There are too many ledes to unearth for this one: Horses for courses or Mercurial Watson, or how about My wife’s the hoops star, I’m the golfer? Whatever was in that Tracy McGrady rejection on Friday night was the medicine Bubba Watson needed to return to the winner’s circle. Along the way, Watson schooled the 20-somethings (and even the other Lefty) on how to close the deal in Hogan’s Alley.

How Watson came back from near-retirement

While the siren song of the candy store, car dealership and baseball team might have been strong, Bubba Watson wanted to be a champion golfer again. After nine, up-and-down holes (3 birdies and 2 bogeys) on Sunday, Watson was looking up at Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Na and even Phil Mickelson. Not to worry, as the Florida portsider had played the inward half under par all week. Watson closed with 3 birdies and 0 bogeys over his final 9 holes, sealing a 2-stroke win over Na and Tony Finau.

See the clubs Bubba used to win the 2018 Genesis Open

How a quartet missed out

Let’s summarize: Na played the back side in 1-under par and needed Watson’s 3-under for a playoff; Tony Finau was 2-under on the closing half, but needed double that for extra holes; Phil Mickelson bogeyed 15 and 16 when he knew that birdies were needed; Patrick Cantlay played 1 over in his final 9, when 2-under would have meant playoff. All the also-rans and almost-weres didn’t do what Watson did: close the deal.

Jin Young Ko secures Australian Open on LPGA Tour

It’s a stretch to call Jin Young Ko an LPGA player, as her first 9 wins came on the LPGA of Korea tour. In October and now in February, Ko bested world-class fields to win co-sanctioned events, and is now a two-time LPGA champion. At this rate, it might be difficult for her to remain tethered to the Korean tour.

How Ko won the week

A 7-under 65 on Thursday was the fuel Ko needed to take a lead that she would not relinquish. Although Katherine Kirk matched that number on Sunday, no one was able to wrest the advantage from the 22-year old Ko. Two rounds of 69 and one of 71 brought her to 14-under on the week. On day four, Ko started quickly with two opening birdies. A pair of bogeys on the outward half kept her within sight of the field, but birdies at 9, 13 and 17 were the recipe for re-establishing her three-shot margin of victory.

How she kept the field at bay

The challenging Kooyoonga golf club was not very free with low rounds this week. Ko’s compatriot Hyejin Choi, posted a flawless 67 on Sunday to move up one spot, into solo second at 11-under. In third and fourth were a pair of Australians, Hannah Green at 10-under and the aforementioned Katherine Kirk, at 9-under. Marina Alex was the low USA golfer at 7-under, tied for fifth spot with Minjee Lee.

Oman Open on European Tour

Joost Luiten began the fourth day at Oman in a three-way tie for first spot, but asserted himself early on Sunday with birdies on holes 2 through 4. It was enough to separate from the field, and he was able to hold off Chris Wood to earn his 8th European Tour title, by two strokes.

How Luiten claimed victory

After the fiery beginning, Luiten cooled off in the later stages of the opening nine holes. Bogeys at 7 and 8 brought him back to the field, but he wasn’t done for the afternoon. Luiten birdied 12 and 13, then added the clincher on a tricky birdie putt on the 16th hole. That final birdie gave him a 2-shot separation on Chris Wood, and he held on for pars at the final two holes for a 68 on the day and 16-under for the tournament.

How Wood and others came up shy

Matthew Southgate and Julien Guerrier began Sunday in a tie with Luiten, but the day turned sour early for Southgate. The Englishman had four bogeys in a five-hole stretch. Two more miscues on the inward half dropped him into a three-way tie for ninth at 9-under par. Guerrier held the wheel a bit steadier: two bogeys at the turn were offset by three birdies coming in, and the young Frenchman was able to coax a solo third-place finish out of the week. It was Chris Wood who gave the greatest chase to Luiten. Wood had four birdies on the day, and was in a tie at the top at 15-under, when he yanked a drive at 17 and found a hazard. Although he was able to play his ball, the ensuing bogey was the mistake he could not afford. A par at the last placed him at 14-under, one shot clear of Guerrier and two behind the champion.

Durant welcomes second PGA Tour Champions title at Chubb Classic

Technically, it’s his third, but the first was a two-man win with Billy Andrade. Durant probably caught wind that Billy Mayfair and Tim Petrovic were going super-low (8-under on Sunday) and that David Toms was at their heels (7-under on the day.) Each of those three earned a top-four finish, but Durant took matters into his own hands over the closing seven holes. He left Naples as the 2018 Chubb champion.

When Joe Durant woke up

Durant was 1-over through 7 holes on Sunday, headed in the wrong direction. Birdies on 8 and 9 reminded him that he still had a chance, but the eagle on 13 kicked his game into a higher gear. Birdies at 14, 17 and 18 were enough to offset a bogey at 15, and Durant cruised home with a four-stroke victory over Mayfair, Toms, Petrovic, Lee Janzen and Steve Stricker.

How that quintet fell away

After eight birdies through 14 holes on day 3, Mayfair had zero over his closing four. Toms did the opposite-He played the outward half in 2-under, but came home in 5-under to reach the podium. Petrovic had 4 birdies on each half, but also simply ran out of holes. Janzen threw an early scare into the eventual champion, but two bogeys and not enough chirps were his undoing. Stricker’s finish was the most painful. Within site of Durant and needing birdie at the last for 18-under, Stricker was forced to go for the flag, and instead got wet. His double-bogey finish dropped him from solo second to the five-way tie.

Daniel Fox surprises at Australian PGA championship

Daniel Fox had one previous victory on the Australasian circuit, but he made the most of opportunity’s knock on Sunday. The 41-year old played error-free golf over his final 14 holes, counting 6 birdies for a one-stroke victory over Matthew Millar and Steven Jeffress.

How Fox found the winner’s platform

Fox might say he was the last man standing, and none would argue. The runners-up had chances at birdie at the final hole, but neither one could convert. Fox counted three rounds of 65 and one of 67 on his card.  On the week, he had three bogeys and one double, against 21 birdies and one eagle. In an event where the margin ‘twixt victory and not-victory was razor-thin, Daniel Fox shaved the final whisker.

How Millar and Jeffress came up short

The easy answer would be: they didn’t birdie the 72nd hole. Jeffress had the low round (63) of the week, but his 67-67-66 lost ground on the other three days! As for Millar, one might point to his last two, outward nines. On both weekend days, he made nine consecutive pars to open his round. Against a par of 33, it wasn’t bad, but he gained no ground on the leader. Millar’s stat line for the week read: one eagle, 21 birdies, six bogeys. Yup, nearly identical to Fox, but nearly is the operative word.

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Tiger Woods fires second-round 76, will miss Genesis Open cut

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Tiger Woods’ trip to Los Angeles is over sooner than he’d hoped. Woods fired a 5-over 76 during the second round of the Genesis Open to miss the presumed cut at Riviera by four strokes (the second round won’t be completed until Saturday morning due to darkness).

Hopes were high Woods would continue to build on a T-23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as the driving woes that plagued him at Torrey Pines followed him to the Riv, despite changing shafts in his TaylorMade M3.

RELATED: Tiger Woods WITB

Wayward off the tee, Woods made eight bogeys Friday, unable to grind out a decent score as he did with his opening-round 1-over 72. He was unable to rely on his putter the way did in this first round, three-putting back-to-back holes (No. 11 and 12). A stretch of three straight bogeys sunk Woods’ hopes of hanging around for the weekend.

(c/o PGATour.com)

We won’t have to wait long to see the Big Cat back in action, however, as Woods committed to next week’s Honda Classic at PGA National in Florida. Woods most recently put a peg in the ground at the course in 2014, where he ultimately withdrew due to back spasms.

The 79-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t teed it in back-to-back weeks since 2015, so while fans may not be encouraged by his play, at least he continues to be free from any issues with his surgically repaired back.

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