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Tour Mash: Leishman closes the deal, Wattel wins his first

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Week three of the PGA Tour playoffs came to a close, setting the stage for a stirring FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta. The LPGA contested its last major championship of 2017 in France. Football may be in the air, but important golf balls fly higher. Have a sample of what mattered this week in our September 18th Tour Mash.

Leishman unleashed, finally, in Chicago

Marc Leishman of Australia heard the footsteps. They weren’t coming from playing partner Jason Day, who would counter every three birdies with a bogey or double. Instead, it was Justin Rose who was making a run at the leader. If ever an event felt owned by a golfer it was this one. Question was, could Leishman close the deal?

The massive Aussie had led since his opening 62, but when Rose reached 19-under at the 16th, Leishman had to feel threatened. He had two tour wins to his credit, including this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. None had ever given him a chance at the FedEx Cup, though, and Leishman was not to be denied. He closed with three birdies over the final quadrilateral, securing a 5-stroke margin of victory over Rose, who bogeyed the 17th to drop back to a second-place tie with Rickie Fowler, at 18-under. With the win, Leishman joined Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm in the playoffs top five.

Nordqvist wins 2nd major title at Evian

Anna Nordqvist is tough. She returned from a debilitating bout of mono this summer to feature prominently in the European Tour’s Solheim Cup challenge. On Sunday, the Swede defeated upstart American Brittany Altomare on the first playoff hole to win her second major title.

All golfers began the round behind Moriya Jutanugarn. The Thai golfer played well over her first nine holes, but played her final nine holes in two-over, dropping to 8-under and a gut-wrenching T3 finish, one back of the playoff duo. With Jutanugarn were Lydia Ko and Katherine Kirk.

Altomare and Nordqvist played the playoff hole in rainy conditions, unable to avoid the deluge that had lingered all day but never committed. Neither player offered her best in extra holes, but it was Nordqvist who squeezed in a clutch bogey putt to secure victory over Altomare’s double.

Snaps for Hadley after Boise victory on Web.Com

Chesson Hadley knew he would return to the PGA Tour in 2017-18, before the 2017 Web.Com Tour playoffs began. His sense of urgency might have diminished just enough to free up his game. On Sunday, the North Carolina native and Georgia Tech alum finished with fury, birdieing holes 15 through 17 at the Boise Open. He reached 16-under par, then watched his pursuers work in vain to catch him.

Close to Hadley were Ted Potter, Jr., and Jonathan Randolph. both men birdied 16 and 18 to sign for 15-under, one excruciating stroke shy of the top spot. For Randolph, the finish secured his PGA Tour card for 2017-2018. With his win, Hadley moved to the top of the Finals board, about $85K clear of 2nd-place Andrew Landry. The tour moves to Cleveland for the penultimate playoff event, before closing the season in Florida, in two weeks.

Jerry Kelly wins again on Champions Tour

Much like Hadley, Jerry Kelly sought vindication. He had been a tour winner, and when he finally won on the Champions Tour in late August, the pressure valve had opened and the pent-up steam of frustration, released. On Sunday at the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, it looked as thought Kelly would add a runner-up finish to that title, but Lee Janzen closed poorly, and Kelly took advantage.

Janzen stood at 16-under with four holes to play, but errant shots at the 15th and 17th led to bogey and double, dropping him to 13-under on the week. Kelly did nothing spectacular, simply going about business as usual. He birdied the 15th to get to 14-under, then closed with three pars to edge Janzen by one, for victory No. 2 on the senior circuit. Tommy Armour III and David McKenzie were a further stroke back, tied for third at 12-under.

Wattel a winner at last on European Tour

Romain Wattel trailed only Kiradech Aphibarnrat at the start of round four in Holland. Chasing his first European Tour victory, Wattel had to feel a bit positive as his day trended upward, while Aphibarnrat lost the handle and finished at 2-over on the day, 12-under overall and tied for ninth. Austin Connelly, the young Canadian, appeared from nowhere and the game was on.

Connelly birdied the 18th hole at The Dutch, reaching 14-under with his second consecutive round of 66. Wattel remained poised, however. Although his final birdie came at the 10th hole, he closed with seven consecutive pars, enough to secure his debut victory on the European circuit. Wattel moved to 55th spot in the Race To Dubai rankings, while Connelly ascended to 71st.

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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.

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  1. Timbleking

    Sep 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Bien joué, Romain !!!

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Tuesday’s Photos from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.

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Tiger Woods, who has won eight times at Torrey Pines, will make his first start in a full-field PGA Tour event since his spinal fusion surgery. The last we saw of Woods was in the 18-player Hero World Challenge where he finished T9, and showed that he could be healthy for 72 holes.

Jon Rahm, who’s now ranked No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings, is the defending champion at the Farmers, and he also won last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. He’s joined in the field by notables Hideki Matsuyama (No. 5), Justin Rose (No. 6), Rickie Fowler (No. 7), Jason Day (No. 14) and Phil Mickelson.

Enjoy our photos from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open below!

Tuesday’s Photos

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

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Monday’s Photos from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.

Tiger Woods, who has won eight times at Torrey Pines, will make his first start in a full-field PGA Tour event since his spinal fusion surgery. The last we saw of Woods was in the 18-player Hero World Challenge where he finished T9, and showed that he could be healthy for 72 holes.

Jon Rahm, who’s now ranked No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings, is the defending champion at the Farmers, and he also won last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. He’s joined in the field by notables Hideki Matsuyama (No. 5), Justin Rose (No. 6), Rickie Fowler (No. 7), Jason Day (No. 14) and Phil Mickelson.

Enjoy our photos from the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open 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 News

Tour Rundown: Rahm gets win No. 2 and goes to world No. 2

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Week two of the 2018 calendar season added events on the PGA Champions and European tours. The PGA caravan left Hawaii for California and found its first playoff of 2018, just as the Champions Tour reached the islands. The Euros teed it up in Dubai, and the Web.Com Tour stayed in the Bahamas for a second week. With an Asian Tour event in Singapore, the globe’s eyes were once again on professional golf. Time for Tour Rundown at warp speed!

Rahm continues to build career with win at CareerBuilder Challenge

For all of the final round, it looked like Jon Rahm would pull away for a 4-stroke victory. His driving was impeccable and his irons were dialed in. His putting stroke looked sound, but some of the birdies simply did not nest. Throughout the four-hole playoff with Andrew Landry, it seemed as if Rahm was destined to lose. Somehow, he persevered and won.

Rahm’s patience pays off with second PGA Tour win 

How many edges of holes were singed with putts and chips by Jon Rahm down the stretch? At least four, not counting the playoff. Fortunately for the Basque, only Andrew Landry made enough of a move to track him down temporarily. Rahm played like the 3rd-ranked player should, and now he’s the world No. 2 player. Perhaps the fact that he couldn’t or didn’t separate himself from his pursuers, yet had enough weaponry to pull out a victory, mattered more than a runaway triumph. Yet golf is a funny game. The only fairway Rahm missed in extra time came on the 4th hole. Despite that errant tee ball and his misses on the first three playoff holes, Rahm was able to drain the only birdie of the playoff and walk away a champion.

See the clubs Jon Rahm used to win

Landry and others made the most of their opportunities

Andrew Landry showed more gumption than anyone anticipated. The 2016 first-round leader of the U.S. Open stayed around even longer this week. A 72nd-hole birdie brought him to 22-under par and a tie with Rahm. The Arkansas alumnus drove the ball straight and far on each of the playoff holes, and never once sniffed a bogey. His irons brought him within birdie range but, like Rahm, he could not find the proper combination of line and speed. In the end, Landry missed last and settled (if such a term might be used) for a runner-up finish.

Fleetwood greets 2018 with title defense at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Tommy Fleetwood looks for all the world to be a millenial hipster with his free-flowing hair and his strands of beard. In absolute contrast, he is equal parts passion and cold blood. When opportunity beckons, he doesn’t look away. Given the slightest opportunity to defend his 2017 Abu Dhabi title, Fleetwood assented and took charge.

How Fleetwood dispatched Fisher and the rest

Through 9 holes of Sunday’s final round, the tag for Tommy Fleetwood’s title defense percolated as He gave an admirable effort. Nine holes and six birdies later, that tag line had changed to How in the name of all that is known did he defend his title? And yet, there was Fleetwood with the fourth European Tour title of his career and third in the past dozen months. When Fleetwood needed a great drive, he got it. When he didn’t hit a great drive, he came through with a stellar approach. When his approach was off, he drained a long putt. And for good measure, he hit a wonderful pitch at the 18th, nestling the ball 5 feet for birdie, and made that. The end result was a 2-stroke margin of victory over the runner-up, Ross Fisher.

What is it about Ross Fisher?

Ross Fisher is eternally composed. Not like his countryman Colin Montgomerie (more on him later), who wore every disappointment like a Halloween mask. Yet, the two share a certain sad penchant for missing opportunities. Last October, Fisher wasn’t going to catch Tyrell Hatton in St. Andrews, but he was chasing immortality. He had a 25-foot putt for the first 59 at The Old Course…and missed. He had a 4-foot putt for the first 60 at the Old Course…and missed. He broke the course record with his 61, but, you know. Fisher has an 0-5 record in European Tour playoffs. On Sunday, he was victimized by Fleetwood’s marvelous back 9 of 30 strokes, but by his own inability to gather the fruits of opportunity. Case in point: Fisher made a long and testy putt for bogey on the par-5 10th, a hole that many birdied. Rather than use it as a springboard to return to his coach on the birdie train, he floundered with four pars and one bogey over his next five holes.

Kelly wins at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

Jerry Kelly earned the 2017 PGA Tour Champions rookie of the year award, on the strength of consistent play and his first two tour titles. On Day 3 of the 2018 season, he added to his victory total with a 1-stroke win over Colin Montgomerie. A 2-stroke swing on 18 decided the fate of both…here’s how!

How Kelly klaimed the championship

For fans of Hideki Matsuyama and his deceptive reaction to fantastic shots, Mr. Kelly is guilty of the same on well-struck putts. He drops his putter from one hand and slumps his shoulders after mid-range putts. All the while, the ball is tracking toward the hole, and usually drops. Kelly played a fine round on Saturday, with 5 birdies and 1 eagle. It might have been the sole bogey of the round, on No. 16, that ignited his hockey-bred fire. The miscue allowed Colin Montgomerie to take a 1-shot lead into the final 2 holes, but Kelly’s birdie on No. 18 brought him the title. How’s that?

How Monty lost his opportunity

We forget how difficult it is to hold a lead in any event, at any juncture. Colin Montgomerie never figured the recipe out in major championships on the regular tour, but he had it down, for the most part, in regular tour events. On the Champions Tour, he has been quite solid, winning six times as a senior in the U.S. and five times in Europe. In the third round at Hualalai, Monty’s most reliable club betrayed him at the least opportune time. A drive into a fairway bunker at the last hole left him 100 yards to the green. He flew the putting surface with his approach and played an indifferent flop shot to 7 feet for par and a playoff. His effort was off the mark and the title slipped from his grasp.

Sergio’s Singapore Open

Despite this unexpected result, Sergio Garcia opened the 2018 season with a victory in Singapore. We’ll run down what he did right.

Sergio and Singapore on a Sunday

The #SingOpen2018 and @TheSergioGarcia made a perfect match on an extended final day. Wet weather forced a last-day completion of Round 3, and most golfers played more than 20 holes on the final day. Garcia stormed from behind with 66-68 over those final 36 holes to wrest the lead from Danthai Boonma of Thailand. Nine birdies and 1 bogey over that stretch of two rounds finished the task for the Spaniard, who looks to defend his 2017 Masters title in the spring.

See the clubs Sergio used to win

The battle for second ended in a tie

With Garcia separating himself from the peloton, attention turned to Boonma and cast for the runner-up resolution. After three stellar rounds (70-68-65), Boonma stumbled in Round 4 with 73, finishing in a tie for 4th with countryman Jazz Janewattananond. Satoshi Kodaira of Japan and South Africa’s Shaun Norris each birdied the final hole to finish tied for second at 9-under, 5 blows behind the champion.

Hello, World for Sungjae Im at Web.Com Opener

Sungjae Im, all of 19 years of age and pegging it in his first Web.Com event ever, gave us a Hello-World moment with a closing 65 and a 4-shot win over Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz. How did the young Korean pro flu powder his way to the top of the podium? We’re asking ourselves the same question

How Im became I’m The Champ

Im entered the final round of the Great Exuma Classic in a tie with Ortiz, but eyes were on proven winners like Rhein Gibson, Steve Marino and Erik Compton. Sungjae Im went out in Round 4 and played perfect golf. He had 4 birds on his outward half, then seized the trophy by both handles with 3 more chirps on holes 14 to 16. Simply put, there was nothing that Ortiz or any other entrant could do, beyond bow and salute the victor.

How Ortiz and the others took the shock

Carlos Ortiz did what he had to do during Tuesday’s final round. He played a solid round, minus-3 with 5 birds and 2 bogies. He stayed ahead of Gibson and all the others, but would have needed to turn his bogies into birdies to tie Im atop the board. Rhein Gibson began round four like a boss, with birdies on 5 of the first 6 holes. He reached 8-under and looked like the eventual winner. The engine sputtered, and it was 1-birdie-1-bogey-10-pars the rest of the way. Gibson would have needed 10-under on the day to tie for the trophy, but with a few more birdies along the way, would he have frightened Im? Who knows!

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