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Tour Rundown: Europe storms back, Kizzire takes trophy in a marathon playoff

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The second week of 2018 returned a number of tours to action around the globe.  The Hawaiian-stretch concluded on the PGA Tour, while Europe began its campaign in South Africa. The PGA Tour Champions and PGA Tour Australasia were also in action. And just for fun, the Web.Com Tour’s Great Exuma Classic in the Bahamas began on Saturday and concludes on Tuesday. At the halfway point, Dan McCarthy holds a 1-stroke lead over three guys named Matt, Mark and Rhein. Dash with us to the first Tour Rundown of this new year.

Eurasia Cup goes to Europe in a final-day comeback

Following the trace of the Ryder and Presidents cups, the Eurasia Cup pitted 12 golfers from the Asian continent against a dozen counterparts from Europe. The Asian hosts acquitted themselves well in team play, surging to a 3.5-2.5 lead after Day 1, and retaining the same margin after Day 2, 6.5-5.5. Unfortunately for the likes of Haotong Li, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Byeong Hun An, Day 3 belonged to Europe. The 8.5-3.5 tally over the final 18 holes gave the visitors a 14-11 win.

How Europe won

Alex Noren has played superb golf the last 24 months, winning five times in Europe. He led off on Saturday for Europe, made 5 birdies, and dispatched Nicholas Fung, 4 & 2. And the boys in blue were off in a hurry. Although Poom Saksanin would level the day’s tally with a second-match win over Paul Casey, Europe proceeded to win the following 7 matches and claim the challenge cup. The greatest win belonged to Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who etched 6 birdies onto his scorecard in a 15th-hole win over Gavin Green.

How Asia lost its lead

Although world top-10 golfers Rahm, Rose and Garcia were not in the lineup for Europe, the squad boasted five golfers currently ranked in the world top 20. The highest-ranked golfer from Asia, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, was absent; his presence certainly would have boosted Asia’s hopes on Sunday. Partner play in team matches is unpredictable, but the talent of a team rises on singles day. And so it was at Glenmarie in Malaysia. The Asian team, while dogged, could not ascend to the level of its opponent.

Kizzire outlasts Hahn at the Sony Open in Hawaii

I’ll confess that I still suffer from Woodsitis, where a front-runner was likely to win the tournament, but I’m in treatment. PGA Tour events are supposed to be competitive, and even go topsy-turvy from time-to-time. Such was the case on Sunday at the Waialae Country Club. Over the closing holes, the leader made double bogey and missed the playoff, the guy who shot 62 snuck into the playoff, and the fellow who played the final seven holes in 1-over won the tournament!

How Patton Kizzire committed trophy robbery on Maui

Maxie Patton Kizzire has yet to win on mainland USA, but he has two tournament titles in his two seasons on the big tour. Kizzire never looked like a winner on Sunday, with pars on his first nine holes. An eagle-birdie run at the advent of the inward nine caught our attention, but his finish was anything but spectacular. When Tom Hoge closed poorly, Kizzire found himself in a playoff with James Hahn. The Auburn alumnus never looked like a winner until he won. He missed shots here, there and everywhere, but somehow stayed afloat. On the sixth extra hole, Kizzire made par to Hahn’s bogey, and the trophy was Alabama-bound.

How Hahn and Hoge came up short

Hahn probably felt like the most fortunate guy in the islands. He birdied half of his holes during the final round, and added two more in overtime. Hahn certainly felt comfortable during extra time; both of his tour wins have come in playoffs. Putts on the first two playoff holes singed the edge but did not fall. The third time wasn’t the charm, but second-place money and points are a warm comfort. Hoge confessed that two bad swings did him in, at 8 and 16, but putts on 17 and 18 gave him a look at the title. Ultimately, his rags-to-riches story received a significant boost from his third-place finish.

Related: Patton Kizzire’s Winning WITB

European Tour opens season at South African Open

Chris Paisley had no business winning this tournament. Branden Grace, a native, had yet to win his country’s Open championship, and he was on a roll. Starting the round 1 behind Paisley, Grace began with birdie and eagle to take the lead. And yet, there was Paisley on the 18th green, owner of a 3-shot victory margin and his inaugural European Tour title. What gives?

How Paisley dumped the monkey

He made 6 birdies and 12 pars on Sunday. Simple, really. Paisley didn’t twitch when Grace blazed early. He kept playing the game that had given him the lead through 54 holes. Paisley spread his birdies out, three on each nine, never consecutively. He forced Grace’s hand, demanded that he play better quicker. On Sunday, Paisley looked more the part of the veteran winning for a 5th or 10th time, and not a 32-year old on the cusp of his first, prime-time title.

How Grace lost his chance at the win

As quickly as the South African golfer grasped the lead on Sunday, he gave it away. Facing a similar bunker recovery to one he had on Saturday where he had to play the ball away from the hole into the fringe, Grace flinched. He pulled it off on Saturday, but left the ball in the sand on Sunday. The resulting double bogey was the only non-par he had from third to the 11th holes. A bogey on 12 was followed by eagle and birdie on the next two holes. For a golfer who prides himself on consistent play, Round 4 was an oddity for Branden Grace.

Champions Tour opens unofficially at the Diamond Resorts Invitational

What better way to start the season than with an unofficial, modified stableford event? Add non-golf athletes and LPGA stalwarts to the field, and the fun really kicks in. Scott Parel held a 1-point advantage on Saturday evening, but felt the weight of expectations throughout the final day. Meanwhile Scott Dunlap made a move with 34 points on Sunday, including a birdie on the last hole. When the dust had settled, two Scotts were tied at the top.

How Parel persevered

Scott Parel last won on the Web.Com Tour in the early part of the decade. He came to the 16th hole 3 points behind Dunlap, but made bogey. His 17th-hole birdie brought him into a tie for the lead, guaranteeing that a closing par would get him the final point he needed for the win. Well, that’s not easy to do, especially after your playing partner shanks his tee ball on the par-3 closer. Parel fanned on his tee shot, left his pitch well short, and made another bogey to finish tied with Dunlap. On the playoff hole, Parel acquitted himself better, two-putting from fairway short of the green for par and the victory.

How Dunlap dunked

It’s unfair to ignore what Scott Dunlap put together on Sunday, and focus solely on the wretched way he played the sole, sudden-victory hole. Dunlap shot the equivalent of a 64 in Round 3, with birdies on his final three holes. Much like Kenny Perry in the 1996 PGA Championship, Dunlap may not have expected to go to extra holes, and may not have prepared for the playoff as expected. What is known is this: he dunked his tee shot, left his par pitch 30 feet short, and left his bogey putt 3 feet short. Ugh.

PGA Tour Australia visits New Zealand for the REBEL Sport Masters

Auckland and its Wainui Country Club hosted the opening event of 2018 on the PGA Tour of Australasia. A full field of hungry young golfers did battle, but in the end, it was a few wizened veterans who held court at the REBEL Sport Masters.

How Millar scaled the mountain

Matthew Millar had as clean a card as one could desire over his closing triumvirate of 67s. One bogey and one double were all that marred his stellar play over the final 54 holes. The result was a 5-stroke triumph and his second career Australasian tournament title. Even Millar’s opening 72, 1-over par, was a thing of consistency. His 15 pars and 1 birdie simply needed a few more of the later; he obliged over the next three days.

How Smail and Fowler locked in their top-3 finishes

David Smail was brilliant over the first six holes on Sunday. Birdies on five of them brought him into the title picture, but he could not maintain the pace. To his credit, not a single bogey soiled his card on the final day. Unfortunately, after birdie at the 6th, it would be nine consecutive pars before closing with birdies at 16 and 18. Nevertheless, his mighty 64 shot him past a host of competitors into solo second. The ageless Peter Fowler led on Day 1 with 66, but would not crack 70 the rest of the way. His veteran guile allowed him to overcome bogeys on 2 and 3 on Day 4, and steady the rudder. With 5 birds against 2 bogeys over the remainder of the course, Fowler came in under par on Day 4, 1 behind Smail and 5 back of Millar.

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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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Equipment

Laura Davies’ Winning WITB: Senior LPGA Championship

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Driver: Lynx Parallax

Shaft: Fujikura Speeder Evolution 757

3-wood: Lynx Black Cat

Hybrid: Lynx Parallax Hybrid (17 degrees)

Irons: Lynx Tour Blade (2), Lynx Parallax Forged (4-9)

Wedges: Lynx Tour (50, 56, 60 degrees)

We’re investigating the Odyssey putter and SuperStroke grip.

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Equipment

The drivers used by the top-10 longest hitters on the PGA Tour in 2017-2018

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What drivers do the PGA Tour’s longest golfers use to bomb their tee shots? Now that the 2017-2018 PGA Tour season is behind us, we can do a thorough examination.

First, here’s a tally of what the top 10 in driving distance on Tour are using by driver manufacturer. Interestingly, only two OEMs figure.

  • Ping: 4
  • TaylorMade: 6

But this is GolfWRX, so of course you want to know more. Below is a breakdown of the driving-distance leaders on the PGA Tour in 2017-2018, the specifics of their drivers, shafts and how far their average tee shots flew.

10) Keith Mitchell

Driver: TaylorMade M1 440
Loft: 10.5 degrees (10 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS T1100 7.5 (tipped 1 inch)
Length: 45.25 inches
Swing weight: D3
Grip: Golf Pride Victory Cord 58R
Average driving distance: 312.6 yards

9) Bubba Watson

Driver: Ping G400 LST
Loft: 8.5 degrees (7.6 degrees)
Shaft: Ping BiMatrix-X (tipped .50 inch)
Length: 44.5 inches
Swing weight: D4
Grip: Ping 703 Gold
Average driving distance: 312.9 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Bubba’s clubs

8) Brooks Koepka

Driver: TaylorMade M3 460
Loft: 9.5
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70TX
Average driving distance: 313.0 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Koepka’s clubs

7) Gary Woodland

Driver: TaylorMade M3 440
Loft: 9 degrees (8 degrees)
Shaft: Accra RPG 80X (tipped 2 inches)
Length: 45.25 inches
Swing weight: D5
Grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord Mid
Average driving distance: 313.4 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Woodland’s clubs

6) Dustin Johnson

Driver: TaylorMade M4
Loft: 9.5 degrees
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 661 Evolution 2.0 Tour Spec
Grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet
Average driving distance: 314.0 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Dustin’s clubs

5) Luke List

Driver: TaylorMade M4
Loft: 8.5 degrees
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana White D+ 80TX
Average driving distance: 314.7 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about List’s clubs

4) Tony Finau

Driver: Ping G400 Max
Loft: 9 degrees (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Accra Tour Z X485 M5 (tipped 1 inch)
Length: 45.25 inches
Swing weight: D5
Grip: Custom Lamkin UTX Mid
Average driving distance: 315.3 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Finau’s clubs

3) Tom Lovelady

Driver: Ping G400 Max
Loft: 9 degrees
Shaft: TPT MKP 15.5
Length: 44.75 inches
Swing weight: D3+
Grip: Golf Pride V55 Full Cord 58R
Average driving distance: 315.9 yards

2) Trey Mullinax

Driver: Ping G400 Max
Loft: 9 degrees
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage XT 60-X
Length: 45 inches (tipped 1 inch)
Swing weight: D4
Grip: Golf Pride V55 Full Cord
Average driving distance: 318.7 yards

1) Rory McIlroy

Driver: TaylorMade M3 460
Loft: 8.5 degrees
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 70XTS
Length: 45.625 inches
Swing weight: D8
Grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 58R
Average driving distance: 319.8 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Rory’s clubs.

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Tour News

Patrick Reed airs out Jordan Spieth and Captain Jim Furyk following the 2018 Ryder Cup loss

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In an interview with Karen Crouse of The New York Times, Patrick Reed held zero punches about his displeasure with former Ryder Cup partner Jordan Spieth, Captain Jim Furyk, and the egos of the United States team.

First, a bit of back story. Patrick Reed — dubbed “Captain America” — played foursomes and fourballs with Jordan Spieth in both the 2014 and 2016 Ryder Cups, amassing a 4-1-2 record as partners in the two events.

But when it came to the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Patrick Reed was paired with Tiger Woods in both fourball sessions (losing both), while Spieth played with Justin Thomas in fourballs and foursomes (Spieth/JT went 3-1). Reed sat the bench for both foursomes sessions.

According to Reed, the decision to split from Spieth was not his call, or the captain’s, but rather, due to Spieth’s wishes. Reed also took shots at Furyk for sitting him in both fourball matches.

Here’s what Reed had to say…

About Jordan Spieth

“The issue’s obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me,” Reed said, according to the NYT. He added: “I don’t have any issue with Jordan. When it comes right down to it, I don’t care if I like the person I’m paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success. He and I know how to make each other better. We know how to get the job done.”

In the post-Ryder Cup press conference with the entire team, the ex-partners were asked about the split, to which Spieth answered: “We were totally involved in every decision that was made… Jim allowed it to be a player-friendly environment.”

When asked about this moment in the interview by the NYT, Reed said, “I was looking at (Jordan Spieth) like I was about to light the room up like Phil in ’14,” in reference to Phil Mickelson calling out Captain Tom Watson in the 2014 post-Ryder Cup interview.

About Captain Furyk

“I thought he might go back with the groups that have worked in the past (after the first alternate-shot session).”

“For somebody as successful in the Ryder Cup as I am, I don’t think it’s smart to sit me twice.”

About the U.S. Team

“Every day, I saw ‘Leave your egos at the door,’” Reed said, of inspirational messages in the team room. “They (the Europeans) do that better than us.”

Full New York Times article.

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