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Tour Rundown: Day wins in Monday finish, Li lassos win

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The weather around the world was nearly as tempestuous as Rhein Gibson, as chinooks and draughts impacted play from Dubai to San Diego to the Bahamas. When the dust had settled, one champion defended her title, two others won for the first time, and a fourth overcame one of the world’s best. Oh, and a playoff was halted by darkness. Time to round up all the week’s events in another Tour Rundown.

Farmers Insurance playoff takes six holes and two day

On Monday, Alexander Noren and Jason Day concluded play as darkness fell with the tournament title undecided after a quintet of holes. Ryan Palmer joined the duo at 10-under at the end of regulation, but made par on the first extra hole to drop from the chase. Noren and Day each birdied the par-five closer three times in overtime, and made pars at the 16th and 17th. The playoff concluded on Monday during the anti-climactic first hole as Jason Day secured the win with a tap-in birdie.

Jason Day’s Winning WITB

The playoff trio

Noren began the day in first place, and held firm through the front nine. His 3 birdies and 2 bogeys gave him a look at his first PGA Tour title. Two bogeys on the inward nine dropped him to 10-under. Playing partner Ryan Palmer also struggled to find daylight on a challenging fourth day, but was able to birdie the 72nd hole to join Noren and Day atop the podium. Day turned in 4-under 32, but like the others, struggled coming home. He had 2 bogeys and 0 birdies on the home side, good enough to join his counterparts in extra holes, and eventually secure the win.

That other story

Tiger Woods returned to competition, and his performance could be judged a success. He made the cut on the number, shot four rounds between 70 and 72, and tied for 23rd, 7 shots behind the leading trio. Woods was all over the course off the tee (some things never change!) but ground his way to success as he has done so often. The showing was a positive sign in the return of the game’s greatest.

Li lassos second European Tour title in Dubai

Haotong Li held the No. 60 ranking on the OWGR list heading into the Dubai Desert Classic. That’s going to change. Not entirely unfamiliar to Euro and USA golf fans thanks to his third-place finish at last year’s Open Championship, Li lacked a signature victory over a respected foe. He checked both boxes on Sunday.

How Li came back AGAINST RORY FREAKING McILROY

If you paid attention to the Euro-centric announcers on Golf Channel’s feed, Li was doomed when he made bogey to McIlroy’s birdie at the 1oth hole on Sunday. Even after McIlroy made bogey at the next, Li’s inability to convert a makeable birdie putt kept the margin at 1. Meanwhile, Tyrrell Hatton was making noise with birdies of his own a few holes ahead, and the wags anticipated a McIlroy vs. Hatton duel, with Li an afterthought. Let’s end this, now: Li bogeyed the 12th, then made four birdies over the final six holes, winning by 1 over Roars for his first European Tour win outside China. Xièxiè and wan an.

How Rory, et al., let Li Escape

Truthfully, Rory should have put this thing away. He played even-par golf over the final 9 holes, when 2-under would have done the job. He didn’t put any pressure on Li when he had him on the ropes (Li bogeyed two of the opening three holes on the inward half, before steadying the ship). Assuming it’s part of the process, if this loss translates into a green jacket in April, it will be worth it. Watch out for Tyrrell Hatton: this lad can flat out play. The Englishman played flawless golf on Sunday, with 6 birds against 12 pars. Like McIlroy, he couldn’t get it done at the end, parring his final 4 holes to finish third alone, 2 behind Rory and 3 back of the champion.

Lincicome opens LPGA Tour season with wind-swept victory

Brittany Lincicome has won two LPGA majors, a Canadian Open and five other tour events. Odds are, she never won in more wind than Sunday at Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Lincicome entered the week as defending champion, but was overlooked for most of it, thanks to an opening 74. Then came the weekend.

How Lincicome came from nowhere to defend her title

Eight birdies and 1 bogey is always an acceptable round. Only Carlota Ciganda was better (65) and her round came on the heels of an 81. Lincicome and the rest of the field withstood the reduction of the event from 72 to 54 holes, thanks to winds that moved golf balls and blew visors around the course. Those winds cancelled a large part of play on Friday. Come Sunday, there was the defending champion, backing up her Saturday 67 with another stellar round. Lincicome’s 67 was the low round of the day, giving her two of the low third rounds of the event. That usually results in a desirable finish.

How Feng and company failed to keep pace

Shanshan Feng played 2-under golf on Sunday… and was left in the dust by the champion. Her undoing was a lack of birdies: 3 on the day against 1 bogey. Amy Yang began the day in the second spot, played nearly an identical round to Feng (4 birdies and 1 bogey) and could only watch as Lincicome raced by. Feng and Yang tied for third at 9-uner, 3 behind the winner. Only Wei-Ling Hsu matched Lincicome and Ciganda’s birdie total on the day, but Wei-Ling needed perfection, and 2 bogies undermined her effort. Still, the second-place finish was the best in her LPGA career.

From British Columbia to the Bahamas, Web.Com Tour title for Svensson

Adam Svensson eaked out a 1-shot victory over last week’s winner, Sungjae Im. The triumph made the Web.Com Tour 2-for-2 in first-time winners in 2018. More of a grind than a fireworks display, the conclusion to Wednesday’s fourth round offered a glimpse inside the challenge of winning.

How Svensson raised the winner’s chalice

No one was more consistent that the Canadian. Three rounds of 68 plus one of 67 brought him to 17-under par. On Wednesday, Svensson stood a clean 5-under par through 16 holes. He drained a sizeable putt of some 25 feet for par on 16, a putt that would have motored at least 6 feet past had it missed. Although he slipped with bogey at the penultimate hole, the former Barry (Florida) University golfer had enough mental presence to par the 18th for the title.

How Im came close to his own double

Sungjae Im will be an interesting cat to watch in 2018. So many golfers burst from the gate with brilliance, but the continuation of it is often capricious. Im had 3 bogeys on his final-day scorecard, but 4 birdies and 1 eagle kept him in the thick of the chase. Im went birdie-birdie at 14 and 15, but could not summon one more stroke of brilliance, to reach a playoff. His 16-under finish kept him atop the money list.

And Gibson?

The aforementioned Rhein Gibson finished solo third at 15-under, losing the lead and a chance at victory on the final two holes. The latter slip-up stemmed from a possibly-incorrect ruling, wherein his caddie picked up a ball that Gibson had kinda-sorta declared unplayable. The official assessed a 2-stroke penalty at the par five, and Gibson made a valiant birdie-for-bogey. He also might have thrown a headcover at the caddie. And the caddie might have vindicated himself through researching decision 26.1/9. Goes to show that not just the NFL and NBA refs are in the hot seat.

Peterson collects first Asian Tour title in Myanmar

Paul Peterson won the Czech Masters in 2016, for his first, big-time victory. The former Oregon State golfer has made a career overseas, alternating between the European and Asian tours. On Sunday, Peterson charged from third to first in Myanmar, holding off a harder-charging Satoshi Kodaira of Japan, for a 2-shot triumph.

How Peterson collected his first Asian Tour title

A quick start boosted Peterson into the lead in Round 4. After routine pars at the first 2 holes, the journeyman went birdie-eagle-birdie to seize the lead. The remainder of the round was a bumpy ride, with 4 birdies and 3 bogeys. Despite Kodaira’s heroices, the effort was enough to claim victory.

How Kodaira nearly grabbed the prize

At the start of the day, everyone was chasing France’s Lionel Weber. The leader played the front nine in 2-over, but left the chase for good with a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 13th hole. Weber would ultimately drop a tie for 21st. As Peterson fought to maintain his composure, Satoshi Kodaira was making a mad dash to the top. Beginning the round in 18th spot, Kodaira balanced 8 birdies with 10 pars, for a sublime 63, the low round of the week. Kodaira’s comeback fell two shots shy of a playoff, but his tie for second with countryman Tomoyo Ikemura was consolation enough.

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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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Tour News

Brooks Koepka, a machine built to win majors

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Brooks Koepka is your 2018 PGA Champion. Of his 4 PGA Tour victories, 3 have come at major events, all of which have come in the past 14 months. He has won a U.S. Open that played like a PGA (Erin Hills), a U.S. Open that played like a British Open (Shinnecock) and now, a PGA that played like a PGA, at Bellerive in St. Louis. What do we make of this 28-year old, born and bred Floridian, who doesn’t appear to win often, but makes it count when he does? That depends on the units with which you choose to measure his performance. Have a look at his most recent performance, a 2-shot win over Tiger Woods at the 2018 PGA Championship.

  • Birdies: 22 in total, 13 on the front nine
  • Bogeys: 4 total, 2 on each nine
  • Double Bogeys: 1
  • Eagles: 0

Out of 72 holes, it might be said, Koepka made 5 mistakes that counted. That’s not a lot. He made two consecutive mistakes on the front nine on Sunday, but countered those two holes later, with three consecutive birdies. Koepka also bogeyed consecutive hole in round three, on the inward half. Similarly, he made a birdie soon after, to regain momentum. On Thursday, when he made double bogey on the par-3 5th hole, he made all pars before and after, until the 11th. From that point on, it was 3 birdies and 5 pars. What we see from him is an incredibly precise performance, where mistakes are minimized and opportunities, maximized.

Koepka is no fool. He knows his initial strength is distance off the tee, and he utilized it to perfection at Bellerive. After round two, he commented,

“I like the way the golf course sets up. People talk about it turns right-to-left, but you’ve always got a bunker on the inside of the turn, but I can carry most of them, so it’s not really a big deal that the holes turn right-to-left, you can kind of get away with it with my length.”

Yes, Brooks, you can, but only if you are accurate when the ball returns to Earth. After three performances where he outplayed the best from two generations, we might become believers. During the same interview, Koepka revealed a bit more about who he is, and what he does, during a major week:

“More attention to detail. More mentally focused, more every shot really, really means something. You drop a shot or two, it’s, you really put yourself back. There’s a lot more focus that I have in the Majors, the preparation, I mean everyone on my team even says I act a little different, the way I approach it. It’s very down to a routine this week and other weeks sometimes, not saying I vary from the routine, but it’s much more disciplined. Eating right, going to the gym, it’s almost timed perfectly.”

None of those things is impossible to emulate. I’m certain that Rickie Fowler does them, and I’m positive that Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, and Tiger Woods do so as well. None of them hoisted the Wannamaker trophy this week, so something that Koepka does, or has, or know, continues to pay off.

It might be absolute comfort in his skin. Koepka told a story about a workout he had with perennial partner, Dustin Johnson, this week at Life Time Fitness in St. Louis. In his words,

“Today I was in there with Dustin and everybody wanted a picture with Dustin. They were talking about him as we left and I was just standing there laughing. They were like, did you see that No. 1 player in the world was here. It’s like, yeah, okay. I don’t know what to say to that. It was like, all right.”

I’d certainly be tempted to jump in and tell the ogglers who I am, but that’s not Koepka. He doesn’t have the DJ beard, the DJ bent wrist, the DJ wife/daughter of a hockey legend. It’s only about Brooks Koepka, albeit not in an egocentric way. The egotist approaches the ogglers and tells them who he is. Koepka focuses on self: I’m just focused on me. I feel like, if I do what I’m supposed to, I should win the golf tournament. That’s not arrogance, that’s not delusion. He is good, good enough to win each time he tees it up. Is he proud of his first tour win, at the Phoenix Open? For sure. Is he prouder of the three that came next? Without a doubt. The stakes continue to increase, and Koepka rises to the occasion.

Remember, too, that Koepka lost a sizable chunk of this season. He shut his game down after injuring his wrist. A late-2017 surgery kept him out of action through the Masters, an event that now seems tailored to his style of golf. Not a large muscle that heals quickly, but a part of the body with so many moving parts. A part of the body so essential to the execution of every golf shot. If that threat doesn’t give one pause, and later, gratitude, then one has missed the point.

In 1986, Greg Norman and Severiano Ballesteros were the two best golfers in the world. Jack Nicklaus was not, a relic from another era, whose most recent win had come six years prior. When the Golden Bear began to make noise at Augusta National, Norman and Ballesteros folded. Fast forward 32 years, to the footsteps of another forest creature, Tiger Woods. Woods posted 8 birdies for 64 on Sunday at Bellerive. He reached the number (-14) that I suggested yesterday would be enough to win, except it wasn’t. Why not? Koepka, unlike Norman and Ballesteros, rose to the challenge.

Brooks Koepka has joined a small group of golfers with three major victories. He now has two distinct major titles on his resume, and will certainly be one of the favorites at all four majors next year. From 1903 to 1905, Willie Anderson was the only man to raise the unnamed trophy. In 2019, Koepka might join him at at Pebble Beach. He might put on a green jacket in Georgia, in April. He also might grasp a trophy named for a specific wine, at Royal Portrush, in Northern Ireland.

See Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB

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Photos from the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur

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GolfWRX is live from the U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, a venue which most recently hosted the 2006 Tennessee State Open.

The USGA fielded a record 1,468 entries for the competition, in which Kristen Gillman, Kaylee Benton, Laren Stephenson, and Jiwon Jeon are still alive in match play.

From WITB looks to shots of the superb Fazio course to some high art calligraphy (see below) we have it all.

Friday’s photos

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

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Tommy Fleetwood is down to his last set of Nike irons

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If you’ve seen any recent Tommy Fleetwood WITBs, you’ve seen Nike VR Pro Blades in the Englishman’s golf bag.

Fleetwood, a Nike staffer, has been working through the sets VR Pros the company made him before it left the hard goods business in 2016.

Now, according to a Golf Channel report, Fleetwood is on his last set of Nike-made clubs. So, while it’s unclear how long the irons will last, it is clear Fleetwood is close to needing replacement weapons.

“It’s not that big a deal if I do happen to break a club this week, then I will be one club down for the week. So I’ll have to be careful. But it’s not like a massive concern.”

Interestingly, Fleetwood damaged the hosels of his 7 and 8-irons at the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier this year, which compelled him to put his last set of irons into the bag at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

While it’s unclear exactly what kind of hosel damage would be irreparable, the point remains: Fleetwood needs to figure out his next move.

He doesn’t seem worried, however.

“Once this set goes, I’ll quite happily change into something else,” he said. “It’s just that I have the ability at the moment to play with a set of irons that I’ve loved and played with for so long. [But] absolutely playing a different set of irons would make life easier in terms of all the trucks that are out on Tour every week, and it’s easier to get one fixed or easy to get one sent out.”

Adding an interesting wrinkle to the story: Fleetwood’s countryman and former Nike staffer, Paul Casey, has a new set of VR Pro Blades in his possession, which he is unwilling to part with.

Per a PGA Tour report, Fleetwood said

“[Paul’s] got a brand new set and he won’t give them to me. Shame on Paul. He’s pretty set in his ways, so I don’t think I’ll be getting those.”

Casey, for his part, said, “They are as rare as rocking horse poo. And I will not sell them to him. Or put it this way, he hasn’t offered me enough money. They look beautiful, by the way, and I haven’t used them. They’re the kind of clubs you could hang on the wall. I love the fact that Tommy is running around telling everybody. But I haven’t found any gifts in my locker or handwritten notes. He’s gotta try harder.”

Regardless of whether he can purchase Paul Casey’s irons, Fleetwood will soon need new weaponry. Maybe he’ll give Mike Taylor and Artisan a call? Or maybe he’ll opt for one of the major OEMs and the associated convenience of a tour truck?

We’ll keep an eye on the World No. 11’s bag.

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