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Tour Rundown: Woodland wins in overtime on Super Bowl Sunday

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On the weekend of the big football game, golf offered up excitement across the globe. Playoffs decided events in Australia and Arizona, while an unanticipated comeback from an unknown quantity claimed a European Tour title in Malaysia. On the heels of the “Iggles” big victory in Minnesota, let’s have our own championship Tour Rundown for the first weekend of February.

Woodland claims third PGA Tour title in overtime

Four-point-five years had passed since Gary Woodland won in Reno. His game had improved, but the victories did not follow. On Sunday, one of the tour’s most natural athletes returned to the winner’s circle, dispatching Chez Reavie on the first extra hole.

How Woodland Won

Playoffs are passe on tour these days; four consecutive weeks of them will do that to a fan base. Woodland finished a solid forty minutes before Reavie, thanks to a 9-birdie round of 64 on Sunday. A 10th would have finished things in regulation, but Woodland’s 10-feet effort broke off harmlessly. In the playoff, Woodland drove into the church pew bunkers on the left, but drew a clean lie. He was able to reach the front fringe, and his 2-putt par from 25 feet topped Reavie’s bogey five.

See the clubs Woodland used to win on Sunday

How Reavie went down fighting

The 2001 USGA Public Links champion played in Sunday’s final threesome, but drew little inspiration from his partners. Bryson DeChambeau and Rickie Fowler struggled on the fourth day, leaving Reavie to find his own motivation. A poor iron shot into the 16th led to bogey, but the 36-year old responded with two closing birdies, the latter on the strength of a cross-green bomb of a putt. In the playoff, Reavie had the upper hand off the tee, but played a sloppy iron that spun off the green, leaving him a tricky chip. He was unable to get up and down to extend the playoff. Ollie Schniederjans and Brendan Steele tied for third at 15-under par and 3 strokes out of the playoff.

Scott Langley surges for first Web.Com Win

Panama provided a warm welcome for the left-hand brigade. Eric Axley led entering round four. Edward Loar ended in a tie for second, and Langley came out on top. No lead is safe, on any tour, at any time. Birdies and double were exchanged like currency, leaving nothing certain until the final green.

Langley’s Road Map

The 28-year old alum of The First Tee and the University of Illinois had a scorching back-nine on track, with four birdies in his first six holes. A double bogey on the 16th brought him back to the field, but he was able to hold off Rafael Campos and Loar by two strokes. Three birdies on the outward half stood Langley at 7-under on the day, so if ever a double bogey was not the end of the world, this was it.

How the chasers came up short

The buried lede was this: if you’re going to make a double bogey, make lots of birdies. Axley had two of them, and not enough birdies to remain in the hunt. Loar had birdies at 1 and 3, but a late double was his undoing. Campos had a passel of birdies of his own, but three bogeys meant that his comeback effort would come up a bit shy. The daunting, closing trio of holes at Panama Golf Club offered only one birdie (Campos at 17) to the entire top ten on Sunday.

Sharma blazes past field for second Euro Tour title

Shubhankar Sharma was a little-known quantity from India before Sunday. He had won in South Africa in December, but was not on anyone’s radar in Malaysia. In round four, he played the golf we all dream about, posting 10 birdies and nary a bogey, on his way to a 62 and a 2-stroke win over the third-round leader, Jorge Campillo. Sharma tallied 23 birdies on the week, so it’s safe to say the best was left for last.

How Sharma shook off Campillo

In case you missed it, 10 birdies! At dawn’s first light, Sharma was barely inside the top 20. He finished an hour ahead of the final trio, who had to wonder if the scoreboard had been taken over by jesters. Despite not making birdie at the easy opening hole, Sharma matched 31s on each side to separate himself from the field.

Campillo comes up just shy of a playoff

In truth, it wasn’t as close as it looked. Campillo opened with eagle 3 for the second consecutive day, but had to birdie the final 2 holes to move a stroke ahead of Ryan Fox and countryman Pablo Larrazabal, for solo second spot. Not much that one can do, when golf like Sharma’s is played. Fox had the shot of the week, for an albatross (double-eagle) on Saturday’s first hole, and followed it up on Sunday with an eagle at the opening hole.

Hawkes edges Endycott at Oates Vic Open

In a battle of young pros, third-round leader Simon Hawkes held off Harrison Endycott, emerging triumphant on the first playoff hole. Hawkes had a chance to win in regulation with eagle at the last, but his birdie was enough to cinch a spot in the playoff.

How Hawkes took down Endycott

Simply put, he closed with birdie in regulation to tie, then made birdie on the only playoff hole for the win. Hawkes had 5 birdies against 1 bogey on the final day, enough to dispatch all pursuers save one.

Endycott edged close to victory, but …

He came close, there is not doubt, but Endycott beautiful 66, built by 6 birdies and 12 pars, was just not enough. In the playoff, he and Hawkes both got into bunker trouble, but the runner-up was unable to extract himself efficiently, and settled for par and the second-place check.

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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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tom54

    Feb 5, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Maybe Mr Montesano was busy watching Super Bowl pregame instead of Phoenix Open because Chez Reavie was paired with John Rahm and Fowler, not Fowler and DeChambeau. He was correct that both his playing partners did not play that well in his group. Certainly thought Rahm and Fowler would have done better but that’s why we tune in.

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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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Tour News

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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