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A scramble for status in the Tour’s season finale

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This week’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney Resort offers a variety of newsworthy topics, for interests both short and long term.

Many players hovering around No. 125 on the money list are rightfully focused on securing their 2013 PGA Tour card. Others, whose place to play in 2013 is already assured, may be looking to break into the top-80 or top-70 on the money list, rankings earn golfers invitations to heralded PGA Tour events next season. Meanwhile, the conclusion of the 2012 PGA Tour season marks the end of the Fall Series as well.

Since 2007, and the emersion of the FedEx Cup, the Fall Series and Children’s Miracle Network event have closed out the PGA Tour’s season, shining a spotlight on the bubble players who must perform to continue playing at the game’s highest level. But when the Tour embarks upon its new schedule in 2013, the end of the FedExCup Series will mark the end of the PGA Tour’s season, meaning the Fall Series will become part of the Tour’s 2014 schedule.

That fact poses a challenge for Disney’s event, which has been played since 1971 and is one of the longest standing PGA Tour events. Children’s Miracle Network’s sponsorship concludes come Sunday, and the event’s exodus as the Tour’s finale could make finding a new sponsor a tall order. Nonetheless, the 128 players in the field this week will put everything forward to become the 2012 CMNH Classic victor.

Last year, then World No. 1 Luke Donald shot a final-round 64 to earn the come-from-behind victory and seal the PGA Tour money title over Webb Simpson. Six birdies to begin his back nine on the Magnolia Course fueled the low round as he claimed the two-stroke victory over third round co-leader Justin Leonard.

The players will once again take on the Palm and Magnolia Courses at Disney, with three rounds taking place on the 7,516 yard Magnolia track. The Palm may be the shorter course at 6,957, but it still provides challenges. Nine holes feature water while fairways are known for being tight and tree-lined. Accuracy on the course will prove key.

For the three other days, players will face even more water and a load of bunkers, but fairways are quite inviting off the tee. The Magnolia has water on 11 holes, while 97 bunkers are plotted around the course. Payne Stewart’s mark of 61 on the course in 1990 may stand the test of time as the course has grown over the years.

2012 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III is looking to close out the Fall Series on a perfect note having made each of the previous three cuts, and perhaps lock up another win at Disney. Love’s last win on Tour came at Disney in 2008. More notably, Love is currently No. 98 on the money list and is looking to stay inside the top 100 for the 27th straight season.

Tommy Gainey is no doubt still riding the high of his victory at the McGladrey Classic on St. Simons Island, Ga., but he is a golfer to keep an eye on this week. Gainey’s previous career-best finish was at this event, when he finished second to Love in 2008.

Meanwhile, Tour veteran Justin Leonard returns to Disney looking for a better end result than in 2011. Leonard’s tournament stalled in the final round as the 40-year-old only managed to shoot 1-under to fall two shots short of a playoff. Leonard’s five previous trips to Disney have been impressive as well, highlighted by three finishes of sixth place or better. Brendon de Jonge hopes to continue his hot streak in Orlando this week, riding three-straight top-five finishes. In those three events, de Jonge is a combined 54-under-par and Disney is another event which is birdie prone.

Finally, most year-end awards are practically foregone conclusions, but Jonas Blixt can try to throw a corkscrew into the equation if he takes his second title in his last three tournaments. Many consider John Huh the top contender for Rookie of the Year, as he was one of three rookies to win on Tour and made it the farthest of all rookies in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Blixt is coming off a disappointing T-84 at the McGladrey Classic, but still has the momentum of his strong play in the first two Fall Series events.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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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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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West (7,113 yards, par 72) in La Quinta, California.

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The field this week is headlined by Jon Rahm, who’s currently ranked No. 3 in the Official World Golf Rankings after his second-place finish at the 2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago. Joining him in the field are notables John Daly, Brian Harman, last week’s Sony Open champion Patton Kizzire, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker and Bubba Watson.

Defending-champion Hudson Swafford notched his first career victory at the 2017 CareerBuilders Challenge, where he won by one stroke over Adam Hadwin. He’ll be back in the field this year to defend his title.

Check out our photos from the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

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

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Tuesday’s Photos from the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West (7,113 yards, par 72) in La Quinta, California.

Related

The field this week is headlined by Jon Rahm, who’s currently ranked No. 3 in the Official World Golf Rankings after his second-place finish at the 2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago. Joining him in the field are notables John Daly, Brian Harman, last week’s Sony Open champion Patton Kizzire, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker and Bubba Watson.

Defending-champion Hudson Swafford notched his first career victory at the 2017 CareerBuilders Challenge, where he won by one stroke over Adam Hadwin. He’ll be back in the field this year to defend his title.

Check out our photos from the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge below!

Tuesday’s Galleries

Special Galleries

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

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