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Tour Rundown: Potter earns second win, Aphibarnrat wins Down Under

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Golf knows the Olympic Games, but since these are the winter version, no amount of creativity could develop a golf competition in Pyeongchang. Better to schedule events in Colombia, California, Australia and Florida, where the snow didn’t fall and short sleeves were the norm. There were no playoffs, which had become commonplace in 2018. Enough anticipation, let’s run down the week’s events.

Ted Potter Jr. earns second Tour win at AT&T Pro-Am

Potter, unexpectedly, established himself as one of the top closers in the PGA Tour’s first two months of 2018. The world’s number 1 and 2, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, were unable to put together a Sunday round to challenge the Florida native. Potter wrote a different story. He had moved into a tie with Johnson on Saturday thanks to a 9-under 62 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, the low round of the week. Given Johnson’s track record around Pebble Beach, lesser competitors might have played a lesser game. Not Potter. The 34-year-old journeyman endured slow play from the groups ahead and a fresh wind that featured on the final four holes. Potter’s 68 was two back of the low round of the day, so the star-studded foursome of Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Chez Reavie ended in a tie for second at 14-under, three shots behind Potter.

See the clubs Potter used to win at Pebble

Aphibarnrat claims European Tour’s World Super 6 Perth

The Super 6 should be on every tour, no questions asked. Not every week, but every year. After medal qualifying on site, eight golfers receive a bye in to the second round of match play, while 16 others battle for the right to advance. Since golfers have only six holes to decide the match, things happen early and quickly. Kiradech Aphibarnrat was not one of the top eight seeds; in fact, he was the last golfer to qualify on to match play. He gained momentum with each match triumph, defeating Ben Eccles, Yusaku Miyazato, Sean Crocker and Lucas Herbert. In the final match, Aphibarnrat faced off against Australia’s Jamies Nitties for the title. Aphibarnrat secured his position with a stunning tee ball to 3 feet on the short, par-four 14th hole. One hole later, the title was his.

Jiyai Shin claims Ladies European Tour Canberra Classic

In 2014, in the prime of her career, Jiyai Shin left the LPGA Tour to return to Korea. Since then, she has played the majority of her golf on the Japan LPGA Tour. From time to time, Shin mixes it up with her rivals from a past time, and this weekend, she came out on top of the LET’s Canberra Classic. Shin was in second place, behind last week’s winner, Australian Minjee Lee, when Round 3 began. Both golfers birdied the first hole, but Shin began to chip away at the lead, or perhaps Lee proceeded to chip away at her own lead. Lee bogeyed the 4th, 5th and 8th holes, allowing Shin to take the lead. After going out in 31, Shin came home in 33 for 64 and a six-stroke win.

England’s Ben Taylor wins Web.Com Tour’s Club Colombia Championship by 6

The Club Colombia championship was one of Ben Taylor’s top finishes on the 2017 Web.Com tour. In 2018, Taylor improved by 20 spots, claiming his first professional victory in impressive fashion. Keeping with the theme of the week, where the favorites fall away and an unheralded champion emerges, Taylor was the only competitor to play four rounds in the 60s. He took the lead for good after Round 2, and held off a quartet of runners-up to move from 50th to third position in the order of merit. Kyoung-Hoon Lee lit the back nine on fire, with an eagle and four birdies for 30, but Taylor’s outward nine of 32 allowed him to coast home for the victory.

Calcavecchia bags PGA Tour Champions’ Boca Raton Championship

Mark Calcavecchia reviewed his first two rounds, in which he made 17 birdies, and concluded that low was the way to go on Sunday. After all, Bernhard Langer was on his heels, along with a host of challengers. When Calc birdied his first three holes of Round 3, he was headed in the right direction. Langer had four birdies of his own through the first 12 holes to keep pace. Calcavecchia bogeyed holes 14 and 16, the latter after dunking his tee shot on the par three. Although the two were tied at the top, it was short-lived. Langer bogeyed the two closing holes, in unlikely fashion. Long known as the steely eyed closer, Langer’s collapse was still in keeping with an odd week of professional golf. The victory was Calcavecchia’s fourth on the senior circuit, and first since 2015.

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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. Sam

    Feb 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Ted Potter’s win is thus far the best of the season. The fact that he was able to patiently wait out all of the slow and boring play in front of him (not to mention having to suffer through watching it) without falling into a coma speaks volumes of his history and experience. Well done Ted! Well done!

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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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