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Tour Rundown: Jess Korda gets back in the winner’s circle in record-setting fashion

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#AllTheFeels no doubt qualifies as this week’s Tour Rundown hashtag. First, you’ve got Jess Korda returning from the PUP list to win the LPGA Thailand in record-setting fashion. Next comes Eddie Pepperell, whose cheeks and chin smile grander than his mouth, no matter the moment. He snagged his first European Tour title in Qatar. You want more? How about Ben Campbell, sidelined for over a year with a chest illness, rebounding from a playoff loss in the same event last year to win the New Zealand PGA?

PGA Tour Honda Classic

All right, there was one winner from the Usual Suspects category. Hopes were high for a Luke List Breakout or an English Tommy Fleetwood Conquering of the Colonies triumph. In the gloaming, it was that young, familiar face of Justin Thomas, hoisting his eighth tour trophy.

How he won

Thomas seems to be that old soul who modifies his tactics according to the venue. We’ve seen him go low when conditions afford the opportunity, and we’ve seen him manage a calm day with aplomb. On Sunday, Thomas and company dealt with the wind, whose only demand was to avoid mistakes. Other than a 9th-hole bogey, Thomas did just that. He positioned himself with a Saturday 65, then followed it up with a firm 68 on Sunday. In the playoff, Thomas’ busted a drive up the fairway’s right side, then reached the putting surface with his second shot. Two putts later, his birdie clinched the trophy.

Click here to see the clubs JT used to win the 2018 Honda Classic.

How the others did mighty battle

Luke List was the fellow most might have pulled for, had they not been in the Thomas camp. Come to think of it, perhaps that was Fleetwood. Both are engaging fellows with enviable stories of diligent work. List had a chance to enter the pagoda of victory after spending time in golf’s minor leagues, but a wayward drive on the playoff hole made birdie a bit more elusive. His par was ultimately shy of Thomas’ birdie effort. Fleetwood had victory in sights when consecutive bogeys at 14 and 15 dropped him out of the lead. He rebounded with birdie at 16, but would have needed two more to join the playoff. In the end, it was Sweden’s Alex Noren in third at 7-under, followed by Fleetwood at 6-under for the fourth spot.

Pepperell dumps the bagel with first Euro Tour triumph at Qatar Masters

There are few as gregarious and witty in professional golf as Eddie Pepperell. Between his blog and his twitter account, his opinions are well-known and well-versed. Pepperell’s previous top finish was a playoff loss at the Irish Open. His T16 at the U.S. Open last year gave a hint that his game was rounding into proper form. His work this week was stellar, from start to finish, and his trophy, well-earned.

How he won

Pepperell fended off challenges from Oliver Fisher on the final two days. He birdied the 18th on Saturday to tie Fisher atop the standings, then held steady on the outward nine, as Fisher struggled. Sunday was the only day that the winner failed to birdie the closing hole, but a short putt for par was worth 100 times its weight in gold.

How he lost

Fisher got off track with consecutive bogeys at the 4th through 6th holes. With the outcome all but settled, Fisher unsettled matters with five birdies on the inward half, to reach 17-under par. Like Pepperell, Fisher failed to birdie the finisher, after three consecutive days of birdies. That and the lone hiccough on the inward side, a bogey at the 13th, prevented Fisher from mounting a massive comeback and earning his second tour triumph.

Korda back on top with win at LPGA Tour Thailand Classic

Jessica Korda had two eagles in Thursday’s first round in Chonburi. A good thing it was, as she also had two bogeys and a double. With the balance sheet even, she added six birdies and joined three golfers atop the leader board. On Friday, Korda closed her round with yet another eagle, but it came on the heels of eight birdies, giving her 62 on the day and a lead she would never relinquish.

How she won

What? That intro didn’t tell you enough? OK, Korda followed up her 66-62 start with a 68-67 conclusion. She pencilled 25 birdies and three eagles on her four scorecards, and won by four over the tandem of Moriya Jutanugarn and Lexi Thompson. Korda alternated pars and bogeys over her final nine holes, a unique achievement that established her margin of victory.

How Moriya and Lexi ended up second

Moriya started the day four strokes back of the leader, and would have needed 63, 1 lower than the day’s best, to climb into a tie with Korda. Achievable, perhaps, but a slow start (six consecutive pars) doomed Jutanugarn’s chances. As for Thompson, she made the most of what there was. Playing Happy, like the inscription on her putter face, Lexi etched eight birdies onto the relief of her round, jumping from fifth to second at day’s end. Her 64 was tied with Jin Young Ko and Pornanong Phatlum for round four low score.

Campbell defends home country with New Zealand PGA Championship title

Ben Campbell must have searched in vain for countrymen alongside on the 1st page of the leaderboard. No matter, he said, I’ll simply make a few birdies and survive my late bogey, and hold the lot of them off. At least, that’s the internal conversation we imagined!

How Campbell came back

The Kiwi was tied with Aussie Deyen Lawson on 16-under at day’s start. While Lawson experienced the unfortunate birdie-bogey kind of day, Campbell was able to post three birds against one boge, and held off Ashley Hall for the victory. Lucky charm for Campbell? His mother caddied for him this week! Want more good fortune? Campbell played the Manawatu golf club over and over while honing his game. Sometimes, the stars align.

How he lost

Hall played the round of the day, a 65, to gain four strokes on the leaders. His work moved him into a tie for second with Lawson, two behind the first place mark. It would be ludicrous to suggest that an 8th-hole bogey, his only one on the final day, kept Hall from victory. Hall put himself in position to win, but Campbell refused to release his hold on the top spot.

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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.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Greg Elder

    Feb 27, 2018 at 11:59 am

    She was threatened that her sister was getting more attention than her. They fixed her pig nose and droopy face and now she is better looking than Nelly. Its obvious.

    • Shawn Gillen

      Feb 27, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      Totally agree with you Greg. I smell serious you know what on this story.

  2. Mower

    Feb 26, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    Awesome play by Jess! Hope this year’s good for her.

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Tour News

5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

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Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills 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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Spotted at Shinnecock: #RVLife, superb staff bags, stellar stampings

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We’re on the famed grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the second major of the year. With the U.S. Open returned to such a visually and historically rich venue, it may be a bit tough to focus on equipment.

Nevertheless, we spotted some cool stuff, Tuesday, as the players move ever closer to the second major of th eyear.

Let’s get to the photos.

#RVLife propronent, Jason Day’s putter cover is incredible.

Michael Greller displays an essential caddie skill…

Face of Tiger’s wedge. Do these look like standard TaylorMade MG grooves to you?

Greatest side panel on a bag ever?

Who isn’t happy to see “Woods” on USGA tournament signage?

Shintaro Ban’s unique dot stamping is, well, money.

A look at the Bridgestone U.S. Open staff bag and headcovers.

Kenny Perry: Still gaming R7 irons.

Scott Gregory with some solid wedge stamping.

What is this lead taped and war torn beauty?

All our photos from Tuesday

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

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