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Tour Rundown: Michelle Wie, Phil Mickelson end victory droughts

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It had been four long years since her last victory for Michelle Wie. In 2014, she won the US Open and could understandably have expected more victories and major titles in the coming years. It wasn’t to be. That streak ended this week.

Phil Mickelson, unfathomably, had gone five years since his 2013 win at the British Open. Despite many close calls, Lefty was unable to pull the string. Fortunately for his adoring public, he is back atop the podium. A big week for ending dry spells. Let’s run it all down in this week’s Tour Rundown.

WGC Mexico Championship ends Mickelson’s five-year slump

Part of the hilarity of golf is that accuracy matters little when putting is on fire. Phil Mickelson came to Mexico in 2017, visited every acre of the golf course, and still finished tied for seventh,  four shots removed from the lead. With little fanfare, Mickelson bided his time at Chapultepec golf club in 2018, then pounced near the end. He birdied the 7oth hole to tie Justin Thomas atop the leaderboard, then dispatched the wunderkind with a par at the 17th hole for tour win number 43.

How Mickelson snuck in for the win

Lefty averaged one bogey per round. Thomas had six eagles, but he also had six bogeys. No one else in the field was able to minimize bogeys like the eventual winner. Mickelson’s late heroics included birdies at 15 and 16 to tie at the top, a par at the last (not so easy a feat, as we shall soon read) and then what should have been a birdie on the playoff hole, but somehow stayed out. All in all, Phil the Thrill was somehow destined to win this week in Mexico.

How the rest were bested

In a tweet, Justin Thomas showered props on the champion, while confessing that he was fortunate to even have a shot. His bogey on the playoff hole took the shine off the week, but maintained his ranking as current best in the world. To begin, the star of the week finally crashed to Earth on Sunday. After playing 13-under par golf through three rounds, and leading for two of them, unheralded Shubhankar Sharma bogeyed four of his final six holes to tie for ninth. Next in the gutted department was Tyrrell Hatton. Tied with Mickelson and Thomas on the 18th tee, Hatton bogeyed to drop to a tie for 3rd with Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello. The Spaniard had birdied the last to get to this point, and oh, what Hatton would have given for that magic. Note to Thomas Bjorn: pair Hatton and Cabrera in Ryder Cup in France.

HSBC Women’s World Championship to Wie in 11th hour

A 35-foot putt for the win, from just off the 72nd green, is a PR dream scenario. Michelle Wie had it and made it, and that’s how the East was won.

How Wiesy made it look easy, kinda sorta

First came Danielle Kang, looking invincible through 36 holes. Next were the Korda sisters, with Nelly in the lead and Jessica in the hunt, after 54 holes were complete. In the end, Michelle Wie stood tallest and hoisted the winner’s trophy. A Sunday 65 is never refused, and the 2014 US Open titleist turned in a clean card of seven birdies and 11 pars to outdistance a quartet of runners-up by that one, slim stroke. The HSBC was Wie’s fifth LPGA tour title and first since that Pinehurst Open, four years ago.

How close the others came

Jenny Shin had a 65 of her own on Sunday, but it included a bogey at the worst time: hole 72. The miscue cost her the lead, then a playoff after Wie’s heroics. Nelly Korda also had a chance to tie on the last green, but her wee putt for birdie was never on line, and never threatened the hole. Brooke Henderson started fierce, with four birds in eight holes, but made no more until the last, to reach -16 after a 67. Danielle Kang, along with Korda, had to feel the greatest frustration. Kang had birdies at two and four… and 16 pars for 70. Korda had two birdies and one bogey for 71. Alas, it wasn’t their day.

Stricker claims Cologard Classic for 1st Champions Tour triumph

OK, we thought that 4 years was a long time…then we winced at a five-year dry spell. What about Steve Stricker, who hadn’t won since the 2012 Tournament of Champions. Well, he finally did, and it was his 1st trophy on the Champions Tour. Stricker finished two shots clear of a trio of runners-up at Tucson.

How Stricker stayed the course

Let’s remember who we’re talking about here. Stricker was most improved golfer on the PGA Tour two years in succession. The guy knows how to deal with periods of fallow. He probably doesn’t like them, but if Vegas were to give odds on golfers tenacious enough to come back, Stricker would be an easy bet. The Wisconsonian began Sunday 1 shot back of Tommy Tolles. When Tolles backed up, the door opened for all comers. Stricker combined position with poise and edged past the field to claim the cup.

How the pretenders lined up behind Stricker

Fellow cheesehead Jerry Kelly was Stricker’s biggest threat, but he had too much turf to make up in round three. Kelly’s opening salvo of 70-72 was kinda weak, but his 8-birdie 65 on Sunday tied the low round of the week. He jumped up 21 spots into the week’s 2nd spot. Tied with JK were 1st-round leader Scott Dunlap and 2016 US Senior Open champion Gene Sauers. Dunlap opened with one of those 65s, but could not return to the 60s the final 2 days. 69 on either day would have meant a playoff for the Floridian nee Pennsylvanian. As for Sauers, he needed birdie at the last to tie Stricker, but closed instead with bogey to drop out of 2nd alone.

Coetzee claims 2nd Tshwane Open by 2 strokes

George Coetzee will welcome the European Tour to South Africa every week, thank you very much. The Pretoria native, who played the Pretoria country club course with great frequency as a youth, won his 2nd co-sanctioned event there in four years. Coetzee took the lead on Friday and refused to offer it up to anyone else.

How Coetzee turned home cooking into another title

It wasn’t easy. The 54-hole leader bogeyed two consecutive holes, early on Sunday, to offer hope to his closest pursuer, Sam Horsfield. Coetzee found his focus two holes later, making his first birdie of the day at the sixth hole. He followed it with six more birdies, against a bogey at the 16th, for 67 on the day. The victory was his ninth on the South African tour, and his fourth on Europe’s premier golf tour.

How Horsfield mounted his comeback

After Friday, it was Coetzee’s event to lose, and he never gave real hope to the field. Although Horsfield drew within a shot on Sunday, he had too much real estate to overcome. Despite opening 68-69, the Englishman found himself far behind Coetzee’s 67-64 start. Horsfield had Saturday’s low round of 64, and he would have needed another 64 to put pressure on the eventual winner. Still, Horsfield had to be satisfied with an early-season, solo 2nd place, one ahead of Finland’s Miko Korhonen. The Fin took the lead over the round’s first seven holes, as he stood -15 while Coetzee was edging backward. Korhonen could not keep up the torrid pace, and ended the day on -15.

New Zealand Open to Nisbet by 2

It was going to take a monumental comeback by anyone in the field, to erase Terry Pilkadaris’ 54-hole lead at the New Zealand Open. The Aussie stood at 190 strokes through three rounds, a massive 23-strokes under par. Incredibly, after summoning 25 birdies over the 1st three rounds, Pilkadaris was able to uncover one solitary bird on day four. This treachery opened the door to the field, and Daniel Nisbet stepped through.

How Nisbet caught the rabbit

After Pilkadaris’ sublime 62 on Saturday, the tournament appeared over. However, the leader’s 70 was overtaken by another 62, this time from countryman Daniel Nisbet. The Queenslander started well, at three under through 9 holes, to take the lead in the chase for runner-up spot. A back nine of one eagle and four consecutive birdies (holes 14-17) brought Nisbet home in 30 strokes. What had become a two-horse race was decided when neither golfer birdied the final green.

How Pilkadaris lost the magic wand

A golfer who marks down 17 pars and one birdie, is usually the toast of the town. In Pilkadaris’ case, the day could not have been more frustrating. Putt after putt stayed out of the hole, as his closest competitor drained one effort after another. All that was left to do was shrug and move on to the next event, consoled somehow by a runner-up finish.

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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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Scooter

    Mar 6, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    Thomas is also not ranked best in the world. That’s currently DJ

  2. Kyle

    Mar 5, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Thomas did not have 6 eagles.

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The FedEx Cup overhaul is official. Here are the details

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The PGA Tour substantiated the rumored changes to the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Tuesday, unveiling a new playoff format in general, an overhaul of the Tour Championship in particular, and a new regular season points race.

As had been previously established, the Tour will move from four playoff events to three. Most dramatically, the rumored staggered Tour Championship scoring, with the No. 1 player on the points list starting at 10 under, is now a reality. The next four players in the standings will being a 8 under through 5 under. No 6-10 will start at 4 under. Every five players after that will start a stroke further back, with No. 26 through 30 beginning at even par.

There will also now be a $10 million regular season bonus pool sponsored by Wyndham Rewards, aptly named the “Wyndham Rewards Top 10.”

The FedEx Cup Playoffs will wrap prior to Labor Day, thus finishing before the NFL season kicks off. The field for The Northern Trust will be 125 players, 70 for the BMW Championship, and 30 for the Tour Championship, with the points remaining the same for the first two events.

“This is a significant and exciting change for the PGA Tour, our players, our partners and – most importantly – our fans,” said PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan. “As soon as the Tour Championship begins, any fan – no matter if they’ve followed the PGA Tour all season or are just tuning in for the final event – can immediately understand what’s going on and what’s at stake for every single player in the field. And, of course, players will know exactly where they stand at all times while in play, which will ratchet up the drama, consequence and volatility of the competition down the stretch.”

Regarding the $10 million Wyndham Rewards Top 10, the Tour says it, “will also put an even greater premium on excelling over the course of the FedExCup Regular Season.”

The leader of the top 10 will earn $2 million, with the runner-up pocketing $1.5 million. The existing FedEx Cup bonus pool will now total $60 million—$25 million more than the existing pool. Accordingly, the FedEx Cup champion will earn $15 million, rather than the $10 million in the current system.

Alternatively, there’s Geoff Shackelford’s summary of the changes: “This will be easier to follow than the current system where algorithms proved consistently boring to follow. This has to be better…the FedExCup as we knew it, did not work.”

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GolfWRX Morning 9: The real problem with the FedEx Cup | Golfer at gunpoint | What elite junior golfers all do

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

September 18, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Feinstein: the FedEx Cup Playoffs still aren’t right
Most agree the PGA Tour is yet to deliver the FedEx Cup (pardon the pun) of our collective dreams. John Feinstein offered some constructive criticism.
“Chances are good though, based on reports of the planned changes, that the tour still won’t get it right. It has been trying-sort of-for 12 years now to get it right. The problem is it doesn’t REALLY want to get it exactly right. Which is sad, because it shouldn’t be that difficult.”
  • “Because it wants so badly to convince the public that the events it controls are REALLY important, the tour barely gives more credit to those who win a major than to those who win the John Deere Classic or The CareerBuilder Challenge.”
  • “The winner of a regular tour event receives 500 FedExCup points. Those who win a WGC event-also part of the tour-receive 550 points.”
  • “Which is why a major should count for at least three times as much as a regular tour win in the points system. Winning a major is SO much harder than a regular tour event: the quality of the field; the pressure on Sunday; the understanding that you are playing for history, not just money.”
  • “It is ludicrous that Brooks Koepka won two majors this year and goes into the Tour Championship in seventh place on the points list. Tony Finau, who has not won anywhere, is third. Koepka could add the Tour Championship to his resume this week and NOT win the FedEx Cup. Seriously?”
Additionally, Feinstein levels the suggestion most of us agree on: the Playoffs should be actual playoffs.
2. …and speaking of still not right
Joel Beall follows up on the story of Montana parents being barred from watching their children play high school golf.
  • “It appears Kelly’s group has garnered a partial victory, as the MHSA has introduced a rule on a trial basis this fall that will allow non-participants on the course during events. Twelve guideline have been implemented, which state that spectators have to stay 40 yards from golfers and that cell phones must be turned off upon entering the property.”
  • “We will try it at all levels and see how it goes,” Luke Kloker of the MHSA executive board said to Montana’s Sidney Herald. “Every other state seems to be able to figure out how to make it work.”
  • “However, this pilot program will come with a price. The MHSA also announced that it will charge $10 for admission to the course for golf events. While it’s common for high-school sports like football, basketball, and baseball to charge entrance fees, it’s highly unusual for golf.”
What’s the rationale? Funding a beer cart?
3. Rosaforte on how Keegan made it all the way back
Tim Rosaforte does his usual picking of the low-hanging fruit and juicing it for all its worth with his latest: a look at Keegan Bradley’s resurgence. (Not a criticism of Tim. He does what he does and he does it well)
  • A morsel…”The decline in Bradley’s young career started with an exchange of high-profile swing coaches starting 2013, when he left Jim McLean for Chuck Cook and went back to McLean before settling on Darren May, an English teaching pro at The Bear’s Club.”
  • “We worked hard on making him accept the fact that he needs to be somewhat of an average putter, because his ball-striking and driving stats are so good,” May explained. “They’re all shooting scores in different ways.”
  • “Ranked second in strokes gained: approach and sixth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, Bradley ultimately fed off the success his close friend Webb Simpson achieved in 2018, when he overcame the anchor ban with a win at The Players and a spot on Furyk’s team.”
  • “Our career arc has been the same,” Bradley said, referring to Simpson. “Watching what he did really changed my mentality.”
  • “The final piece of Bradley’s resurrection were the words of encouragement passed along by Michael Jordan through a relationship cultivated at The Bear’s Club. Not long after he signed for the 78 at Ridgewood, Bradley started reading MJ’s inspirational words on his phone. His basic message: Take from the experience and build on it.”
4.  Evian finally has that major feel
Randall Mell writes (rightly) that major championships cannot be manufactured. Thus, the Evian was always going to have to grow into to fine garments the LPGA bought for it in awarding that status.
  • “There’s more to creating major-championship tradition than jacking up the purse, renovating a course and draping the winner in her country’s flag after it came flapping from the heavens under a skydiver’s parachute.”
  • “It takes Sundays like the one Angela Stanford delivered at Evian this past week….It was a big day for more than Stanford, who was such a feel-good story, breaking through at 40 to win her first major with her mother at home fighting a second bout with breast cancer.”
  • “It was a big day for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and Evian Championship founder Franck Riboud…The Evian Championship finally measured up.”
5. Patty’s new Scotty?
While Reed is a free agent, he’s had nothing but success with an Odyssey White Hot Pro 3. Scotty Cameron is turning on the charm however, making the putter above to woo Captain America, according to David Dusek.
“A yellow box arrived at Titleist’s PGA Tour van Monday at East Lake Golf Club, containing a new, customized Scotty Cameron Tour Rat I putter that has a slightly darker, non-glare finish. While Reed is not a Titleist staff player, the putter, trimmed in red, white and blue, has Captain America stamped into the bumpers of the head, a nod to Reed’s nickname after the 2016 Ryder Cup.”
6. Want to be an elite junior golfer?
Our Brendan Ryan found some interesting results in exploring where PGA Tour pros played their junior golf.
  • “Based on the data of these 24 PGA Tour players, their average home course has a yardage of 6,772 and slope of 132. Wowzers! Can’t believe it? It makes perfect sense: To be competitive in golf, you must shoot under par. Shooting under par, like riding a bike, or walking, or writing, is a skill. It is developed through a combination of repetition and feedback.”
  • “Easier golf courses allow players the opportunity to shoot lower scores and build confidence. Over time, these skills become habit. When players enter tournaments, it is more likely they shoot under par. Breaking par at your home golf course is only the first step towards becoming an elite junior golfer. The data suggests that players (both boys and girls) need to average approximately 69 per round to win on the AJGA – on 6,800-yard courses for boys and just under 6,000 yards for girls.”
  • “No major championship venue has ever had a junior member go on to win, or even play, the PGA Tour. That’s right: the PGA Tour is not filled with junior members from Augusta National. Why? Because while playing Shinnecock Hills is an absolute treat, the course is extremely difficult, and 74 is a great score. Junior members at such courses create habits of shooting 74, and when they enter tournaments, like the AJGA, in general, they get beat.”
7. Coastal resorts weather the hurricane
Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann reports…”Hurricane Florence inflicted untold millions of dollars of damage on the Carolinas, but most of the popular resort destinations along the coastline were not hit as hard as initially feared.”
“The hurricane looked like it was going to deliver a direct Category 4 blast to the coastline where North Carolina and South Carolina meet. The storm weakened as it made landfall but still wreaked havoc as it moved slowly across the Carolinas. But the damage was not as bad as initially feared.”
“North Myrtle Beach, S.C., Mayor Marilyn Hatley told the Myrtle Beach Sun News that she felt “blessed and thankful” that the area, while hit hard, didn’t suffer the devastation that had been anticipated.”
8. Odds to win the FedEx Cup
Per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook…
2/1: Bryson DeChambeau
11/5: Justin Rose
6/1: Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson
8/1: Justin Thomas
16/1: Brooks Koepka
40/1: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy
50/1: Keegan Bradley, Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari
60/1: Bubba Watson, Cameron Smith
100/1: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay
150/1: Tommy Fleetwood
250/1: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler
500/1: Aaron Wise, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na, Kyle Stanley
1000/1: Marc Leishman, Gary Woodland
5000/1: Patton Kizzire
9. Golfer threatened at gunpoint…for trying to retrieve his golf ball from somebody’s yard
Just the facts, ma’am…
KDKA CBS Pittsburgh report…”Police say a Butler County man pulled out a pistol and threatened a golfer who was trying to get a ball out of the man’s yard.”
  • “According to state police, a 42-year-old Butler man was playing golf at the Bonnie Brook Golf Course on Serene Lane around 2 p.m. Sunday when he hit a golf ball in the direction of a nearby home.”
  • “When the man went to retrieve the golf ball from the yard, a 55-year-old man came out and the two got into an argument…During the argument, the man pulled out a pistol and threatened the golfer.”
  • “The 55-year-old man will be cited with terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment. He has also been told not to contact the victim.”

 

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Tour Rundown: Sangmoon Bae is headed back to the PGA Tour

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The schedulers may have whiffed with Tour Championship and Ryder Cup in back-to-back weeks, but that’s what we have on the horizon. As the 2017-18 PGA Tour season comes to a close, and with it, the Web.Com Tour playoffs, number one on everyone’s mind is next season: where will I play? Do I have status? Some of those questions were answered last week, so let’s run down the answers to the questions, in this week’s Tour Rundown.

Bae back on PGA Tour after Web.Com playoff win

The oldest event on the Web.Com Tour was the site of Sang-moon Bae’s comeback completion. Two years of mandatory military service in South Korea did little to derail the 32-year old’s professional career. Bae birdied the 72nd hole to hold off his challengers, including the eponymous Anders Albertson, to win the Albertson’s Boise Open at 19-under. Bae was a stroke off the first-round lead, then moved into a first-place tie after 36-holes. He continued to advance, seizing the 54-hole lead. Albertson caught fire on Sunday, making 5 birdies in his opening 9 holes. After a bogey stall at the 11th, Albertson birdied 5 of the closing 8 holes. Roberto Diaz of Mexico was tied with Bae after round 3, but a Sunday 68 dropped him back to 5th place. Bae guaranteed a return to the 2018-19 PGA Tour with his Idaho triumph.

Wu works wonders in Holland for KLM victory

Like Bae, Ashun Wu of China birdied the 72nd hole at The Dutch club, host site of The KLM championship on the European Tour. Like Bae, his closest pursuer (Chris Wood) failed to match it, and Wu walked away with his third career European tour title. Wood held a 1-stroke lead over Wu after 54 holes, and the battle to see which “W” would emerge with the “W,” came down to the final 9 holes. Wood played well, making 3 birdies in the inward half. They were sandwiched around a double-bogey at the 12th, and the Englishman closed with 5 pars to finish at 15-under. Wu’s card included only one hiccough, a front-nine bogey, and he was a bit more clutch when it counted. The victory moved Wu inside the top 50, in the season-long Race To Dubai.

Stanford claims first LPGA major title at Evian

For her entire career, Angela Stanford has been a fixture in the top 5 of major championships. It has been a wonder that she did not claim one of them until the fall of 2018. In France, Stanford mounted a final-round comeback, overcame 3rd round-leader Amy Olson, and captured the Evian Championship by one shot over Olson and 3 others. Stanford opened with 72 on Thursday, then dived into the 60s with abandon. Rounds of 64-68-68 brought her to 12-under par. The Texan was able to keep her head, despite an eagle-double-birdie stretch on holes 15-17. Austin Ernst had a clean card on Sunday, but 3 birdies were 1 shy of victory. Mo Martin also had 3 birdies on day 4, but 2 bogeys brought her back to 11-under with Ernst. Sei Young Kim and Olson both went above par in the 4th round, after playing marvelous golf through the first 3 days. Despite their struggles, they also finished in that second-place tie.

Broadhurst claims third title of PGA Tour Champions

Paul Broadhurst won his first 2 Champions title in 2016. After taking a break in 2017, the Englishman returned with abandon in 2018. Wins at the 2-man Bass Pro and the May Senior PGA were followed this week with a triumph in Michigan. Broadhurst overcame a surging Brandt Jobe, who birdied 5 of his firs 6, back-9 holes, before he stalled. Jobe reached 13-under to claim second place alone. Broadhurst finished in style, with birdie at the last, for a 2-shot win.

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