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USGA finds “unusual and concerning” distance increases in annual report

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The USGA and R&A released the whispered-about report expressing concern over the largest increase in driving distance on professional tours in a decade, Monday.

The report is clear about the substantial uptick in distance off the tee in 2017

“The 2015 and 2016 editions of the distance report presented the increases in driving distance since 2003 as a slow creep of around 0.2 yards per year. The 2017 data shows a deviation from this trend. The average distance gain across the seven worldwide tours was more than 3 yards since 2016.”

It is also unequivocal about the problems posed by such gains

“Increases in distance can contribute to demands for longer, tougher and more resource-intensive golf courses at all levels of the game. These trends can impact the costs to operate golf courses and put additional pressures on golf courses in their local environmental landscape. The effect of increasing distance on the balance between skill and technology is also a key consideration. Maintaining this balance is paramount to preserving the integrity of golf.”

However, per the press release, further review/no immediate action is the order of the day, even though the statement that the organizations “remain committed to the spirit” of the so-called line in the sand (the 2002 Join Statement of Principles), which clearly stipulates action should the distance boom continue.

As Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura points out after a close read of the report, not only are we seeing all-time highs in driving distance across all tours, and a 2.5-yard increase in distance on the PGA Tour since 2016-2017, but the percentage jump from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018 thus far is more than 10 times the average annual uptick in pro golf from 2003 to 2016.

USGA chief Mike Davis and R&A head Martin Slumbers have ramped up the alarmist narrative in recent months, with Davis calling distance increases “horrible” for “all golfers.” Even so, as mentioned, the governing bodies are not currently taking any action.

“Building on the extensive research we have undertaken in recent years, we will conduct a thoughtful conversation about the effects of distance prior to making any specific proposals. We remain open-minded and our absolute priority is to ensure that all key stakeholders are involved in an open and inclusive process, and that we move forward together in the best interests of golf at all levels. There is no fixed timetable, but we will commence this process immediately and endeavor to reach a conclusion as promptly as possible.”

Here is the PDF of the full report  from the governing bodies.

 

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  1. GMatt

    Mar 7, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Again, the USGA is out of touch with 99.99% of the golfers in the world. Why are they concerned with distance of maybe 1,000 touring pros in the world when the distance of millions of normal amateur golfers hasn’t really changed, same as handicaps….

    For an organization that is supposedly around to grow the game, they sure are doing their best to stagnate it a best. What is increasing distance? (not necessarily in order of importance) agronomy-better turf conditions than in years past, better equipment, lower spinning ball, bigger and more athletic players. So I guess in addition to rolling back the ball, the USGA should limit strength and size of us players, they should roll back the care of the course to goat pastures of years past, they should take over the equipment companies and tell them to no longer innovate and improve golf clubs and balls.

    Does this all sound absurdly stupid to you? Perhaps the USGA should listen to the very people they claim to represent and not cater to their own agenda. Both Matt Adams and Michael Breed this morning were extremely outspoken about this very subject

  2. JThunder

    Mar 6, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Instead of rolling back the ball, how about a limit on height and fitness of tour players?

    If you want to protect par, just reduce the par by one on every PGA Tour hole.

  3. JThunder

    Mar 6, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    If they want real numbers, maybe they should be measuring more than two holes per tournament. Seems like a lot can go wrong with that baseline, as I believe the PGA Tour and others are now pointing out.

    Have they genuinely kept track of “driver use” on these holes over the years. Today’s top players seem to hit 3 wood less and less – Dustin, Justin, etc. It doesn’t take much to change a stat by 3 yards (at 300 yd drive ~ 1% gain) if a few pros go from 3wd to driver.

  4. MT

    Mar 6, 2018 at 4:32 am

    Don’t know about you guys, but I hate one sided half the story reporting.

    They state the 3 yards as some huge “Oh No”.
    What they don’t mention is the average swing speed of tour players over the last 10 years.

    To prove their point. They need to show swing speed staying the same while distance is increasing.

    The data is all there and available. Swing speed vs ball speed vs distance.

    • Matt

      Mar 6, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Roll it back!!

      This isn’t about hackers. If you carry it 220 or less off the tee, which something like 90% of golfers do, you won’t even notice a difference. You don’t compress the ball enough for it to matter. These changes will stop the 200 yard 7 irons and 330 yard drives. Bring back some shaping and skill. Shorten courses, so you can walk them, and play in less than 6 hours. The longer the ball goes the further off line it goes. Less time in the woods, less time waiting behind foursomes looking for balls. Etc. etc. etc.

      Roll it back!

      • Matt

        Mar 6, 2018 at 10:30 am

        Didn’t mean to reply to your comment – just a general comment.

  5. Steve

    Mar 5, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    I just took up golf this past summer. I am not very good, but I have learned that eventually I will know the distance for each club. I would think the pros should be much more efficient at that than I am, so who cares what the length of the course is.

  6. DaveT

    Mar 5, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    My position is that the USGA is not interested in protecting golf; they are interested in protecting par. They’d do a lot more for golf if they ignored the 3yd/drive/year increase, and allow the Tour to amaze us viewers even more than they do now. That will sustain interest in the game on TV. I guarantee nobody I play golf with is going to threaten the viability of today’s golf courses. If you make the courses play longer (either by changing the courses, the ball, or the clubs), you’ll anger the vast majority of golfers.

  7. Anthony

    Mar 5, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    3 yards? Better make the golf courses 8000 yards to combat that!
    What a load of the proverbial!!!!

  8. John

    Mar 5, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    For years the PGA and R&A have tried to tackle the distance issue by lengthening courses. Any fool can see that this merely plays into the hands of the bigger hitters. If I had anything to do with it I’d shorten the courses and bring the shorter guys into the picture. Make the course layouts reward skill rather than brute force. The old ‘drive for show, putt for sigh’ maxim still holds true but to a far lesser extent nowadays. Shorter courses might also address the nonsense of six hour rounds. Not by much probably but any reduction would be welcome.

    • John

      Mar 5, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      ‘Drive for show, putt for dough’ obviously. Damn autocorrect!

  9. Alfredo Smith

    Mar 5, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    SHANK! The only thing that needs rolling is a big fat doobie after reading this nonsense.

  10. Patricknorm

    Mar 5, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    I’ve been to many PGA Tour events, and the one that I notice right away is how big most players are. 30 years ago the odd player was over 6’1” but today when you see a Tony Finau or Dustin Johnson even Matt Kuchar, they’re all over 6’3”. 30 years ago before Tiger came along and purses increased, those athletes may have tried other sports like tennis or basketball. Plus, you can’t dismiss the John Daly effect who gave kids permission to “ grip and rip” the ball. Today most players , when they drive the ball, are out of their shoes.
    And then add in technology and better agronomy, well it was bound to happen.

  11. joe

    Mar 5, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Make the pro’s go back to persimmon, we’ll see who the best golfers really are…

    • Mikele

      Mar 5, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Let’s go back to Radio Shack 64k RAM computers so we can see who the real computer users are.

      Dumb, dumb, dumb.

      • Dr Troy

        Mar 5, 2018 at 4:18 pm

        Exactly….3 yards is nothing. Everyone needs to go chill out and move on to other world problems in Golf.

  12. george

    Mar 5, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    No need to roll back the ball for us amateurs. Just outlaw the Trackman/Flightscope/GCQuad.

  13. JD

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Yeah I’m sure the cost of extending a par 4 at Augusta is going to trickle down to the muni courses I play.

  14. Rich

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    WOW! Are you kidding me? The players are in better condition,use better methods in training,video usage and the equipment has better materials and technology designs while meeting the rules.. It isn’t the ball it’s the layout of courses .The course should be designed or altered to make it a PLAYER’s course ,MORE RUFF,SAND,TREES,WATER,SHRUBS GREENS that have more shape and contour deeper sand traps. The Tour had decided wrongly that people wanted to see lower scores when in we really want tougher courses .That’s why the British open ,US open are the best matches and watched by more people than the regular tour matches. IT’s ABOUT SHOT SHAPING, DECISION MAKING AND RISK TAKING !!!

  15. Brian

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:25 pm

    Maybe fairways shouldn’t be designed to allow a hundred yards of roll out?! Rather than dial back the golf ball, dial back the course set up a little. But this is what the USGA wanted, along with everyone else: to see the likes of DJ ripping the ball further than anyone has ever done before on national tv. Now that everyone is doing it, it’s not cool anymore and by golly we need to fix this “equipment problem”! No one stops to think for a second that with the heyday of the TW era, the youth who grew up watching him physically dominate courses are now in the tour and working out, getting stronger, and more physically dominate than ever before as a whole coupled with course set ups to allow it. But keep telling yourselves it’s the equipment and golf ball’s fault…

  16. juliette

    Mar 5, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    I get it about distance. As someone more or less in the lowest percentile of distance compared to the mostly men who comment on golf wrx I should be the most opposed to changes limiting my distance. But I see Mike Davis’ point about resource utilization in an era where most of us agree that something is going on here with this Earth and this extreme weather. Needing more land for golf courses, more water, more fertilizer more more more more more is not the time to start being blind to this and caring only about how far your 6 iron goes.

    • Murv

      Mar 5, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Yeah, we need to reduce golf ball distance to save the world from global warming.

      • Bub

        Mar 5, 2018 at 1:24 pm

        Good plan, that way anyone that doesn’t want to ‘roll back’ the golf ball can be accused of hating the planet and children.

    • Mikele

      Mar 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      Juliette – You aere wasting your time with that argument on this website. Your sincere concern will be deemed political by the cretin crowd here. You don’t really think they bothered to read the report, do you? That would put it into context and god forbid they should go beyond the headline or blurb.

      • youraway

        Mar 5, 2018 at 5:56 pm

        Perfect – absolutely perfect response.

    • Wyomick

      Mar 6, 2018 at 7:39 am

      Anybody want to bring up Hitler? I’m sure the long ball hitters that want to destroy the planet are related or st least guilty of his nefarious intentions. Good grief. Go away, far away from golf please.

      • dvers

        Mar 6, 2018 at 10:57 am

        Is this GolfWRX or CPAC? For a group that alludes to the “snowflakes” of the opposing ideology, commentators on many of these articles get irrationally defensive about a political claim that often doesn’t even exist. Golf isn’t exclusively for men with Rs after their names. Lighten up and/or take it to the Breitbart forums please.

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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 News

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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