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Tour Rundown: Bubba crushes Kisner in championship match

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As the golf world enters the fortnight of the first two majors of the season, the competitors shift and shuffle at the top of the rankings. Favorites struggle while unknowns and used-to-be-knowns discover and rediscover top form. The ANA Inspiration is this week on the LPGA tour, while the Masters follows a week later, for the men. For this week, however, we had match play in Texas hill country, windy medal play in the Caribbean, along with some bayou and Cali golf to round things out. Sprinters, get in your blocks for this week’s Tour Rundown.

Watson wins the year’s second WGC event going away

An interesting statistic made the rounds on social media, as Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner prepared to contest the final match of the Dell WGC Match Play championship at Austin Country Club. The bit suggested that Kisner stood a good chance against the tall lefty, having bested him head-to-head on multiple occasions. On this day, that statistic lied. Kisner match his worst start with Watson’s solid play, and was down five holes after five. It didn’t get much better, and both Watson and Kisner were able to have an early dinner, playing just 12 holes of their final match.

Watson’s ways were winderful

Kisner was a blend of bad and unfortunate on Sunday afternoon. When he bogeyed, Watson parred. When he parred, Watson birdied. When he conceded, well, Watson accepted. His only birdie in the final match came at the 11th, when Watson held a 7-hole advantage. This week was one of those occasional Bubba Watson bubbles of genius, where his clubs are like magic wands, and his interaction with caddie Ted Scott is flawless. With the exception of his 3rd match in the qualifying round (a half with Julian Suri) and his first knockout-rounds victory (2 & 1 over Brian Harman) Watson never reached the 17th tee. Most anticipated that his semifinal win over Justin Thomas was the de-facto championship match, and it’s hard to argue that assertion.

Related: Watson’s Winning WITB

Kisner, Thomas and Noren had their run

If Justin Thomas cares to become the top-ranked player in the world, his loss to Bubba Watson in Sunday’s semifinal match was frustrating. Both golfers putted well, hit the ball well, but Watson held firmer. He was 5-under par for the 16 holes of their match, and made zero bogeys. As mentioned above, Kisner seemed spent after his 19-hole overtime against Noren in the morning, leaving Noren as the only question mark. The Swede was down 1 hole to Kisner when he went birdie-par at the 7th and 8th, to take the lead for the only time that morning. Kisner eagled the 12th to square the match, then made par at the 19th to edge Noren.

Garnett collects first PGA Tour title in Dominican Republic

Brice Garnett entered round 4 with a narrow lead over recent Valspar challenger Corey Conners. Would the experience help the young Canadian, or would Garnett maintain his advantage and secure a first PGA Tour victory at the Corales Puntacana championship? The answer came early, much as it did three weeks back at Innisbrook.

How Garnett remained in the lead

No one could ever say that Garnett plays boring golf. After opening with par in round 4, he converted 4 birdies and 2 bogeys over the next 6 holes. Standing minus-two on the day after 7 holes gave the Missourian space enough on his pursuers to coast home at that number, for a 4-stroke win. On the week, Garnett had 23 birdies and 1 eagle, an unbeatable amalgamation.

Where Conners and company lost ground

For the second time this month, Corey Conners had an opportunity to claim victory on the PGA Tour. For the 2nd time, he fired and fell back. On Sunday at Corales, Conners made 1 birdie against 2 bogeys on the front nine, then 2 more bogeys and a closing double on the inward half. Conners will figure out the key to the 4th round eventually, but his Sunday . 2nd place ultimately belonged to Keith Mitchell, who birdied the 18th hole for a 1-stroke margin over 3rd-place Kelly Kraft.

Eun-Hi drives away with LPGA’s Kia Classic

Eun-Hi won two cars on Sunday at Carlsbad. The first came with her tournament trophy; the second? We’ll keep you guessing for just a little while. Jee last won on tour at the Swinging Skirts in 2017. Although the margin of victory was 2 strokes over Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas, it was in doubt until midway through the final nine holes.

How Eun-Hi won the day

Eun-Hi Jee closed out her 4th LPGA victory on Sunday with flair and drama. After making five bogeys in her first 13 holes, Ji closed the door on her pursuers with an ace at the watery 14th hole. After opening with 70, to trail Kerr and I.K. Kim by 3, Jee improved over the next two days, with 68-67, to enter the fray. Her Sunday 67 was the 2nd-lowest round of the day (Aditi Ashok had 65) and the initial burst of birdies allowed her to make bogey at two of the closing five holes and still win going away.

Where Kerr and company went off-course

Kerr was on fire after 36 holes. 67-64 left her 13-under par and in command. Saturday was a different story. Kerr managed only 2 birdies on the day, and stumbled with 2 bogeys and a double. For the other 3 rounds, she totaled 19 birdies, so the Saturday slide was crucial in giving Jee the slightest opportunity to win. Kerr made bogey at the par-five 17th hole on Sunday, where birdie would have earned a spot in a playoff. It’s safe to say that Kerr left Carlsbad grinding her teeth.

Stricker strides to Rapiscan win on Champions

You can sense it, can’t you? We bet the fellows on the Champions Tour can, too. Stricker remembered how to win, so watch out. Steve Stricker, the ultimate late-bloomer on the regular tour, was a bit slow to warm up to winning on the Champions Tour. He has now done it twice in three weeks, and the rest of the tour is waking up with night shivers.

How Stricker crossed the finish line

Steve Stricker was the only golfer to post 3 rounds in the 60s. Enough said. The Wisconsinite had 2 bogeys in each round, but made a bushel of birdies and 1 eagle to make up for the miscues. On Sunday, Stricker had birdies on 4 of the first 6 holes of the closing nine, eliminating the remainder of the field from contention.

How the competition reacted

Billy Andrade was close, but couldn’t make birdies over his final five holes to close the 3-stroke gap. He finished solo 2nd at 8-under par. Gene Sauers had a forgettable Saturday (73) and a memorable Sunday, but all it got him was a tie for 3rd with Scott Parel at minus-7.

Etulain victorious on the bayou on Web.Com tour

An Argentine with a French name was right at home in Cajun country. Julian Etulain, a graduate of PGA Tour Latinoamerica, grabbed the top spot on Thursday and never let go. His win at the Chitimacha Louisiana Classic came by two strokes over the USA’s Taylor Moore.

How Etulain found Zydeco

It seemed he had, with his 9-birdie 62 in round one. Etulain held the lead by one after 18 holes, and never left the top spot through tournament’s end. His struggle came on day two, when he went birdieless for 12 holes and added his first of three bogeys on the week, for 70. Etulain found the putting stroke on day 3 and 4, returning to the 60s both days, to close with 66 and 67 for 19-under par 265. The triomphe moved the Argentine 35 spots to the good, into 5th in the season-long chase for a PGA Tour card.

How Moore and others came up shy

Taylor Moore scratched his way to a tie with Etulain at the tournament’s midway point. His 65 and 67 stood him in terrific shape, headingo to the weekend. On day three, Moore was all over the score sheet, posting 1 eagle, 1 birdie, 2 bogeys and 1 double for 72. As quickly as he made strokes up on day 2, he gave many back on day 3. He fought his way into 2nd spot on Sunday, thanks to a 63 of his own. 2 back of Etulain and 2 clear of 3rd-place Justin Lower.

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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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Equipment

The drivers used by the top-10 longest hitters on the PGA Tour in 2017-2018

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What drivers do the PGA Tour’s longest golfers use to bomb their tee shots? Now that the 2017-2018 PGA Tour season is behind us, we can do a thorough examination.

First, here’s a tally of what the top 10 in driving distance on Tour are using by driver manufacturer. Interestingly, only two OEMs figure.

  • Ping: 4
  • TaylorMade: 6

But this is GolfWRX, so of course you want to know more. Below is a breakdown of the driving-distance leaders on the PGA Tour in 2017-2018, the specifics of their drivers, shafts and how far their average tee shots flew.

10) Keith Mitchell

Driver: TaylorMade M1 440
Loft: 10.5 degrees (10 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS T1100 7.5 (tipped 1 inch)
Length: 45.25 inches
Swing weight: D3
Grip: Golf Pride Victory Cord 58R
Average driving distance: 312.6 yards

9) Bubba Watson

Driver: Ping G400 LST
Loft: 8.5 degrees (7.6 degrees)
Shaft: Ping BiMatrix-X (tipped .50 inch)
Length: 44.5 inches
Swing weight: D4
Grip: Ping 703 Gold
Average driving distance: 312.9 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Bubba’s clubs

8) Brooks Koepka

Driver: TaylorMade M3 460
Loft: 9.5
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70TX
Average driving distance: 313.0 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Koepka’s clubs

7) Gary Woodland

Driver: TaylorMade M3 440
Loft: 9 degrees (8 degrees)
Shaft: Accra RPG 80X (tipped 2 inches)
Length: 45.25 inches
Swing weight: D5
Grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord Mid
Average driving distance: 313.4 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Woodland’s clubs

6) Dustin Johnson

Driver: TaylorMade M4
Loft: 9.5 degrees
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 661 Evolution 2.0 Tour Spec
Grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet
Average driving distance: 314.0 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Dustin’s clubs

5) Luke List

Driver: TaylorMade M4
Loft: 8.5 degrees
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana White D+ 80TX
Average driving distance: 314.7 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about List’s clubs

4) Tony Finau

Driver: Ping G400 Max
Loft: 9 degrees (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Accra Tour Z X485 M5 (tipped 1 inch)
Length: 45.25 inches
Swing weight: D5
Grip: Custom Lamkin UTX Mid
Average driving distance: 315.3 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Finau’s clubs

3) Tom Lovelady

Driver: Ping G400 Max
Loft: 9 degrees
Shaft: TPT MKP 15.5
Length: 44.75 inches
Swing weight: D3+
Grip: Golf Pride V55 Full Cord 58R
Average driving distance: 315.9 yards

2) Trey Mullinax

Driver: Ping G400 Max
Loft: 9 degrees
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage XT 60-X
Length: 45 inches (tipped 1 inch)
Swing weight: D4
Grip: Golf Pride V55 Full Cord
Average driving distance: 318.7 yards

1) Rory McIlroy

Driver: TaylorMade M3 460
Loft: 8.5 degrees
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 70XTS
Length: 45.625 inches
Swing weight: D8
Grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 58R
Average driving distance: 319.8 yards

See what GolfWRX members are saying about Rory’s clubs.

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Tour News

Patrick Reed airs out Jordan Spieth and Captain Jim Furyk following the 2018 Ryder Cup loss

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In an interview with Karen Crouse of The New York Times, Patrick Reed held zero punches about his displeasure with former Ryder Cup partner Jordan Spieth, Captain Jim Furyk, and the egos of the United States team.

First, a bit of back story. Patrick Reed — dubbed “Captain America” — played foursomes and fourballs with Jordan Spieth in both the 2014 and 2016 Ryder Cups, amassing a 4-1-2 record as partners in the two events.

But when it came to the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Patrick Reed was paired with Tiger Woods in both fourball sessions (losing both), while Spieth played with Justin Thomas in fourballs and foursomes (Spieth/JT went 3-1). Reed sat the bench for both foursomes sessions.

According to Reed, the decision to split from Spieth was not his call, or the captain’s, but rather, due to Spieth’s wishes. Reed also took shots at Furyk for sitting him in both fourball matches.

Here’s what Reed had to say…

About Jordan Spieth

“The issue’s obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me,” Reed said, according to the NYT. He added: “I don’t have any issue with Jordan. When it comes right down to it, I don’t care if I like the person I’m paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success. He and I know how to make each other better. We know how to get the job done.”

In the post-Ryder Cup press conference with the entire team, the ex-partners were asked about the split, to which Spieth answered: “We were totally involved in every decision that was made… Jim allowed it to be a player-friendly environment.”

When asked about this moment in the interview by the NYT, Reed said, “I was looking at (Jordan Spieth) like I was about to light the room up like Phil in ’14,” in reference to Phil Mickelson calling out Captain Tom Watson in the 2014 post-Ryder Cup interview.

About Captain Furyk

“I thought he might go back with the groups that have worked in the past (after the first alternate-shot session).”

“For somebody as successful in the Ryder Cup as I am, I don’t think it’s smart to sit me twice.”

About the U.S. Team

“Every day, I saw ‘Leave your egos at the door,’” Reed said, of inspirational messages in the team room. “They (the Europeans) do that better than us.”

Full New York Times article.

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Tour News

Team USA provides Sunday thrills, but ultimately loses the 2018 Ryder Cup

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Team USA was trailing 10-6 going into Sunday’s 12 singles matches against Team Europe at the 2018 Ryder Cup. It was a highly unlikely comeback — about a 9 percent chance according to multiple data sources — but there were moments on Sunday it looked possible.

Justin Thomas, in a back-and-forth match against Rory McIlroy, pulled off a crucial win after Rory drove the ball into the lip of a fairway bunker on 18 and hit his approach shot into the hazard.

Other things were happening, too.

Finau was finessing Fleetwood. Webb was waxing World No. 2 Justin Rose. Koepka was keeping up with Casey. Woods was withstanding Rahm’s will. Reed was rolling.

But ultimately, alliteration aside, the Europeans were simply winning too many holes, and racking up points. The United States needed to win 8 matches. It had to be an utterly one-sided Sunday in the USA’s favor, and it simply was not.

Tiger vs. Rahm in the fourth slot proved to be a huge swing match after USA recorded 2.5 points in the first three matches. Rahm missed a four-footer on 16, giving Tiger a chance at 1 down with 2 to play, but Rahm closed the deal on 17 with a short birdie putt (leading to an expectedly huge celebration) after Tiger missed the fairway off the tee and failed to chip in. Tiger finished 0-4 in the 2018 Ryder Cup.

About the time Rahm closed the door on Tiger was when Ian Poulter took hold of the match against Dustin Johnson (despite DJ holing a few long putts to give hope), and he closed the door with fantastic approach shots on the final three holes. Thorbjorn Olesen closed out Spieth 5&4. Bubba Watson went down 5 to Henrik Stenson, Molinari went up 3 on Phil Mickelson, and Sergio Garcia was up 2 holes on Rickie Fowler. With too much blue on the scoreboard and just not enough red, it was just a matter of time. Europe was a lock to take back the Ryder Cup. And they did.

The Ryder Cup officially ended when Francesco Molinari hit the green on 16 and Phil flared one into the water. Fittingly, due to Molinari’s 5-0 performance, his 4&2 victory on Sunday gave Europe its winning point.

The overlying factor in the entire Ryder Cup was the United States’ inability to hit fairways on a Le Golf National course that penalizes missed fairways. This could have something to do with it…

Here’s how the relevant matches finished as Europe clinched the Cup:

  • JT def. Rory 1up
  • Brooks and Casey: halved
  • Webb def. Rose 3&2
  • Rahm def. Woods 2&1
  • Finau def. Fleetwood 6&4
  • Poulter def. DJ 2up
  • Olesen def. Spieth 5&4
  • Molinari def. Mickelson 4&2
  • Stenson def. Bubba 5&4
  • Garcia def. Rickie 2&1

So what’s the takeaway? Did the task force make bad choices with the captains picks? Did Furyk’s pairings cost the U.S. in the first two days? Was it simply a great performance by the Europeans?

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the Ryder Cup here. 

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