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Tour Rundown: Kodaira wins after Kim’s collapse

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After two consecutive weeks of major championships, the world’s professional tours eased up on the pedal a wee bit. The PGA Tour headed to South Carolina, while the LPGA was in Hawaii and the European Tour went to Spain. While part of the country suffered through winter’s rebirth, the PGA Tour Champions (Georgia) and the PGA Tour made adjustments based on weather. The elder statesmen went so far as to play 36 holes on Saturday, to avoid Sunday altogether. Time to wrap up and round up all the deets on this week’s Tour Rundown.

Kodaira benefits from Kim’s kollapse

Some say it takes good fortune, along with good play, to earn a win on any tour. Satoshi Kodaira would admit freely that he benefited from both on Sunday at Harbor Town. Kodaira put himself in position for a high finish, posting 66 on day four. Si Woo Kim opened wide the door to a playoff with wretched putting down the stretch, and Kodaira took advantage of the invitation.

How Kodaira built on a solid Masters performance

Kodaira played well last week at Augusta National, posting 3-of-4 rounds at par or better, to finish inside the top-30. Buoyed by that result, he came to Hilton Head Island and played the up-down game. Rounds of 73 and 70 on Thursday and Saturday made him look like a middle-of-the-pack guy, but 63 and 66 on the other 2 days brought him to the top of the leader board. When Kim bogeyed 3 of his final 7 holes, Kodaira was in a playoff for the title. After pars split the 18th hole twice, the duo journeyed to the 17th, where Kodaira ended things with a long birdie putt. The win was his first on the PGA Tour.

See the clubs Kodaira used to win

How Kim kame apart

Golfers usually give tournaments away with one bad swing. To watch a golfer miss makeable putt after makeable putt is pure anguish, and that’s the show that viewers saw on Sunday afternoon. Kim needed to make one put out of all the ones he missed, to avoid the playoff at 12-under par. He couldn’t and fell to the runner-up position. A telling statistic is his woeful stature on the strokes-gained-putting stat list-he’s dead last. Luke List, a journeyman who finds the cameraman’s eye from time to time, finished in a tie for 3rd with Bryson DeChambeau, 1 shot out of the playoff. DeChambeau’s scorecard line sure looked like that of a champion: 68, 64, 66 in rounds 1, 2 and 4. A wayward swing on the second hole on Saturday led to a triple-bogey 8; throw in two back-nine double bogeys, and he had himself a 75.

Lotte Championship on LPGA Tour is Henderson’s sixth title

Brooke Henderson kinda made this one look easier than the others. The young Canadian is equal parts power and sunshine, but her previous wins (and close losses) have reminded us how difficult it is to win, even for the most precocious of talents. On Saturday, Henderson held off two of the world’s most decorated golfers to claim victory by 4 strokes.

How Henderson Held Firm

Brooke made an early habit of winning in a variety of locales around the globe, so a victory in the Hawaiian islands was in the offing. Rounds of 68-66 staked her to the halfway lead, and she expanded it well through most of Friday. A double and a bogey over her closing holes in round 3 brought questions of her ability to hold a now-reduced lead. She answered those questions in Saturday’s final round. When it mattered most, Henderson was on. She played her final 5 holes in 2-under par, eliminating her final challengers.

How Feng and Park made her work

After Mo Martin’s train got derailed in round 4, the challenge fell to 2 of the LPGA’s most decorated golfers. ShanShan Feng was the bronze medalist in Rio’s Olympics in 2016, and has won 9 times on tour. The gold medalist that year? Inbee Park, who is already in the LPGA hall of fame. When Henderson looked up, they were on her heels. Neither one mounted a challenge on day four, surprisingly, but Spain’s Azahara Muñoz gave Henderson fits. The Iberian nailed 5 birdies against 0 bogies, to jump to 8-under and solo second place. On this day, Henderson was too strong, and a deserving champion.

Rahm returns to Spain in triumph

Jon Rahm gave Augusta National a run last week in the Masters tournament, and it wasn’t until the 69th hole that he lost his opportunity to wear the green jacket in 2018. He returned home to Spain’s capital, intent on capturing his home open. Rahm didn’t disappoint, winning by 2 at 20-under, although countryman Nacho Elvira and Ireland’s Paul Dunne gave him quite the battle.

Rahm manages emotions for win

The young Basque entered the final round a stroke behind leaders Dunne and Elvira, and perhaps his spot in the penultimate pairing took just enough pressure off. Rahm is known for wearing his emotions from the brim of his cap, down to his socks (forget the sleeves!) and this day was not so different. Incapable thus far of repressing his feelings, Rahm figured out a way to allow them to express, yet still preserve control. A chip-in for birdie at the 10th hole was his first of three on the inward half. A miraculous break at 17: his ball, destined for water, hung up on the bank. From there, he pitched close enough to make par, then birdied the last. Precisely the combination of skill and fortune that saw Patrick Reed to victory in Augusts, came to Rahm’s bag this week in Spain.

Elvira and Dunne almost find the magic

For most of the day, Spain was uncertain which of its sons would triumph. Jorge Campillo made an early run, before finishing 5 back, in a tie for 5th. It was Elvira who looked most like a champion, however. Powerful birdie putts at 13 and 14 brought the Madrid native to a tie with Rahm at 19-under. Disaster struck for Nacho at 17, the site of Rahm’s salvation. A club short and three yards left, his sphere found the hydro that Rahm avoided. Elvira made double, and finished 3rd at 17-under. Paul Dunne came to the back nine in a tie with Rahm, and made the same number of birdies as the champion. He was unable to avoid a pair of bogeys, and finished 2 behind, in second alone at 18-under.

Flesch finds first PGA Tour Champions win in Georgia

Steve Flesch is used to waiting patiently, so a win in his first full year on the Champions Tour is rarefied air for the lefthander. Flesch held off Bernhard Langer and Scott Parel in extra holes to claim the Mitsubishi Electric championship, finishing regulation play at 11-under par.

How Flesch flourished

The Kentucky native began round 3 a shot behind Langer, but managed to birdie the last hole to squeeze his way into a tie with the Teutonic titleist. Well ahead of the final pair, Scott Parel blazed through the course in 64, to join the duo at the magic number. Flesch was nothing but perfect in overtime, making birdie twice at the 18th hole. During the first go-round, Langer’s par was eliminated. In the reprise, Parel could not match the 4 at the par-5 closer, and Flesch had his first title in 11 years.

How Parel and Langer gave chase

Let’s be honest, when Langer is 100 years old, we will expect him to be the favorite each time he tees it up. The German played bogey free on day three, but could not amass the same number of birdies he found on each of the first 2 days. His 69 included a par at the last, and failing to birdie the 18th hole either time he played it on Saturday was cause for his runner-up finish. Parel quietly plays himself into contention with frequency, but there was nothing quiet about his closing round. The Michigan product birdied 6 of his first 7 holes, finishing at 8-under on the day. Unable to steal the tournament in regulation time, he nearly did so after hours. Unable to match Flesch’s third consecutive birdie at 18, Parel joined Langer on the podium’s lower level.

Del Solar shines across the border in Argentina

Cristobal Del Solar, a native of Chile, Argentina’s friendly rival, exceeded expectations in Córdoba on Sunday. He won the Abierto del centro on PGA Tour Latinoamérica by 5 strokes. Despite a final-round 74, Del Solar had built up enough of a cushion to force the field to chase him down. None was able to do so, and Del Solar raised the winner’s trophy at days end.

How Del Solar locked up his first professional victory

Del Solar looked like the owner of this event from day one. He was in 5th place after round 1, moved into the lead after 36 holes, then opened up a 6-stroke gap after the 3rd round. On Sunday, only 5 scores were posted in the 60s, so any round below 70 meant a major move up the leader board. While Del Solar was struggling to his worst round of the week, a 4-bogey, 1-birdie effort, none of his closest competitors was able to sustain a charge. Del Solar moved inside the top 3 on the season-long Order of Merit with the victory.

What the others were unable to do

Essentially, make birdies and avoid bogeys. Del Solar had 8 bogeys on the week, and those were more than offset by 18 birdies and an eagle. Colombia’s Marcelo Rozo began to make up the deficit on Sunday by playing even-par golf, but a double bogey at the 9th did him in. MJ Maguire of the USA closed with an erratic 72, 1 over par, to tie for 2nd spot with Rozo. 1st-round leader Skyler Finnell of the USA found himself in third spot on Sunday morning, but a forgettable day led to 78 and a 20-spot drop on the chart.

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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. Sherwin

    Apr 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    The grammar and spelling in this article is bad.

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Wednesday’s photos from the 2019 Terra Cotta Invitational

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GolfWRX is live from the 2019 Terra Cotta Invitational at Naples National Golf Club, which will be contested April 26-28. Past winners of the amateur event include Justin Thomas and Emiliano Grillo.

Denny Glass, chairman of the Terra Cotta Invitational, was kind enough to give us a little more information about the tournament.

For GolfWRX members who aren’t familiar, tell me a little bit about the tournament and its history

Glass: The Terra Cotta Invitational began in 1996 and was originally a combination stroke play/match play event. 20 players were invited and they played 36 holes of stroke play then the top four finishers went on to match play with the others playing an 18 hole consolation match.

I changed it to a 54-hole stroke play event with 50 players in 2006 when I took over as Tournament Chair. This was done to be eligible for Titleist/Golfweek Amateur Ranking Points. The field increased over the years and now has 75-81 players. The tournament is now ranked as a “B” level event in the WAGR (World Amateur Golf Rankings) run by the USGA and R&A. This ranking is one level below the top-ranked events in the world. The WAGR rankings are based on the strength of the field so we are proud to be ranked so highly.

As it’s an invitational tournament, can you tell me a bit about who gets invited in general and who’s in the field this year, specifically? Tournament format?

Glass: It is an invitational so we invite as many of the top-ranked amateur players as are available. The field consists of many juniors (up to age 18), mid-amateurs (19-25) and some seniors (50+), along with collegiate players. While it is an invitational, we still receive more than 150 applications to play.

Can you talk about the host course and the relationship with Naples National?

The tournament is played at Naples National Golf Club. The tournament was started by the membership back in 1996. The club opened in 1993. The club hosted the World Championship of Golf, which was an LPGA event in its second year.

I know the charitable impact is important. Can you tell us about that?

The net proceeds are donated to Naples based children’s focused charities. The tournament has donated over $517,000 since it began.

Wednesday’s photos

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Equipment

Spotted: Dustin Johnson with new Fujikura Ventus prototype at the Masters, RBC Heritage

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Beyond the obvious big news of some guy named Mr. Woods winning his fifth green jacket this past weekend, there were some pretty interesting developments with another player that runs on a first name basis or at least initials: DJ switched drivers MID tournament and had a new Fujikura Ventus prototype shaft to go along with his new TaylorMade M6 as he took on Augusta National Saturday and Sunday.

We don’t have all the details yet, but from what we have heard so far this new Prototype Black Ventus is an even lower launching version of the blue Ventus currently available. If history is correct, and we are looking at a line extension, then the colors tell a lot of the story. The Atmos line features both a blue and black version with a final higher-launching red version to round out the series in what Fuji calls their color-coded launch system to make fitting and product recognition just that much easier.

Photos of the “black” prototype via Fujikura.

It’s not unusual for shaft companies like Fujikura to bring out prototype profiles utilizing technologies from their newest lines to try and get them into the bags of more players. Fuji’s newest technology is VeloCore, and we have already seen it adopted at a high rate. Here is some more info from Fujikura to explain the technology

“VeloCore is a multi-material core comprised of ultra-high modulus Pitch 70 Ton Carbon Fiber (about 150% stronger and more stable than T1100g) and 40 Ton bias layers that are the full length of the shaft for incredible stability. VeloCore Technology promotes consistent center-face impact and provides ultimate stability, tightening dispersion and increasing control. The result is a shaft that maximizes the MOI (moment of inertia) and ball speed of your clubhead through the reduction of twist during the swing and at impact, especially on off-center hits.”

This makes sense, considering any contact made beyond an absolutely perfect (almost impossible from a physics standpoint) strike in line with the COG of a driver head traveling at 120 mph will result in twisting at impact — MOI is maximized in driver heads to increase stability along with spin with Ventus and VelocCore, Fujikura thanks to their Enzo system, is better understanding how that relationship works with the shaft to produce new and better products.

Anyway, since we know DJ deviated from his traditional Fujikura Speeder Evolution II Tour Spec driver shaft for his weekend rounds this past weekend, we can expect to see it again this week at the RBC Heritage this week at Hilton Head, and we’ll have our eyes peeled to see where else this shaft pops up on tour.

Johnson teeing off during Wednesday’s RBC Heritage Pro-Am.

 

 

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Courses

No. 12 at Augusta National: The Golden Bell tolls for Koepka, Molinari

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On Sunday, Tiger Woods accomplished what many thought he could never do by winning another major championship, the 2019 Masters. In collecting his fifth green jacket, Tiger added a new luster to what was already a brilliant legacy. Woods overcame unusual start times, difficult conditions and a generation of young golf warriors that he helped to create. And like every champion before him, Woods had to contend with holes 11 through 13 on Sunday, the beautiful beast nicknamed Amen Corner by the great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind.

Of the three holes, it seems that 12 is the one that has drowned more hopes and dreams in the creek that winds through the terrible trio than either of the other two. Arnold Palmer made six on Sunday in 1959 on the way to losing to Art Wall by two. Tom Weiskopf made a mind-boggling 13 in 1980. Greg Norman had a double bogey during his Sunday collapse in 1986. And there’s Jordan Speith’s quadruple bogey in 2016, which some think he has still not recovered from. Through the generations, the hole named Golden Bell has sounded a death knell for many a would-be champion.

This week, I had the opportunity to walk the back nine at Augusta National with Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Jones is an acclaimed golf course designer in his own right but he is also the son of the legendary Robert Trent Jones, the man who designed the second nine at Augusta National as we know it today and therefore shaped history and the outcome of so many Sundays for so many players.

As we walked along the holes Jones described the changes both dramatic and subtle that his father had made in 1948 to shape the second nine, and I came to a greater understanding of why the stretch is so special. The second nine was deliberately crafted as the ultimate offer of risk/reward. It was designed to create heroes and tragic figures of epic proportions. As we got to the tee box at number 12, Mr. Jones’ well-known face (as well as the microphone I was holding in front of it) caused a crowd together around us as he described what his father had done with the most famous par three in golf.

Jones pointed out how the wide, narrow green on the 12th follows the path of Rae’s Creek which runs in front of it.

“It appears that the creek and the green are running almost perpendicular to the tee box at 12, but the right side of the green is actually significantly further away from the golfer than the left side. This is critical when it comes to playing the Sunday hole location on the right side of the green. Because of the way the hole is framed by water and bunkers, the golfer is deceived into either selecting the wrong club or taking a half swing, which often leads to a shot into the water.”

Jones’s words proved prophetic, as Brooks Koepka and Francisco Molinari made watery double bogeys that doomed their championship hopes. Woods, on the other hand, made par on 12, providing the spark that eventually led to his victory. How did Woods negotiate the 12th?

Again, RTJII shared his crystal ball. “Jack Nicklaus played the 12th better than anyone because he always played to the middle of the green,” noted Jones. “Jack felt that whether the pin was on the right or the left, a shot over the front bunker to the center of the green would take a big number out of play and maybe leave an opportunity for a birdie.”

Sure enough, on Sunday while pretenders to the throne went pin seeking with either the wrong club or ill-advised half swings, Woods channeled his inner Nicklaus, hitting a full-swing 9-iron with conviction to the middle of the green and safely two-putting. It was at once humble and heroic. It was the thing that heroes and champions do: survive demons in order to slay dragons. The moment his tee shot on 12 landed safely was the moment that I, and many others, knew in our hearts that Tiger Woods was, in fact, going to win again at Augusta. It is a singular accomplishment, made possible by his combination of wisdom and nerve at number 12 on Sunday. Amen, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19th Hole

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