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Tour Rundown: McIlory falters on Sunday, loses to Molinari

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One difficult debate in professional golf is, why are 3 of 4 major championships held each year in the USA? Does Europe deserve two? Probably not. What about Asia, Africa, or South America? See? This week, the European Tour held its PGA Championship, and the best golfers (McIlroy, Cabrera-Bello, Fleetwood, Noren, Poulter, Jaidee) turned up. The LPGA warmed up for the U.S. Open with an event in Michigan, while the Seniors held their PGA championship in the same state. The youngsters finished up the Texas swing, while the Webbies grooved in Nashville. Could May offer a better week of golf? Doubtful. Let’s Rundown those Tours with this week’s TR.

BMW PGA Championship to Italy’s Molinari

Francesco Molinari did the one thing he needed to do on Sunday to have a chance at victory: he kept a clean card. Four birdies, zero bogies, 68, 17-under par. His co-leader after round 3 had 4 birdies as well, but he also had 2 bogeys. And that is why Rory McIlroy finished second to the Italian champion. The victory was Molinari’s 5th on the European tour, and his first in 2 years. As for McIlroy, much as in this year’s Masters, he had a chance to stake a claim to the title, but failed to do precisely that. Molinari birdied 2 of his first 4 holes, while McIlroy helf off until the 8th to notch a red number. The 4-time major winner than bogeyed his next two holes to drop from contention. His birdie-birdie finish served to vault him into solo 2nd, but his performance was not the one that major champions usually offer. Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark closed with 65 to tie for 3rd with Sweden’s Alex Noren.

Rose romps to Fort Worth Invitational win

If you can envision a finer, tidier performance than 66-64-66-64, by all means, point it out. Justin Rose, the 2016 Olympic champion and 2013 U.S. Open champion, won his ninth PGA Tour title and second of the wraparound season, by 3 strokes over 2017 U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka. Both Rose and Koepka bogeyed the 18th hole, but the tournament had been decided by then. Koepka turned in the second-low round of day 4, to finish alone in the runner-up spot. Rose was far from perfect on the week, posting five bogeys in 4 rounds. The inordinate number (25) of birdies that he made did more than compensate for his errors. The only thing he lost all week was a shot at the tournament record of 21-under.

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While Rose’s sustained brilliance was unmatched, mention should be made of Kevin Na and his 123. The American opened with 6-birdie, 1-eagle 62, then closed with a 9-birdie 61. His middle rounds were best described as meh, but what lightning he caught in a bottle. Na finished 4th at 14-under, 1 behind Emiliano Grillo.

Volvik Championship a birthday present for Minjee

If Lydia Ko hadn’t pulled a miraculous, playoff-hole eagle out of her visor a month ago, Minjee Lee might find herself with a second win of the season. As it stands, her work in Ann Arbor was better than the rest, allowing her to gain career win number 4 on the LPGA tour and move inside the top 5 of the season-long points race. With In-Kyung Kim and Moriya Jutanugarn attempting to chase her down, Lee bent but didn’t break. She made bogey at the penultimate hole to drop into a tie with Kim, but found the resilience to birdie the last. The rebound allowed her to ease off the final green with the greatest of celebrations, capping off her 22nd birthday in dreamy style.

The final hole at the Travis Pointe country club promises certain drama for the best golfers on the LPGA tour. It’s brevity (only 470 yards) ensures that an accurate drive will offer a run at the green, and a chance at eagle. While none of the top 3 (Lee, Kim and Jutanugarn) succeeded in making 3, each one made birdie to conclude her round. Lee’s was a delicate affair, after her approach missed the green short right, leaving a testy pitch shot. Lee bumped her recovery toss to 2 feet, ensuring her slim margin of victory. Kim moved inside the top 30 of the CME Points Race, while Jutanugarn settled into the 2nd spot, just behind sister Ariya.

PGA Senior Championship is Broadhurst’s second senior major

Paul Broadhurst has enjoyed a successful month. He teamed with Kirk Triplett in Missouri in April for a victory at the Bass Pro Shops event. This week, Broadhurst exploded on Sunday with 8 birdies for 63, leaving only dust between him and his pursuers. Jerry Kelly might have thought that his second 65 of the week would have catapulted him into contention…think again. The solid effort was enough to garner a tie for 3rd with 3rd-round co-leader Scott McCarron, who closed with a topsy-turvy 71 for 14-under. The other co-leader, Tim Petrovic, fared a bit better. He shot his 4th straight round in the 60s for 15-under, securing solo second. The field was helpless in the wake of Broadhurst, who earned his 4th victory in 4 years on the Champions Tour.

The Englishman began the week at Harbor Shores with a forgettable 72. He improved dramatically with 64 on day two, then continued to excel. A Saturday 64, highlighted by a 6-birdie 30 on the front nine, was followed by Sunday’s 63. Never flinching, never wavering, Broadhurst outdistanced the competition in the manner of a young Ussain Bolt. With the win, Broadhurst surged into the top spot of the Schwab Cup race, advancing 14 places. Kelly moved up 2 spots, from 5th to 3rd, while McCarron elevated by one, into 8th.

Nashville Golf Open title gives status and hope to Davis

If you’ve been to Nashville, you know that the convention center is shaped like a guitar. When Cameron Davis was presented with the winner’s trophy on Sunday, it bore … what else? The shape of a guitar, of course. Davis was able to parlay a rare Web start into a victory when defending champ Lanto Griffin could not get stabilize early on day four. Davis played a remarkable pitch-and-run at the last for an up-and-down birdie to eek out the 1-stroke victory over Griffin, Kevin Dougherty and Josh Teater.

Davis went out in 2-under par 34, then turned on the jets with five incoming birdies for 31 and a day-low 65. Griffin had played wonderful golf over the first three days, never rising above 67, in a valiant defense of his 2017 title. His opening 7 holes on Sunday were unpredictable and inexplicable. Four bogeys and three birdies kept him in the chase, but in search of some sort of balance. Griffin made one birdie the rest of the way, gutted at the final hole with a left-short birdie putt to reach a playoff. Dougherty had 66 and Teaster, 68, to move up the Sunday leader board. Davis jumped all the way from 72nd to 14th in the season-long chase for a PGA Tour card.

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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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Tour News

Brandt Snedeker shoots 59 after bogeying his first hole at the 2018 Wyndham Championship

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Brandt Snedker started his first round of the 2018 Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club on the 10th hole with a drive way left off the tee, leading to a bogey. He didn’t make his first birdie until his fourth hole, actually, but from there, the flood gates were open. Snedeker birdied four holes in a row — hole nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16 — to go out in 32 (3 under).

He then SCORCHED his back nine, shooting an 8-under 27 including 6 birdies and an eagle. Certainly knowing it was for 59, Snedeker rolled in a 20-footer on his 18th hole (the course’s 9th hole). Watch the putt below.

It was by far the longest birdie putt he made on the back nine, probably because he was sticking everything to within 5 feet.

Notice the “0 feet” putt above? Yea, because he didn’t have to putt after dunking his second shot.

Where does Snedeker’s 59 stand in terms of the history books? He’s the 9th player ever to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, and the FIRST to do so starting the round with a bogey.

Remember, even if you start with a bogey you can shoot your best round ever. Maybe not a 59 like Snedeker on Thursday of the Wyndham Championship, but don’t let that first-hole bogey get you down; there’s 17 more opportunities to make birdie — and Snedeker nearly did just that.

If you’re curious to hear what Snedker has to say about his 59, check out the Tweet embed below, or click here.

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Tour News

Brooks Koepka, a machine built to win majors

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Brooks Koepka is your 2018 PGA Champion. Of his 4 PGA Tour victories, 3 have come at major events, all of which have come in the past 14 months. He has won a U.S. Open that played like a PGA (Erin Hills), a U.S. Open that played like a British Open (Shinnecock) and now, a PGA that played like a PGA, at Bellerive in St. Louis. What do we make of this 28-year old, born and bred Floridian, who doesn’t appear to win often, but makes it count when he does? That depends on the units with which you choose to measure his performance. Have a look at his most recent performance, a 2-shot win over Tiger Woods at the 2018 PGA Championship.

  • Birdies: 22 in total, 13 on the front nine
  • Bogeys: 4 total, 2 on each nine
  • Double Bogeys: 1
  • Eagles: 0

Out of 72 holes, it might be said, Koepka made 5 mistakes that counted. That’s not a lot. He made two consecutive mistakes on the front nine on Sunday, but countered those two holes later, with three consecutive birdies. Koepka also bogeyed consecutive hole in round three, on the inward half. Similarly, he made a birdie soon after, to regain momentum. On Thursday, when he made double bogey on the par-3 5th hole, he made all pars before and after, until the 11th. From that point on, it was 3 birdies and 5 pars. What we see from him is an incredibly precise performance, where mistakes are minimized and opportunities, maximized.

Koepka is no fool. He knows his initial strength is distance off the tee, and he utilized it to perfection at Bellerive. After round two, he commented,

“I like the way the golf course sets up. People talk about it turns right-to-left, but you’ve always got a bunker on the inside of the turn, but I can carry most of them, so it’s not really a big deal that the holes turn right-to-left, you can kind of get away with it with my length.”

Yes, Brooks, you can, but only if you are accurate when the ball returns to Earth. After three performances where he outplayed the best from two generations, we might become believers. During the same interview, Koepka revealed a bit more about who he is, and what he does, during a major week:

“More attention to detail. More mentally focused, more every shot really, really means something. You drop a shot or two, it’s, you really put yourself back. There’s a lot more focus that I have in the Majors, the preparation, I mean everyone on my team even says I act a little different, the way I approach it. It’s very down to a routine this week and other weeks sometimes, not saying I vary from the routine, but it’s much more disciplined. Eating right, going to the gym, it’s almost timed perfectly.”

None of those things is impossible to emulate. I’m certain that Rickie Fowler does them, and I’m positive that Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, and Tiger Woods do so as well. None of them hoisted the Wannamaker trophy this week, so something that Koepka does, or has, or know, continues to pay off.

It might be absolute comfort in his skin. Koepka told a story about a workout he had with perennial partner, Dustin Johnson, this week at Life Time Fitness in St. Louis. In his words,

“Today I was in there with Dustin and everybody wanted a picture with Dustin. They were talking about him as we left and I was just standing there laughing. They were like, did you see that No. 1 player in the world was here. It’s like, yeah, okay. I don’t know what to say to that. It was like, all right.”

I’d certainly be tempted to jump in and tell the ogglers who I am, but that’s not Koepka. He doesn’t have the DJ beard, the DJ bent wrist, the DJ wife/daughter of a hockey legend. It’s only about Brooks Koepka, albeit not in an egocentric way. The egotist approaches the ogglers and tells them who he is. Koepka focuses on self: I’m just focused on me. I feel like, if I do what I’m supposed to, I should win the golf tournament. That’s not arrogance, that’s not delusion. He is good, good enough to win each time he tees it up. Is he proud of his first tour win, at the Phoenix Open? For sure. Is he prouder of the three that came next? Without a doubt. The stakes continue to increase, and Koepka rises to the occasion.

Remember, too, that Koepka lost a sizable chunk of this season. He shut his game down after injuring his wrist. A late-2017 surgery kept him out of action through the Masters, an event that now seems tailored to his style of golf. Not a large muscle that heals quickly, but a part of the body with so many moving parts. A part of the body so essential to the execution of every golf shot. If that threat doesn’t give one pause, and later, gratitude, then one has missed the point.

In 1986, Greg Norman and Severiano Ballesteros were the two best golfers in the world. Jack Nicklaus was not, a relic from another era, whose most recent win had come six years prior. When the Golden Bear began to make noise at Augusta National, Norman and Ballesteros folded. Fast forward 32 years, to the footsteps of another forest creature, Tiger Woods. Woods posted 8 birdies for 64 on Sunday at Bellerive. He reached the number (-14) that I suggested yesterday would be enough to win, except it wasn’t. Why not? Koepka, unlike Norman and Ballesteros, rose to the challenge.

Brooks Koepka has joined a small group of golfers with three major victories. He now has two distinct major titles on his resume, and will certainly be one of the favorites at all four majors next year. From 1903 to 1905, Willie Anderson was the only man to raise the unnamed trophy. In 2019, Koepka might join him at at Pebble Beach. He might put on a green jacket in Georgia, in April. He also might grasp a trophy named for a specific wine, at Royal Portrush, in Northern Ireland.

See Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB

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Photos from the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur

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GolfWRX is live from the U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, a venue which most recently hosted the 2006 Tennessee State Open.

The USGA fielded a record 1,468 entries for the competition, in which Kristen Gillman, Kaylee Benton, Laren Stephenson, and Jiwon Jeon are still alive in match play.

From WITB looks to shots of the superb Fazio course to some high art calligraphy (see below) we have it all.

Friday’s photos

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

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