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Tour Rundown: An incredible new record set on the LPGA Tour

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With the arrival of links golf at Ireland’s Ballylifin for the Irish Open, British Open season began in earnest. The PGA Tour visited a history book of a course, while the Web.Com tour stopped in this writer’s extended backyard. With the LPGA making a visit to the Badger state, the week offered four exciting events to catalogue. We saw one of those rare events where everyone else played for second, and we witnessed tremendous comebacks and heartfelt emotion. Time to rundown the tours in this week’s Tour Rundown.

European Tour: Knox clocks Fox to grab Irish Open title

Beware the golfer who improves each round of a 4-round event. Russell Knox seemingly came from nowhere to win in extra time, and he has his putter to thank. The Scotsman began the day in 5th spot, but while overnight leader Erik Van Rooyen of South Africa suffered a mild implosion, Knox didn’t miss on the shortest grass. He rolled in putts from all over, in every direction. His round was capped with a 50-feet bomb for birdie. With that monster, he tied New Zealand’s Ryan Fox. Incredibly, Knox performed identical surgery on the only playoff hole, draining another lengthy birdie to steal victory from the winless Fox.

Fox came to 18 in regulation, on the heels of a textbook birdie at the 17th. Good as that one was, it might have cost him the tournament. He had a 10-feet putt for eagle, which would have eliminated any chance for Knox and the field. Fox missed, then uncorked a massive drive at the last. His pitch was close, but he could not coax the birdie putt in for a regulation win. Spain’s Jorge Campillo did well to finish at 13-under, and entertained thoughts of a playoff. Van Rooyen ultimately recovered for a 4th-place tie with Spain’s Jon Rahm.

LPGA Tour: Kim Sei-young rewrites record books at Thornberry Classic

Sei-young shot rounds of 63-65-64-65 to win the Thornberry by 9 strokes. To properly frame that performance, the BEST score from the rest of the field each day, was a mere 3 strokes lower. In the Sei-young vs. The Field competition, The Field shot 64-63-63-64. The young Korean hit 67 of 72 greens in regulation. Don’t tell me it’s an easy course. That’s Betsy Rawls-quality iron play, that’s Ben Hogan-quality ball striking. Carlota Ciganda of Spain won the “B” flight with a mere 22-under total, but her closing 64 was enough to vault her 2 shots beyond Emma Talley and Anna Nordqvist.

On the week, Kim had 31 birdies, 1 eagle and (gasp!) a double-bogey. That’s not a typo. She made 5 at the par-3 17th hole on Friday. No one can explain how nor why. In a week of unparalleled perfection, hole No. 35 was the transient fault. Of her other 6 LPGA wins, 3 came in playoff, 1 came by one stroke, and 1 was a one-up win at match play. Kim rarely wins big, so this triumph resonates even more. With the triumph, she moved from 30th to 12th in the CME Globe points race. What’s next? How about a major title. With 6 top-10 finishes to date, Kim knows the feels and is ready to win a big one.

It was a wild-West week in Wisconsin. In addition to  Kim, 10 golfers posted 4 rounds in the 60s. Third-place finished Nordqvist signed for 67 four times, on her way to 268. Oh yeah, and one whiff…

PGA Tour: Na says Goodbye with closing burst

It wasn’t the 9-stroke win seen on the LPGA Tour, but Kevin Na did his best to run away with the Military Tribute event. He opened the week with a ho-hum 69, but closed with fireworks, posting 63-65-64 on the final 3 days. Na’s effort was good for a 5-stroke victory over 3rd-round leader Kelly Kraft. The 2011 US Amateur champion began the week with 63-64, but closed with 69-70. Unable to keep pace with Na, Kraft managed to hold off Brandt Snedeker and Jason Kokrak for solo second spot.

After birdies on 6 of his first 10 hole on Sunday, Na survived what might be called a slump: he bogeyed 11 and then made par at the next 4 holes. Birdie at the 16th restored his hand lead, and left the rest to fight for 2nd. The victory was Na’s 2nd career title. His first came in 2011, the year of Kraft’s Amateur win, and also with a 261-stroke tally. Na moved from 58th to 18th on the FedEx Cup points list with his triumph.

Web.Com Tour: Ledesma elimina al resto de la competencia

That cognate-laden header says it all. Nelson Ledesma eliminated the rest of the competitors with his closing 67. Only a pair of Marks (Blakefield and Hubbard) shot better in round 4, and both were well off the pace. The LECOM Health Challenge, played at the Peek’n Peak Resort, near the New York-Pennsylvania border in Clymer, NY, is one of the family-favorite stops on tour.

Ledesma began Sunday in 3rd place, behind the final pairing of Sebastián Muñoz and Kyle Jones. Ledesma caught fire at the end of the opening nine, with birdies at 7 through 9. That run gave him a lead he never relinquished. His blemish-free round gave him a two-shot triumph over the final pair, who tied for 2nd at -20.

Muñoz struggled from the outset on Sunday. He bogeyed 2 of the first 4 holes, including the par-5 4th hole. Birdies at 6 and 12 steadied the ship, and 2 more birdies at 17 and 18 brought him some consolation. Jones also had a bumpy start, with 2 birdies and 2 bogeys over his first 10 holes. On a day when both needed perfection, neither one could find it. Like Muñoz, Jones finished well, He birdied 3 of his final 7 holes to match the Colombian in the runner-up spot.

Both Ledesma and Muñoz sit inside the Top 25 in the chase for a PGA Tour card, while Jones rests in the 31st spot, ever so close to the promotion.

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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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GolfWRX Morning 9: The relatable Mr. Howell | How the Tiger-Phil ice thawed | Anthony Kim sighting

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

November 20, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Fowler-Thomas-produced Alabama-Auburn docuseries cometh
If you recall, Driven, last year’s Golf Channel docuseries offered a behind-the-scenes look at the Oklahoma State golf program.
  • The series is back again this year. Joel Beall with the details…”The show, helmed by OSU alum Rickie Fowler, is returning for a second year, and while Stillwater will still be a prominent storyline, the new campaign will also highlight the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn.”
  • “Joining Fowler as co-producer is Justin Thomas, a former Haskins Award winner who guided the Crimson Tide to a national title in 2013.”
  • “I watched every episode of the first season of Driven and I told Rickie that Alabama would be great for a future season,” Thomas said in a statement. “I’m excited about the opportunity to team up with Rickie and showcase Alabama’s golf program like never before. And it’s weeks like this with the Iron Bowl that remind me why college sports are so great and how much fun I had playing golf for Alabama. Roll Tide!”
2. The relatable Mr. Howell

Nice stuff from Cameron Morfit…”It had been so long since he last won, a span of 333 starts since the 2007 Genesis Open at Riviera, Charles Howell III felt the same self-doubt anyone would.”

  • “The difference was he expressed it.…”Sometimes you wonder, well, maybe you just don’t have it in you,” Howell said. “Quite honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever win one again. I had come up short so many times. I thought I had it in me, but I had never seen me do it.”
3. How the ice thawed
Brian Wacker points to this moment in time as central to the present springtime of the Woods-Mickelson relationship.
  • “Four years ago, with Woods at home recovering from a second micro-discectomy surgery to remove a disc fragment that was pinching a nerve (and soon to undergo another procedure to relieve discomfort in his back), the U.S. Ryder Cup team got drubbed at Gleneagles for its sixth loss in the last seven biennial matches. At the press conference that Sunday night in Scotland, Mickelson blasted his own captain Tom Watson (and in essence the PGA of America) for the mismanagement of the team.”
  • “It was a seminal moment that led to sweeping changes and the formation of the Ryder Cup task force, of which Woods, ever the competitor who had also grown tired of all the losing, readily signed on. Golf’s two biggest stars were aligned, and more importantly the lines of communication, be it the Ryder Cup or other topics, were open.”
4. In favor of The Match
ESPN’s Bob Harig explores the merits of tuning in for the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson duel and offers these (reality) checks in the “yay” column.
  • “While not suggesting how to spend other peoples’ money, we are talking about a discretionary income choice that many would squander on other dubious endeavors. And it is Black Friday after all, a day associated with money-spending opulence.”
  • And…”So yes, the event has its flaws, to be sure. Playing this in, say, 2006 — at a point when Woods and Mickelson combined to win four of the five majors played in a 12-month period — might have brought more intrigue, but the result would not be any more meaningful, or historically significant, than what will transpire Friday. This will not alter the legacy of either player.”
  • “This is simply an entertainment play (and perhaps a test to see more of these type of matches in the future, maybe with Tiger and Phil as partners), with a gambling component that we are likely to see more prominent in sports, including golf. Tiger and Phil are two of the game’s biggest stars, even at this late stage in their careers.”
5. Farewell, grass guru
Cal Roth is retiring. And while this may not mean much to you, you’ll want to read Jim McCabe’s profile of the PGA Tour’s departing Senior VP of Agronomy.
  • “And one could argue that that rarely happens, because for all the hoopla about young players swinging fast, hitting far, and wielding state-of-the-art equipment, perhaps no aspect of the golf business has improved as dramatically as turf control and course maintenance.”
  • “I’m not even sure I have enough time to do it justice,” said Roth, when asked how much his profession has improved playing conditions. “I could talk all day about it. The best way to describe it is, it’s like the business has come out of the dark ages, it’s gotten that good.”
  • “Roth remembers being approached by Bob Goalby, who was participating in the Denver Post Champions of Golf at TPC Plum Creek in Castle Rock, Colorado, in 1986. Now, an approaching player can put a superintendent on guard, but Roth quickly felt relief as Goalby heaped praise. “He came up to me on the 16th hole and said, ‘Cal, these Bent fairways are amazing. They are better than the greens I grew up on.'”
6. The wisdom of “make more birdies”
PGA of Canada pro, Erin Thorne, examines the received wisdom that one ought to strive, primarily, to make more birdies to shoot lower scores.
  • A sample of her findings after looking at her roster of college golfers and running some numbers….”Diving a little deeper, the players on the team with the top three scoring averages (74, 77.29 and 78) occupy the top three spots in both of these rankings. And taking a look at all the players’ differentials, their rank stays the same compared to their scoring average rank.”
  • “The fact that many golfers overlook when making the statement “I need to make more birdies to score better” is that each hole accounts for about 5.5 percent of your round. So, if we take our player who averages one birdie (minus 1) and 2.5 doubles/worse per round (plus 5, conservatively), 5.5 percent of her round is birdies and 13.75 percent of her round is doubles/worse.”
  • “If she were to simply focus on making more birdies per round to “balance out” the current 2.5 doubles/worse per round, she would need to increase to five birdies per round. That would be a jump up to 27.5 percent of her round. Compare that to shift a focus to minimizing the doubles/worse category. If this same player could even shave her doubles/worse to 1.5 per round (plus 3,  conservatively), it accounts for 8.25 percent of her round.”
While important not to draw far-reaching conclusions, the piece is an insightful one.
7. A lesson for American pros?
Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann suggests Sky Sports’ coverage, namely in-tournament player interviews, could be a model to follow for PGA Tour telecasts.
  • “Time and again during the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, we saw players doing walk-and-talk interviews with Tim Barter of Sky Sports. These were players at or near the top of the leaderboard, including eventual champion Danny Willett, who acknowledged as he prepared to play the back nine Sunday that there’s “a few nerves still in there.”
  • “Jon Rahm, who finished T-4, visited with Barter each of the final two rounds, and the gregarious Andy Sullivan illustrated why he’s one of the most appealing characters on the European Tour with his animated conversation with Barter. Dean Burmester, who also finished T-4, looked as if he were out for a pro-am round stroll rather than competing for one of his tour’s biggest championships.”
8. PGA Tour heading to Japan
AP Report…”The PGA Tour will hold its first official tournament in Japan. And the main sponsor of next year’s event, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, is describing it as a kind of “moonshot” for golf in his country.
  • “Maezawa should know….The founder of the Japanese fashion website Zozotown, Maezawa was announced earlier this year as the first commercial passenger to attempt a flight around the moon.”
  • “The tournament, set for Oct. 24-27, will be part of the PGA’s swing through Asia along with stops in South Korea and China. The Japanese tournament replaces one in Malaysia.”
9. AK sighting
Geoff Shackelford...”The reclusive Anthony Kim has surfaced in a video Tweeted by No Laying Up.”
Sitting with at least five of (presumably) his dogs, sounding eerily like Luke Walton and declaring his intention to place his first-ever bet on Phil Mickelson in The Match, Kim was golf’s break-out star in 2008.”
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Ian Poulter plays final round in 2 hours and 22 minutes, fires his best round of the week

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The debate regarding pace of play in the game of golf is rarely far from the surface, and on Sunday at the DP World Tour Championship, Ian Poulter showcased the benefits of speeding around the golf course.

It took Poulter just two hours and 22 minutes to complete his final round at Jumeirah Golf Estates (Earth Course), and what’s more, is that while flying around the golf course, the Englishman recorded his best score of the week, firing a round of 69.

After the round, Poulter, who is well known for his dislike of slow play in the game stated

“I’m a quick player. I don’t like slow play, so today was quite refreshing. It didn’t matter where I finished… I just wanted to get back for breakfast.”

Poulter isn’t the first player to play a final round in rapid time, with Wesley Bryan and Kevin Na both beating the Englishman’s time over the past couple of years. At the 2016 Tour Championship, Na darted around the course in just under two hours, while at the 2017 BMW Championship, Wesley Bryan took less than 90 minutes to complete his final round,

Interestingly, in all three of these cases of speedy play, the players shot their best round of the week while playing at their quickest.

So GolfWRXers, does playing fast bring out the best in a golfer, or is this another case of a player performing well when the pressure is off?

Let us know what you think!

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Is “make more birdies” really the best advice to shoot lower scores?

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I often hear golfers say, “I need to make more birdies to shoot lower scores.” This statement has been uttered by the team I currently coach, and through three tournaments this fall, it got me wondering how accurate that statement was for our level of play.

Our players’ scoring averages range from 74 to 87, having played in a minimum of two tournament rounds and up to seven tournament rounds. Most often, I have heard the statement above from our players who are in the middle to higher end of the scoring averages. So, I took a look into our scoring breakdown using the data we collect with GameGolf.

Here are the rankings of birdies per round for the seven players who have traveled this fall

1 2.7
2 1.42
3 1.17
4 1
5 0.5
6 0.42
7 0.33

The difference from the top to the seventh spot is 1.09 birdies per round. The player with the top spot has a scoring average of 74, and the player in seventh spot has a scoring average of 84.67.

Here are the rankings of double bogey/worse for the seven players who have traveled this fall

1 0.42
2 0.85
3 1
4 1.42
5 2
6 2.5
7 4

The difference from the top to the seventh spot is 3.58 doubles/worse per round. Again the player at the top has the 74 scoring average and the player at the bottom has the 87 scoring average.

Diving a little deeper, the players on the team with the top three scoring averages (74, 77.29 and 78) occupy the top three spots in both of these rankings. And taking a look at all the players’ differentials, their rank stays the same compared to their scoring average rank.

The fact that many golfers overlook when making the statement “I need to make more birdies to score better” is that each hole accounts for about 5.5 percent of your round. So, if we take our player who averages one birdie (minus 1) and 2.5 doubles/worse per round (plus 5, conservatively), 5.5 percent of her round is birdies and 13.75 percent of her round is doubles/worse.

If she were to simply focus on making more birdies per round to “balance out” the current 2.5 doubles/worse per round, she would need to increase to five birdies per round. That would be a jump up to 27.5 percent of her round. Compare that to shift a focus to minimizing the doubles/worse category. If this same player could even shave her doubles/worse to 1.5 per round (plus 3,  conservatively), it accounts for 8.25 percent of her round.

If we take a look at the top five scoring averages from the LPGA, Women’s DI and Women’s DII we see the scoring averages range from 68 to 72. While the birdies per round range from 2.4 to 4.8. An interesting thing to note from these numbers is that both the low scoring average and best birdies per round do not come from the LPGA players. While difficulty of the course setup may play into this factor, it can highlight that those women who are playing to make a living are making sure that they are keeping their cards clean of the big numbers because they do not have enough holes to make up for those errors with birdies.

While birdies are always more fun to celebrate, in stroke play you are better off to learn how to turn doubles into bogeys and bogeys into pars for better scores.

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