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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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Q2Q: Johnny gets a hand from Claude Harmon III

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In this episode of the Q2Q brought to you bu GolfWRX and Cobra Golf, Johnny and performance coach Nick Starchuk travel to West Palm Beach to see Claude Harmon III at his performance center. It’s a Golf IQ reality smackdown with CHIII breaking down the truth that the Arccos system has shown Johnny.
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Morning 9: Lowry leads | MJ on TW | The Tour’s secret cut-making machines

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

April 19, 2019

Good Friday morning on this Good Friday, golf fans.
1. Lowry leads
AP report…”The Irishman admittedly had started the year off on a strong note with a win in Abu Dhabi in the season-opener on the European Tour. But he simply hadn’t been able to build on that momentum – on either side of the Atlantic — in the weeks following his third career win”.
  • “In fact, Lowry hadn’t broken 70 in four stroke-play events on the PGA TOUR since he missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am back in February. He was a combined 24 over par in those tournaments and had only made the weekend once.”
  • “On a blustery morning at Harbour Town Golf Links, though, Lowry was back in control — firing a bogey-free 65 that earned him a one-stroke advantage.”
  • “Pretty much my whole game felt good,” Lowry said. “… I haven’t had that feeling in a while. So, it’s kind of nice.”
2. Augusta’d!
The Golf Channel Digital Team…”Beginning on the 10th hole Thursday, Spieth played his opening nine holes in 2 over par, with one double – after hitting his tee shot short, into the water at No. 14 – and eight pars. He recovered on the front side with three birdies compared to one bogey.”
  • “For the day, he hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation but needed 33 putts.”
  • “”I really got Augusta’d out here. What I mean is, I was still putting to the speed of Augusta. I haven’t fully made the transition away from that,” Spieth said after his even-par 71. “And as we are expecting high winds I’m sure the greens will slow down even more to make it fair. I’m really going to need to dial in my speed on the greens. Just tough out there coming off last week to this week, to get yourself to pop it harder than you really want to.””
3. Berger resurgent
Golfweek’s Roxanna Scott…
  • “After taking significant time off late in the year, Daniel Berger has to like what he sees in his game after an opening-round 5-under-par 66 in the RBC Heritage.”
  • “A finger injury forced Berger to take more than four months off after withdrawing from the BMW Championship in September. The 26-year-old Floridian was among a group of five tied for second Thursday, one shot behind leader Shane Lowry. Dustin Johnson, No. 1 in the world rankings, shot 3-under 68 in the afternoon.”
  • “”It’s just been kind of touch and go here,” Berger told reporters after the round at Harbour Town Golf Links. “And finally got a full week of practice where I actually got to play golf every day. That’s just the biggest difference. When you’re going to a golf tournament and you’ve played one round of golf in two weeks, you don’t feel very good. To be able to put the work in and be rewarded it makes me feel like I’m ready to go when I get out here.”
4. Meanwhile, in Hawaii…
AP Report…”Eun-Hee Ji rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 18th with a pitch-in eagle on the par-5 first and shot a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over Nelly Korda on Thursday in the Lotte Championship.”
“Ji had a 15-under 129 total to break the tournament 36-hole record by five strokes.”
5. MJ on TW
Golf Channel’s Will Gray rounds up a few MJ quotes from The Athletic and expands…
  • “I took two years off to play baseball, but nothing like that,” Jordan told The Athletic. “I’m pretty sure he questioned himself, whether he could get it back, and he had to put a lot of work in. But he took it head-on. He had to change his game; he had to change his perspective a little bit. To me, it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen.”
  • “I never thought he’d get back physically,” Jordan said. “He didn’t think he’d get back physically. But he did it. No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He’s probably the only person who believed he could get back. To me, that’s a major accomplishment. To me, it’s unbelievable. Mentally, you always think you can. But you can’t answer to what your body has to deal with.”
6. USWO entries
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…”Rolex world No. 1 Jin Young Ko and defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn topped the list of players qualified for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Wednesday’s close of entries.”
  • “Forty-seven of the top 50 players in this week’s world rankings are qualified for the event, scheduled May 30-June 2 at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.). (Click here for the full exempt field)”
  • “Sectional qualifying begins later this month.”
7. Secret cut-making wizards
Shane Ryan, in the course of Tiger’s Masters triumph, got to thinking about the tour’s cut-making maestros, reaching out to Mark Broadie for data…
“Broadie disappeared into his secret temple of statistics (I imagine it looks like the House of the Undying in Game of Thrones), and came out bearing a bounty of figures. For the last two seasons, beginning in the fall of 2017, Thomas and Johnson were indeed the leaders, with Thomas in front by percentage points. But there were a couple surprises in the top ten”
Justin Thomas – 19/20 – 5.0% missed cut rate
Dustin Johnson – 17/18 – 5.6%
Tommy Fleetwood – 16/17 – 5.9%
Bryson DeChambeau – 24/26 – 7.7%
Hideki Matsuyama – 18/20 – 10.0%
Tiger Woods – 17/19 – 10.5%
Emiliano Grillo – 25/28 – 10.7%
T-8. Justin Rose 16/18 – 11.1%
T-8. Rafa Cabrera-Bello 16/18 – 11.1%
Rickie Fowler – 21/24 – 12.5%
“Grillo is the one of that group you might not expect, and there’s a couple more in the next 10, from An to Keegan Bradley to Charles Howell III. The inspiration for this post, Tony Finau, clocked in at 12th.”
8. Talking to a D, C & P finalist
Our Brendon Elliott spoke to Briel Royce, a finalist in the Drive, Chip and Putt.
So how cool was it driving Down Magnolia Lane?
  • Briel: “Driving down Magnolia Lane was awesome.  Usually, you do not get to experience the scenic ride unless you are a tour player or a member. Everyone got extremely quiet upon entry. There were tons of security along our slow ride. Seeing the beautiful trees and the Masters Flag at Founder’s Circle in the distance was surreal. Having earned the right and opportunity to drive down this prestigious lane was breathtaking. I would love to do it again someday.”
  • What was the coolest part of your time at Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National?
  • Briel: “Everything was cool about the DCP. Not too often do you see people taking walks in the morning with green jackets on. We were not treated like kids. We were treated like tour players, like we were members at Augusta. The icing on the cake was when they took us to the practice green and we were putting alongside Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. Everyone was confused when we first got there because we weren’t certain we should be putting on the same green around the pros. Again, we were treated like we were tour players. Where else would I be able to do this? Nowhere other than DCP at Augusta. One of my favorite reflections is having Bubba Watson watch us chip and congratulating each of us for our efforts. He did not need to do that. He took time out of practicing for a very important week in his career to support the DCP players. I think his actions show what the game of golf is about: the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and support.”
9. Trophy gallery
Here’s something interesting and easily digestible: a look at all the trophies handed out on the PGA Tour this season. Some are…interesting…
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Michael Jordan describes Tiger Woods’ comeback as the greatest he’s ever seen

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Former NBA star Michael Jordan is no stranger to legendary comebacks, but according to the six-time NBA champion, there has been no greater comeback in the history of sport than that of Tiger Woods.

Jordan, who was speaking to The Athletic, talked about the monumental journey which Woods, who Jordan is a close friend of, traveled to reach this point, of which perseverance and self-belief played a significant role.

“I took two years off to play baseball, but nothing like that. I’m pretty sure he questioned himself, whether he could get it back, and he had to put a lot of work in. But he took it head-on. He had to change his game; he had to change his perspective a little bit. To me, it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen.”

Three years ago, Jordan told ESPN that he thought Woods’ best days were behind him,  with the golfer’s ailing back contributing to much of that belief. Mentally, Jordan never doubted the 81-time PGA Tour winner, but the basketball legend admitted his surprise at his friend overcoming his chronic back issues.

“I never thought he’d get back physically. He didn’t think he’d get back physically. But he did it. No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He’s probably the only person who believed he could get back. To me, that’s a major accomplishment. To me, it’s unbelievable. Mentally, you always think you can. But you can’t answer to what your body has to deal with.”

As for what’s next for Woods, Jordan believes the sky is the limit, firing this warning to the 43-year-old’s rivals.

“They got problems. His confidence is only going to build from here. The unknown is the biggest thing. He’s won a Tour event, he’s won the Masters, he’s won a major.”

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