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Mikko Rantanen breaks par to win 2018 Speedgolf World Championships (Winning WITB)

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This year’s Speedgolf World Championships, held on the Shenedoah Course at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, wrapped Oct. 16 — and a major record was finally broken.

But before we get to the results, a bit about the sport. Speedgolf, as you may remember (or may never have known), is much like regular golf except you are trying to complete the round as quickly as possible on foot. Your speedgolf score is your golf score plus the time it takes you to finish. For example, if you shoot 80 in 60 minutes, your speedgolf score is 80 + 60 = 140.

There are only a few minor rules differences.

First, you are allowed to leave the flagstick in, which will also actually become an option in regular golf in 2019. Second, in the case of a lost ball, you are allowed to drop in the vicinity of where the ball was lost. This is because it was thought to be too penal in speedgolf to not only lose the stroke from the lost ball but also lose the time running back to where you played your last shot (plus it might be dangerous if there is another player coming up behind you). Third, you can only bring a maximum of seven clubs instead of the usual 14.

Strategies continue to evolve and improve.

Bags, if taken, are usually smaller “Sunday” type bags from a variety of manufacturers but sometimes even homemade. To save time, some players have gotten quite good at 1-handed putting. They hold their bag or clubs in one hand and putt with the other hand.

If you are a fast distance runner like Olympians Bernard Lagat or Nick Willis, running will obviously be your strength and perhaps it’s better to take fewer clubs to take advantage of your speed. In fact, I’ve seen one guy only take a single bladed 6-iron. To hit it farther he puts the ball back in his stance and he delofts the club face more like that of a 3-iron. Around the green, since the sole is thinner, he can open the club face quite a bit, squat down, and pop the ball up almost like a flop shot. To roll his putts, he just catches the ball slightly above the equator using the leading edge and an ascending stroke.

Others like myself aren’t as strong at running but have played golf professionally, so we might take a little more time on our shots, clip our golf bags on a belt hook and putt two-handed, and use six or seven clubs to focus on shooting a good golf score. This year I used a driver (to take advantage of my distance), a 3-wood (to make sure I could reach par 5s in two shots), three of my Sterling Irons® single length irons (the 6-iron, the 9-iron, and the gap wedge), and my putter.

Rain gloves are fairly standard since you get so sweaty and don’t want the clubs slipping out of your hands while swinging. Shoes are often running shoes or lightweight trail running shoes.

Despite what you might think, even with a maximum of seven clubs and playing shots at an elevated heart rate, scoring isn’t all that much different from what you might shoot in regular golf. In fact, some people even play better in part because you don’t start over thinking shots and you play more instinctively in a reactionary manner.

Up to this point at the World Championships, we’ve had five people shoot par 72 in under an hour…myself, Christopher Smith, Scott Dawley, Gretchen Johnson, and Jaime Young.

I knew I was going in to this year’s World Championships out of shape, so I wasn’t expecting much from the running standpoint. However, my golf game was okay and I shot 72 in my practice round, which included a triple bogey. So, going for that golf scoring record was obviously on my mind. Alas, it wasn’t my year…but the record was still meant to be broken this year.

Now, on to the results: With an amazing round of 71 in 55 minutes and 28 seconds, Mikko Rantanen of Finland pulled off speedgolf’s version of Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile by breaking the par mark that many of us had been stuck on for years.

In his bag, Mikko had the following six clubs:

  • Titleist 915 D3 driver – 9.5 degrees
  • Titlest 917 F2 fairway wood – 15 degrees
  • Titleist AP 2 6-iron
  • Titleist 716 CB 9-iron
  • Titleist Vokey 52-degree sand wedge
  • Maxfli Tad Moore putter

He also used a Titleist ProV1x and wore Salomon trail running shoes.

Mikko said he was inspired to break par in speedgolf for the first time by Chris Benians of England, who shot a 69 (-3) in 49 minutes and 16 seconds two days prior at Rome Country Club in Rome, New York, as part of the 2018 US Speedgolf Championships.

Jamie Reid(a) of New Zealand ran the event’s fastest time with a blistering 47 minutes and 29 seconds. We have seen faster times in previous World Championships, however, much like the World Long Drive Championships, the course and conditions of the day come in to play. This year’s Shenedoah Course at Turning Stone Resort & Casino played to around 5.3 miles which included 1.9 miles of some quite long transitions between holes. We also faced lots of rain and a water-logged course. As such, times were a bit slower at this venue than in previous years.

Two-time World Champion Rob Hogan of Ireland remains the only man to break 40 minutes at the World Championships.

Lauren Cupp of New York won the women’s division with an 86 in 66 minutes and 34 seconds.
Mark Le Compte of New Zealand was the 25-49 age group division with an 84 in 59 minutes and 28 seconds.

Larry Levinson won the 50+ age group with an 81 in 69 minutes and 12 seconds.

The inaugural ISGA World Cup (a team event) was held the day after the World Championships. The Team USA duo of Steve Vancil (who played in the PGA TOUR’s Buick Open) and Eri Crum (who won the 2014 Speedgolf World Championships and was a Stanford University college golf teammate of Tiger Woods) took 1st place and the gold medal.

For full field results and to learn about speedgolf leagues in your area, click here.

 

Photo Credit: Kirstin Bull | Speedgolf USA

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – More than 2.8 million video views

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. AJ2019

    Feb 8, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Mikko Rantanen was a very good College player. He played for Georgia Tech alongside David Duval, Stewart Cink and Carlos Beautell. All American in 1993 and loads of other merits as an amateur. Could sadly not quite follow it up as a pro.

  2. Vas

    Oct 24, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Less than zero interest in speed golf personally, but whatever floats your boat. Jaacob – your writing and take on how you improve swing speeds is top notch. Appreciate it!

  3. Mikko

    Oct 24, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Does he also play for the Colorado Avalanche, or is the name “Mikko Rantanen” like “Mike Smith” over in Finland?

  4. Cons

    Oct 24, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Gave this a go last night after reading this. 60 minutes and 38 shots to complete 9 with a full bag. Walked fast up until the last 3 holes when I knew I had to pick it up and run to make it under my goal of 1 hour. It diluted the golf a little bit, but from a fitness standpoint it was legit. Way more fun than a treadmill. Also great to get your golf mind in a new arena with the blood pumping and need to think fast. Would love to carry 4-5 clubs in hand with some running shoes next time.

  5. Jani

    Oct 24, 2018 at 8:04 am

    Here’s Mikko in action earlier this year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXxm-DvTf8Q

  6. joe

    Oct 23, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    I think this is cool. Hitting a fairway wood off the deck with elevated heart rate is REAL. A true test.

  7. Jamie

    Oct 23, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Wonder who would do best on the PGA Tour. Let’s see how good they really are.

  8. HKO

    Oct 23, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    gotta make this regular on all the muni courses over wknd.

  9. allan

    Oct 23, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Yes… this is the way to play young men’s/women’s golf…. run and hit/putt!!!
    To quicken the pace of play eliminate putting and just measure closest to the hole…. and off you go.

    • allan

      Oct 23, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      During twilight I played solo golf carrying a 7-iron + putter + two pocketfuls of pond balls… or a 6-iron and a SW to hit and putt. I have a great short game now but the driver still eludes me.

    • allan

      Oct 23, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      Play twilight solo golf with 7-iron + putter + a pocketfuls of balls… or a 6-iron and a SW only. I have a great short game now but the driver still eludes me.

  10. allan

    Oct 23, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Yes… this is the way to play young men’s/women’s golf…. run and hit/putt!!!
    Many an evening during twilight golf I played solo golf carrying a 7-iron + putter + two pocketfuls of pond balls… or a 6-iron and a SW to hit and putt. I have a great short game now but the driver still eludes me.

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News

Morning 9: Two Gloves | Caddies push for sponsor $ again | “The true Sergio” | Phil moving to Phlorida

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and golfwrxEIC on Twitter.
January 16, 2020
Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
**Drop me a line (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com) if you’d like to talk about getting your message in front of the M9 readership.**

 

1. Two gloves, one important win
You’d be forgiven for forgetting the detail, as it very deliberately wasn’t mentioned on the telecast…
  • Golfweek’s Todd Kelly…”Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, arrested in December in Florida and charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly soliciting prostitution as part of a major prostitution and human-trafficking sting, won the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour season opener on Wednesday.”
  • “Gainey rebounded from a second-round 75 with a 67-69 finish to win The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay by four shots over John Oda and Dylan Wu.”
2. After bombs, the Champions Tour
The Desert Sun’s Larry Bohannon…”I have to make sure that I’m ready when I get here, that I’m not going to find my game here because there’s some responsibilities,” said Mickelson, who takes on the job as host of the 61st American Express.
  • “A two-time winner of the tournament and a runner-up last year, Mickelson is expanding his role after three years as the ambassador of the event, a behind-the-scenes job to talk the tournament up to fellow players.”
3. Caddies (again) push for share of sponsorship $$
Paul Sullivan for the New York Times (if you’ll remember, a group of PGA Tour caddies PGA sued the Tour in 2015 for a cut of sponsorship revenue)
  • “Starting this season, that value will be acknowledged on the European Tour. Caddies will be paid, through the caddie association, to have a logo on items associated with their trade, like a hat, bag strap, towel, even yardage books. As it stands now, a player pays the caddie a weekly fee, mostly to cover expenses, and a percentage of his earnings, which could be as high as 10 percent for a win.”
  • “The new agreement is meant to help all caddies, particularly those carrying bags for lesser-known players, because those players make fewer cuts and their caddies struggle without the percentage.”
  • “This is not for the guy who caddies for the seventh-ranked player in the world, since he does very nicely,” said Sean Russell, the chairman of the European Tour Caddies Association and a professional caddie. “This is for the guy who caddies for the 157th-ranked player. If you do the math, that caddie probably earned 12,000 euros (about $13,000) in bonus payments over the fixed fee for the week that covers expenses. If you’re earning a 12,000-euro bonus you’d be better off stacking shelves.”
4. “The true Sergio”
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…”According to Garcia, who kept his reported $640,000 appearance fee despite being disqualified, this year will be different. For starters, he reportedly waived his appearance fee.”
  • “I feel terrible about what happened last year,” said Garcia ahead of this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. “Obviously there were some outside things that got me to that point.”
  • “You know, I want to go there,” Garcia added, referring to Saudi Arabia. “I want to show my respect to them. You know, the easy thing would have been for me to hide and never come back there. But I love the people there, and I love the guys, all the people we met and everyone that takes care of us during the tournament. They are amazing people, and they wanted me to go back.”
5. Pick a tour
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”To maintain membership on the European Tour, a player like Paul Casey must participate in four events, excluding the World Golf Championships and majors, which are co-sanctioned by both tours. In the past that requirement has been lessened by a regulation that allows players to count starts in unofficial events like the Ryder Cup, but that loophole appears to have been closed slightly.”
“Under the European Tour’s membership rules players can count just one start in either the Ryder Cup, Olympics or Presidents Cup as part of their membership requirement.”
6. Noh returns
Hoggard again…”Seung-Yul Noh returns to the PGA Tour this week at The American Express following two years of mandatory military service in South Korea.”
  • “It’s exciting because I feel like I just started as a pro (when he began his military service). Getting to see a lot of friends on Tour, it’s just exciting right now,” said Noh, who played twice on the Korean Tour last fall to prepare for his return.
  • “Noh last played a Tour event in October 2017″

Full piece.

7. A step toward equal pay
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”A credit to Aussie imagination and audacity, the Vic Open was added to the LPGA schedule for the first time last year. While it may have been the LPGA’s smallest purse ($1.1 million), it was the tour’s biggest idea. Once again, male and female pros will tee it up at 13th Beach Golf Links in Victoria and play the same courses at the same time for the same amount of prize money. It was a mustard seed of an idea that is spreading, with the European Tour and Ladies European Tour teaming to co-sanction the Scandinavian Mixed tournament in Sweden this summer. Male and female tour pros will compete against each other there for the same purse and the same trophy.”
8. Taking his talents to South Florida
…and away from the taxman!
“Mickelson confirmed to GolfChannel.com Wednesday at The American Express that his family closed on a lot on Jupiter Island, Fla., on Dec. 23 and he hopes to begin construction soon.
  • “Mickelson, who is the host of this week’s event, said the family’s current plan is to move to Florida after his youngest child, Evan, graduates from high school in a year and a half.”
9. Bryson rips Brooks lack of ripped-ness!
Christopher Powers at Golf Digest…”DeChambeau, who has spent his off-season bulking up (just ask him about it), dumped more gas on the fire during a Twitch stream on Wednesday. In the clip below, he’s presumably talking about Koepka when he states “in [ESPN’s] Body Issue he didn’t even have any abs, I can tell you that. I got some abs.”
@LukeKerrDineen on Twitter…
“Yea I weigh more than him now. Significantly more.”
“Did you see the body issue? He didn’t have any abs. I have abs.”
“We don’t talk about it. We just don’t see eye to eye.”

 

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Morning 9: Feinstein: Don’t give up on Phil | PGA Tour pace-of-play policy | Golf Channel’s top 25 moments

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com and find me at @benalberstadt on Instagram and golfwrxEIC on Twitter.
January 14, 2020
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. Email me with your pace-of-play solutions in professional golf!
**Drop me a line (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com) if you’d like to talk about getting your message in front of the M9 readership.**

 

1. Don’t give up on Lefty!
So cautions John Feinstein after examining the record of modern professional golf in general and Philip Alfred Mickelson in particular…
  • “So, as he begins the year in which he will turn 50, at an event he has won twice, is it time to write off the man his myriad of fans love to call Lefty? Even though he’s actually right-handed?”
  • “History says no.”
  • “Golfers are frequently written off prematurely (see Woods, Eldrick T. and Nicklaus, Jack as prime examples) largely because they can re-find their game well into their 40s, long after most stars in other sports have retired to spouting clichés from a TV booth.”
  • “Mickelson was 33 before he won his first major title and had been labeled a guy who could win non-majors, contend in majors and make huge money off the golf course, but couldn’t win on a Sunday that truly mattered. He had 16 top-10s in majors, including a second in the U.S. Open; a second in the PGA and four thirds in the Masters-including three years in a row-2001, 2002 and 2003. He was frequently on or around the podium, but never at the top of it.”
2. Golf Channel’s most impactful moments since its inception
Hard to believe Golf Channel is 25 years old/hard to believe Golf Channel is only 25 years old all at once. How many years ago did they drop the “The”…I don’t remember…
Anyway…
Here’s the complete list, 1-25, of Golf Channel’s most impactful moments over the last quarter-century.
1.Tiger Woods wins 1997 Masters by 12 shots
2.Tiger Woods wins 2000 U.S. Open by 15 shots
3.Tiger Woods completes Tiger Slam (2000 U.S. Open – 2001 Masters)
4.Arnold Palmer passes away at age 87
5.Tom Watson nearly wins 2009 Open at age 59
6.Solid-core ball developed
7.Tiger Woods wins 2008 U.S. Open on one leg
8.Tiger Woods ends major drought at 2019 Masters
9.Tiger Woods wins third straight U.S. Amateur and then says, ‘Hello, world’
10.Rory McIlroy recovers from Masters collapse, wins 2011 U.S. Open by eight shots
3. The PGA Tour’s new pace-of-play policy
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“What’s not addressed…In Hawaii, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was adamant that the primary objective is not necessarily to speed up play. “A focus on time creates other problems,” Monahan said.”
  • “PGA Tour senior vice president and chief of operations Tyler Dennis confirmed that’s not the focus. “The overall round times haven’t really changed over the last 20 years,” Dennis said, citing research from historical ShotLink data. As such, these changes won’t address the amount of time it takes to play a round-especially on Thursdays and Fridays-or the difficulty some events face in finishing in the daylight.”
  • “So, what is the change? The hope is to modify the habits of players that are leading to the growing frustration of slow play. According to ShotLink data, the slowest 10 percent of players take an average of 63 seconds for shots around the greens, more than 25 seconds than that of their fastest 10 percent counterparts. Approach shots (55 seconds for the slowest 10 percent) are another area of frustration.”
4. PAC
Per Geoff Shackelford…”While GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard notes the inability of Bryson DeChambeau to have convinced caucus goers he was worthy of adding context to the council’s prime area of concern-slow play-I’m struck by the departure of Matt Kuchar. “
Press release…

For Immediate Release, the 2020 Slow Play Policy Advisory Council and players who have shown an ability to use their brain for other thoughts  besides those revolving around golf, I mean PAC:

PGA TOUR announces 2020 Player Advisory Council
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The PGA TOUR today announced the 16-member Player Advisory Council (PAC) for 2020. The PAC advises and consults with the PGA TOUR Policy Board (Board of Directors) and Commissioner Jay Monahan on issues affecting the TOUR.
2020 Player Advisory Council
Ryan Armour
Paul Casey
David Hearn
Harry Higgs
Charley Hoffman
Billy Horschel
Zach Johnson
Russell Knox
Anirban Lahiri
Peter Malnati
Rory McIlroy
Ryan Palmer
Jon Rahm
Kevin Streelman 
Justin Thomas
Harold Varner III
5. “I didn’t hit their shots” 
Via Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“Conversely, Palmer was not particularly apologetic about his part in this sequence.”
  • “On Sunday night, Palmer tweeted, “And for all those questioning the last hole, I’ll do it again next week so deal with it,” after his 18th hole bogey dropped him to T-4. He also sidestepped a question about why he didn’t hit a provisional, faux congratulating a Twitter user for “The Only Negative Tweet of the day Award”
  • “However, Palmer must have received similar questions about the provisional throughout the night, because on Monday morning he responded that the final-hole adventures of Steele and Smith weren’t his fault, remarking “I didn’t hit their shots!”
(And on Twitter) @RyanPalmerPGA: I didn’t hit their shots!!
6. 3 putts from 4 feet, minus $100K
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…“Lost in the craziness of Sunday night’s wild finish at the Sony Open was a most disappointing end to an otherwise-solid week for Collin Morikawa.”
  • “Morikawa, who won his first PGA Tour title as a non-member last summer at the Barracuda Championship, was 1 over for the day but appeared headed for a final round of even-par 70 as he stared down a short putt for birdie at the par-5 18th.”
  • “Instead, he three-putted from 4 feet, racing the first putt by the hole and lipping out the comebacker for bogey and a round of 2-over 72.”

Full piece.

7. Open champ exemption for LAA winner
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta again…”For the first time in the Latin America Amateur Championship’s six-year history, its winner will receive an exemption into the game’s oldest major.”
  • “The event, which has offered a Masters invitation to its winner every year since its inception in 2015, will now also offer a spot in The Open Championship.”
  • “We are delighted to offer a place in The Open for the winner of the 2020 Latin America Amateur Championship,” Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said in a statement.
8. The world’s highest golf tournament!
Golf Digest’s Oliver Horovitz on teeing it up in the Himalayas…
  • “Listen, Ollie, I’ve got some exciting news. There’s going to be a major golf event here very soon. The world’s highest golf tournament….
  • It will be played up at Kongde Ri. That’s 14,000 feet. We’re going up in choppers.”…There’s a pause, then Deepak arrives at his main point…”I think you should come over for it.”
  • “I first visited Nepal in April 2016, with my friends Miles and Vlad. After trekking to Everest Base Camp, we put together an article on Nepal’s little-known golf scene. There are six courses in Nepal, including Royal Nepal Golf Club and the wonderfully named Yak Golf Club, Himalayan Golf Course and Nirvana Country Club. There are 700 golfers, of which one in 10 is a professional, earning cards at an annual Q school for the Professional Golf Tour of Nepal.”

Full piece.

9. XR vs. a golf course
Via bunkered…”The climate change pressure group Extinction Rebellion has been branded “unreasonable” after it protested for a golf course in Brighton to be closed for “re-wilding”.”
  • “Stephen Garrioch, the captain of Hollingbury Golf Club, hit out at the group after its activists staged a protest in the East Sussex town at the weekend.”
  • “The campaigners are calling upon Brighton and Hove Council, which operates the facility, to abandon the course and let it grow naturally to encourage wildlife.”

Full piece.

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Tour Rundown: Sony Open Twilight Zone, Grace under pressure

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The 2nd weekend in January of 2020 marked the return of multiple events during a single week. Granted, one was rescheduled from 6 weeks past, another began on Saturday (and will conclude tomorrow), a third was an unfortunate swamp…DOESN”T MATTER! Televised golf that counts is back, and we’re watching! One of the world’s finest percussionists, Neil Peart of RUSH, left this world last week. In a salute to his mastery, find tributes to his songs scattered throughout this piece. With a heavy, non-golf heart, let’s read Tour Rundown for Monday, January 13th, 2o2o.

Sony Open’s Twilight-Zone ending leaves lots of head scratching

Not all comebacks end in victory, nor do all golf tournaments end in logic. Consider the 2nd part before the first: squeegees on the 18th green, golf balls ricocheting off bleachers, delays of over 10 minutes for the final group. It’s really no surprise that Brendan Steele had trouble navigating the closing stretch at Waialae Country Club. Some of it was his undoing, but much of it wasn’t. Steele came into the week in a massive slump, and led until the final putt, when he suddenly didn’t. And yet, to come so close to victory and not drink from the cup, is still a comeback. And perhaps that can suffice for now.

Steele had a one-shot lead, and was standing in the middle of the 18th fairway, iron in hand. Exuberance gave way to a snapping hook, and his approach sailed over the grandstands. After a drop area was decided, the leader was unable to pitch far enough, to avoid the casual channel of water that traversed the final putting surface. Steele could only 2-putt, and hope that Smith would not make birdie (spoiler alert: he did.)

The victor, Cameron Smith, was able to make up 2 shots on Steele over the inward nine. He birdied the 18th to reach 11 under par, and off the two golfers went to the 10th tee. Why not 18, you ask? Recall, if you will, the condition of the closing hole. It was quite messy, with sloppy turf along most of its 551 yards. The 10th is a wee drive and pitch, but it gave Steele fits. He drove his ball in the fairway, while Smith missed wide right. The Aussie played a remarkable recovery, onto the green, not far from the hole. With a tiny wedge in his hand, Steele gunned his approach far beyond the green, precisely where he didn’t need to be. Unable to get the ball up and down, Steele’s bogey was no match for Smith’s 2-putt par, and the Aussie had his first PGA Tour title.

Webb Simpson and Ryan Palmer found themselves in contention, in the penultimate group. Simpson made a par to total -10, one putt shy of the playoff. Palmer’s finish was as bizarre as Steele’s. Palmer slammed his approach, from a fairway bunker, off the video board, over the grandstands, straight into a bogey. In one swing he went from potential playoff participant to 4th place tie. Can golf on the mainland possibly equal this? Doubtful.

South African Open victory completes journey of Grace under pressure

Within his home country of South Africa, Branden Grace had won every event of note but one: the Open championship. On Sunday, the 31-year old closed the trophy cabinet with a 3-shot victory over Louis Oosthuizen, winning his country’s national title at the Randpark golf club in Johannesburg. The victory moved him into the early lead in the 2020 Race To Dubai, the European Tour’s season-long points race.

Inspired, perhaps, by the sublime 62 of Marcus Armitage on Saturday, Grace teed off on Sunday and posted a 62 of his own. Two items stand out from that performance: he was actually +1 through 2 holes; and he did all his damage in an eleven-hole stretch. Grace made bogey at the 2nd to fall a stroke farther behind the overnight leader. Then, in a 2.5 hour bottle, Grace caught lightning. Birdies at holes 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 through 14, in addition to an eagle at the 4th, lopped a massive 10 shots off his tally, pushing him beyond 20-under par.

Oosthuizen had an eagle of his own. A perfectly-judged tee shot on the par-3 8th hole, played dangerously close to disaster, found the bottom of the cup. The 2010 Open champion had, incredibly, zero bogeys on the day. Unfortunately, he was able to pair just one birdie with the ace, finishing at a frustrating 18-under par. As for Armitage, had he visited a fortune teller before the start, he would have learned that he would stand over a critical putt on the week’s last green. No, not for the title, but for an automatic bid to the 2020 Open Championship, at Royal St. George’s in July. The Englishman drained a 20-feet putt for birdie, finished in solo 3rd position, and punched his ticket to the south of England this summer.

Hong Kong Open decided after 6-week delay

Wade Ormsby of Australia began his 2020 in the most proper way; he claimed the Asian Tour’s Hong Kong Open with a 4- shot triumph. The journey to conclusion began in November of 2019, when the tournament was originally scheduled. Anti-government protests were sufficient enough for tournament organizers to authorize a postponement. 1.5 months later, the event was contested at the Hong Kong golf club.

No one was more on-form this week, than the soon-to-turn-40 Ormsby. He opened with 65, for a share of the lead, then stitched a quilt of 66s the remainder of the week. Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand stood 2 back of the Aussie on day four, and closed to within a shot when the leader made bogey at the first on Sunday. Right the ship? Indeed. Ormsby birdied holes 2-4 and added another at the 9th, to turn in 31 and remind followers that it had always been his week. Charoenkul admirably stood strong, finishing in 3rd place 5 behind the champion.

It was the 2019 Champion Golf of the Year, Shane Lowry, who provided the fittest challenge of the day. Lowry closed within 1 of the week’s low round (63) with a 64 of his own. Standing 6 under on the day through 14, the Irishman had closed with a pair of strokes of the leader. Ormsby and Lowry each had bogeys at the daunting, par 4 15th hole. The 5 effectively ended Lowry’s challenge, as Ormsby was unlikely to fritter away his lead.

The title was Ormsby’s 2nd Hong Kong Open win in 3 years. Among notable competitors, American Tony Finau finished 5th at 10 below par. Rashid Khan of Indonesia, compiler of the aforementioned 63, claimed 6th place after closing with 70. The Asian Tour resumes play this week at the Singapore Open, at the Sentosa golf club. Enter the warrior, today’s Wade Ormsby.

Tournament of Champions to Thomas in energy-crackling finish

Although it took place last week, the PGA Tour’s annual TOC earned a look this week, thanks to its unanticipated and dramatic finish. It’s rare when a PGA Tour player misses a driving range, but that’s what Justin Thomas did with his 2nd at the par-5 18th hole on Sunday. From certain victory in regulation, Thomas tugged his fairway metal (which he didn’t need to hit) on the widest fairway in golf, into the native gunge left. The ensuing penalty forced him to get up and down from 75 yards for par and victory. Well, that didn’t happen, either. Off went Thomas and equal-parts-stunned-and-delighted Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed to the 18th tee. Thomas and Reed negotiated birdies, which eliminated Xander’s par. Playoff part two at the same hole dealt pars from the middle of the deck to the survivors, so back to the hilltop they went, for a 4th go (including regulation) at the long yet reachable par five. Thomas made birdie and watched as Reed could only make par. The win was Thomas’ 12th on tour, and 3rd in a playoff.

Much was learned with the resumption of the 2019-2020 PGA Tour season in Kapalua: Brendon Todd’s incredible run of top-five finishes came to an end (he placed 29th); Joaquin Niemann can play better than he did at Royal Melbourne (where he didn’t help the International Team a lick); and for Kapalua’s Plantation course to truly defend itself against the pros, it needs backward winds (which it got); brand-new greens (with new breaks, to stump the gods); and fairways that don’t run out (that will change as the redone turf firms up.) In other words, by 2022, Kapalua should be Kapalua again.

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