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Tour Rundown: Lashley writes unbelievable story, Stricker wins first USGA event

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Take your pick of astonishing results in the world of golf this week. The European and PGA Tours both saw first-time winners claim victory by large margins. One of the most appreciative golfers in the world won his first USGA title, and the golfer many expect to dominate the LPGA tour wrestled a 7th title from nearly the entire field in Arkansas. As June gives way to July, some of the most potent and inspirational golf came our way this week. Have a quick read of our last-week-of-June Tour Rundown.

Lashley and Redman offer unpredictable PGA Tour success at Rocket Mortgage Classic

As impressive as Doc Redman’s performance was this week (Monday qualifier, 2nd place finish, special temporary Tour membership and entry into The Open Championship) Nate Lashley topped him. Lashley didn’t make it through Monday qualifying, but a spot opened up and he was in the tournament. From there, Hollywood took over. Lashley opened with 63 and built on the lead each day. By Sunday’s end, he was 6 shots in front of the runner-up, at 25-under par at the Detroit Golf Club. Lashley made but 3 bogeys on the week, including a 30-hole stretch from Friday to Sunday, when he made not a one. On Sunday, he had a pair of oops as the front nine closed. Fortunately for him, no one close was on the move.

The 35-year old Arizona Wildcat epitomized the term journeyman until this week, when he played like the tour’s finest champion. In addition to the spot in Northern Ireland this month, Ashley now has an invitation to the Masters Tournament, along with a 2-year tour exemption. Interestingly, as Lashley teed off on Saturday with Cameron Champ, in the final pairing, smart money was on the young bomber. It was Champ who lost focus, not Lashley. Sometimes, the gods of golf bestow grace on the most unlikely of recipients.

Stricker runs away with Senior Open at Notre Dame

The story of Steve Stricker would take two or three volumes to complete. Decent success on tour during his first 15 years, followed by complete loss of game as he reached his late thirties. Inexplicably, his game came back and he won 9 times in his forties. Named captain of the Presidents and Ryder Cup sides for the USA, he was a phoenix that had risen from the ashes. Only one victory had escaped him, until 2019. At the Warren golf course on the University of Notre Dame campus, Stricker put on a Joe Montana-esque performance, vanquishing the field by 6 strokes.

On Thursday, the defending champion (David Toms) opened with 62. No matter, so did Stricker. The University of Illinois alum came back on Friday in 64 strokes, establishing the beginnings of a lead he would not surrender. His 66 on Saturday seemingly put the matter to rest, as he took a 6-stroke advantage into the final round. Jerry Kelly, last week’s winner, closed the gap to five at the 10th, but Stricker allowed him no closer. His birdie chip-in sealed the deal, allowing the final six holes to be as much a triumphant march as permitted. The only participant to register 4 rounds in the 60s, Stricker’s 2019 USGA coming-out party will go deep into the month of July.

Sung Hyun Park secures 7th LPGA title in Arkansas

As the eventual champion took bogey on the 9th hole, at least 10 golfers were within 3 shots of the lead. Names like Inbee Park, Carlota Ciganda, Danielle Kang and Hyo Joo Kim were in contention, making the anticipated outcome as predictable as a lottery draw. Something clicked at the turn, though, and Sung Hyun Park made 4 birdies on the inward half. Her 31 there, combined with 35 going out, gave her 66 on the day and -18 for the week. Kang, Inbee and Hyo Joo each had 65 on day three, and each came up one shot shy of a playoff. Brittany Altomare, playoff loser in last year’s Evian Championship, was one stroke farther back, alone in 5th place. We weren’t kidding; everyone had a chance! At -15 came four more golfers, allowing 10 players inside three strokes of 1st place. Back to Sung Hyun. There hasn’t been a dominant player on the LPGA tour since Lydia Ko, in the early 2010s. Ko is off, in search of her swing, and there may not be another like her for some time. With only 4 bogeys on the week, Park was as dominating as anyone. 2 of her 7 tour titles are major events. A few more of those, and she might be the one who holds the scepter.

Bezuidenhout irons first Euro Tour win in southern Spain

Any other week, Christiaan Bezuidenhout’s commanding win at Valderrama would be the talk of Tour Rundown. The young South African pulled a Lashley, holding 1st place from the 2nd round on, holding off golfers like Garcia, Rahm and Quiros. Trouble was, Lashley won his first event this week, too. And Stricker won by a boatload of strokes, as well. We suspect that Bezuidenhout doesn’t much care. He won on the premier shotmaker’s course in all of golf, a layout described by the twisting trunks and branches of cork trees. Tee balls and approaches are compelled to move laterally, in order to avoid the snares along the way. And here was Bezuidenhout, with a large lead, making birdie at the 2 opening holes on Sunday, as if to run away with things. 4 bogies in his next 5 holes brought the field much closer.

Doing little to challenge was the winner’s final-round partner, Jon Rahm. Having demonstrated little ability to succeed under pressure, the Spaniard played true to form at Valderrama. Although still in the mix entering the final nine holes, Rahm turned with bogey-par-double to cancel his chances for good. In the end, it was Alvaro Quiros, the forgotten Spanish bomber of the early 2010s, following a Saturday 76 with a 10-shot improvement on Sunday. He tied for 2nd with 4 other golfers (3 of them Spaniards!) at -4, six behind the winner. With the triumph, Bezuidenhout joins Lashley and Redman from the other side of the pond, at Royal Portrush this month. Happy June!

Playoff in Utah sees Ventura send off Creel on 3rd extra hole

In the first week of the era known as the Korn Ferry Tour (farewell, Web.Com), Kristoffer Ventura and Joshua Creel were the last men standing in a breakneck dash to the finish. 3rd-place finishers Ryan Brehm, Charlie Saxon and Kevin Dougherty all had chances to reach -14 and join the playoff, but each slid his effort past the hole’s edge. Daniel Summerhays could not buy a putt the last 36 holes, and finished an agonizing 2 strokes back. Ventura birdied 4 of his final 7 holes, reaching the house first at -14. Creel matched him moments later, nearly hole for hole, at -4 over the closing stretch, to sign for his own 14-under. The playoff began at the 18th, and both players made par. After striping drives on the 18th once more, neither player acquitted himself well with the approach. Two more pars sent the pair to the 10th hole. It was Creel who blinked, driving his ball under a tree. Unable to extricate himself with enough skill, he made bogey. Ventura tapped in from 24 inches, and the first Korn Ferry Tour title went to the young Cowboy from Oklahoma State. Coincidentally, it was the first victory of his young career as well, and moved him close to locking up a 2020 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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Morning 9: Tour updates | One-week offseason | Forgotten father of Skins Game?

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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.

October 18, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans. Get out there and enjoy some fall golf this weekend!
1. CJ Cup
AP report on the action on Jeju Island, where tournament favorite Justin Thomas has surged to the top…”Justin Thomas shot a 9-under 63 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, putting himself in position to win his second PGA Tour event in South Korea in three years.”
  • “Thomas, who won the inaugural CJ Cup in 2017, has a two-round total of 13-under 131.”
  • “South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee (66) is in a tie for second place with first-round leader and former U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An, who shot 69 before his home fans.”

Full piece.

2. French Open
With round 2 underway, here’s the post-round one report from Reuters…”George Coetzee and Ryan Fox carded six-under-par 65s to share the lead in the French Open first round on Thursday as the European Tour returned to Le Golf National in Paris a year after the course hosted the Ryder Cup.”
3. Hole-in-one and a second-round lead 
AP report…”Brooke Henderson made a hole-in-one and shot an 8-under 64 to take the lead in the second round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai on Friday.”
  • “The Canadian aced the 175-yard second hole. She followed that with a bogey, but then birdied four more holes on the front nine, finishing her round at 11-under 133 total.”
  • “Jessica Korda (67) was two strokes behind in second, followed by defending champion Danielle Kang (67) in third.”
4. One-week offseason
The Forecaddie with an interesting scheduling observation…”The Man Out Front could not get past the dates for the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs.”
  • “The season-ending stretch will compete head-to-head with the PGA Tour playoffs, right down to the final Sunday of Aug. 30.”
  • Which means while the FedEx Cup comes to a conclusion at East Lake, the Korn Ferry Tour’s always valiant battles to gain Tour cards will be playing out at Victoria National and once again presented by United Leasing but without the spotlight those finals enjoyed this year when finishing on Labor Day, a week clear of the 2019 Tour Championship.”
5. Molinari splits with caddie
Our Gianni Magliocco writes…”Francesco Molinari has parted ways with his caddie Pello Iguaran, who has been on the Italian’s bag for the last four years.”
  • “The 2018 Open Champion will now employ Jason Hempleman until the beginning of 2020 where Mark Fulcher will then take the reigns. Fulcher caddied for Justin Rose for 11 years, in which period Rose won the U.S. Open and Olympic Gold.”
  • “The 36-year-old announced the decision via his social media accounts, where he stated…”It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.”

Full piece.

6. Tiger’s back, but is he ready?
ESPN’s Bob Harig, always a voice of reason, breaks down Tiger Woods’ activities since last playing professional golf, along with what he has on the docket, before concluding..”All of this assumes a level of health and fitness that went missing for the latter part of 2019. Woods turns 44 on Dec. 30 and performing at a high level — competing and winning tournaments — depends so much on his ability to properly prepare, let alone be fit enough to compete with the best in the world.”
  • “But first things first: a long trip to Japan, a skins competition followed by a PGA Tour event, and some answers to where Woods is headed with his game.”
7. How the Skins Game started
Speaking of skins, great stuff from Adam Schupak for Golfweek on the forgotten man from the genesis of the beloved event…”When Steve Sesnick read about the upcoming reboot of the Skins Game in Japan headlined by Tiger Woods, he couldn’t help but feel a moment of pride like that of a proud parent. And why not? It was further confirmation that his concept – even if he believes it has outlasted its expiration date – still works.”
“More than 35 years ago, Sesnick claims that he conceived the concept that became one of the most successful made-for-TV franchises in all of sports: four of golf’s biggest names, competing in a go-for-broke format over two days during Thanksgiving weekend when golf traditionally was dark, college football was limited, and even the NFL had two fewer games to compete against.”
8. Record rounds in the 60s
Viktor Hovland’s incredible play continues…Golf Channel’s Carson Williams…”A day after setting a PGA Tour record with his 18th consecutive round in the 60s, Hovland was at it again Friday during the second round of the CJ Cup in South Korea where he carded his 19th straight round in the 60s. The newly-minted Tour member drained a testy par putt at the par-4 ninth to keep his streak alive.”
  • “No, it’s cool,” Hovland said Friday following a second straight 3-under 69. “Obviously I would have liked to have maybe higher finishes in the tournaments that I’ve played, but it really goes to show the consistency that I’ve had over the summer.”

Full piece.

9. Tiger’s Olympic goal 
Reuters report…”Tiger Woods says next year’s Tokyo Olympics are a “big goal” as he looks to add to his decorated career.”
  • “Woods, 43, won his 15th major at the Masters earlier this year but injury ruled him out of golf’s return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence in 2016.”
  • “I don’t see myself having too many opportunities other than next year,” the American said.
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Francesco Molinari splits with caddie Pello Iguaran

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Francesco Molinari has parted ways with his caddie Pello Iguaran, who has been on the Italian’s bag for the last four years.

The 2018 Open Champion will now employ Jason Hempleman until the beginning of 2020 where Mark Fulcher will then take the reigns. Fulcher caddied for Justin Rose for 11 years, in which period Rose won the U.S. Open and Olympic Gold.

The 36-year-old announced the decision via his social media accounts, where he stated

“It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career.

We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together. Best of luck for the future and thanks for an amazing run together Jason Hempleman will be on the bag until the end of the season. Mark Fulcher will be on the bag at the start of 2020.”

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It’s been nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for. Pello will always be a member of my team and more importantly my family. He’s one of the most hardworking, loyal, positive, reflective people I’ve come across during my career. We’ve had both good and tough times on the course, but most importantly we both grew together and as individuals during our time together. Best of luck for the future and thanks for an amazing run together Jason Hempleman will be on the bag until the end of the season. Mark Fulcher will be on the bag at the start of 2020. Sono state quasi 4 stagioni di emozioni incredibili e lavoro davvero produttivo, ma sfortunatamente le relazioni a volte non finiscono come tutti vorremmo. Pello sarà sempre un membro del mio team e, soprattutto, della mia famiglia. È una delle persone più laboriose, leali, positive e riflessive che ho incontrato durante la mia carriera. Abbiamo avuto momenti belli e momenti difficili sul campo, ma soprattutto siamo cresciuti insieme e come individui durante il tempo insieme. Buona fortuna per il futuro e grazie per una fantastica esperienza insieme Jason Hempleman sarà il mio caddie fino alla fine dell’anno. Mark Fulcher sarà il caddie dall'inizio del 2020 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

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In the period Molinari and Iguaran were together, some of the highlights include Molinari’s win at The Open Championship in 2018, the BMW PGA Championship, and the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, since April, Molinari has failed to record a top-10 finish.

 

 

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Morning 9: LPGA, LET partnership? | Ryder Cup ticket fiasco | Alfredsson: Senior women’s golf dynamo

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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.

October 17, 2019

Good Thursday morning, golf fans.
1. “True partnership”
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell on an exciting development for women’s golf…
  • “The LPGA and Ladies European Tour have renewed talks that could lead to “a true partnership” between the two organizations.”
  • “LET Board Chair Marta Figueras-Dotti sent a letter to LET players this week informing them of the discussions. She told players that a dialogue was “in full swing” to create a “50-50 joint venture” between the tours.”
  • “LPGA and LET officials said in a joint statement Wednesday that while it’s too early to publicly discuss specifics, they are working to complete terms of a new agreement in time to present it to LET players at their annual meeting on Nov. 26 in Spain.”

Full piece.

2. Alfredsson!
AP report on the emerging dynamo in women’s senior golf with the 2019 double…
  • “Helen Alfredsson added the Senior LPGA Championship to her U.S. Senior Women’s Open title, rallying Wednesday at cold and windy French Lick Resort to sweep the two major championships of the season.”
  • “Three strokes behind Juli Inkster entering the day, Alfredsson closed with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory. The 54-year-old Swede was the only player to break par on the final day at the Pete Dye Course and, at 2-under 214, the only one under par for the week.”

Full piece.

3. And on Jeju Island…
AP report…An was on!
  • “In the first event of a three-tournament PGA TOUR swing through Asia, Byeong Hun An was the first-round leader in his home country at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES with an 8-under 64. Joaquin Niemann sits a stroke behind in second.”
  • “Jason Day’s attempt to impress International team captain Ernie Els for a spot at the Presidents Cup took a positive turn when the Australian shot a 6-under 66 to sit two strokes off the lead and in solo third after the opening round.”

Full piece.

4. Ticket fiasco
Oh boy. JR Radcliffe at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, syndicated in Golfweek…”Tickets for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, next year sold out in less than 50 minutes on Wednesday, and fans on social media were furious with the process.”
  • “Tickets for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler next year sold out in less than 50 minutes on Wednesday, and fans on social media were furious with the process.”
  • “The Ryder Cup website did indicate: “Due to high demand, having an access code does not guarantee you a chance to buy tickets. Available inventory may vary depending on when you’re able to access the sale.”
5. “Better options”
ESPN’s Bob Harig suggests Lefty doesn’t think he’s getting picked for captain Woods’ squads…”Mickelson said Wednesday that he doesn’t expect an at-large pick from U.S. Presidents Cup team captain Tiger Woods and that he does not believe he is deserving.”
  • “There are much better options of players that have played consistently at a high level that deserve to be on the team,” Mickelson, 49, said in South Korea at the CJ Cup, a PGA Tour event he is playing for the first time. “Even if I were to win, I have not done enough to warrant a pick.
  • “I’m not asking for one. I don’t expect one. I think there are a lot of better options for the U.S. side.”
6. 58 penalty strokes!
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers on a wildly penal occurrence…”Lee Ann Walker was assessed 58 penalty strokes after it was discovered she had violated Rule 10.2b several times over the course of the first two rounds at the senior major being played at the Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind. Implemented earlier this year, the rule prohibits caddies from lining up golfers on putting greens, among other spots on the course. And as Walker found out, there is no limit to the amount of penalty strokes a player can incur for breaking it.”
  • “In a statement released by the Senior LPGA Championship Rules Committee, the harsh decision came after Walker notified a rules official during the second round on Tuesday that she had been violating the rule. Obviously, Walker didn’t realize this until it was pointed out to her by a fellow caddie on her fifth hole. Walker then went through her round so far as well as the first round on Monday to determine just how many times she broke the rule. Considering the total, she was obviously being lined up by her caddie on most putts.”

Full piece.

7. BK vs. Rory
Our Gianni Magliocco…”The 29-year-old, who was speaking to the AFP ahead of this week’s CJ Cup, has been on the PGA Tour since 2015 and has won four major’s in that period, while McIlroy’s last success at a major championship came back in 2014.”
  • “I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry.”
  • “The world number one then further reiterated his lack of belief that there is currently a serious rivalry in golf and laid out his intentions to remain at the top of the sport for the foreseeable future.”
  • “I’m not looking at anybody behind me. I’m number one in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry. You know if the fans do (call it a rivalry), then that’s on them and it could be fun. Look I love Rory he’s a great player and he’s fun to watch, but it’s just hard to believe there’s a rivalry in golf. I just don’t see it.”

Full piece.

8. Meanwhile, at Q-School…
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell with the report on the action in Florida…”Germany’s going for a wire-to-wire victory at the LPGA’s second stage of Q-School.”
  • “Esther Henseleit grabbed a share of the second-round lead with a 5-under 67 Tuesday at Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Fla., a day after fellow countrywoman Olivia Cowan took the first-round lead.”
  • “At 9-under overall, Henseleit is tied at the top with China’s Yan Liu (67), one shot ahead of Cowan (72), Thailand’s Prima Thammaraks (68) and American amateur Sierra Brooks, whose 66 equaled the low round of the day.”

Full piece.

9. LPGA Shanghai update
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”Nasa Hataoka should be getting more worldwide attention.
With two Japan LPGA Tour major championship victories in her homeland over the last month, she arrived for the start of this week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai on fire.”
  • “And she didn’t cool off in Thursday’s first round.”
  • “A 5-under-par 67 at Qizhong Garden Golf Club gave Hataoka a share of the lead with South Korea’s Amy Yang.”

Full piece.

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