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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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Mizuno MP-20 SEL: Leftys rejoice!

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Hey you southpaws, I promise I didn’t just flip an image of an MP-20 to wind you up… This is a real deal!

Say hello to the Mizuno MP-20 SEL (Special Edition Lefty) made just for you.

So what makes these SEL’s special? You may remember from the MP-20 piece I referenced the “MP-20 family” and how Mizuno spent a lot of time analyzing set makeup data to fine-tune each club in each model to maximize performance from both an individual set perspective, and to combo. They took all of that data and flipped it on its head, or at least hand, to create a set combining the most requested clubs just for left-handed players.

The MP20 SEL is a combination of 5-PW MP20 (blades) with HMB 3, and 4-irons. All the flow, copper and tech from the right-handed models combined into one. Without getting too far into the logistic of this, it has to be said that unless you’re a maple-syrup drinking, hockey-playing Canuck (don’t worry its not an offensive term) where around 25 percent of golfers play left-handed the global golf population that plays left-handed is still below 10 percent.  Mizuno wants to do everything they can to offer an MP design for lefties, and as the data demonstrated, this was the best option to fit the most players.

For more information on the entire MP20 line up check out the full piece here: ( INSERT MP20 LINK ) 

 

 

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Morning 9: Nothing runs like a Frittelli | Royal Portrush takes center stage

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

July 15, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1 Scottish Open: Wiesberger nabs second W of 2019
(Image above via Wiesberger on Instagram) EuropeanTour.com report…”Bernd Wiesberger…beat Benjamin Hebert in a twilight play-off at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.”
  • “The Austrian entered the final day at The Renaissance Club with a two shot lead but found himself trailing after Hebert carded a stunning closing 62 to set the target at 22 under.”
  • “Wiesberger had edged back ahead with two to play but bogeyed the 17th in a 69 before a par on the third play-off hole handed him a sixth European Tour title.”
2. Nothing runs like a Frittelli 
AP report…”While the rest of the leaders faltered, Dylan Frittelli surged to his first PGA Tour title.”
  • “Frittelli won the John Deere Classic on Sunday, closing with a 7-under 64 for a two-stroke victory over Russell Henley. The South African earned a spot next week in the British Open, finishing at 21-under 263 after the bogey-free final round at TPC Deere Run.”
  • “One of eight players within two strokes of the lead entering the lead, Frittelli was looking forward to the tournament’s charter flight to Royal Portrush.”
  • “I’m sure it’s going to be a fun flight,” Frittelli said.

Indeed. Full piece.

3. Goose is loose at Senior Players 
AP report on Goosen’s win at one of the low-key best venues for watching professional golf…”Retief Goosen birdied the final two holes to win the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on Sunday at Firestone Country Club for his first PGA Tour Champions title.”
  • “The 50-year-old Hall of Famer from South Africa broke a tie for the lead with a 15-foot putt on the par-4 17th and made a 10-footer on the par-4 18th for a 2-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over 65-year-old Jay Haas and Tim Petrovic.”
4. Kim outduels Thompson 
AP report…”I’m very happy to win, especially this tournament, because Marathon has a lot of history,” Kim said.
  • “With five birdies in the middle of her round, Kim pulled away from Lexi Thompson in their head-to-head duel at Highland Meadows Golf Club outside Toledo, Ohio.”
  • “She played some amazing golf,” Thompson said. “There was a stretch there, mid-round, where she stuck every shot.
  • “Had under 5 feet [for birdie] about four times in a row. So, it was a very well-deserved win by her.”
5. If only Tony Romo played playoff football as well as he does the American Century Championship…
(Kidding, Cowboys fans)
Golf Channel’s Adam Woodard…”Tony Romo is the man to beat in Lake Tahoe.”
  • “The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst has staked his claim as best celebrity golfer by defending his title at the 2019 American Century Championship, winning with a score of 71 points. Former MLB All-Star Mark Mulder (61) finished second, followed by tennis Olympic medalist Mardy Fish and another former MLB All-Star Derek Lowe (57). Actor Jack Wagner rounds out the top five with 55 points.”
6. *Points to Collin Morikawa* You get a tour card!
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”A week after Matthew Wolff earned his PGA Tour card by winning the 3M Open, Collin Morikawa locked up membership for next season.”
“The 22-year-old Cal product, in just his fifth pro start, tied for fourth Sunday at the John Deere Classic to collect 122.5 non-member FedExCup points and run his season total to 456.5. With just three weeks left in the regular season, that number, which currently would slot Morikawa at 88th, will assuredly be more than No. 125 in the final standings, meaning Morikawa can count on earning his card for the 2019-20 season.”
7. Portrush to center stage
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Much has changed since The Open last visited the coastal links of Royal Portrush. It’s been 68 years, in fact, since Max Faulkner scooped 300 pounds for winning the tournament despite never breaking 70. But that remains the only time the oldest major in golf was held somewhere other than England or Scotland.”
  • “That is, until this week. Long viewed as one of the best courses in the world, Royal Portrush now has a chance to shine in front of a global audience like never before.”
  • “And chances are, she’s going to put on quite a show.”
8. In a similar vein… 
James Corrigan at The Telegraph files his look ahead…
  • “Yet things change, as do politics, finance, perception and even dusty old men in blazers, and here we are in Open week. Everywhere you walked in Portrush on Saturday, with a big wheel spinning and looking down on families eating ice creams, and the brave dipping their toes in the grey ocean, it was clear that this was not a normal weekend. For, as the doors swing open, Tiger Woods is turning up on the Sunday morning and, no, that is not an everyday occurrence.”
  • “Perhaps Graeme McDowell summed it up best in a spectacular blog post on the European Tour website. “It’s been amazing to see the Open Championship evolve in the sleepy little town where I was born,” he said. “For anyone who has never been there, Portrush is on the very northern tip of the island of Ireland and is a very raw, beautiful, rugged landscape which feels very remote. To see an Open being staged there is mind-blowing for many of the local people.”
9. Fun yields win for Frittelli  
Good bit from Cameron Morfit going a level beyond the game story for PGATour.com…”It was mentality clarity,” Frittelli said, when asked to explain the difference at the Deere.
  • “With his attention divided and his career flagging, the 29-year-old with the prescription glasses found himself feeling stressed as this season wore on. His European Tour membership was running out, and he found himself in danger of losing his PGA TOUR card, too. That would mean going back to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where nothing is guaranteed except for the fact that it would preclude his playing in some big overseas events.”
  • “The clock was ticking, and Frittelli had to find a way to tune it out. Enter sports psychologist Jay Brunza, who helped Frittelli finally accept that he couldn’t affect outcomes, at least not positively, by obsessing over them. When he three-putted the 14th hole after driving the green Sunday, he not only forced himself to slow down and not overreact, he smiled.”
  • “I think I was the only one on the course who smiled after a three-putt,” he said.
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Tour Rundown runs toward Open with Frittelli, Kim, Goosen victories

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Something quite brilliant was in the air this week on the world’s golf tours. A new course debuted in Scotland, South Africa stood tall with two champions, and the world anticipated a return to a legendary, northern course that has not seen an Open Championship since 1951. The American tours are drawing to a close, and plans for 2019-2020 are firming up. Five events caught our attention this week, from Gullane to Toledo, from Iowa to Colorado. Plug in your charger and settle in for a nice read of this week’s Tour Rundown.

Scottish Open chalice rests in Wiesberger’s hands

Interesting stories envelope the Austrian golfer, Bernd Wiesberger. After a many-month layoff to rehab a wrist injury this season, 2 victories have come his way, including last week’s Scottish Open. The first 3 playoffs of his European Tour career all ended in defeat. In 2011, 2014 and 2015, he lost in extra holes at the Johnnie Walker, the Lyoness, and the Irish Open. Since then, he’s 2-0 in extra time. During the days leading into the 2016 and 2018 Ryder Cups, the 6-time Euro champ always seemed on the edge of breaking through to the European squad, but tailed off in the stretch run. On Sunday, under great pressure, he broke through for his finest triumph to date.

Soft ground and zero wind made The Renaissance Club an easy target during its championship debut. Wiesberger took advantage in round two, posting a course-record 61 to seize the lead. He held the top spot after 54 holes, placing all pressure squarely on his shoulders as round 4 began. It didn’t help that England’s Andrew Johnston had signed for a 62 before the Austrian pegged his opening tee shot. It also didn’t help that Benjamin Hebert of France was in the midst of his own 62, climbing the leaderboard. Ultimately, the duo of Wiesberger and Hebert would trade counters through the closing holes. After the Austrian holed a gutty, 7-feet effort at the last for a spot in the playoff, Hebert’s sound game betrayed him. He bogeyed the 2nd playoff hole, when par would have won, then 3-putted the 3rd go-round to finish 2nd.

As consolation, Hebert, Johnston and Italy’s Nino Bertasio earned the final 3 spots in this week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

@ScottishOpen     @EuropeanTour     @Renaissancegc     @BWiesberger

John Deere Classic is Frittelli’s 1st PGA Tour victory

The 3rd weekend of July redefined the careers of its tournament winners. Dylan Frtitelli has long been a quality golfer, since before his days at the University of Texas. Frittelli found himself uncertain of his status for the 2019-2020 campaign. His major-tour memberships were at risk, and a return to the triple-A tours was not his number-one comfort blanket. Everything changed on Sunday, in the middle of the American continent, when Frittelli surged past 3rd-round leader Andrew Landry with 64. As Landry fell to 3rd spot, Frittelli reached 21-under par. His work wasn’t finished, however. After a 4-under opening nine in round 4, the kind that gets you into the top 10, Russell Henley continued to make birdies. He made 6 more coming home, including a marvelous one at the final hole. Henley reached 19-under, claiming 2nd spot for himself. Frittelli didn’t falter. He made 4 at the par-5 17th, one of the few holes Henley failed to birdie in his march to the green. Ultimately, the win was vindication, security, and an unexpected trip to Royal Portrush for this week’s Open Championship. Breathe easy, Dylan.

@JDCLASSIC     @PGATOUR     @TPCDeereRun     @Dylan_Frittelli

Sei Young Kim takes 2nd win of LPGA season at Marathon Classic

Sei Young Kim offered an LPGA marketing tutorial on how to pronounce her name (So Young!) a season or two ago. On Sunday, the 26-year old Korean golfer earned her 9th LPGA title by 2 strokes, over Lexi Thompson of the USA. Kim made 7 birdies over her first 15 holes, establishing a healthy lead as the tournament headed for home. Bogey at the 16th reduced her margin of victory to 2, but also served to secure trivia on the week: Kim’s scorecard’s were 64, 65, 66 and 67. A hand that would do some damage at the card table, also worked well at the Toledo LPGA stop. Thompson nor anyone else ever threatened the front-runner on day four. Thompson had too many bogies (2) and not enough birdies (also 2) on the outward nine, to mount an early challenge. 3 more birdies plus 1 additional bogey through the 16th, brought her even with Stacy Lewis for 2nd spot. Thompson closed fiercely, with birdie at 17 and eagle at the last. Her torrid finish made the final score appear closer than actuality. In truth, it was the Sei Young show all day long, a fitting tribute to a stellar performance.

@MarathonLPGA     @LPGA     @HMGCgrounds     @SY_KIM_lpga

Colorado Championship earns Ledesma a ticket to the show in 2019-2020

Argentina’s Nelson Ledesma had won on this level before. He triumphed at the LECOM in 2019, but that victory was not enough to propel him to the PGA Tour. In a campaign highlighted by higher, more consistent finishes, Ledesma’s victory on Sunday was enough to earn him a card on the golf world’s grandest dance stage. The walk home wasn’t easy on Sunday. Ledesma dueled with fellow southern-hemisphere golfer Brett Coletta the entire round. Ledesma went -1 on each of his 9s, but they could have differed more. On the outward half, the Platense was all over the place: 4 birdies, 1 bogey, 1 double. On the inward half, all pars until the last. Coletta might look back on Sunday and wonder, what went wrong on the par 5 holes. He doubled the first, bogeyed the 5th, and failed to birdie the 13th and 15th. A late birdie at 17 tied him with Ledesma, setting the stage for the 20-feet birdie putt that would settle the matter and send the champion to new heights.

@TPCColorado     @KornFerryTour     @TPCColoradoChampionship     @nelsonledesmaok

Senior Players Championship is Goosen’s 1st on senior circuit

There was a time, in the early 2000s, when a lead in Goosen’s hands was nearly as secure as a Tiger one. Then came the US Open of 2005, when his final-round lead simply went far, far away. Since those days, family, injuries and new challengers brought him back to the pack. Goosen won 4 more events on the European tour, never again on the US side of the water, until Sunday. Having followed Friday’s 62 with a Saturday 75, the South African found himself in 2nd spot, behind the 2019 story of the year, Scott Parel. This time, it was Goosen who hung on and the leader, that faltered.

Parel came out of the gate limping. He was plus-two through 14 holes in round four. Needing to make something happen to put pressure on his playing partner, Parel birdied the 14th and 17th holes. Unfortunately for him, sandwiched in between were another bogey and a double. He fell to a tie for 4th spot, 4 behind Goosen. In other groupings, Tim Petrovic and Jay Haas were making noise. Each closed to within 2 of Goosen, but neither had the firepower to gain any more ground. The pair tied for 2nd at 4-under par. As for Goosen, it was anything but steady or consistent. He had an eagle and 4 birdies on the day, including chirps at the final two holes, to seal the deal. He also had 2 bogies, along with a double at the 11th. It seems that excitement and thrills are part of the new normal for the formerly-unwavering champion. As long as the recipe results in victories, he’ll certainly cook something up.

@ChampionsTour     @SeniorPlayers     @BridgestoneGolf    

 

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