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Tour Rundown: McIlroy, Ko, van Rooyen, and more

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Three aces caught our attention as August drew to a close. Henrik Stenson tallied one in Sweden, Chez Reavie posted his in Atlanta, and Fred Couples slapped one home in Washington state. None of the perfect shots resulted in victory; this week’s winners had to dig much deeper to find gold. The PGA Tour celebrated the last event of the playoffs, while the Korn Ferry Tour drew one step closer to its grand finale. The LPGA traveled north of Toronto for Canada’s national championship, while the European Tour visited Sweden. Dig into a slice of pie from each of five professional tours in this week’s rundown. It’s tasty!

Tour Championship flies away with Rory McIlroy

The inaugural playing of the performance-handicapped Tour Championship should be deemed a successful experiment. For the first time in Tour history, players began an event with an advantage or a disadvantage. Justin Thomas began the week at 10-under par, thanks to his previous performance. If he had found a method to go 9-under during the week, he would have won. Same, almost, for Brooks Koepka. He began at -7, but could only add 6 strokes to his bonus start. Rory McIlroy, on the other hand, tacked a whopping 13 strokes onto his -5 starting gate, and finished at -18 for the week. This performance, featuring four rounds in the 60s, brought him his 2nd almost-major of the season.

McIlroy played wonderful golf for most of the final round. He stood -4 on the day, with a clear path to victory. Consecutive bogies at 14 and 15 dropped him to 16-under, and the door was left slightly ajar for his pursuers. The gifted one steadied himself with birdies at the final 2 holes, and a 4-stroke margin of victory was restored. Xander Schauffele closed with 70 for second spot, and the aforementioned Thomas tied Koepka for 3rd place. The PGA Tour will take the month of September off, then resume in early October with the 1st tournament of 2019-20 at the Safeway Open in Napa, California.

Scandinavian Invitation to gutsy Van Rooyen

Erik Van Rooyen, let’s be honest, has let some European Tour victories slip through his hands. In May, however, a switch might have flipped for the South African at, of all places, Bethpage Black. While Koepka received all the attention for his march to victory, EVR quietly secured an 8th place finish, his first top-ten in a major. On Sunday, Van Rooyen birdied the 18th hole for a 4th-consecutive day, moving from 18 to 19-under par and seizing his first European Tour title. Left in dismay was England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, whose Sunday 64 was simply not enough to beat EVR’s 128 weekend. England’s Sam Horsfield had the low round of the day, a 62 that featured 8 birdies and moved him from 43rd to a tie for 10th. Sweden’s Stenson aced the 6th hole, but had an 8-hole run of pars that left him in a tie for 3rd with Dean Burmester.

Canadian Open confirms Ko’s 2019 dominance

A perceptive commentator on The Golf Channel drew a parallel between 2018’s “It Girl,” Ariya Jutanugarn, and Jin Young Ko. The reference painted an 11-month trace of top-shelf play and tournament effectiveness. Ko began Sunday in a tie with Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen, with defending champion Brooke Henderson not far behind. The leaders battled over the outward half, each standing 2-under on the day as they reached the 10th tee. NBL made bogey at the 10th, her first mistake of the day, and Ko took full control of the day. The Korean champion, winner already this year in Phoenix, Rancho Mirage and Evian, made birdie for a 2-shot advantage, and pushed the accelerator to the floor. She added 5 more birdies on the inward half for a 5-shot triumph over the Dane. Lizette Salas closed furiously with 64, earning a tie for 3rd spot with Henderson, who would have needed 62 on the day to earn a playoff with Ko.

NeSmith earns promotion to PGA Tour in Boise Open thriller

Each week of the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs is like an Oprah giveaway: you get a PGA Tour card, and you, and you! This week, it was the mildly-heralded Matthew NeSmith who vaulted past 3rd-round leader Viktor Hovland to victory and a promotion for next season. NeSmith stuffed a wedge in close at the last, then converted the birdie putt to reach 19-under par. Moments prior, Brandon Hagy had closed with 2 birdies to take the clubhouse lead, but it was short lived. Hagy finished in a tie for 2nd, securing playing privileges for 2019-2020 on the big tour. The only golfer with a chance to catch NeSmith was Hovland, who struggled to preserve a 3rd round lead for the 2nd time this month. Hovland had 6 birdies on the day, but could not avoid a trio of bogeys that ultimately cost him the tournament. Needing eagle at the last, the former Oklahoma State golfer nearly holed his wedge from the fairway. Birdie from three feet earned him a tie for 2nd place and a promotion of his own. The season concludes next week in Indiana, as the KFT holds its own Tour Championship, with a few more, guaranteed Oprah moments.

Brandt Jobe bursts out for 2nd Champions Tour win at Boeing

Ask Brandt Jobe what it’s like to open a round with five birdies, and he’ll probably say it’s just as easy to bogey hole number six. That’s what happened on Sunday at Snoqualmie Ridge. The Oklahoma native made birdie at 8 and 9 to turn in 30, just as 3rd-round leader Fred Couples began his 4th-round struggle. Couples birdied the first hole to reach -17-under par, but that was it for the home-state hero. He dropped into a tie for 3rd with Jerry Kelly after adding 13 shots on Sunday, to his 2nd-round 63. Jobe, meanwhile, taped 3 more birdies to the board on the inward half, signed for a 63 of his own, and walked off the 18th green with his 15th career victory, and 2nd on the Champions Tour. Sneaking into 2nd place was Tom Pernice, Jr., who birdied 9 holes on Sunday. Pernice had 65 on the day to earn his best finish since April, when he and Scott Hoch partnered to win the Bass Pro Shops team event. With the victory, Jobe jumped 10 spots on the Schwab Cup money list, entering the top 15 for the first time this season.

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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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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,125 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen and more.

Last year, Keith Mitchell canned a 15-footer on the 72nd hole, outlasting Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka.

Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from PGA National.

General galleries

Special galleries

Vijay Singh using custom Mizuno MP-20 irons with lofts modified enough they had to stamp new numbers. Link to his full WITB

Camilo Villegas with old-school Air Jordans

Close up of Tommy Fleetwood’s putting grip

Luke Donald with a new putting training aid

LA Golf has a couple of new shafts

Brooks Kopeka with his pink and white Nike Air Zoom Infinity Tour shoes

Odyssey Stroke Lab Ten with new sightlines.  Link to galleries and discussion

Kevin Streelman is a huge Chicago Cubs fan, so he went to a spring training game and had the players sign his staff bag (to be fair, he probably took just the panel and not the whole bag)

Jim Furyk has gone back to his standard length putter and cross-handed after trying the arm-lock style for a while.

Kyle Stanley’s coach is taking a worm’s-eye view of Kyle’s alignment and stroke.

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Morning 9: Koepka talks golf | Tiger’s Champions Dinner menu | Tour caddies and hot seats

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1. Koepka talks golf
Adam Woodard at Golfweek…The former World No. 1 – who now sits third behind Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm – opened up in great detail in a profile in GQ about what he would change about the game of golf, a sport that he truly loves despite some outside perception.
  • “One thing I’d change is maybe the stuffiness,” said Koepka, who’s never viewed himself as just a golfer. “Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn’t always have to be that way. That’s part of the problem.”
  • ...”Everybody always says, ‘You need to grow the game.’ Well, why do you need to be so buttoned-up? ‘You have to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ‘You’re not allowed in here unless you’re a member – or unless the member’s here.’…
  • …”I just think people confuse all this for me not loving the game. I love the game. I absolutely love the game,” said Koepka. “I don’t love the stuffy atmosphere that comes along with it. That, to me, isn’t enjoyable.”

Full piece.

2. Fajitas and sushi
“Being born and raised in SoCal, having fajitas and sushi was a part of my entire childhood, and I’m going back to what I had in 2006,” Woods said. “So, we’ll have steak and chicken fajitas, and we’ll have sushi and sashimi out on the deck, and I hope the guys will enjoy it.”
  • “Woods also said he’s considering serving milkshakes for desert like he did during the 1998 dinner.”
  • “That was one of the most great memories to see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead having milkshakes that night in ’98,” he said.”

Full piece.

3. Why a tour caddie is always on the hot seat 
The Undercover Tour Caddie writeth again…“I’ve been lucky to partner with 18 players on the PGA and developmental tours, four of which were longtime appointments. I’ve also been fired 17 times-and among my friends, that’s on the low end of the spectrum…”
  • “The majority of the time, the breakups are amicable and done in person. I consider myself friends with almost all the players I’ve worked for, and though there were some strong emotions from both sides when it came time to disband, I get it. This is a business, and they’re making a business decision. Plus, you don’t want to burn any bridges. I’ve had two guys toss me aside after a month’s work, only for them to circle back within the year, one of which ended up sticking for five seasons.”
  • “There have been callous splits. In the early 2000s, I was trying to get my guy to hit an 8-iron on an approach at the 71st hole. He was adamant that 9 was the play. I strongly, but respectfully, said he needed to club up. He went with the 9; his ball came up short of the green, and he couldn’t get up and down. That bogey dropped us out of the top 10. He fired me after signing his card, claiming he needed someone “who has faith in me.” Hey, I had faith-faith that his 9 was the wrong club.”

Full piece.

4. The best part of Tiger’s Masters win…
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski…”Last April at Augusta National Golf Club, behind the 18th green, after tapping in for a one-stroke victory and fifth Masters triumph, there were hugs all around, none sweeter than those from his daughter and son.”
  • “I think what made it so special is that they saw me fail the year before at the British Open. I had gotten the lead there and made bogey, double, and ended up losing to Francesco,” Woods said. “To have them experience what it feels like to be part of a major championship and watch their dad fail and not get it done, and now to be a part of it when I did get it done, I think it’s two memories that they will never forget. And the embraces and the hugs and the excitement, because they know how I felt and what it felt like when I lost at Carnoustie … to have the complete flip with them in less than a year, it was very fresh in their minds.”
  • “It’s a long and rambling thought, and totally justified in the context of all the emotion woven into the two experiences. Some things are just difficult to express cogently, and the struggle with doing so only underscores their impact.”
5. Dream of Coul is dead
Golfweek’s Forecaddie…”Coul Links was supposed to be Scotland’s next great links golf course. Envisioned to be built by Coore-Crenshaw on a protected wildlife site in Embo on dunes near Dornoch, those hopes took a serious blow on Feb. 21, when the Scottish government denied planning permission for a project spearheaded by golf course developer Mike Keiser.”
  • “I’m moving on. I have so many other projects,” Keiser tells The Forecaddie. “God bless Dornoch.”
  • “In its decision notice, Scottish Ministers determined that the proposed development would adversely affect the local environment, stating in their findings that the “likely detriment to natural heritage is not outweighed by the socio-economic benefits of the proposal.”
6. Koepka: Great round of golf with Trump
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…“In a profile in GQ, Koepka…talked about a recent round with President Trump…Koepka, his father, younger brother Chase and President Trump “had a blast” at Trump’s course in West Palm Beach.”
  • “It was nice to have my family there, my dad, my brother. Anytime it’s with a president, it’s pretty cool,” said Koepka. “I don’t care what your political beliefs are, it’s the President of the United States. It’s an honor that he even wanted to play with me.”
  • “I respect the office, I don’t care who it is,” added Koepka. “Still probably the most powerful man in the entire world. It’s a respect thing.”

Full piece.

7. Tiger on lengthening Augusta National 
Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport…”Augusta National has been at the forefront of trying to keep it competitive, keep it fair, keep it fun, and they’ve been at the forefront of lengthening the golf course,” Woods said. “Granted, they have the property and they can do virtually whatever they want. They have complete autonomy. It’s kind of nice.
  • “But also they’ve been at the forefront of trying to keep it exciting as the game has evolved. We have gotten longer, equipment changed, but they’ve been trying to keep it so the winning score is right around the 12- to 18-under-par mark, and they have.”
8. Inside the Bear Trap
Golf Channel Digital team…“Here’s a look at some of the notable Bear Trap stats according to the PGA Tour (all figures since 2007, when the tournament moved to PGA National):”
  • “Among non-majors, the Bear Trap ranks as the third-toughest three-hole stretch on Tour at 0.644 over par on average. It’s behind only Nos. 16-18 at Quail Hollow (+0.873) and Nos. 8-10 at Pebble Beach (+0.673).”
  • “The Honda Classic field is a combined 3,629 over par across the Bear Trap and 4,934 over par across the other 15 holes at PGA National.”
  • “543 different players have played at least one competitive round at the Honda since 2007, with 76 percent (415) of them hitting at least one ball in the water on the Bear Trap.”

Full piece.

9. San Diego muni renovations (including Torrey)
Jason Lusk of Golfweek…“San Diego’s city council has allotted $15 million for upgrades and renovations to the city’s three municipally operated golf facilities including Torrey Pines’ South Course, site of the 2021 U.S. Open, according to a report Tuesday by the San Diego Union-Tribune.”
  • “…The $15 million approved Monday by the city council also will include contract work at San Diego’s other municipally operated golf facilities at Balboa Park and Mission Bay, the Union-Tribune reported. The courses will remain open during the jobs that include installing new irrigation systems and drainage, replacing and repairing cart paths, renovating bunkers and tree work.”

 

*featured image via Augusta National/the Masters

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Tour Rundown

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@asiapacgolfgrp

Only two of the world’s featured tours were in action this week, but the golf that they provided was memorable and historic. Not the type of historic that you find in school books, but certainly the type that golf aficionados point to, down the road. On the one hand, a prodigious yet poliarizing talent demonstrated complete control down the stretch, during his march to a 2nd World Golf Championship victory. On the other, a precocious competitor joined into a talented triumvirate with a marvelous birdie at the last, to secure an inaugural PGA Tour championship.Tuesday Tour Rundown is back, for this week only!

WGC-Mexico flies away in the hands of Patrick Reed 

Golf Twitter, depending on your perspective, is either entertaining or inflamatory. As happens in the world today, people take sides. In the case of Patrick Reed, that’s not difficult. One either forgives (or denies) Reed’s free interpretation (on multiple occasions) of the rules and their enforcement, or one preserves a disregard for a leading player who simply doesn’t act like one. What isn’t up for debate, is Reed’s seizure of this week’s World Golf Championship in Mexico. What looked for so long like a Bryson-DeChambaeau win, ultimately stowed away in Patrick Reed’s check-on pouch.

The tournament came down to the aforementioned duo. Both Jon Rahm and Erik Van Rooyen swam along the margin, but neither made enough of a Sunday move to figure in the outcome. Both, in fact, tied for 3rd place, 2 back of DeChambeau and 3 behind the champion. Bryson and his on-display muscles barged out of the 10th-hole gate like a man (and muscles) on a mission. Birdies at 4 of the first 5 holes on the inward half, staked him to a 2-shot advantage. Over the closing four, however, the magic went away, and a bogey at the penultimate hole brought him back to 17-under par.

Reed looked like a man playing for second. His long game was nothing exceptional, but his putter kept him afloat, time and again. And then, whatever DeChambeau had in his water bottle, came over to Reed. Birdies at 15, 16 and 17 suddenly brought the 2-shot advantage to the 2018 Masters champion. Even the cough of an expectorant fan, mid-backswing on the 18th, was not enough to convulse the champion. A closing bogey made the margin closer than it was, and Reed jumped from 33rd to 5th in the FedEx Cup standings.

PGA Tour Puerto Rico is Viktor Hovland’s debut decision

It wasn’t as mauling as Tyson Fury’s technical decision over Deontay Wilder, but Viktor Hovland and Josh Teater came down the stretch in Puerto Rico, like a pair of pugilists. The young Norwegian, Hovland, was pitted against the career grinder, Teater. First it was the veteran, with 3 birdies on the opening nine, to reach minus-19. Hovland chipped away, with a birdie at 5, and a 2nd at 10. And then, Teater hit Hovland with a right-cross (or Hovland hit himself with a sucker punch; you make the call.) Triple bogey! A startling six at the 11th, dropped Hovland into a tie with Teater (bogeys of his own on 10 and 11) who now had new life … and new pressure.

To his credit, Teater didn’t back down. He made birdies at 15 and 17, to recoup the lost shots at the turn. Unfortunately for him, tour victory the first would have to wait. Hovland, the Oklahoma State alumnus, made a sensational eagle at the 15th, to counter Teater’s birdie, and reclaim the advantage. The pair reached the 18th tee, a par five, all square, and it was there that Hovland dealt the final thrust. He took every bit of break out of a 25-feet birdie putt, and banged it into the hole. With the win, Hovland joined Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa as anticipated winners who actually won. Now comes the hard part: winning again and reaching a new echelon of champion.

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