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Morning 9: Tiger & JT partners? | Reed fiasco smolders | Nicklaus’ Rolex auctioned for $1 mil

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1. JT to tee it up with Tiger?
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski...”If you would have told me when I was a kid that I could play on a Presidents Cup team with Tiger Woods as my captain, I probably would have fainted or something like that.”
  • “Get the smelling salts, because in all likelihood, Thomas will be paired with the captain for Thursday’s opening four-ball session at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.”
  • “Few players have grown closer to Woods than Thomas, 26, who is one of several PGA Tour players, including Tiger, who now call Jupiter, Fla., home. It was Thomas and Rickie Fowler, the latter whom Woods selected to fill in for the injured Brooks Koepka, who often reached out to Woods to play and practice with them as he slowly began his comeback”

Full piece.

2. Juniors + logos = $$?
Geoff Shackelford…”While junior golfers are now regularly clad in corporate logos, have their own tour reps and even endorse brands on their social media bios, the governing bodies are contemplating letting them take those endorsements to another level.”
  • “In Ryan Herrington’s Golf World look at where loosened and reimagined amateur status rules may go, he notes this late in the piece….Where USGA officials see the most opportunity for potential changes to the amateur rules to have a meaningful impact is if restrictions on accepting money for expenses were to go away. Particularly in the case for junior golfers whose families don’t necessarily have the financial resources to compete beyond a very local basis.”
  • Shackelford again…”While I have little doubt there are cases where this will be true and might do wonders for de-emphasizing privileged upbringings, I would hope some in the sport might question the need to corporatize our youth at increasingly younger ages”

Full piece.

3. Jack’s Rolex sells for $1 million
Roxanna Scott at Golfweek…”An 18-karat gold Rolex Day-Date watch that was worn by Jack Nicklaus for 50 years and then as he hoisted 12 of his 18 major championship trophies has sold at auction for $1 million.”
  • “Phillips in New York held the auction Tuesday as part of its “Game Changers.” Also up for auction was a Rolex GMT-Master reference 1675, which Phillips says belonged to Marlon Brando and was worn by the actor while filming “Apocalypse Now.”
  • “Bidding on Nicklaus’ watch, lot 18, began at $500,000. Experts on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” had speculated the watch could eclipse the record of $17.8 million that Paul Newman’s Rolex sold for in 2018. Despite the stature of the watch in golf’s history, the final bid didn’t come close to the record.”

Full piece.

4. Nowhere to hide
Shane Ryan on the Patrick Reed controversy, front and center still after P. Reed’s press conference failed to extinguish the blaze…
  • A taste…”What the journalist wanted to know was whether Reed expected specific backlash to his specific act in the Bahamas. He answered as if he was being asked a generic question about fan reaction to an opposing team, which is either missing the point or willfully evasive. There’s safety in numbers, and Reed was quick to turn the singular personal into the plural general.”
  • “It’s also, as these things go, a fairly intelligent tactic if your goal is to quash a story by starving it of oxygen. In fact, most of Reed’s press conference was a tour de force of media management by way of blandness, because no matter what he was asked over the roughly 20 minutes he stood before the gaggle of press, he responded with something broad, and something true, but something ambiguous nonetheless. If journalists were expecting an illustrative quote from Reed’s presser, they came away disappointed.”
5. Ogilvy’s keys to Royal Melbourne
Great work by Ben Everill for PGATour.com co-crafting a piece with Geoff Ogilvy on the Royal Melbourne vet’s keys to the course…
Here’s one…”Tee shots are all about position, not distance. The big-bombing Americans will need finesse as well as brawn this week.”
  • “Says Ogilvy: “The importance of your tee shot is not about being able to get it as close as you can to the green… it is important to get yourself in a position to find the right place on the green with your next shot.”
  • “You can’t outmuscle Royal Melbourne. Distance is valuable in some spots but sometimes it’s a 4-iron off the tee and sometimes it is a driver. Power is usually always an advantage but it is a balanced advantage here.
  • “You need to work out where to be by theoretically playing the hole backwards. Sometimes the rough on the correct side of the hole is better than the fairway on the wrong side of the hole. You have to find that position from the tee and that can be tough as it is very wide and the best position isn’t always obvious.”

See the full piece for the other 6 secrets.

6. Best courses built this decade
A few from Digest’s list of 13…
Old Macdonald, Bandon, Ore. – An ode to the Founding Father of American Course Design, C.B. Macdonald, Old Mac is the second course by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina at Bandon Dunes, and the fourth 18-hole course that opened. The brainchild of Mike Keiser and his respect to the old-school design elements of Macdonald, Doak and Urbina created some of the architects’ favorite template holes that sit on some of the most interesting topography on property.
Cabot Cliffs, Nova Scotia, Canada – Another sensational Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design, Cabot Cliffs overflows with variety with its southernmost holes in Lahinch-like sand dunes, its northernmost atop Pebble Beach-type ocean cliffs and bits of pine-lined Scottish highlands in between. The course has six par 5s, including three in the space of four holes, and six par 3s, plus an additional one-shot bye-hole aside the fourth. Sporting the same fescue turf mix as nearby sister course, Cabot Links, some tee shots seem to roll forever, but so do errant shots that miss greens. The cliff-edged par-3 16th is quickly becoming one of golf’s most photographed holes.
7. Economic benefits of an Open
Mark Rainey at News Letter…”The Open Championship at Royal Portrush generated more than £100 million of economic benefit for Northern Ireland, a new study has revealed.”
  • “The prestigious golf tournament returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years – having been staged at the north coast club back in 1951.”
  • “Commissioned by Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre, the report’s figures relate to the week of the tournament in July this year.”
  • “More than 237,000 fans attended over the four days of competition which was a record number for the Championship outside of St Andrew’s in Scotland, with 57.6% of spectators from outside Northern Ireland.”

Full piece.

8. Should Reed be limited? 
From the Golf.com crew…Given everything that’s happened, should the Patrick Reed controversy affect how much U.S. team captain Tiger Woods should play him?
“Jonathan Wall, equipment editor (@jonathanrwall): Not a chance. Tiger knew what he was getting when he burned a captain’s pick on Reed. Even in the aftermath of Bunkergate (Waste-Area-gate?), he stood up for Reed when the public was demanding he be bounced from the squad. The only thing that matters to Tiger this week is how Reed performs on the course. If he balls out, none of this will matter. And we all know Reed tends to play his best golf when he has a massive chip on his shoulder.”
“Alan Bastable, executive editor: (@alan_bastable): If Tiger doesn’t send out Reed in the first match, I’m boycotting the rest of the event. Better yet, Capt. Woods should pair himself with Reed – how better to support his controversial compatriot than to pace the fairways with him. Imagine the scene on the first tee. You’d feel the earth quake from Melbourne to Manhattan. Give the people want they want.”
9. Frank’s story
Sean Zak at Golf.com went on a fact-finding mission relating to the origin of Tiger Woods’ famed headcover. It’s made by Daphne Headcovers, but that is only part of the story…
  • “Spicer isn’t hiding those headcovers from you or me or some headcover burglar. She’s guarding against total catastrophe. If anything tragic happened to her nearby warehouse – which holds more than 10,000 headcovers and their decades-old designs – she would always have those six tigers in their own little cage. Consider them headcover insurance, because Spicer just never knows when Tiger Woods’ mother, Tida, will come calling again for a replacement.”
  • “Spicer, 56, is the always-smiling CEO of Daphne’s Headcovers, and through luck, persistence and a commitment to her customers (see above), she has provided the 15-time major winner with his world famous tiger headcover for 24 years. When Tida Woods phones, all other calls get dropped. It’s the most important business Spicer has.”
  • “I remember three dates,” she says with a chuckle. “The birthdays of my two children and the date that Tiger first won the Masters. That’s pretty much it.”

Full piece.

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Morning 9: Perspectives on the Premier Golf League | Undercover Caddie on Saudi tourney | Rahm didn’t know he needed eagle to win

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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 28, 2020
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans. Welcome to the Premier Golf League Edition of the Morning 9…

 

1. “The tipping point”
Derek Lawrenson at the Daily Mail with an excellent take both lambasting the current state of televised professional golf and suggesting the upstart could compel PGA Tour-European Tour alignment…
  • “It is beyond arrogant, with so many competing interests for people’s time, that golf persists with such dilution of its resources. No wonder the number playing the game is in decline and coverage of the sport worldwide is in retreat.”
  • “The latest idea, from a rather mysterious British-based organisation known as the World Golf Group and six years in the making, is for an eight-month season with 18 tournaments worldwide taking place over 54 holes and featuring the top 48 players, with a $10million prize fund each time….”
  • …As McIlroy says, there’s plenty there to ponder. But enough for the top 48 to throw their lot in and lose the right to play in so many tournaments laden with tradition?
  • “I still think the ideal would be for this to prove the tipping point that sees the European and PGA Tours finally agreeing to align. For a headline tour along F1 lines of 20 events for the top 80 or so players, predominantly based in America but including visits to Australia, South Africa and the Middle East, with a mid-summer Europe swing.”

Full piece.

2. Shaking up the status quo
Iain Carter for the BBC doesn’t see the PGL taking flight…
  • Here’s some of his reasoning…”The American-based PGA Tour is the world’s most lucrative circuit and routinely makes multi-millionaires of the world’s best golfers. It would be a huge surprise were it to grant releases for members to play a rival circuit.”
  • “The tour also operates a very successful pension and players would be reluctant to risk the security afforded by the scheme.”
  • “And how could the PGL function without the blessing of the official world rankings? These are run by an amalgamation of all the established tours and governing bodies.”
3. Fanciful 
So says Martin Dempster at The Scotsman…“It all sounds exciting and this proposal is not something on a whim, with the people behind it having been chiselling away in the background for a number of years in their bid to create a new format aimed at “revitalising the sport for this and future generations”.
  • “…Anything that can help grow the game has to be given consideration, but, at the same time, the European Tour and PGA Tour can’t be expected to welcome something like this with open arms when they rely on star players like McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas to headline events under the existing structure.”
  • “…However, as we saw recently when two of the top Europeans, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, played in an Asian Tour event in Singapore instead of teeing up in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, a Rolex Series event, golf already has big issues when it comes to scheduling and adding this into the pot would only add to that problem.”
4. Rahm didn’t know the score
Kyle Porter at CBS Sports quoting Jon Rahm…”So I did hit it with trying to make it with perfect speed thinking a two-putt would get into a playoff.”
  • “When [caddie] Adam [Hayes] told me the news, he’s like, ‘Hey, good try.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean, we’re in a playoff.’ He’s like, ‘Nope, he birdied 18.’ I didn’t hear any roars or anything, so I just assumed he parred. Again, even if I hit the right speed, that putt doesn’t go in, it was left of the hole the whole way, so it doesn’t matter. But still, it’s just a sour feeling.”
  • “That’s pretty incredible. It doesn’t take away from the fact that Rahm had a tremendous week in his first effort stateside at a win, but it’s just a wild thing to let happen. Still, his second-place finish fits nicely with a long run of elite performances that started last June at the U.S. Open.”
5. When an appearance fee to play in Saudi Arabia is-and isn’t-worth it
Via the Undercover Caddie (with Joel Beall)…”I don’t usually follow player commitments-I have a hard enough time keeping track of my schedule-but whenever I saw a big name sign up for the Saudi International, I think, Here we go. A quick glance of Twitter proves that premonition right, with fans ripping the decision to shreds. And, without fail, the first comment is along the lines of, “Why would he possibly participate?”
  • “Really? You don’t know why? Come on, brother. Yes, playing for a regime with human-rights issues is not a good look, especially after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. But here’s the answer that explains why anyone does anything in this life: It’s all about the money.”
  • “Growing the game, traveling to new spots, intrigued by the competition … all baloney. These guys are making the trip to pad their bank accounts- anywhere from $300,000 to $3 million for an appearance-and, perhaps, meet new sponsors. That players are given the finest accommodations, and their wives are pampered like princesses, doesn’t hurt. Any other justification of why they’re playing is a facade.”

Full piece.

6. Feherty and McCord reunited
Via Geoff Shackelford…”Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic learns from David Feherty of a one-night reunion with his former CBS sidekick Gary McCord.”
“Instead of his normal standup, Feherty will do his first half then return with McCord at Phoenix’s Orpheum theater.  He says “God knows where this is going to go.”

Full piece (including a link to Goodykoontz work)

7. Out of the top 50
Could you have imagined this a couple of years ago?
Via Golf Digest’s Joel Beall...”Jordan Spieth’s comeback showed signs of early promise at Torrey Pines, only for the weekend (73, 74) to bring much of what has plagued him for the past two years.”
  • “And with it, an unwanted distinction...For the first time since 2013, the former No. 1 is outside the Official World Golf Ranking top 50. Spieth, who was No. 20 this time last year, fell to No. 51 after a T-55 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open.”

Full piece.

8. Golf x Super Bowl bets
Westgate Las Vegas Superbook is doing something interesting that will have punters salivating…
Via Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Here’s a look at some of the prop bets involving golf, with the action tied to various final-round results on Sunday (Note: should the golfer in a given matchup miss the cut, the wager in question would be refunded)”
Total points scored by both teams in the first quarter (-1.5) vs. Total fairways hit by Justin Thomas in the WMPO final round”
Jon Rahm WMPO final round birdies (-0.5) vs. Emmanuel Sanders (SF) receptions
Kansas City total rushing yards (-18.5) vs. Rickie Fowler WMPO final-round score
Travis Kelce (KC) receiving yards (-3.5) vs. Jordan Spieth WMPO final-round score
Travis Kelce (KC) receiving yards (-2.5) vs. Dustin Johnson final-round score in Saudi Arabia

Full piece.

9. In praise of Pelham Bay Park
Golf.com’s Dylan Dethier on one of the municipal gems of New York City…”The 36-hole facility is just a fraction of New York City’s largest green space. Pelham Bay Park clocks in at 2,766 acres, more then three times the size of Central Park, and is home to sports fields, hiking trails, playgrounds and beaches, including a 13-mile shoreline on Long Island Sound. As for the golf? It’s much better than you’d expect.”
“The original Pelham course, designed by civil engineer Lawrence Van Etten before its upgrade in the 30s, is open and extremely playable, set on the land of former farmland estates. Renowned course architect John Van Kleek was the go-to guy for the Parks Department’s New Deal-era courses; he designed Silver Lake on Staten Island, Dyker Beach in Brooklyn, Kissena Park in Queens and redid Van Cortlandt in the Bronx. But his best New York course was Split Rock. It’s tree-lined without being too tight, rolling terrain without being boring and has a set of expansive greens replete with knobs, mounds, waves, slopes and plateaus that would please any Golden Age architect.”

Full piece.

 

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Morning 9: Tiger, others on Kobe | Leishman | Bryson hit with slow play warning | Premier Golf League World Tour?

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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 27, 2020

 

Good Monday morning, golf fans.

 

 

1. Tiger on Kobe
A Lakers fan since childhood and longtime friend of Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, spoke about the NBA star’s death following his round.
From a circulated transcript…“Q.  I’m sure you heard about Kobe Bryant.  So what did Kobe mean to you and what did that news feel like when you heard it?”
  • “TIGER WOODS:  Well, I was saying to Amanda over here, I just heard of it from Joey when we were coming off the 18 green.  I didn’t understand why they were yelling “Do it for Mamba” on the back nine. People yell things all the time, so I was just, you know, plodding along, doing my own thing.  Then when Joey told me that here, it’s unbelievable, the reality that he’s no longer here.”
  • “LeBron breaks his record and he passes today.  For all of us for me, I grew up a diehard Laker fan, always have been my entire life.  That’s all I remember, and he was part of the most historic franchise in all of the NBA.  As I was telling Amanda, what made him so impressive is that he was dominant on the offensive side, yeah, we know that, but he would lock up on D.  He played their best guard and shut ’em down for all 48 minutes. That’s what made him so special, he played both ends of the court. There are maybe two guys, three guys in the entire NBA history that you can say that, that would do that.  He was up for that challenge. And one of the more impressive things that I’ve ever witnessed is when he ruptured his Achilles and he went to the foul line, made his shots. Ultimate toughness, ultimate competitor, and one of the most shocking, tragic days that I’ve ever been a part of in a very quick span here.”
2. Other pros
Daniel Rapaport at Golf Digest with more player reactions…
  • Rory McIlroy…”His dedication, his drive. The fact he’d make his teammates wait on the bus for two hours while he set an example and worked hard and mastered his craft. And that’s what he did. He was a pure master of what he did.”
  • Tony Finau: “I’ve experienced something like this in my life before. My mom passed away in a tragic car accident in 2011. It’s crazy that some of those feelings that I had at that time are back. That’s how much Kobe meant to me. At a different magnitude-the love of a mother is one you can’t replace, but to have some of those feelings come back when I heard the news, it makes me quite sad.
  • “I think the way to live a life that respects Kobe, and that he would respect, is have the Mamba mentality. And maybe that’s what I need-work even harder at your craft, and have more love of your craft. Maybe that’s something we all need as athletes.”
  • “Max Homa: “It’s devastating. He’s a hero to so many people. The way he competed. I talk to Justin Thomas about this all the time, how much we try to emulate that. He’s a lot like Tiger for us.”
  • “His mentality meant a lot to me. … He was Superman. He played basketball with about eight broken fingers. He shot free throws with a torn Achilles. It’s hard to imagine he could have the sniffles, let alone have something like this happen.”
3. Leish
With respect to the golf in California, Marc Leishman did the winning.
  • AP report…”Marc Leishman couldn’t miss whether it was for birdie for par, racing from four shots behind with a 7-under 65 and winning the Farmers Insurance Open when Jon Rahm couldn’t match his eagle putt from three years ago.”
  • “Leishman ran off five birdies on the front nine to seize control Sunday over a fast-faltering Rahm and Rory McIlroy. He kept a cushion with three big par saves down the tough stretch at Torrey Pines and closed with a 6-foot birdie putt that turned out to be the winner.”
  • “Rahm was 4 over through five holes, the biggest mess coming at the par-3 third when he went left into the canyon and took three shots to reach the green for a double bogey. Each time he appeared to be done, the Spaniard charged back.”
4. In Dubai: Herbert in a playoff
European Tour report…“Lucas Herbert won his maiden European Tour title with a play-off victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout on a dramatic final day of the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.”
  • “The duo entered the final day six shots off the lead but with very high winds and showers at Emirates Golf Club, the leaderboard and the event was blown wide open.”
  • “Bezuidenhout and Herbert both fired brilliant rounds of 68 to get to nine under, with the South African finding water after laying up on the last and making a clutch putt for bogey, while Herbert birdied the 17th and 18th.”

 

 

 

5. Sags!
AP report…”Madelene Sagstrom won the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio on Sunday for her first LPGA tour title, birdieing the par-3 17th to tie for the lead and winning with a par when Nasa Hataoka missed a 3-footer on the last.”
  • “Sagstrom finished with a 2-under 70 for a 17-under 271 total at rain-softened Boca Rio Golf Club.”
  • “Hataoka shot 69. The Japanese player birdied Nos. 15 and 16 to take the lead, then fell into a tie when Sagstrom birdied the 17th and lost with the bogey on the par-4 18th.”
6. Bryson hit with slow play warning. Bogeys ensue
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”DeChambeau cruised to victory a year ago at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, where TV cameras caught him discussing air density calculations on the 72nd hole with his caddie, Tim Tucker. He started Sunday’s final round two shots behind Ashun Wu as he sought to keep the trophy and had moved into a tie for the lead with four holes to go.”
  • “But DeChambeau’s pace of play again became an issue when he received a slow-play warning from a European Tour official on the 10th hole. He went on to make par, and cameras later documented a thorough club choice debate with Tucker on the 14th hole between a “10 o’clock” 8-iron and a “10:30″ 9-iron.”
7. Few people can understand Tiger Woods…
…but Kobe Bryant could… So asserts Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard as he examines the connective tissue between Bryant and Woods…”They emerged at the same moment in time with Woods turning pro in 1996, the same year Bryant was drafted, and they both reached their competitive strides at about the same time in the early 2000s.”
  • “Bryant’s Lakers won the NBA Finals in 2000, the first of three consecutive NBA championships for Los Angeles. It was the same year Woods won the first three legs of what would become the “Tiger Slam” at the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship, the beginning of one of the most dominant runs ever in golf.”
  • “Both endured injuries that helped define their legacies. For Woods, it was, among other things, a double stress fracture in his left tibia at the 2008 U.S. Open and a gritty victory that still ranks among his greatest accomplishments. It was no surprise that Woods’ mind immediately drifted to a similarly gritty moment in Bryant’s career.”

Full piece.

8. Premier Golf League World Tour?
Mark Townsend at National Club Golfer...”Talk of a world tour has returned in the form of the Premier Golf League. Here’s what we understand so far…”
  • “What is the Premier Golf League?...This is a subsidiary of World Golf Group Limited which, simply put, are the organisers of a new proposed world tour – this would be an 18-event season with a whopping total prize fund of £183 million.”
  • “Where is the money coming from?…The World Golf Group have partnered with the Raine Group, a merchant banker, while other financing is believed to be coming from Tokyo-based Softbank and private equity investment the United States and the Middle East.”
9. Brooks’ on Kobe
Among the more impactful statements on the death of Kobe Bryant was a tweet from Brooks Koepka referencing this message from Kobe to Gordon Hayward

 

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Tour Rundown: Leishman holds off Rahm, Climactic series of errors at Dubai, Sagstrom, Wolfe

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A day of professional golf, that began with the promise of exciting finishes and worthy champions, joined the rest of the sporting world in its conclusion of mourning the loss of life. Kobe Bryant was never associated with golf, but the loss of life impacted the world of athletics as accidents always do. It compelled golf’s aficionados to recall lives and careers in our sport, cut short by tragedy, and reminded us of the promise of a new day, hopefully surrounded by those we love. With that in mind, please keep the Bryant and Altobelli families in your hearts and meditations, and join us in this week’s Tour Rundown.

Herbert and Bezuidenhout in climactic series of errors at Dubai

Both Lucas Herbert and Christian Bezuidenhout went to sleep on Sunday, knowing that they had tossed away a chance to win a golf tournament on the European Tour. One of them was fortunate enough to regroup and claim the title, but the knowledge that even the best professional golfers botch shots under pressure buoys the amateur in the constant pursuit of improvement. Bezuidenhout came to the unfortunately-ponded 18th hole at the Emirates Golf Club, thinking he needed birdie when par would have won the event in regulation. There will always be camps divided on knowing where you stand versus not knowing; in this case, a little knowledge would have gone a long way. CB got too cute with his approach, spun it back into the drink, and made bogey. In their two-hole playoff, Herbert stood uncomfortably over a 3-metal approach, after Bezuidenhout had laid up on the par-five closer, and chunk-blocked it into the water. It was the worst shot anyone has seen, under pressure, in a long time. Herbert narrated the strike himself, in similar fashion. And yet, the Aussie regrouped, stuffing his 4th to within 18 inches, to save par. Recalling his swimmer in regulation, Bezuidenhout was cautiously beyond the hole, and took two putts for par, and the pair moved on. Perhaps to speed play, a drop zone at 18 aided Herbert in his recovery. Instead of dropping in thick rough, he was given a perfect fairway lie for his 4th, and was able to spin it to a stop. On the second playoff hole, the long-striking LH reached the putting surface in two, and made birdie with two jabs of the flat stick. The South African Bezuidenhout was unable to match, and the tournament was Herbert’s first career title on the European Tour.

Leishman holds off quick-recovering Rahm for 5th PGA Tour title

On Sunday, Marc Leishman ran away with a tournament that Jon Rahm gave away, until Rahm re-entered the fray, forcing Leishman to close the deal. Rahm began the day with a 1-shot lead on Ryan Palmer. With the Texan headed south and east on day four, toward a closing 77 and a T21 finish, the tournament belonged to the Spaniard … until Rahm played the first 5 holes in 4 over par. Over the same few hours, Leishman opened with 5 birdies on the outward half, making up 9 shots and seizing the lead. Various other players (Brandt Snedeker, Rory McIlroy, Tom Hoge) dallied along the leader board, but this day’s story was about two golfers. As quickly as he disappeared, Rahm reappeared on the inward half. He closed with 4 birdies and 1 eagle over the closing, 6-hole stretch. Only a bogey at the 15th kept him from reaching 15 below par. Leishman added 2 more birdies after turning for home, but bogey at the penultimate trace brought him back to Rahm’s -14. In the manner of champions, the Aussie took aim at the hole and dropped his third within a yard, making an eighth birdie on the round, to claim his 5th tour title. Rahm had reached the 18th in 2 mighty strikes, but was unable to drop a long eagle putt to match Leishman’s total.

Sagstrom’s maiden LPGA title comes in Boca

Madelene Sagstrom, another in the line of tremendous Swedish golfers on the LPGA, claimed her first tour title with all the world’s pressure on her shoulders. After bolting from the pack to seize the 36-hole lead, Sagstrom fought past emotions and a collection of challengers, to win by a most slender margin. Sagstrom’s 2nd-round 62 was as stunning as it was unexpected. 9 birdies in the first 12 holes began the whispers of 59. 2 more birdies brought her close, but a bogey at 17 ended her chances. Still in complete control as Saturday closed, the 2017 Solheim Cup competitor posted 67 to establish a 2-shot lead over last week’s runner-up, Nasa Hataoka of Japan. Over Sunday’s opening 9 holes, the 2 golfers reversed course, with Hataoka taking the offensive, on the strength of an outward 33. Sagstrom was +2 through 7, before a birdie at the 8th restored her confidence. On the homeward half, it was Sagstrom who strengthened, with an inward 33. Hataoka could only manage 36, including bogey at the last with everything on the line.

It was the closing pair of holes that determined the champion. Sagstrom took on a 17-green hole location that, for all the world, appeared to be floating in a pond. She stuffed an iron to 3 feet and converted the birdie to tie the lead. At the 18th, the Swede had a 6-feet putt for par, and placed it center-cut, with authority. In total contrast, Hataoka decelerated badly on her 3-feet par putt, missed low, and finished runner-up for a 2nd time in 8 days.

Wolfe claims victory at 2nd Korn Ferry event of 2020

While Matthew Wolfe stokes the embers of PGA Tour fans, Jared Wolfe will happily repeat the success that saw him to victory at the Great Abaco Classic in Nassau. In the second of two Sunday-Wednesday events to open the 2020 season on the KFT, Wolfe earned victory as the only golfer to complete four rounds in the 60s. Wolfe didn’t run away with things, but he avoided disaster on day four, on his way to a closing 69. In contrast, his closest pursuer (Brandon Harkins, -14, 2nd place) had double bogeys at the 1st and 16th holes. Harkins also had 4 birdies, 1 eagle, and 2 bogeys on the day. Wolfe saved his best for last, closing with birdies on 3 of 4 concluding holes. The victory was Wolfe’s 1st on the Korn Ferry Tour, on the heels of 3 PGA Tour Latinoamerica wins. The tour moves to Panama this week, to open February in Central America.

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