The 2nd weekend in January of 2020 marked the return of multiple events during a single week. Granted, one was rescheduled from 6 weeks past, another began on Saturday (and will conclude tomorrow), a third was an unfortunate swamp…DOESN”T MATTER! Televised golf that counts is back, and we’re watching! One of the world’s finest percussionists, Neil Peart of RUSH, left this world last week. In a salute to his mastery, find tributes to his songs scattered throughout this piece. With a heavy, non-golf heart, let’s read Tour Rundown for Monday, January 13th, 2o2o.
Sony Open’s Twilight-Zone ending leaves lots of head scratching
Not all comebacks end in victory, nor do all golf tournaments end in logic. Consider the 2nd part before the first: squeegees on the 18th green, golf balls ricocheting off bleachers, delays of over 10 minutes for the final group. It’s really no surprise that Brendan Steele had trouble navigating the closing stretch at Waialae Country Club. Some of it was his undoing, but much of it wasn’t. Steele came into the week in a massive slump, and led until the final putt, when he suddenly didn’t. And yet, to come so close to victory and not drink from the cup, is still a comeback. And perhaps that can suffice for now.
Steele had a one-shot lead, and was standing in the middle of the 18th fairway, iron in hand. Exuberance gave way to a snapping hook, and his approach sailed over the grandstands. After a drop area was decided, the leader was unable to pitch far enough, to avoid the casual channel of water that traversed the final putting surface. Steele could only 2-putt, and hope that Smith would not make birdie (spoiler alert: he did.)
The victor, Cameron Smith, was able to make up 2 shots on Steele over the inward nine. He birdied the 18th to reach 11 under par, and off the two golfers went to the 10th tee. Why not 18, you ask? Recall, if you will, the condition of the closing hole. It was quite messy, with sloppy turf along most of its 551 yards. The 10th is a wee drive and pitch, but it gave Steele fits. He drove his ball in the fairway, while Smith missed wide right. The Aussie played a remarkable recovery, onto the green, not far from the hole. With a tiny wedge in his hand, Steele gunned his approach far beyond the green, precisely where he didn’t need to be. Unable to get the ball up and down, Steele’s bogey was no match for Smith’s 2-putt par, and the Aussie had his first PGA Tour title.
Webb Simpson and Ryan Palmer found themselves in contention, in the penultimate group. Simpson made a par to total -10, one putt shy of the playoff. Palmer’s finish was as bizarre as Steele’s. Palmer slammed his approach, from a fairway bunker, off the video board, over the grandstands, straight into a bogey. In one swing he went from potential playoff participant to 4th place tie. Can golf on the mainland possibly equal this? Doubtful.
South African Open victory completes journey of Grace under pressure
Within his home country of South Africa, Branden Grace had won every event of note but one: the Open championship. On Sunday, the 31-year old closed the trophy cabinet with a 3-shot victory over Louis Oosthuizen, winning his country’s national title at the Randpark golf club in Johannesburg. The victory moved him into the early lead in the 2020 Race To Dubai, the European Tour’s season-long points race.
Inspired, perhaps, by the sublime 62 of Marcus Armitage on Saturday, Grace teed off on Sunday and posted a 62 of his own. Two items stand out from that performance: he was actually +1 through 2 holes; and he did all his damage in an eleven-hole stretch. Grace made bogey at the 2nd to fall a stroke farther behind the overnight leader. Then, in a 2.5 hour bottle, Grace caught lightning. Birdies at holes 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 through 14, in addition to an eagle at the 4th, lopped a massive 10 shots off his tally, pushing him beyond 20-under par.
Oosthuizen had an eagle of his own. A perfectly-judged tee shot on the par-3 8th hole, played dangerously close to disaster, found the bottom of the cup. The 2010 Open champion had, incredibly, zero bogeys on the day. Unfortunately, he was able to pair just one birdie with the ace, finishing at a frustrating 18-under par. As for Armitage, had he visited a fortune teller before the start, he would have learned that he would stand over a critical putt on the week’s last green. No, not for the title, but for an automatic bid to the 2020 Open Championship, at Royal St. George’s in July. The Englishman drained a 20-feet putt for birdie, finished in solo 3rd position, and punched his ticket to the south of England this summer.
Hong Kong Open decided after 6-week delay
Wade Ormsby of Australia began his 2020 in the most proper way; he claimed the Asian Tour’s Hong Kong Open with a 4- shot triumph. The journey to conclusion began in November of 2019, when the tournament was originally scheduled. Anti-government protests were sufficient enough for tournament organizers to authorize a postponement. 1.5 months later, the event was contested at the Hong Kong golf club.
No one was more on-form this week, than the soon-to-turn-40 Ormsby. He opened with 65, for a share of the lead, then stitched a quilt of 66s the remainder of the week. Gunn Charoenkul of Thailand stood 2 back of the Aussie on day four, and closed to within a shot when the leader made bogey at the first on Sunday. Right the ship? Indeed. Ormsby birdied holes 2-4 and added another at the 9th, to turn in 31 and remind followers that it had always been his week. Charoenkul admirably stood strong, finishing in 3rd place 5 behind the champion.
It was the 2019 Champion Golf of the Year, Shane Lowry, who provided the fittest challenge of the day. Lowry closed within 1 of the week’s low round (63) with a 64 of his own. Standing 6 under on the day through 14, the Irishman had closed with a pair of strokes of the leader. Ormsby and Lowry each had bogeys at the daunting, par 4 15th hole. The 5 effectively ended Lowry’s challenge, as Ormsby was unlikely to fritter away his lead.
The title was Ormsby’s 2nd Hong Kong Open win in 3 years. Among notable competitors, American Tony Finau finished 5th at 10 below par. Rashid Khan of Indonesia, compiler of the aforementioned 63, claimed 6th place after closing with 70. The Asian Tour resumes play this week at the Singapore Open, at the Sentosa golf club. Enter the warrior, today’s Wade Ormsby.
Tournament of Champions to Thomas in energy-crackling finish
Although it took place last week, the PGA Tour’s annual TOC earned a look this week, thanks to its unanticipated and dramatic finish. It’s rare when a PGA Tour player misses a driving range, but that’s what Justin Thomas did with his 2nd at the par-5 18th hole on Sunday. From certain victory in regulation, Thomas tugged his fairway metal (which he didn’t need to hit) on the widest fairway in golf, into the native gunge left. The ensuing penalty forced him to get up and down from 75 yards for par and victory. Well, that didn’t happen, either. Off went Thomas and equal-parts-stunned-and-delighted Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed to the 18th tee. Thomas and Reed negotiated birdies, which eliminated Xander’s par. Playoff part two at the same hole dealt pars from the middle of the deck to the survivors, so back to the hilltop they went, for a 4th go (including regulation) at the long yet reachable par five. Thomas made birdie and watched as Reed could only make par. The win was Thomas’ 12th on tour, and 3rd in a playoff.
Much was learned with the resumption of the 2019-2020 PGA Tour season in Kapalua: Brendon Todd’s incredible run of top-five finishes came to an end (he placed 29th); Joaquin Niemann can play better than he did at Royal Melbourne (where he didn’t help the International Team a lick); and for Kapalua’s Plantation course to truly defend itself against the pros, it needs backward winds (which it got); brand-new greens (with new breaks, to stump the gods); and fairways that don’t run out (that will change as the redone turf firms up.) In other words, by 2022, Kapalua should be Kapalua again.
Schedule postponements and cancellations on the PGA Tour, European Tour plus the four majors: What we know so far
With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the PGA Tour and European Tour have taken steps to cancel or postpone several events. Action has also been taken on some of golf’s major championships, and here we’ll summarize what decisions have been made so far altering the 2020 calendar.
Both The Masters (April 9-12) and PGA Championship (May 14-17) have been officially postponed with hopes of rescheduling both events for later in the year. According to the NY Post, the US Open is also set to be postponed and rescheduled for “later in the summer”, though as of Tuesday, March 31 the USGA has made no formal announcement confirming this news.
The R&A has of yet made no announcement on this year’s Open Championship which is due to take place from 16-19 of July.
- April 9-12: The Masters – Postponed
- May 14-17: PGA Championship – Postponed
- June 18-21: US Open – NY Post reporting postponed; not yet confirmed by USGA
- July 16-19: Open Championship – On Schedule
Since cancelling the Players Championship mid-event, the PGA Tour decided to cancel several subsequent tournaments. As of now, the earliest return date for the PGA Tour is May 21 at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship which is played the same week as the WGC-Match Play was postponed with plans to reschedule the event.
- March 12-15: The Players Championship – Cancelled
- March 19-22: Valspar Championship – Cancelled
- April 16-19: RBC Heritage – Cancelled
- April 23-26: Zurich Classic of New Orleans – Cancelled
- April 30-May 3: Wells Fargo Championship – Cancelled
- May 7-10: AT&T Byron Nelson – Cancelled
Along with the cancelled WGC-Match Play and confirmed postponed major championships, the European Tour has postponed a further seven events. Unlike the PGA Tour, the European Tour has chosen to postpone almost every upcoming event for the time being instead of cancelling. The GolfSixes Cascais is the only confirmed cancellation as of now.
On Monday, the Dubai Duty-Free Irish Open became the latest tournament to be postponed meaning the earliest possible return date for action on the European Tour is now June 4 at the Trophee Hassan II.
- March 12-15: Magical Kenya Open – Postponed
- March 19-22: Hero Indian Open – Postponed
- April 16-19: Maybank Championship – Postponed
- April 23-26: Volvo China Open – Postponed
- April 30-May 3: Andalucia Masters – Postponed
- May 9-10: GolfSixes Cascais – Cancelled
- May 21-24: Made in Denmark – Postponed
- May 28-31: Irish Open – Postponed
PGA Tour to provide financial assistance to players and caddies during Coronavirus pandemic
The PGA Tour has announced plans to compensate both players and caddies after several Tour events were cancelled due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
In a memo sent to players on Friday, it was explained that due to IRS regulations, the Tour is not allowed distribute un-earned financial benefits to members, but that the organization has developed some programs to help its players during the ongoing pandemic. Players and caddies will receive financial assistance from the PGA Tour with one of the primary programs to help players based on their current FedEx Cup standing.
Players can receive up to $100,000 in bonus earnings during this period which will subsequently be removed from their season-ending bonus after play has been restarted.
Tour pros will also be entitled to request advance payments (up to $30k) for future Monday pro-am spots and advances on future earnings, while the Tour also plans on allowing players to withdraw funds from their retirement plans based on financial need.
“Playing opportunities equate to financial opportunities, and we are concerned about the toll that canceled tournaments are having on some of our members” – Tyler Dennis, a senior vice president and the Tour’s chief of operations.
Included in the memo were caddies, who are entitled to a partial mid-season distribution of an endorsement program and who can also request financial support from the Caddie Benevolent Fund.
Play is not set to resume on the PGA Tour until May 21 at the earliest.
GolfWRX AUA (Ask Us Anything): TaylorMade fitters are answering YOUR questions!
With the downtime, #teamtaylormade are ready to talk golf!
Go to the link below to ask any TM specific questions you may have. TaylorMade fitters from across the US will be diving in the forums to answer questions, talk golf and get you dialed. Take this opportunity to go TM crazy.
Team TaylorMade fitters that will be participating:
- Chris Clegg, Georgia
- John Junkin, Pennsylvania
- Lewis Schnauble, Maryland
- John Tabor, Michigan
- Freddy Villarta, California
- Matt Zerishnek, Pennsylvania
- James Albright, Arizona
Paige Spiranac blasts golf culture: “A big boys club” that is “elitist, stuffy and exclusive”
Looking back on a golf genius: Anthony Kim (with final full bag specs)
Patrick Reed’s winning WITB: 2020 WGC-Mexico Championship
Adam Scott’s winning WITB: 2020 Genesis Invitational
Sergio Garcia WITB 2020
On Spec: Fairway wood fittings | Adam Scott wins with 17-year-old irons
Today from the Forums: “Best 3-wood off the deck?”
Phil Mickelson WITB 2020
Viktor Hovland’s winning WITB 2020 Puerto Rico Open
Sungjae Im’s winning WITB: The Honda Classic
Byeong Hun An WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees, B2 SureFit setting) Shaft: Accra TZ5 M5...
Pat Perez WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open. Driver: PXG 0811X Gen 2 (9 degrees) Shaft: Aldila Rogue Black 130...
Adam Long WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the 2020 Players Championship. Driver: TaylorMade SIM Max (9 degrees) Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green...
WITB Time Machine: Ian Poulter WITB 2014
Equipment accurate as of Franklin Templeton Shootout (12/10/14). Driver: Titleist 915 D2 (9.5 degrees @ 10.25, D3 SureFit setting) Shaft:...
News2 weeks ago
Looking back on a golf genius: Anthony Kim (with final full bag specs)
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Bubba Watson WITB 2020
Equipment2 weeks ago
Today from the Forums: “3-hybrid or 7-wood?”
Opinion & Analysis5 days ago
Behind the numbers: A road map for an 18 handicap to get down to a 9
Equipment4 days ago
Building the perfect half set
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Tommy Fleetwood WITB 2020
Tour Photo Galleries3 weeks ago
10 interesting photos from the 2020 Players Championship
Whats in the Bag1 week ago
Steve Stricker WITB 2020