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Tour Rundown: Horschel claims 6th title, 21st for Inbee, Dahmen wins his 1st

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Now THAT’S more like it! Five events across the globe this week, and golf feels like it is finally back in its rhythm. From Kenya to California, with Texas, Puerto Rico, and Georgia somewhere in between, professional golf was played on the LPGA, PGA, European and Korn Ferry tours, alongside one of those unaffiliated World Golf Championships. There were new winners and veteran ones, alongside ones with an ax to grind and much to prove. We all know that we aren’t all the way back to where we were, but just maybe, the light at the end of the long, cloudy tunnel shined just a bit brighter this week. Let’s run down all the winners together, in this week’s Tour Rundown.

World Golf Championship: Horschel claims 6th title at Dell Match Play

Billy Horschel donned the USA colors in 2007 at Merion, for a lopsided Walker Cup win over Great Britain and Ireland. 14 years later, he may finally get the chance to get fitted for team togs a second time. Horschel capped a less-than-optimal week (his words, more or less) with a gritty win over the last Texan standing, Scottie Scheffler. Horschel had done the prime-time thing before, winning a pair of playoff events in 2016, while NOT qualifying for the USA Ryder Cup side. This week, #FloridaMan gritted his teeth, set his accelerator to #amped, and survived a second-match loss to J.T. Poston (who?) to eventually reach the quarters against Tommy Fleetwood. Didn’t matter that #FairwayJesus had made an ace one round earlier; Horschel dispatched him on the 19th hole, with a par against Fleet’s bogey. In the semis, Horschel got past Victor Pérez of France, who had dispatched the week’s other ace-maker, Sergio García, in the round of eight. That 3 & 2 victory set him up for a match with Scheffler, the golfer making the most noise over the past 18 months, albeit without a victory. Yes, even more noise than Tony Finau.

Scheffler, a winning Walker Cup alumnus like Horschel (1o years later!) turned in the clutch performance of the week, dispatching everyone’s favorite tipper, Matt Kuchar, in the semis. Come to think of it, no, his quarter-final win over Jon Rahm might have been even more impressive. Wait, what about Ian Poulter in the round of 16? Holy smokes, Steve Stricker. Did you pay attention this week to Scheffler and Horschel? Please forget Finau and Simpson, at least until you put current #11 Horschel and #14 Scheffler (and Cantlay and Berger) on your short list of captain’s picks. Neither finalist played stellar golf (who could, after more rounds than any other golfer this week?) but they fought until the 17th hole, when Scheffler’s string ran of luck out.

LPGA Tour: Inbee Park grabs 21st tour title at Kia

Death, taxes, Inbee Park. All three are relentless. Each is unavoidable. Only one of them is welcomed by anyone but the competition. This week, Park and her compatriots returned to the tee after a one-month hiatus, at the Aviara golf club in Carlsbad, California. The Korean champion claimed a five-shot win over US Open runner-up Amy Olson and Lexi Thompson, with Jin Young Ko another shot back in fourth spot.

On Thursday, five golfers broke 70, and Park’s 66 was the prize round of the day. The champion followed her medal round with a pair of 69s, to take a five-shot lead into day four. Until her 72nd hole bogey, Park had remained in the 60s all week, the only player in the field to do so. Olson rebounded from a forgettable 75 on Thursday to play the final 54 holes better than anyone else. Thompson had even-par 72s over the first two days, before lighting up Aviara with a 66 of her own on Saturday.

It’s odd to look at a hall of fame member, one with seven major titles, and wonder if she will win one again. Park won her septet during the first seven years of her professional career, but has gone five years without a big title (the 2016 Olympic gold medal that year) Her play this week suggests that another one is not far away. Each of her pursuers waited for her to make a mistake, and Park offered a ray of hope with bogies at 12 and 13 on Sunday. Two holes later, on the reachable par-four 16th, Park drove the green and drained a 20-feet eagle putt, and the gate was locked.

PGA Tour: Dahmen claims inaugural win at Corales

Until Viktor Hovland won in Mexico last fall, no winner of the Puerto Rico Open had won for a second time on the big tour. Between you and me, any PGA Tour victory would suit me just fine, although I can understand how one win wets the appetite for a second. This week, Joel Dahmen became the latest, first-time winner in Puerto Rico, holding off local hero Rafael Campos and Sam Ryder by one meager shot.

Dahmen and Campos entered the final round in a tie for the top spot, and each played as if he had nothing to lose on the outward half. Dahmen turned in minus-four and snatched a two-shot lead over the pride of Boricua. On the inward half, each played as if they had everything to lose. Gone were the birdies, and Dahmen limped home in plus-two on the home nine. He was saved from a playoff when Campos made a bogey of his own, at the par-three seventeenth. At the final hole, Campos was halfway through his tying fist pump when his birdie attempt did a hard lip-out and stayed up and out.

Korn Ferry: Svennson outlasts McGreevy in Savannah

If it seems like just last fall that we were in Savannah for some KF Tour action, it’s because we were. Georgia’s river city is a wondrous host, and who better to win than someone who truly appreciates a chance to golf in warm weather? Canada’s Adam Svensson went into a playoff with Oklahoma’s Max McGreevy, after the later drained a clutch birdie putt at the 72nd hole. Oh, what he wouldn’t have given for a repeat performance on the first bonus hole!

Each made par at the long closer during the first go-round, missing similarly-makeable birdie efforts. On their second extra hole, Svensson’s birdie from eight feet dipped below the earth’s surface, and a second Korn Ferry win was headed home to British Columbia. McGreevey had entered the final round with a one-shot advantage over Stuart Macdonald. The latter struggled to a 76 on day four, doing McGreevy no favors in the motivation department. Svensson had a nice start, standing at -2 on the day after nine holes. When he finished the 18th, he had piled four more birdies onto his card, and looked to be a winner in regulation, until McGreevy came through in the clutch.

To be honest, no one can really decipher what the Korn Ferry Tour money list or The 25 list mean thus far. Is it a combined last year/this year thing? Who knows. Stay tuned to this space and when we know, you’ll know.

European Tour: South Africa’s Van Tonder holds off Janewattananond in Kenya

A week after the Magical Kenya Open drew our attention to Africa, the Kenya Savannah Classic cemented the wondrous country as a force to be reckoned with in tournament golf. Last week’s winner, Justin Harding, was in the thick of things until all four wheels came off on this week’s day four. After opening with 64-66-66, Harding’s run of great play reached its expiration date, and his 73 dropped him into a tie for 14th.

At the top of the leaderboard, Daniel Van Tonder and Jazz Janewattananond were making birdies by the bushel. Each had eight of them through 13 holes. One might think that their matching 64’s would have sent them far ahead of the chasers. One would have been wrong. Reaching 20-under par, also with 64s on Sunday, were Sam Horsfield and Calum Hill. If you didn’t go low on day four, you didn’t stand a chance.

Back to Van Tonder and Janewattananond: The former fell off the rails for a time, with bogeys at 14 and 15. Just when all seemed lost, he made birdie at the last to reach 21-deep. Janewattananond made a bogey of his own, at the 16th, but reached the same closing figure as Van Tonder. The pair took deep breaths, then headed back to the closing hole to settle matters. Twice they sawed off with pars, but then Van Tonder stuffed one close and drained the roller for a clinching birdie.

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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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5 things we learned Saturday at the Masters

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With the field reduced to 54, the question on most interested minds was, which Augusta National Golf Club would feature on Saturday? Would it be the frugal layout that gave fits to competitors on day one, or would the generous version from day two make a return appearance? If you asked Hideki Matsuyama, it was the latter. Pose the same question to Adam Scott or Cameron Champ, and the answer would differ markedly.

On Saturday, there was a bit of movement from the chasers, and a sense of protect what you have from the leaders. We learned a few things about the tournament, the course, and the competitors on day three, and we’re happy to share them with you here.

1. Billy Horschel backs down from nothing

Literally and figuratively. The Florida man ripped a 5-iron into Rae’s Creek on the 13th hole, but rather than take a penalty drop, Horschel doffed his shoes and socks, rolled up his Saturday whites, and waded on in. Well, sort of. First, he slid down the slope, and then he waded in. His recovery was clean and left him with a run at birdie. Despite the new splotch of Augusta green on his trousers, Horschel made bogey at the 14th, but closed with three birdies over his final five holes, to finish at 4 over. Horschel won’t win the tournament this year, but we’ll remember his plus-fours for quite some time.

2. Hideki pulled a Justin

No sense in waiting until point number five, to discuss the round of the day. Hideki Matsuyama has often been mentioned with Jumbo Ozaki, Ryo Ishikawa, Isao Aoki, and Shingo Katayama as a prime Japanese candidate to break that country’s male major championship winless streak. Matsuyama began day three at 4 under, three shots behind leader Justin Rose. Matsuyama drew on two memories on Saturday to move rapidly up the leader board on the inward half. His low amateur prize of 2011 reminded him of his previous success at Augusta National. More recently, countrywoman Tsubasa Kajitani raised the champion’s trophy last week at the same course, after winning the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Matsuyama began his march toward the top spot with a birdie at the seventh hole. Despite his length, he was unable to make four at either of the front nine par-5 holes. On the inward half, Matsuyama posted birdies at 11, 12, 16 and 17, and put the icing on the 65 cake with eagle at the 15th. Thanks to his 65, Matsuyama will play in the final group on Sunday with Xander Schauffele, who closed quickly as well. Will he bring a major title of his own to the Pacific island nation? This time tomorrow, we will know.

3. Xander and Conners post 68s to move into top six

If you took Corey Conners front nine, and paired it with Xander Schauffele’s back nine, you’d have a Hideki. Conners began play at 2 under par, and moved to minus six after the day’s fourth birdie on the 9th hole. The young Canadian dropped back with bogey at 10 and 14 but rebounded quickly with birdies at 15 and 17 to return to six-under. It might be premature to cast Conners as a dark horse for Sunday, but should his penchant for dropping birdies check in on day four, a Maple Leaf might don a green jacket for the second time in the storied event’s history.

Xander Schauffele finds himself exactly where he wants to be. The California native backs down from no competition, and thanks to a strong inward half, he arranged a final-group pairing with Matsuyama. Schauffele began the day at 3 under and improved by one shot by the end of the first nine. The 2017 Tour Championship winner feasted on the long holes coming home with birdie at 13 and an eagle of his own at 15.

4. Zalatoris and Rose stay in contention

The hardest task in championship golf is to build a lead into a bigger lead. Tiger Woods spoiled many of us with his ability to do that. The second-most difficult thing to achieve is to preserve your position, with all the distractions and pressure. Justin Rose and Will Zalatoris began day three at 7 and 6 under par, respectively. Rose began the day with determination, making birdie at the first two holes. He gave those shots back at four and five, and played a bit of back-and-forth over the next 13 holes. He ended the day at even-par 72, to remain in the chase at 7 under. Was it disappointing? For a player of Rose’s stature and record, yes. Can he bookend his Thursday 65 with another on Sunday? Probably not.

Will Zalatoris came into the final pairing on Saturday in a decidedly different position from Rose. Zalatoris made his name on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 and has made the jump to the PGA Tour with unexpected success. The young Texan began the day at 6 under and improved by one stroke by day’s end. Zalatoris had four birdies against three bogeys and once again avoided the big number that derails so many dreams. The former Wake Forest golfer will tee off with Conners in the third-last pairing on Sunday. Being a bit out of the limelight might serve him well, and don’t be surprised if he becomes the first Masters rookie since Fuzzy Zoeller to wear green on Sunday.

5. And the winner will be…

If you haven’t realized it by now, we don’t pick winners well. We tapped Brian Harman after round two, and the Georgia Bulldog shot 2 over par on day three. We have abandoned the lefty, and are going with a player we haven’t mentioned yet. He’s tall, dark, and Australian, and the word on all the tours is that Marc Leishman is so much better than his record indicates. We think that the real Marc Leishman stands tall on Sunday and moves past Matsuyama and all the rest to become the first Aussie since Adam Scott to win the title.

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5 things we learned Friday at the Masters

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36 marvelous holes of a crunchy, tasty, firm, diabolical Masters tournament are in the books. 54 golfers survived the cut, and 15 of them sit within five shots of the lead, currently 7 under.

If you want excitement, watch Viktor Hovland this weekend. We don’t mention him below, but he deserves a tip of the cap for not going away. He was outside the cut line until he made birdie at 13 and eagle at 15. He’s six back, and if he can get rid of the crazies and the loonies, he might shoot 62 on Saturday or Sunday.

It’s time to learn the five things that we picked up today and position yourself for a glorious weekend. Let’s gooooo!

1. “Part humor, part roses, part thorns.” Justin Rose posts even par on Friday

Perhaps there lies a hidden connection between the lead singer of the 80s hair band Poison and the champion golfer, perhaps not. The internet attributes the quote “My life has been part humor, part roses, part thorns” to Bret Michaels, and Justin Rose certainly would agree that round the second at the 2021 Masters offered a bit of each. Rose began with bogey for a second consecutive day, and despite a birdie at the second, turned in 3 over par. Like Thursday, he found his way back to safety on the inward half, with birdies at the 13th, 14th, and 16th.

If there is a secret to winning the Masters, it is to make your mistakes early and your birdies and eagles late. Rose has played the back nine in 30 and 33 strokes over the first two days. If he can find a way to play the outward half in par on Saturday and Sunday, well, he’ll have a second major championship to go with his 2013 U.S. Open trophy.

2. Is The Bermuda Triangle too obvious?

If 11 through 13 represents a corner, then holes 4, 5, and 6 geometrically stand out as a three-sided polygon. Through the first two days, that three-hole sequence stands out as a place where Augusta dreams meet an early reckoning. Many golfers reached the fourth tee on the heels of two or even three birdies, only to run headfirst into a sea of mighty discontent. The trio ranked first, second, and fifth most difficult on day two, and featured the longest par 3 and the toughest par 4. A case could be made that five plays longer than 11, despite measuring 10 yards less.

There’s no telling how the ghost of Herbert Warren Wind would christen the 915-yard stretch of fairway in today’s era. Wind summoned a hymn in the middle of the previous century when he famously baptized the early part of the back nine as Amen Corner. In an era of technological onslaught, the tournament directors seem to have solved part of the puzzle by creating a second implausible stretch of golf on their wondrous course. If anyone should happen to play four through six at even par or better on the weekend, expect their names to take up residence on the first page of the leaderboard.

3. Farewell until May or next April

Sadly, there was a cut on Friday afternoon, and it came at +3 after much deliberation. The briefly-defending champion, Dustin Johnson, had a rare day of poor driving, and it cost him. Bogey at 15 and 17 put him over the limit by one slim stroke. His former workout buddy, Brooks Koepka, made every effort at a Tiger-esque recovery from recent knee surgery, but the bionic man could not make enough putts to reach the weekend. Joining DJ and BK on the sideline were the perplexing Rory McIlroy, the peripatetic Bernhard Langer, and Green Jacket-bearers Danny Willett, Mike Weir, and Sergio Garcia. Representing the geezers on the weekend is two-time Masters winner and second-low Basque, José-María Olazabal, who touched down at +2.

4. Tyrannosaurus Zalatoris is quite the story

We don’t expect the nickname to stick, but it beats Lavoris, a 1970s-era mouthwash. The young lion bided his time on the front nine, playing even-par golf until the 9th, where he went right-right and bogey. On the inward half, the rights became centers, and Zalatoris notched five birdies and four bogeys for 31 coming home and a Saturday pairing with the leader, the aforementioned Mr. Rose.

Ironic is the failure to birdie either par-5 hole on the second nine. Neither tee ball was what one might call ideal, and the Zed resisted any temptation to go for the green in two. He laid up safely, took his medicine, and made par at both holes. Anytime you shoot 68 or better at Augusta National, you’ve made your share of just about everything. Win, lose, or draw this weekend, the experience of teeing off in the last group on Saturday is a huge step for the Young Turk.

5. And our pick for the win is…

Not Justin Rose. He is a viable candidate for a suitcoat fitting, but the confidence that borders on arrogance is just not there. Not Will Zalatoris. We’d love to see the “not since Fuzzy” thing about first-year players not becoming first-time champions go away, but it isn’t happening in 2021. Not Jordan Spieth, who reached 5 under with late heroics, nor Marc Leishman, who reached 5 under with early, mid, and late-round heroics. Our prediction for the win is a bald man of Woosnam-esque stature, who swings from the side favored by Phil Mickelson, and Mike Weir, both Masters champions. He is (drumroll, please)…

Brian Harman. It’s simply his time.

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Bryson DeChambeau WITB 2021 Masters

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Driver: Cobra RadSpeed Prototype (5.5 degrees @4.2)
Shaft: LA Golf Tour AXS Blue 60 X (46 inches)

3-wood: Cobra King Prototype B (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: LA Golf BAD Prototype 70 TX (43 inches)

3-wood: Cobra King SZ Tour (14.5 degrees @13.5)
Shaft: LA Golf BAD Prototype 80 TX (41 inches)

Irons: Cobra King One Length Utility (4, 5), Cobra King Forged Tour One Length (6-PW)
Shafts: LA Golf Rebar Proto (37.5 inches)

 

 

Wedges: Artisan Prototype (50 @47, 55 @52, 60 @58)
Shafts: LA Golf Rebar Proto shaft

Putter: SIK Pro C-Series Armlock
Grip: JumboMax JumboFlat 17

Ball: Bridgestone Tour B X

Grips: JumboMax UltraLight XL

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