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Tour Rundown: Cink runs away with Heritage | Ko breaks three-year drought

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A week after a major championship can have a bit of a hangover feel to it. When one ends with the welcoming of a first-time major winner, as we have had the past two weeks, it’s a double blessing. Patty Tavatanakit claimed the ANA Inspiration by two with her distance and consistency, while Hideki Matsuyama captured our attention with stellar execution and respectful dignity. In other words, this week had a lot to live up to, and it did precisely that.

Let’s roll up and run down the tour action that we saw the third week of April.

PGA Tour: Cink runs away with Heritage

Stewart Cink has made a habit of winning now and then for the past 24 years. He has a major title on his resume, and has represented the USA nine times in international team matches. In his third year on tour, Cink won on Hilton Head Island for the first time. He repeated in 2004, then waited 17 years to claim a third Heritage title, by four shots over Harold Varner III and Emiliano Grillo.

Despite a height of six feet four inches, Cink has never been a long hitter. As a result, a course like Harbor Town suits his game more than does a 7500-yard track. After 11 years away from the winner’s circle, Cink claimed the Safeway Open last fall by two strokes. That win, over Harry Higgs, was not an easy one. In complete contrast, this week in South Carolina was complete dominance by Cink.

The Georgia Tech Bulldog opened with a pair of 63s, to move past first-round leader Cameron Smith, who opened with 62. Scores in the low 60s went away on the weekend, and Cink was able to close with 69-70, and embrace victory. Collin Morikawa stood second to Cink after 54 holes, but showed surprising weakness on Sunday. the 2020 PGA titleist and 2021 WGC-Workday winner ran out of birdies on day four, and limped home with 72 for T-7.

LPGA Tour: Ko breaks three-year drought with seven-shot margin

There was a time when Lydia Ko did the things she did this week, on the regular. Three wins in 2014, followed by five in 2015 and four the next season, gave us a sense of what might be generational dominance. As she reached age eighteen, the wins vanished. Ko went two years without a victory, but claimed a playoff triumph in 2018. Throughout 2021, traces of the old/young Ko returned, and it became a matter of time until she won again. Two weeks ago, she chased Patty Tavatanakit to the 72nd green at ANA Inspiration, and settled for a runner-up finish.

After this week’s resurgence, the principal question is: how far back has Lydia Ko returned? A seven-shot, runaway victory over the tour’s top talent is more than just a comeback; it’s a statement. Nelly Korda, Inbee Park, and Sei Young Kim tied with Leona Maguire for second, a touchdown and extra point behind. They played well, but mull these numbers turned in by Ko on the week: one bogey in 72 holes (hole eleven on Thursday); three bogey-free round; 29 birdies in 72 holes, with no fewer than six on any of her four scorecards. Yup, that’s a statement. Should be a fun 2021, if Lydia Ko finds the road all the way back.

European Tour: Catlin wins Austrian Open playoff over Kieffer

Talk about a buried lede. While it’s true what the headline says, it’s barely the story. There was a playoff, but we’ll get to that. John Catlin had two previous wins on the European Tour, while Max Kieffer came close in 2013, losing a playoff for the Spain Open. In regulation time, Kieffer staked an early advantage, playing the first seven holes in six-under, highlighted by an eagle at the 4th. Bogey at 9 and 11 slowed his roll, but he rebounded with birdie at 13 and 15, to reach minus-fourteen on the week. Catlin was flawless over his 18 holes, pairing seven birdies with eleven pars, for day-low honors and his own place at the 14-deep table. Both surged past third-round leaders Martin Kaymer (70 for solo third) and Alejandro Cañizares (74 for t-seventh) and gained a spot in a playoff. That’s when the fun began.

The 18th hole at the Diamond Country Club, near Vienna, is a par three over water, with a solitary bunker on the right edge of the green. Catlin and Kieffer reached the green in regulation the first three (yup, there were more) turns through. Par and par were followed by birdie, and back to the tee they went for a fourth time. On the fourth occasion, Catlin found the sand, but went up and down for par. Kieffer once again found the putting surface, but was unable to coax his putt for two into the hole. On tour the fifth, Catlin once again found sand, but Kieffer did him one better. In this case, it was three worse.

Kieffer’s tee ball came up short of the fronting wall, and found water. His pitch from the drop zone landed pin high, and spun back into the water. His second pitch, his fifth shot, landed twenty feet beyond the flag, then spun even harder, once again back into the drink. Exasperated, Kieffer took the juice off his third pitch, landed on the green, then made the putt for an inglorious eight. Dumbfounded by his good fortune, Catlin pitched out of the sand, took two putts for bogey, and claimed his third European Tour title.

Korn Ferry Tour: Uihlein claims second stateside win at MGM Resorts

Peter Uihlein might qualify as one of the top professional golf stories of the last decade. After a decorated amateur career, in which he won the US Amateur and shined for the USA side at the 2009 Merion Walker Cup matches, Uihlein landed in Europe, where he played the Challenge and Main tours for seven years. Uihlein won twice in the old country, then returned to the USA for the 2017-2018 season. He has remained in his home country ever since, amassing a number of top-twenty finishes on the PGA and Korn Ferry tours, including a win at the 2017 Nationwide Children’s Hospital championship.

This week, the 31-year old returned to the winner’s circle in Las Vegas, claiming the title by four strokes over a former European Tour rival from the states, David Lipsky, and Jamie Lovemark. Uihlein opened with 68, and stood two shots out of the first-round lead. He improved a stroke on day two, but lost a shot to the lead, as Adam Svensson jumped up with 64. The Canadian struggled on the weekend, finishing with 72-78 for a 22nd-place finish. Uihlein established himself on day three with another 68, one shot ahead of Jamie Lovemark, a fellow US Amateur champion. The two would match wits on day four, and the front nine would write the story.

Uihlein was clean through nine, posting four birdies and five pars. Lovemark had three birdies of his own, but stumbled with four bogeys on four other holes. As Lovemark faded, Lipsky arrived. The 2010 Big Ten champion, an amateur contemporary of Uihlein, gained a stroke on the eventual winner on the outward half. He was all pars from 10 through 14, then gained two more strokes at 15 and 16. After a fifth birdie at the 11th, Uihlein’s played the final seven holes in plus-two, bringing the final margin to four shots and making the final result closer than it appeared.

Champions Tour: Stricker secures sixth senior title at Chubb

Steven Charles Stricker can be forgiven for a dearth of Champions Tour titles over the past 24 months. As captain of the 2021 (nee 2020) USA Ryder Cup side, Stricker has played a majority of weeks on the regular tour, scouting the talent. When Covid-19 pushed the team matches a year, Stricker was compelled to extend his stay with the young-uns a bit longer. This week, the Wisconsin native logged in to the west-coast Florida stop on the experienced tour, and came away with a one-shot victory.

Fred Couples led the show for two rounds, posting 63-69. He continued his downward trend on Sunday with 71, and dropped five slots, to a tie for sixth position. Fellow super-senior Bernhard Langer started strong, with 65-68, but experienced day the last struggles of his own, and tied Couples for sixth after a 70 of his own. Sweden’s Robert Karlsson stood equal with Couples after 36 holes, and provided Stricker’s most formidable challenge on the final day.

On Sunday, Stricker found his finest form, posting five birdies against zero bogies for 67. Karlsson also signed for a quintet of birdies on Sunday, but stumbled with a pair of bogies, at the 7th and 14th holes. Those missteps flipped the two golfers’ positions, and the Mayor of Madison escaped with a one-shot win.

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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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Derek

    Apr 19, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    Georgia Tech Bulldog…. Yikes

  2. Osugolfguy

    Apr 19, 2021 at 10:17 am

    This wouldn’t be that big of an error if he hadn’t thrown it in unnecessarily. There’s no reason to call him a Bulldog, so if you’re going to do that, you better get it right

  3. GMatt

    Apr 19, 2021 at 9:01 am

    Georgia Tech Bulldog???? Perhaps these “journalists” could actually do their research and get it right…… You self respecting Yellowjacket would ever permit someone to refer to them as a Bulldog and the same definitely goes for a UGA alum would be insulted by being called a Yellowjacket….

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Tour Rundown: ‘Team Mullet’ triumphs in playoff | Henderson’s 10th

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The last full week of April saw events played from the Big Easy to Hollywood, from a Spanish island in the Atlantic to central Texas. The PGA Tour fellows teamed up in Louisiana, while the LPGA tackled a classic course built by Macbeth. The Korn Ferry Tour made a swing through the Lone Star state, where it encountered a bit of a weather delay. The European Tour moved from the mountains of Austria to the southern tip of Gran Canaria, off the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Twisting the words of Sugar Ray, All around the world putts tumble for me. Five winners stood tall in these four events (don’t forget the partner one) so let’s race around and find out what we can.

PGA Tour: Zurich Classic Decided in Playoff

The beauty of two formats in an event is simply that one competitor (or team) can excel on one given day then founder then next—and vice-versa, my friends! Look no further than the team of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, Australia’s finest. They played the final six holes of the Zurich Classic in two over par, with three bogeys, and still won the tournament. Their last bogey, at the par-three 17th, dropped them to 20 under par on the week. Fortunately for them, the South African besties (Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel) also made four at that hole, which dropped them to the same figure. When neither team made birdie at the par-5 closing hole, it was off to a playoff.

On that solitary playoff hole, the unbelievably reliable Louis Louis bailed on his swing and flared a tee ball into the water. His baby draw betrayed him, and the hole was wide open for Cameron Smith, who ensured a dry landing with a drive tugged left, into a fairway bunker. From that point on, it was up to the Smith-Leishman duo to make par, and Smith did so with a seven-foot putt. Third place went to Richy Werenski and Peter Uihlein, whose 67 surge was tied only by one team on day four.

LPGA Tour: Los Angeles Open is Henderson’s 10th Title

Not many were better than Brooke Henderson on Saturday. Just five golfers bested her final-round 67, and they did it by just one stroke. Victory number 10 on tour seemed out of reach for the Ontario native, as four strokes separated her from leader Jessica Korda. Korda had owned the front nine at Wilshire Country Club all week, playing it 2 under, 3 under, and 4 under with zero bogeys on the card. When her fourth-round card saw plus 2 at the end of nine, however, the game was on and Brooke was in it.

Who knows what vexes golfers, and equally so, what vindicates them? Why did Korda lose her grip on the LA Open after holding firm for 54 holes? What did Henderson find on Saturday, that so eluded her on Friday? Lots of questions, aye? The facts show that Henderson made six birdies against two bogeys over the final 18 holes, while Korda was able to summon just two birdies on the day, with one coming at the 18th, where she needed an ace to tie.

Henderson’s first title in two seasons certainly returned a fair amount of confidence to a game that shouldn’t need it and to a psyche that did. Korda was hoping to add a second win in 2021 to her résumé but came up short on birdies when she thought she’d never run out.

Korn Ferry Tour: Veritex Bank Championship to Coach’s Son

Two types of stories tend to stoke the adrenaline fires for the Korn Ferry Tour aficionados: young triumphs and veteran victories. The recent successes of Will Zalatoris fit in the former category. Allow Mr. Tyson Alexander to occupy the latter on this delightful Sunday evening. Alexander was a stalwart member of the UFlorida Gators team a dozen or so years back. Since then, he has honed the tools of the professional trade, learning how to win. Having a golf-successful father (his former college coach and U.S. Amateur champion, Buddy Alexander) had to be equal parts benefit and burden.

This week in Arlington, Alexander opened with 67, then improved to 65, then another 65, and finally, a 64 on Sunday. They say that if you continue to improve, good things come your way. Well, Alexander improved all the way to 23-under par, a pretty impressive tally. Over the course of the first three days, Theo Humphrey was the man in command. Much like Korda above, he appeared to have the tournament under control. Like Korda, Humphrey’s troubles began on the outward nine. Twice he followed birdie (1 and 5) with bogey; at 8 and 9, he reversed that trend, and turned in even par. In Arlington, that amounted to a two of three-shot deficit.

Birdies at 10 and 11 gave the third-round leader hope, but bogey at the 12th ended that run. Desperately needing one more birdie to join Alexander, Humphrey was all pars over the final six holes, and came second by one shot. It was two more shots to the third-place pair, Taylor Moore and Brett Drewitt.

European Tour: Gran Canaria Open Sees Fireworks and an Unlikely Winner

Three golfers posted 61s in round two at the Gran Canaria Open, yet none figured in the top three at week’s end. Last week’s runner-up was this week’s runner-up, despite opening with 63 and closing with 62. If you weren’t five under par on Friday evening, you weren’t playing on the weekend. Golf on Gran Canaria was serious business, as the Meloneras Golf layout let players know early on that birdies were the week’s currency.

Garrick Higgo was never far from the lead all week, but he somehow flew under the radar, even after opening 65-64. Attention was on Connor Syme, who improved ten shots from his opening 71, or on Thorbjorn Olesen, who stood at 126 through two rounds, or on Sam Horsfield, who also signed for 61 on day two. On day three, Syme nearly matched his 61 with 62, and he moved quite high into contention. The problem was, Higgo kept getting better. He dropped another shot with 63, and overtook Olesen on the top rung.

On Sunday, Higgo made eagle at the fourth hole for the second consecutive day, framed it with five more birdies against zero bogies, and reached a massive 25-under par. Charging hard was last week’s hard-luck, playoff-losing Max Kieffer. The German amassed seven birdies and a hole-out eagle at the 10th, but simply ran out of holes against the young South African, who gained a second European Tour title in the Canary Islands.

Hard Pan

A new feature of Tour Rundown: We take a no-holds-barred look at something that happened this week in the world of golf.

Today, we target that photo of King Tiger and his faithful hound, Bugs. Are we so golf-starved or hero-starved that we immediately begin tweeting and gramming and tiking about #TigerWoods2022MastersChampion? Have we so quickly forgotten that he might have had a little responsibility in this? Dude was on the shelf from back surgery for 2021’s playing as it was, so the shattering of the lower right leg certainly added to the list of boxes to check. Lots of other stories in golf to tout, so let’s leave Eldrick the Only to his rehab and focus our enthusiasm on other elements.

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Tour News

Zurich Classic Truck Report: Hovland testing Ping i59 Prototype irons, Xander’s Epic Speed Triple Diamond 5W

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What testing is done and what equipment adjustments are made during a team event on the PGA Tour? Well, in the long view, what we’ll see on the range at the Zurich Classic likely isn’t that much different than the goings-on of a standard week on the PGA Tour. But this week in New Orleans, our sources indicate there’s a ton of shaft testing taking place as well as some significant toolbox adjustment.

What is else is happening on the equipment front in the Big Easy? Open the Tour Truck Report folder to find out.

Ping

We spotted Viktor Hovland with prototype i59 Ping irons. While Ping is mum on the details of the new line, Ryan Barath offered some speculation here.

Kris Ventura (non-staff) is putting an i210/Blueprint combo set in play.

Scottie Scheffler (non-staff), who has been in the Ping G400 LST, is 50-50 on playing G425 this week, according to a source.

Callaway

Xander Schauffele is testing a prototype Epic Speed Triple Diamond fairway wood. Resident equipment expert Ryan Barath sees this as a possible smaller, deeper-faced, Sub Zero-esque Epic Speed variety, as he wrote here. Xander has his usual Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X (Black) shaft in the new tool.

Dylan Frittelli had an Epic Speed Max LS Triple Diamond built for testing with a 46-inch Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 60 TX shaft.

Photo via Callaway’s Johnny Wunder

Titleist

Mark Anderson tested a TSi2 15-degree fairway. Loved the easy launch, carry distance, and ball flight from both the turf and tee, according to a source.

Free-agent Jhonattan Vegas tested a TSi2 15-degree fairway.

TaylorMade

TaylorMade is calling this “wedge week” and with that in mind, a number of staffers are using some very cool custom “RAW” staff bags, highlighting the unfinished wedge options across their line. Staffers will wear “RAW” hats as well, as showcased in the second photo below.

Photo via TaylorMade

PXG

We still don’t have an official comment from PXG, the existence of “prototype” Gen4 0311 ST irons can’t be denied based on some more images we captured from the range this week.

Free agents

Rocco Mediate was spotted with a DeChambeau-esque SIK putter and LA Golf Shaft combo.

See all our photos from the Zurich Classic here.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Most interesting photos from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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This week, the PGA Tour is at the TPC Louisiana for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans—which is the one and only team event that takes place during the season. GolfWRX was on-site Tuesday to spy a glimpse into the bags of some of the world’s top golfers where the field of 160 (80 two-man teams) is getting ready to battle starting Thursday for the $7.4 million purse, with winning golfers each taking home just over $1 million dollars.

Don’t forget you can check out all our image galleries in the GolfWRX Tour Equipment forum.

Rafa Campos loves contrast

Rafa’s irons and wedges couldn’t be more contrasting. A shiny set of Mizuno’s alongside some of the most perfectly patina’d raw Vokey SM8s you will ever see.

No mistake about who this putter belongs to

Doug Ghim has one heck of a really nice Scotty Cameron 009 – in fact it’s so nice the team at Scotty Cameron stamped it the same way I write my kid’s name into her shoes that she takes to daycare.

 TaylorMade players getting a RAW deal this week

I kid. The only RAW deal going on is the fact that TaylorMade is calling this “wedge week” and with that in mind, a number of staffers are using some very cool custom staff bags.

You gotta test the product

Every week it seems like more and more players on the PGA Tour are using technology-packed putter shafts to help improve consistency. This week at the Zurich, we spotted a Scotty Cameron outfitted with an LA golf Shafts TPZ putter shaft and the tour rep was giving it a little test for feel.

Holmes is rolling with a Bettinardi

JB Holmes was spotted on the practice green as the TPC of Louisiana working on his putting with a Bettinardi mallet. Considering the event features an alternate shot format, it’s likely he was working on his pace. Nobody wants to leave their partner a long tester for par.

Something old and something new for Henrik

Henrik Stenson is mixing it up. He continues to use his tried and true Legacy black forged irons while also working with some of the newest putters from Odyssey like the below 2-ball Ten.

Kisner still working with an armlock

Although he was carrying both a conventional and armlock style putter this week, it looks like Kisner is starting to fully commit to the popular putting technique.

Hovland’s aim is on point

Little slopes make a big difference, which is why Viktor Hovland was seen working hard on his Aim-point technique using an around-the-hole drill and a digital level.

Woody Austin sure knows how to strike it

Although it has been years since he was a regular on the PGA Tour, Woody Austin still knows how to strike it! Just look at the wear pattern on his irons, and more specifically, his wedges.

Charl is looking for a flatstick

“Listen I got to go, I’m working on my putting”

Mr. Schwartzel sure knows how to swing a golf club, but on the greens is where he has recently struggled, and in New Orleans this week we spotted him testing a number of putters on the practice green.

We should note, he still has some raw Nike wedges in the bag too.

Keegan is hard at work on the putting green

The 2011 PGA Champion was on the green as using a laser alignment for what looked to be a face contact and putting path drill.

Rocco’s looking SIK

Rocca Mediate absolutely loves to tinker, and it also looks like Mr. DeChambeau is rubbing off on him based on his putter choice this week. He was spotted working with a custom SIK putter fitted with an LA Golf Shafts graphite shaft.

New Ping irons for Hovland

Viktor Hovland is bringing “gear junkie” heat this week to New Orleans. We spotted the Ping staffer with new i59 irons, along with some Glide Pro wedges that we first spotted a couple of weeks ago in Austin at the WGC.

Pop it and arm lock it

We continue to see more and more pros working on an armlock putting technique—it is certainly something that is picking up steam on tour.

PXG 0311 Gen4 ST sticking around

Although we still don’t have an official comment from PXG, the existence of “prototype” Gen 0311 ST irons can’t be denied based on some more images we captured this week.

Great bags for great causes

Both Scott Stallings and Greg Chalmers are using their biggest billboards—their staff bags, to promote great causes on tour.

For Greg, that means Maximum Chances, an organization that helps children with autism and their family’s connect to resources including financial aid, and for Scott Stallings, it’s to share the “Kids play free” program which he helped to found with the Tennessee Golf Foundation.

Billy Horschel’s got a new long iron

We spotted a new Titleist 620 CB 3-iron in the bag of Billy Horschel this week, which means there is once again fewer players than ever still using a blade 3-iron on the PGA Tour. Are blade long irons close to extinction?

 

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