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Tour Rundown: McHorses for McCourses at the Wells Fargo | Thailand treated to 1-2-3 finish in Honda LPGA

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May is here in full force, with a complete slate of professional events and a biennial amateur team golf event to boot. The guy who married a girl from Rochester came through in Charlotte, while a lad named Smotherman broke through on the Korn Ferry tour. We saw a first-time major champion on the Champions Tour, and a native daughter brought honor and glory to her country. Other than that, a dull week. Let’s wrap it up and run it down in this week’s edition of #GolfWRXTourRundown.

PGA Tour: McHorses for McCourses at the Wells Fargo 

Rory McIlroy’s first PGA Tour win came at Quail Hollow. So did his 11th. And despite a 72nd-hole rinse, so did his 19th. McIlroy had been on a winless run of 18 months, stretching to the HSBC in November of 2019. Pundits and golf fans had criticized everything from his distance-chasing to the buttons on his shirts. McIlroy went as far as adding a new instructor, the renowned Pete Cowen, to his team. Finally, the work paid off, but he didn’t make it easy.

McIlroy began the final round three shots behind Keith Mitchell. The one-time PGA Tour winner failed to summon his better game on Sunday, although for just a moment, he appeared to do that. Mitchell opened with birdie, but lost two shots midway through the outward half with a pair of bogeys at five and six. He added a third bogey at 17, along with a birdie at 13. For his efforts, a third-place tie with Viktor Hovland came his way. Abraham Ancer played a fine round of golf, advancing five places into second position. Ancer never should have been a factor in the event, save for the trio of birdies he made at 15 through 17. His attempt to reach double-digits under par, from 33 feet, just missed at the final hole.

It was McIlroy who brought Ancer back into contention. The northern Irishman made up all three shots on Mitchell on the outward half, posting two-under 33. Coming home, he added birdies at 14 and 15, giving himself a comfortable lead on the home tee. And then, he pulled a Rory, or nearly did. McIlroy wisely opted for three-metal from the tee.

Knowing that water left awaited on the entire stretch of the hole, and that only water would bring a playoff into the realm of the possible, Rory pulled his tee shot into the drink. His drop, in the rough, left him 200 yards home, and he did well to land the ball safely on the green. Demonstrating considerable nerve, McIlroy took two putts from over 40 feet, and breathed a sigh of relief upon escaping with a one-shot win.

LPGA Tour: Thailand treated to 1-2-3 finish in Honda LPGA

What a week to bet the home team! Fans in Thailand were treated to a 1-2-3 finish by a trio of homebred golfers. From a legend to a new power, to a relative unknown, three countrywomen challenged for victory in Chonburi.

Patty Tavatanakit jumped out to an early lead with rounds of 64-64 through 36 holes. The newly-minted ANA Inspiration champion struggled mildly on the weekend (70-70) and finished two shots out of first place. Atthaya Thitikul also opened with 64, and remained in contention until the final hole. Thitikul stood minus-five on the day, tied for the lead, when she made bogey at 17. Unable to source a birdie on 18, she finished one ahead of Patty T. and three others, in solo second at minus-21.

Winning the day with 63, and the week with 22-under par, was Ariya Jutanugarn. Winless on the LPGA Tour since 2018, Jutanugarn made her homecoming a victorious one, capping her time on home soil with a 72nd-hole birdie. With her 4 at the last, she flipped places with Thitikul and claimed her 11th title on tour. The two-time major winner (British and US Opens) posted 9 birdies and 9 pars on day four to secure a special title.

European Tour: Higgo wins second title in Canary Islands

Right around 28 degrees north of the equator, and 16 degrees west of the prime meridian, suits Garrick Higgo just fine. The young South African completed a three-week stay in the Canary Islands in resolute fashion, finish first-eighth-first during his three weeks off the coast of Africa, earning a great deal of fairway cred and cash along the way.

It’s a fun week when your worst 18-hole score is a 66. Higgo opened with that number, making just six birdies on the day. He improved with six more on Friday, and capped the round with an eagle-three at the last, for minus-eight for the round. A paltry five birdies on Saturday were set straight by a pair of eagles, and Higgo began to pull away from the field. On Sunday, the Joburg native crushed any doubters with an ace at the seventh, to go with his six birdies. His margin of victory was six shots over Australia’s Maverick Antcliff, with Finland’s Tappio Pulkkanen an additional shot back, in the third slot.

 

Korn Ferry Tour: Simmons Bank Open is Smotherman’s first big professional win

After playing some college golf in Dallas with Bryson DeChambeau, Austin Smotherman moved out into the great open spaces of the world’s golf tours. He won in Mexico in 2018, on the PGA Latinoamérica tour. In Tennessee this week, Smotherman caught lightning in a bottle and translated it into a 16-under par performance. The California lad opened with 65, two behind the leader, Harrison Endycott. When Endycott was forced to withdraw, Smotherman locked in on the number 69 and turned in three consecutive cards at that figure.

Smotherman carried a one-shot advantage over Carl Yuan and David Skinns into the final round, and turned in two-under 34. Yuan carded five birdies on the day, and made a brief run on the back nine with three saved shots in four holes. Bogey at 16 and 17 submarined his try at the title, but a birdie at the last brought him into a tie with Paul Haley II for second position. Skinns closed in even-par 72 and finished in solo 4th position.

Walker Cup: Team USA wins a close one at Seminole

It’s hard to carry the weight of a side on your shoulders. Alex Fitzpatrick learned that this weekend in Florida. The Wake Forest stalwart from England did his level best in each of four matches over two days at storied Seminole golf club, and came out on the wrong end each time. Fellow Demon Deacon Mark Power, also on the Great Britain and Ireland side, fared much better. He was 3-0 until running into a buzzsaw named Austin Eckroat, who dispatched him by 7 & 6. Thus did the host squad escape with a 14-12 win on home soil.

Who were the heroes for the Red, White and Blue? Begin with Eckroat, who won a pair of singles matches, despite not experiencing partner combat either day. Essentially coming in cold off the bench, Eckroat dispatched Power and Angus Flanagan, giving the USA team a pair of needed points. Cole Hammer a member of the 2019 team went 3.5-0.5. Ricky Castillo, who should have been a member of that 2019 squad, earned four points, the only member of either side to achieve that accolade.

The 2021 Walker Cup will also be remembered for a stomach bug. Both Mac Meissner (USA) and Jake Bolton (GBI) came off the alternate bench for the USA, when the original partners were unable to compete during that round. Ironically, each won a point with his newfound partner.

PGA Tour Champions: first major of the season goes to Cejka

Steve Stricker knows what it’s like to win your first major title on the Champions Tour. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like to add another, and that surely means that he regrets his playoff loss to Alex Cejka at the Regions Tradition in Birmingham. It was Saturday when the two combatants proclaimed the 2021 playing to be a two-horse race, after posting 65 (Stricker) and 66 (Cejka). Robert Karlsson turned in a fine 64 on day three, but needed another on Sunday to enter the fray. He would settle for solo third place, four out of the playoff.

Through nine holes on Sunday, Stricker had opened up a three-shot advantage on Cejka. He gave two back through 13, and Cejka grabbed three more with birdies at 12 through 14. Suddenly with two strokes in hand, the German played conservatively home in par, giving Stricker an opening. The 2021 USA Ryder Cup captain made two more birdies at 16 and 18 to close the gap and send their match into extra holes.

Facing an awkward pitch from sidehill rough, Cejka lofted his third to about ten feet, just outside of Stricker’s birdie attempt. Leaving nothing to chance, he knocked the putt into the heart. When the reliable Stricker left his blade opened and missed to the right, the tournament belonged to Cejka.

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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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Morning 9: Aus. Opens canceled | More Phil on 46-inch rule | RIP Renton Laidlaw

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
October 14, 2021
Good Thursday morning, golf fans. If Titleist wants to mill me a set of 805.OS.BA irons…
1. Australian Opens canceled
AAP report…”The 2021 Australian Open and the 2022 Women’s Australian Open have been cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play havoc with international travel plans.”
  • “Golf Australia announced the tough decision on Thursday, saying it would begin planning for a return of the two Opens in the 2022-23 summer of golf.”
  • “It’s the second straight year Australia’s flagship golf tournaments have been cancelled because of coronavirus.”
2. More from Mickelson
Via the Golf Channel Digital team…”Mickelson fired off yet another tweet on Wednesday morning, this time accusing the PGA Tour of adopting a model local rule, which limits the length of driver shafts to 46 inches, through the media and without representation from the Tour’s members.”
  • “It is extremely disappointing to find out that the PGA Tour adopted the new USGA rule through the media,” Mickelson wrote. “I don’t know of any player who had any say or any kind of representation in this matter. I do know many are wondering if there’s a better way.”
  • “Mickelson’s argument, though, appears to be missing context.”
  • “The Tour, which has said it will adopt the rule when it goes into effect on Jan. 1, had already come out with a statement on Tuesday that explained that it had surveyed the usage of clubs on its three main tours and that its Player Advisory Council recently reviewed the subject and concluded that Tour would go ahead with implementing the rule.”
3. J.R.’s debut done
AP report…”The 36-year-old two-time NBA champion was literally stung by hornets while completing his round Tuesday for North Carolina A&T on the second day of Elon’s Phoenix Invitational.”
  • “To get stung on the basketball court or in an arena, never happens,” said Smith, now a freshman walk-on. “That’s one of the very few things you don’t have to worry about (in basketball) – other animals. When I got stung, I was like ‘No way.’”
  • “The hornets just added to the sting of Smith’s birdie-less round of 8-over-par 79 on the Donald Ross-designed layout. Combined with his two rounds Monday, he finished at 29 over 240 – in 81st place out 84 entries.”
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4. Dusek: Non-bifurfaction bifurcation?
Golfweek’s David Dusek…”Perhaps the USGA and R&A tipped their hand with Tuesday’s announcement and gave us a clue. The answer could be semantics. You simply don’t call it bifurcation and instead create tools to produce different playing environments for varying levels of players.”
  • “Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance, confirmed to Golfweek that the new Model Local Rule governing club length would be in place in June at the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. It will be in place at all of the USGA’s championship events, and the folks in Far Hills, New Jersey, and St. Andrews, Scotland, must love that the PGA Tour and LPGA will adopt it, too. Pagel said the USGA will go to events to educate players about the Model Local Rule and answer questions well before the USGA hosts its national championships.”
  • “However, the USGA and R&A stated that the Model Local Rule is intended to be used only at elite events. You will still be allowed to use a 47-inch driver at your local member-guest or club championship next summer. It’s bifurcation by another name.”
5. LPGA to follow 48-inch rule (bad for Brooke)
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”The LPGA told Golfweek that it also plans to implement the Model Local Rule sometime after the 2021 season, noting that officials have already talked to the small number of players affected by the change.”
  • “Brooke Henderson has used a longer driver for her entire professional career. The 10-time winner might be the only player on tour who uses a 48-inch driver, though Chief Tour Operations Officer Heather Daly-Donofrio said there may be one or two other players.”
  • “Canada’s Henderson has gripped down on her clubs, including her driver, since she started playing the game at 3 or 4 years old. Earlier this year, Henderson said she tried to “grip like a normal person” a couple of years ago and it didn’t go well.”
6. Dried out and ready
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”It’s hard to call last season a disappointment for Xander Schauffele. He won an Olympic gold medal. He played a key role for the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits. He notched seven top-5 finishes.”
  • “However, he also didn’t win an official tournament.”
  • “It’s an interesting feeling,” Schauffele said Tuesday at the CJ Cup, where he’s making his 2021-22 season debut. “I feel like I’ve had success, but then again, I missed out on a lot of things that I wanted to accomplish on the PGA Tour, so weird space that I’m in mentally. But overall, I think celebrating the Ryder Cup win with my teammates sort of got me over the edge of feeling like I failed this season.”
7. RIP, Renton Laidlaw
Via the Golf Channel Digital Team…”Renton Laidlaw, owner of one of golf’s most distinguished, trusted and recognizable voices has died at age 82. He was admitted to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Scotland on Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Scotsman.”
  • “Laidlaw covered golf for nearly 60 years as a writer, reporter and broadcaster, beginning in 1957 at the Edinburgh Evening News. He later became the “Voice of the European Tour” as the lead host for tour coverage on Golf Channel. Laidlaw’s talents reached a broader, American audience as the fledgling channel showcased European Tour events upon its inception in 1995.”
8. 57!
Our Andy Lack…”59s don’t come along too often, only 11 have been recorded in PGA Tour history. 58s are even more rare. 57s are practically unheard, but that’s what Macy Pate, a Reagan High School sophomore, recorded in the Central Piedmont 4-A Conference championships on Tuesday.”
  • “Pate’s tournament winning and record breaking performance occurred at Bermuda Run Country Club in North Carolina. Pate came out of the gates firing, with a front nine 27. Knowing she needed to shoot one-under par over her final three holes to record a 59, Pate birdied all three.”
9. When a centenarian hits into you…
Our Andy Lack…”There’s nothing worse in golf than the group ahead playing at a snail’s pace. With that being said, we do not condone hitting into them as an acceptable solution.”
  • “We may be willing to make an exception however for Hugh Brown, a 99-year-old Australian golfer, and instant hero.”
  • “On the 145-meter par 3 fifth hole of the blue nine at Indooroopilly Golf Club in Queensland, Australia, with a driver in hand, Brown recorded hole-in-one number two of his golfing career.:
  • “The shot was met with yelling from the group ahead, but it was hard to stay mad at Brown for long given that his tee-ball found the bottom of the cup”
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Tour Photo Galleries

Interesting photos from the 2021 CJ Cup (plus links to all WITB galleries)

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GolfWRX has an assortment of photos from the 2021 CJ Cup at the Summit Club, including in-hand photos of equipment, shots from the range, exclusive looks at new shafts, 19 WITBs, and more.

With the 2022 season on the horizon, players are happy to experiment — and equipment reps are happy to assist. Perhaps, most notably, we spotted Justin Thomas with prototype 621.JT and Adam Scott with proto 681.AS irons in the bag.

You can check out links to the galleries, below, before with dig into a curation of some of the most interesting shots from Summit.

GENERAL GALLERIES

WITB

SPECIAL GALLERIES

Tommy Fleetwood – WITB (more photos here)

Jucie Wedges & Irons (more photos here)

Cam Smith – WITB (more photos here)

Matt Jones – WITB (more photos here)

Gary Woodland — new putter (more photos here)

Check out all the galleries and discussion in the forums

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CJ Cup at Summit DraftKings Picks

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The PGA Tour stays in Las Vegas, Nevada, this week for the CJ Cup. This tournament was played for the first time in October 2017 at the Nine Bridges Golf Club in Jeju Island, South Korea. In 2020, the event was moved to Shadow Creek Golf Club in Las Vegas, Nevada, due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.

This year, the CJ Cup will remain in Las Vegas, albeit at a different venue, the Summit Club. The CJ Cup only features a field of 78 players, but what the event lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, as 23 of the world’s top 30 players will be in attendance this week.

Sitting in the Summerlin suburb of Las Vegas, the Summit Club is a beautiful and lush parkland layout masquerading as a desert course. The club was designed in 2017 by Tom Fazio and commissioned by the Discovery Land Company. The Summit Club plays as a stock par 72, measuring 7,459 yards on the scorecard. It draws an obvious comparison to last year’s venue, Shadow Creek. A few weeks ago at the BMW Championship, we were in a similar position. Both Caves Valley and the Summit Club are Tom Fazio courses that had previously never seen PGA Tour competition.

With that being said, we can still develop an understanding of this course based on some images and what we already know about Tom Fazio as a designer. Fazio’s PGA Tour body of work also includes Congaree, Quail Hollow (re-design), Kasumigaseki, Conway Farms, and Shadow Creek. Fazio is known for intricate bunkering and large elevated greens.

His courses tend to favor long and accurate drivers of the ball, and it is no coincidence that players such as Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, and Jason Day have experienced success on his layouts. For this reason, I will be homing in on dominant off-the-tee players and those who are comfortable in easy scoring conditions.

Let’s dig into my DraftKings picks.

$10,000 range 

Dustin Johnson, $11,300 (16.32%)

I was hoping to bet Dustin Johnson outright, but 12/1 is far too hefty of a price to pay, even for the 24-time PGA Tour winner. I’ll gladly settle for exposure to him in DraftKings. At $11,300, Johnson is the most expensive golfer on the DraftKings slate as well, but this is clearly reflected in his ownership. I have no problem paying up for Johnson as a clear pivot from Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, and Justin Thomas, who are all garnering more ownership. Lastly, I find the $6K range to be abnormally strong this week, giving us some more wiggle room at the top.

$9,000 range

Brooks Koepka, $9,700 (7.36%)

I understand that Brooks Koepka is a risky play given that he has a tendency to mentally eject from tournaments if he is not in contention, but I am expecting a massive week from the four-time major champion. For cash games, I have no problem pivoting to Louis Oosthuizen, who provides a far more reliable floor, but I will gladly take my chances on a sub-eight percent Brooks Koepka in large-scale GPP contests.

$8,000 range

Adam Scott, $8,100 (5.63%)

Adam Scott and Paul Casey sit right next to each other on the DraftKings slate, yet Casey is garnering over three times the ownership of Scott. I have no issue with Paul Casey this week, in fact, I think he is a suitable play in cash games, but is he three times more likely to outscore Adam Scott this week? That’s where I have to draw the line. While the Australian has certainly experienced his fair share of ups and downs last season, it finally feels like his game is rounding into form. The 14-time PGA Tour winner has gained over 4.5 strokes on approach in two of his last three starts. The Summit Club is also extremely forgiving off the tee, which should mask some of his recent struggles with the driver.

$7,000 range 

Sergio Garcia, $7,500 (9.11%)

There are loads of excellent pivots in the $7,000 range. I could have easily written up a 4% Justin Rose, but let’s roll with Sergio Garcia this week. The Spaniard boasts an impressive resume on Fazio designs, with a fourth and a 16th at Quail Hollow, a sixth at Caves Valley, and a 21st at Shadow Creek. As one of the best drivers of the ball in the world who also pounds greens in regulation, Garcia possesses the prototypical Fazio skill-set.

$6,000 range 

Hudson Swafford, $6,000 (1.22%)

Hudson Swafford is one of the most appealing minimum-priced players in recent memory. Over his last 36 rounds, the two-time PGA Tour winner ranks above average in opportunities gained, greens in regulation gained, driving distance, birdies or better gained, strokes gained off the tee, and sand saves. While the University of Georgia product is most certainly a poor-man’s version of some of the players I have mentioned above (Johnson, Koepka, Garcia), he does the exact same things well. It does not come as a surprise that his last two Fazio appearances have resulted in a runner-up and 17th-place finish. Swafford is an excellent salary filler that will allow fantasy managers to splurge on elite talent at the top.

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