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Tour Rundown: Higgo crosses pond to claim initial PGA Tour title, Castren latest to claim first LPGA win

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This particular weekend was unique, sandwiched between two U.S. Open championships, and it was filled with events. There was much newness across the tournament board as the PGA Tour visited a new venue in South Carolina. The European Tour matched women and men in one event in Sweden, and the Forme Tour held its final qualifying school in anticipation of its season opener in two weeks.

June is a popular month for weddings, so the something new is, well, nothing new. On those notes, let’s track down what we know and what we learned in this week’s Tour Rundown on GolfWRX.

PGA Tour: Higgo crosses pond to claim initial Tour title

Last week, we watched helplessly as Lexi Thompson gave up a lead in her stretch run at the U.S. Women’s Open. This week, we had more of the same at the inaugural Palmetto Championship. Chesson Hadley came back in the morning for two shots in his delayed third round but took three. After hitting a marvelous approach into the last, he missed a wee birdie attempt and signed for par. Ominous? Sure, if you believe in portends and things of that ilk.

Hadley began the fourth round with a four-shot advantage, but the day’s play was never consistent for him. Two bogeys and a birdie had him out in plus one, and another bogey at 10 took him higher. He rebounded two holes later with birdie at twelve and, had he remained at that figure, would have won his first Tour event since 2014. Instead, golf scratched at him slowly and painfully. Hadley approached poorly to each of the final three greens, missed them all, and recovered not once. His three lost strokes brought him back to minus-10, tied with five others for second position.

In the winner’s circle, courtesy of a closing 68, was 22-year-old Garrick Higgo of South Africa. His score wasn’t the lowest on the day; that number came from Ryan Armour and Will Gordon, both shooting 64 to shoot into the top 15. What Higgo did was hold the rudder steady. He, Doc Redman, and Tyrrell Hatton were the only leaders to not make a bogey down the stretch. Fortunately for Higgo, he had one more stroke to spare at the end and emerged victorious. Countryman Wilco Nienaber might have garnered attention early on with his prodigious drives, but in the end, it was Higgo. How unlikely? No media footage on the PGA Tour Twitter feed of the lad!

European Tour: Caldwell edges Otaegui and Hewson in Sweden 

The hands-down winner for best format goes to the Scandinavian Mixed Hosted by Henrik and Annika. There may have been an ampersand in there, but we didn’t want to risk it. The two Swedish greats teamed up to host a creative event that pitted women and men at the Vallda Club in Gothenburg. Sam Horsfield of England and Christine Wolf of Austria jumped out to the opening-round lead at 64, intimating that players from both tours would contend in the event. Unfortunately for Sam and Christine, it would not be them. Wolf went 72-73-74 for a t37 finish, while Horsfield followed his 64 with 74-72-71 for a t25 placing.

On day four, Australia’s Jason Scrivener jumped up to the lead, then closed with a bogey and two doubles in his final eight holes, for a T7 result. Adrian Otaegui of Spain was excruciatingly close all day, until bogey at the last dropped him out of the lead. He finished at -16, in solo second. Alice Hewson began day four in a tie for first, but rode a front-nine 3-3-3 of pars-bogies-birdies out of the top spot. She snapped around and closed with a back-nine 33 to finish at -15, two shots out of a playoff, in third alone.

The week’s honors went to Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell. The 37-year old stood eight-under on the day, in first spot, through 14 holes. Deciding to add to the day’s drama, he finished bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie, with his three at the last gaining two shots on Otaegui, propelling him to a career-first win on the European Tour. Prior to this week, the lad from Bangor had not finished higher than fifth in his career.

LPGA: Castren latest to claim first title

Celine Boutier posted an early 64 on Sunday at Lake Merced, and jumped up 34 spots in the standings as a result. Her electric performance served notice that mid-60s rounds were available to those who dared to risk all. Matilda Castren of Finland took notice, and torched the front nine in 30 strokes, thanks to four birdies and an eagle. When it seemed that the young Fin would run away from pursuers, she settled into an eight-par stretch, allowing overnight leader Min Lee an opportunity to give chase.

Lee had turned in one-under 35, but birdies at 10 and 15 brought her within one slice of Castren. On the 17th hole, a tricky par three, Lee faltered with bogey. Although she made birdie at the last to post 69, Castren was able to match that score at 18, and finish off a stellar 65. The win moved Castren inside the top 25 in the Race to CME Globe season-long chase. A bit down the money list, but of no less importance, Lydia Ko assumed the top spot in the season-long race for the first time in five seasons. With her win, Castren became the #FirstFinLPGA champion in history.

Korn Ferry Tour: Pereira by four at the BMW Charity Pro-Am

Interstate 85 runs past Greer, South Carolina, home to BMW in the USA. There’s no test track on site at the plant, but if you listen closely, you hear engines roar down 85, past Greenville. On Sunday, a Chilean import driving a Pereira raced past 54-hole leader Justin Lower, on his way to a four-shot victory.

Pereira tallied nine birdies on the day, enough to offset his two bogies. Lower was stuck somewhere between neutral and park, and did well to count even-par 71 on Sunday. That number was enough to keep him in solo second position, but he was helpless to stop the South American’s acceleration. The 64 wasn’t even the low round of the week for the man from the thin land, as he signed for 63 on Friday. As they (or I) say, a 64 on Sunday is equal to a 60 on Thursday. Doesn’t account for Friday, but who cares?

The victory was Pereira’s second in a row (shades of Cameron Young!) and will vault the 26-year old into the top spot of The 25, if only for a time. Why? BMW was his third victory of the 2020-2021 extended season, and triggered an instant promotion to the PGA Tour.

 

PGA Champions: Kelly storms back to edge Jiménez

The unfortunate part of senior tours is the window of winning opportunities. We grow accustomed to names atop the leader board, but Father Time eventually catches them all. For two days this week, Miguel Angel Jiménez shouldered the lead at the American Family Insurance Championship. On day three, homestate hero Jerry Kelly rode a horse called 66 into town, and galloped off with the sheriff’s badge.

Jiménez played fine golf on Sunday in Madison. His card was clean, with three birdies for 69. His problem was the 11-hole string of par, from seven through seventeen. Birdie at the last elevated him from a tie for third, to a tie for second with Fred Couples, but did no more to add to his Rioja cellar. The day belonged to Kelly, although the first hole might disagree.

The lad from Madison, began with bogey at the first, courtesy of never seeing the fairway between tee and green. He settled in to seven birdies over the next seventeen holes, with the final one arriving at the 16th hole. By then, he had eased past the Spaniard into first place. Pars at the final two holes ensured his seventh win on Tour Champions. Couples had a putt at the last to force extra holes, but it stayed on the high side.

 

Forme Tour: Davison by two over Du Toit in final Q-School

We might jump the gun with this one, but it’s worth alerting readers to the imminent arrival of the Forme Tour. Billed as the stateside counterpart to the Mackenzie Tour, the Forme Tour will serve as competition ground for PGA Tour Canada players who are unable to cross the USA-Canada border, currently closed to non-essential workers. Seven qualifying schools were held at eastern and western USA sites. Eight events will be held from June through September, culminating in a tour championship in New Jersey.

This week, at The Home Course near Tacoma, Washington, Callum Davison and Jared Du Toit battled throughout the entire, 72-hole event. Each golfer birdied hole 70, and Davison followed up with another at hole 71, to reach 13-under par. Du Toit stumbled with a bogey to drop back to minus-eleven. Both made par at the final hole, with Davison claiming medalist honors. Both golfers will compete in two weeks in Georgia, at the Forme Tour’s first official event.

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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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Five things we learned: Thursday at the British Open

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Morning coffee with the Royal and Ancient returned on this morrow with the 149th playing of the Open Championship. When last we saw Royal St. George’s, we welcomed one of the most favorable tournament resolutions of this generation: the coronation of Darren Clarke.

Prior to that, in 2003, the the course greeted the most unlikely winner in Ben Curtis, after Thomas Bjorn gave away late a two-shot advantage. To summarize, we might witness a complete dark horse drink from the Claret jug on Sunday, or we might see a favorite son finally break through. In each player’s case, the Open at RSG was his only major title. Today, however, tells us nothing more than the 18-hole leader, so let’s have a look at five things that we learned on Thursday at the Open Championship.

1. The putting at RSG is the thing

One thing that might go unnoticed is the points at which putts begin to break on these beguiling putting surfaces. One minute, a putt turns left two inches off the clubface, confusing the golfer beyond words. At a second, the evaluation suggests a trace a full 1.5 cups less than needed. As considered by an English journalist “Some of the undulating slopes on the greens and fairways feel more like a creation of Zaha Hadid than that of Dr Laidlow (sic) Purves in 1887.” Laidlaw Purves, much like Henry Fownes at Oakmont, designed precisely one course in his lifetime, and it is this one. There are no other Purves putting surfaces with which to compare his work in Kent. Thus, find the caddie with the best eyes for greens, and hold on to that looper for the week.

2. Put Shane in the … and he’ll make magic

One of my regular playing partners is known wide and far as The Scrambler. It’s an affliction, more than a compliment. The lad simply loves recovery shots. Give him a flat, fairway lie and lord knows how bad he’ll play it. Place his ball in spots favored by the world’s devils and he’ll seize the moment for glory. On Thursday, Shane Lowry hit some brilliant shots from the thick stuff. As defending Champion Golfer of the Year, his work merits some attention today. Lowry made two birdies from healthy grama, but could not avoid bogey at the last for 71 and much ground to make up to defend his title.

3. Our man Louis

The 2010 Champion Golfer of the Year has been the top major-event competitor of 2021. Oosthuizen has a pair of runner-up finishes in the past two months, at both Kiawah Island and Torrey Pines. He certainly played well enough to win each, but some other golfer found a way to play better. Perhaps if Louis had attended Arizona State University (school of the two golfers that defeated him) he might have another major or two. Enough with the daydreams; on to the performance. Louis Oosthuizen played 18 holes at RSG with no bogey on his card. Staring bogey in the face at the last, he smartly pitched out of the left fairway bunker, hit a full wedge to the back shelf, and deftly holed the putt for par. His 6-under tally had him one ahead of USA compatriots Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman at the close of the morning session.

4. Webb and Heb lead PM posse

The afternoon wave of golfers dealt with good weather and slowing greens, and Webb Simpson and Ben Hebert were the cream of that crop. The American parlayed five birdies against one bogey (on a par five, no less!) in hiss 66, while the Frenchman turned in a clean card. Hebert had two birdies on each half, and a passel of pars to sit two behind Louis Oosthuizen, in a tie for fourth with Simpson and three others. In many an Open championship week, either round one or round two features a morning or afternoon wave of unrelenting atmospheric influence. Ardent supporters of the vagaries of links golf, simply shrug their shoulders when weather impacts half the field. Precious little time remains to make up for Mother Nature’s inconsistencies, making it a shame for half the field to suffer a fate not felt by the other 80-odd golfers.

As mentioned earlier, a pair of American golfers sit one behind first-round leader Oosthuizedn. Jordan Spieth ran consecutive birdies from the fifth through the eighth, then added two more late in the round, after making bogey at the third early on. Brian Harman notched birdie at four of his opening five holes, then fell back with two bogeys around the turn. The Georgia resident regrouped and had birdie coming home at 13 and 18 to match Spieth’s 65.

5. Those penal bunkers

We would be remiss if we did failed to mention the reveted bunkers that make Sandwich such a demanding layout. The sandy declivities are pot bunkers in the horrific sense of the feature, but their lofty faces preclude a full recovery to the green. Most golfers accept the punishment that their errant tee balls meted out, and pitch partway home. Day one saw a number of golfers loft a third shot close enough to the hole to save par. When a golfer tried for too much, as US Open champion Jon Rahm did below, things turned against the player. As golfers march through the coming 54 holes, it will be interesting to watch and see if anyone is able to reach the putting surface from a fairway basement, and precisely how much pressure was on the shot’s execution.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2021 Barbasol Championship

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GolfWRX was live on site at the Barbasol Championship in Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

We have 13 general galleries for you to peruse as well as in-hand photos of the new Callaway Jaws Full Face wedges and more.

General galleries

Tuesday

Wednesday

Special galleries

 

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Tour Rundown: Scottish Open means 2 for Min Woo, John Deere Classic in the glove

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The places in the world where professional golf was played this week were ones impacted by rain. Both the Scottish Open, and USGA Senior Open suffered rain delays, and golfers at the John Deere Classic broke out the wellies on Sunday as well. No event suffered greater impact than the LPGA’s Marathon  Classic, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

Our thoughts are with those in British Columbia and other parts of the world, where wildfires continue to threaten wilderness and human lives. With awareness of golf’s good fortune, help us to run down this week’s results in Tour Rundown.

European Tour: Scottish Open means two for Min Woo

Min Woo Lee and his sister, Minjee Lee, would make a killer team in pretty much any competition. In February of 2020, Min Woo won his first European Tour event, the co-sanctioned Vic Open in his home country of Australia. That title brought him closer to his sister’s tally of five LPGA titles, but his latest effort might be the family’s biggest trophy yet. Min Woo survived a three-man playoff at the Renaissance Club and hoisted the Scottish Open trophy as winner of that ancient event.

Min Woo began the final day in fifth place, chasing co-leaders Thomas Detry of Belgium and Matt Fitzpatrick of England. There were many other names in the mix: Rahm, Poulter, and Thomas, to name just three. They took attention away from the other pursuers, and that allowed someone to make six consecutive birdies and post an outward 30. That someone was Min Woo Lee. Beginning at the third hole, he chipped stroke after stroke away from the lead, until a par at the ninth halted his streak. He and the field endured a weather delay, and Min Woo added one more birdie, at the par-5 16th. That stroke saver allowed him to eliminate clubhouse leader Ian Poulter, who had posted 17-under 267. Joining that Englishman a shot out of the lead were the USA’s Ryan Palmer and last week’s Irish Open champion, Lucas Herbert.

After Min Woo, both Fitzpatrick and Detry made birdie at the same 16th hole, making the playoff a three-golfer affair. Off they trudged to the 18th hole, where Min Woo made quick work of overtime. He nursed his approach shot inside of fifteen feet. When his opponents failed to make birdie, Lee stepped up and stroked the putt home. The win gave Min Woo a spot in next week’s Open Championship. Also qualifying were Detry and Jack Senior, who led this week after round one, and ultimately tied for 10th.

Champions Tour: USGA Senior Open finds a home with Furyk

There was a time, when Jim Furyk stood minus 5, when Mike Weir, Retief Goosen, and the rest of the pack had a chance. There was a time, after Furyk’s par-bogey-double start to round four, when fans and broadcasters alike wondered if the octopus falling from a tree could close the deal. He was the 2003 U.S. Open champion, at a similar, midwestern track. He was also the guy who didn’t always close the deal, so the pundits and patrons had to scratch their heads.

No one charged. Weir tried, but every time he made a birdie or an eagle, he followed it with a bogey. He had three of those on the day, and those three cost him a tie. As for Goosen, let’s just say that Pinehurst 2005 still wakes him at night in cold sweats. He also had three bogeys on the day, needed zero, and tied with Weir for second.

Furyk simply remembered how he had played on Friday and Saturday, how he had amassed 11 birdies against one bogey, to jump waaaay ahead of everyone else. No, it didn’t help that his playing partner (Stephen Ames) was tripping his way to 75 and T-8. Furyk played two-under par golf from the four tee on, and those numbers typically win USGA events. After winning his first two Champions Tour starts, Furyk has been off the podium ever since. Good to see him back.

PGA Tour: John Deere Classic in the glove

Lucas Glover won his first tournament in 2005 at the Magic Kingdom. That event no longer exists on the PGA Tour, but the magic didn’t stop there for the South Carolina native. He climbed the peak of professional golf in 2009, winning the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. In 2011, Glover won a third tour title north of the border in Charlotte in a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship. And that’s where the story ended, for a time.

Glover had dealt with slumps and injuries before, but the ensuing decade would cast more of each in his path. This week, the tide turned in his favor. Glover opened with 68-63, positioning himself favorably for the weekend. Saturday struggles included three bogeys on an inward half of 1 over, and he began Sunday in 12th position, four shots behind third-round leader Sebastián Muñoz of Colombia. Glover went out in minus 3 on day four, then stumbled at the 11th with bogey. With the snap of a finger, he not only righted the ship, but seized control of the tournament.

Glover ran the table with consecutive birdies at 12 through 15. He added one more at the 17th, and made a sand save at 18 to finish at 19-under par. His goal that morning? 20 deep, so he had to endure an hour of final-green finishes before he could acknowledge that he was now in possession of his fourth tour title. After him came plenty of 67s and 68s, but they weren’t close enough to matter. Muñoz closed with even-par 71 to tie for the fourth spot. Finishing as co-runners up were Ryan Moore and Kevin Na, at 17 under par.

LPGA: Marathon Classic ends in victory for Hataoka

The story of 2021 in Sylvania, Ohio, should be the other-worldly play of Nasa Hataoka. The young champion from Japan, three times a winner already on the LPGA circuit, opened with a 61 to seize control of the tournament. On Thursday, Nataoka posted five birdie on each nine, including four consecutive to close her round. She followed with 69 and 64 and held a six-shot advantage as day four dawned. It would certainly be difficult for anyone to track her down but, as pursuer Esther Henseleit stated, We all know golf. The one challenger that no one anticipated would help quite so much, was Mother Nature herself.

Writing from western Ohio, this scribe experienced precisely what the LPGA competitors felt in Toledo, just north of where I’ve encamped this weekend. Rainclouds came through overnight, filling an already-saturated course to its limit. Play began at seven a.m., but ground to a halt as more drops descended. According to Donna Mummert, senior manager of rules and competition, the one-two punch of greens and fairways was too much for the grounds crew to overcome. With more rain forecast for the coming hours, no respite was in site. The Tour made the anguishing decision to cancel Sunday’s round, making Hataoka a four-time LPGA champion. Finishing in a tie for second were Elizabeth Szokol and Mina Harigae. The aforementioned Henseleit ended in solo fourth position.

Korn Ferry Tour: TPC Colorado Championship to TTR in Overtime

The TPCCC might be on to something when it comes to overtime play. Forget the galleries, forget the closer, just find your nearest par-3 hole and let them bang heads until someone comes out a winner. Your honor, as exhibit A, we present the first playing of the par-three 16th hole at TPC Colorado. With three fellers in the mix, both Tag Ridings and David Skinns made a deuce. Kevin Yu wasn’t so fortunate, and away he went. Back to the tee they marched, and Ridings made par to Skinns bogey, and thus you had yourself a champion in Taggart Twain Ridings the Only.

With all the talk of Lucas Glover’s 10-year hiatus from the winner’s circle, let’s recognize that it has been nigh on 19 years since Tag Ridings ascended the podium. That would have been in 2002, at the Permian Basin Open on the then-Buy.Com Tour (since Nationwide, since Web.Com, now Korn Ferry). In order to get here, third-round leaders Tyson Alexander and Taylor Moore had to falter, and they did. Tag had to run four consecutive birdies on the front nine (he did) and hold on for dear life on the second half (he also did.) Most importantly, Yu had to make bogey at the last, to let Ridings and Skinns in (he did just that) and then…playoff.

 

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