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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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Photos from the 2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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GolfWRX is live this week from the Monterey Peninsula in Pebble Beach, California, for the 2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the most scenic and celebrity-filled event on the PGA Tour.

Pebble Beach Golf Links sits atop cliffs that overlook Carmel Bay, producing both breathtaking views and an imposing threat. The multi-course event is also played on Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course.

A unique inclusion in this week’s photos: celebrity WITBs from a few of the amateurs in the field (including Darius Rucker, SchoolboyQ, and Macklemore). We also have a number of WITBs from the professional contingent and a look at Buffalo Bills’ QB Josh Allen’s sticks. Also: A look at some iconic Arnold Palmer clubs (pictured in the featured image).

Check out links to all our photos below, and when you’re done, join the discussion in the forums.

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Morning 9: ANWA field | Bryson’s surgery | DP World Tour pro roasts Reed

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]

February 2, 2023

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am gets underway.

1. ANWA field announced

From the official release…”Invitations to compete in the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur were sent in January and 70 players to date have been confirmed for the Championship, which will be held March 29-April 1 in Augusta, Ga.”

  • “Each of the top 45 eligible amateurs in the final World Amateur Golf Ranking of 2022 have accepted invitations to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, including the last two champions, Tsubasa Kajitani and Anna Davis, along with top-ranked amateur Rose Zhang.”
  • “Beginning the week prior to the 87th Masters Tournament, the international field will compete across 54 holes of stroke play, with a cut to 30 players and ties taking place after 36 holes. The first two rounds will take place on the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat Golf Club on Wednesday, March 29 and Thursday, March 30. The entire field will then play Augusta National for an official practice round on Friday, March 31. The final round will take place at Augusta National on Saturday, April 1 and will feature the competitors who made the cut.”
  • “New in 2023, the first and second rounds of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur will be broadcast live on Golf Channel (1:30-3:30 p.m. ET) from Champions Retreat Golf Club. NBC Sports will produce and broadcast three hours (Noon-3 p.m. ET) of live final-round coverage of the event at Augusta National.”
  • Full field details at the link.
Full piece.

2. Bryson’s vertigo surgery

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”Bryson DeChambeau underwent surgery last month to alleviate an issue that has caused vertigo over the past few years.”

  • “DeChambeau, making his first start of the year at the Asian Tour’s Saudi International, said in a story on LIV Golf’s website that he had surgery Dec. 15 to remove a retention cyst in one of his maxillary sinuses. That cyst had restricted one of his nasal passages, leading to dizzy spells and bouts of vertigo that have plagued him since the 2020 Masters.”
  • “To get that fixed, it’s been the greatest decision of my life,” DeChambeau told the website. “My energy level is so much better. My clarity of thought is way better. I don’t know if you can tell, but my speech is a lot more fluent and I’m not stopping as much or pitching as much like I used to last year and before. I feel like I’m back to 2018 me.”
Full piece.

3. DP World Tour pro roasts Reed

(language warning!)

4. LPGA Blue Bay canceled

Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…”PGA officials announced on Tuesday that the Blue Bay LPGA has been cancelled again due to “ongoing COVID-19 related matters” in China. The tournament was originally scheduled to be played March 9-12 on Hainan Island and feature a $2.1 million purse. The last time it was played was in the fall of 2018, where Gaby Lopez won. The last time the LPGA hosted any tournament in China was October 2019.”

  • “The LPGA started its 2023 season two weeks ago in Florida with the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, won by Brooke Henderson. The next event, however, isn’t until the end of February when the tour was scheduled to begin a three-event swing in Asia. The Blue Bay LPGA was slotted as the final event of the swing, after stops in Thailand and Singapore. The first two stops are still moving forward as planned.”
Full piece.

5. Sign me up!

Dave Shedloski for Golf Digest…“It was only logical after the PGA Tour announced the WM Phoenix Open was raising its purse to $20 million, that Feb. 6, 2023 would become one of the most anticipated days in professional golf for a certain subset of players.”

  • “Monday qualifiers, the 18-hole tournaments that provide an entry into tour events, tend to be competitive shootouts that draw, on average, 60-80 players of various standing who can’t otherwise get in a field. But this coming Monday at McCormick Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., the qualifier for the WMPO at TPC Scottsdale could draw close to twice that number.”
  • “As of Tuesday, 80 players were registered to compete for the three spots available in the year’s first “designated” full-field event. That is a “significant number” compared to this juncture in previous years, according to Bill Ibrahim, chief operating officer of the Southwest PGA, which conducts the qualifier on behalf of the PGA Tour. Last year, 89 players entered the WM qualifier—in line with previous years—but only 69 teed it up and 61 posted a score.”
Full piece.

6. Justin Suh’s journey

Excellent profile from Kevin Prise at PGATour.com…”When Suh clinched his TOUR card with a runner-up finish at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank in early August, the Korn Ferry Tour social content team asked who he’d like to call first. He immediately tried his older sister Hannah.”

  • “It was an obvious choice. Suh emulated Hannah as a kid; she was also an accomplished junior golfer, and his first golf goal was flying to compete in a tournament like Hannah did. She’d take lessons, then teach Justin what she had learned. He describes her as a “vibrant soul and a magnet to people.” They remain close, taking regular trips like a recent hike at Yosemite.”
  • “An older sibling doesn’t usually want a younger sibling to be with them, but she invited me to everything,” Suh said. “I got to experience life with her, saw how she treated people, how people treated her back. It was enlightening to me, to see how far kindness goes.”
  • “In that moment of delivering the #TOURBound message, though, Suh couldn’t reach Hannah. He tried calling once, twice, a third time. No luck.”
  • “During that phone call, she was camping somewhere,” Suh said. “And I gave her a hard time, because I was like, ‘Hey, you made me look bad, because you didn’t answer the phone call when I got my PGA TOUR card.’ She was just laughing.”
Full Piece.

7. Key to Pebble? Hitting tiny targets

Ben Everill for PGATour.com…”At an average of just 3,500 square feet at the host course Pebble Beach, a premium on Greens In Regulation percentages and proximity to holes stats is evident. It’s one thing to hit the small targets, and another thing to be close enough to convert more chances than others on the poa putting surfaces.”

  • “Over the last 11 seasons, the winner at Pebble Beach has ranked inside the top 10 for GIR. It’s seemingly non-negotiable.”
  • “A year ago, Tom Hoge held off Jordan Spieth and others to claim his first win. He was fifth in the field in the final round in proximity of approach shots at 25 feet, 10 inches. The year prior champion Daniel Berger was also dynamite at Pebble in the final round as he led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach (+3.53) and proximity (20 feet, 8 inches). Berger averaged 10 feet; 7 inches-inches closer than the field in proximity on Sunday.”
  • “So, it makes sense to quickly home in on these metrics. If we look at the current season stats for players in the field this week who rank highly in GIR we see U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick (seventh on TOUR) as the high watermark. Hoge (16th) is next with Kevin Yu (24th) and Nick Hardy (25th) the only other two inside the top 25 on TOUR this season.”
Full Piece.

8. More Mickelsonia

More from S.I.’s Bob Harig’s Q&A with Phil…”What do you make of the TV deal with the CW Network?”

  • “PM: I think it’s favorable. It’s very difficult to have a relationship with a network that had a commitment to other sports and priorities. CW has a chance to cover all 14 of our events, putting us first. They have a younger demographic, which we want. They wanted to get into sports and now they have a shot at live golf. It’s a two-year deal. The first deal is not going to be a blockbuster. It’s short enough time to where we can prove ourselves and then get a much stronger and more lucrative deal. If it were a longer deal, it might be better for them and investing in our product. But having it two years sets us up for a bigger deal.”
  • “SI: Any sense on what might happen with LIV Golf getting OWGR points?”
  • “PM: There will probably be another ranking system that is a more credible system as it includes all golfers in the world. This one has lost any credibility. I wouldn’t be surprised if tournaments stopped using it as a criteria for qualifying. I think it is ultimately hurting the tournaments more than the players. If you’re a major championship and you’re using it as a qualifying factor and you’re taking a system that is not getting all the best players in the field, it hurts the tournament more. That’s why you might see tournaments go away from it as qualifying criteria. Or have a new ranking system.”
Full Piece.

9. AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am photos

  • Check out our galleries from this week’s tour stop!
Full Piece.
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Morning 9: More from Phil | Josh Allen missing Pro Bowl to play golf | Bubba on Masters dinner

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]

February 1, 2023

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, and a happy February.

For me, Ben Hogan remains the standard of golf professionalism and respect for/dedication to the game of golf. And in his retirement from playing professionally, I respect the specificity of his focus — making golf equipment of the highest quality — rather than engaging in a broad-reaching licensing and branding business (and when he did, it was to substantive things like a development tour). Just my opinion, of course, and I welcome your rebuttals in favor of Arnie, Bobby, Byron, or Jack!

1. PGA Tour to ban non-members for a year if they play ‘unauthorized’ events

Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”The PGA Tour has moved to stem the flow of players to LIV Golf even beyond its own membership with a new regulation that comes with a one-year ban.”

  • “According to the regulation, which began with the 2022-23 season, “any player who has participated in an unauthorized tournament is ineligible to compete in any event sanctioned by the PGA Tour for a period of one year.”
  • An “unauthorized tournament” is defined in the player handbook as “any golf event for which the commissioner has denied or has indicated he would deny all conflicting event releases and/or media releases or not eligible for releases because it is to be held in North America.”
Full piece.

2. Bubba on Masters dinner

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Scottie Scheffler has joked that he’ll have a “separate table” for Bubba Watson at this year’s Masters Champions Dinner.”

  • “Even if that was true, Watson says he’d have no issue.”
  • “Hey, as long as I’m in the Champions Dinner, I’m fine,” Watson said Tuesday in his pre-tournament press conference at the Saudi International. “I’ll sit wherever he tells me. It’s fine. As long as I’m allowed back, I’ll sit wherever he wants me to. I’ll sit outside and just stare in the window.”
Full piece.

3. Phil on the road ahead

A bit from (the now more restrained) Lefty’s Q&A with S.I.’s Bob Harig…

  • “SI: Do you wonder about the possibility of never playing in another PGA Tour event?”
  • “PM: If I were never to play another PGA Tour event, I’m totally at peace with it. But I believe by next year I’ll have the opportunity if I want [due to the pending litigation]. I don’t know if I’ll have the time. I’m playing 19 events and don’t know how much more. I’d actually rather scale down the number of tournaments, because I’m also in the four majors. That’s a lot of golf.”
  • “But I’m motivated and excited to get started. All of these things create new energy. Having teammates to push each other. I’m motivated, but I don’t see the benefit to playing more. The tournaments where you are going to leave a mark are the majors. That creates a life memory. If I win another Tour event, who cares? It’s not like it’s going to do anything for how I look at my career. Another major would be a unique, special moment. That’s really where I want to thrive. And sure, it would mean a lot to win some LIV events because of the role I’ve played as it’s been created.”
Full piece.

4. Rising LPGA star Linn Grant likely to miss first major of season due to U.S. vaccine travel restrictions

Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…“Linn Grant will begin her 2023 season in Morocco next week on the Ladies European Tour. One of the most promising young players in the game, Grant was forced to play a limited LPGA schedule last year because U.S. travel restrictions won’t let her in the country as she is not vaccinated against COVID-19.”

  • “Grant, who is currently No. 28 in the Rolex Rankings, will be able to compete in the LPGA’s upcoming Asian swing, but her agent, Pelle Krüger said they’re not optimistic that she’ll be able to compete in the year’s first major, the Chevron Championship.”
Full piece.

5. Fitzpatrick joins TGL

Reuters report…”U.S. Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick has agreed to participate in the tech-focused golf league that is being launched next year by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s TMRW Sports in conjunction with the PGA Tour, the company said on Tuesday.”

  • “World number 10 Fitzpatrick is the seventh player to commit to competing in TGL’s inaugural season along with fellow major winners Woods, McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott and Collin Morikawa.”
Full piece.

6. Homa celebrates Farmers win by cleaning up at Papago Skins

7. Why Josh Allen is missing the Pro Bowl

Nick Wojton for Bills Wire…“Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is hitting the links at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament rather than playing in the National Football League’s Pro Bowl.”

  • “The Bills QB was announced as one of the guests invited to the PGA Tour event this week. It will take place from Feb. 2-5 in California.”
  • “Allen is no stranger to the event, having taken part in it in 2022.”
Full Piece.

8. Cam Smith on OWGR situation

Elliott Heath for Golf Monthly…”Cameron Smith makes his first start of 2023 at the Asian Tour’s flagship event in Saudi Arabia this week, with the 150th Open champion entering the tournament as World No.4.”

  • Asked about how he feels about his OWGR slide, Smith said it “hurts” and also claimed the rankings were becoming more “obsolete.”
  • “I mean, I’ve tried to take it not that badly, to be honest,” he said at this week’s Saudi International. “I think when you rock up to a tournament, you know who you have to beat, whether there’s a World Ranking or not. There’s generally seven or eight guys that are in that field that you know are going to put up a pretty good fight.
  • “For sure it hurts. I feel as though I was really close to getting to No.1, and that was definitely something I wanted to tick off, but kind of the longer that this stuff goes on, I think the more obsolete those rankings become.
  • “That’s just the long and short of it, I think. Do we need them? It would be nice, but like I said, you know who you’ve got to beat when you get on the golf course.”
Full Piece.

9. AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am photos

  • Check out our galleries from this week’s tour stop!
Full Piece.
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