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Tour Rundown: Korda scorches in Hotlanta for first major, English wins a playoff epic

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Golf is cruel, in the way that April is the cruelest month in “the Wasteland.” Bubba Watson stood on the 14th tee with the lead, at minus-13, this day. He finished bogey-bogey-bogey-double and dropped to a tie for 7th. Nelly Korda was riding the wave of two birdies and two eagles on the day when she stepped to the 15th tee and made a double of her own. Fortunately for her, the cruelty ended there.

It was a weekend of sadness and satisfaction; then again, which weekends on the professional golf circuits are not? Ride this wave with us as we bring the final Tour Rundown of June 2021 your way.

LPGA: Women’s PGA Championship sees a dominant performance from Nels

The aforementioned Korda had a one-shot advantage over Lizette Salas when both reached the 12th tee at the Highlands course of the Atlanta Athletic Club. Gunning for a second consecutive victory, Korda twice fired straight and true, and rolled in an eagle putt to move from 18 under to 20 under. Salas stumbled, making bogey to drop to 16 under. In essence, the tournament ended there. Salas had made consecutive birdies at the fifth and sixth holes, but that emptied the arrows from her quiver. Averaging over five birdies per round on the week, Salas’ vessel had been emptied.

Korda came to Hotlanta on a roll, having cracked the treasure chest last week in Michigan. After opening this week with 70, she posted 29 on Friday’s front nine, buoyed by six consecutive birdies. She followed that 63 with a pair of 68s, to earn her first professional major championship title. Korda lost the 2020 ANA Inspiration in a playoff and was not about to let this major opportunity slip away. Other than the 15th-hole hiccup on Sunday, Korda held the rudder steady.

PGA Tour: Traveler’s Championship goes waaaaaaaaaaaay over time

Speaking of cruelty, what could be crueler than to play eight extra holes in a playoff after completing 18 holes in regulation earlier in the day? After an unplanned marathon like the one at TPC-River Highlands, both Kramer Hickok and Harris English deserved a trophy, or at least a hug and an ice cream.

Both combatants proved themselves to be clutch performers in regulation. English made birdie at the 16th to assume the solo lead, gave it back at 17 with a bogey, then reclaimed it at 18 with another birdie. Hickok came to the last hole a stroke in arrears, fitted his approach within eight feet of the hole and drained the putt to tie English. Return to the 18th they did, then again, then 17, then 18, then 17, then 18 three more times. By that point, 2021 Travelers had tied five other events for second-longest playoff in PGA Tour history. As you can imagine, there were many saves along the way, including an eighteen-foot bomb by Hickok to extend the playoff.

On that sixth extra visit to the finishing hole, something funny happened: Harris English made birdie. After 15 pars, the Georgia native’s putt for three dropped, and the marathon reached the tape. In 2013, English won twice. Eight years later, in January of 2021, he won for a third time. Now, the tall Valdosta son has a fourth trophy on his PGA Tour shelf. As for Hickok, the sting will last until he replicates the victories that he earned on the Mackenzie and Korn Ferry tours. It shouldn’t be long.

European Tour: Hovland has a healed eye on the BMW International Open

Two things stood out over the closing holes at the BMW International Open championship this week in Munich: it felt like 2010, and the 17th hole must have been a bear. Both Martin Kaymer and Victor Dubuisson finished in the top four, although neither emerged victorious. Kaymer placed second, after jumping nine places on Sunday with a closing 64. Dubuisson made eagle at the last for 67 and solo 4th position. Between them was Spain’s Jorge Campillo, who closed with a 71 for -15, one ahead of the Frenchman and two behind the German. Ahead of them all was a lad who withdrew from last week’s US Open championship in San Diego.

Viktor Hovland suffered one of the more bizarre derailments last weekend at Torrey Pines. Sand blew into his eye while preparing for round three; he soldiered on for nine holes, but ultimately withdrew. One week later, the Norwegian Nightmare valkyried his way through the field at 19-under par. Despite a 71st hole bogey, Hovland was able to preserve his two-shot margin over Kaymer. Both Kaymer and Campillo joined Hovland on the 17th hole bogey train, effectively ending their long-shot challenges. The win was Hovland’s first on the European Tour, and the first ever by a Norwegian on the junior circuit.

PGA Tour Champions: Senior Players Championship is Stricker’s third senior major

There are many ways to win a major title. Some open strong and hold on for dear life, while others close fast and snatch victory from defeat’s mandibles. Steve Sticker and Jerry Kelly did the Wisconsin two-step yet again in a senior major event, and the 2021 Ryder Cup captain got the best of his in-state friend by six strokes. Kelly walked off the 13th green just two behind Stricker, but the worst was yet to come. He closed with four bogeys over the next five holes and dropped to just 1 under par. Kelly barely held onto second place, finishing one ahead of Fred Couples and David Toms.

After opening with a 7-under 63, Stricker essentially dared anyone to come get him. He went 68-72 in the middle rounds, allowing an opportunity to corral him. On Sunday, Stricker went out in 2-under 33, forcing the hand of every golfer in the chase pack. He made a pair of bogeys on the inward half but still claimed victory by six strokes. The Senior Players is his third unique major title after 2019 wins at the Tradition and the U.S. Open.

Korn Ferry Tour: Maine Open goes to Ramey in the nick of time

Chad Ramey might be from away, but come Sunday evening, he was happier than a clam at high tide. Ramey found a way to play error-free golf on day four as his partners faltered. He held off the chargers like Joshua Creel (64), Steve Lawton (65) and Seth Reeves (66) and won his first-ever Korn Ferry Tour event at the Live and Work in Maine Open. The tournament was played at the eponymous country club of Falmouth,  just north of Portland.

With all respect to the winner, the most interesting man outside the county this week was Creel. The lad posted 62 and 64 but also had 71 and 72. On Sunday, he tallied nine birdies, including five consecutive. He also had a pair of bogeys, else he might have eclipsed Ramey’s steady play and snuck away with the title. Also closing fast was the most interesting man of the season, Cameron Young. Young didn’t win a third title of the season, but he did tie for fifth position, further ensuring his soon-to-be PGA Tour status.

Back to Ramey. The Mississippi native was too consistent for anyone to catch, although they did their level best. Sunday was his smallest crop of birdies on the week, but it was also his only card that did not feature a bogey. Sometimes it’s not the dramatic performances that win the day, but the consistent ones.

Other Tours

Atthaya Thitikul over Nuria Iturrioz by one on the Ladies European Tour.

Trevor Werbylo over Samuel Saunders in a playoff on the Forme Tour.

Connor Godsey over Drew Nesbitt in a playoff on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica.

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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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  1. Bri

    Jun 28, 2021 at 5:16 am

    European Tour is a “Junior circuit”?! I guess Indycar and MLS are too then…

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Vote now! 2021 GolfWRX Members Choice voting is open

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The bedrock of GolfWRX.com is the community of passionate and knowledgable golfers in our forums, and we put endless trust in the opinions of our GolfWRX members — the most knowledgeable community of golfers on the internet. No other group of golfers in the world tests golf clubs as frequently or as extensively, or is armed with such in-depth information about the latest technology.

We just launched our 2021 GolfWRX Members Choice awards and the polls are now open for driver, fairway wood, and hybrid, irons, wedge, ball, rangefinder, and launch monitor.

Each category is stacked with models from every single OEM and we want to hear from you, not just with a vote but with your comments too.

Please vote in the other Members Choice categories below!

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2021 Travelers Championship

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GolfWRX is live this week under the red umbrella at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

We got an in-hand look at Titleist’s new T100, T100S, and U 505 irons as the company began tour seeding of the next generation of  T-Series wares this week.

We also got in-hand looks at Rickie Fowler’s Scotty Cameron flatsticks and Hank Lebioda and Cam Smith’s absolutely filthy looking prototype black T100 irons.

Oh, and we spotted Dustin Johnson returning to his immortal beloved (for the pro-am at least) Fujikura shaft.

Links to all our photos, below.

Special galleries

General galleries

Join the discussion in the GolfWRX forums. 

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Equipment

Inside Jon Rahm’s putter switch before U.S. Open win

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Editor’s note: We filed this piece for PGATour.com’s Equipment Report

His 18-foot, curling left-to-righter breaks toward the hole, eyes locked on its path, Jon Rahm raises his Odyssey Rossie S putter and unleashes jubilant fist pump as his ball dives into the darkness.

We’ve seen the highlight how many times in the handful of days that have passed since that putt clinched Rahm’s U.S. Open victory?

It’s hard to imagine after seeing the confidence and firm conviction the ball would roll inevitably into the hole Rahm displayed on Torrey Pines’ 17th and 18th greens, Sunday, that the world No. 1 only switched into the flatstick the tournament prior to the U.S. Open. It’s surprising, too, that the mid-mallet model he settled on was a significant departure from the gigantic rear-center of gravity, high MOI mallet he had been using for months.

So, how did we get here? How did Rahmbo look more like 2008 Sunday Tiger Woods on the 72nd at Torrey Pines and less like a golfer who was so frustrated with his putting he went back to the drawing board less than a month ago?

The week prior to the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, Rahm visited with Callaway head of tour operations Tim Reed and Odyssey rep Joe Toulon at the Ely Callaway Performance Center in Carlsbad, California, to test putters. There, Rahm was most intrigued by an Odyssey Rossie S mid-mallet putter. He remained happy with the Microhinge Star insert that had been, well, inserted into his 2-Ball Ten at the PGA Championship, so Toulon and company had the Rossie built with the Microhinge.

After evaluation on SAM PuttLab and Quintic (two putting analysis systems), it was clear the Rossie performed better than the higher-MOI, rear-CG 2-Ball Ten he had been putting with since joining Callaway’s tour staff in January. And as evidenced by his barnstorming three rounds at the Memorial Tournament and his clutch putt-filled win at the U.S. Open, the Spaniard’s putting performance was indeed elevated.

For the inside story of Rahm’s Rossie S, GolfWRX spoke with Odyssey tour rep Joe Toulon.

GolfWRX: When Rahm signed with Callaway, he was using a putter that looked very much like the Odyssey 2-Ball Ten he ultimately put in the bag. It intuitively made sense that’d be his choice, but he switched to a different putter at the Memorial. Why?

Joe Toulon: When he came into our putter studio in January, he hadn’t really been putting great. He was anxious to get into something. We had, probably, 20 putters made up for him, and the whole time, we were thinking the 2-Ball Ten with the S-neck would be the winner because it was similar to what he was using coming in.

But through that process, you have to listen to what the player is saying and how they’re saying it. He was struggling with setup and how his putter sat on the ground…and he found himself fidgeting.

In his college days, he used a 2-Ball. So the 2-Ball Ten, the way it sat on the ground for him was the reason he gravitated toward that. He felt comfortable with it…and with his path, he squared it up a little bit more and hit more putts in the center of the face.

The last thing we did with that putter was change to a White Hot insert. He’s such a feel player, and he told us that White Hot felt good at impact.

So that’s what he switched to at the Farmers Insurance Open and used through the PGA Championship.

Read the rest of the piece on PGATour.com.

*Featured image via Callaway’s Johnny Wunder

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