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Tour Rundown: Rocket Mortgage Classic goes to Mr. Davis

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It’s an odd summer’s week when no tour disputes a major championship. After a run of Opens and PGAs, with the odd Players and Tradition thrown in, the world’s professionals breathe the sighs of meditation, before heading to Europe for more Opens and Evians. July and August will heighten the golf world’s senses once again, as an Olympic contest may finally play out. It’s a lot to handle, so let us be grateful for the Rocket Mortgages, the Volunteers of America, and the small towns like Endicott, NY. It is these events that often reveal someone with the guts and grit to go it alone, for the entirety of the competition, and sear a victory into the eternal record. With that image, we move to this week’s Tour Rundown of four compelling events, from Holland to Ireland to Texas, and from the Motor City to the birthplace of B.C.

1. Rocket Mortgage Classic goes to Mr. Davis

Joaquín Niemann and Hank Lebioda knew what they had to do as they stepped to the 13th tee. Bubba Watson had set a bar at 16-deep with his eight-under 64 on Sunday. Four groups later, Alex Noren lowered it to 17-under with a 64 of his own. How low would the bar go? Strap in and find out.

A week after that super-long, eight-hole playoff in Hartford, Detroit did its best to replicate the affair. The aforementioned Lebioda and Niemann reached -17 and -18. Trouble was, Niemann had to do so to avoid an outright loss. A few groups before, Australia’s Cam Davis had made eagle at 17 and birdie at 18, to jump from 15 deep to the top spot. He was joined by Troy Merritt, who mad birdie at 16 and 17 to reach the low number. And thus did a Chilean, an Aussie, and an Iowan head to extra holes on America’s holiday.

Niemann became a quick afterthought, bowing out with bogey at the first extra try. Merritt and Davis matched pars at 15 and 16, as well as birdies at 17, before returning to the 15th for the third time that day. On this visit, Davis had twelve feet for deuce, but missed right. Merritt stepped up with a par putt half that distance … and also missed. And like that, Cameron Davis was a winner on the PGA Tour.

2. Dubai Irish Open is Herbert’s second European Tour title

Plug the name Dubai into the tournament’s moniker and Lucas Herbert is most certain to show up in the end. Herbert’s breakthrough win on the Euro Tour, in January of 2020, happened at the eponymous Desert Classic. 18 months later, the Australian lad led from hole 1 to hole 72 at Mount Juliet in Kilkenny, claiming the Irish Open for his bookend win. Five bogeys and one double were the six blemishes on his cards this week. They were more than offset 26 birdies, including one each day at the par-five tenth hole.

Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg closed with a trio of 67s to vault from 4th to 2nd on day four. He finished second when the USA’s Johannes Veerman stumbled down the stretch. Veerman was hard at work on a three-under round and had closed to within one of the leader when they reached the 16th tee. The relative inexperience of the American showed when he closed with bogey on two of his final three holes. Herbert made birdie at 17, creating his final margin of victory, of three shots over Karlberg. Veerman came solo third at minus-15, one ahead of a quintet of chasers.

3. Volunteers of America on LPGA Tour goes to Ko

In an odd manner, it seems appropriate that Jin Young Ko was able to close the deal at the VOA in Texas. The Korean champion had opened the week with 63, and leading from start to finish is as difficult a task as there is in golf. Matilda Castren had other ideas, and seized the top spot on Friday night by one shot, after dual 66s. Ko found herself one back of the newly-minted LPGA winner from Finland. On day three, they swapped spots again, with Ko’s 66 taking the lead back from Castren’s 68. On Sunday, the pair found themselves together in a run to the podium.

Jin Young jumped ahead early, far ahead, with birdie at three of the first four holes. In quick fashion, the lead was four after four … then back to three after five, when Ko stumbled with bogey … then two after six, when Castren made birdie … then one after eight, when Castren notched another tweet. Dramatic stuff, huh?

On the back nine, things cooled down. Ko went birdie-bogey to start, then made par all the way home. Castren made five successive pars, then dropped a shot at 15. She gained one at 17, setting the stage for the exciting 18th … where both made par. Ko’s win was her eighth on tour, and first since the tour championship last December.

4. Big Green Egg Open in Holland trophy heads down under

Australia’s Stephanie Kyriacou and Sanna Nuutinen of Finland decided to make the BGE a party of two for the weekend. The pair matched 65s on Saturday, leaving little doubt that one of them would hoist the winner’s big green egg trophy on Sunday. Kyriacou struck first, turning in 33 against Nuutinen’s 35, for a two-shot advantage as they moved to the home stretch. On the inward half, Nuutinen answered with birdies at 13-15 to gain a one-shot advantage. On 16, the young Aussie said Not so fast with a splendid birdie of her own. At the penultimate hole, Kyriacou backed up her deuce at the par-three 16th with a 4 at the par-five. Nuutinen stumbled with bogey, and the islander carried a two-shot advantage to the final tee. Each made par at the last, and Kyriacou claimed her second LET win in two years.

5. Dicks Sporting Goods Open to Beckman in surprise ending

When you’re paired with Ernie Els, who has a few major titles and a boatload of other wins, not to mention Champions Tour success, you need to keep your eyes on the ground and make birdie. Cameron Beckman met just that situation on Sunday in Endicott, and followed the script to the altar. Although few would have given him odds of any length to topple Els and everyone else, especially after going winless the past decade, Beckman defied all odds.

The Minnesota native, a three-time winner on the regular tour, reached three-under par on the day after birdies at one, three, and five. He gave two back with bogie at eight and nine, but lost no ground to Els, who also went out in minus one. On the inward half, Beckman caught fire and lightning in a bottle. He birdied hole 10 through 14 to absolutely stun the tall South African. Els played the same stretch in plus-two, and with a finger snap, Beckman had gone from three in arrears to four in hand. He needed all of them. Els breathed deeply and played the final four holes at En-Joie in one-under par. Beckman swam home in plus-two, including bogey at the last after a dunked drive. Didn’t matter; the Texas Lutheran alum had his first Champions Tour win, and much to make him smile.

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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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Equipment

Rocket Mortgage Classic Tour Truck Report: T200 in the wild, Jimmy’s custom irons, Phil’s proto hybrid, proto Jaws wedge

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Detroit Golf Club, a mere 15 miles from GolfWRX HQ, plays host to this week’s PGA Tour event, the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Overall, it was a slow week as we are in the heart of the tour schedule. New product (for the most part) isn’t being released, and The Open is in two weeks — a tournament during which many players will make adjustments for the links layout they’ll face. Ultimately, it’s a “dance with the one who brung you” affair at the RMC. The notable exception is in the Titleist camp where T100 and T200 seeding began last week, and the irons are seeing rapid adoption.

Let’s check out the storylines among the craftsmen and their tools.

Titleist

Here’s a first look at the new Titleist T200 4-iron (in Charles Howell III’s bag).

Jimmy Walker’s prototype black finish T100, 620 MB irons.

Charles Howell III is putting new T100 irons in play. He loves the look and turf interaction, according to Titleist.

Rafa Campos is moving from 620 MB to new T100S irons. He likes the combination of speed and feel.

Following a range session, Troy Merritt is putting a combo set of new T200 and T100 irons in the bag.

Hank Lebioda put new T100 irons in last week (en route to his best finish — T5 — of the year). Loves the flight and workability, according to Titleist.

Mark Hubbard is seeing increased workability with a new T200 4-iron versus his previous U500 4i.

Ben An is testing new T200 4- and 5-irons.

Cam Davis is testing a new T100 3-iron.

Robert Streb is moving from a 718 TMB 4-iron to a new T100S.

Sean O’Hair has new T100 irons in play: “They look and feel like a blade and give me the confidence of a cavity back iron,” he said. O’Hair is also moving from TSi3 10-degree driver in B1 setting to TSi4 10-degree driver in A1 setting. Increased launch, lower spin, easier to draw.

Roger Sloan moving from U500 4-iron to a new T100S 4-iron.

Richy Werenski has new T100 3, 4 and 5-irons in play.

Ben Taylor is replacing his current T100 4-iron with the new model.

Mark Anderson is putting new T100 irons in play as does Tyler Duncan.

On the non-T100/200 front: Tom Hoge is moving from a TSi2 (9-degrees) driver with Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 X to TSi3 (9 degrees) with Ventus Black 6 X.

Ben Martin switched to Pro V1x Left Dash.

Callaway

Prototype Jaws wedges spotted! Callaway is mum on details.

Phil Mickelson is in a prototype hybrid, as he revealed on his Instagram. No details from Callaway other than that a few players are testing. Mickelson’s hybrid features a Fujikura Ventus Red 9 X shaft.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Phil Mickelson (@philmickelson)


Kevin Kisner, who has been in a GBB since time out of mind, is testing a Callaway Epic Max LS with a Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X shaft.

Chris Kirk had the leading edges of his irons ground down for better turf interaction.

TaylorMade

Updates to follow. Stay tuned!

Others

Russell Know is testing a Graphite Design Tour AD GP 6 X in his driver.

William McGirt is testing a Graphite Design our AD DI 6 X in his driver.

Garrick Higgo and Robert Streb are both testing Fujikura Ventus HB shafts in Titleist T200 driving irons.

Patrick Reed is testing Bang Energy as he continues his search for an early morning boost.

Check out all our photos from the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and see what GolfWRXers are saying in the forums.

 

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic

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GolfWRX is live from our backyard PGA Tour event: the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.

So far this week, we have 21 general galleries for you to digest. Plenty of action from the putting green and driving range herein!

Check out our galleries below and join the discussion in the forums.

Max Homa’s “USA” stamped wedges.

General galleries

Monday

Hideki Matsuyama dials in his putting…with a laser

Tuesday

CH3 + TSi3 + Ventus Black

Wednesday

Other

Rickie testing a Scotty without a paintfill in the heel dot?

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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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