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Tour Rundown: Hot potato Houston Open | Four-lady playoff | Phil

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The middle of November saw the first snows descend onto the lawns of our neighborhood. The flakes did not linger and were gone with the afternoon’s sun. The unraked leaves again showed their colors, and the grey skies foretold the difficulty of the coming months.

Against this backdrop, four golf tournaments drew to a close, and none resembled a foregone conclusion. Each offered its own sense of drama, and this made their viewing quite compelling. Imagine what the playing must have been! Join us as we run these events down, from the Middle East to Houston, and from Florida to Foenix Phoenix.

PGA Tour: Houston Open ends up in Kokrak’s hands after hot-potato finish

Jason Kokrak won a PGA Tour event for the first time last fall. His name was on no one’s lips this week in Houston. The probable winner ranged from Martin Trainer, who led for a round or two, to Scottie Schefler, who seemed poised to break through for a win in his home state, to Kevin Tway, who appeared poised to complete a comeback into the winner’s circle. One by one, the probables slipped away, and Kokrak was the last man standing at Memorial Park.

The magnificent muni was without its usual, fast-and-firm teeth, but it sure challenged many of the world’s best in mid-November. The low round of the week was Scheffler’s Friday 62, but that was the only day when Mem Park gave up low scores with regularity. The weekend was a survival test, and Kokrak’s 131 total eclipsed the remainder of the field. The pride of North Bay, Ontario, posted consecutive birdies from the 13th to the 16th holes, jumping ahead of the chasing pack by two shots.

Scheffler, fresh off a debut on the US Ryder Cup side earlier this fall, looked for all the world like the day’s winner until he made bogey at three of the first five holes on the back nine. Two closing birdies brought him into a tie for second with Tway, and he left town still in search of his first tour title.

LPGA: Pelican Championship decided after four-lady playoff

Her complex armamentarium finally let her down. Nelly Korda had just returned to number one in the world, had played magnificent golf for 63 holes, then came apart on Sunday’s final nine. Bogey at the 12th and triple at the 17th dropped her from the lead for the first time. And then, as if she recalled the last of her five birdies, Korda summoned something at the last, posted a sixth birdie, and joined Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko, and Sei Young Kim for an improbable, four-way overtime.

How did it all happen? Thompson seized control late but, in an all-too-familiar denouement, gave shots backs even later and dropped from -19 to -17. Ko made four birdies and zero bogeys on the day, and certainly didn’t expect to have a shot at the title. Kim, like Korda, made birdie at the last to jump from a top finish into a chance at victory. Off the foursome trudged to the 18th tee, where Korda ended things quickly.

Nelly ripped an approach into 10 feet at the watery finisher and, for the second time in forty minutes, made birdie. None of her challengers could match her, and the young Floridian had secured her fourth win of the campaign.

European Tour: Dubai Championship boosts Hansen to new heights

Joachim Hansen and Padraig Harrington have a common thing: each made a putt at the 72nd hole to qualify into this week’s World Championship. For Harrington, the birdie meant a tie for eighth position. For Hansen, the putt was much bigger. It meant a second career win on the European Tour, and a tee time on Thursday in the circuit’s biggest event. That, plus the elevation to a new echelon where multiple winners reside.

I’ve used a bit of license in that first paragraph. The putt that won the event for Hansen (see above) came about twenty minutes earlier, at the 71st hole. Faced with a climb up a tier, from the front of the green to the back, with a bit of rightward tilt, the golfer from Denmark did well to negotiate the distance, ending about seven beyond for par. His left-curving effort found the hole’s center, and preserved his one-shot advantage. With par now all that was needed at the five-shot closer, Hansen complied, edged Bernd Wiesberger and Francesco Laporta by one, and breathed. Hansen was so relieved, he left his putter and hat on the 18th green 😉

PGA Tour Champions: CSC Championship ends up in unanticipated hands

Around five o’clock, six golfers were tied for the lead at 16-under par. It was that kind of week in the Arizona desert. Darren Clarke took an early clubhouse lead at 17-under par, but he suspected it wouldn’t last. Jim Furyk, attempting to chase down Bernhard Langer for the season-long title, faltered on the inward half with bogies, when birdies were needed to overcome Clarke. Steven Alker, the New Zealander on the most unprecedented tear in the history of the senior circuit, made a run at a second victory with birdies on his final two holes, but ultimately came up one stroke shy of first position. David Toms closed with matching 65s over the weekend to catch Clarke for third spot at -17.

So who captured the last tournament of the season on Tour Champions? Was it Brandt Jobe, who shot 66 on day four? Nope. How about Paul Goydos, who tossed a nine-birdie 63 onto the scoreboard on day four? Uh-uh. It was Lefty, Phil Mickelson himself, who reminded us how many more wins he would have had in a Tiger-less world. Philly Mick signed for 65 after six birdies and 12 pars. He reached 19-under and had to be relieved that Alker ran out of holes.

As for the season-long Cup chase, Furyk had the opportunity to be the first to win the Cup on both tours, but his T5 finish bailed Bernhard Langer out. One day after beating his age (64) with a Saturday 63, Langer posted three-under, yet dropped to 17th. That number was good enough to secure his sixth CS Cup, and first in three seasons.

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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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19th Hole

‘OMG’ – Pro golfers go wild over Tiger Woods’ swing video

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If you are a fan of golf, there’s a good chance you have seen the most recent video of Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball on the range posted to his twitter account yesterday.

As ecstatic as golf fans are about seeing Tiger Woods effortlessly swing a club again, players on Tour seem to be just as fired up about Tiger’s video.

Here we’ve rounded up some of the best tweets from Woods’ fellow PGA Tour players:

The PGA Tour is in a great place, with many young superstars on the rise and interest in the game at all time high. Even still, yesterday was a reminder that nothing moves the needle in the sport of golf like Tiger Woods. If more evidence is needed, the video Woods tweeted currently has 6.8 million views in under 24 hours.

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Brooks Koepka signs with Srixon/Cleveland

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Srixon and Cleveland Golf have today announced that Brooks Koepka has joined its tour staff.

As part of the new deal, the four-time major champion will play a Srixon driver, Srixon irons, Cleveland wedges, a Srixon golf ball, as well as carry a Srixon Staff bag.

The 31-year-old began working with Srixon’s Tour Department earlier this year and played the brand’s ZX7 irons throughout the 2021 PGA Tour season.

On joining Team Srixon/Cleveland, Koepka said

“I am very excited to join my good friends Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Hideki Matsuyama as a Srixon and Cleveland Golf Tour Staff member. I’ve been an equipment free agent for the past few years, so it will be fun to be involved with a company on a daily basis and be able to contribute to the development of their future equipment.

“I put the ZX7 Irons in play in January and it is the best iron I have played on Tour. I look forward to kicking off our new partnership this week in Las Vegas!”

Speaking on the Koepka signing, Rodney McDonald, Vice President of Tour Operations at Srixon, said

“We’re extremely proud to have Brooks come on board as our newest Staff member. He’s one of the best players in the world and brings his major championship pedigree and validation to our brands. We’re excited for Brooks to join the Srixon and Cleveland Golf family and look forward to supporting him out on tour.”

Koepka will make his debut as a member of Team Srixon/Cleveland at Capital One’s The Match on November 26th against Bryson DeChambeau. 

 

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Tour Rundown: Morikawa wins twice on Sunday | Race to CME goes to JYK

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This is it. Really, this is it. This is really it. The soon-to-be-renamed European Tour is done. The PGA Tour is done. The LPGA is done. I’m done. Happy American Thanksgiving. It’s colder than the Canadian one, but a good cold breeze is bracing. It also reminds us to get inside, so that we don’t get sick, or frostbite, or some other malady. It also reminds us to be thankful for things like … shirts that don’t tear when you shoot 74 in the final round and fall from first place to another level of frustration (hypothetically speaking, of course.)

Anyhoo, anyhow, anyway, join us one last time for a running of the tours, which is much, much safer than a running of the bulls.

European Tour: Morikawa wins twice on Sunday

I remember that summer of 2019, when Collin Morikawa and two other college stars made their debuts on tour. The guy with the powerful, funky swing won right away. The other guy, the Nordic one, seemed destined to win soon enough (he would win in February of the next year.) Even though Morikawa won in 2019, pundits assessed him to be third in line to the throne. Two years have passed, and there is no line. the Iron Throne belongs to Morikawa.

The Californian from Cal-Berkeley owns two major titles, six worldwide wins, and his first Order of Merit. I’ve always liked that title. Way better than Race To The Cup or any other moniker out there. I’m bringing it back. Morikawa had a good hold on the European Tour’s season-long race, thanks to his Open title in July and his WGC last February. He came to Dubai with great focus, answering few to none of the pointed questions aimed his way. In contrast, and to his credit, Matt Fitzpatrick wasn’t giving up.

The Englishman wasn’t defiant, but he was gritty. He insisted that, as we all know, the tournament and the season were not over until the flagstick was replaced. Fitz did his part with a 66 on Sunday, moving all the way up to a tie for second with Alexander Bjôrk. At that point, sadly, Fitz was finished. He needed a win.

Who topped him? Morikawa, of course. His Sunday 66 at the Earth Course included five birdies on the inward half, when he simply decided to say By the way, I’m the best of 2021. Here’s my third win to prove it. Morikawa’s swing has zero moving parts that should not be moving. It is modern, but classic, if that is possible. If he chases zero distance over the next fifteen years, and simply plays well from tee to green, he should win five more majors and a few more Orders of Merit around the world.

LPGA: Race To CME goes to JYK

Remember last week when Nelly Korda became Rolex Rankings number one again, despite not playing? Pretty sure that’s about to change again. Jin Young Ko steamrolled the field at Tiburón in Naples. The Original JYK was nine-under on day four, breaking out of a four-way tie for the lead at dawn’s first light.

Nelly? She had 69 for T5. Celine? 68 for T3. Nasa? She gave Jin everything she could handle. Hataoka signed for 64, and her 6th-hole bogey was her only blemish on the day. She matched Ko birdie for birdie, posting nine of her own on the final day. She made up strokes on three of the final four holes. Trouble was, Young Ko did not wilt. She turned in 30 and added three more chirps on the inward half, putting things away at the 17th with her last of the day.

The title was her fifth of 2021, and her 12th overall. Ko hit 63 consecutive greens this week, and is on a runaway-train path to the LPGA Hall of Fame, and it will be a pleasure to watch her do just that.

PGA Tour:  RSM Classic crowns Gooch by a smooch

Talor Gooch knocked on a number of doors this fall, most recently the Fortinet and the CJ Cup. At both events, he finished top-five, but could not break through for the “V.” At Sea Island, Gooch went into the final round with a one-shot lead over Sebastián Múñoz. Feeling balanced, Gooch went out and bookended his opening 64 with the same closing number. He made a pair of birdies on the front, then turned on the juice and recorded four more coming home. No bogeys found his card this day.

Mackenzie Hughes, the 2016 champion at the RSM, went out in 30 to pick up three strokes on Gooch. Feeling his own brand of juice, Hughes posted four more birdies on the back nine, but also stumbled to a bogey at the par-three twelfth hole. He missed long and left, and failed to get up and down for par. When Gooch made three at the same hole, minutes later, the road to victory got easier.

Two unofficial events (Hero and QBE) will take place in December, and the Tour will return to action on January 6th, for two consecutive weeks in the Hawaiian islands.

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