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Tour Rundown: Tournament of Champions

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As the rime traces its stencil across my window, I imagine that the warmth and trade winds of the Hawaiian islands must feel nice this time of year. Knowing that the island of Maui is poised to welcome the previous campaign’s title holders, is enough for me to reduce any falling snow to a mild case of dandruff. 38 golfers began play at Kapalua, known to be both brilliantly routed and scorable. With an interesting par of 73, due to a supply-chain shortage on par-3 holes, Kapalua offers excitement from tee one to green the last. Welcome to the PGA Tour 2022, and welcome back to Tour Rundown on GolfWRX.

*One last thing. I saw Hamilton for the first time during the holidays, so forgive my constant references to appropriate verses from the show.

Thursday: History has its eyes on you

Yes, you, Patrick Cantlay. And you, Jon Rahm. And you, Brooks Koepka. And especially you, Mullet Man. Everyone’s favorite lettuce shot to the top of the leader board on day one, with an eight-under par effort of 65. Australia’s Cameron Smith took our attention away from his home country’s immigration saga with Novax Djokovic for all of Thursday. His work on the outward half was strong, despite standing at +1 after two holes. A birdie 3 at the third chewed the carbon off the spark plug, and an eagle 3 at the fifth fully ignited the valves. One more birdie at the par-5 ninth turned the Aussie in minus three.

On the inward half, Smith was blah-brilliant-blah. Pars at 10 through 12 and 17-18 would have you estimate his back-nine tally at two or three under. Try five deep on for size. Birdies at 13, 14, and 16 were joined by his second eagle of the day, also at a par five. Quixotically, Smith made par on arguably the easiest long hole of them all, the 18th. Alas, nine-under was not to be, but the effort gave him a one-shot advantage headed toward Friday.

Chasing Smith are the aforementioned Cantlay, Rahm, and Daniel Berger. Each posted 66 on the day. One shot farther distant is the under-heralded trio of Erik van Rooyen, Kevin Na, and Sungjae Im. Day two promises baskets of birdies, and at least 10 eagles (my prediction.) Let’s go!

Friday: Wait for it

When he was young, our son Anthony played fullback in soccer. He would purposely allow the attacker to get past him, just for the thrill of chasing the poor guy down with superior speed. I had a sense of deja vu on Friday when Cameron Smith, he of the one-shot lead through 18, began with bogey-bogey in round two. From that point on, the Aussie chased down those who had eclipsed him, regaining the lead at nightfall. Smith played 11-under golf through the final 16 holes of his round, posting one eagle (hole #5 for the second consecutive day) and nine birdies, including the last four holes. His round of 64 was a shot improvement over day one, and secured a three-shot advantage, heading into the weekend.

Imagine how Daniel Berger felt. He posted 7 under while paired with Smith and lost two shots worth of ground. Imagine how Jon Rahm felt. He outdueled his partner, Patrick Cantlay, by one shot, and signed a scorecard for a second consecutive 66 and also lost ground. Smith was too good for a second consecutive day. On Saturday, Rahm will dance with Smith, while Cantlay will partner Berger. Nothing suggests that any of the four will go away, so it might take a 63 from someone to establish control headed into Sunday’s final round.

Saturday: Not throwing away my shot

For the first time in 48 hours, Cameron Smith does not hold the solo lead at Kapalua. In an event where shooting five-under par loses you six positions, one expects a mid-60s round from the leader. Smith did not disappoint, posting a second-consecutive round of 64, to reach 26-under par through 54 holes. The only trouble for Smith came from things out of his control. Blame Matt Jones, who got things started with a 10-under 62, jumping him up to a tie for 4th position. Blame Justin Thomas, who bested Jones by one and set a course record with his 61. Thomas won’t win (74 on Thursday took care of that ) but he won’t go away.

Most importantly, blame Jon Rahm. The only US Open champion from Spain matched Thomas’ course record with a 61 of his own. He made up three shots on Smith on day three, and joined the Aussie on the top rung of the ladder (it’s a wide ladder.) The Iberian actually made a bogey in his record-setting round, on the 4th hole. His four-birdie, one-eagle finish over the closing five holes made up for that stumble, and cast him as the favorite heading into Sunday.

As for Smith, he’ll have to climb to another echelon to dispatch the great Basque on day four. Smith has the game, but he’ll need that intangible, inexplicable something that elevates only a select few to the rank of closer. Smith didn’t throw away his shot, nor did Rahm, and that’s why this is now a two-man tournament.

Sunday: One last time

65-64-64-65. Simply symmetrical. As symmetrical as the mullet and the 70s ‘stache are unkempt. You know where I’m going with this line of thinking. so hats off to Cameron Smith, the first qualifier for the 2023 Tournament of Champions. Smith and Jon Rahm went head to head and toe to toe for one last time this week. Rahm didn’t need a reprise of his Saturday 61; a 64 would have won the tournament for the burly Basque. There was a 61 lurking at Kapalua on Sunday, and it almost stole the show. I’m getting ahead of myself, so whoa, Nelly (not Korda.)

Cameron Smith birdied four holes on each side of the Coore and Crenshaw 18 at Kapalua. For the second consecutive day, he made zero bogeys. That’s hard to beat, but it can be done. Matt Jones nearly did it on Sunday, but he ran out of holes. Jones had 62 on Saturday AND IMPROVED on Sunday to 61. He had two eagles in the space of three holes on the inward half, tied the course record, and moved all the way from 4th to … 3rd. OK, that last bit doesn’t sound so impressive, but when you consider that he made up four shots on the leader and came from the B flight to challenge for the club championship, it does.

Rahm? Hard to follow up a course record with another low round. The defending US Open champion had his chances, but a meh outward nine of minus-two put him in a must-challenge situation. Rahm had five birdies on the back nine, but needed six or seven to have a chance. Still, last pairing for both weekend rounds and a just-miss is a solid opener for Rahm. And Smith? Well, he did what he hadn’t previously done: hold a lead for a long, long time, and hold off a major champion. Don’t be surprised if you see the Mullet King hoist a few more trophies this season.

  • Featured image via PGATour.com on Twitter. 
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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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. chris

    Jan 10, 2022 at 10:16 am

    „The Mullet King“
    That is premium :-))

  2. Don

    Jan 9, 2022 at 10:14 pm

    Good for you, Cam. Now keep your mouth shut about the USA.

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Morning 9: Tour player Netflix docuseries coming | DP World Tour x PGA Tour of Australasia | Cam’s Cameron

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By Ben Alberstadt
For comments—or if you’re looking for a fourth—email me at [email protected].
January 13, 2022
1. Tour player Netflix docuseries
Our Matt Vincenzi…”The streaming service giant, Netflix has revealed its plans for a docuseries profiling some of the biggest names on the PGA TOUR.”
  • “Netflix recently had a great deal of success with a similar show following Formula 1 racing titled, Drive to Survive. It seems they are going down a similar path with the upcoming golf series.”
  • “The cast announced for the show has no shortage of superstars and includes: Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, and many other big names.”
  • “A PGA Tour spokesperson said that the organization had been intrigued by “all-access” documentaries for several years, including Formula 1’s Drive to Survive, the NFL’s Hard Knocks and ESPN’s Last Dance but “had not found the right combination of production partners, players, and a distribution partner until now.”
  • “Filming quietly began a few months ago, with a handful of golfers sitting down for interviews to get the process started.”
2. DP World Tour x PGA Tour of Australasia
AP report…”The DP World Tour – formerly known as the European Tour – strengthened its links with the PGA Tour of Australasia by announcing on Wednesday an extension of their partnership through 2026.”
  • “The deal will provide members of the Australasian tour more opportunities, such as two additional cards and further exemptions to compete on the rebranded World Tour, as well as an increase in prize money for some tournaments.”
  • “The World Tour also has partnerships with the PGA Tour and South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, strengthening its position amid looming competition from a Saudi-backed company – fronted by Greg Norman – which has put $200 million into 10 new tournaments on the Asian Tour.”
3. Gina Kim turns pro
Joel Beall for Golf Digest…”One of the best amateurs in women’s golf is ready to make the leap.”
  • “After securing playing status at the LPGA Q Series last month, Gina Kim has decided to forgo her senior spring season at Duke University and turn pro.”
  • “Kim, 21, helped lead the Blue Devils to a national championship in 2019 and was a two-time All-American. In 2021 she captured both the ACC Women’s Golf Championship and the North and South Women’s Amateur. Kim appeared for the Americans in last August’s Curtis Cup, which the United States won for the first time on foreign soil since 2008.”
4. Wie West
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…”Michelle Wie West has committed to playing the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, beginning January 20th, Golfweek first reported. When she tees it up at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fla., it will be her first round on the LPGA Tour since June 2021, when she finished T-46 in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.”
  • “Wie West played six events in 2021, missing the cut in four of them. Her first event in 2021 was the Kia Classic; at that point, she hadn’t competed on tour in nearly two years. Her time away from the game to heal an injured wrist was extended after she found out she was pregnant. She gave birth to Makenna in 2020, the first child for Wie West and her husband, Jonnie West.”
One for the Memory Banks is a hilarious, and poignant, memoir about Luke Reese’s fascination-turned-obsession with golf and about the friendships forged by a mutual love of the great game played on great courses. Part travelogue, part biography, part memoir, One for the Memory Banks captures the give and take of competition and conjures these memories and relationships in technicolor. Through vignettes, Luke Reese carries readers on a sweeping journey across the UK and Ireland, introducing them to a motley crew of people who share a passion, and reminding them what makes golf so great.
5. Cam’s Cameron
From our piece for PGATour.com…”Smith putts with a Scotty Cameron 009M prototype. Generally, the 009M is a traditional Anser-style putter most similar to the retail Newport line. The “009” is a reference to San Diego’s zip code, where Cameron’s studio is located, while the ‘M’ stands for ‘masterful.’”
  • “Smith said he put the slant-neck Scotty in play at last year’s Sony Open in Hawaii, pointing out that the club is celebrating its birthday this week at Waialae Country Club.”
  • “He’ll certainly want to buy it a gift. The Australian was 10th in Strokes Gained: Putting last season and is fourth in the young 2021-22 campaign. He led the field in that statistic last week at Kapalua, as well.”
  • “Smith said he prefers a slant neck and, when considering a new putter last year, told Cameron and company he wanted the neck design in whatever club he would test.”
  • “There’s lots of cool stamps in the back there as well,” Smith said. “I’ve always loved the dot on top. I’ve never been a line guy. I feel like I can just feel the putter a little bit better. I don’t get so obsessed with the line. I feel like I’m able to just hit a good putt, and a good putt out of the middle means more chances of going in.”
6. Incredible feat
Our Jason Daniels…”Ask any handicap golfer their dream shot, and in most cases, it will be the elusive hole-in-one.”…“Some may even say recording an albatross – three under par – is their flight of fantasy.”
  • “Imagine, then, recording both in a five-hole stretch.”
  • “The Irish Examiner recently highlighted that very feat, performed by Rowan McCarthy, a 20-handicapper playing Wembley Golf Course in Perth, Australia.”
  • “A member of the Irish Perth golf society, McCarthy, who now posts as @shankmagic on Instagram, told the Irish Examiner, “On 12, the hole-in-one, it was a beautiful 7-iron, 169 metres, that drew towards the hole, hit the front of the green and leisurely rolled towards the hole and dropped in dead weight.”
  • “Then on 15, the albatross, it was 185 metres with a 5-iron, downhill, using the bank adjacent the green, ran towards the hole, hit the flag and dropped. I might have caught that one a bit thin.”
  • “According to the golfer himself, “Statistically, the chances of a hole in 1 are 12,000-to-1 and an albatross is 6 million-to-1. The odds of one of each in the same round…who knows? Some say it is 72 billion to one. It is a day I will never forget.”
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Netflix announces docuseries with PGA Tour; Here are the players signed up

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The streaming service giant, Netflix has revealed its plans for a docuseries profiling some of the biggest names on the PGA TOUR.

Netflix recently had a great deal of success with a similar show following Formula 1 racing titled, Drive to Survive. It seems they are going down a similar path with the upcoming golf series.

The cast announced for the show has no shortage of superstars and includes: Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, and many other big names.

A PGA Tour spokesperson said that the organization had been intrigued by “all-access” documentaries for several years, including Formula 1’s Drive to Survive, the NFL’s Hard Knocks and ESPN’s Last Dance but “had not found the right combination of production partners, players, and a distribution partner until now.”

Filming quietly began a few months ago, with a handful of golfers sitting down for interviews to get the process started.

Being that Netflix is the largest streaming service in the world, the project should help the game we all love to reach a larger audience and continue to move professional golf in an encouraging direction.

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Tributes pour in for legendary golf writer Tim Rosaforte who passes away after Alzheimer’s battle

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Golf writing giant Tim Rosaforte sadly passed away on Tuesday at the age of 66 following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Rosaforte was considered to be one of the most respected golf reporters on the PGA Tour amongst peers and players alike, covering a total of 147 major championships and 17 Ryder Cups.

His illustrious career saw him work for Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and Golf Channel before retiring in 2019, and saw him awarded a lifetime membership with the PGA for his services to golf media.

Following the news, tributes poured in from plenty of PGA Tour stars:

Rosaforte is survived by his wife, Genevieve, and daughters, Molly and Genna, and three grandchildren.

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