Before we dive in to this week’s tour events, allow a bit of latitude for an opinion piece. Those who do not coach believe that it is proper to place the results of a team tie in the hands of one or two golfers. In our high school leagues, we used to do just that, and it was a dramatic and rotten way to resolve things. After hours of toil, most participants were cast aside, unable to help resolve the overtime. For those who believe that a Solheim, Ryder, Curtis, or Walker Cup tie should be resolved by any fewer than the entirety of each side, imagine being one of the cast-asides. There is a better way.
The Solheim Cup could not have been more lopsided, yet evenly matched, this year. More on that in a bit. The Korn Ferry Tour held its penultimate event in the capital city of Ohio. Tour Champions headed west to the Monterey peninsula of northern California, and the DP World Tour held its French Open on the Ryder Cup course near Paris. With that roster of events in place, we may now advance to this week’s Tour Rundown. Anchors, away!
Solheim Cup @ Finca Cortesin: It’s a tie!
Not since the 1960 baseball World Series has a multi-day competition been so lopsided, yet so close. In that ancient match-up, the Yankees pummeled the Pirates by 35 runs in three of seven games, yet somehow found a way to lose the other four by a total of seven runs. In Spain’s southernmost province of Andalucia, something similar took place.
On day one, the visitors from the USA won all four matches in the Friday morning foursomes, the format least associated with American success. Alternate shot is not their forte, yet there lay Team Europe, in a 0-4 hole. Galvanized, the host squad nearly squared things in the afternoon four-ball matches. Two European sides won their matches outright, while the other two earned half points to close the four-point gap to two, after one day of competition.
Day two anticipated the same sequence of foursomes, followed by four ball. USA won two of the first three matches, with Europe claiming the third. With momentum squarely on the line, the final sides of Andrea Lee/Danielle Kang (USA) and Maja Stark/Linn Grant (Europe) played a match for the ages. After each side won one hole over the first seven holes, the next 10 holes saw nine lead changes. Europe won the 8th, then lost the 9th. This win-then-lose sequence happened three more times until Europe won the 17th hole the final decided hole. Both sides parred the 18th, Europe escaped, one-up, and the matches stood at 7-5, in favor of Team USA.
Saturday afternoon’s fourball matches saw Team USA again struggle in the better-ball format. Only Cheyenne Knight and Angel Yin were able to secure a point for the visitors, by a two-up margin. In each of the other three matches, Europe won without seeing the 18th hole. With three points in their favor, Europe had squared the matches at 8 points each. Only the Saturday morning matches were close; in each of the other three sessions, one side won by at least two points.
With 12 singles matches scheduled for Sunday, the winning side was anyone’s guess. The first four matches were won, but each side struck twice, meaning the final eight matches would decide the keeper of the Solheim Cup. The next two matches were halved, with the host side squandering two-up leads with four to play in each. Match seven went to the visitors, and then came the greatest comeback of the three days. Down three holes with six to play, Caroline Headwall made birdie or eagle at five of those holes, and overtook Team USA’s Ally Ewing. Still square, with four matches to play.
Despite a Team USA win in match nine, Team Europe clinched a tie for the cup, when Maja Stark and homebred Carlota Ciganda won by 2 & 1 totals. Lexi Thompson’s final-match victory meant nothing in the end, as the defending champion’s retained possession of the cup until 2025. For anyone who paid for admission this week, the money was beyond well spent.
DP World Tour @ French Open: Japan’s Hisatsune stands tall
It was a rough day for the final trio. Ewen Ferguson posted 76 to drop nine spots, from T1 to 10th. Co-leader Jordan Smith was in for 72, and fell one spot to 2nd position. Kazuki Higa signed for 74, and tumbled to a sixth-place tie. With those golfers out of the way, the stage was cleared for someone to jump and take control. That someone was 21-year old Ryo Hisastsune. The Japanese golfer pulled away from the chase pack with five birdies for an inward 30, ultimately winning by two over Smith.
Day four had to be especially frustrating for Smith. He opened with two birdies, and must have felt that this might be his day. He had exhausted his ration of birdies for the day, and could only muster 13 pars and three bogies the rest of the way. The victory moved the champion up 26 spots of the season-long money ranking, nearly into the top ten.
Korn Ferry Tour @ Nationwide: Xiong not wrong on Sunday in Ohio
Despite a stellar amateur record, the professional go has not been easy for Norman Xiong. The former Palmer and Walker Cup participant has won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour but has not been able to gain traction on the PGA Tour. He’ll have another go at it next year, thanks to his win in Columbus. Xiong stood even with Chandler Phillips through 54 holes over the Ohio State University’s Scarlet course. Phillips headed down the wrong roadway on Sunday, posting a 3-over 74 for a T7 finish.
Closing fast was Australia’s Curtis Luck, whose day-four 66 was the low, fourth-round total. Luck needed more than just his last name, and bogeys at 13 and 18 kept him from reaching 8 under and pressuring Xiong. With a clean card through 17 holes, Xiong needed merely to remain upright over the final 425 yards, to claim the prize. His last-hole bogey made his margin four shots, and his performance moved him to 12th position on the season-long points list.
PGA Tour Champions @ PURE Insurance: Jaidee over Leonard in playoff
Justin Leonard has had a diverse career in golf since turning professional out of the University of Texas. He earned multiple wins on the PGA Tour, including an Open Championshp at Royal Troon. Leonard took to broadcasting, and has reported extensively on the PGA Tour since then. Despite numerous starts on the PGA Tour Champions, Leonard has been unable to secure a first, senior victory. This week, he came oh-so-close, reaching a playoff against Thongchai Jaidee.
Leonard held the round-two lead on Saturday evening but still needed a 54th-hole birdie to reach overtime with the Thai champion. The pair played the 18th hole twice, then the 17th, without deciding a winner. On the fourth playoff hole, Leonard tugged his drive into the Pacific ocean, ultimately making double bogey. Jaidee was able to stay on dry land, made par, and won the second event of his Tour Champions career stretch.