November brings football glory to university and professional teams across the United States of America. It also brings chances at redemption, at inauguration, and at awareness. Five tours disputed time-honored events this weekend, and five champions gave thanks for the opportunity to ply their trade this late in the year. It’s not the cauldron of the majors, nor is it the caldera of international team play, but it is challenging and difficult. Let’s take a run down events from Arizona to South Africa to Houston to Egypt to Florida. Sometimes, a handful is a good thing.
PGA Tour: Tony Finau earns Houston Open win in a walk
The man who learned to win, Tony Finau, had a five-shot advantage after 36 holes in Houston. His lead shrunk to four on Saturday evening, but grew to seven after nine holes on Sunday. How do you play with an eight-shot lead? Sloppily, it turns out. Finau closed with a three-over par 38 on the inward half. It wasn’t enough to jeopardize his victory, but it certainly brought up questions about his ability to close, no matter the circumstance.
Finau’s third win of the 2022 campaign was, for 87 percent of the week, a master class. He posted 22 birdies against three bogeys, over the first 63 holes. Needing a one-under finish to reach minus twenty on the week. The back nine on Sunday was nobody’s masterpiece, but it got the job done for the 33-year old from Utah.
LPGA: Nelly completes comeback from illness with win at PWC
Three storylines had our attention on Sunday in Belleair, Florida. Allisen Corpuz, on the strength of twin 65s, made a run at an inaugural, LPGA victory. Lexi Thompson sought to end a three-year victory drought, and Nelly Korda hoped to complete a comeback from an illness that had sidelined her for much of the season. Any one of those victories would have made for a compelling story.
Corpuz started off slowly on Sunday. She had seven pars on her scorecard before a bogey at eight dropped her farther back. Three birdies and another bogey on the back gave her 69 on the day and a solo third finish, the best of her career. Thompson seemingly finds a new way to un-win a tournament each week. On Sunday, consecutive bogies at 11 and 12 were sandwiched by Korda birdies at 10 and 13. That four hole stretch cost Thompson four strokes.
As for Nelly, seven birdies over the first 17 holes gave her a two-shot cushion on the final tee. Playing safely for bogey, the young Floridian earned the eighth win of her career, and first since last year’s Pelican.
DP World Tour: Fairway Jesus claims first tour title since 2019 event
With three holes remaining in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, Shubhankar Sharma, Ryan Fox, and Tommy Fleetwood sat even at 11-under par. The closing holes at Gary Player Country Club are a study in H2O avoidance. Each demands a low-percentage shot over the wet stuff, and each is fraught with potential for tournament shape-shifting.
Sharma is an unproven commodity, and he was the first to falter. Bogey at 16 and 17 dropped him to nine under par, and he finished there, in solo third position. Fox has learned how to win of late, but with great length comes great potential for wayward landing. His bogey at the last dropped him out of a tie in gut-wrenching fashion, and he finished solo second at ten deep.
It was Fleetwood, aka Fairway Jesus, who held steady over the closing stretch with three boring pars. All those Ryder Cup gauntlets have steeled his nerves, at least when playing with lesser talent. Fleetwood ground out a ho-hum triumvirate of fairways and greens, and claimed his sixth tour title. His fifth also came at the Nedbank, so his appetite for the Sun City course is developing.
Asian Tour: Ogletree claims International Series Egypt at Madinaty
Andy Ogletree was one of the COVID generation of golfers, whose senior seasons and professional summers were derailed by the world pandemic. 2020 seems so long ago, but for this group, it was the worst of times. Ogletree has lived the journeyman life since leaving Georgia Tech and the college game, including Monday qualifying, world events, and the inaugural LIV event in London. This week in Egypt, Ogletree gained himself some confidence and some bankroll as he raced to a four-shot win over Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger.
Ogletree began the week with 66, then added 64 and 65 to earn a three-shot advantage through 54 holes. Plenty of golfers posted rounds in the mid-60s, but the tournament would always come down to the final group. Ogletree and Wiesberger went at it in fierce fashion, ensuring a back-nine duel. Each had one bogey and a bucket of birdies on the front nine, with Ogletree one shot better. The Austrian eagled the tenth to gain a shot back (against Ogletree’s birdie!) but the young American did not wilt. Wiesberger reduced the deficit to two at the 13th, but could not get any closer. The 16th decided matters, with Ogletree making birdie against bogey for his opponent. The walk down the final 100 yards wasn’t easy, but the winner closed with birdie to claim an inaugural major-tour win.
PGA Tour Champions: Harrington closes Champions season in style
Padraig Harrington had built himself quite a lead after a Saturday 62. Alex Cejka figured that he’d make the Irishman sweat a bit on Sunday. The German played his first seven holes in five-under figures, putting a bit of a crease in Harrington’s victory stroll. Prince Padraig responded with a birdie run of his own, and Cejka cooled waaaayyy off. He would not make another birdie for eleven holes, and by then the victory would be in no doubt.
Harrington’s seven-shot victory was one for the record books. He played no round higher than 66 on the week, and amassed 27 birdies and one eagle. His second bogey of the week came with 40 holes remaining, and his scorecards were flawless on Saturday and Sunday. His four-round tally of 257 shots set a Champions Tour record. With his victory, the Irishman threw a scare into Steven Alker, in the season-long race for the Charles Schwab Cup. In the end, Harrington finished in second place, as Alker clinched a championship of his own.