The word grillo means cricket in Spanish and Italian. The Jiminy type, not the sport. So it goes with language; one word in one language has multiple manifestations in another. After a birdie at the 70th hole, Emiliano Grillo had a tournament sewn up, until he made double at the last. More on that later.
The ladies of the LPGA took to match play, and in the land of American excess, not a single American made it past the quarterfinals. The seniors christened the PGA of America’s new golf heaven in Frisco, Texas, with their Senior PGA Championship. The DP World Tour saw Spain’s version of a late-career, Ben-Hogan surge continue, and the Korn Ferry Tour had a thrilling stretch run in Knoxville, Tennessee.
In other words, just another week around the tours. Let’s run it all down in this week’s Tour Rundown.
PGA Tour @ Charles Schwab Challenge: Cricket chirps to second tour title
If there was one silver element to Emiliano Grillo’s finish, it was that he had made birdie at the par-three 16th hole in regulation. This mattered when the Argentine showed the nerves that all of us face when we compete at golf. With a two-shot advantage and 435 yards between him and a regulation victory, Grillo bailed right, way right. So far right, in fact, that the tour’s website labelled it unknown. From there, Grillo took a penalty drop, pitched back to the fairway, pitched to the green, and missed the bogey putt for the win. Oh, he was also fortunate that, moments later, Adam Schenk missed a 15-feet putt for the win.
The pair returned to that challenging closer, and each made par. The second playoff hole was … yup, the par-three 16th. Schenk blew his shot some five feet into the post-green rough, while Grillo accepted a lucky bounce off the front bunker’s shoulder tucking within five feet. Schenk’s pitch narrowly missed, settling inside three feet. With a second shot at victory, the cricket did not flinch. The thirty-year old Grillo read the right-breaking slider just right, made the putt for birdie, and claimed a second career title, eight years after his 2015 win in Las Vegas.
PGA Tour Champions @ Senior PGA: Playoff blesses Stricker with victory
A friend of mine was on a clubhouse patio, back in the day. Approaching the age of 50 and a decent stick, he mentioned that he might consider trying to qualify for a few senior events. A fellow to the side tuned in and, desperate to put the victim out of his misery, asked a simple question: how many times have you shot 64? My pal, taken aback, replied “never.” The interloper finished with “these guys you see out there, they shoot 64 for lunch, any day of the week.”
Is it coincidence that the two playoff contestants, Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington, each posted a 64? Probably, but it helps my story line. Through the first three rounds at PGA Frisco’s Fields Ranch East course, low was the way to go. Stricker and Harrington looked to be the show ponies, although a few other names craved inclusion. Day four was really about the duo of former Ryder Cup captains, as Stewart Cink’s birdie-eagle finish elevated him to solo third position, looking way closer than he actually was.
The overtime stretch was brief. The hole that Harrington had birdie in regulation, became his nemesis. He struggled from tee to green, and was unable to manage better than bogey. Stricker was able to negotiate his second par of the day over the long closer, and became once again the poster boy for the PGA of America. The 2023 Senior PGA Championship is Stricker’s third different, senior major title, and the 6th of his career second season.
LPGA @ Bank of Hope Match Play: Pajaree outlasts Ayaka in final match
As my Twitter friends love to say, match play is the finest form of competition that exists. It is certainly different from medal play, in spades. It’s no longer you and the ball. Instead, it’s you, the ball, and the direct opponent. No one else matters. No one with whom to concern yourself. On this final weekend in May, Pajaree Anannarukam announced herself to the world as one heck of a head-to-head competitor.
The 23-year old from Thailand survived a playoff with Karis Davidson in the round-robin qualifying segment. Moments before, Davidson had bested PA by 4 and 3, a healthy margin, to say the least. The Aussie Davidson stumbled in the extra time with bogey, and Anannarukam was on to the knockout rounds. In the round of 16, she eliminated the USA’s Cheyenne Knight, and in the quarterfinals, sent Spain’s perennial Solheim Cup stalwart, Carlota Ciganda, packing.
In the semifinals, Pajaree came up against Sweden’s Linn Grant, who had one tie against four wins to her credit. Gaining strength, the pride of Thailand eaked out a 3 and 1 win to move into the final match. There, she would face the undefeated Ayaka Furue, who had taken down formerly-undefeated Leona Maguire of Ireland.
The championship match was close, through 11 holes, as neither player was able to seize momentum. That situation changed in a heartbeat. Anannarukam posted birdies at 12, 14, and 17, against just one by Furue. For the second consecutive match, PA came out on top with another 3 & 1 decision. Bank of Hope was her second career title on the LPGA, after winning at the age of 21 at the Handa World Invitational.
DP World Tour @ KLM Open: Larrazábal continues late-career run
Pablo Larrazábal collected a quintet of tour titles between 2008 and 2019. His average of a title every two years was enviable, and enough to keep his tour card safe and secure. During the height of the pandemic, Larrazábal’s victory run subsided, and he endured a 27-month dry stretch. In March of 2022, Larrazábal won in South Africa (where he had won in 2019, coincidentally.) From the moment, the Spaniard’s game flipped and his average became two wins a year, instead of a win every two years. Nice move to make at the age of 39.
This week, Larrazábal and countryman Adrián Otaegui battled to the final green. Otaegui birdied 16 and 18 to finish on 11-under par. Larrazábal was too strong, with birdies of his own at 15, 17, and 18, to win by two. Is there a limit for the fisherman-turned-golfer? Hard to say. Was there a limit for Hogan?
Korn-Ferry Tour @ Visit Knoxville: Uncle Rico grabs the ring
Rico Hoey is 27 years old, yet doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry. That tells you enough about his journeyman career to this point, but after Sunday, that might change. Hoey closed 66-65, including birdie at the par-five 18th, to finish at 14-under par at Holston Hills country club. The elegant, Donald Ross-designed club in Knoxville was a fitting place for a breakout victory.
Norman Xiong was the 54-hole leader, but made 17 pars with just 1 birdie on Sunday, to finish in a runner-up tie with Chase Seiffert. With due respect to Hoey, Seiffert was the man on fire over the weekend in the Volunteer state. His 64 on Saturday was followed by a 65 on Sunday, making him two strokes better than the winner over the final 36 holes. It was a Thursday 71 that ultimately relegated Seiffert to second place.
With the win, Hoey moves to second place on the season-long points race, and puts himself in the driver’s seat for a year-end promotion to the PGA Tour. It’s nice when things go your way.