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Tour Rundown: Langer the all-time win leader | Fowler wins again

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Other than all those promises on Instagram, you don’t often find a six-pack just hanging around. That’s precisely what we have this first weekend in July of 2023. From The Belfry to Detroit Golf Club, with stops at Alberta and the Yucatan Peninsula, and side trips to Illinois and Wisconsin, the golf was plentiful leading into the USA’s Independence Day celebration. It’s more of a Tour Run-Run-Rundown this week, so let’s get clap-clap-clapping, run-run-running!

USGA Senior Open @ Sentryworld: Langer becomes all-time win leader with 2nd US Senior Open title

Since he won his 45th senior title on the US Tour in February, Bernhard Langer has been on a worldwide watch. His next title would break his tie with Hale Irwin for all-time leader in Tour Champions victories. The time between the Chubb Classic in Florida and this week’s United States Golf Association’s Senior Open became a Celebration of Three Steves. Stricker, Ames, and Alker combined to win six events. Langer, meanwhile, made no additional dent in the all-time record.

The USGA brought its feature senior event to the SentryWorld course in Wisconsin, and two native sons fought for attention. Both Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly would finish in the top five, but it was Langer who stole the show. The German champion closed strong on Saturday to carry a two-shot advantage into the final round. Any thoughts of nerves dissipated when Langer played Sunday’s first ten holes in four-under par figures. His lead reached six at one point, but bogey at each of the final three holes brought him back to a two-shot advantage. No matter; minus-seven over four days brought him to the top of the mountain, with his 46th career senior title.

PGA Tour @ RocketMortgage: Fowler finds freedom on extra hole

The golf world rose and fell with Rickie Fowler’s attempt at the US Open last month in Los Angeles. Never has a golf guy existed like Rickie. He could be a condescending, I’m-better-than-you sort of pro. Instead, he’s an I’m-on-your-side-and-you-earned-it guy. He was Dick Fowler, Private Eye, for goodness’ sake! On Sunday, Fowler fought back after losing a final-round, overnight lead. It would have been the first time, nor even the fifth, that this fate would have befallen him. With no eye on him (you know, that lousy television coverage thing) the California native watched as fellow Golden Stater Collin Morikawa posted 64 to reach 24-under par. Moments later, Fowler’s playing partner, Adam “Tackling Dummy” Hadwin signed for 67 and the same figure. Fortunately for Fowler, he had stuffed his approach to the 72nd green, then dropped a four-feet putt to make the extra-holes party a threesome.

The trio of titans returned to the same, closing par-four hole for its first salvo. Fowler found the green, some fifteen feet from the hole. In the video below, you can tell that he thinks it might not have enough gas. When the ball falls in the side of the hole, the four-year wait is over. Would the world love a Fowler win at Hoylake in three weeks? Sure would, especially since the man in orange finished co-runner up there in 2014, the last time that Royal Liverpool hosted the championship.

DP World Tour @ British Masters: Hillier happens upon first title at Belfry

There were easily a dozen golfers within two shots of the top through 54 holes, including four at the top of the board. None of them was called Daniel Hillier, and none of them hailed from New Zealand. As the golf world knows, from multiple Ryder Cup matches, The Belfry can summon horrific collapses and heroic comebacks. Among the leaders, two shot plus-six on the final day this week, and another pair produced plus-three finales. On the flip side, a young Kiwi trotted out the round of his life, at a time when it mattered most.

Daniel Hillier had survived the cut with 72-71, then carded a 69 on Saturday, to move to minus-four on the week. His outward, Sunday nine of one-under par was a gentle bump, giving him thoughts of a top-ten finish. After a run of five pars to open the inward half, Hillier donned his magical cloak. From hole fifteen through hole seventeen, the two-time winner on the Challenge Tour delivered eagle-birdie-eagle to jump from five-deep to ten-under par. He flew past clubhouse leader Gunnar Wiebe and nested in a two-shot advantage. When the final groups could not remotely match his efforts, Hillier was off to Hoylake in Liverpool, site of the Open Championship, in three weeks’ time.

Korn Ferry Tour @ Memorial Health: Barjon brings victory to France in Illinois

Paul Barjon won the 2022 PGA Tour Canada’s Order of Merit and the accompanying promotion to the Korn Ferry Tour. After his second 2023 win on the Korn Ferry Tour, Barjon will again uproot himself, as an elevation to the PGA Tour looms. Barjon closed with 65 on Sunday to reach 26-under par, but his win was far from a runaway victory. Tom Whitney closed with six consecutive birdies for 61 and 24-under par. He ultimately placed third for the week.

Even closer was Jackson Suber, who also stood ten-under on the day through 16 holes, thanks to six birdies, and eagles at 13 and 16. A misplayed tee shot on the par-three 17th resulted in bogey, and that was the stroke that kept Suber from a playoff. Barjon also made bogey at the same one-shotter, but he banged his approach on 18 off the flagstick, making par to seal win number two on the year.

PGA Tour Canada @ ATB Classic:

Davis Lamb did something extraordinary on Sunday: he preserved his third-round lead and emerged victorious in the season’s third event. PGA Tour Canada runs through the middle of September, but Lamb has his eyes set already on a promotion for next season. While Lamb’s co-leader dropped five shots to par and fell to a tie for 9th place, Lamb posted 70 on day four and held off Eric McCardle by three shots.

Maintaining your calm and focus while those around you struggle is not easy. Eric Lilleboe began round four with birdie on two of his first three holes. From there, the train went off its track and Lilleboe posted zero birdies against four bogeys and a triple on the way home. Lamb, meanwhile, had two double bogeys on his outward nine, but rediscovered his game on the inward half. He followed a double at nine with an eagle at ten, and added three birdies coming home. McCardle could do nothing against the surge, and settled for a runner-up finish.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica @ BUPA Tour Championship: 

Something about three-way playoffs this week. Alvaro Ortiz and Justin Doeden led the field at PGA Riviera Maya in Tulum after 54 holes, but neither was able to separate and win in regulation. Ortiz dropped to a fourth-place tie after seizing the lead with a three-under par 33 on Sunday. He came home in plus-three 39, missing the playoff by one agonizing shot. Doeden finished even closer. His 71st-hole birdie elevated him into a tie with countryman Chandler Blanchet of the USA, and Jeremy Gandon of France.

The trio set off for resolution in extra time. After all three scored par on the 18th hole, Gandon and Blanchet continued on with birdies, to Doeden’s par. The third go-round brought a par from Blanchet and a bogey from Gandon. The victory was the second of the campaign for the former UWest Florida golfer, and moved him into first place in the season-long TotalPlay Cup. Blanchet and nine others earned full playing privileges on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2024.

If his first win was any sort of predictor, Blanchet will enliven any event in which he tees it up. In March, Blanchet holed for eagle at the final hole to win his first @pgatourla event.

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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. Dennis

    Jul 3, 2023 at 1:44 pm

    Why is Langers record just a side note? Is it because PGA Tour Champions is not taken seriously? Or because the ankering discussion? Or just because he is a European?

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Masters 2024: Reduced-scale clubhouse trophy and green jacket to Scottie

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In the world of golf, there is Scotty and there is Scottie. Scotty Cameron gave the world of golf a nickname for a prestigious putter line, and Scottie Scheffler has now given the golf world a blueprint for how to negotiate one of the toughest tournaments to win. Scheffler won the Masters tournament for the second time in three years. He separated from the field around the turn, making a trio of birdies at holes eight through ten. On the long walk home, he added three more birdie at 13, 14, and 16, to secure a four-shot win over Masters and major-championship rookie Ludwig Åberg.

As the final group moved along the ninth hole, a quadrilateral stood at seven-under par, tied for the lead. Scheffler, playing partner Collin Morikawa, and penultimate pairing Max Homa and Åberg advanced equally toward Amen Corner, with the resolution of the competition well in doubt. Morikawa flinched first, getting too greedy (his words) at nine and eleven. Double bogey at each dropped him farther back than he wished, and he ultimately made a ten-feet putt for bogey at the last, to tie for third position.

Ludvig Åberg made the next mistake. Whether he knew the Ben Hogan story about the approach into 11 or not, he bit off way more than he should have. His approach was never hopeful, and ended short and right, in White Dogwood pond. Åberg finished the hole in six shots. To his credit, he played the remaining seven holes in two-under figures. Finally, Max Homa was the victim of the finicky winds over Golden Bell, the short, par-three 12th hole. His disbelief was evident, as his tee shot flew everything and landed in azaleas behind the putting surface.  After two pitch shots and two putts, Homa also had a double bogey, losing shots that he could not surrender.

Why? At the 9th hole, Scottie Scheffler hit one of the finest approach shots of all time, into the final green of the first nine. Scheffler had six inches for birdie and he converted. At the 10th, he lasered another approach shot into a tricky hole location, then made another fine putt for birdie. Within the space of thirty minutes, Scheffler had seized complete control of the tournament, but Amen Corner still lurked.

At the 11th, Scheffler played safely right with his approach. His chip shot was a wee bit too brave, and left him a seven-feet comeback putt for par. He missed on the right side, and gave one shot back to the course and field. His tee ball on 12 was safely aboard, and he took two putts for par. On 13, the 2022 champion drove slightly through the fairway, then reached the green, with his first two shots. His seventy feet-plus putt for eagle eased up, four feet past the hole. His second putt went down, and he was back in the birdie zone. As on nine, his approach to 14 green finished brilliantly within six inches. His final birdie came at the 16th, where he negotiated a nine-feet putt for a deuce.

Scheffler reached eleven-under par and stood four shots clear of Ludvig Åberg when he reached the 18th tee. His drive found the lower fairway bunker on the left, and his approach settled in a vale, short and right of the green. With dexterous hands, Scheffler pitched to three feet and made the putt for par. With a big smile, he embraced caddie Ted Scott, who won for the fourth time at Augusta National, and the second with Scheffler. Ludvig Åberg finished alone in second spot, four back of the winner. Not a bad performance for the first-time, major championship participant Åberg, and not a bad finish for the world number one and second-time Masters champion Scheffler.

 

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5 Things We Learned: Saturday at the Masters

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Just as the honorary starters broke our hearts with the reality of ageing, so too, did Saturday, with the revelation that third-round Tiger Woods is not yet (if ever) what he once was. The great champion struggled mightily to an 82, tied with three others for high round of the day. Among the top ten, the worst score posted was DeChambeau’s 75, but the large Californian remains in the hunt. Day four will see 2022 champion Scottie Scheffler pair with Collin Morikawa in the final game. In front of them will be Max Homa and Ludwig Åberg. The antipenultimate pairing will feature DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele.

If you look at the one-off major winners, most took advantage of their only chance at grand slam glory. For golfers like Homa, Schauffele, and others, Sunday the 14th might represent their best and only chance at claiming a major title. For Scheffler, Morikawa, and DeChambeau, the ability to join the two-time and three-time, major winners club holds great appeal. Finally, a young’un like Åberg seeks to jump-start a more-than-tour-winner career with a major title. Many of the greats won them early, and the Swede from Texas Tech would love nothing more than a chance to join that company.

Sunday at Augusta, as always, will be riveting. It will provide hope throughout the first nine holes, then gut many a competitor’s heart coming home, rewarding just one with a new item for the wardrobe. Plan your menu and choose your outfit. Masters 2024 is about to conclude. Until then, let’s reveal five things that we learned on day three of the year’s first men’s major.

1. The three most critical holes on the first nine are …

numbers four through six. You might make some birdies at the first and last trios of holes, but the middle triumvirate of fairways and greens determines your day. Play them even par or better, and you’ll lose zero shots to the field. Get on a downward spiral of slightly-wayward shots, and recovery will be nigh impossible. Anyone who makes three at the fifth, as Tiger Woods did on Saturday, will get giddy.

2. The three most important holes on the second nine are …

ten through twelve. We realize that we commit heresy by omitting one of Herbert Warren Wind’s Amen Corner traces, but par or better is critical at 10. Dry landings at 11 and 12 set the competitor up for two par fives in three holes, sandwiched around a straightforward, par-four hole. Remember when Ben Crenshaw began his march to glory in 1995? It all started with birdie at the 10th.

3. The most interesting and efficient round of day three came from …

Collin Morikawa. Birdies at the first three holes, followed by bogey-birdie at six and eight, then ten consecutive pars to finish off the second-low round of the day. Morikawa has improved each day, from 71 to 70 to 69. He has won majors in England and California. He has the temperment for this sort of day, but will certainly be in the hottest of all cauldrons around 3 pm on Sunday.

4. The guy who lost the most ground on day three was …

Nikolai Hojgaard. The dude failed to make par from the seventh green to the 16th. After three consecutive birdies around the turn (8 through 10), the Great Dane tumbled to earth with five consecutive bogeys. 11 and 12, we understand, but 13 and 15 are par-five holes, for goodness sake! No matter where he finds himself on day four’s back nine, it will be hard to put that stretch of golf out of his mind.

5. Our pick for the green jacket is …

impossible to nail. We suspect that certain players should and could perform on Sunday. We remember when Retief Goosen, a great US Open winner until round four of 2005, lost his mojo. We recall days when Rich Beam and Y.E. Yang pulled major titles away from Tiger Woods. Things go wrong on Sunday, and they go wrong super-quick at Augusta.

We’ve decided to ascend Mount Olympus for our Sunday selection. Who better than the 2021 Olympic champion to add a long-awaited, first major title. It’s Professor X for us: Xander Schauffele.

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5 Things We Learned: Friday at the Masters

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You don’t see leaves on the ground at Augusta National. The grounds crew and superintendent’s staff take care of those sorts of things, so that both course appearance and consistency of play are preserved at the top tier. We saw leaves on the ground today and, given the force and perseverance of the wind, we’re lucky that we didn’t see tree trunks along the fairways. We did see higher scores than secured in round one, and some of the three- and four-hole stretches were downright inconceivable. The cut after 36 holes came at six over par, and five dozen golfers reached the weekend of play. Numbers always define the story of a tournament, and we’ll let them define the five things we learned on day two of the 2024 Masters tournament.

One: 60 + 10

Sixty golfers posted scores of 148 or better through 36 holes, to reach weekend play. Ten more golfers posted 149 and missed the cut by a single stroke. The ones who missed the cut by a stroke included former champions Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, and Sergio Garcia. Also among the brood were current US Open champion Wyndham Clark, and Nick Dunlap, who won on the PGA Tour as an amateur in January, and subsequently turned professional. Of the ones who survived by the slimmest of margins, surviving to the weekend were former champions Jose Maria Olazabal, Hideki Matsuyama, and Adam Scott, along with Rickie Fowler and Tom Kim. Golf’s cut is a cruel and unconcerned blade, and each Masters tournament reminds us of this fact.

Two: One

The number of amateurs to make the cut in the 2024 Masters is solitary. His name is Neil Shipley, and most folks love him. He wears his hair to the shoulder, and appears to have the proper balance of intensity and chill. Shipley opened with 71, then held on for 76 on day two. He made the cut by three shots, and will collect his share of hardware on Sunday. It’s safe to say that Shipley will turn his attention to learning the course, as well as his own self under pressure.

Three: 23

For most sorts fans, 23 recalls the greatest NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan. For Justin Thomas, it’s a number that will haunt him for a long time. Thomas reached tee number fifteen on Friday at even par. The two-time PGA Champion played the subsequent, four-hole stretch in 23 shots, missing the cut by a shot. On fifteen, he went for the green in two, in some sort of halfhearted manner. He got wet with shot number two, went long with his pitch, and three-putted from the fringe. On sixteen, he played away from safety and found elevated sand. His blast went down the hill, and he missed his approach putt in the wrong place. On seventeen, he missed his drive right and his approach long, and lost another shot to par. The coup de grace took place on the home hole: drive so horribly left that he had to pitch out to the fairway and hit three metal into the green. His third double bogey in four holes dropped him all the way to 151 and plus seven. Among the many questions, the foremost one was why he dropped his longtime caddy on the eve of a major championship. Surely Bones would have saved him one of those shots, and perhaps more.

Four: Forty-Nine divided by five or six

Tiger Woods cannot possibly win title number six at Augusta in his 49th year, can he? Not on this broken body, and not from seven strokes behind, right? Not with so few competitive rounds over the most recent months, and not one year removed from a third-round withdrawal from this very tournament. Well, if he cannnot possibly win, allow us to dream and hope a bit, and hold on to a fantasy.

Five: 3 that we like

We like Scottie Scheffler, of course. He seems to have a sense of Augusta National, and he was able to hold on in 2023 for the championship. We like Nikolai Hojgaard, because he might have just the proper combination of naivete and experience for a first-time winner. Finally, we like Collin Morikawa, a winner of two separate major titles. Winning at Augusta National requires a certain amount of length, unless you putt lights out. Morikawa might be embedded in one of those putting weeks.

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