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Tour Rundown: Close-the-laptop Edition

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This is the Tour Rundown that I dread writing. It means, simply, that I have to close the laptop and become a fan for about six weeks. True, there will be Q-Schools and Heroes, but the official work is done for the year. Q-Schools and Heroes are way better than Skins Games and the silliest of silly-season events, but I much prefer the official work of the world’s golf tours. Thank you for riding along in the cart with me this year, and for always picking up the beverage cart drinks. It does not go unnoticed.

As Americans head toward Thanksgiving week, the DP World Tour closed its season at its Tour Championship in Dubai, while the LPGA had its CME Race To The Globe along Florida’s Gulf Coast. As for the PGA Tour, it headed to coastal Georgia to end the FedEx Fall at my event (RSM — same initials). As always, lots of great golf led to dramatic finishes, so let’s begin this week’s Tour Rundown with Nelly Korda’s first LPGA ace.

LPGA @ CME: It’s a Yang Thang in Naples

Amy Yang has been around the golf wires for a long time. It all began in 2006 when, as a precocious, 16-year-old, she won on the Ladies European Tour. Her first win on the LPGA came in 2013, and she recorded three more by 2019. It’s hard to believe that she has been among the ranks for 18 years, but after a four-year drought, Yang was the cream of the crop at the CME this week in Naples. She posted middle rounds of 63-64, and closed with 66, to win by three.

Chasing Yang the entire fourth round were her playing partners, Alison Lee and Nasa Hataoka. Hataoka hung with Yang for the majority of the day, until they reached the 16th hole. It was there that Hataoka flinched with bogey, to drop one back. Yang surged with birdies at the final two holes, to establish her margin of victory. Tied with Hataoka for second was Lee. She also surged late, and turned in a clean card, with six birdies and twelve pars on the day.

For the first twelve holes, the tournament seemed to be in Hataoka’s hands, until Yang made magic happen at the 13th. Faced with a wedge to the green, she…well, just watch what she did.

DP World Tour @ Tour Championship: Elder Hojgaard claims victory in Dubai

There are times when younger brother must defer to elder brother. No matter what heights Rasmus Hojgaard scales in the future, 2023 will forever be the year of his by-a-few-minutes-older brother, Nicolai. On Sunday in Dubai, Hojgaard won the only thing worth debating, the DP World Tour Championship. As Rory McIlroy had clinched the season-long points race, all eyes were on the leaders as day four teed off.

Beginning play in fifth position, Hojgaard cruised through 11 holes in four under par. A top-five finish looked certain, especially after a speed-bump bogey caused a stumble at the twelfth. The missed, five-feet, par attempt got under his skin, and the Danish Ryder Cupper ignited a five-birdie run through the penultimate hole. Suddenly, Hojgaard had the lead, with the gettable 18th left. A par there gave his chasers hope of a catch.

Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Wallace, and Viktor Hovland all began the final round ahead of Hojgaard. Fleetwood played solid golf to the closing stretch, reaching 17 tee at five-under on the day, and twenty-deep for the week. His tee shot to the short hole came up woefully short, and his approach putt went dangerously past. His missed, seven-feet putt for par was off-target, and Fleetwood would finish on 19-under, two behind the Dane.

Joining Fleetwood at that number were Wallace and Hovland. Wallace had the bad fortune of shooting 60 on Saturday. How do you follow a 60? Well, a 67 would have tied the top spot, and a 66 would have won outright, but Wallace posted 69. Four birdies and one bogey were not enough to catch the scorched trail that Hojgaard laid down. As for Hovland, his 68 was also solid; just not explosive.

Finishing off the year behind McIlroy along the points list were, in order: Jon Rahm, Adrian Meronk, Ryan Fox, and Victor Perez.

PGA Tour @ RSM Classic: Oh-Boy! Aberg 

Oh-boy leads into Oh-Bear (how you should pronounce Aberg). I wished to clarify that, before moving on to Ludwig’s first PGA Tour title summary. In terms of data, for which Aberg is known, two numbers stand out: 61 and 61. Those digits represent the 18-hole scores that the Swede signed off on, in rounds three and four. Let’s be honest: Unless you are on the cut line, 122 on the weekend will move you darned close to the podium, if not to its summit.

In Aberg’s case, he had the lead through 54 holes. Hot on his heels were the guy who HAS to win, Eric Cole, and fan favorite Mackenzie Hughes, the 2016 RSM champion. Cole stood two over through five on day four, so he was done. He rallied to tie for third spot. Hughes stayed close all day, with six birdies through ten holes. The closing octet was not kind to him, as he played it in seven pars and one birdie. That will not get the job done at Sea Island, unless a maelstrom washes in.

As for Aberg, the rookiest of rookies on the European Ryder Cup side in September, ten birdies and one bogey came his way on day four. Long off the tee, deadly with the wedges, and accurate with the putter, he was a wrecking crew and he capped his first professional year in the most positive of ways.

 

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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.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational

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GolfWRX is on the ground in Orlando ahead of the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.

We’re assembling our usual collection of WITB photos, general galleries, and of course, gear inspired by the King himself.

We’ll continue to add to the photos below as more flow in from Florida.

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying in the forums.

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Morning 9: Rory responds to Gooch | The Match draws record low viewership | AK on joining LIV

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the Cognizant Classic gets underway.

1. McIlroy on Gooch’s “asterisk” remark

Golf Channel report…”The latest chapters of the saga came Wednesday, when McIlroy said he wanted to give LIV player Talor Gooch “the benefit of the doubt” over comments he made saying if the world’s No. 2-ranked player wins the Masters to complete the career Grand Slam the accomplishment should come with an asterisk because some players who have signed with Saudi-funded LIV cannot play at Augusta National since they have fallen out of the top 50 in the world rankings.”

  • “The Masters is an invitational and they’ll invite whoever they think warrants an invite,” said McIlroy, who’ll play in the Cognizant Classic that starts Thursday at PGA National — the site of what used to be called the Honda Classic. “I think to be fair to Talor, if you read the entire … the question and then the answer, it’s not as if he just came out with that. I feel like whoever did the interview led him down that path to say that, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt there a little bit. He just agreed with what the interviewer asked.”
Full piece.

2. Villegas named PGA Tour Advisory Board chair

Field Level Media report…”Camilo Villegas was named the new chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council on Wednesday.”

  • The 42-year-old from Colombia will serve in that role for the remainder of 2024. The council advises and consults with the PGA Tour policy board and commissioner Jay Monahan on issues affecting the tour.
Full piece.

3. AK on joining LIV

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…“What has been rumored for weeks finally became official Wednesday with the announcement from the Saudi-backed league that Kim, 38, who hasn’t played competitively since 2012, will join LIV as a wildcard player for the remainder of the 2024 season…”

  • “After stepping away from the game years ago due to injury, I’m happy to officially announce my return to the world of professional golf,” Kim said in a LIV press release. “It’s been a long time coming, and I’m very grateful for all the highs, lows and lessons learned from the first part of my career.
  • “I want to compete with the best players in the world, and I’m on a mission to prove to myself that I can win again. The next step on that journey starts now, and I’m excited to give everything I’ve got this season on the LIV Golf League.”
Full piece.

4. A peek into the Tour’s private-equity plan

Matthew Rudy for Golf Digest…”The new entity—PGA Tour Enterprises—built an equity distribution plan that looks similar to something tech companies use to protect themselves from losing their most valuable contributors to deep-pocketed competitors. “The whole idea behind restricted stock units [RSUs] is to motivate employees to stay and create more value for the business,” says Matt Erley, who before founding golf start-up fund Old Tom Ventures was the head of growth at beverage-delivery startup Drizly when it was acquired by Uber. “You’re acting like an owner.”

  • “In broad terms, RSUs work in two phases: how they’re allocated and triggered, and how and when they vest. At a tech start-up backed by a venture capital firm, the leadership team will usually assign a certain amount of equity to be distributed each year to contributors for a variety of reasons—from simply being a member of the team to achieving a performance milestone. The rules about how and when contributors get access to the equity they’ve been awarded are set with strategic goals in mind.”
  • “Confirmed details about the PGA Tour’s new equity plan are still murky, but we know there will be four broad categories of players earning equity stakes in this initial round: A handful of superstars like Tiger Woods will share $750 million. A second group of 64 players will share $75 million based on their past three years of performance. The third group—mostly the remaining fully-exempt current players—will share $30 million, and a group of 36 designated “founding” players will share $75 million for their historical contributions. Another $600 million will be distributed in the future through recurring grants based on factors like on-course performance and Player Impact Program finish.”
Full piece.

5. Worse for the Tour rank and file?

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…It’s an immediate ripple effect of sweeping changes made by the PGA Tour for this season, most notably the transformation of several events into limited-field, highly lucrative signature stops that was expected to shrink the total number of playing opportunities by about 10%. A select group of guys, however, are the ones taking the brunt of this initial wave.

  • “Those top-50 guys, they’re playing fields that we can’t get into, and then fields that we can get into, they’re playing those, too,” a Korn Ferry Tour graduate, who wished to remain anonymous, argued. “And it’s not their fault; I would do it if I were them. But it does make it kind of tough. I don’t know what to do. Do you play Korn Ferry? Do you try and go get a DP World start? Do you try and keep writing for these f—ing sponsor invites? I’m tired of writing for sponsor invites.
  • “… They’re going to tell you to play better, and I hear ya, I do. But you can’t play better if you’re not in the field.”
  • Scott Gutschewski is 47 years old and has 140 career PGA Tour starts under his belt. He’s familiar with this reorder territory, having played out of similar categories for much of his career, though he notes this year has been uniquely challenging – “The Tour gives you the access summaries from previous years, and you can just throw that thing away. It’s completely meaningless.” When he finished No. 28 in Korn Ferry Tour points last year, Gutschewski planned a family vacation to Hawaii that would culminate with his season debut at the Sony Open.
Full piece.

6. Record low audience for The Match

7. Schmelzel leads in Singapore

AP report…” Sarah Schmelzel birdied two of of her final three holes Thursday for a 4-under 68 to take a 1-stroke lead over three players, including fellow American Lilia Vu, at the LPGA tournament in Singapore.”

  • “Also tied for second with Vu at the HSBC Women’s World Championship at Sentosa Golf Club were Linn Grant and Esther Henseleit.”
Full Piece.

8. 2024 Cognizant Classic photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s event!
Full Piece.
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Morning 9: Gooch: Masters deserves asterisk | LIV’s new streaming deal | Mosquito mayhem

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans, as the PGA Tour moves over to the Florida swing, while Anthony Kim looks set to make his stunning return in Jeddah.

1. Gooch: Majors sans LIV golfers deserve asterisk

Brad Clifton and Rohan Clarke for Australian Golf Digest…In an ominous portent to Augusta National, Gooch said: “If Rory McIlroy goes and completes his [Career] Grand Slam without some of the best players in the world, there’s just going to be an asterisk. It’s just the reality. I think everybody wins whenever the majors figure out a way to get the best players in the world there.”

Full piece.

2. “The Match is good again”

Brody Miller’s take for the Athleltic…”Monday night’s version offered a potential vision for this to stay around. Here’s how.”

  • “For starters, the mixed-gender format works. It is a chance to watch golf with a perspective we’re not used to. Women’s golf is booming. The women’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach was a huge moment for the game, seeing these elite women play a historic course we’ve known for decades. And getting to watch these four play a skins game against one another provides context, and context makes golf better.”
  • “Second, the people. The Match needs to be about highlighting certain personalities. Otherwise, it’s just watching mostly forgettable golf with awkward pauses in between as they get from hole to hole. Homa was put on Earth to be in settings like this. His witty digs and dry narrations made this all flow. He made me legitimately laugh out loud multiple times. He constantly needled McIlroy and playfully pretended to flex on Zhang when he tied her on a hole. On one shot out of a bunker, he jumped in the air and confusedly yelled, “I don’t know, fore? Fore?” Multiple times he begged and pleaded for his competitors to give him short putts so he didn’t have to embarrass himself.”
Full piece.

3. $10 million question

James Corrigan for The Telegraph…”He might well be re-emerging as a freak show this week, who could be taking a $10 million insurance gamble to rejoin the circus, but be sure his return would have been big news whether there was a Saudi-funded breakaway league or not.”

  • “Indeed, the myth of Anthony Kim has continued to build with so much fascination over the last decade that any tournament promoter worthy of their publicity department would crave his presence.”
  • “When he burst through those country club gates, Kim – or “AK” as he soon became known – was America’s ‘can’t miss kid’, the country’s first since Tiger Woods. At the time, there was no Dustin Johnson, or Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler or Justin Thomas, or, of course, the next generation led by Collin Morikawa.”
  • “When Kim played in the Texas Open in 2006, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Adam Scott had largely been seen off by the monstrous domination of Woods. Although there was a young Ulsterman by the name of Rory McIlroy threatening to storm the hegemony, here was a 20-year-old with the skill and swagger to at least promise a vibrant future.”
Full piece.

4. Nicklaus, pros keen on PGA National decision

Tom D’Angelo for the Palm Beach Post…”Steve Rintoul, the Tour’s vice president for rules and officiating and the chief referee for the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches, believes that stretch from the fourth hole to No. 17 without a par 5 was as grinding as any on Tour. So he contacted the man who re-designed the course in 2000 and asked what he thought of converting the 10th hole from a par 4 to a par 5.”

  • “And Jack Nicklaus agreed with the move.”
  • “His reply was, ‘I always thought it was a better par 5 than a par 4,’ ” Rintoul said. “Now we got his blessing.”
  • “Then, after talking with several Tour pros who have either won Cognizant or played the event regularly, the move became official.”
  • “Nobody said, ‘Well, that’s a bad idea,’ ” Rintoul said. “It was an easy sell.”
  • “Now, for the first time since the event moved to PGA National in 2007, it will have three par 5s and become a par 71. The 10th will be lengthened by about 25 yards, playing at 530 yards, and the fairway line will be shifted a bit to the left by about eight yards at the dogleg.”
Full piece.

5. Mosquito mayhem

Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…“There could be a record amount of mosquito repellant used on the Korn Ferry Tour this week in Argentina.”

  • “The city of Buenos Aires and its surrounding areas have been dealing with multiple mosquito invasions since the start of the new year, according to the Buenos Aires Times. The most recent swarm hit less than a week ago following another bout of flooding, and multiple videos online show hordes of the flying insects invading city streets, structures, subway stations and more. One video showed what looked like a dark cloud of mosquitoes flying over a road.”
  • “Olivos Golf Club, where the 117 Visa Argentina Open will begin on Thursday, is located about 25 miles north of the capital’s center. Some players who have arrived in Buenos Aires have already reported run-ins with the mosquitoes. Another, Thomas Walsh, posted a video of himself hitting a shot on the range while wearing protective netting over his head and upper body.”
Full piece.

6. Pettersen adds Reid as vice captain

Sky Sports report…”European Solheim Cup skipper Suzann Pettersen has added Mel Reid as a fourth vice-captain for this year’s contest against Team USA in Virginia.”

  • “Englishwoman Reid – a vice-captain to Catriona Matthew in 2019 – will join Dame Laura Davies, Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Martens as deputies when Europe look to retain the trophy in Gainesville between September 13-15, live on Sky Sports.”
Full Piece.

7. LIV’s new streaming deal

Golf Monthly’s Jonny Leighfield…”The LIV Golf League has announced a new broadcast deal with streaming platform, Caffeine to show its live Friday action.”

  • “As well as opening-day coverage being available on the LIV YouTube channel, LIV Golf Plus, and the CW app, fans of the 54-hole competition will now have another option to watch Jon Rahm and co. battle it out.”
Full Piece.

8. ICYMI…Overton set for Cognizant start

Tom D’Angelo for Palm Beach Post…”It’s been a long road back for former U.S. Ryder Cup member Jeff Overton, but the Palm Beach Gardens resident will have a short drive this week to continue that journey.”

  • “Overton was one of three players to earn a spot in this week’s Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches when the 40-year-old Monday qualified with a 6-under 66 at the Tesoro Club.”
  • “It feels great, but it will feel even greater if I can continue this thing,” said Overton, who was sidelined from the game for five years with a serious infection after back surgery in 2017.
Full Piece.

9. 2024 Cognizant Classic photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s event!
Full Piece.
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