Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Feng makes history for China, Grace wins ‘South Africa’s major’

@hamishneal

 

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw China’s Shanshan Feng make history in ascending to the number one ranking, Patton Kizzire break through at the top level and Branden Grace won ‘South Africa’s major.’ This week the LPGA and European Tour stage their season-ending events.

 

Opening drive
After securing back-to-back wins on the LPGA tour Shanshan Feng has become the first Chinese golfer (male or female) to rise to number one in the rankings. Feng, 28, appropriately achieved this mark after winning on Saturday at the Blue Bay LPGA event on Hainan Island, the southernmost province in China. Four weeks ago Feng was sixth then went T3, T2, 1, 1 with the victories coming in Japan and China.

 

The last few months has seen multiple notable moments for Chinese golf with Lin Yuxin claiming the Asia Pacific Amateur title in Wellington after two players, Dou Zecheng and Xinjun Zhang, secured PGA Tour cards for 2018/19 in August but Feng’s result tops them all. Feng edged home after a late stumble with a bogey on 17 and a birdie putt from Moriya Jutanugarn on 18 could have sent the event to a playoff but the Thai golfer’s attempt lipped out and Feng’s nine under was enough for victory.

 

South African Branden Grace won his eighth European Tour event but his first Rolex Series triumph when he won the Nedbank Challenge by a stroke over Scott Jamieson with Victor Dubuisson one shot behind the Scot. Frenchman Dubuisson, who led heading into the weekend, regained the advantage at ten but a birdie from Grace at 16 (when Jamieson just missed recording a birdie himself) proved pivotal.

 

Twice a winner in 2015 on the second-tier Web.com Tour Patton Kizzire faced down a challenge from Rickie Fowler to win the OHL Classic in Mexico on Sunday. Kizzire prevailed by one stroke on a day which saw the leaders play 36 holes on Sunday due to bad weather during the tournament. Fowler, 28, nearly nabbed three consecutive birdies after he picked up shots at 16 and 17 but he didn’t get it done on 18. The PGA Tour heads to Georgia for the RSM Classic this week.

 

Player performance notes
Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The European Tour reaches it’s climax in the Middle East with the DP World Tour Championship taking place at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick won in 2016.

 

Under 20: Matthew Fitzpatrick. Already a winner at the venue plus the Sheffield native triumphed in the European Masters in Switzerland this year and hasn’t been outside of a top 19 finish since then.

 

Under 20: Tyrell Hatton. The Englishman is a recent back-to-back winner and was second to Fitzpatrick last year here which came after a T13 at the event the year prior so he clearly likes the venue.

 

Under 20: Justin Rose. The world number six comes in off back-to-back wins at the WGC event in China before his win in Turkey. Tommy Fleetwood leads the ET standings but Rose is next most likely to win with Sergio Garcia the only other contender for that crown and Rose not pushing himself to play in South Africa could pay dividends here.

 

20 to 50: Martin Kaymer. The German got off to a slow start in 2016 here but finished 67-67 for a T19 and he’s coming off a fifth place in South Africa. However the 32-year-old hasn’t won since 2014.

 

20 to 50: Charl Schwartzel. The South African was third here last year coming off a T39 in South Africa and the major winner had an improved effort in his home nation last weekend finish T12. Only once (2014) since 2010 has the 2011 Masters champion failed to win an event each year.

 

100 to 200: Jeunghun Wang. The South Korean was T55 last weekend but not bother as he was T17 in this event last year closing 65-66 this was followed by a win two months later in the Qatar Masters. Wang, 22, has three career ET wins already pus multiple runner-up finishes.

 

Greens in regulation
With the ET finishing up in Dubai the women head to Naples Florida for their season-ending event as well. Interestingly, as with the European Tour finale in 2016, the LPGA denouement was won by an English golfer with Charley Hull claiming her first title at the top level in winning the CME Group Tour Championship. This time it’s hard to look past Feng, who was seven shots behind Hull last year. Other key challengers will be Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park both of whom sit above Feng in the CME Race to the Globe rankings. Thompson could have five wins for the season having won twice plus lost three playoffs (one of those playoffs was the controversial ANA Inspiration in April.) Feng was the first winner of this event when it was staged at the Tiburon Golf Course’s Gold Course in 2013 so it would be appropriate if she won again the week after she rose to number one.

 

Tap in
This week’s Australasian PGA Tour Event is the NSW Open to be held at the Twin Peaks Golf and Country Club near Penrith in western Sydney. Victorian James Marchesani heads into the event in winning form after he claimed a victory in Hong Kong at the Clearwater Bay Open as part of the PGA Tour of China. The event had been met with some criticism about the quality of field with some who were 18 shots adrift making the weekend play but Marchesani and his fellow competitors on the CPGA are now able to have a pathway to the second-tier Web.com Tour in 2018. Given Feng’s ranking peak at one plus some of the other recent positives will we look back on 2017 as pivotal to the rise of golf in China from a player pathway and performance point of view?

 

Correction: Last week, for a period and on some platforms, this column stated the Australia Open is to be held next week (November 23-26) at Royal Sydney- this is not the case. The tournament with take place at The Australian Golf Club at Rosebery in Sydney.

 

This golfing wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his ‘spare time’ (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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