Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Spieth wins in Sydney again as young English duo win season climaxes

@hamishneal

A collection of my golf thoughts reviewing the culmination of two tour plus the local feature and a look ahead to this weekend’s team event in Melbourne, Australia.

Opening drive:

Two season-ending events and Australia’s pinnacle tournament highlighted a great array of golf on the weekend which saw playoffs in both Sydney and Georgia, USA. Two-time major winner Jordan Spieth saw off rising Australia star Cameron Smith and world number 903 Ashley Hall to secure his second Stonehaven Cup on the same weekend English duo Charley Hull and Matt Fitzpatrick won their respective season-ending events on the LPGA and European Tour. Mackenzie Hughes won a five-way playoff to notch up his maiden PGA Tour trophy.

At Royal Sydney in Rose Bay, Spieth came from two shots off the lead prior to the final round to join Smith and Hall in extra holes. I say holes but Spieth needed only one with a putt just under three metres after a fine approach on the 18th set up the putt for the win. The American joins Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as overseas players who are among the multiple winners of the tournament. Former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy will be disappointed he squandered his third-round lead ultimately signing for a one over round of 73. Playoff protagonists Hall and Smith plus fellow Australia Aaron Baddeley (who finished T4) all gained a spot in the British Open next year.

In Dubai England’s Matt Fitzpatrick chipped away at a one-shot deficit to see off a field (including major winners Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy) and claimed the DP Tour World Championship. Fitzpatrick, 22, nudged home from Tyrell Hatton as Stenson secured the European Tour crown for the season after finishing T9

In Florida England’s Hull won her first LPGA title, and only her second professional crown, in the most convincing win of the weekend when she triumphed by two strokes over South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu in the CME Group Tour Championship. Hull, 20, came into the event ranked 29th in the world and has fired some quality rounds this season but rarely combined them for the win – this weekend was the exception with a bogey-free final two rounds which included 12 birdies. Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn won the LPGA season crown after completing the tournament in a tie for fourth.

Monday morning, or very early Tuesday morning depending on your time-zone, saw Hughes won the RSM Classic in Georgia after the 25 year-old from Ontario and three other players returned to conclude the tournament having finished the regulation 72 holes tied at 17 under at Sea Island. Camilo Villegas, Henrik Norlander, Blayne Barber, Billy Horschel and Hughes featured in the first five-player playoff since German Alex Cejka prevailed in March last year in Puerto Rico. Horschel was eliminated on Sunday before the four remaining players squared things up on the second hole prior to the event getting suspended due to the fading light. When play resumed on Monday Canadian Hughes wasted no time chipping in from off the green on the par three 17th, after he was wasteful off the tee, as Barber, Norlander and Villegas missed with their close putts and all made bogey on the par three. A great result after he scrapped into the top tier a few months ago. Hughes was the first tour rookie to lead an event from start to finish in over 20 years.

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investment if that’s your thing. We turn our attention to Kingston Heath in Melbourne for the World Cup of Golf. The event in 2013 was won by the Australian pairing of Jason Day and Adam Scott by an astonishing 10-shots when it was held in the Victorian capital but at Royal Melbourne. The format is a mix of four-ball and foursomes (alternate shot) with the combined lowest score over the four days the winner. With 28 two-man teams we will have three picks.

Under 5: Australia (Adam Scott/Marc Leishman) Sometimes one shouldn’t over complicate things. Scott won this event with Jason Day three years ago and Leishman beat Jordan Spieth in a singles match in the 2015 Presidents Cup so has solid experience in team golf.

5-10: Japan (Hideki Matsuyama/Roy Ishikawa) Whilst team golf form is important with such a quick turnaround to this event and players coming from everywhere individual player form is key also. Matsuyama has won his home Open recently and they are one of only two teams this weekend with a top ten player and the other player ranked inside the top 100.

10-20: Sweden (Alex Noren/David Lingmerth) The other duo who are both ranked in the top hundred with at least one player in the top 10* and Alex Noren has won four times this year.

*It should be noted the USA team of Rickie Fowler (12) and Jimmy Walker (19) only just fail to meet this criteria but are a big chance.

Greens in regulation:

Quality events with exciting finishes in Australia and the USA in the men’s game could have actually been more so on the weekend with players who could feature at either/both events turning out in Japan for the Dunlop Phoenix tournament. Ryder Cupper Brooks Koepka won the event by a stroke from local Yuta Ikeda. The tournament featured four other PGA tour winners from the last year and a host of rising stars from Asia. I understand the commercial aspect but spreading thin the three playing groups in that top 50 tier seems daft. And that’s before you consider the European Tour denouement was going on at the same time. Could the event in Miyazaki be before the Australian key events or after it as players head back to the states?

Tap in:

In a fact that may amuse only me it’s perhaps ironic to note in the two US PGA Tour events to date since Donald Trump was elected president of the USA the tournaments have been won by a bloke with a Mexican grandparent and a Canadian. At this rate ‘the Donald’ might fold the tour come late January when he is inaugurated. Jokes aside, the future sites of tournaments at his venues would seem assured which isn’t good for a sport attempting to promote a more inclusive environment. It’s difficult to see those involved (players and officials) rocking the boat. The only significant dissenting voice in sport was the mayor of the Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, who raised concerns, before the election, about the impact a Trump presidency would have on the 2024 Olympic bid. But the organisers are spoilt for choice in SoCal in terms of golf courses so even if Trump doesn’t back the bid and they get over the line it’s not as if they need to use his courses. But can you imagine Trump opening an Olympic games anyway. Possible one of his final major acts as a second-term president… Shudder.

This golfing wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport

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About

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.

Comments

  1. Golf has filled far more of my attention (on screen and on course) than the gnashing and wailing over cricket.
    The European Tour has got most of my attention due to the evening time zone here in Perth. The final big tournament in Dubai was gripping over the last 9 holes (lets face it golf is pretty boring as a spectacle except for aficionados until the final stages). Bit like the Tour de France – we watch the scenery until the final sprint/climb.
    Three young players fought out the finish with all showing pressure reduces even the best to my standard (but briefly not permanently). I particularly empathised with Wiesberger’s 4 putt on 15 – missing two 3 footers! Fitzpatrick’s duck hook on 16 got a lucky bounce off a tree for him to salvage par. Hatton thinned approaches on 16 and 17 that could have ended up in the water. Then he succeeded in finding water off the 18th tee. I felt right at home.
    Not sure that I like course designs with hazards in the middle of the fairways like 16 and 18. Its a Norman design and I think the compromise is the wide fairways of a resort course mean its hard to find meaningful hazards for the pros.
    Caught some of the early days of the Australian Open and Royal Sydney is gorgeous to look at. Not sure that we can ever find a time for our “big” tournaments to get a space on the world golf calendar. Spieth comes because the tight fairways and tough bunkering of Australian courses helps him hone his game.
    The money and points on offer in even modest tournaments in the US and Europe will always dwarf our direct rewards.
    Looking forward to Kingston Heath and the top players for the World Cup. We are only getting a 2nd XI of world golf, but its still a cut above last week.
    Enjoy your work. Thanks Hamish.

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