Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Thomas at the double, Storm victorious in South Africa
A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw Justin Thomas win again and also featured a playoff in the European Tour’s return for 2017.
The holiday locale of Hawaii sends most visitors into a relaxed mode but it’s proving a location in which focus and discipline seem to work for American Justin Thomas with the 23 year-old winning for the second week running with a comprehensive seven-stroke triumph in the Sony Open. The early year field was chasing from the off when Thomas became the youngest player to record a 59 on the PGA Tour in the opening round and held steady for the rest of the tournament including posting a record low at 36 holes for the PGA Tour. Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth finished second and third, respectively behind Thomas at the Waialae Country Club which is a solid start for two players looking to add to their big wins in the last two years.
The Glenbower Golf Club was the scene of a playoff which saw the unfancied Graeme Storm, who hadn’t won since 2007, vanquish world number two Rory McIlroy despite the Northern Irishman having hit the lead on the back nine of the final round in the South African Open. Storm got the edge on the third playoff hole for his first tour win since he triumphed in France ten years ago. Challenge Tour star Jordan Smith (who we highlighted last week) rallied late in round four but parts of his chipping game let him down. McIlroy, for all his victories, has now lost five playoffs he’s been in with only one victory in six sets of extra holes. Englishman Storm, who only just retained his tour card due to American Patrick Reed’s ineligibility was guided round the course by local caddie Thama Nkonyane who assisted Storm in South Africa when has was an amateur. Nkonyane stepped in with Storm’s regular caddie on his honeymoon.
With the main ladies tours still a week away the Asian Tour Singapore’s Open sees a pretty good field on deck for it’s first tournament of the season with Adam Scott, who has won the event three times, plus one-time world number two Sergio Garcia the top hopes at the at Sentosa Golf Club
Player performance notes:
Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. We head to the Middle East with the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship which won’t feature McIlroy whose injury concerns during the tournament on the weekend turned out to be stress fractures.
20 and under: Rickie Fowler. One American has already won first-up in a full field event 2017 and Fowler is the defending champion here with a T3 and T6 at his last two starts in 2016. However Fowler is yet to successfully defend a title he has won.
20 to 50: Matthew Fitzpatrick. There are a range of recent ET winners from late last year returning who didn’t play in South Africa and Fitzpatrick is one of those with the Englishman having won the season-ending event. He was T26 last year.
20 to 50: Branden Grace. The South African shot no worse than 68 in Hawaii last weekend to finish T13 so is playing well. Grace, 28, was T5 here last year the week before winning the Qatar Masters.
100 to 200: Thomas Aiken. One of our hopes last week the South African was solid in his home open finishing T5 and has three top six finishes to his credit in Middle East events, however he hasn’t won since 2014.
100 to 200: Alejandro Canizares. The Spaniard was one of only four players who finished well up the leaderboard (he was T5) here last year who closed with two sub 70 rounds before a T8 at the Dubai Desert Classic a few weeks later. The world 143 has an early tee off time in the first round so a chance to get going first-up.
200 to 500: Andrew Dodt. The Australia had a good start in the European Tour at the back end of last year with a T3 at the Hong Kong Open after a second at the Australian PGA. However his record in the Middle East, which includes two missed cuts last year, is worrying.
Greens in regulation:
After a convincing victory last year in Minnesota the USA has selected Jim Furyk as their captain for the 2018 Ryder Cup to be held in France. From a strategy point of view it will be interesting to see if he focuses on playing as well in the coming 18 months. Ironically the decision came in the week of Thomas’ heroics with Furyk having carded a 58 and 59 on the PGA Tour in his career. Davis Love III, who crafted key pairings for last year’s win at Hazeltine, stays on as an assistant captain.
After the South African Open it’s worth noting one player of interest despite the fact they didn’t make the cut. Johan van der Wath posted a six over for the first two rounds and missed out on weekend action but it was interesting to see a cross-over athlete with the former international cricketer now in his third year playing Sunshine Tour events, mainly on invites. The current world number 1866 had a solid first-class career in South Africa and played county cricket for Northants but famously featured in the one-day international in the Wanderers in March 2006 when the home side chased down Australia’s 434/4 – winning with a ball to spare. Conceding 76 in his ten over spell van der Wath’s 35 runs of 18 balls was crucial as the Proteas overhauled Australia’s total helped largely by Herschelle Gibbs 175 (111.) Van der Wath could feature in the next co-sanctioned event with the European Tour when the Sunshine Tour has the Joburg Open next month. Its’s fair to say his most famous professional sporting moment is behind him but it’s a credit to him he attempted to mix it with the likes of McIlroy and a host of local stars last weekend.
This golfing wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport