Almanac Golf – Golf Capital: Comebacks

@hamishneal

The golfing comebacks continue as we look at some news, thoughts and notes from the last week. Kiwi Lydia Ko snapped her winless streak, Alexander Bjork won in China as did Daniel Gale in Papua New Guineas whilst Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy claimed one the PGA Tour’s teams event – the Zurich Classic.

Opening drive
Having not won since July 2016 former world number one Lydia Ko returned to her most successful venue as a professional winning the LPGA Mediheal Championship at the Lake Merced Golf Club in a playoff over Australia’s Minjee Lee. Ko’s win at the Daly City venue, her third win here as a professional, came after Lee finished birdie-birdie to force a playoff. Ko nearly fired and albatross as the duo went up 18 again but her birdie gave the 21-year-old her 15th (!) LPGA title.

Like Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, who also went winless in 2017, Ko hadn’t triumphed since July 2016 but the return to the venue in outer San Francisco proved beneficial as she battled the cold and wet conditions in the middle of the tournament before ultimately seeing of world number 17 Lee who started the tournament ranked one spot higher than Ko. The top women (bar the few playing in the Golf Sixes) heads to Dallas for the LPGA Texas Classic next. American Stacy Lewis, who recently announced her pregnancy, is set to feature in this event and plans to play tournaments until mid-July with her first child due in November.

Alexander Bjork lived up to the promise of recent years in finally saluting on the European Tour. Bjork, 27, fired a final round 65 and got home at Topwin Golf and Country Club to win the China Open, an event co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour. After Jordan Smith set the clubhouse benchmark with the final round leaders still on the course Bjork was flawless with seven birdies and after Adrian Otaegui botched his par putt on 17 leaving the Spaniard with too much to do on 18 the Swede claimed his maiden triumph.

Roommates from recent weeks on the PGA Tour Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy shot a final round of 67 (the best of the day) in the foursomes format to claim the PGA Tour teams event at TPC Louisiana from fellow American duo Jason Dufner and Pat Perez.

A course record 11 under 61 on Saturday before he scooted clear on Sunday at the Port Moresby Golf Club saw New South Wales golfer Daniel Gale win the Papua New Guinea Open by a stunning nine strokes. Braden Becker of WA and Tim Stewart, also of NSW, trailed the winner. Next up for the PGA Tour of Australasia is the WA PGA Championship to be staged in Kalgoorlie before the Fiji International in August.

Player performance notes
Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. Following back-to-back European Tour selections saluting we go in on the Golf Sixes tournament in form, but not necessarily confident given it’s only the second edition of the event. The Centurion Club at St Albans near London hosts the format which features four-team pools playing a round-round format of six-hole matches before knockout golf on the Sunday.

Under 20: Aphibarnrat/Jaidee. The Thai duo are matched in group A with the defending champion Danish pair (Bjerregaard/Olesen) but Kiradech Aphibarnrat/Thongchai Jaidee actually scored the most points in the group stage last time around only to get bounced in the quarter finals. The pair also have experience in events like the President’s Cup and Aphibarnrat won in Perth in the individual Super 6s event.

Under 20: Brazel/Ormsby. In possibly the most even group the Australian duo with Wade Ormsby, the 2017 Hong Kong Open winner getting the nod. Sam Brazel (2016 HK Open champ) reached the final last year with Scott Hend but Wang/Lee are the rising stars in group B.

Under 20: Dunne/Moynihan. The Irish duo has the in-form Paul Dunne teaming up with Gavin Moynihan. Dunne across his last five starts has four top eight finishes. Moynihan’s relative inexperience, as the fifth ranked Irish player at 441, might be problematic in group C but as former Walker Cup teammates they are used to playing together.

Under 20: Bjork/Lagergren. Group D is stacked with recent winners but we will plump for the Swedish duo. Joakim Lagergren played this event last year and coupled with Alexander Bjork’s recent victory they should sneak throw. In the all-female England duo Charley Hull leads the LPGA for birdies which should suit the shortened format and Georgia Hall had two top ten finishes in majors last year. Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace are winners in the Middle East and India in the last few weeks respectively, after all that South Africans might progress!

Greens in regulation
Tiger Woods will return for the first time since the Masters when he takes part at the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship with the expectation he will feature at The Players Championship in Florida following the tournament in Charlotte. Woods has won here (2007) but also missed the cut last time around in 2012. Woods’ featuring in this tournament means there is no post-Masters lull. The tournament was already going to be exciting with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler playing for the first time since Augusta.

Tap In
Gale’s comprehensive victory in Port Moresby has moved the Sydney golfer inside the top 1000, now 814, but it was a local amateur who was capturing most of the early attention. Matching Dale Brandt-Richards opening round course record 63 (at least until Saturday) PNG golfer Brian Taikiri stayed with the pack for the next two days firing consecutive rounds of 70 before eventually finishing T7 after a final round of three over 75. Taikiri was one of three local golfers who made the cut in a great result for the local golfers. It’s no doubt a struggle for them to access other PGA Tour of Australasia events but it would be good if some of the other tournaments on the tour could allocate places for players from countries like PNG, Fiji and Vanuatu for their bigger tournaments. Different to sponsor exemptions these could be funded by the host body. Currently, Taikiri is aimingto take up a traineeship in Australia but is having visa issues which has delayed this starting. (I assume it’s taking a while as he isn’t a white South African farmer or an au pair.)

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.

Comments

  1. Peter_B says:

    Onya Hamish. Loved the Dutton dig in the last line. Do Nauru or Manus Island have a golf course?
    I have never really warmed to Lydia. She always seemed so controlled, but tough to be #1 so young. I was barracking for Minjee but Lydia’s sublime 3 wood in the playoff and her tears after breaking her drought showed her humanity. Great to see. Beautiful old Alister McKenzie course in San Francisco made the LPGA tournament much better to watch than the PGA bombers on their bowling alley.
    https://www.geoffshackelford.com/homepage/2018/5/1/kos-3-wood-reminds-us-what-shotmaking-can-be-like-when-the-professional-game-has-symmetry

  2. The PGA event should be interesting this week with a new tour venue PB. Nice insight from Shackelford in that piece. Lydia has grown up as a professional golfer so I guess we can give her some slack but I also think Minjee is close to winning again.

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