Almanac Golf – Golf Capital: 2018 begins with Champions plus rule changes


A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which sees the world’s top golfers return (well at least the male ones that normally play in America.) The action on the European and LPGA Tour is still on hiatus but there has been some interesting rule changes in the last month or so.

Opening drive
We head into 2018 with Justin Thomas having finished the 2017 season Fed Ex Cup champion and winning his first major with his triumph in August at Quail Hollow in Charlotte in the PGA Championship. England’s Tommy Fleetwood won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour on the strength of victories in Abu Dhabi and France. Across on the LPGA it was Lexi Thompson winning the season-long points race despite a host of disappointments, including the ANA Inspiration penalty debacle. Joining Thompson next year in the LPGA will be England’s Gerogia Hall. The Bournemouth-native won the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit and will play on the LPGA as a rookie in 2018.

The ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner was Western Australia’s Brett Rumford who won the inaugural World Super 6 tournament in Perth. As we noted recently Rumford was one of five Australian men to win on a European Tour or PGA Tour event in 2017. Su Oh leads the 2017/18 Australian LPGA Order of Merit but the tour still has the bulk of tournaments, including the Australian Open in February, to take place.

Player performance notes
Players I’m interested to see how they go with notes related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The Plantation Course at Kapalua hosts the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The Maui tournament is limited to the 34 winners of a PGA Tour event in 2017. Four picks here with the limited field.

Under 20: Justin Thomas. The American won twice in Hawaii last year, including this event, and comes here in a great run of form at the back end 2017.

Under 20: Marc Leishman. It’s hard to gauge form with players resuming for the year but Leishman won twice last year and not many others did. The three in the PGA Tour in the USA that did were elite players – Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.

20 to 50: Kevin Kisner. Kisner was one of the players at the President’s Cup who impressed in his debut last year and his victory in May in Texas saw him edge home over top players including Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm.

20 to 50: Pat Perez. A winner as recently as October, Perez followed that up his victory in Malaysia with a fifth place in South Korea plus he fired a final round 65 for a T3 finish here last year.

Greens in regulation
March of last year saw some wider rule changes for golf to be implemented in 2019 but the USAGA and R&A (the two overarching bodies responsible for the rules of the sport) have hit the fast forward button on the remote. By fixing the farce that was ‘call ins’ around rule violations, the top levels of golf have acknowledged officially the system was flawed. American Lexi Thompson was, now infamously, penalised from a viewer call in during the end of the ANA Inspiration in April. Thompson had actually made her error on the Saturday but it wasn’t picked up and relayed to her until during the latter stages on Sunday round. A comical situation ensued and Thompson, who was leading by two strokes at the time, went on to lose to So Yeon Ryu in a playoff. It was diabolical that random violations were even considered without consistent application to all players (e.g. tournament officials watching non-broadcast incidents) but the fact viewers could call in made a mockery of the sport and was an utter garbage use of technology.

Tap in
After Tiger Woods’ return in the Bahamas, I was somewhat upbeat but a recent update from the now 42-year-old has me puzzled. Woods stated he was “very encouraged” by the effort in Albany which saw him beat home some of the game’s best recent performers including Johnson, Thomas, and Henrik Stenson. However the 14-time major winner hasn’t outlined a schedule, which is somewhat odd given we are four months from the Masters starting. For a meticulous athlete to not at least outline the next six weeks seems odd; maybe he does know but isn’t going to mention anything yet.

In terms of the on-course aspects for his tournament selections based on recent aborted comebacks, the primary issue will be when Woods has to back up in full field events with early tee times. The limited field in the Bahamas meant no early starts and the ‘activated glutes’ saga of early 2015 still puzzles people given he was supposed to be in tournament ready form for the Farmers Insurance Open then. The jury remains out.

This golfing wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport


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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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