Almanac Golf – Golf Capital: Ancer’s Aussie triumph, Friday at the Lakes


Mexico’s Abraham Ancer capped an improved 2018 with a triumph in Sydney to claim the Australian Open comfortably as Danny Willett and Lexi Thompson won the season ending events on the European Tour and LPGA respectively. Keeping up the trend of veteran winners and drought-breakers Willett was joined by Charles Howell III who won for the first time in 11 (!) years.


Opening drive


27-year-old Abraham Ancer dominated The Lakes Golf Club on Saturday before easing to victory on Sunday at the Australian Open and moved to a career-high 60 in the world  doing so. Ancer finished at 15 under, having signed for a seven under 65 on Saturday followed by a three under on the next day. Central Coast golfer Dimitrios Papadatos and Queensland’s Jake McLeod (who endured a rules issues on Saturday costing him strokes) won their way into the Open at Royal Portrush by virtue of their second and third place finishes.


Also at the Lakes on Sunday was the final round of the three-round Australian All Abilities Championship. Sweden’s Johan Kammerstad won by an astonishing ten strokes finishing at 17 over with Ireland’s Brendan Lawlor in second. Geoff Nicholas (+33) was the highest placed Australian in fourth.


Ariya Jutanugarn claimed all the prominent LPGA awards for 2018 to finish the season at number one but it was American Lexi Thompson who won for the first time this year as she won the CME Group Championship in Naples, Florida by four strokes over Nelly Korda. Thompson has won every year since 2011 (bar 2012.) Which is some feat when you remember she is only 23. Jutanugarn finished T5 six strokes back from Thompson’s 18 under.


England’s Danny Willett triumphed for the first time since his 2016 Masters win when he secured victory at the DP Tour World Championship in Dubai on the weekend finishing at 18 under. Francesco Molinari won the European Tour’s season-long race. Willett started Sunday matched with this year’s Master champion Patrick Reed before an early bogey from Reed helped give Willett a lead he never relinquished.


11 years after he won the Nissan Open Charles Howell III beat Patrick Rodgers in a playoff at the RSM Classic to claim his third PGA Tour title. Rodgers had a record-setting weekend of scoring (61-62) to force the playoff and Howell, who could have won it in regulation, prevailed after the second playoff hole when he birdied 18 at the Sea Island Resort venue.


Player performance notes


To team golf for one of our last looks in 2018. Won last time (2016) by Denmark, the World Cup of Golf goes to The Metropolitan in Melbourne with the home duo the favourites in the 28-team event.


Under 20: Australia. Cameron Smith was picked to join Marc Leishman by the CIMB Classic winner who admits he hasn’t played the course ‘in about 12 years’ but they got a good look at the venue with amateur Daniel Micheluzzi on Tuesday and are both in good form.


Under 20: USA. Matt Kuchar picked the consistent Kyle Stanley. The team leader has won recently and Stanley scored two high quality finished in 2018 (WGC – Bridgestone and The Memorial)


20 to 50: South Africa. Young South African duo of Dylan Fritelli and Erik Van Rooyen could be suited to the Melbourne Sandbelt. Van Rooyen was named the European Tour’s ‘graduate of the year’ and Fritelli has been playing in the USA recently plus registered a T7 in Dubai.


20 to 50: Sweden. Course familiarity with matter but given Denmark won last time out I’ll go with another European pair from that neck of the woods. Both Alexander Bjork (April in China) and Joakim Lagergren (May in Portugal) have won in 2018 giving them confidence for an event in which they’ll have no pressure.


Greens in regulation.
After the season wound up in the Middle East the ‘new’ European Tour gets underway with the Hong Kong Open. The Fanling track has been home to much success with Wade Ormsby the last winner and Sam Brazel before that.


The PGA Tour sanctions the World Cup of Golf so doesn’t have a direct event up against this tournament but there will be some focus on Friday (Saturday morning in some locales) when ‘The Match’ sees Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson battle it out over 18 holes of match-play for a USD9 million purse. When the made-for-tv event (there will be no spectators on the course bar VIPS and officials) was first flagged up I was not as opposed to it as others. If the event is perhaps the fore-runner to the return of Monday Night golf that is fine. I don’t think it takes the gloss off the World Cup too much, but I would like to see them pull the cash out each time they lose one of the side bets


Tap in
On the Friday of the Australian Open I did head out to the venue to check out proceedings. There is a good chance I’ll put something down to review the day but in case time gets away here are five musings:

– It doesn’t matter about the standard of players, which can be the catalyst to getting people to a tournament, once you are watching it live the nuances of the groups you are following become the focus.

– Anirbarn Lahiri might be a sneaky candidate for Alpha-dog golfer of the year. He stood at the foot of the bridge waiting for Brandt Snedeker and Cameron Smith to play their third shots on 14 after driving the green in two.

– What is the scale for ‘golfer hits you with their ball’ rewards? A gentleman was struck on the shoulder by a Brandt Snedeker drive on 14. He got a signed golf, but if it was say the hand would that be a signed glove and two balls?

– Speaking of golf balls… shout out to Anthony Quayle for giving me his ball as he walked off the ninth (his last for the day and tournament) on Friday. Having missed the cut he could have sulked away but instead turned around to me as I passed the players and said, “Thanks for coming out.” Quayle and his group which included Kiwi Nick Voke and fellow Australian Cameron John would have been followed by about 25 people across the four or so holes I followed them and it was a small touch for a player who would, rightly, not be in the mood for that sought of interaction after his round. Rather embarrassingly I couldn’t find a young child nearby to give the ball to but my eldest now has a new treasured sporting possession to go with the captain’s armband he was gifted from Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante last season.

– People can’t leave celebrities alone some times. Jimmy Barnes was watching a group that included his good friend Peter Lonard and someone was still asking for a photo just as Barnes and the rest of the gallery was about to putt! Wait until the walk to the next tee champ!


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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