Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Ko’s ANA, Kupcho triumphs at Augusta, Conners into the Masters



Another first time major winner was crowned with Jin-young Ko’s victory in the ANA Inspiration in California. This result lays the platform for this week’s opening men’s major of the year the Masters, an event which has seen debut major winners among it’s last four winners stretching back to Jordan Spieth’s major breakthrough in 2015. The last spot in the field at Augusta National went to Canadian Corey Conners following his Texas Open triumph on Sunday.


Opening drive


South Korean Jin-young Ko prevailed at Rancho Mirage to win her first major by three shots on Sunday and make the famous leap into Poppie’s Pond after winning the ANA Inpsiration. Ko, the 2018 Australian Open champion, had already won on the LPGA Tour this year with last month’s triumph in the Founders Cup so had come into the event in good form but had only once placed inside the top ten (2015 Women’s British Open – second) in a major in 11 prior starts. Ko at 10 under beat Mi Hyang Lee with Lexi Thompson a further stroke back in third.


It was England’s Ian Poulter who grasped a Masters spot the week before the event last year when he won the Houston Open but it could be argued Conners’ effort in San Antonio this week was more impressive. In winning the Texas Open (which is now the week before the Masters after a schedule change) Conner’s needed to birdie his final hole in Monday qualifying to make a playoff which he won with a birdie on the first extra hole. Conners, 27, then carded 30 on the back nine on Sunday to not only claim his first PGA Tour triumph but gain a coveted spot in the Masters. Solid Augusta performer Charley Hoffman was second with a final round 64 netting Ryan Moore third spot.


Greens in regulation

Action in Georgia on the weekend saw the inaugural Augusta Womens’ National Amateur take place with victory going to American college star Jennifer Kupcho who shot a final round five-under 67 which included three birdies plus an eagle in the run home to finish at 10 under three clear of Mexican Maria Fassi.


Disappointingly the players only got onto the Masters course itself for the final round with the first two rounds of the 54-hole event taking place on the Champions Retreat track. A cruel and unusual punishment for those that were close to cut line but missed the last round.


Whilst the staging of this event was certainly notable the contrast to the Jordan Mixed Open (which also took place on the weekend) is stark. As noted last week the mixed event with players from the Ladies European Tour, the men’s Challenge Tour and seniors Staysure Tour provided just that, a mixed finish. England’s LET star Meghan MacLaren, who led into the final round by two strokes, was eventually overhauled by Challenge Tour player Dutchman Daan Huizing. MacLaren, a recent winner in Australia, double-bogeyed the 11th after some earlier dropped shots to open the door for Huizing who last year finished third in the Challenge Tour’s season ending event.


Great for Augusta to do what they did with the female Amateur event but I think the event at the Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba really elevates and demonstrates what the actual way forward is for inclusion in golf. As the Straits Times noted Augusta National Golf Club as a “former all-male enclave” only admitted it’s first female members from 2012 onwards. From 2012 to now the European-based tours have been far more inclusive in a real tangible manner when it comes to tournament access and prizemoney, and this is headlined by events like the Vic Open which is linked to the Australasian Tour itself. Come on Augusta and the PGA Tour, you can lift more…


Tap in

Even allowing for all of the above, the pomp and circumstance, gravitas, and allure of Augusta and Masters week is something special in not only the world of golf, but the world of sport. Patrons (yes, patrons – listen to the television broadcast they can’t even refer to the attendees as fans) can’t bring electronic devices on site and those at home get the least amount of direct network TV coverage of any major of the season. This leaves a lot to the memory and few watching knowing much about the front nine until perhaps Sunday. All this adds to the mystique and part of the reason many make a trip to venue as one of the sporting ‘must-do’s’ at some point in their life. It’s the only set venue for a major championship on the men’s tours further solidifying it’s reverential status. The next most famous course in the USA (probably) Pebble Beach last hosted a major in 2010, although it will host this year’s US Open.


This week

The Masters

Justin Rose
One of the trends among recent Masters winners has been a win earlier that year and Rose fits the bill with his January triumph in San Diego and his recent Masters record includes a T2 (2015) and second place (2017) finish and only once since 2011 has he finished outside the top 14 and that was a T25 finish

Justin Thomas
One of my 2018 thoughts for this tournament. Rinse and repeat. Has since won the Bridgestone Invitational and this year was second in the LA (Genesis Open) behind JB Holmes.

Jordan Spieth
Now at 33 in the world hasn’t won anywhere since his 2017 Open triumph but is blessed with an elite Masters record having not finished worse than T11 in five goes around the track. His 2015 win kicked off a run of five majors in which he won twice, placed second twice and was T4. It’s hard to win the Masters and to consistently contend means something.

Xander Schauffele
If we look at a possible first-time major winner, which has been a recent trend, it makes sense to look at other big event winners and Schauffele was the TOUR Championship winners in 2018 plus has a WGC title to his credit. It’s asking a lot to win after his one Masters start last year saw him finish T50 but he followed that with two top six finishes in the next two majors.

Two more for the event: Genesis Open winner and he of the recent slow-play controversy JB Holmes and plus Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, who was T6 in his Masters debut in 2013.


2019 record:
Feb 13: Nelly Korda win and Paul Dunne third.
Feb 20: Ledioda missed the cut and in Mexico Ancer (T39) was the best of the three.
Feb 27: Best two were Brooke Henderson (T15) after taking an eight on one of the par fives in her opening round and Harrison Endycott T17.
March 6: Matt Millar T23 in NZ was the best result in the tough weather on the South Island.
March 13 Justin Thomas T35 was the best of the TPC Sawgrass four.
March 20: Went off a week early with Kisner but in he Valspar Jon Rahm was T6 as the best result.
April 4: Matt Jones’ T30 was the best of the four options last week after Rahm’s T6 finish the week prior.


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.


  1. Jin-young Ko has the most beautiful swing in golf – male or female. Snead in sneakers. Graf with a gap wedge.
    I like Marc Leishman for the Masters. Has been Top 10 here twice and three times in the British Open. Has the miles in his legs for the biggest stage.

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