Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Minnesota mauling, Tiger’s return draws closer



A collection of my golf thoughts from the week, primarily reflecting on the Ryder Cup, plus some player performance/form notes for the next few days.


Opening drive:


A six point triumph (17-11) in the Ryder Cup sees the USA win back the crown they last held after their 2008 victory in Kentucky. Europe was let down so some of it’s strong performers in recent cups with Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose running cold with the putter at Hazeltine at key times during the three days. Thomas Pieters rose above expectation as a rookie to claim four of a possible five points and was the best for Europe followed by Rory McIlroy’s three points. Patrick Reed’s 3.5 points over three days was the best for the winners with Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Kopeka (who were paired early in the tournament to help the USA get off to a sensational 4-0 start on the first morning in foursomes) finishing with three points each. Ironically for the USA Ryan Moore, the last player selected by captain David Love III, secured the decisive point as the USA won 7.5-4.5 on Sunday’s singles.


European captain Darren Clarke had to shuffle pairs late when it became clear the fallout from the letter written by Danny Willett’s brother Peter would have meant sending the Masters winner out on Friday morning into an even more intense atmosphere in Minnesota but in hindsight as Willett struggled overall maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. Westwood seems to have played his last Ryder Cup and Clarke’s biggest failure may have been breaking up Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello even when they were behind when Clarke needed to submit the team lists for Saturday afternoon’s four-balls. Things are nicely placed for two year’s time in France when the rivalry resumes.


Player performance notes:


Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investment if that’s your thing. We head to the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship which is played over three courses (St Andrews’ Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns) with the Old Course hosting the final round for those that make the cut after the third round.


20 and under: Thomas Pieters. Hope aboard the Belgian’s train after his Ryder Cup efforts the 24 year-old is looking to add to the title he won in Denmark back in August. However there could be a significant slide for many of the Europeans who were beaten at the weekend/.


20 to 50: Alex Noren. Has no Ryder Cup hangover or angst and has won twice this year including the European Masters last month. Like Pieters, and some others in this group plays his first round on Carnoustie which is considered the ‘easier’ of the three courses.


50 to 100: Tyrell Hatton. The links specialist is still looking for his first professional win after 108 starts but his T5 at the Open after a second placing in the Scottish Open bodes well here.


50 to 100: Graeme McDowell. This event features a pro-am with the professionals so a more seasoned campaigner does have an edge so the distractions of the format don’t get to them.


50 to 100: David Lipsky. The American has really mixed his form this season missing seven cuts but USA players have a good record at the tournament and his recent T3 in Denmark in similar conditions looks relevant here.


50 to 100: Soomin Lee. Whilst the South Korean scrambled in to make the cut at the Open the world number 119 will have derived benefit from that event and other links experiences earlier this year. The 22 year-old won in China earlier this term.


100 to 200: Paul Dunne. The Irishman lead the Open on St Andrews last year before a final round 78 cruelled his chances. His first and possibly, fourth, rounds are at the Old Course this time so he only needs to replicate two of his three good rounds at that venue to be in contention here.


200 to 500: Nacho Elvira. The world number 164 has a recent top five to his credit at the Italian Open and has featured in links match-play this season so knows the conditions well.


Greens in regulation:


Whilst there was plenty of focus in Minnesota with the Ryder Cup the Taiwan Masters produced a wonderful story with local Lu Wei-Chih securing his fourth Asian Tour title which isn’t overly special, however, it is very notable as the now world number 290 won for the first time after having undergone brain surgery four years again. A few seasons of struggle followed before Lu finally returned to the winner’s circle for the first occasion since November 2011. The Shinhan Donghae Open in Korea was won by Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar (world #268) for his sixth career crown on the Asian Tour and 15th pro victory. The Indonesian Masters at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club continues the Asian Tour this week whilst south-east of Indonesia the Fiji International, co-sanctioned with the European Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia, takes place in Natadola with Ryder Cup winner American Brandt Snedeker the feature of the field.


The LPGA’s first Asian leg event for this part of the season, the Reignwood LPGA Classic was won by In-Kyung Kim who moves into the top 30 at world number 29. This weekend is the Taiwan Championship where the defending champion is Kiwi Lydia Ko.


Tap in:


A winner as a vice-captain on the USA Ryder Cup team Tiger Woods is ramping up his preparations for his return later this month. Five-time winner on the PGA Tour Jesper Parnevik said the 14-time major winner was “hitting it great” having played nine holes with him recently. Tellingly in the Golf Digest piece Parnevik stated “comebacks are never a sure thing, but something tells me his might be spectacular.”


Whilst Woods, 40, only has three tournaments pencilled in for a return the comments from the Swede are the most definitive that the return is serious, and might not be pie in the sky from the American.

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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