Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Rory and Lexi win, my Pebble Beach moment, Koepka favourite



Lexi Thompson continued her remarkable career on the LPGA Tour as Rory McIlroy stunned the field in Hamilton, Canada with a final round of 61. All this in the week before two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka looks to maintain his US Open crown and Australia’s Jan Stephenson was elevated to the World Golf Hall of Fame. This year the now third men’s major of the year will be held at the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Club on the Pacific Ocean.


Opening Drive


A 16th triumph on the PGA Tour for Rory McIlroy came at the re-positioned Canadian Open which now sits a week before the US Open as opposed to its previous slot of the week after the Open in the United Kingdom. A stronger field compared to previous seasons saw McIlroy finish at 22 under following a weekend in which he went 64-61 and came from five shots back heading into the weekend before he had a share of the third round lead. A quirky last few holes saw McIlroy go bogey-eagle-bogey as he threatened to fire a 59 on the Hamilton Golf and Country Club track before ultimately winning by seven strokes from Shane Lowry and Webb Simpson.


Aside from McIlroy there was plenty of interest in countryman Graeme McDowell who secured a T8 finish, which earned him a spot in the Open to be held at Portrush, his home town. Ironically the 39-year-old won the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, 10 years after Tiger Woods won the 100th US Open at the Southern California venue.


In Portugal the funky Golf Sixes was won by Thailand with plenty of dramatic moments during the two-day event at the Otiavos Dunes venue. The climax was Thailand claiming victory via a playoff when Phachara Khongwatmai struck one of his tee shots to close range in the nearest-the-pin competition after six holes and then a playoff over extra holes couldn’t split Khongwatmia and his partner Thongchai Jaidee from English duo Tom Lewis and Paul Waring. Khongwatmai, 20, has pedigree in this format having performed well in the individual Perth World Super 6 event previously.

US Women’s Open winner Jeongeun Lee6 nearly won back to back events before Lexi Thompson at 12 under won the Shoprite LPGA Classic by a stroke from the South Korean after an eagle on the 72nd hole. The eagle came after Thompson’s three-putt on the 15th which saw her fall two behind Lee6. The win at the Bay Course, Seaview in New Jersey means Thompson has won every year for the last seven on the LPGA. This week the Meijer LPGA Classic take place at the Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, Michigan.


Greens in regulation


Three-time major winner Jan Stephenson was elevated to the World Golf Hall of Fame during the week along with three other inductees at the ceremony in Carmel-By-The-Sea in Southern California. Americans Peggy Kirk Bell and Dennis Walters plus South African Retief Goosen. Also acknowledged was Augusta’s Billy Payne, somewhat odd considering his role as a figurehead at the iconic Georgia venue is perhaps not as impactful on the game as others. Payne almost certainly didn’t have to come through any of the adversity or barriers the other inductees went through. At least Payne was humble enough to acknowledge his award was really about the club itself but administrators of a private club who took until seven years ago to establish female membership are not exactly innovative. Until recently the Masters had the least amount of TV coverage of any major in keeping with the allure and mystic of the venue. Sounds fun, but not exactly innovative or inclusive nor does it ‘grow the game.’


Tap in


My Pebble Beach story is not one of a fluke par at one of the famous holes like the par three seventh, nor one of spotting someone at the famous Pro Am event in February no mine is of getting close to see the venue before cost and a tour group over-ruled me.


In 2002, whilst on a Trek America tour of the west coast of the USA, I was able to pass the venue but not actually travel on the the storied 17-Mile Drive. The fee to take in the drive for a vehicle is now $10.50 but the entry fee (much like a national park) for a van which myself and about 10 or so other travellers was much more back then. I seem to think it was in the range of $45. Much to the chagrin of many of the other trekkers they didn’t want to chip in nor take the time out from the day’s journey to take in the famous site. Despite my protestations (“But it’s where Tiger Woods won by 15 shots! This never happens in a major.”) and the fact I’d managed to get one or two of the sports fans on my side the chance to even drive past the holes or visit the clubhouse was lost and I was out voted before we moved on. I guess the lesson is to get your own RV if you are travelling up the west coast of the USA.


This week


Brooks Koepka


Hard to go past Koepka who is bidding for his fifth major triumph in nine starts. A win here would give him a major triumph on each coast this season.


Jordan Spieth


Since the Byron Nelson where he finished T29 Spieth has gone T3-T8-T7 and if his putter plays ball he can add to his 2015 US Open triumph and two other major triumphs.


Shane Lowry


I see no reason to divert from the Irishman who has performed admirably in the last month or so and now sits at 32 in the world rankings. Lowry has form at coastal tracks but did miss the cut in the Pro Am here in February.


CT Pan

April’s RBC Heritage winner beat a field which say Matt Kuchar, Shane Lowry and subsequent winner Patrick Cantlay all finished in the top three. Last start Pan was T3 behind Kevin Na in Texas.


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 the 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.
April 11: Xander Schauffele. T2 at his second Masters appearance is impressive a show for the future.
April 17: Brooke Henderson won in Hawaii with Matt Fitzpatrick the best at the RBC Heritage at T39.
May 15: Brooks Koepka won the PGA with Schauffele aiming for a top five finish before faltering like so many on Sunday to eventually finish T16 and 11 shots off the winner.
May 22: Matt Wallace was the best of a rough weekend finishing T41 in Denmark after a promising start.
May 29: Tiger Woods at T9 in Dublin was the best of the weekend four.
June 5: Shane Lowry finished T2 in Canada. This column going well in Canada or with Canadians.


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.


  1. A US Open at Pebble Beach is hog heaven for me. Stunningly beautiful and a strategic test of golf that gives everyone a chance. Perfect weather forecast and I reckon Scott and Day are both good chances. Day could have been right up there at Augusta but for some mental errors pushing too hard in round 3. Scott is in career best form tee to green. His issue is always putting inside 10 feet – he is a good long putter. The bumpier poanna greens might work in his favour.
    Lastly being in California gives me an extra 2 hours sleep before hitting the first tee on the big screen.

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