Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Smith and Blixt

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, notes, and thoughts from the week with three playoffs (including a Monday finish) across the top three tours. There is also some sad news for an Australian who is a US PGA Tour regular.

Opening drive:
The combination of Cameron Smith (Australia) and Jonas Blixt (Sweden) won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans after extra holes on Monday with play-off triumphs on Sunday for Frenchman Alexander Levy in China plus Haru Nomura in the LPGA event in Texas.

The new format (the first time in 36 year the PGA Tour has had a teams event) for the Zurich Classic ran over-time with the event needing extra holes which were decided on Monday after darkness descended on the course in Avondale late on Sunday after the last two grouping forced extra time when a chip in from Kevin Kisner (playing with Scott Brown) had Smith and Blixt standing stunned on the green before Smith’s birdie saw them end with a total of 27 under after having a one-shot lead with one hole to play on Sunday. The inaugural win in the format went to Blixt/Smith after they triumphed on the fourth playoff hole (which was the 18th.) The victory was Blixt’s third on the PGA Tour and Smith’s first. The Brisbane golfer (who I was confident about recently) now has a two year exemption on tour but the team-based format meant the event had no world raking points but the security of a place on tour is more valuable for the 23 year-old. Blixt is roommates with Smith’s caddie Sam Pinfold which resulted in their pairing for the event. North Carolina is the site for this weekend’s event with James Hahn the defending champion at the Wells Fargo Championship.

South African Dylan Frittelli squandered a huge chance for his first European Tour victory after his three-shot lead from overnight evaporated late in the day with his seven on the par five 12th a major blot. Frittelli needed to take a drop after resting on a tree off the tee and then hacked around the green. This allowed others, including Levy, the chance to challenge him. Levy, seven strokes behind Frittelli after 54 holes, birdied the last and saw Frittelli skew over a tent near 18 before he signed for a par. Levy sunk a birdie putt on the first playoff hole (18) and the South African missed his. Levy has now won this tournament twice. Frittelli’s shot over 18 seemed almost a tactic after some favourable bounces off that structure during the tournament- just ask George Coetzee.

A tough final day in Irving which saw only top of the top ten shot under par as American Christie Kerr signed for a final round 74 and snuck into a playoff after Nomura’s five over 76. The duo engaged in a prolonged playoff with five attempts at playing the 18th before the Japanese world number 24 prevailed. Heading to Mexico the LPGA turns to the match play format with Carlota Ciganda last year’s victor in the Lorena Ochoa Match Play.

Player performance notes:
Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. The Centurion Club in London hosts the European tour’s next foray into a modified-format tournament with GolfSixes making it’s debut. The tournament, which starts with a group stage format on Saturday, is a set of six-hole contests with a shortened playoff hole if needed. After the top two teams from each four-team group advance the tournament goes to knockout format. The teams are nation-based.

Under 20 Denmark. After winning the World Cup last year let’s go for the Danes again with Lucas Bjerregaard teaming up with Thorbjorn Olesen. Olesen won the WC with Soren Klejdsen in Melbourne, so whilst this is a different team format it’s significant that Bjerregaard, 25, fits the profile of a nearly-man on tour (four top threes in just over two years) and is paired with a multiple winner of recent years. Much like the Smith/Blixt combination.

Under 20: France. Not only did Levy win in China but his partner here Gregory Bourdy was T3, his best result since June. Some of the teams could be stronger but this pairing are two of the top three ranked French players with Victor Dubuisson ranked one spot ahead of Levy before the weekend’s win.

Under 20: Spain. Pablo Larrazabal was in contention in China before a T11 finish and a recent T13 in Morocco has him playing consistently. Teammate Alejandro Canizares has a third in South Africa to his credit in 2017 but was a quarter finalist in the Paul Lawrie Match Play event last year.

20 to 50: Sweden. Johan Carlsson was also in the quarters in Scotland last year in the Match Play and his partner here Joakim Lagergen was second in Qatar in January. Lagergen has had a steady rankings rise from 314 to 142 in the past 14 months. This is our second pick in group D but with the top two progressing from each group the Swedes and France would then be kept apart until meeting again in the final if they progressed.

Greens in regulation
Adelaide’s Brad Moules is the defending champion in this weekend’s PGA Tour of Australasia event with the Royal Port Moresby Golf Club hosting the PNG Open. Moules won the event in a three-way playoff in 2016 in a tournament which, despite been played in a country unknown for it’s golf, has good stature on tour. With $142,00 in prizemoney the event has a larger purse than the NZ PGA Championship and Victorian PGA Championship. Two amateurs Soti Dinki (+8) and Jacob Duwe (+18) were the only locals to make the cut in 2016 and the nation has an interesting recent history with few professional golfers but a dispute between two bodies back in 2009 with two players Nelson Gabriel and Augustine Peni drawn into the argument between officialdom. Gabriel is now the club pro at this week’s venue but will need to get some extra staff to run things whilst he tees it up in the event which carries world ranking points.

Tap in
Finally for all the drama that golf has provided in recent weeks, including a maiden major victory for Sergio Garcia, another personal matter will see an Australian take time away from the PGA Tour. John Senden, a two-time winner in the USA, announced over the weekend that his son Jacob, 13, has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and the Queensland golfer has left the tour indefinitely. Recently Jason Day missed tournaments due to his mother’s cancer treatment and American Gary Woodland, who has since returned to the course, confirmed medical complications meant one of the twins his wife is due to give birth to shortly has passed away. You can’t write much after those sentences but here’s hoping the broader golf family don’t get more bad news health-wise in 2017 as the year has started terribly in this regard. Best of luck to the Senden family.

This golf 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.

Comments

  1. Peter_B says:

    Good summary again Hamish. I watched a fair bit of the China Open on the weekend, due to the convenient time zone. Demonstrated the old maxim that golf tournaments only begin on the back 9 on Sunday. Only us tragics find them interesting before then. Fratelli was 4 lengths in front of the pack and going easy until he saw the winning post at the top of the straight. He bombs it a mile; but has an unconventional stance and swing that doesn’t yet hold up under pressure. He is young and talented – but that only takes you so far against hardened pros. His approach to 18 – intentional or not – deserved a triple bogey – not a generous drop without penalty. Little blokes like Levy and Zanotti seem to be able to win on the European tour where distance is not such a premium.
    Have not seen a lot of Cameron Smith – he seems to have an elite game from 100 metres in. Young and slight – but he looks a very good prospect when he strengthens up a bit for the bombing ranges of the US tour. It was touching to see how emotional he was after the win. The culmination of 10 years of bloody hard work and a lot of faith shown in him. More power to the young man.

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