Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Thomas and Matsuyama go 1-2 again, European Tour set to return for 2017

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw the return of the PGA Tour for 2017 in Hawaii and a look ahead to the European Tour’s 2017 opener.

Opening drive:
American Justin Thomas notched his second victory in four months winning at Kapalua in the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions when he prevailed by three strokes over Hideki Matsuyama. Japan’s Matsuyama got a late chance to make up ground when Thomas took a seven on the par five 15th but missed his chances with Thomas winning comfortably in the end to notch his first PGA Tour victory outside of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia which he has won the last two years. Ironically Matsuyama was second to him in October also in Kuala Kumpur. To put it another way, if Thomas didn’t exist Matsuyama would have won six consecutive stroke-play events instead of four of his past six.

The PGA Tour action swells this weekend with a standard full field for the Sony Open, as opposed to 32 ‘winners only’ field from last weekend. Argentina’s Fabian Gomez is the defending champion in the event to be held at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

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. We head to South Africa for what is the second oldest national open in the world as the European Tour returns for 2017 with an event co-sanctioned with the Southern African Sunshine Tour. Brandon Stone is the defending champ at the Glendower Golf Club for the South African Open.

20 and under: Brandon Stone. World number two Rory McIlroy is favourite despite not having played in South Africa in years but of those high in the market defending champ Stone has top prospects. Whilst not many go back-to-back in this tournament it’s hard to ignore the 61 Stone shot on Monday in his practice round.

20 to 50: Thomas Aiken. This course has 37 bunkers on the back nine so driving/iron accuracy is key here and Johannesburg-born Aiken ranks seventh on tour for this statistic.

50 to 100: Thomas Detry. The young Belgian was prominent on the second-tier Challenge Tour last year and finished the year ranked 190th with a third placing in south Africa in December when Stone was the victor.

50 to 100: Dylan Fritelli. Like Aiken a Jo’burg native Fritelli was the only player to produce sub 70 rounds on both weekend rounds last time here to finish T18 after a slow start and has an early tee time in the first round to get off to a better start this time.

50 to 100: Jordan Smith. Like Detry a Challenge Tour star who played a few top rated events at the end of the season, including firing an opening round 66 in the Hong Kong Open in December. However he did miss a lot of cuts in 2016.

100 to 200: Daniel Brooks. Basildon-born Brooks was third here and last year whilst South Africans have won 13 of the last 20 events overseas players have done well in recent years. For example England’s Andy Sullivan won here in 2015 before going on to be victorious twice more again that year, once in South Africa, then Portugal.

Greens in regulation:
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy gave an extended interview published last weekend in which offered a great insight into his mindset when he was asked about golf in the Olympics which caused such controversy in 2016. McIlroy also discussed his ‘conflicted’ feelings around the two teams (Ireland and Team GB) he’s linked to and the general concept of nationalism as it relates to golfers. It is an interesting insight into the four-time major winner who, amongst other things, says he would not want the life of Tiger Woods especially given the American player gets.

Tap in:
With the PGA having re-started for the year and now the European Tour set to resume most of the attention has turned to the elite fields but some players are still seeking qualification for the tours such as the men’s Asian Tour with an event in Bangkok featuring some Australian players this weekend. However one Australian is assured of a spot closer to the top table with Sydney teen Celina Yuan having recently qualified for the Ladies European Tour after a tie for third in the final LET Qualifying School event in Morocco. Whilst not of the prestige or financial return of the LPGA junior in Europe Yuan, 17, has an interesting challenge ahead of her when she starts next month.

This piece 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.

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