Almanac Golf: Golf Capital – Thomas tops in Quail Hollow, Team USA set to defend Solheim Cup


A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw another maiden for the second week running as Justin Thomas won the US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. A tri-sanctioned event in Fiji comes up this weekend as does the feature Solheim Cup with the USA women defending their crown won in Germany in 2015.

Opening drive:
It was another breakthrough major triumph for the year with Justin Thomas winning in Charlotte by two strokes finishing at eight under two clear of the field. Nine men’s players have won their first major since the start of 2015 proving the depth of the men’s game. The victory is Thomas’ fifth at the PGA Tour level but his first on mainland USA. Two of his other wins were in Hawaii in January this year plus he’s won the CIMB Classic in Malaysia back to back in 2015-16.

Not long after Thomas’ stop-then-drop putt on the 10th five players shared the lead at seven under in what turned out to be a compelling finish for the Wanamaker Trophy.

Three players finished in a tie for second Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari and Louis Oosthuizen. The latter has now completed a career grand-slam… of finishing second in majors. The 34-year-old South African did win the Open in 2010 but it’s still an odd quirk.

Thomas joins good friend Jordan Spieth in winning a major and not it needs only Rickie Fowler and Smylie Kaufman from the close quartet to make their own mark at the top level of the game. Fowler seems to be edging closer but Kaufman didn’t play on the weekend, however he did get engaged.

This weekend the PGA’s Wyndham Championship is on in North Carolina whilst the European Tour event in Europe sees Germany host the Paul Lawrie Match Play for the first time at Golf Resort Bad Griesbach.

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. After a major winner we have the Fiji International which will be without defending champion Brandt Snedeker who is injured. The tournament features an array of top players from the Asian, Australasian and European Tours.

Under 20: Ryan Fox. If the Kiwi produces the form he had in the first three rounds at the PGA until his final day he could register a similar dominant win to Snedeker. He won the Northern Irish Open last year so will be suited if the wind picks up on the exposed course.

20 to 50: Michael Hendry. Snedeker strolled to an 11-stroke victory last time at the Natadola Bay Golf Course when the tournament was held in October and Hendry was second. Since then Hendry won the NZ Open and has had two top ten finishes in Japan.

20 to 50: Jason Scrivener. The WA golfer finished T35 in the Scottish Open after missing the cut in the irish Open and before that he was T38 in France. Those Rolex Series events are streets ahead of class on this one and the wind on the links courses will set him up well for this tournament.

20 to 50: Jeunghung Wang. At 76 in the rankings Wang has slipped a bit since he won the Qatar Masters in January but if he’s fit and has gotten over his missed cut at the PGA his game suits this venue.

500 to 100: Jake Higginbottom. If not for a third round 79 the one-time NZ Open winner would have been well in contention last time here but he finished T7.

50 to 100: Poom Saksanin. The world #236 is at a career-high ranking and had won two times since October in Asia winner in Asia including earlier this month in India. Plus he’s in that magic age bracket, he’s currently 24.

Greens in regulation:
Looking to retain the biennial crown against the European side the USA host the Solheim Cup in Iowa. Victory at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club would give the USA a 10-5 record over their trans-Atlantic rivals in the history of the event and they enter it with a vastly more experienced team with 36 combined starts between their squad versus 24 for Europe. Lexi Thompson (2) is the only top ten ranked player in the event (highlighting the power balance in the sport) with 13th ranked Swede Anna Nordqvist the top European player. The USA have been beaten only once in seven occasions on home soil but they rode their luck with a final day four-point rally in the match-play giving them a win by one point last time out in Europe and perhaps the lack of true top-liners might end up evening things out again despite the visitors’ inexperience.

Tap in
With news that the just completed PGA Championship will move to the month of May from 2019 onwards it’s interesting that the men’s elite event window, at least in terms of individual tournaments, has been shrunk. Part of this is due to allowing for the Olympic event to have clear space to a degree every four years but it is a major shortening of the window of the top four tournaments. This also does give breathing space to the season-ending events of the USA and European Tours but it would seem a missed opportunity for casual fans to pick up the big action over a longer span in the Northern Hemisphere spring/summer. I’ve noted before a fifth major in Asia might have value. This could be from Japan in the east or the Middle East in the west of the continent. Stage it towards the start or end of the year depending upon when the weather suits. You could also make a case for rotating a major in Europe in late March. The women’s majors now span six months with the ANA Inspiration finishing on the first weekend in April before the Evian Championship which finishes on September 17 this year – still a month away.

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.

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