Almanc Golf: Golf Capital- Steel wins opener as Knox goes wide for World Cup teammate

 

A collection of my golf thoughts from the week with tournaments around the world including the first event of the PGA Tour’s wraparound season which concluded in dramatic fashion.

 

Opening drive:

 

American Brendan Steele produced a closing round of 65 to win at the Silverado Resort course in the opening PGA Tour event the Safeway Open (NB: great trophy). It broke a five-year tour drought for Steele with the California native picking up three consecutive birdies at the end of his final round to overhaul third-round leader Patton Kizzire. 30 year-old Kizzire found trouble on 16 but recovered with a par however his waywardness on the final hole meant he couldn’t take advantage of the par five 18th hole (which was gettable for a birdie as Steele proved) and missed the chance to send the tournament into a playoff. The PGA Tour heads to Malaysia this week for the CIMB Classic which was won by Justin Thomas last year and is co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour.

 

In-form Alex Noren won the British Masters but the two-stroke victory at The Grove near Watford didn’t come easily for the Swede after he dropped two shots in four holes mid-round (between 8 and 11) but steadied for his fourth win in 17 months and third triumph since July.

 

After a period of known winners on the LPGA it was a breakthrough victory for Carlota Ciganda but not before high drama as the Spaniard saw a five-shot lead evaporate after a host of errors late in her round. But American Alison Lee bogeyed the last after her approach bounced into the water and the event went to extra holes. Ciganda’s birdie back on 18, which the duo played for the fifth time in the week was enough for a first tour title for the Pamplonan.

 

The LPGA wasn’t the only tour which went to a playoff with Thai golfer Pavit Tangkamolpraset beating well performed Indian player Anirban Lahiri in the Macau Open, a tournament played on some of the driest greens one will ever see for a professional tournament at this level.

 

The European Tour stages the Portugual Masters this weekend whilst Sei Young Kim attempts to defend her crown at the Blue Bay LPGA held on China’s Hainan Island. On the PGA Tour of Australasia the Brisbane Golf Club hosts the Queensland Open won in 2015 by Wauchope’s David Bransdon.

 

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. The PGA Tour heads to Malaysia for the CIMB Classic at the TPC Kuala Lumpur West course.

 

20 and under: Patrick Reed. If the American comes to hand after a break following his Ryder Cup heroics Reed could easily sweep to victory here

 

20 and under: Justin Thomas. The defending champion here finished four shots from the winner at the Safeway Open. If not for an opening round 75 he could have been well in contention.

 

20 and under: Kevin Na. Finished inside the Fed Ex Cup top 30 last season and did well in California finishing seventh to Steele on Sunday. Has done well here before.

 

20 to 50: Gary Woodland. Woodland had a best placing of second last year on tour with four top ten finishes. Must be close to his first win since 2013 and he did get beaten in a playoff at this tournament in 2014.

 

20 to 50: Jhonattan Vegas. A winner on tour last season with five top ten placings. He missed the cut last weekend on his season return but still shot under par so it wasn’t a terrible seasonal return.

 

20 to 50: Branden Grace. The South African disappointed in Macau, but so did some of the other big names, and he ranks highly in par four scoring which will be key stat on this track.

 

100 to 200: Harold Varner III. Varner last weekend started better than last season when he was only finished T48 in the season opener placing T15 on the weekend. Has an early tee-off time for round one, evening allowing for the compressed timings due to the smaller than usual field it could be advantageous

 

500 to 1001: Danny Chia. The local was T13 in this tournament previously and won for the first time on the Asian Tour last year.

 

Greens in regulation
The Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama won his home open on the weekend in Saitama. It was the first time he’s played the tournament in four years and his assessment of the importance of the event (no doubt revered by many in Japan) after recording a three-stroke triumph was brutal to say the least “They say this is a major domestic event but this is not what I am after. I see this as a passing point. My goal is to win at the four major championships” The 24 year-old PGA Tour regular goes around in the Malaysian event this weekend.

 

Tap in
Scot Russell Knox was an interesting exclusion from the European Ryder Cup team with the PGA tour regular who won twice last season missing from Darren Clarke’s team. Ironically, Knox has now made an interesting selection of his own for another team’s event. The 31 year-old from Inverness has picked good friend Duncan Stewart as his partner for the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne next month. Knox, ranked 19 in the world, has bypassed three players ranked higher than world number 307 Stewart, to select a friend he played junior golf with. It’s a laudable choice for Knox who, despite their significant ranking difference, has spoken of a desire to improve the professional life of his former North District amateur teammate. “I feel like this has the potential to change Duncan’s life. I feel like he could easily be in my shoes, and vice versa, and if he was in my shoes, he would’ve picked me.” Comfort and team cohesion are buzzwords for team golf selections so well done to Knox and good luck to the duo at Kingston Heath.

 

@hamishneal

 

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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