Golf Capital – Hatton conquers the Old Course, no Tiger in Napa.



A collection of my golf thoughts from the week, primarily reflecting on European Tour events and news of Tiger Woods’ aborted returned.


Opening drive:
A tour breakthrough for Tryrell Hatton and a win for Ryder Cupper Brandt Snedeker in Fiji. These would probably be the lead any other week but after exuding confidence in recent weeks it has been announced Tiger Woods’ return is on hold until at least December with the American withdrawing from the US PGA Tour’s opening event of the wraparound season in California this week plus next month’s event in Turkey. Both his agent Mark Steinberg and close confidante Notah Begay III have said physically Woods is fine but that aspects of his play, such as his short game, aren’t up to tournament standard. It’s a disappointment for the fans heading along to Napa Valley for the Safeway Open (last year known as the Open) but it’s good news for graduate Max Homa. Homa, 25, was the first alternate and now gets a spot in the field for the event. A native of Burbank, California Homa will be looking to add to his win on the second-tier tour in July and he had placed in the top ten of this tournament before. Despite the absence of Woods there is plenty of intrigue in the event with recent Ryder Cup winners Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar among the field.


On the European Tour there were wins on the weekend for England’s Hatton and American Snedeker. Hatton, 24, broke through for his first European Tour and significant professional win in over 100 starts winning by four strokes after he closed two rounds at St Andrews’ old course in -16 to win the Dunhill Links event. In Fiji Snedeker outclassed a group of players who usually ply their trade on the PGA Tour of Australasia (which the event was co-sanctioned with) with Kiwi Michael Hendry who claimed second and is now leading the local Order of Merit. Hendry heads to the Japan Open this weekend which features Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama at the event to be held in Saitama’s Sayama Golf Club.


Doing well in the wind and rain Ha Na Jang scrambled home to win the LPGA’s Taiwan Championship to beat Chinese star Shanshan Feng by one stroke. South Korean Jang joins Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko as the only players to win at least three times on the LPGA tour in 2016. Moving on from Taiwan Incheon in South Korea hosts the Keb Hana Bank Championship this week. American Lexi Thompson won the tournament in 2015. Staying in Asia Thai golfer Poom Saksansin easily won the Indonesian Masters in Jakarta on the Asian Tour finishing at 18 under, five clear of the field, and vaulting up 219 places in the world rankings to 329. This week’s event on the Asian Tour is the Venetian Macao Open and last year Australia Scott Hend was victorious in the Macau-based tournament. This year South African Branden Grace (world number 14) is the headline act in a tournament which also sees the return from injury of Englishman Ian Poulter.


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. We stay on the European Tour with the British Masters in Hertfordshire near Watford with the season-ending events a matter of weeks away.


20 and under: Ross Fisher. Played second fiddle to Hatton in Scotland but playing well enough top contend again. Very close to winning on Tour this season a few times including a playoff defeat in the European Open.


20 to 50: Tyrell Hatton. After saluting last weekend, when we highlighted him, Hatton’s form mid this year shows he can put in good performances back-to-back. The Englishman can go close again here.


20 to 50: Matthew Fitzpatrick. Defending champion, albeit at a different venue last year, Fitzpatrick may need time after the Ryder Cup but he clearly has experience at winning towards the end of a long season.


20 to 50: Andrew Johnston. A winner on Tour already this season the hugely-popular ‘Beef’ recently secured his US PGA Tour card so the fact he’s chosen to play the tournament after a hectic period is significant.


20 to 50: Alexander Levy. On Tuesday night Levy won another of the European Tour’s innovative formats claiming victory in a floodlit one-hole knockout event. However, more importantly, he beat Fisher in the afore-mentioned playoff last month so is on form in a regular format as well.


50 to 100: Joakim Lagergren, The Swede has won one of the better second tier events, the Northern Ireland Open, in Europe two years ago and played well on the links course last weekend.


50 to 100: Marc Warren. The Scot was fifth at Dunhill Links and it was as much-needed result. Warren can now push for making the season-ending championship after securing his tour card with the result in his homeland.


100 to 200: Paul Peterson. Accuracy plays an important role at this venue (The Grove) and American Peterson, already a winner in 2016, ranks well in this stat and has an early tee time on Thursday.


Greens in regulation
The elevation of Perth golfer Curtis Luck continued in the amateur ranks with the Cottesloe-based player winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur title on Sunday in Incheon after he was seven shots back heading into the final round. Assured of a spot in events such as the Masters next year Luck adds this title to his Eisenhower Trophy team event victory and individual US amateur crown. Fellow Australian players Brett Coletta (Victoria) and Cameron Davis (NSW) will rue their dip in form at the back end of the tournament which cost one of them a potential spot in the Masters. Luck will play the Asian Tour event in Macau this weekend.


Tap in
Whilst Curtis Luck represents the new breed in Australian golf it’s a player towards the end of their pro career that caught my eye watching the event in Fiji. Veteran Robert Allenby finished in a tie for 12th and it was his best result for some time. Allenby missed the cut 21 times from the 23 tournaments he played on the US PGA Tour in the recently concluded season with a best result of T63 in the Canadian Open. This resulted in his ranking declining from 592 at the end of 2015 to 1222, but he was 1460 before his effort at Natadola on the weekend. Allenby’s off-field issues have been well documented but playing-wise one wonders what is motivating the 45 year-old to continue after such a sharp decline.


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.


  1. Good stuff Hamish. Tiger – yawn – so 90’s. The trouble with the Dunhill Links event was that the unusually benign weather rendered St Andrews and Carnoustie toothless to the pros – yawn. Tried to watch a bit of the LPGA from Taiwan but on Foxtel the commentary was in Chinese – confusing yawn.
    The brilliant golf highlight of the week for me was the 3 Aussies fighting out the Asia Pacific Amateur in Korea against a quality field. Davis looked to have it sewn up on Saturday, but struggled down the stretch, which I gather has happened to him before. So much of golf is between the ears. Coletta looks a scrappy fighter with a great short game. But Curtis Luck (it helps he is from WA) is rapidly joining JDay as my golf poster boy. Such a cool, composed dude. Skinny with a relaxed elegant swing. Tee to green was as good as anyone on Saturday but couldn’t hole a putt. Was very relaxed about it when interviewed, then holed everything on Sunday to come from 7 shots back. Cool Hand Luck.

  2. Cool Hand Luck! I love it Peter. Great moniker. He’s struggled early in Macau today shooting 74 but that’s to be expected given the month or so he’s hand.

    Hatton certainly benefited from playing the Old Course on the weekend back to back.

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