A Herculean Effort

A Herculean Effort

Rahm went on a heater in the final round at at Kapalua to overtake Collin Morikawa

The 2023 Tournament of Champions looked to be Collin Morikawa’s to lose for the first 67 holes. In complete control of his game and holding a six-stroke lead heading into Sunday, the rest of the field was simply playing for second place. Everyone except for Jon Rahm, that is. Seeing his name drop as many as nine strokes behind Morikawa’s, the Spaniard kept his head down and went to work. The result? He totaled 27 under and was rewarded with a two-stroke victory at the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

Beginning his final round with a bogey, the former world No. 1 fell to 16 under and appeared to be on the cusp of nice finish, but certainly not a memorable one. A birdie on his second hole immediately put Rahm back to even par on the day, and four additional par breakers on his outward half saw him reach 21 under for the tournament.

“If you told me at the beginning of the round after that bogey that I was going to do what I did and have a three-shot lead after finishing, I don’t know if I would’ve believed you,” said Rahm.” But at that point, it’s not like winning is really in mind. You just have to get to work and start making birdies and that’s what I did. That stretch of four through six, making those three birdies, birdieing nine allowed me to get into a rhythm and the stretch of 12 through 15 was very important as well.” 

A birdie on the 12th put Rahm within five of Morikawa and in with a chance to pull off a stunner. Two more birdies on 13 and 14 put him within three. With Morikawa still needing to play the more accessible holes on the back nine, on paper, this Herculean effort from Rahm was another performance at Kapalua which would come up short.

Coming into the week with five top-10 finishes in as many starts at the Tournament of Champions, Rahm has experienced his fair share of close calls at this event. Shooting 33 under at this tournament a year ago, a record-setting performance from Cameron Smith was the only thing that stood in between Rahm and his first victory at Kapalua.

There would be none of that this season as an emphatic eagle on the par-5 15th propelled Rahm to 26 under. At that same time, Morikawa began to show cracks with his newly revamped chipping and putting reverting back to their troubled selves. A bladed bunker shot on the drivable par-4 14th led to his first bogey of the championship before more short-game woes occurred on 15 and 16 with bogeys following.

“So 15 is when it truly became a reality when I had that putt to get within one shot and knowing how good I was playing 16 and 18 are good birdie options,” said Rahm. “When that putt went in and then on 17 I couldn’t believe it when I missed the green right we had a one-shot lead and everything changed. It took quite an effort to settle myself down and change my mindset … it was a bit of a rollercoaster five minutes there.”

A birdie on the closing hole put the finishing touches on a stellar 10-under 63 in which Rahm played his final 17 holes in 11 under. Going 27 under on the week and now 60 under at the Plantation Course over his last eight rounds, the consistent greatness from the former world No. 1 was finally enough to bag him a much deserved, and perhaps overdue, trophy in Hawaii.

Source: cbssports.com

The Unintended Consequences of the PGA Tour’s Elevated Events

The Unintended Consequences of the PGA Tour’s Elevated Events

Top players may skip one elevated PGA Tour event this season as their calendar has more events in a tighter period. How that will plays out will be interesting.

The PGA Tour’s plan to have 12 elevated events for top players in addition to the four major championships, the Players Championship and three more of their choosing has already seen a change.

The Associated Press reported that the PGA Tour Policy Board has voted in favor of allowing players to skip one event outside of the majors for personal or professional reasons. The PGA Tour confirmed this opt-out. The board is also allowing players to count a fall event as one of the three additional tournaments, although that aspect won’t be available in 2024 when a condensed schedule will feature January-to-August play.

When commissioner Jay Monahan announced the plan that would bring the best players together more often—in return, that is how they qualify for the season-ending Player Impact Program and $100 million on bonus money—there was bound to be some fallout.

Part of it is simply scheduling, which will become easier in 2024 when the Tour can move events around a bit more. The 2023 schedule was already set and the PGA Tour had to work within that framework to find for more elevated tournaments.

Among the issues players will face in 2023 are seven events in 10 weeks, starting with the WM Phoenix Open and concluding with the RBC Heritage. Among the elevated events in that stretch are the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Masters.

It’s a lot of golf, but now a player has the option to skip one. Or he could skip the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Or elect not to play the Travelers the week following the U.S. Open.

Where a problem exists is if too many players choose the same place to skip. Or perhaps it won’t happen at all. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see it all play out as the best players come together more often.


Source: Si.com

Zozo’s new champion!

Zozo Championship: Keegan Bradley ends four-year PGA Tour title drought as Rickie Fowler fades

Keegan Bradley wins fifth PGA Tour title of his career and first since 2018 with one-shot triumph over Rickie Fowler and Andrew Putnam at Zozo Championship in Japan; overnight leader Fowler fades and remains without a victory on the PGA Tour since February 2019

Keegan Bradley secured his first PGA Tour victory in four years at the Zozo Championship as fellow American Rickie Fowler’s title drought extended.

Bradley – previously winless since the 2018 BMW Championship – shot a two-under-par 68 to end on 15 under for the tournament and scoop close to $2 million.

Overnight leader Fowler finished on 14 under after a level round of 70, with Andrew Putnam also on 14 under after a final-round 68 at the Narashino Country Club in Japan.

It is closing in on four years since Fowler claimed the most recent of his five PGA Tour successes – the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2019.

The 33-year-old led Bradley by two strokes and Putnam by one going into the final round and the trio each headed the field during different stages of Sunday’s action.

Bradley surged two clear following a 20-foot birdie putt at the 11th before Putnam moved level with his countryman at the 16th.

However, Bradley – the 2011 PGA champion – re-established a two-stroke advantage at the 17th as he bagged a birdie and Putnam recorded a bogey.

Putnam’s birdie on the last was not enough as Bradley made par to earn a fifth PGA Tour crown.

Bradley said afterwards: “It’s why I practice so hard. Things aren’t easy for me normally, so the birdie on the 17th was one of the best holes of my life.

“This is so special. I played in the final group here when Tiger Woods won here [in 2019]. I’m so proud to win this tournament.”

Fowler’s hopes of a sixth PGA Tour victory faded when he bogeyed the 15th before wasting a birdie chance at the next with another disappointing putt.

He did birdie the 18th, though, to finish tied for second with Putnam – one shot ahead of Emiliano Grillo (13 under) and two above Viktor Hovland, Sahith Theegala and Hayden Buckley (12 under).


The Unintended Consequences of the PGA Tour’s Elevated Events

One of the strongest fields of the entire season

Here are the starting positions for all 30 players at the Tour Championship

After 12 months, 44 events and tens of millions of prize money handed out, just one event remains on the 2021-22 PGA Tour schedule — the Tour Championship. The annual event is hosted at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and welcomes the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings, making it one of the strongest fields of the entire season.

The limited field isn’t the only unique aspect of the Tour Championship. The purse is the largest on Tour, with $75 million up for grabs, and the field starts with handicapped scores as well.

While it might be odd to see Tour pros begin the week on uneven footing, the handicap system is meant to reward players for their season-long performance in the FedEx Cup. Prior to 2019, the Tour Championship winner was not necessarily the FedEx Cup champion, and it made for some awkward dual award ceremonies on the 18th green. This system eliminates that possibility and ensures that the winner of the final event of the season is also the season-long FedEx Cup champion.

“As soon as the Tour Championship begins, any fan — no matter if they’ve followed the PGA Tour all season or are just tuning in for the final event — can immediately understand what’s going on and what’s at stake for every single player in the field,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said when the new format was unveiled. “And, of course, players will know exactly where they stand at all times while in play, which will ratchet up the drama, consequence and volatility of the competition down the stretch.”

Last season, Patrick Cantlay began the week atop the leaderboard and held off a charging Jon Rahm to claim the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup titles.

Here are the starting positions for all 30 players this week.

Tour Championship starting positions

10 under: Scottie Scheffler

Eight under: Patrick Cantlay

Seven under: Will Zalatoris

Six under: Xander Schauffele

Five under: Sam Burns

Four under: Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Sepp Straka, Sungaje Im

Three under: Jon Rahm, Scott Stallings, Justin Thomas, Cameron Young, Matthew Fitzpatrick

Two under: Max Homa, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Joaquin Niemann, Viktor Hovland

One under: Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel, Tom Hoge, Corey Conners, Brian Harman

Even par: K.H. Lee, J.T. Poston, Sahith Theegala, Adam Scott, Aaron Wise

SOURCE: golf.com

The Unintended Consequences of the PGA Tour’s Elevated Events

What a way to get your first win.

Will Zalatoris survives wild ping-pong shot in playoff for first PGA Tour win, lead in $18M FedEx Cup playoff

Will Zalatoris forced, then survived a wild three-hole playoff on Sunday at the St. Jude Championship to secure his first win on the PGA Tour and the lead in the FedEx Cup Championship. The victory in the first of three championship playoff events gives him the inside track to the playoff’s $18 million first-place prize.

Zalatoris, 25, took the clubhouse lead at TPC Southwind in Memphis on 18 on Sunday with a 10-foot par putt to secure a 72-hole score of 15-under.

Sepp Straka followed and faced a chance to secure a win in regulation with a 20-foot birdie putt on 18. But his effort missed just high, and his successful par putt forced the sudden-death playoff with Zalatoris.

The two remained tied after parring 18 on the first playoff hole. They replayed 18 for the second playoff hole, with both players missing the fairway off the tee. Zalatoris hit his second shot off of pine needles near a boundary line and onto the fairway. He got up and down from there with a 13-foot, 8-inch putt to save par.

Straka, meanwhile, took a drop and a one-stroke penalty after his drive landed near a water hazard that would have forced him to stand in the water for his shot. Like Zalatoris, he saved par to force the third and final playoff hole at par-3 11th. That’s when the fireworks really started.

Zalatoris’ approach shot to the waterside green came up short and right. But he averted disaster by the most dramatic of margins, as his ball bounced softly off a waterside wall then wedged in between the wall and the greenside rough — instead of back into the water.

Straka wasn’t as fortunate. His approach was likewise short and right. But his bounced back into the water.

Straka sailed the green into a bunker out of the drop zone, making what would have been a difficult decision for Zalatoris considerably easier. Instead of hitting out of this untenable lie, Zalatoris opted to take a penalty and shoot from the same drop zone as Straka.

Unlike Straka, he found the green with his shot from the drop zone and proceeded to make his bogey putt to secure his first Tour victory.

With the win, he moved up 11 places into first place in the FedEx Cup standings with two playoff events remaining. He did so after shooting a 1-over 71 on Thursday that left him nine strokes behind the leader and at risk of missing the cut. But he followed up with a 63 on Friday to make the weekend, before shooting 65 on Saturday and 66 on Sunday to force the playoff.

The top 70 remaining players advance to next week’s BMW Championship at Delaware’s Wilmington Country Club. The top 30 from there advance to the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, where the winner will take home the first-place $18 million prize.

SOURCE: sports.yahoo.com