2015 - WEEK 19: May 4 - May 10
ASIAN TOUR AUSTRALASIAN TOUR ONEASIA CHAMPIONS TOUR
LPGA TOUR LADIES EUROPEAN TOUR JLPGA TOUR
In what was a quick and significant response to Jordan Spieth’s Masters arrival as a potential rival for the world number one spot, Rory McIlroy claimed his second career World Golf Championship title via a 4 & 2 final round victory over Gary Woodland at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, in San Francisco. With the event debuting a new format that required round robin play within 16 groups of four in order to determine 16 knockout round participants, McIlroy was required to win seven straight matches in order to raise the trophy – and, in a WGC first, actually won three separate matches on Sunday as his quarterfinal tilt with Paul Casey had been suspended due to darkness on Saturday evening. McIlroy initially emerged from a group which included Jason Dufner (whom he beat 5 & 4), Brandt Snedeker (2 up) and Billy Horschel (20th hole) before heating up to rout Hideki Matsuyama 6 & 5 in Saturday morning's round of 16. Following his overnight victory over Casey (whose extended Saturday play forced him to cancel a planned evening trip to Las Vegas to watch the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight), McIlroy then vanquished Jim Furyk 1 up in a spirited match in which Furyk repeatedly put on late pressure, only to lose when McIlroy finished birdie-birdie-eagle. Woodland, meanwhile, emerged from a group which included Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson and Ian Poulter before beating Marc Leishman 2 & 1 in the round of 16, John Senden 5 & 3 in the quarterfinals, and England's Danny Willett in 3 & 2 in the semis. But with the exception of a few brief moments early in the back nine, the final was all McIlroy, as he rode three birdies to win four consecutive outbound holes, building up a lead which would eventually prove insurmountable. Among other notable facts, the win made McIlroy only the third player (after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods) to log 10 PGA Tour victories at age 25....................Forty-two-year-old I.J. Jang recorded his third career victory on the Japan Golf Tour, cruising home to a four-shot triumph at The Crowns, in Aichi Prefecture. Jang spent most of his week near the top of the field, trailing Kyoung-Hoon Lee by one after opening with a 66, then stood three behind Lee, after posting a Friday 69. Lee would stumble to a back nine 40 on Saturday, however, and with four birdies over his first 13 holes, Jang found himself out front - at least until late bogeys at the 16th and 18th left him tied for the lead with 28-time Japan Tour winner Shingo Katayama, who bounced back from an opening 72 with rounds of 65-66. Katayama would falter on Sunday, however, bogeying four of his first seven, and with veterans like Kazuhiro Yamashita, Hideto Tanihara and Tomohiro Kondo charging, things might have gotten exciting. But instead, Jang steadily recorded three birdies over his first 10 holes Sunday, and steadily pulled away to victory...................Forty-year-old veteran Vaughn Groenewald broke a nine-year victory drought on the Sunshine Tour, cruising home to a four-shot win over a relatively light field at the Zambia Sugar Open. A two-time winner during a 2006 season which saw him finish a career-high 18th in the Sunshine Order of Merit, Groenewald has since played the journeyman's role, though he did accumulate four runner-up finishes during the interceding years. But this week in Zambia would prove a different story, even if his being tied for the halfway lead (with rounds of 68-65) was largely overlooked due to a spectacular Friday 62 carded by Andrew Georgiou - a round which beat the field by three shots. But after holding himself steady with a Saturday 71, then bogeying the par-5 2nd to begin his Sunday round, Groenewald bounced back with birdies at the 3rd and 4th before turning on the jets on the final nine, birdieing the 10th, 13th, 16th and 18th to open up his final margin of victory. Jean Hugo closed with a 68 to take solo second, while recent Zimbabwe Open champion Dean Burmester claimed third.
PGA Tour - WGC-Cadillac Match Play - Rory McIlroy (4 & 2)
Japan Tour - The Crowns - I.J. Jang (270)
Sunshine Tour - Zambia Sugar Open - Vaughn Groenewald (272)
LPGA Tour - Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout - Inbee Park (269)
JLPGA Tour - Cyber Agent Ladies - Jiyai Shin (208)
Champions Tour - Insperity Invitational - Ian Woosnam (205)
Web.com Tour - United Leasing Championship - Smylie Kaufman (278)
LatinoAmerica - Lexus Panama Classic - Rodolfo Cazaubon (276)
Two weeks removed from a second-place finish at The Masters, Justin Rose continued his fine play by charging home to his seventh career PGA Tour victory at rain-delayed the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Scoring was low throughout the week at the Pete Dye-designed TPC Louisiana and with both the second and third rounds suspended by heavy rain, Sunday’s long day of golf was thus contested under lift, clean and place conditions, making for some aggressive shotmaking down the stretch. Rose, for his part, started the week relatively slowly as his opening 69 left him five shots behind Thursday leader Boo Weekley. He then added rounds of 66-65 which, after all of the delays, left him tied for the 54-hole lead with one of the field’s other marquee entries, Jason Day. But Day would bogey the par-5 2nd hole on Sunday after driving into the woods, and despite bounce-back birdies at the 5th, 6th and 7th, was unable to pull close enough to have a realistic chance towards the close. Rose, on the other hand, played very steady, bogey-free golf and stood on 20 under par through 13 holes, tied with Cameron Tringale who was playing ahead of him. Still seeking his first PGA Tour victory, Tringale rattled off four straight pars before carding a much-needed birdie at the par-5 finisher to move to 21 under. But Rose, perhaps energized by the event’s sponsor also being his primary sponsor, answered the bell by holing birdie putts 10 and 14 feet at the 17th and 18th to clinch the title..................Twenty-nine-year-old Zangzhou native Ashun Wu made history by becoming the first homegrown player to win a European Tour event on Chinese soil, squeaking out a one-shot triumph over England's David Howell at the Volvo China Open in Shanghai. Having primarily played on the Japan Tour (where he had won twice), Wu had previously made only 25 career E Tour starts prior to this week, and when an opening 73 left him five shots behind Howell, New Zealand's Michael Hendry and Wales' Bradley Dredge, his 26th initially looked like a blind alley. But Wu carded six birdies (against no bogeys) during a fine Friday 66 which pulled him within three of Julien Quesne at the halfway mark, then bounced back from a 16th-hole bogey to birdie the 17th and 18th en route to a Saturday 69 that left him tied for the 54-hole lead with Howell, Alexander Levy and China's top young prospect, 19-year-old Hao-Tong Li. Unfortunately, Li's first time in major tour contention resulted in a Sunday 74 (a round marked by five bogeys and an eagle at the par-5 13th) while Levy could do little better, double-bogeying the 182-yard 8th en route to a disappointing 73. As might be expected of a five-time E Tour winner, Howell held up more ably, turning in 35, then adding a birdie at the 371-yard 11th to move one ahead of Wu and three up on 22-year-old Argentinean Emiliano Grillo, who'd turned in 33. But thereafter, Wu marched mechanically home with eight straight pars while also receiving help from Grillo (who double-bogeyed the 216-yard 17th) and Howell, who came to the 590-yard 18th needing a birdie to win and instead made six, to hand Wu the title..................For a man born and raised in Worksop, England, Lee Westwood has clearly felt most comfortable playing golf in far away Asia, for his victory at the 2015 Indonesian Masters represented his 13th career triumph in the region - no small feat given that this represents nearly one-third of his career major tour wins, and that his visits to the region are actually quite infrequent. But while several of these victories have been by memorably imposing margins, this particular triumph in Jakarta (his third in this event) actually required a bit of work. Indeed, Westwood's opening rounds of 69-74 (the latter in windy conditions) left him three strokes off the halfway lead before a Saturday 65 (anchored by an incoming 29) suddenly cast him five shots ahead of Thomas Bjorn and a resurgent Y.E. Yang. Despite turning in 38, three early back nine birdies seemed to cement Westwood's position before he uncharacteristically stumbled, bogeying both the 16th and 17th. This opened the door for Thailand's Chapchai Nirat, who'd begun the day seven shots in arrears before roaring home in 66 to tie Westwood on 271 - but Westwood promptly birdied the first playoff hole and, in seemingly predictavble fashion, the trophy was once again his...................Ending a major tour victory drought that had reached six years, England's Ross McGowan mounted a late Sunday charge at the Zambia Open to nip Danie van Tonder at the wire and claim his first Sunshine Tour victory. A 2009 winner on the European Tour, McGowan battled wrist problems for several years thereafter and has since traveled the golfing backwaters, actually winning the Middle East and North Africa Tour's Dar es Salam Open in early April. He began Sunday two strokes behind third round leader Rhys West, then trailed West by three after turning in 35. But West would stumble on the final nine, carding fouyr bogeys en route to a 38 that would drop him to solo third. This left the door open for the up-and-coming van Tonder, who eagled both back nine par 5s on his way to a 66 and the clubhouse lead. But well aware of where he stood, McGowan roared home with birdies on the final three holes to claim the title.
PGA Tour - Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Justin Rose (266)
European Tour - Volvo China Open - Ashun Wu (279)
Asian Tour - CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters - Lee Westwood (281)
Sunshine Tour - Mopani/Redpath Zambia Open - Ross McGowan (275)
LPGA Tour - Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic - Lydia Ko (280)
JLPGA Tour - Fujisankei Ladies Classic - Hikari Fujita (209)
Champions Tour - Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf - Billy Andrade/Joe Durant (159)
E Challenge Tour - Challenge de Madrid - Nacho Elvira (267)
Symetra Tour - Guardian Retirement Championship - Rachel Rohanna (211)
At an age where winning on the PGA Tour can hardly be considered a given, 44-year-old Jim Furyk rode a wave of splendid Sunday golf to break a four-and-a-half-year drought, claiming the RBC Heritage in a playoff with Kevin Kisner, at Harbour Town. Given that Furyk had failed to convert a remarkable nine consecutive 54-hole leads since claiming his last win at the 2010 Tour Championship, perhaps it was time to try a Sunday charge as an alternate means of attack, and charge Furyk did. Indeed, after rounds of 71-64-68, he found himself four shots out of a lead held by Troy Merritt, who’d drawn considerable attention on Friday when, following an opening 69, he posted 10 birdies en route to a bogey-free 61. Merritt, for his part, came home with a Sunday 69 – though he needed to eagle the par-4 16th and birdie Harbor Town’s famed 18th to do it. Furyk, meanwhile, came out of the gate firing, posting six front nine birdies to turn in 30 before a bogey at the 11th briefly stemmed his momentum. Bounce-back birdies at the 12th and 13th quickly followed, however, and one more at the par-5 15th eventually saw him home in 63. In the end, Kisner was the lone man with a chance to catch him, and that he did with a clutch birdie at the long 18th. The playoff then began with both players birdieing the 18th, but when Furyk posted yet another birdie at the par-3 17th, it was all over...................Bouncing back from a moderately disappointing 2014 campaign, 25-year-old Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat rode a late rally to a playoff victory over 19-year old Chinese star Hao-Tong Li in the inaugural Shenzhen International, in Shanghai. Ending a victory drought of nearly two years, the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner was never far from the lead throughout the week, initially playing his first nine in 31 and standing one back on Thursday night, then adding a Friday 69 to trail American Peter Uihlein by one at the halfway point. The tournament then looked on the verge of a runaway as Aphibarnrat posted nine birdies (against two bogeys) over his first 13 holes on Saturday, but a late stumble (in the form of a double-bogey, bogey finish) reduced what might have been a comfortable 54-hole lead to two. Bu Aphibarnrat was only able to play his first 10 holes on Sunday in even par, and with none of his closest pursuers mounting a charge, the door was left open for Li, China's top professional prospect and a Web.com Tour player, to make a move. Five birdies in his first 14 holes moved the teenager into position, and when he birdied the 575-yard 17th, Li found himself with a two-shot lead and on the verge of a breakthrough victory. But with time running out, Aphibarnrat struck boldly with an eagle at the 17th to tie and then, after narrowly missing a birdie putt at the last to win, carded a birdie on the first hole of sudden death to steal the title..................Thirty-five-year-old New Zealander Michael Hendry began his third season on the Japan Golf Tour in style, charging home with a closing 64 to claim his first victory on the circuit at the season-opening Token Homemate Cup. Previously a winner on the Australasian and OneAsia Tours, Hendry began his week with a 67 which trailed first round leader Kodai Ichihara by three, then added a 69 which, owing partially to some tougher scoring conditions on Friday, moved Hendry within one of halfway leader I.J. Jang. Another 69 on Saturday lost ground, however, leaving Hendry to begin Sunday tied for fourth, three behind South Korea’s Hyun-Woo Ryu. Ryu would hold things together effectively in the final round, shooting 69, while veteran Kazuhiro Yamashita mounted a charge, closing with 66 to finish on 270. But Hendry was not to be headed, particularly over the final nine wherein he birdied the 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th and 17th, all of which proved just enough to win by one.
PGA Tour - RBC Heritage - Jim Furyk (266)
European Tour - Shenzhen International - Kiradech Aphibarnrat (276)
Japan Tour - Token Homemate Cup - Michael Hendry (269)
LPGA Tour - Lotte Championship - Sei Young Kim (277)
JLPGA Tour - Banterin Ladies Open - Erika Kikuchi (207)
Champions Tour - Greater Gwinnett Championship - Olin Browne (132)
Web.com Tour - El Bosque Mexico Championship - Wes Roach (271)
LatinoAmerica - Abierto OSDE El Centro - Tommy Cocha (275)
Symetra Tour - Chico's Patty Berg Memorial - Augusta James (206)
The 79th Masters Tournament was billed as a coronation, the much anticipated week when world number one Rory McIlroy, fresh off 2014 victories at the British Open and the PGA Championship, would complete the career Grand Slam at the tender age of 25, and cement his place in the golfing firmament. In the event, The Masters did indeed write another chapter in the changing of the professional golfing guard, but it did so not by further stocking McIlroy’s jewel case but instead by ushering 21-year-old Jordan Spieth into the ranks of the game’s genuine elite – and, perhaps, providing McIlroy with some serious competition going forward. Certainly Spieth arrived at Augusta rated among the favorites, for he had won a month earlier at Tampa’s Valspar Championship, then, following a week off, finished 2nd at the Texas Open and lost in a three-way playoff (to J.B. Holmes) at the Shell Houston Open. Add in winter victories at the Australian Open (behind a stunning final-round 63) and the Hero World Challenge (by a record 10 shots) and he was, by any definition, on form. But more significant, perhaps, was the nature of Spieth’s game. Curiously, he is often characterized as “not a long hitter,” but he came into the Masters ranked a well-above-the-median 55th in PGA Tour driving distance - which really might better be described as “long enough.” And beyond this minor point, there was really little to question as his game is among the most balanced on the PGA Tour, and particularly excels inside 100 yards and upon the greens, where his putting stroke is the envy of most. Indeed, time and time again over the weekend, Spieth holed mid-range putts of every conceivable angle on Augusta’s legendarily rolling putting surfaces; if there was a defining feature to this Masters, Spieth’s putter was it. Thursday’s opening round began with high expectations for McIlroy and countless questions for world number 111 Tiger Woods, who was returning from a nine-week absence spent retooling his swing and his deathly ill short game. But from the moment Spieth teed off at 1:15 p.m., this was to be his tournament, for he birdied eight of his first 14 holes and appeared on the verge of breaking the single round Major championship scoring record of 63 before bogeying the par-5 15th. He would, however, birdie the tough 18th for a 64 – the Masters’ lowest opening round in 19 years. More significantly, this gave Spieth a rare three-shot first round lead in a Major championship, with his closest pursuers being 45-year-old Ernie Els, Charley Hoffman, and a pair of marquee players with plenty of Major bonafides, 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and three-time Major runner-up Jason Day. On the downside, McIlroy could do no better than 71, defending champion Bubba Watson matched him, and Woods came home with a 73 which showed only limited improvement from tee to green but a marked improvement (meaning no disasters) within his short game. And then there was 65-year-old Tom Watson, who slight-of-handed his way around in 71 over a golf course which, by his own declaration, has been too long for his game for the better part of a decade. Particularly on so large a stage, Spieth would surely have been forgiven if he’d followed up his opener with a round in the low 70s, but instead he played flawless golf, posting three birdies on each nine while adding nary a bogey, and coming home in six-under-par 66. The net result would be a five-shot lead over Charley Hoffman, matching the largest 36-hole margin in Masters history. Further, Spieth’s two-day 130 aggregate was a new tournament record (bettering Raymond Floyd’s 1976 mark by one) and it also matched the lowest 36 hole score ever posted in Major championship play, a number posted by Nick Faldo (at the 1992 British Open), Brandt Snedeker (2012 British Open) and Martin Kaymer (2014 U.S. Open). Hoffman, for his part, had posted strong rounds of 67-68, with the next nearest pursuers being Justin Rose (67-70), Dustin Johnson (70-67) and Paul Casey (69-68). Johnson’s day, in particular, was worthy of note, for after double-bogeying the 1st hole, he proceeded to become the first man ever to record three eagles in a single Masters round (at the 2nd, 8th and 15th). Woods also posted a solid round, but his three-under-par 69 still left him 12 shots behind Spieth. Struggling on Friday were Watson (whose 81 prevented him from becoming the oldest man ever to make a Major cut), Sergio Garcia (68-74), Russell Henley (68-74) and Webb Simpson (69-75), as well as cutting-missers like Jim Furyk (147), Luke Donald (147), Martin Kaymer (151) and 55-year-old Fred Couples (153). Avoiding the temptation to ride a string of pars in support of his big lead, Spieth made early Saturday birdies at the 2nd and 6th (which nicely offset bogeys at the 4th and 7th), then added five birdies from the 9th through the 16th to briefly forge his way to a seven-shot margin. Most uncharacteristically, however, he then sloppily double-bogeyed the par-4 17th (sans penalty shots) to breath new life into an otherwise downtrodden field. Justin Rose managed to birdie the 18th (his fifth birdie in six holes) to cut the margin to four, and it might have gotten even closer but for a superb Spieth up-and-down from right of the greenside bunker at the 18th. His resulting three-day total of 200 bettered by one the tournament’ old 54-hole mark set by Woods (1997) and Raymond Floyd (1976), and staked Spieth to a four-stroke lead over Rose, and a five-shot margin over three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson, who’d opened 70-68 before carding a third round 67 that might well have been lower but for bogeys at the 11th and the 17th. Hoffman remained in the fight some six off the pace, while McIlroy (whose fine 68 might have really made noise had he not bogeyed the 16th and 18th) and Woods (whose own 68 generated some front nine electricity before fizzling out on the back) headed a group on six under par, eight off the pace. The final round in many ways mirrored Saturday as Spieth responded to Rose’s opening birdie with a clutch three of his own before turning in 35, offsetting bogeys at the 5th and 7th with birdies at the 3rd and 8th to continue holding the field at bay. If there was a decisive moment, it perhaps came at the difficult par-4 10th, where Spieth rolled in an uphill 20-footer for birdie to extend the lead to six. A three-putt bogey at the dangerous par-3 12th represented a slight hiccup, and the lead was reduced to four when Mickelson holed a bunker shot for eagle at the 15th. But Spieth still had the back nine’s two short, watery par 5s left to play, and when he methodically recorded the requisite birdies, it was all over. Mickelson, for his part, fell into a share of second when Rose bogeyed the 72nd while McIlroy, paired with Woods and surely disappointed by his overall performance, made a late statement by carding a bogey-free 66 to play the last 45 holes in 15 under par, and climb into solo fourth. Woods, on the other hand, could capture none of the magic of his Saturday front nine and, with only two fairways hit, did well to shoot 73, tumbling to a tie for 17th. In the end, only a bogey at the last (off a missed five-footer) prevented Spieth from setting a new Masters scoring record (his 270 would only tie Woods) but among the records he did set were new 36- and 54-hole scoring marks, the lowest opening round by a winner and, quite significantly, the most birdies ever recorded for the championship (28). He also became the second-youngest ever to don the Green Jacket, as well as the first wire-to-wire winner at Augusta since Raymond Floyd in 1976 - a span of nearly four decades. "This was the ultimate goal in my golf life," Spieth stated afterwards. But at age 21 and wearing his Green Jacket, it looked very much like he was only getting started.
PGA Tour - The Masters - Jordan Spieth (270)
Sunshine Tour - Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open - Dean Burmester (272)
JLPGA Tour - Studio Alice Open - Misuzu Narita (201)
E Challenge Tour - Barclay's Kenya Open - Haydn Porteous (271)
In the PGA Tour’s final tune-up before The Masters, long-hitting J.B. Holmes claimed his fourth career victory at the Shell Houston Open, but not before enduring a two-hole, three-man playoff to do it. After opening with rounds of 65-70-73, Holmes actually began Sunday’s finale six shots behind the red-hot Jordan Spieth, who himself arrived in Houston coming off a victory in Florida and a runner-up in San Antonio. But after rounds of 69-66-67 gave Spieth a one-shot 54-hole lead, he was unable to get moving on Sunday, playing his first 12 holes even par – and largely being blown aside by Holmes, who opened the day with five straight birdies before turning in 29, then added birdies at the 11th and 12th to move three ahead of the field. But with 59 looking possible, Holmes failed to birdie either back nine par 5, then bogeyed the par-3 16th to eventually finish one shot off the course record with a 64. Spieth, meanwhile, drew even with back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th, then could find no more magic coming home, posting a 70 to join Holmes on 16 under par. But in a game where form can be notoriously fickle, the playoff’s third competitor, Johnson Wagner, was a real surprise as he entered the week without a top-50 finish in 2015, and only seven days removed from shooting an opening 87 at the Texas Open. But with rounds of 69-68-66, Wagner hung around all week, eventually birdieing the demanding 72nd hole to join the playoff. Spieth eliminated himself by bogeying the first extra hole, and when Wagner missed a short par putt at the second, Holmes was left with an easy tap-in for the victory.