2015 - WEEK 27: Jun 29 - Jul 5
ASIAN TOUR AUSTRALASIAN TOUR ONEASIA CHAMPIONS TOUR
LPGA TOUR LADIES EUROPEAN TOUR JLPGA TOUR
Beginning a year in which he intends to be the rare American to play full-time on both the PGA and European Tours, Brooks Koepka broke through for his second major victory in less than three months by taking the Waste Management Phoenix Open by one shot, in Scottsdale. Already a winner of the E Tour’s strong-field Turkish Airlines Open in November, Koepka was little noticed over the first two days here, posting rounds of 71-68 to trail halfway leader Martin Laird by seven. His fortunes seemed little different when he turned in one-under-par 34 on Saturday before he kicked things into gear, reeling of six birdies at holes 10-17 en route to a 64 which, by day’s end, stood him only three behind Laird and firmly embedded within a crowded group of pursuers. Laird would stumble late on Sunday and end up carding a 72 to tie for fifth, but by this time the leaderboard was crowded enough that five players held at least a share of the lead over the final hour of play. Initially it was Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama who looked like winners, but after playing his first 13 holes in six under par, Watson came up a stroke shy after driving the 322-yard 17th but three-putting for par. Matsuyama, meanwhile, holed a 129-yard approach shot to eagle the 1st hole, but he too would finish one behind, doomed by a three-putt bogey at the par-4 14th. Koepka, meanwhile, stood one off of the eventual winning number before holing a 50-foot eagle putt at the 553-yard 15th, the stroke that would prove the margin of victory. Notably, Arizona State junior Jon Rahm closed with rounds of 66-68 to finish in a tie for 5th………………In an event that might well have been an epic shootout had he instead been home in Northern Ireland watching on TV, world number one Rory Mcilroy dominated a strong field to record an impressive first win of 2015 at the Dubai Desert Classic. Despite the fact that he trailed first-round leader Bernd Wiesberger by two after opening with a 66, there were few moments during the week when McIlroy didn’t seem in command, particularly after he carded a bogey-free 64 on Friday to nose into a one-shot 36-hole lead. If there was ever a fleeting moment, it came during Saturday’s back nine, when McIlroy drove the ball somewhat wildly but scrambled effectively, eventually scratching his way home in 66 to build a four-shot 54-hole lead. Thus Sunday proved something of an anti-climax, as McIlroy played steady, aggressive-but-safe golf, aiming to exploit the par 5s (he birdied three of them) while otherwise taking few chances, with the result being that he was never seriously challenged. Sweden’s Alex Noren, who missed nearly all of 2014 with wrist surgery, mounted Sunday’s best charge, birdieing three of the last four holes to shoot 65 and climb to second, three in arrears. Two-time defending champion Stephen Gallacher closed with 69 to take solo third, while a quintet headed by Wiesberger and U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer shared fourth. But the futility of their collective efforts were best stated by runner-up Noren, who said simply: “"I never even thought of winning, Rory's playing so good”. And so he was.
PGA Tour - Waste Management Phoenix Open - Brooks Koeopka (269)
European Tour - Omega Dubai Desert Classic - Rory McIlroy (266)
LPGA Tour - Coates Golf Championship - Na Yeon Choi (272)
Web.com Tour - Panama Claro Championship - Matthew Goggin (269)
Fighting through a late final round logjam atop the leaderboard, Bill Haas won for the sixth time on the PGA Tour at the site of his first career triumph, squeezing out a one-shot victory at the Humana Challenge. With the event boasting its strongest field in years, Haas began Sunday’s finale in a four-way tie for the lead with Erik Compton, Michael Putnam and rookie Justin Thomas, then overcame an early 3rd-hole bogey to remain in the hunt throughout the afternoon. But with none of the overnight leaders going low, the door was left open for men like Charley Hoffman (64), area native Brendan Steele (64), South Korea’s Sung-Joo Park (65), Matt Kuchar (67) and Steve Wheatcroft (67) to all get into the mix. Indeed, by the time Haas arrived at the par-4 16th, he was in a six-way tie for the lead before holing a clutch 20-foot birdie putt that lifted him one clear. He then closed with two pars (the second after his drive hung on a bunker lip at the par-5 18th) which, perhaps surprisingly, proved just enough to win by a single shot.............Twenty-six-year-old South African Branden Grace claimed his sixth career European Tour victory and his second of the young 2015 season, winning the Qatar Masters in dashing style in Doha. Grace began the planned Saturday finale in a four-way tie atop the leaderboard with Scotland’s Marc Warren, Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, so a shootout seemed to be in order - and in the end all four men, plus France’s Gregory Bourdy and South Korea’s Byeong-Hun An (both of whom closed with 65) would factor into the mix. Bogeys at the 2nd and 3rd slowed Wiesberger’s momentum early, and Grillo never really got it into gear, making only two birdies on the day, the first of which came at the 10th hole. Warren birdied the first two holes but could turn in no better than even par, while Grace birdied the first but only turned in one under, thus allowing Bourdy, An and several others to creep into contention. But in the end, Grace and Warren both heated up on the final nine to nose ahead of the pack, playing through the 15th hole tied for the lead at 16 under par before Grace unleashed the shot of the tournament, blasting a driver to within five feet of the hole at the 307-yard 16th, setting up a clutch eagle. Warren would make birdie here, then draw even once more by birdieing the 155-yard 17th, but he was unable to match Grace’s closing birdie at the 589-yard 18th, which allowed the South African to clinch the title.
Making an early statement to suggest that his three-win breakout 2014 campaign was not a fluke, Jimmy Walker successfully defended his title at the Sony Open in Hawaii, blowing the field away on the weekend to cruise home to a tournament record nine-shot victory. Coming off a disappointing final nine loss at the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua last week, Walker opened solidly with weekday rounds of 66-66 at Waialae, yet still stood four off the halfway lead held by Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson and rookie Justin Thomas. He then stumbled with a bogey at the par-4 2nd on Saturday before catching fire, reeling off 10 subsequent birdies and one-putting his final 11 greens en route to a 62 that vaulted him all the way atop the leaderboard, two ahead of Kuchar. Following up so low a number is never easy and Walker indeed started slowly on Sunday, initially parring his first seven holes. But birdies at the 8th, 9th and 10th got him ignited and thereafter Walker never looked back, roaring home with a bogey-free 63 and the record-setting victory. Scott Piercy, who closed with a 66, finished solo second, while Kuchar (71), Gary Woodland (67) and Harris English (67) all tied for fourth……………… In one of the more stunning turnarounds in recent golfing history, 22-year-old Frenchman Gary Stal claimed his first career European Tour victory at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship when reigning U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer stumbled badly on Sunday. Indeed, Kaymer, one of the game’s more proficient front-runners, seemed on his way not just to winning here for the fourth time but also setting a new tournament scoring record as he stood on the sixth tee with a 10-shot final round lead – but within 90 minutes, everything fell apart. It started innocuously with a bogey at the 6th (his first in 47 holes) but turned more serious when Kaymer double-bogeyed the 9th after driving wildly into the desert. Still, he remained reasonably in command until another wayward drive at the 414-yard 13th (combined with a poor approach) led to a staggering triple-bogey, at which point he fell out of the lead and was never able to recover. Stal, who began the week by birdieing his first five holes on Thursday, started Sunday eight shots in arrears but put together the sort of flawless round necessary to have a chance, carding six birdies over his first 11 holes, then adding an insurance birdie at the par-4 16th. Though Kaymer theoretically had a chance to tie with an eagle at the 567-yard 18th (he could only make par), Stal’s chief competition came from world number one Rory McIlroy, who battled an inconsistent putter all week before birdieing six of his final 11 holes en route to a 66 and a 270 aggregate – one stroke higher than the triumphant Stal.
Twenty-four-year-old Patrick Reed began 2015 by continuing to build one of the game’s elite early career résumés, defeating Jimmy Walker on the first hole of sudden death to claim his fourth career victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Though there would be spectacular moments during the annually scheduled Monday finale, the first three days were all about steady golf for Reed, who carded bogey-free first and third rounds of 67 and 68, with a two-bogey 69 sandwiched in between. That left him two off the 54-hole lead held by Walker and 22-year-old Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, the former having carded but a single bogey over his rounds of 67-68-67, the latter making up for a sluggish opening 70 with a pair eight-birdie 66s in rounds two and three. Matsuyama would stick around early on Sunday (via birdies at the 6th and 7th) but couldn’t quite keep the pace thereafter, while Walker looked very much like a winner after playing Monday’s first 13 holes in five under par. But he made a crucial bogey after laying up with a 4 iron at the short par-4 14th, and it was about this time that Reed caught fire. Standing three under on the day through 14, he birdied the par-5 15th before holing an 83-yard wedge for eagle at the 365-yard 16th. A long three-putt bogey at the 17th slowed his momentum briefly but he carded the obligatory four at the downhill 663-yard 18th – that last key birdie that Walker could not find down the homestretch. Unfortunately the 35-year-old Texan couldn’t find it on the first extra hole (the 18th) either, and when Reed holed an 18-footer for one final four, the title was his...................In an outcome that would have seemed inconceivable just an hour earlier, England’s Andy Sullivan landed his first European Tour victory at the South African Open by defeating homestanding Charl Schwartzel on the first hole of sudden death. Sullivan had actually looked like a potential winner early in the week, tying for the first round lead with a Thursday 66, then leading Schwartzel by one after a Friday 70. But fortune (not mention Schwartzel’s considerable talent) turned against him abruptly on Saturday as Sullivan opened with four straight bogeys while Schwartzel birdied the same four – and in barely an hour, Sullivan had gone from one up to seven down. Schwartzel, for his part, went on to post a fine third round 66 and stake himself to a five-shot lead through 54 holes, then played the first 13 holes on Sunday in two under par to remain four shots ahead. But with his nation's championship firmly within reach, the 2011 Masters champion abruptly fell apart, bogeying the 14th from a bunker, three-putting for double-bogey at the 441-yard 16th, then adding one more critical bogey at the 222-yard 17th to finish on 277. Sullivan, meanwhile, had begun the day seven back and stood two under after 10 holes before pitching in for eagle at the par-4 12th, then adding a birdie at the 441-yard 16th en route to a 67 that matched Schwartzel's aggregate. The playoff was contested over the par-4 18th where Sullivan drove into the trees, then produced a stunning recovery to set up the winning 12-foot birdie putt.
In 2014's final major tour event, 41-year-old Arjun Atwal ended an injury-enhanced drought dating to 2010 by birdieing the 72nd hole to win the Asian Tour's inaugural Dubai Open by a single shot over Korean teenager Jeung-Hun Wang. The week hardly looked to be Atwal's after he opened with a disappointing 73, but the veteran Indian bounced back with middle rounds of 65-68 to pull himself into a four-way tie for the lead through 54 holes. He then charged out in 32 on Sunday, setting up a final nine battle with the talented Wang, who actually stood one ahead through 16 holes. Both men bogeyed the par-3 17th before Wang buckled, bogeying the par-5 finisher, looking on as Atwal birdied to steal the title.