Enjoy the Chase

Golf fans who waited out the lengthy rain delay were treated to a thrilling Sunday close to the Zurich Classic. Facing a must-make situation from the left side of the 72nd green, Kevin Kisner rattled the flagstick with a shot-of-the-year chip-in from 30 yards to get himself and his partner Scott Brown into a Monday morning playoff with Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt.

After a series of missed putts on the first three playoff holes, Cameron Smith finally hit a wedge tight on the fourth to make birdie and win the championship. It was Smith’s first win and Blixt’s first since the 2013 Greenbrier. Full scores

Bogey-free is the way to be

The champs went 76 holes without making a bogey, a remarkable feat given the stress and difficulty that the alternate shot format places on players. The Australian Smith is another in a group of talented young players – at age 23 he now has a PGA Tour title and a top five at a major (the 2015 U.S. Open). The win also gave the Jacksonville resident, Smith, a spot in the upcoming PLAYERS Championship at his home course TPC Sawgrass.

Dem Aiken Boyz

Childhood friends Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown got off to quite the start on Sunday birdieing their first eight holes to pull into the lead, but their hot play cooled on the back nine, where they made just one birdie until Kisner’s chip-in on the 18th. The runner-up is Kisner’s 6th since 2014 and his second of 2017 which is off to a brilliant start.

Fun but the right amount

The new team format was a big hit and should become a mainstay for the event in New Orleans. Its success should prompt the PGA Tour to look into more unique formats to break up the monotony of 72-hole stroke play events. I would urge them to look to more unique individual championships rather than team ones, which can give players a two-year exemption for riding the coattails of their partners. At the end of the day, golf is an individual sport and if you are handing out FedExCup points and affecting players’ Tour statuses, it should be based on their ability to compete individually, not as a team. 

An example of this was the pairing of Brooks and Chase Koepka, who finished T5, earning the statusless Chase another start on the PGA Tour at next week’s Wells Fargo. He now has a great opportunity to earn enough FedExCup points to make the Web.com Tour Finals and potentially earn his PGA Tour card. The younger Koepka is a fine player but was afforded an opportunity few others received, getting into the event via his brother’s request despite having no status on the PGA Tour or Web.com Tour. Simply put, earning an exemption and FedExCup points as a non-PGA Tour member should be based on your individual playing merit, not a team competition where you don’t have to count every score.

Big misses

A few of the pre-tournament favorites didn’t have the week they expected as the top-10 pairings of Jason Day/Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson both missed the cut in New Orleans. While Fowler and Rose have been stellar in 2017, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson have each been playing well below their standards. Day has just one top-10 finish on the season and Stenson has missed his past four cuts. 

It’s about time…

For the first time in 22 years, the PGA Tour assessed a slow play penalty at the Zurich Classic, docking PGA Tour rookie Brian Campbell and journeyman Miguel Angel Carballo a shot during the Zurich Classic’s second round. The penalty signals a new era under PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, whose predecessor Tim Finchem continuously turned a blind eye to the turtle’s pace which has plagued the PGA Tour for years.

Another week another playoff

For the second consecutive week, the European Tour’s event ended in a playoff with Alexander Levy and Dylan Frittelli battling it out for the Volvo China Open crown. Levy started the day seven back of Frittelli and surged as Frittelli struggled, shooting 74 and allowing Levy a chance to win. Levy made birdie to finish off Frittelli on the first playoff hole. Rounding out the top five were Pablo Larrazabal (third place) and Chris Wood and last week’s winner Bernd Wiesberger shared fourth. Full scores

Disastrous exposure

Due to weather delays at the Zurich, the LPGA got some critical viewers of its playoff between Haru Nomura and Cristie Kerr at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. Unfortunately, the attention quickly diverted from the drama of a playoff to the glacial slow play from its competitors. Nomura and Kerr took over an hour to play three holes during the six-hole playoff. Eventually Haru Nomura triumphed but just like the ANA, when the spotlight was shined on the LPGA, it was not a good look. Frankly, the only thing that may have been worse than the slow play was the poorly-designed 18th hole that they played six consecutive times in the playoff.

College roundup

The nation’s conference championships are wrapped up and this week we will learn which teams advance to the NCAA Regionals. The two big tournaments of the weekend were the Big Ten and Pac 12 Championships.

Playing at the historic Baltimore Country Club, Illinois continued their dominance atop the Big Ten winning their eighth title in the past nine years. The Illini were paced by their star Dylan Meyer, who won his third straight individual title to close out the regular season. Meyer became the seventh straight Illini to win the individual championship, a list that includes the likes of Thomas Pieters, Luke Guthrie and Tom Detry. Besides Meyer the Illini were aided by a T2 finish from Edoardo Lipparelli and a T5 from Nick Hardy. The Illini won by 16 shots over runner-up Northwestern who got top-10 finishes from Ryan Lumsden and Dylan Wu.

Dealing with a spring snowstorm in Boulder, Colorado, the reigning national champion Oregon Ducks won their first Pac 12 title since 1958 over runner-up Stanford and third-place USC. The Ducks were paced by their star and player of the year candidate Wyndham Clark, who won the individual title by three shots over USC’s Rico Hoey and Stanford’s Franklin Huang.

The event was shortened from 72 holes to 54 because of a brutal weather system that caused a suspension of play on Friday and a complete whiteout on Saturday. The course absorbed five inches of snow, but volunteers and Boulder CC’s maintenance crew were able to make the course playable by shoveling snow off the fairways and greens. It was quite a unique situation for most Pac 12 teams, which are located in warm climate states such as Arizona and California.

For the golf course enthusiasts

Golf course architect Jeff Mingay joined the podcast to talk about his career, TPC Sawgrass and Augusta, unsung architect A.V. Macan, his thoughts on template holes and much more. Listen on the website, iTunes or Stitcher and please leave us a review!

The Superintendent Roundtable

Kicking off a new series this week, we highlight golf’s unsung heroes, the superintendents. In what will be a regular segment we asked three superintendents, Mike Manthey, Sean Reehoorn and Connor Healy, five questions that should give you a little color on what to think about while you are playing the course. Check out their answers here.

Quick hooks

 

Matt Atkins wins the Web Tour’s El Bosque Mexico Championship.

Scott Harvey wins the Coleman Invitational at Seminole.

Arizona State had fun sledding during the snow delay at the Pac 12’s.

Poulter is back, regains status via a technicality.

Dottie whiffs on Scott Brown’s career, who quickly corrects her.

 

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