Flyin' the W

Somethin’ in the water

Defending champion Justin Thomas entered Sunday’s final round of the CIMB Classic 4 shots behind 54-hole leader Anirban Lahiri, who was looking for his first PGA Tour title. Sunday wasn’t kind to Lahiri. He made a quadruple bogey 9 on the 3rd hole of Sunday’s final round after his tee shot got stuck in a tree. Yes, literally stuck in a tree.

Lahiri was able to rebound quickly, making a birdie and an eagle on his next 2 holes, but the story was how Thomas seized the opportunity and put forth a dominant effort to close out the tournament. The young gun birdied 13 of the final 23 holes, including 5 straight birdies to close out Saturday’s round and a bogey-free 64 for Sunday. Thomas ended up 3 shots clear of his closest competitor, Hideki Matsuyama, and became the PGA Tour’s first back-to-back winner of an event since Matt Every won the 2014 & 2015 Bay Hill Invitational. 

Thomas picked up his second career win and moves within the top 25 in the world rankings, making it look like 2016-2017 could be his breakout season to join the elite players of the game. 

Turning back the clocks 

In Portugal for the European Tour’s Portugal Masters, another defending champion, Andy Sullivan, found himself in the mix late on Sunday trying to chase down the wily veteran Padraig Harrington. Unfortunately for Sullivan, Harrington showed the nerve and game that won him 3 major championships, closing with a back nine 4-under-par 32 to match Sullivan’s final round 65 and win by 1 shot. 

Harrington earned his first win on the European Tour in 8 years with a great short game. The 45-year-old had 25 scrambling opportunities and took only 51 shots during them. That is really good.

The finish of the Portugal Masters signals the start of the European Tour’s Race To Dubai, and the top 110 players on the Order of Merit will move on for the season’s final events.

Rory’s new driver

The world’s number 3-ranked player will head to this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions with a new weapon in his bag. News broke Saturday that Rory McIlroy will be using a TaylorMade M2 in China. 

Shortly after Nike’s announcement of their exit from the equipment business, McIlroy shed his Nike putter for a Scotty Cameron, and now the driver is the latest. It looks like the star will soon be free of all of the defunct equipment manufacturer’s sticks.

More equipment news

On Sunday, reports broke of Dick’s Sporting Goods’ impending acquisition of the bankrupt big box golf superstore, Golfsmith, for a smooth $70 million. It’s unknown whether the remaining Golfsmiths will retain their branding or fall under Dick’s Golf Galaxy brand, but the purchase signals Dick’s strong belief in the golf equipment market.

A nearly untouched Donald Ross: Holston Hills

My travels took me to Knoxville, TN earlier this year where I was able to play the Donald Ross masterpiece, Holston Hills. Knoxville’s top course is a fixture in top 100 courses in America rankings and holds the reputation of being the world’s best preserved Donald Ross course. Take a look at one of the best courses I’ve had the pleasure of playing in the last year.

Ties all around

Sunday saw a dramatic finish to the prestigious Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate, which had 13 of the country’s top 33 teams and 6 of the top 10 competing for the title. Last year’s National Championship runner-up, Texas, surged from 3 shots back to tie Virginia for the title. Texas’ run was buoyed by a final round 9-under-par 63 from star Gavin Hall. 

On the individual side, Virginia’s Jimmy Stanger and Oklahoma’s Max McGreever captured co-medalist honors at 9-under, with Texas’ Doug Ghim finishing 2 shots back in 3rd. 

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Last week, Soly dove into some NLU follower questions, spilled the beans on what golf is like inside the ropes, and debated over Rory and rookie of the year… read ‘em all here.

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