Hitting the links in Scotland
Ive said many times that this is the one event Id like to win more than any other. I grew up in England, and for all of us European players theres a feeling that this is our national championship.
Growing up in England, I was a member at Beaconsfield and Hazlemere Golf Clubs, which are typical parkland courses. I did play a fair amount of amateur golf on links courses, but in the past 12 years since coming to the U.S., the only links golf I have played is the Open Championship, which is one of the reasons I feel as though I haven't fared as well.
For this reason, I decided to come over to Scotland a week early this year and play some tough links courses in preparation for the Open. In the past I've played in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond the week prior to the championship, but this time I played 54 holes on Friday and Saturday at Western Gailes ' a course frequently used for Open qualifying ' Dundonald Links and Royal Troon with my swing coach Pat Goss, and brother/caddie Christian.
Playing these courses helped acclimate me to the terrain and the types of shots Im going to need to be successful at Turnberry. I played Turnberry several weeks ago in a company outing but didnt see much of the back nine since we only got in 12 holes. Its a very fair course; the fairways arent as undulating and bumpy as you see on many Open courses. As you know, links golf is played along the ground, which is quite different from what we play on the PGA Tour. You have to be extremely imaginative around the greens to contend here. You also need to control the trajectory of your iron shots and keep the ball down under the wind. Thats something I think I do very well.
The key to hitting low, penetrating shots is to soften the left elbow at address so it almost points to your target, and then return it to the same position at impact. You want the handle of the club leading through impact so the clubhead is driving low through the ball, and presetting the left elbow in this way helps me do that. Its something that I have practiced over the last few days and will come in handy at Turnberry.
With both the U.S. Open and Open Championship in mind, Ive been experimenting for some time with some replacement irons. I normally play the Mizuno MP-62 irons (3-iron through pitching wedge), but for the U.S. Open I had the MP FLI-HI 3- and 4-irons in my bag because I needed to hit my longer irons higher into the elevated greens at Bethpage Black. I also tested an MP-62 2-iron and MP-52 3- and 4-irons. For the Open Championship, I may use the MP-62 2-iron, but I've yet to decide. I will make this decision on Thursday based on the wind conditions.
I played the blade 2-iron at Western Gailes, Dundonald and Royal Troon with some success. This iron doesnt produce as high a launch angle or trajectory as the FLI-HI irons. As we saw a couple of years ago with Tiger at Hoylake, you dont have to hit driver all the time to win an Open Championship. In links golf the fairways are notoriously firm and fast, so it is important to be in control of your golf ball. Distance becomes less of a factor. Hopefully, I can use one of my 2-irons to help me accomplish that.
Besides hitting the ball low and keeping it in play, the other key for me is going to be dealing with the weather, which as we saw at the U.S. Open can have a huge say in who wins. I got caught on the wrong side of the draw for the first two rounds at Bethpage Black, and before they called play Thursday morning I was 5 over par through four holes. Not exactly the start I wanted. I rebounded nicely from there and played even par for the next 31 holes, but wound up missing the cut by a stroke. Hopefully for this major I will be better prepared.
I cant use the weather as an excuse, though. Tiger played in the same wind-swept rain and was in contention on Monday. The best players fight it out and minimize the damage until the conditions turn in their favor.
Theres an element of luck involved in winning any major championship, and hopefully it will be on my side this week.
Editors Note: Two-time PGA Tour winner and European Ryder Cup team member Luke Donald will be writing a monthly column for GolfChannel.com throughout the remainder of the 2009 season. The focus of the column will be What Im Working On, and will give you an inside look into life on the PGA Tour from one of the games elite players.
What's in the bag: RSM Classic winner Cook
PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook earned his first Tour title at the RSM Classic. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Ping G400 (8.5 degrees adjusted to 9.2), with Fujikura Speeder Evolution 661X shaft
Fairway wood: Ping G400 (13 degrees), with Fujikura Motore VC 7.0 shaft
Hybrids: Ping G400 (19, 22 degrees), with Matrix Altus Red X shafts
Irons: Ping S55 (5-PW), with KBS Tour S shafts
Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50, 56, 60) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts
Putter: Ping Sigma G Tyne
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Monday Scramble: For money and love
Lexi Thompson falters, Jon Rahm impresses, Justin Rose stuns, Austin Cook breaks through and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:
It’ll be a long two months for Lexi Thompson.
She’ll have plenty to think about this offseason after a strong 2017 season that could have been spectacular.
She won twice, led the LPGA in scoring average and took home the $1 million first-place prize … but she also finished second six times – none more excruciating than the careless spotting in the first major of the year and the 2-foot miss in the season finale – and dealt with the crushing off-course distraction of her mother, Judy, battling cancer.
Thompson said all the right things after the CME Group Tour Championship, that those types of short misses happen in golf, that she’s overcome adversity before.
“It didn’t stop me,” she said, “and this won’t either.”
But at 22, she has already accumulated an incredible amount of scar tissue, especially for a player with world-beater talent.
What will 2018 bring? For Lexi’s sake, hopefully it’s more wins, not heartbreak.
1. The Thompson miss was plenty awkward. So was the end to the LPGA season.
In a fitting result for a year in which no dominant player emerged, So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park shared the Player of the Year award, after both players finished with 162 points. It’s the first time that’s happened since 1966.
Can’t there be some way to break the tie? Low scoring average? Best finishes in the majors? A chip-off content? Rock-paper-scissors?
2. Some of the other awards ...
Vare Trophy: Thompson, who finished the year with a 69.114 average. Maybe the players this year were just really good, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher than 12 players finished with a sub-70 average, besting the previous best total of, gulp, five. Easier setups?
Money title: Park, with $2.336 in earnings.
No. 1 ranking: Shanshan Feng, though Thompson had a chance to take over the top spot. Alas, that final green …
3. Oh, and there was also the tournament winner: Ariya Jutanugarn, who capped a bizarre year with a satisfying title.
Perhaps only Thompson boasts as much talent as Jutanugarn, and yet the Thai star showed her vulnerability this year. After reaching No. 1 in the world, she struggled through a shoulder injury and then missed five cuts and withdrew from another event in a seven-start span.
Here’s hoping she learned how to deal with that spotlight, because she’s going to be challenging for the No. 1 ranking for a while.
4. Of course, we wrote that about Lydia Ko, too, and she just wrapped up her first winless season on tour since she was 15.
She had 11 top-10s, including three runners-up, but failing to earn a victory was a massive disappointment for a player who was No. 1 in the world for 85 weeks. Perhaps next year she’ll get back on track, but you never know – she changed swings, coaches, equipment and caddies. That's a lot of turnover.
5. So much for that “controversial” Rookie of the Year award.
Jon Rahm, named Europe’s top newcomer despite playing only four regular-season events, left little doubt about who was the breakout star of the year with a comeback victory at the DP World Tour Championship.
Though it wasn’t enough to claim the Race to Dubai title – he finished third – it should serve as a warning to the rest of the European Tour that the 23-year-old Rahm be the man to beat for the next, oh, decade or so.
6. Ranked fourth in the world, particularly impressive because he hasn’t yet hit the minimum divisor in the rankings, Rahm wrapped up a season in which he won in California, Ireland and Dubai.
Just imagine how good he’ll be when he’s not seeing all of these courses for the first time.
7. The biggest stunner on the final day was the play of Justin Rose, who entered the final round with a one-shot lead.
He seemed to be on cruise control, going out in 4 under, but he encountered all sorts of trouble on the back nine, making three bogeys a variety of ways – wayward drives, flared approaches into the water and missed shorties.
Not only did it cost him the DP World Tour Championship title, but it allowed Tommy Fleetwood – even with a closing 74 – to take the end-of-season Race to Dubai title.
8. Austin Cook is now a PGA Tour winner – and what a circuitous journey it has been.
After turning pro in 2014, he played the mini-tours, racking up five top-10s in nine starts on the Adams Tour. A year later, with a chance to earn his Web.com card, he finished bogey-bogey-quad-double. And then last year, Hurricane Matthew forced officials to cancel the Web.com Tour Championship. That left Cook without his card – by $425.
He made it to the big leagues this fall, after finishing 20th on the money list, and then won in just his 14th career Tour start.
“I’ve been close on the Web a couple times but haven’t been able to get the job done, and to be able to do it on the biggest stage in the world, it definitely boosts my confidence and lets me know that I can play with these guys,” he said.
9. Sam Horsfield, who in 2016 was the NCAA Freshman of the Year, routed the field at European Tour Q-School to earn his card for next year. He shot 27 under (!) during the five-round event to win by eight.
Expectations have been high for the 21-year-old ever since he received a public endorsement from Ian Poulter. His mentor chimed in again after Horsfield got his card:
I'm extremely impressed just like I was 7 years ago with this young man @hr59sam. @EuropeanTour School is a daunting week. Many congratulations to now being employed and I hope you enjoy the new job. May you have a long and successful career mate. pic.twitter.com/o8CCluTyI8— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) November 16, 2017
Another great story to come out of Q-School was Jigger Thomson, who is interesting not just because of his incredible height – he’s 6-foot-9 – but his back story, after battling leukemia as a kid.
10. A limited fall schedule hasn’t cost Brooks Koepka any of his stellar form.
The U.S. Open champion defended his title at the Dunlop Phoenix, shooting 20 under par – one off his own scoring mark – and winning by a record nine shots. The margin of victory was one shot better than Tiger Woods’ romp there in 2004.
This was only Koepka’s second start since the Tour Championship (tied for second at the WGC-HSBC Champions).
Xander Schauffele tied for second while Hideki Matsuyama finished fifth. This is the time last year, remember, in which the Japanese star was the hottest player in the world, taking four titles in six starts, but he admitted of going up against Koepka right now: “I feel there’s a huge gap between us.”
Um, has this ever happened before?
I.K. Kim had a WILD third round at the CME Tour Championship, making only seven pars and recording everything from a 1 to a 7 en route to a ho-hum 71.
This week's award winners ...
Back Under the Knife: Davis Love III. Set to undergo replacement surgery on his left hip, Love is looking at another extended layoff, likely about four months.
Underrated Fall Performances: J.J. Spaun and Brian Harman. Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead at the Shriners, earned his first runner-up finish at the RSM, his third consecutive top-15. Harman, who won the Wells Fargo in May, had three top-8s.
Fill-In Duty: Cameron McCormick. Jordan Spieth’s swing coach will be on the bag for Spieth this week in Australia with his regular caddie, Michael Greller, at home with his wife and new baby.
Get Well Soon: Luke Donald. He withdrew from the RSM because of chest pain. He spent the night in the hospital, undergoing seven hours of tests, but was given the all-clear sign.
Well that wasn’t quite the finish to my year I had in mind!! Had some chest pain last night and into this morning & it kept getting worse. After some medical advice, I had to withdraw & was shipped off to the hospital to get my heart looked at. After 7 hours of tests all looks good with my heart thankfully A big thank you to the staff at the South East Georgia Brunswick hospital for taking good care of me. Time to put my feet up for a few weeks, recharge, regroup and get ready for a big 2018.
All the Best: Webb Simpson. Wishing the best to the Simpson family, after Webb chose to WD from Sea Island after rounds of 67-68 so he could spend time with his father, Sam, who, Simpson tweeted is “sick and living his last days.”
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Charles Howell III. Red-hot to open the season, with three consecutive top-10s, Howell missed the cut at Sea Island where he was 7-for-7 with three top-10s and a tie for 13th. Sigh.
Love to undergo hip replacement surgery
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.
Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.
“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.
Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.
Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.
“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”
LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY
NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.
Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.
Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.
Here’s a summary of the big prizes:
Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.
It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.
Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.
There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.
CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.
By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.
LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.
The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.
Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.
Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.