The Starter: Firestone’s Finale, Glen Abbey Too, Plus Lexi, Rory, and Whatnot

World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country
A view of the first tee during the second round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Credit: Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty Images

It’s farewell week at Firestone Country Club, as Tiger Woods tries for a ninth win before the course is put out to the Champions circuit. Nor are those the only goodbyes, as Tom Watson leaves St. Andrews and the Canadian Open leaves Glen Abbey. By the by, The Starter wouldn’t blame Canadians for trying to adopt their newly crowned champ.


THREE HEADLINES

Dustin Johnson 2018 RBC Canadian Open
Dustin Johnson tees off in the final round of the 2018 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario. Credit: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

1. Dustin Johnson regains winning form in Canada. One week after Carnoustie sent the world No.1 home early, Johnson used a 65-66 weekend to break Tiger Woods’ Glen Abbey scoring mark. If Canadians can’t celebrate one of their own, maybe Wayne Gretzky’s future son-in-law is the next-best thing.

2. Ariya Jutanugarn vaults back to No.1 with Scottish triumph. The 22-year-old Thai pro stood atop the rankings for two weeks last summer, but this could be a longer reign. Sunday’s win at Gullane made her the LPGA’s only three-time winner in 2018, with the Women’s British Open set this week.

3. Miguel Angel Jimenez wins Senior Open for 2nd major of year. The Spaniard held off the no-less ageless Bernhard Langer down the stretch at St. Andrews, using a 12-foot par save at the Road Hole to preserve a one-shot edge before a clinching par at No.18. Langer was shut out of major titles in 2018.


THIS WEEK’S LINEUP

World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country
A view of the first tee during the second round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Credit: Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty Images

World Golf Championships: WGC Bridgestone Invitational
Course: Firestone CC (South)
Where: Akron, Ohio
Defending: Hideki Matsuyama

LPGA Tour: Ricoh Women’s British Open
Course: Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC
Where: Lytham St. Annes, England
Defending: I.K. Kim

PGA Tour: Barracuda Championship
Course: Montreux G&CC (Blue)
Where: Reno, Nev.
Defending: Chris Stroud

PGA Tour Champions: 3M Championship
Course: TPC Twin Cities
Where: Blaine, Minn.
Defending: Paul Goydos

European Tour: Fiji International
Course: Natadola Bay GC
Where: Natadola Bay, Fiji
Defending: Jason Norris

Web.com Tour: KC Golf Classic
Course: Nicklaus GC at Lionsgate
Where: Overland Park, Kan.
2017 champion: Zecheng Dou


RANKINGS REPORT

Despite hard Sunday stumbles at the Porsche European Open, both Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau managed to finish among the top 15. Not that it gets them any closer to a U.S. Ryder Cup roster spot.

Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau on the 13th hole at Green Eagle GC during day one of the 2018 Porsche European Open in Hamburg, Germany. Credit: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Under the U.S. Ryder Cup points system, only PGA Tour events earn points that count toward the eight automatic berths that lock in after the final putt of next week’s PGA Championship.

It makes no difference in Reed’s case, having locked up his spot by winning the Masters and finishing fourth at the U.S. Open. But points like that might come in handy for DeChambeau, who finds himself 41 points behind Webb Simpson for the final automatic berth.

There’s still two big events ahead for players to make their case, with what appears to be a three-man battle for the final automatic berth. Xander Schauffele is 11th, currently 307 points behind Phil Mickelson at No.10.

RYDER CUP STANDINGS

POS-PLAYER(LAST WEEK)-PTS
1.**Brooks Koepka (1) – 8981.471
2.**Dustin Johnson (2) – 8925.287
3.**Patrick Reed (3) – 7740.630
4.*Justin Thomas (4) – 6727.053
5.*Bubba Watson (5) – 5509.387
6.*Jordan Spieth (6) – 5148.306
7.*Rickie Fowler (7) – 4620.241
8.Webb Simpson (8) – 4277.808
9.Bryson DeChambeau (9) – 4236.857
10.Phil Mickelson (10) – 4120.703
** clinched Ryder Cup berth, * automatic top-8 position


STAT OF THE WEEK

Wayne Gretzky relations notwithstanding, Dustin Johnson’s victory extends Canada’s drought to 54 years since one of its native sons has won its national open.

Dustin Johnson tees off on the par-3 7th hole wearing Wayne Gretzky’s hockey jersey during a pro-am in advance of the 2018 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey. Credit: RBC Canadian Open

Pat Fletcher continues to hold that distinction, winning the 1954 Open by four strokes at Point Grey GC in Vancouver. One year later, Arnold Palmer prevailed at Weston GC in Toronto.

Yes, you read that correctly – Arnold Palmer has won the Canadian Open more recently than a Canadian.

Canada’s most heartbreaking edition, perhaps, came in 2004 when Vijay Singh chased down Mike Weir to win on the third hole of a playoff. Weir has just one win since then, and just two top-10s since the end of 2009.


STAT OF THE WEEK II

Rory McIlroy’s share of second at The Open Championship was good enough to vault him atop the European Tour’s all-time money list.

McIlroy now has earned €35.1 million ($41.07 million) since turning professional 11 years ago, while Westwood stands at €34.7 million ($40.67 million) over a quarter-century. Ernie Els is a distant third at €28.6 million, with Sergio Garcia at €28.0 million.


HOLE OF THE WEEK

No.16, Firestone CC (South)
Par 5, 667 yards
2017 average: 4.87 (2nd easiest)

16th hole during the 2017 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country
A general view of the 16th hole during the 2017 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Credit: Chris Condon/PGA TOUR/Getty Images

Still the PGA Tour’s distance king even as courses have grown longer over the decades, No.16 was dubbed “The Monster” by none other than Arnold Palmer after a triple bogey there cost him the 1960 PGA Championship.

Amid today’s modern technology, it doesn’t have quite the same bite these days. But it’s fair to say No.16 claimed its share of victims for four decades or so.

Two years after Palmer’s woes, Paul Bondeson recorded a 10 on The Monster when he put two in the water – soon to be joined by an offending club. Curtis Strange matched the unwanted mark in 1986.

A 2009 duel between Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington came to an end with a four-shot swing at No.16, as Woods spun back a magnificent 8-iron within inches of the cup and Harrington flew the green and followed with a pitch into the pond that fronts the shallow putting surface.

Perhaps the snazziest shot at No.16 was performed in 1979 by Lon Hinkle, who skipped his approach from the right rough twice across the pond and onto the green. “I was playing for one bounce, not two,” he quipped afterward.

2017 WGC Bridgestone Invitational: 1 eagle, 94 birdies, 162 pars, 40 bogeys, 6 double bogeys, 1 higher


HISTORY SPOTLIGHT

This week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational ends a 65-year run by Firestone Country Club on the PGA Tour docket, an affiliation spread across four different tournaments and including two major championships.

18th hole during the 2016 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club
A general view of the 18th hole during the 2016 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Credit: Ryan Young/PGA TOUR/Getty Images

The club, opened in 1929 as a corporate perk from Harvey Firestone to employees of his tire company, lured its first tour stop with the 1954 debut of the Rubber City Open. Tommy Bolt won in a five-stroke romp, shooting 23-under-par 265.

The Rubber City Open lasted six years, cast aside when the PGA Championship arrived in 1960 and crowned Jay Hebert the winner. The following year saw the creation of the American Golf Classic, where Hebert won again.

In 1962, Firestone also became host of the new World Series of Golf, which began as an exhibition for the year’s major winners. The American Golf Classic and World Series of Golf played on consecutive weekends for 15 years, except when the PGA Championship returned in both 1966 and ’75.

The American Golf Classic closed shop after the 1976 event, as the World Series took on a larger invitational field. The World Series continued through 1998, when the event became part of the new World Golf Championships series. Firestone is the last original site from the WGC’s launch in 1999.

Starting next year, the WGC event relocates to Memphis as the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Firestone, meantime, will step in as the Senior Players Championship’s new home.


DID YOU KNOW

Though no official proclamation has been made, the RBC Canadian Open’s 30th edition at Glen Abbey Golf Club also may have been its last.

RBC Canadian Open Glen Abbey 18th Hole
A general view of the 18th green during the final round of the 2017 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Canada. Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Canada’s national open celebrates its new June date at Hamilton Golf & Country Club next year, breaking a run of five editions in six years at Glen Abbey. No sites have been named beyond 2019, but word is the Open will go back to rotating among the country’s top venues.

Glen Abbey – Jack Nicklaus’ first solo design and Golf Canada’s home for four decades – has been in limbo in recent years since owner Rai Sahi floated the idea of bulldozing it to make way for a residential development.

The proposal is in the hands of municipal authorities, but the decision to leave Glen Abbey may be an indicator of where Golf Canada thinks things are headed.


LEXI’S LONG PAUSE

Lexi Thompson sent ripples through the LPGA when the highest-ranked American in the women’s game announced via Instagram she would skip the Women’s British Open to give herself an extended sabbatical.

Lexi Thompson during the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee CC in Sammamish, WA. Credit: Getty Images/Jeff Gross

“I realized recently that I need to take some time to work on myself,” Thompson said. “The events of the past year and a half (on and off the golf course) have taken a tremendous toll on me both mentally and emotionally. I have not truly felt like myself for quite some time.”

Thompson went through a rough 2017, marked by her mother’s battle with cancer and the call-in penalty debacle that cost her the ANA Inspiration. She also missed a 2-foot putt that would have given her the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship and Player of the Year honors.

While 2018 hasn’t been a poor season for Thompson, one can easily say she’s been off. Though she was runner-up in Thailand and third in Arkansas, those are among just five top-10s this year. And though there have been 18 different LPGA winners this season, she’s not among them.

Thompson, now No.5 in the rankings, did say she’d be back in mid-August to defend her title in Indianapolis. That would give her a solid four-week break from the game.


END QUOTE

“I shot my age in the second round. I didn’t have a 5 on my scorecard the first round. I played some very good golf for me, and that tells me I still have a little bit in the tank. Maybe not very much, but I still have a little bit in the tank,” Tom Watson, 68, who tied for 21st in what might have been his final competitive rounds at St. Andrews.

The Hall of Famer began the Senior Open Championship with rounds of 69-68, holding a share of the lead midway through the third round before fading.

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