Pro Golf Weekly

The Starter: Irish Open’s First, The Greenbrier’s 18th, Plus Tiger, Toms, and Whatnot

If this was the Quicken Loans National’s finale, Francesco Molinari brought the curtain down with a command performance. The weekend also brought two major winners, Open Championship bookings and a Korean powerhouse (on paper).

Now, can Tiger Woods give himself one more chance to tee up at Firestone?


THREE HEADLINES

Francesco Molinari of Italy celebrates with the trophy after winning the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac on July 1, 2018 in Potomac, Maryland. Credit: Getty Images/Rob Carr

1. Delaying European return pays off for Francesco Molinari. Sitting on the bubble for FedExCup points, the Italian pro opted to bypass the Open de France to enter the Quicken Loans National. After an eight-shot romp – biggest on the PGA Tour this year – playoff positioning isn’t a worry anymore.

2. Sung Hyun Park serves notice with 2nd major title. Known for her stoicism on the course, Park sobbed after outlasting So Yeon Ryu and Nasa Hataoka in a KMPG Women’s PGA Championship playoff. Ryu likely shed a few tears, too, after letting a two-shot lead get away with double bogey at No.17.

3. David Toms makes his first Champions title a major. Toms’ triumph at the U.S. Senior Open was a little reminiscent of his 2001 PGA Championship victory, saving par from a tough spot in a bunker at No.17. That proved enough to win by one over Jerry Kelly, Tim Petrovic and Miguel Angel Jimenez.


THIS WEEK’S LINEUP

A view of the grandstands around the 1st tee during prior to the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club in Donegal, Ireland. Credit: Getty Images/Ross Kinnaird

European Tour: DDF Irish Open
Course: Ballyliffin GC (Glashedy Links)
Where: Ballyliffin, Ireland
Defending: Jon Rahm

PGA Tour: A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier
Course: Greenbrier Resort (Old White TPC)
Where: White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Defending: Xander Schauffele

LPGA Tour: Thornberry Creek Classic
Course: Thornberry Creek at Oneida
Where: Oneida, Wis.
Defending: Katherine Kirk

Web.com Tour: Lecom Health Challenge
Course: Peek‘n Peak Resort (Upper)
Where: Findley Lake, N.Y.
2017 Champion: Chesson Hadley


RANKINGS REPORT

Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Tiger Woods during the trophy presentation at the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (Maryland). Credit: Getty Images/Rob Carr

Tiger Woods’ share of fourth at the Quicken Loans National marked his third top-5 finish of the year, moving him to No.67 in the newest world rankings. That’s his highest rung since February 2015, with the top 50 now in striking range.

All of which brings a small goal into play: The WGC Bridgestone Invitational, being played for the last time at Akron’s Firestone Country Club before relocating next year to Memphis. Though Woods owns eight wins at Firestone, he won’t get into the lineup unless he joins the top 50.

Conceding a margin of error because of other moving parts, projections show Woods needs about 14 more world ranking points to safely crack the top 50. The Open Championship is the only event he plans before Firestone, so he’d need a top-10 at Carnoustie.

Asked if he’d consider adding either the John Deere Classic or RBC Canadian Open to boost his chances, Woods said no. “I have to really try and remind myself that what I’m coming back from with this,” he added, “the (back) injury that I’ve had and the procedure that I’ve had.”

FIGHTING FOR FIRESTONE

POS-PLAYER(LAST WK)-POINTS
50. Emiliano Grillo (50) – 2.323
51. Zach Johnson (51) – 2.313
52. Peter Uihlein (52) – 2.297
53. Brendan Steele (54) – 2.281
54. Chez Reavie (53) – 2.278
55. Charles Howell (60) – 2.258
56. Byeong Hun An (56) – 2.230
57. Luke List (57) – 2.229
58. Kevin Chappell (58) – 2.206
59. Chesson Hadley (61) – 2.185
60. Alexander Levy (59) – 2.173
67. Tiger Woods (82) – 1.978


STAT OF THE WEEK

Sung Hyun Park celebrates a chip in on the 16th hole during the final round of the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois. Credit: Getty Images/Scott Halleran

Sung Hyun Park’s playoff victory at the Women’s PGA Championship made her just the second multiple winner in 18 LPGA events this season. The 24-year-old Korean also won the VOA Texas Classic at the start of May.

The LPGA’s other multiple winner is Ariya Jutanugarn, who also notched her second in a major when she won a playoff over Hyo-Joo Kim at the U.S. Women’s Open.

No matter who won Sunday’s playoff, the LPGA was assured of getting its second multiple winner of 2018. So Yeon Ryu (Meijer LPGA Classic) and Nasa Hataoka (Walmart NW Arkansas Championship) had captured the two stops leading into the Women’s PGA.


STAT OF THE WEEK II

With his romp at the Quicken Loans National, Francesco Molinari became the first Italian to win a PGA Tour event since Toney Penna captured the 1947 Atlanta Open.

Born in Naples, Penna moved to the United States with his family at an early age and he grew up just north of New York City. The PGA Tour credits him with four victories, starting with the 1937 Pennsylvania Open. One year later, he tied for third in the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills.


HOLE OF THE WEEK

Bubba Watson hits a tee shot on the 18th hole during the final round of the 2017 Greenbrier Classic at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Credit: Getty Images/Michael Cohen/R&A

No.18, Greenbrier Resort (Old White TPC)
Par 3, 177 yards
2017 average: 2.97 (8th easiest)

Though par-3s typically don’t make very compelling finishing holes – just two exist on the PGA Tour schedule – the Old White’s 18th has seen its share of excitement in just seven editions of what used to be known as the Greenbrier Classic.

The fireworks started with the debut edition in 2010, as Stuart Appleby’s 11-foot birdie capped an out-of-the-blue 59 that vaulted him past Jeff Overton for the title. The Aussie joined David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic) as the only men to sew up a PGA Tour victory with a 59.

One year later, Scott Stallings’ closing birdie forced his way into a three-man playoff with Bill Haas and Bob Estes. Returning to the 18th tee, the rookie stiffed a short iron to 6 feet for a winning birdie.

No.18 proved to be the difference last year, too, when Xander Schauffele stuck a pitching wedge to 3 feet that pushed him past Robert Streb and Sebastian Munoz. Playing one group behind, both rivals missed the green on their turn through the 18th.

The Old White’s 18th also holds a historical footnote as the site of Sam Snead’s final hole-in-one in 1995. Slammin’ Sammy was 83.

2017 Greenbrier Classic: no aces, 69 birdies, 331 pars, 49 bogeys, 5 double bogeys, none higher


HISTORY SPOTLIGHT

Seve Ballesteros of Spain during the Pro-am at the 2002 Murphy’s Irish Open at Fota Island Golf Club in Cork. Credit: Getty Images/Andrew Redington

This week’s DDF Irish Open marks 90 years since the inaugural edition, though it hasn’t been played every year because of war interruptions and a lengthy hiatus in the 1950s and ‘60s.

A rich history of winners includes three-time champions Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer, along with Ian Woosnam and even Ben Crenshaw. In all, 14 different winners also have a major title in their portfolio, all the way back to inaugural winner George Duncan.

Duncan’s 1927 victory might itself be worthy of major hardware.

The Scotsman already had the 1920 Open Championship title to his name when he joined the entrants teeing off at Portmarnock, where a 36-hole final day was played in such wretched weather that catering and press tents were blown down and rain came down in torrents.

Duncan was 14 shots off Jack Smith’s pace heading to the final round, but somehow strung together a 74 – two off the course record – while Smith skied to a 91 and Henry Cotton shot 81. That left Duncan one stroke clear of Cotton and three ahead of Smith.

British great J.H. Taylor described Duncan’s round as “one of, or perhaps even the greatest round that has ever been played.”


DID YOU KNOW

Bronson Burgoon is congratulated by John Clark of the R&A Championship Committee after qualifying for the 2018 Open Championship during the final round of the 2018 Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm (Maryland). Credit: Getty Images/Michael Cohen/R&A

A week ago, Bronson Burgoon stood 406th in the world rankings. The former Texas A&M standout had missed six cuts in his previous eight starts. He still wouldn’t make the FedExCup playoffs if the postseason started today.

Burgoon, though, is headed to the Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links. Hey, timing is everything.

A tie for sixth at the Quicken Loans National allowed Burgoon to grab the last of four Open berths available Sunday, joining runner-up Ryan Armour, Korean pro Sung Kang and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer.

Three berths also were filled from the HNA Open de France, where runners-up Julian Suri and Russell Knox were joined by Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult.

Seven more slots will be filled after this weekend’s play, with four awaiting top finishers at The Greenbrier and three at the Irish Open.


A TOUGH LINEUP TO CRACK

South Korea’s In-Kyung Kim watches her shot during the final round of the 2018 KPMG PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois. Credit: Getty Images/Gregory Shamus

I.K. Kim’s share of eighth on Sunday allowed the reigning Women’s British Open titleholder to bump Hye-Jin Choi from the fourth and final berth on Team Korea for this fall’s UL International Crown team event.

Only four players from each of the eight qualifying nations make the roster, based on world rankings after the Women’s PGA Championship. Kim rose to No.7 in this week’s rankings as Choi – who was not at Kemper Lakes – slipped to 11th.

On Team Korea, anyone not in the top 10 apparently need not apply.

World No.1 Inbee Park tops the Korean lineup along with two of Sunday’s playoff combatants – champion Sung Hyun Park (No.2) and So Yeon Ryu (No.4). This year’s event tees off Oct. 4 at Jack Nicklaus GC on the outskirts of Incheon, South Korea.

It’ll be the third edition of the International Crown, with Team Korea still looking for its first win – they were runners-up two years ago and third in the inaugural edition.

The United States will defend its title with Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.


END QUOTE

David Toms lifts the trophy after winning the 2018 U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor Golf Club on July 1, 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Credit: Getty Images/Robert Laberge

FAMILY AFFAIR

“He really kept me in there, especially on Friday where I was 3-over par early in the round. He was so positive. It was like me talking to him when he was going to play. … I just have to figure out now what percentage each of them gets,” said U.S. Senior Open champion David Toms, who enlisted son Carter for two days while longtime caddie Scott Gneiser was being checked for chest pains. Carter, 20, is a member of LSU’s golf team.

Jeff Shain

Jeff is a contributor to Pro Golf Weekly. He is the managing editor of Prime Sports, and a weekly contributor to PGATour.com. As a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America, Jeff has covered golf for nearly two decades, including stops at the Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald and The Island Packet in South Carolina.

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