Pro Golf Weekly

The Starter: Missing Mexico, No Mas Mondays, Adios Heckler, and Whatnot

While Justin Thomas kept the Honda Classic from a Monday playoff, the U.S. Golf Association moves to do likewise at the U.S. Open. The World Golf Championships returns to Mexico, though not everyone went along. And can someone enlighten The Starter as to which objects are moveable on course?


THREE HEADLINES

1. Twilight golf suits Justin Thomas just fine at Honda. After one win in his first 70 PGA Tour starts, the young Kentuckian now has seven in his past 31 – a better than 1-in-5 ratio. He’s now No.3 in the world rankings and just the third man in the past 30 years to reach eight wins before turning 25.

2. Jessica Korda returns to LPGA action with some serious bite. Korda’s record-setting win in Thailand becomes even more remarkable when you learn it was her first start of 2018. She spent her offseason having major jaw surgery – 27 screws! – to fix an overbite that was causing severe headaches.

3. Goodbye, 18-hole Monday playoff. Previously the last holdout of the antiquated full-18 replay, the U.S. Open – and all other USGA opens – will now implement a two-hole aggregate if there’s a tie. Why just two holes, though, and not three (PGA, The Players) or four (Open Championship)?


AROUND THE TOURS

PGA: WGC Mexico Championship
Course: Club de Golf Chapultepec
Where: Naucalpan, Mexico
Defending: Dustin Johnson

LPGA: HSBC Women’s Championship
Course: Sentosa GC (Tanjong)
Where: Singapore
Defending: Inbee Park

European: Tshwane Open
Course: Pretoria CC
Where: Waterkloof, South Africa
2017 Champion: Dean Burmester

Champions: Cologuard Classic
Course: Omni Tucson National (Catalina)
Where: Tucson, Ariz.
Defending: Tom Lehman


RANKINGS REPORT

Lexi Thompson, who just missed overtaking Shanshan Feng for the top spot in the women’s world rankings on Sunday, will have another shot this week in Singapore.

Thompson did rise to No.2 for the third time in her career, but some final-hole drama kept China’s Feng atop the summit for another week.

Projections indicated Thompson needed to finish alone in second while Feng could be no better than fifth. Feng birdied No.18 to move into a share of fifth, leaving only a narrow margin to make the swap. The window closed with Moriya Jutanugarn’s closing birdie to tie Thompson for second.

Five different players held the No.1 spot in 2017, with Thompson looking to become the sixth in a volatile nine-month stretch.

Rank Player (Last Week) Points
1 Shanshan Feng (1) 7.33
2 Lexi Thompson (4) 7.23
3 Sung Hyun Park (2) 6.67
4 So Yeon Ryu (3) 6.59
5 Anna Nordqvist (5) 5.64
6 In-Kyung Kim (7) 5.46
7 Ariya Jutanugarn (7) 5.44
8 In Gee Chun (6) 5.40
9 Cristie Kerr (9) 4.97
10 Hye Jin Choi (10) 4.78


HISTORY SPOTLIGHT

With the World Golf Championships now celebrating their 20th year, what’s now the Mexico Championship has had the most nomadic existence. Club de Golf Chapultepec became its eighth home last year, uprooting after what had been a stable 10-year run in South Florida.

The tournament originally had a September date, staging its first two editions at Valderrama in Spain. From there it shuttled back and forth across the Atlantic, first at Bellerive in St. Louis for a 2001 edition that was scrapped in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ensuing stops took the event to Ireland (twice), Atlanta, San Francisco and England before a 2007 merger with the PGA Tour’s longtime event at Doral Golf Resort outside Miami.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Dustin Johnson were among the winners on the vaunted Blue Monster.

With Doral’s parent company in bankruptcy, Donald Trump acquired the resort in 2012 and soon sank some $250 million into upgrades. Though the work was widely praised, Trump’s presidential run made the WGC a lightning rod. Cadillac let its sponsorship lapse after 2016, putting the event on the move again – ironically, to Mexico.


STAT OF THE WEEK

Despite its World Golf Championships status, five of the top 13 men in the world rankings opted not to make the trip to Mexico this week.

No.9 Brooks Koepka gets a pass as he recovers from a wrist injury, and No.8 Jason Day will spend time with his mom as she undergoes one-year post-cancer tests. No.6 Hideki Matsuyama, No.10 Rory McIlroy and No.13 Henrik Stenson offered no explanation.


HOLE OF THE WEEK

No.7, Club de Golf Chapultepec
Par 3, 235 yards
2017 average: 3.23 (2nd toughest)

The longest par-3 on the course also has one of its smallest greens – rendered smaller by a large pine tree on the right that blocks access to perhaps a third of the putting surface.

That tree also happens to rise from a small finger of land jutting into a pond, which leaves a tendency to see shots knocked down into the water. A total of 16 balls wound up in the pond last year, including two from Justin Thomas on the weekend.

The left side becomes the obvious play, though that isn’t necessarily a simple task either. That side is protected by a large bunker off the left side and two small ones in back, and undulations in the green make proper placement a challenge.

2017 WGC Mexico Championship: 0 aces, 22 birdies, 209 pars, 54 bogeys, 18 double bogeys, 1 higher


TWISTED RULES

Nice work by Tiger Woods – and the guys who moved a pretzel stand – to salvage par after Woods put himself behind the snack cart during Thursday’s opening round of the Honda Classic.

But how is that any different than Lexi Thompson moving an advertising sign out of her swing path during Friday’s round in Thailand? Under local rules at Siam CC, the billboard at No.15 was considered a “temporary immovable object,” thus dinging her with a two-shot penalty.

The result left Thompson with a double bogey for the hole, turning a 66 into a 68 on the scorecard. And though she may not have been able to catch Jessica Korda on Sunday, it cost her sole possession of second – and very likely that No.1 ranking.


DID YOU KNOW?

The Puerto Rico Open, typically held this week for those who don’t qualify for the WGC stop, is on hiatus for 2018 as the island continues recovery from Hurricane Maria’s damage. In its place, a charity pro-am is on to raise funds for hurricane relief.

Reigning champion D.A. Points is joined by four other former winners, along with several LPGA pros that include Cheyenne Woods and Belen Mozo. The celebrity side features retired baseball stars Pudge Rodriguez, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, plus former boxer Miguel Cotto.


DJ’S AUGUSTA DIGS

This should surprise absolutely no one, but Dustin Johnson has a new place to stay for this year’s Masters.

The world No.1 sought a new rental for 2018 after last year’s slip-and-fall mishap on stairs that took him from favorite’s status to an untimely withdrawal. He didn’t hit his stride again until late summer.

“It’s just got bad juju,” Johnson told reporters before leaving the West Coast, “so I’m not going there.”

No word (yet) on whether it’s a single-story structure.


END QUOTE

“Who said that? Are you kidding? You just said for that ball to get in the bunker. Was that you? Enjoy your day, buddy. You’re gone,” Justin Thomas was heard fingering a Honda Classic patron, who was heckling him down the stretch at PGA National. The fan reportedly told Thomas at No.16 he hoped to see a splashdown, then begged a shot at No.17 to get in a fairway bunker.


Credit: Getty Images


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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