Ariya Jutanugarn is a U.S. Women’s Open champion, though she narrowly avoided going into the record book for the wrong reason.
Bryson DeChambeau and Tiger Woods take opposite paths to the finish at the Memorial, but it’s DeChambeau who wound up with the bigger payoff. And The Starter has been saying it for weeks – get used to seeing the name Joaquin Niemann. Thank you, USF.
1. Ariya Jutanugarn avoids infamy, survives U.S. Women’s Open. The Thai pro squandered a seven-shot lead on Sunday’s back nine, starting with a triple bogey at No.10. That could have put her in league with Arnold Palmer’s 1966 U.S. Open collapse, but she won the playoff against Hyo-Joo Kim.
2. Bryson DeChambeau is last man standing in Memorial playoff. It certainly wasn’t a work of art, as DeChambeau hit just five of 14 fairways Sunday at Muirfield Village. But the Mad Scientist found a way to hold things together, emerging from a three-man playoff with Benny An and Kyle Stanley.
3. Brittany Lincicome accepts sponsor invitation to PGA Tour event. The Barbasol Championship made the invite 15 years and one week after Annika Sorenstam’s historic foray at Colonial. The event is sponsored by the same parent as the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic, which Lincicome has won twice.
THIS WEEK’S LINEUP
PGA Tour: FedEx St. Jude Classic
Course: TPC Southwind
Where: Memphis, Tenn.
Defending: Daniel Berger
LPGA Tour: ShopRite LPGA Classic
Course: Stockton Seaview Hotel & GC (Bay)
Where: Galloway, N.J.
Defending: I.K. Kim
European Tour: Shot Clock Masters
Course: Diamond Country Club
Where: Atzenbrugg, Austria
Defending: New event
PGA Tour Champions: Principal Charity Classic
Course: Wakonda Club
Where: Des Moines, Iowa
Defending: Brandt Jobe
Web.com Tour: Rust-Oleum Championship
Course: Ivanhoe Club
Where: Mundelein, Ill.
2017 champion: Stephan Jaeger
With his fifth top-5 finish of 2018, Bryson DeChambeau has put himself in the conversation to be considered among the top dozen or so U.S. players. A Ryder Cup berth may not be far off.
With his Memorial Tournament triumph, DeChambeau jumped to No.8 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup points standings, occupying the final automatic berth to join captain Jim Furyk’s roster. Eight weeks ago, the California native was lingering in 18th.
A third-place finish at the RBC Heritage and fourth at the Wells Fargo Championship lifted DeChambeau to 13gh before Sunday’s triumph.
DeChambeau’s gain turned out to be Phil Mickelson’s loss, now sitting just outside the automatic qualifying line despite his March run of four consecutive top-6 finishes.
1. Patrick Reed (1st) – 6,785.090
2. Justin Thomas (2) – 6,592.573
3. Dustin Johnson (3) – 5,401.897
4. Jordan Spieth (4) – 4,795.306
5. Brooks Koepka (5) – 4,479.348
6. Rickie Fowler (7) – 4,172.647
7. Bubba Watson (6) – 4,128.024
8. Bryson DeChambeau (13) – 3,888.316
9. Phil Mickelson (8) – 3,812.265
10. Webb Simpson (9) – 3,622.307
STAT OF THE WEEK
If not for Rory McIlroy’s blistering Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bryson DeChambeau might have joined Tiger Woods as the only men to triumph at Arnie’s Place and Jack’s Place in the same year.
Woods swept the Bay Hill/Memorial double four times (2000, ’01, ’09, ’12). Greg Norman could have done it first, but was denied at Bay Hill in 1990 when Robert Gamez produced a stunning walkoff eagle. Norman won the Memorial two months later.
As it is, DeChambeau has a pretty good bingo card of finishes. Beyond his Memorial win and second at Bay Hill, he has a third (RBC Heritage), a fourth (Wells Fargo Championship) and a fifth (Phoenix Open). He also placed seventh in Las Vegas last fall.
STAT OF THE WEEK II
Though Tiger Woods led the Memorial field in both strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained approaching the green, it wasn’t good enough to get him closer than six shots of the playoff eventually won by DeChambeau.
That’s because Woods was next-to-last in the strokes gained putting category, where he was more than seven shots worse than the field average. If he simply matches the field average, he’s in the Sunday hunt.
HOLE OF THE WEEK
No.12, TPC Southwind
Par 4, 406 yards
2017 average: 4.20 (3rd toughest)
One of a trio of par-4s at Southwind measuring less than 410 yards, No.12 carries a higher risk factor with the pond that extends along the entire right side, requiring players to cross a certain amount of water on the approach.
Not only did last year’s 37 double bogeys and worse top the St. Jude Classic chart, it was nearly double the next-highest amount seen at Southwind. No one felt it worse than Charl Schwartzel, who might have prevailed without a Saturday triple bogey.
“It’s a hole that I feel uncomfortable on,” said Schwartzel, who came up one stroke short of Daniel Berger. “Instead of hitting just something up the left side, even if it just goes in the rough and just take it from there, I tried to hit an aggressive shot. That was just poor decision-making.”
Schwartzel parred the other three days, leaving him at 3-over par for the week. Berger, meantime, birdied twice to play No.12 in 2-under.
2017 FedEx St. Jude Classic: no eagles, 66 birdies, 284 pars, 80 bogeys, 33 double bogeys, 4 higher
Though having Arnold Palmer’s name next to yours in golf annals is usually a good thing, Ariya Jutanugarn is fortunate to avoid a similar type of entry as Palmer’s gut-wrenching loss to Billy Casper at the 1966 U.S. Open.
Like Jutanugarn, Palmer held a seven-stroke advantage heading to the back nine at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. The outcome seemed so sure that playing partner Billy Casper remarked that he just wanted to make sure he was second.
Still leading by five with four to play, Palmer had Ben Hogan’s scoring record in his sights. But an aggressive play at the par-3 15th led to a bogey while Casper birdied. Palmer then hooked his drive at No.16 into the trees, failed to advance his ball out of deep rough and bogeyed again while Casper birdied.
With the margin now one, Palmer watched a 7-foot par save stop just short of the hole for a third straight bogey. Both parred the 18th, and Casper prevailed in an 18-hole playoff the next day.
Just how deflating was that 1966 result? Consider that Palmer never won another major title.
DID YOU KNOW
Though this week’s Shot Clock Masters is officially listed as a new event in European Tour records, host Diamond Country Club has been on the schedule for the past seven years as host of the old Lyoness Open.
South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli, who played at the University of Texas, captured the final edition of that event last year. The roster of champions there also includes Austrian native Bernd Wiesberger and England’s Chris Wood.
It took all of five professional starts for Chilean teen Joaquin Niemann to earn an extended stay on the PGA Tour.
Niemann’s share of sixth at the Memorial Tournament was his third top-10 against PGA Tour competition, enough to secure Special Temporary membership and the ability to accept as many sponsor exemptions as he can handle the rest of the season.
It might take just one more top-10 to garner enough FedExCup points as a non-member to secure full status next season.
“I’m not here to tell anyone who I am or how good I am,” said Niemann, who held a share of the 36-hole lead before a 70-73 weekend. “I just play for myself. I want to do my best every time.”
Niemann had his heart on playing college golf, by the way, but was forced to reconsider when the University of South Florida denied him admission because his test score for English proficiency fell short.
“I kind of got mad a little bit with my back nine. OK, so if I have a playoff, I’m going to make sure I do my best every shot because I feel like I didn’t commit [to some shots] on the back nine. I feel I have a last chance to make myself proud.”
– Ariya Jutanugarn, 2018 U.S. Women’s Open champion