Dedicated golf fans found themselves at a loss as to what to watch this Memorial Day weekend, that is, unless they had three TV screens and a lot of available space on the DVR.
The three biggest men’s golf tours all had notable events underway – the PGA Tour’s Colonial Invitational at historic Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas; the European Tour’s PGA Championship, at Wentworth Golf Club in England; and the Champions Tour’s Senior PGA Championship at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton, Michigan. On the distaff side of the game, the ladies of the LPGA Tour were playing the LPGA Airbus Classic on the Crossings Course at Magnolia Trail Golf Club in Mobile, Alabama.
Scott silences doubters with win at Colonial
The 2014 Colonial Invitational marked the first competitive rounds for new World #1 Adam Scott since he ascended to the title last week, despite not having played in the May 15-18 HP Byron Nelson Classic. Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, was the beneficiary of both the injured Tiger Woods’ absence from PGA Tour play and the Official World Golf Rankings computational algorithms, which made it inevitable that one of two or three of the players in the ranking spots immediately below Woods would take over the top spot if Woods stayed out long enough. Scott outplayed the likes of Henrik Stenson, who has inherited the #2 spot, slipping Woods to #3; Matt Kuchar; and 2014 Masters champion Gerry “Bubba” Watson to take over the top spot in the rankings.
The handsome young Aussie got off to a slow start at Colonial, opening with a 1-over 71, and at one point in the second round was two over par and in danger of missing the cut, before rallying back with three birdies in his last seven holes for a 69, making the cut on the number. A pair of 66s on the weekend saw him into a playoff with 2013 PGA champion Jason Dufner. The closely-fought playoff came down to the two men’s approach shots to the 18th green on the third playoff hole – Scott stiffed his second shot into the 18th green to inside eight feet while Dufner’s second left him a long, left-to-right sliding downhill putt for a chance to extend the playoff. After Dufner’s putt slid well past the hole, Scott, wielding his familiar broomstick-length putter, swept in the winning putt.
Montgomerie tastes victory for the first time on American soil
Despite years of success on the European Tour and a distinguished Ryder Cup record, Scotsman Colin Montgomerie had two large gaps in his résumé – he had never won a major tournament, and he had never won a regular PGA Tour event. This weekend he closed those two gaps, after a fashion, by winning the Senior PGA Championship at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Leading by one stroke over Bernhard Langer after three rounds, Montgomerie sealed the win with a 6-under 65 in the final round, holding off a charging Tom Watson – a renowned champion who is nearly 15 years his senior – to win by four strokes.
Montgomerie played all four rounds of the tournament with Langer, with whom he has shared may Ryder Cup experiences over the years. The prickly Glasgow-born, Yorkshire-raised Montgomerie threw a few thinly-veiled barbs at Langer’s slow play while being interviewed after the completion of the third round, but the disparity in the two men’s style of play didn’t impede Montgomerie in the final round, when he outpaced Langer by five strokes.
Though not carrying quite the cachet of a PGA Tour victory or a win in a main-tour major, this senior tour victory may help put to rest some of the disquiet over Montgomerie’s 2013 induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Both he and fellow 2013 inductee Fred Couples were controversial choices for the honor, mostly because of their shortfalls in the area of major victories – Montgomerie with none, and Couples with a lone Masters win, in 1992, to his credit.
McIlroy sets aside personal upheavals, takes British PGA title
In the wake of yet another tabloid-style revelation in his often-controversial professional and personal life, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy set aside personal upheavals to claim the British PGA Championship title last weekend.
McIlroy’s high-profile romance with former World #1 tennis star Caroline Wozniacki came to an abrupt, and very public, end last week when the 25-year-old Ulsterman announced that he had broken off their engagement. Spooked by the startling reality of seeing wedding invitations going into the mail – yes, he called it off after the invitations had been mailed – McIlroy broke off the engagement, announcing the news in a press conference just days before the opening round of the British PGA Championship.
The breakup appeared to take a weight off of the young pro’s shoulders, as he told the press that he found solace on the course, where he had only to concentrate on playing golf. The last few years have seen McIlroy frequently at center stage in the golf world with two major championship victories; six regular PGA Tour wins; the same number of European Tour wins, a high-profile, and very high-dollar, sponsorship agreement with Nike; and some controversial changes in his professional management relationships.
McIlroy overcame a 7-stroke deficit to take the win after trailing early leader Thomas Björn of Denmark 208 to 201 at the start of the final round. Björn, who opened the tournament with a course-record 62, staggered to an even-par 72 in the second round but recovered with a 5-under 67 to lead after 54 holes. McIlroy carded an eagle and six birdies against two bogeys in the final round, outpacing Björn and Ireland’s Shane Lowry to win by a single stroke.
Jessica Korda claims 2nd title of 2014 season at Airbus LPGA Classic
Coming out on top in a birdie-fest that saw 25 players finishing in 11-under or better, 21-year-old Jessica Korda claimed her second LPGA tour win of the 2014 season last weekend at the Airbus LPGA Classic at the Magnolia Trail Golf Club in Mobile, Alabama.
Korda, the blond, 6-foot tall daughter of former Czech tennis star Peter Korda, carded four rounds on the sunny side of 70 on her way to victory, including a clean-card final round 65, overtaking and ultimately overcoming Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, Scottish veteran Catriona Matthew, and 18-year-old English wunderkind Charley Hull for the win. Michelle Wie was tied with Korda after 54 holes, but fell two strokes back due to desultory play on the back nine while Korda was closing with a 6-under 30.
The excellent play that prevailed over the weekend on the LPGA’s latest stop is typical of the level of play that has been in evidence in the distaff game in 2014. No longer a parade of seemingly interchangeable Asian – and those mostly South Korean – winners, this year the LPGA has seen Michelle Wie (OK she’s Asian, but Asian-American…) start to step up with the level of play which she has promised, but seldom delivered, over the last decade, and names – and personalities – such as Stacy Lewis, Nordqvist (with two wins this year), SoCal success story Lizette Salas, and now Korda, with her two wins, making news for the LPGA. The ladies’ tour has put up some of the most exciting and competitive golf to be seen this year, which bodes well for a rebuilding LPGA.