File this under things we didn’t think we’d be saying a couple of months ago: these are exciting times in golf! The first major championship of the year is upon us, and we have a new top-ranked player in the world.
King of the swamp(ass)
In Memphis, Justin Thomas fired a Sunday 65 on a rain-soaked TPC Southwind to come from four strokes back and win the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. JT’s victory wasn’t quite as emphatic as the three-shot margin suggests, however. In the late going, he shared the lead with Brooks Koepka, and he was the beneficiary of some lucky cart-path bounces on 14 and 15. Results
Nonetheless, it was impressive, and Justin Thomas is impressive. This is the 13th win of his short career and gave him the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking over Jon Rahm, who held the distinction for one week. JT now has his sights on the PGA Championship, a tournament he won in 2017.
The guy who won the next two PGAs had a good week, too. After poking fun at Bryson’s fire-ant encounter, Brooks Koepka broke out of his slump with a T-2 at the WGC St. Jude. His three-peat chances at this week’s PGA Championship are starting to look pretty decent. In the weeks before his past two PGA wins, Koepka finished fifth at the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone and fourth at the 2019 Byron Nelson. In another promising sign, he led the field in SG: Approach, a skill that should be rewarded at Harding Park.
Memphis odds and ends
After his life-threatening encounter with rogue insects on Thursday, Bryson DeChambeau finished middle of the pack at TPC Southwind. Considering his MC at the Memorial, DeChambeau’s form is somewhat suspect, and it should be interesting to see how the big guy fares at a big-guy tournament. To date, he hasn’t done better than 15th at a major. Will that change at a likely firm Harding Park?
In a tie for second after two rounds, Branden Grace had to withdraw from the Barracuda Championship because of a positive COVID-19 test. The South African reported feeling symptoms after his round and will now miss the PGA Championship. Grace came into the week 156th in the FedEx Cup standings and will not make the playoffs unless he’s able to compete in the “season-ending” Wyndham Championship.
Daniel Berger’s T-2 was his fifth top five in his past six starts and his third career top two at TPC Southwind.
Englishman Tom Lewis shot a course-record 61 at Southwind on Saturday and backed it up with a 66 on Sunday to climb to T-2.
Don’t look now, but with a T-6 in Memphis, Jason Day notched his third consecutive top 10.
The cream rises
The LPGA Tour restarted its season with the Drive On Championship at the world-class Inverness Club. The storied course, designed by Donald Ross and renovated by Andrew Green, demanded great golf, and Danielle Kang and Céline Boutier played great golf. By the third and final round, the pair had separated themselves from the field. Kang ultimately walked away with the trophy after Boutier missed a five-foot birdie putt to tie on 18. This was Kang’s fourth victory on the LPGA Tour, and her seven-under winning score was one of only five scores under par on the week.
Inverness agreed to host this event at the last minute, and now, with last year’s U.S. Junior and next year’s Solheim Cup, we’ll get to see the course host big-time events three years in a row. Results
After a duel down the stretch with Thomas Detry, Sam Horsfield captured his first career European Tour win at the Hero Open. The uber-talented 23-year-old Englishman was a standout at the University of Florida, and he figures to be a Ryder Cup fixture in years to come. Horsfield capped off the win with a gutsy approach to the par-5 17th, which led to a birdie and a one-shot victory. For Detry, a former University of Illinois stud, it was his sixth top-three finish in his young European Tour career. A short miss on the 18th kept him out of a playoff with Horsfield. Results
University of Texas star Pierceson Coody topped Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen to win the 2020 Western Amateur. The win will move Coody into the top 10 of the World Amateur Golf Rankings and all but assures him a spot on the Walker Cup team. Pierceson and his twin brother Parker are rising-sophomore stars on the University of Texas golf team, and their grandfather is 1971 Masters champion Charles Coody. Results
A week after falling short in Minneapolis, Richy Werenski captured the Barracuda Championship. Results
Seth Reeves emerged from a crowded leaderboard to take the Pinnacle Bank Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour. Before this week, Reeves had missed six straight cuts. Golf. Results
Joel Sjöholm had himself an adventure on Sunday at the Hero Open.
Congrats to Bubba Watson for hiring his first coach. Not a swing coach, of course, but a life coach.
The Latest from The Fried Egg
Episode 186: Geoff Ogilvy – Bryson’s transformation, the 2020 PGA, and the young guns
Geoff Ogilvy returns to catch up with Andy Johnson about the latest happenings on the PGA Tour and to discuss the upcoming PGA Championship. Geoff talks about his fascination with the golf swing, which grew during the quarantine, and what he thinks the keys will be at Harding Park. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Shotgun Start: JT takes WGC Preferred Lies, Kang takes Inverness, Brooksy takes a dive?
It was the first weekend since March where it felt like we had a full helping of golf, and this Monday episode slowly and aimlessly works through most of it. Andy and Brendan begin with the WGC Swampass at TPC Initech, also now known as the WGC Preferred Lies. They discuss what questions are left for JT after his 13th win at such a young age. Andy laments the soft conditions and the walking-off of wedge shots from 50 yards and out that exceed the “recommended” allotted time for playing a shot. Rickie’s complete no-show is obviously discussed as is the theory that Brooksy didn’t want to win on the eve of a major and that a top-five finish is just about right. Also, his ant jokes aimed at Bryson are reviewed and he’s hailed as golf’s best WWE character. The LPGA’s return is highlighted with comments on Danielle Kang’s win and a call for more top courses and clubs to showcase themselves with women’s golf. The Hero Open hits on Sam Horsfield’s prickly personality and one player taking a boat ride à la Scrivener. Bryson’s comments on living to be 140 years old are panned. There is a debut of a new segment titled Milk Carton Monday, and the subject is Jeff Overton and his exploits. They close with some comments on the return of major championship golf and USGA championship golf this coming week. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
The NBA is back, but the pros shouldn’t be the only ones getting buckets. Go ahead, get yourself a Shotgun Start bucket. Swish!