Goodbye, January. You will not be missed.
It was a dramatic weekend in pro golf, highlighted by playoffs at the Farmers Insurance Open and the Slync.lo Dubai Desert Classic. At Torrey Pines, Luke List stuck his third shot on the first extra hole to six inches, while Will Zalatoris missed his birdie try. Over in Dubai, Viktor Hovland finished birdie-eagle-birdie to set up a playoff with Richard Bland, which Hovland won with another birdie. It was his third win in his past five starts.
Hovland (24 years old) and Zalatoris (25), two of golf’s brightest young stars, provide an interesting contrast. Hovland now has six worldwide victories and is up to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Meanwhile, Zalatoris (No. 29 in OWGR) continues to search for his first PGA Tour win. He is every bit as strong tee to green as Hovland, but his success continues to be capped by a squirrelly putter. At the Torrey Pines, he finished the week 64th in Strokes Gained: Putting, recorded a negative SG: Putting number on Friday during a bogey-free 65, and didn’t make a putt longer than 5’7” on Saturday.
Now, Hovland isn’t exactly an elite putter, either. Nor is fellow young stud Collin Morikawa. But Hovland and Morikawa have both shown themselves capable of regularly stringing together a few hot rounds on the greens and knocking off victories. We’ll see if Will Zalatoris can figure out how to do the same. Until then, though, we might keep seeing him in the top 10, tantalizingly close to breaking through.
Saturday night lights
Because of the almighty NFL conference championships, golf fans got a Saturday-night primetime finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. The final hour featured a clustered leaderboard (which Torrey Pines is prone to produce), clutch birdies, and big-time shots from eventual winner Luke List.
Although reportedly annoyed with the move to a Wednesday-Saturday timeframe at first, tournament organizers appear to be coming around and even considering a permanent switch. This would be cool! The final-round telecast may lose out on some casual viewers, but the diehards will enjoy the novelty—and maybe the opportunity to have a few drinks without worrying about going to work the next day.
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Lydia Ko weathered a Sunday charge from Danielle Kang at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio to earn her 17th career win (but just her third since 2016). Yuka Saso (third), Charley Hull (T-4), and Celine Boutier (T-4) rounded out the top five.
The Advocates Pro Golf Tour, a non-profit organization aimed at providing playing opportunities for minority golfers, got its 2022 season started at Torrey Pines this weekend. For some viewers, it was the first time they realized that the tour doesn’t require players to fit certain racial criteria. The opening event was won by Patrick Newcomb, a white player who participated in six APGA events in 2021.
Taylor Montgomery, who finished unlucky No. 26 in both the Korn Ferry Tour regular season standings and the KFT Finals last year, notched a T-11 at the Farmers Insurance Open, one spot away from securing a start at Pebble Beach. Let’s get this guy a few more sponsor exemptions!
Needing a birdie to win the Dubai Desert Classic or a par to qualify for the playoff, Rory McIlroy sailed a fairway wood into the water on the par-5 finishing hole. The bogey left him in third place, his seventh straight top 20 and third top three in his last seven starts.
While receiving his big check in Dubai, Viktor Hovland dropped a big “ka-ching!” He’s the best.