Between a pair of 62s in the Wyndham Championship, a 65 at the Women’s British Open, and another 62 at the Ellie Mae Classic, everyone in the golf world seems to be living beautifully under par at the moment. Everyone, that is, except for Thorbjørn Olesen.
Sungjae Im and Byeong Hun An, whose surnames and golf games alike are models of efficiency, lead the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club after dueling 62s. As we have reminded you regularly in this newsletter, 21-year-old Im has been trending this direction for a while now. He has six top 10s on the PGA Tour this season, and he is in possession of an all-around game, ranking 24th in Strokes Gained: Total. And he’s nearly a year younger than Collin Morikawa!
Comparatively ancient at 27 years old, Byeong Hun An has had a quietly productive 2019, with three top 10s and lots of made cuts. He has been a tee-to-green monster but hasn’t been able to make his putter behave. Today, he performed around the field average on the greens, which, considering his ball-striking prowess, he would do well simply to maintain. Wyndham Championship Leaderboard
On the cusp – One shot back at -7 are Mackenzie Hughes, Rory Sabbatini, Patrick Rodgers, and Johnson Wagner. Now, you would think we’d be buzzing about yet another excellent showing from the Boy from Bratislava (and we are, of course!), but out of that quartet, the truly compelling stories are Wagner and Rodgers. Wagner, currently No. 156 in the FedEx Cup standings, could vault into the top 125 if he stays in the top three. As for Rodgers, the former Stanford standout has struggled with injuries this year but seems primed for a late-season charge.
Bubble boyz – It’s early, but if the PGA Tour season were to end right now, Patton Kizzire, Johnson Wagner, Andrew Landry, and Austin Cook would move into the top 125 and the playoffs, booting Pat Perez, Sebastian “Bassy” Muñoz, Robert Streb, and Alex Norén. Again, it’s early. A lot can change in the Courier Cup Standings by Sunday.
Duct tape – The adhesive held for today. Jordan Spieth shot 64 and would appear to be sitting pretty in a nine-way tie of seventh place. Want to know how he got to seven under on the day, though? By gaining 5.13 strokes on the greens and losing 1.46 off the tee (mostly thanks to an Oscar Bravo right on 18). That just doesn’t seem sustainable, Jordan!
Wyndham’s father – Webb Simpson seems more excited than possibly any other human about the Presidents Cup. After opening with a 64 in a tournament he won eight years ago, Simpson chatted about his burning desire to be a member of Team USA at Royal Melbourne. He said he even called captain Tiger Woods to express his eagerness. (Hey, that move sounds familiar, Webb….) Tiger’s response? “Play better.” Full Story
Your tri-weekly young-guns trio update – Three college-age kids—one younger than Sungjae Im, two older—went decently low on Thursday as well. Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland, and Collin Morikawa shot 65, 66, and 66, respectively. If it wasn’t clear already, these guys have zero fear of the Big Show. Fun tidbit about Morikawa, last week’s Barracuda winner: his 6-iron reportedly has about the same dispersion as most elite players’ pitching wedges.
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Ashleigh Buhai leads the AIG Women’s British Open after firing a 65 on Thursday. She made eight birdies and one bogey on her way to the 18-hole lead at Woburn Golf Club. Buhai is searching for her first top-20 finish in a major championship, and she’ll have a slew of world-class players to contend with. Danielle Kang (66), Moriya Jutanugarn (67), Sung Hyun Park (67), Charley Hull (67), Jin Young Ko (68), Ariya Jutanugarn (68), and Jeongeun Lee6 (68) are all inside the top 10. AIG Women’s British Open Leaderboard
We won’t harp on it (much), but it’s a shame that the women don’t get to play a real links this year. Woburn seems nice but resembles any number of parkland courses the world over. It’s too bad we don’t get to see the world’s best play somewhere with more Open character. Fortunately, Wednesday brought the news that in 2021 the Women’s British will head to Royal Porthcawl, the great Welsh links.
After the first round at TPC Stonebrae, Matt Atkins leads Matthew NeSmith by one shot in the Ellie Mae Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour. Atkins made eight birdies and no bogeys on his way to an opening 62. Lurking just behind him, NeSmith has a lot to gain from a strong performance this week. He is currently 54th on the points list, but a win or runner-up would likely put him near or inside the all-important top 25. With only two tournaments left in the regular Korn Ferry season, today was a good moment for NeSmith to reel off a career-best 63.
A few other contenders at Stonebrae could make big moves this week. Former Cardinal star Maverick McNealy (No. 28 on the points list) is T-7 at five under, and golf course architecture enthusiast Zac Blair (No. 31) is one shot behind him. Ellie Mae Classic Leaderboard
Thorbjørn Olesen was arrested on Monday for an alleged sexual assault on a flight to London. Olesen was reportedly highly intoxicated during the incident, and the case is under investigation. Full Story
Lexi Thompson is sorry about that whole bag snafu at the Women’s British Open—she didn’t mean to make everyone miss their Monday practice rounds—but… uh, things are kind of awkward between her and the rest of the ladies now? Full Story
A shaggy-haired scion of Hollywood royalty is blitzing the Boys Junior PGA Championship, and people are v. excited. Full Story
The European Tour announced that Gordon Brand Jr., a former Ryder Cupper from Scotland, died at the age of 60. Full Story
More highly consumable content from the European Tour team: Thomas Detry breaking the world record for the fastest golf hole ever played.
Shotgun Start: Interview with John Ourand of SBJ on PGA Tour TV rights negotiations
The Friday episode begins with a check-in on the leaderboards from across the golf world. We lament PGA Tour Live’s decision not to cover The BfB’s run at 59 when they gave Cam Champ that treatment in Detroit. A special Flashback Friday begins with a spotlight on the Monday qualifier and Tiger Woods confidant that once won in Greensboro, and ends with a deep dive on a former U.S. Amateur champ who missed the top 125 by a spot that same year. Then we’re joined by media reporter John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. John recently reported on the PGA Tour accelerating their pursuit to come to terms on new rights deals with TV and media partners. He’s an authority on these rights deals and plugged in on the subject, laying out the Tour’s reasons for aggressively doing this now and who the players are vying to broadcast it to you. Could CBS and NBC be out? Could Amazon join the fray? Is a second dedicated golf channel coming? Ourand provides a primer and some educated guesses based on his early reporting. We end with some quick news on the ThunderBear’s ugly flight home to Europe. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Print of the Week
Our Print of the Week is Hanse Golf Course Design’s Streamsong Black. Get your copy here!
As always, 20% of the proceeds will go to Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, an organization that gives scholarships and educational support to economically disadvantaged Chicago high school students who demonstrate outstanding academic potential, leadership skills, and strong character.