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Weekly Tour Round Up
Posted by: Nick Bonfield on Mon 11 Jun 2012
With the US Open starting in just a couple of days, last week’s results did little to dispel the general consensus that it could be one of the most open and exciting major championships of recent times. All those considered main contenders to challenge for the US Open trophy are coming into form at the right time, with many bookmakers struggling to decide upon a concrete favourite.
On the European Tour, golf’s best ball striker strolled to victory after an imperious performance at the Nordea Masters in Sweden, despite a complete overhaul of his equipment just days before the start of the tournament.
On the PGA Tour, one of the most athletic golfers of the modern era played some fine golf to win the Fed-Ex St Jude Classic by one stroke, despite only playing in his second tournament since injuring his back before the Masters.
Wonderful Westwood claims Nordea Masters
Englishman and current world number three Lee Westwood shot a closing 69 to win the Nordea Masters at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club by five strokes on 19-under-par, recording his 40th career title in the process.
Westwood has now won the Nordea Masters three times, claiming his first European Tour victory in this event back in 1996. Before the tournament, Westwood changed to a new set of irons, and introduced two new wedges and a new putter into his bag just nine days before the second major of the year. Despite a solid start, though, it was Swede Magnus A. Carlsson who led after round one with a blistering seven-under-par 65, leading the tournament by two shots from compatriot and Englishman Richard Bland.
All those players, however, were usurped by Westwood in round two. The man from Worksop produced a serene, bogey-free round of 64 to move into a three shot lead (12-under-par) at the halfway stage. His closest competitors after 36 holes were Peter Hanson, who followed his opening 67 with a second round 68, Spaniard Carlos Del Moral and Scotsman Lloyd Saltman; the longest hitter on the European Tour matched Westwood’s 64, thanks in no small part to an albatross at the par-5 12th hole.
Westwood preserved his three shot advantage after round three, mixing five birdies with one bogey for a 68 and a 16-under-par 54-hole total. Ross Fisher was his closest rival after three rounds, with the Englishman – who was given a stroke penalty for slow play last week – shooting a 65 to move to 13-under-par. Remarkably, Fisher hadn’t recorded a single dropped shot in 54 holes.
It was a case of more of the same for Westwood in round four, and the tournament could have been out of sight after nine holes of the final round if he hadn’t missed five putts from within six feet on the front nine. Instead, however, Fisher and Hanson had closed the deficit to two strokes with eight holes left to play.
But Westwood’s class showed on the back nine as Hanson and Fisher faltered. On the par-5 12th hole, Westwood hit a towering six iron to eight feet and knocked in the putt for an eagle three to open up a substantial lead.
His wedge to five feet on 15 was enough for another birdie, and three solid pars coming home secured victory. He finished five clear of Fisher - who bounced back after a double bogey at the 13th hole with three birdies in a row from the 15th - and six clear of Hanson, Finn Miko Illonen and Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who rallied to shoot a final round 67.
Johnson magnificent in Memphis
Powerful American Dustin Johnson shot a closing four-under-par 66 to win the Fed-Ex St Jude Classic in Memphis by one shot from John Merrick on nine-under-par, despite only recently returning from a lengthy injury lay-off.
Scoring was high all week in Tennessee, with John Merrick and Jeff Maggert leading after the first round on four-under-par. Rory McIlroy - a last minute addition to the field following three consecutive missed cuts – opened with a solid two-under-par 68, as did a resurgent Padraig Harrington.
McIlroy began to climb the leaderboard in round two, however. He birdied two, eagled three and birdied the last to shoot a 66; enough for a one shot lead over Maggert, Merrick, Kevin Stadler and J.B Holmes, who recorded the lowest round of the day with a 64.
The Ulsterman fell back slightly in round three with a two-over-par 72 for a five-under-par total with one round remaining. He was one adrift of tour veteran Davis Love 3rd – who recorded a third successive 68 – Australian Nick O’Hern and Merrick. Johnson, meanwhile, moved within a shot of the lead with a third round 67.
In an enthralling final day, at least eight players were in with a chance of victory at one stage or another. It was McIlroy and Johnson who hit the ground running, however, reaching the top of the leaderboard after nine holes on eight-under-par.
Both made bogeys on the back nine, but Johnson rallied with a fine birdie four on the par-5 16th, with McIlroy making a birdie three on the long par-4 17th. Standing on the 18th tee, McIlroy and playing partner Chad Campbell – who held the lead after a birdie on 16 – were in a tie for the lead, before disaster struck. Both players pulled their drives into water and, to compound the mistake, Johnson made a fine birdie on the 17th to move into outright first.
McIlroy made double and Campbell made bogey to play themselves out of the tournament and finish on six and seven-under-par respectively. After Johnson made a safe par on 18 and set the clubhouse lead on nine-under-par, only two players could catch him.
Merrick and O’Hern both stood on the 18th tee on eight-under-par knowing they needed to make birdie to force a play-off. The Australian left hander put paid to any chance of victory when he pushed his drive into water, while Merrick took the cautious approach and found a tricky position in the right rough. He managed to advance his ball to the front of the green, but his valiant attempt at a chip in narrowly missed the cup, handing Johnson the title.
This week, players from both tours will contest the US Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, in what has all the ingredients to be one of the most exciting majors of all time.
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