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Weekly Tour Wrap-Up #9th July
Posted by: Nick Bonfield on Mon 09 Jul 2012
With the Open two weeks away, many of the world’s best were in action this past week, honing their game before the biggest tournament of the year. Despite star-studded fields on both sides of the Atlantic, however, it was two relatively unknown golfers who were celebrating the biggest wins of their professional career on Sunday night.
On the European Tour, a young German won for the first time since 2003 at the Open de France, holding his nerve down the stretch with some high profile names in contention.
On the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were in the field but both missed the cut, leaving a string of golfers outside the world’s top 200 to fight it out for glory in an enthralling contest which culminated in a three-hole play-off.
Siem seamless in France
Marcel Siem won only his second European Tour event and his first for nine years at the Alstrom Open De France at Le Golf National, beating Italian Francesco Molinari by one shot after a closing 67 for an eight-under-par total.
After the first round, though, it was Swede Christian Nilsson who lead after a sublime six-under-par 65. Scoring was good on day one, with Englishman Gary Boyd, Matteo Manassero and in-form Thongchai Jaidee just one adrift after 66s. Home favourite Raphael Jacquelin returned a 68, along with a resurgent Henrik Stenson, to sit three off the lead.
The difficulty of the course struck home in round two, with no one able to pass the six-under par mark set on Thursday. It was Siem who rose to the head of affairs after a second consecutive 68 to lead Swede Alex Noren by one heading into the weekend. Talented South African George Coetzee and Dane Anders Hansen were a shot further back on three-under-par.
In round three, David Howell mixed five birdies with a bogey to reach the top of the leaderboard alongside Hansen on six-under-par. Coetzee reached five-under-par to sit alone in second, with Siem and Jacquelin a further shot back. Former Ryder Cup golfer Ian Poulter and former world number four Henrik Stenson were three behind on three-under-par with one round remaining.
The final round got off to an exciting start, with Poulter and Justin Rose making early birdies. Jacquelin got the home fans going with three birdies in a row from the fifth to reach an early lead on seven-under-par. Siem also reached seven-under-par after 33 on the front nine, with Pollter just one back after a matching 33. Hansen and Howell both tumbled down the leaderboard after inauspicious starts.
With the leaders still on the front nine, a story was emerging on the back side. Francesco Molinari has started with a double bogey, but turned in 35 after birdies at three, six and eight. He went on to birdie 10, 11, 13, 14, 15 and 18 to set the clubhouse lead on seven-under-par. As the leaders approached the daunting final four holes, it was all to play for.
Siem birdied 14 and 15 to move into a two shot lead, but Poulter and Stenson refused to go away. Poulter moved within two after a fine birdie two at 16, but his race was run, however, after dropped shots at 17 and 18. Stenson also birdied 16 and after he and Siem parred 17, the German had a two stroke lead standing on the 18th tee. Siem found sand and was forced to lay-up, but the pressure was off as Stenson, needing a birdie, found the hazard short and left of the green. Siem pitched to 15 feet while Stenson pitched through the green into water. He would eventually make a triple-bogey seven, leaving Siem with the simplest of two putts for a richly deserved victory.
Potter Jnr prevails in West Virginia
The sponsors at the Greenbrier paid $2m to attract Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to the tournament, but everyone was focused on a riveting final day battle between a collection of golfers playing for their future.
After a three-hole play-off, Ted Potter Junior triumphed over fellow rookie Troy Kelly in the most significant moment of his life. Only a year ago, Potter was having to Monday qualify for web.com events. Now, he is exempt on the PGA Tour for the next two years.
After the first round, though, it was Vijay Singh who lead, rolling back the years to birdie the last four holes of at TPC White Sulphur Springs. Jeff Maggert, Martin Flores and Jonathan Byrd were a shot further back on six-under-par.
US Open champion Webb Simpson charged into the lead after two rounds, carding a second round 66 for a nine-under-par total. Rookie and little-known golfer Charlie Beljan captivated everyone watching by surging through the field with a career-low 62 to sit one back of Simpson, alongside Bryd, Maggert and Jerry Kelly.
Simpson retained the lead after round three after a five-under-par 65, and was trailed by a string of rookies all looking for the best week of their lives. Troy Kelly sat in second place on 12-under-par, with Beljan, Ken Duke and J.B Holmes a shot further back. Potter Jnr was at ten under with one round to play.
Everyone expected Simpson to cruise to victory, but he was caught early by Beljan and Kelly who got off to exceptional starts. Kelly held the lead for most of the round, and when Simpson bogeyed three holes in a row on the back nine, things were looking promising for the rookie, whose previous best finish on tour was a tie for 51st.
With four holes to play, Potter was four adrift of Kelly’s lead. He proceeded to birdie 15, eagle 17 and birdie 18 to play himself into a play-off after Kelly parred 17 and 18.
The drama continued in the play-off. Both players made solid pars on 18, but after three shots on the par-5 17th, Potter was four feet from the hole and Kelly still off the green facing a difficult chip. He chipped to 20-feet and astonishingly made the par putt, with Potter unable to hole for birdie in response.
No matter. On the 18th, Potter hit a glorious tee shot to four feet, and when Kelly couldn’t hole from 45-feet, Potter stepped up and knocked his putt in. He is now exempt for two years and will play the Open in two weeks and the Masters next April.
Next week on the PGA Tour Steve Stricker defends at the John Deere Classic, a tournament he has won the past three years, and Luke Donald defends in Scotland as the European Tour heads to Castle Stewart for the Scottish Open.
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