Winners And Losers Since the PGA Tour Returned
WE HAVE seen five tournaments completed since the PGA Tour made its long-awaited return and it seems like the perfect time to take stock and look at the winners and losers.
Unsurprisingly, the world has become obsessed with Bryson DeChambeau. The Incredible Hulk has dominated proceedings, routinely smashing the ball 350 yards - and beyond. Now tipping the scales at 235lb, the 26-year-old had made four starts ahead of The Memorial, a tournament he won before bulking up. He won the Rocket Mortgage Classic in sensational fashion, proving that there is far more to his game than power. He putted better over the course of four days than anybody else in the field.
Collin Morikawa had his heart broken at Colonial when he missed a tiddler in the playoff to lose out to Daniel Berger. On a streak of 22 tournaments without missing the cut, he then failed to make the weekend at the Travelers Championship. He decided to take a well-deserved week off and returned at the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village, where he recovered from three behind with three to play to stun Justin Thomas and win his first full-field tournament. It will not be his last victory; of that you can be absolutely certain. He is now up to 13th in the world rankings, having overtaken Tiger Woods.
Berger has been through some pretty hard times of late. Once touted as the next big thing (yes, another next big thing), he suffered injury and a loss of form. His relief was obvious when he finally returned to the winner’s circle at Colonial, although he would not have enjoyed seeing Morikawa miss that tiny putt in the playoff.
Webb Simpson has a game that is made for Harbour Town Links, which hosted the RBC Heritage, so it should have surprised nobody that he emerged on top of the pile at one of the most iconic venues on the PGA Tour. Simpson has always been one of the straightest hitters and best iron players in the game, but he has now added some distance to the mix and when he is at his best he is capable of beating anybody - and the field at Harbour Town was world-class.
Thomas will still be wondering how he managed to lose at Muirfield Village. Leading by three with three to play he dropped two shots and was caught by Morikawa. He then holed a monstrous putt on the first playoff hole, let out a huge roar and watched in disbelief as Morikawa followed him in. He then committed a schoolboy error at the third playoff hole, hitting his tee shot with a three wood behind a tree, having to chip out sideways and losing to a par. He had somehow managed to miss out on his 13th PGA Tour title at the age of 27. Thomas is made of the right stuff, however, and will quickly bounce back. He will take some consolation from the fact that he leads the FedEx Cup standings.
Dustin Johnson maintained his record of having won at least once every year since he joined the PGA Tour when he triumphed at the Travelers Championship. He had not been at his best and he did not drive the ball especially well when winning, but his putting was sensational.
Leading up to The Memorial Tournament, Viktor Hovland was the only player to have made the cut at all five tournaments since the restart. He has taken a unique approach, driving from tournament to tournament rather risking getting on a plane. There were signs at the Workday, where he finished third, that all that travel is starting to catch up with him. The 22-year-old Norwegian is a shoo-in for next year’s Ryder Cup team, by which time he could well find himself in the top 10 in the world rankings.
Brooks Koepka continues to struggle, his missed cut at the Workday Charity Open being just the latest disappointment. He insists that he is now fully fit and claimed to have got his game back in order after a session with Butch Harmon - but all the evidence suggests otherwise. He is missing too many fairways and, for now at least, his putting touch has deserted him.
There have been some encouraging signs from Jordan Spieth, but he still struggles to put four rounds together and you always feel that, no matter how well he is playing, he is always just one hole away from a disaster. He simply has to improve his driving accuracy because, unless you are Bryson DeChambeau, you cannot win golf tournaments from the rough. He needs a really good week - and he needs it soon.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment has been the form of Rory McIlroy. It was staggering to hear him say that he found Colonial and Harbour Town too difficult. Remember that this is the world number one talking. When there are wide open fairways, little or no rough, glorious sunshine and no wind, McIlroy bullies golf courses. But put a real challenge in front of him and if he starts poorly, he seems to all but give up.
The biggest surprise has been the form of Jon Rahm. Before the break, the Spaniard looked like he could win just about any time he chose to turn up. But it has been a very different story since the restart. His driving has been dreadful, his approach play has been poor, he seems to have lost confidence on the greens - and it hasn’t done his temper, which operates on a short fuse at the best of times, any good at all.
Tiger Woods is an unknown quantity. He sat out the first five tournaments, attempting to keep his battered body fresh and fit for the majors to come at the end of the year. He has already won once this season but that was last year. He is certain to be rusty and his world ranking has suffered as a result of his inactivity, but Woods doesn’t turn up anywhere unless he believes he can win. And he is desperate to finish the season in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings and qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Everything, of course, has been played out in the shadow of Covid-19 and with a number of players being struck down by the virus the PGA Tour knows that it can take nothing for granted. We now know that the rest of the 2020 schedule will be completed without fans.
Finally, a special word for Marc Warren. The Scot has had a thoroughly miserable time of it in recent years, losing his playing privileges on the European Tour in the process. He would never have foreseen taking part in the Austrian Open, a Challenge Tour event with a smattering of European Tour players in the field, which signalled the return to action in Europe. Carrying his own clubs, 39-year-old Warren won by a shot and can now look forward to a brighter future. He also pocketed a useful 70,000 euros. Proof that dreams really can still come true.
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