NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Rory McIlroy had a one-shot lead on the 17th hole of the final round when he left a shot in the bunker and made bogey, went into a playoff and lost on the third extra hole to Graeme Storm.
This was the 2017 South African Open. It was most memorable for McIlroy being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib that sidelined him for two months.
But it stands out for other reasons worth noting during this week when two of the oldest national golf championships are being played — the South African Open (1903) and the Australian Open (1904).
McIlroy has won the five oldest national Opens in golf except for South Africa.
He won the British Open (1860) at Hoylake in 2014, the U.S. Open (1895) at Congressional in 2011, the Canadian Open (1904) the last two times in 2019 and 2022, and the Australian Open in 2013.
Odds are he won’t make it back to South Africa, as he played in 2017 as a favor to Ernie Els, and then it was held the second week of the year, instead of the first week of December.
Arnold Palmer and Gary Player also have won four of the five. Palmer is missing the South African Open. Player competed 14 times in the Canadian Open without winning. His best chance was in 1964 when he went into the final round two shots out of the lead, shot 71 and tied for fifth.
As for the most national Opens, McIlroy still has work to do. He also has won the Irish Open and Hong Kong Open.
The target would appear to be Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Peter Thomson, who each have won a national open in nine countries.
Ballesteros won the British Open, along with national titles in The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Japan and Kenya.
Thomson, a five-time British Open champion, also won the Opens in Italy, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, The Philippines, India and Hong Kong. Langer’s list is Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Colombia and Hong Kong.
WEBB’S BIG WIN
Karrie Webb already has one big win this year, and now it’s time to drink up.
Australia’s most prolific major champion played Cameron Smith on her home course in Florida before Smith headed over to the British Open. At stake was a bottle of wine.
Webb said she was ahead in the match when they got rained out. Smith paid up, anyway.
“He brought over a bottle of Grange,” Webb said. “If he’d told me on the first tee that was what we were playing for, I probably wouldn’t have played so good.”
The wine starts in the $1,000 neighborhood depending on the vintage.
“I had him sign the bottle and said, ’I’m not going to drink this until one of us wins a big tournament,” Webb said. “And then two weeks later, he did. So now we’ve got to have a drink to celebrate.”
The “rematch” is this week in the Australian Open, where men and women are playing concurrently in separate competitions on the same courses for the same prize fund.
Webb, 47, won the last of her 59 titles worldwide in 2014. Smith won last week in the Australian PGA and is trying to become the first player since Greg Chalmers in 2011 to win the Aussie Open and Aussie PGA in the same year.
ASIAN TOUR PERK
Scott Vincent played all seven LIV Golf events and made nearly $1.5 million. Now he’s one tournament away from assuring himself a full season in 2023.
The winner of the Order of Merit on the Asian Tour’s new “International Series” gets an exemption to play in LIV Golf League 2023.
Going into the BNI Indonesian Masters this week, Vincent leads with $493,125, just over $68,000 more than Sihwan Kim. Other LIV Golf players in the field include Peter Uihlein, Chase Koepka, Anirban Lahiri, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Bernd Wiesberger.
With $270,000 on offer to the winner, the leading 10 players on the Order of Merit have a mathematical chance of getting a spot in LIV for next year. That includes Andy Ogletree, who played in the first LIV event and finished last. He won an International Series event in Egypt for his first pro win.
KO BACK TO NO. 1
One week after the LPGA Tour season ended, Lydia Ko picked up another perk: She’s back to No. 1 in the women’s world ranking.
The math worked in favor of Ko, whose three victories included the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship that allowed her to win LPGA player of the year. Ko first got to No. 1 in 2015 when she was 17. This is her third time reaching No. 1.
“I’m very grateful to be world No. 1 again. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be back here again,” Ko said.
She is the fourth player to reach No. 1 in 2022, joining Nelly Korda, Atthaya Thitikul and Jin Young Ko.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are assembling quite a roster for the Monday night, tech-infused “TGL” golf league that starts in 2024.
Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are joining TGL.
“World-class golfers, like Justin and Jon, are the cornerstones of TGL as we blend elements of the traditional game with a new, short-form format designed specifically for modern media consumption,” said Mike McCarley, CEO of TMRW Sports.
The league eventually will have six three-player teams in 18-hole matches at tech-infused venues over 15 regular-season Monday night matches, concluding with semifinals and finals.
THE RAIL SPLITTER
The most famous athlete to come out of tiny Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee might be Scot Shields, a setup man in his 10 years with the Anaheim Angels that included a World Series title in 2002.
Maybe it’s time to make room for Dan Bradbury.
LMU coach Travis Muncy recruited Bradbury out of Yorkshire, England, to play for the Railsplitters (the mascot comes from the nickname Abraham Lincoln used for his 1860 presidential campaign).
Muncy watched him win nine times in his four years at the Division II school, graduate with honors in business administration and be named South Atlantic Conference male athlete of the year as a senior.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bradbury had a final year at Florida State to see how he would fare against Division I competition, and then he turned pro in June.
Six professional starts later, Bradbury was a sponsor exemption and went wire-to-wire to win the Joburg Open last week, which comes with a two-year exemption on the European tour and a spot in the British Open next summer.
“I’m so happy for him. I probably got a thousand text messages,” said Muncy, the golf coach for 17 years at LMU. “Everyone thinks you have to play Power Five or be at the highest level. This is a tribute to Division II. You can play Division II and still make it.”
On the day in July 1999 that Tiger Woods won the Western Open to replace David Duval at No. 1 in the world, 19-year-old Sergio Garcia won the Irish Open for his first professional victory and cracked the top 100 in the world ranking. The Spaniard had been there ever since until this week, when he fell to No. 103. Phil Mickelson is the only other player to be in the top 100 longer, getting there in August 1993 and staying until March 21. …. The top players on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica through the Brazil Open on April 2 will get an exemption into the Mexico Open. … Thriston Lawrence has won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award on the European tour. A two-time winner last season, he is the first South African to win the award.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Adam Svensson was the only first-time winner in the nine fall events on the PGA Tour.
“I will never take a golf cart until it’s sanctioned. It’s sanctioned on the Champions Tour and the PNC is part of that. As far as a regular event, no, I would never do that.” — Tiger Woods, when asked if he would ever use a cart in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
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