31 year old American, Mo Martin, opened with a pair of 3-under par 69’s that staked her to a 3-shot lead entering the weekend at the Ricoh Women’s British Open. As expected, Martin would stumble on Saturday and relinquish her command of the season’s 3rd Major Championship shooting a 5-over par 77 that seemed to eliminate her from contention. The trio of players at the top of the leaderboard after Saturday were all Major Champions and it seemed assured that one of them would be the winner. Defending Champion, Inbee Park, led at 4-under par, a stroke ahead of China’s, Shanshan Feng and Norway’s, Suzann Pettersen. Host course, Royal Birkdale would show its teeth on Sunday when winds and its classic links lay-out got the better of a field in which not one player conquered par. Martin came to the last hole at 1-over par for the Championship before making a brilliant eagle-3 on the par-5 closing hole to post a 1-under par signature at week’s end. It sufficed to give her first win on the LPGA Tour and leave her one shot clear of Pettersen and Feng. Cinderella, your slipper is waiting for you.
A few hundred miles north of Royal Birkdale, the men’s European Tour was being hosted in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at the storied Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. Founded by the Society of Golfers in Aberdeen Scotland in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is the 6th oldest golf club in the world. With all four rounds in the 60’s, Justin Rose saved his best for last as he carded a 6-under par 65 in the round that counts, to win by two over Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg. It was Rose’s second consecutive victory after his win at Congressional Country Club two weeks ago and will vault the 33-year old Englishman to #3 in the world. Rose will be trying for a third consecutive win at the Open next week and be hoping to emulate Phil Mickelson who completed the Scottish and Open double when he won both in 2013.
Samuel Henry “Errie” Ball passed away on July 2 at the age of 103 at his home in Stuart, Florida. Mr. Ball was the last surviving player who participated in the first Masters tournament in 1934 and bridged generations in the history of the game. Born in Bangor Wales, Mr. Ball came over to work for his uncle Frank Ball, the professional at East Lake Country Club (where Bobby Jones was a member) in Atlanta in 1931. A very accomplished player who qualified for 20 U.S. Opens and 12 PGA Championships, Mr. Ball preferred the life of a Tour professional to one as a teacher, which bore the greatness of his craft. In 2011, after a lifetime devoted to the game and in his 70th year as a member, Mr. Ball was elected to the PGA of America Hall of Fame. While a chord to the past was severed with his loss, he strung together a magical life.
Tiger Woods spent his weekend practicing at next week’s Open venue, Hoylake. Woods was the winner the last time the Open was contested at Hoylake in 2006, but has made only one professional appearance since his back surgery in March. That was a very un-Woods like showing two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans event at Congressional when he failed to make the cut. The world’s former #1 says that his game and body are both improved: “But I’ve got my speed back, which is nice, and I’m starting to hit the ball out there again. I’m only going to get stronger. As the weeks go on, I’m getting strong and faster.”
Another player certainly not at his best at the moment is 41 year old English star, Lee Westwood, who missed his third consecutive cut at the Scottish Open. A European Ryder Cup stalwart for the last 20 years having been on 8 teams, Westwood is very much on the outside looking in, to qualify for the European team later in the year. His chances to be a Captain’s pick were not buoyed by the European Captain Paul McGinley who had this to say: “We’ve got three huge events coming up that will determine the final lineup, and the truth is Lee needs to do something.”
Another of Europe’s stars is finding his form at the right time. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland overcame an 8-shot deficit to win the French Open for the second straight year last week. “G-Mac” closed with a final round 4-under par 67 in driving rain and brutal wind conditions to best overnight leader Kevin Stadler whose 5-over par 76 left him one behind and in a tie for second with Thongchai Jaidee.
U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, Tom Watson, played a practice round earlier last week at Gleneagles which is the host site for the Cup matches in September. Watson played with Keegan Bradley so that he could assess what kind of player (Bradley hits the ball a long way and very high in the air) might be suited best to the course’s conditions. Watson would come away thinking that it would indeed favor a player who had those attributes and that Gleneagles will yield a lot of low scores perfectly suited for American stars like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker. Only time will tell.
True to its history the John Deere Classic was a shootout with one low score after the other at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis, IL. After an introductory 8-under par, 27 year old Brian Harman held strong through the weekend to win by one shot over Zach Johnson at 22-uner par and claim his first PGA Tour event. The diminutive Harman who stands only 5ft. 7 ins. is the sixth graduate from the University of Georgia to win on the PGA Tour this year and true to his alma mater’s nickname plays like a real “Bulldog”. Clutch birdies by Harman on holes 14-16 gave him the cushion he needed to stave off local favorite Johnson whose final round 7-under 64, resulted in a third runner-up finish at the John Deere.
At the end of regulation play in the U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National there were two players still tied atop the leaderboard at 5-under par. Gene Sauers had taken a 3-shot lead into Sunday’s final round but his 2-over par on Sunday had allowed Colin Montgomerie to catch him after the Scot fashioned a 2-under par 69. Montgomerie prevailed in the 3-hole aggregate playoff completing those holes in 1-over par to best Sauers by one and win his second Major Championship in the last 3 that he has contested. 51-year old Monty had never won either a playoff (he had a career record of 0-7-1 in overtime) or a USGA event (he lost two U.S. Opens in playoffs to Ernie Els) so these were welcome monkeys off the back. Combine those two statistics with Montgomerie’s breakthrough win at the Senior PGA Championship in June (he had been winless in the 71 Major Championships he played in on the regular tour) and you have one very happy Scottish lad.
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