Tour Rundown: Unlikely Shibuno, the Postman, ZB, and more

Major championship season came to an end this week with the Women’s Open championship. Many PGA Tour golfers exhaled a sigh of relief (they kept their cards for 2019-20) or inhaled a deep breath of recommitment (they lost their tour cards.) The European and Champions tours are off on vacation for another week or two, so you get a look at tours you don’t normally see in Tour Rundown. We’ll even toss in an amateur event, which we almost never do. This one is the toughest amateur event in the world to win. You’ll see why. Time for Tour Rundown on Monday, August 5th, 2019.

Wyndham Championship sees Postman cap the regular season with a delivery

The list is long for golfers who kept their card, lost their card, got into the FedEx Cup playoffs, just missed the FedEx Cup playoffs. This column is not about them. It is about J.T. Poston and his first PGA Tour win. Poston’s Twitter handle is JT_ThePostman. On Sunday in Greensboro, he delivered every bit of the mail. Poston began the final round 3 shots in arrears of leader Ben An. An was in control most of the day, until stumbling to an unexpected bogey at the par-five 15th hole. He bounced back immediately with birdie at the 16th, but needed one more birdie coming home to catch Poston. Bogey at the last dropped An to 3rd place. Webb Simpson, a local lad and former winner of this event, began the day in a funk. Bogeys at 2 of the first 3 holes dropped him off the pace. Simpson rebounded with 7 birdies the rest of the way, to ease past An, into 2nd spot at -21. It was Poston’s start that made the difference. 3 birdies and an eagle led to an outbound 30. 3 birdies against 0 bogeys coming home, gave him 32 for 62 on the day. He sweated the final pairings, but no putts would drop against him. The win elevated Poston from 83rd to 27th, almost a guarantee through to the Tour Championship.

Women’s Open Championship to the unlikely Shibuno

Bullet-Point powers, activate! Five things that Hinako Shibuno was NOT supposed to do this week:

  1. Play a heathland course. Shibuno arrived in England, expecting links conditions;
  2. Play the back nine with 18 birdies and 0 bogeys the entire week (yet she did!);
  3. Post a score in the 60s each of the four tournament days  (only one in the field to do so);
  4. Make a double bogey on her 3rd Sunday hole and not vanish (she did, yet she didn’t);
  5. Win by 1 stroke with a birdie on the 72nd hole. Oh, she most certainly did!

Shibuno was no stranger to winning, doing so twice on the Japan LPGA Tour. This was different. It was the LPGA and Ladies European Tour combined. It was a major championship. It was a world stage. And with one massive week, she catapulted herself into the eyes of Japan’s Olympic selection committee. She earned an LPGA card, and she most likely jumped into the world’s top 40 golfers. Snap. A moment, if you will, for Lizette Salas. The American did all that she could have done to win this tournament. She posted 65 with 8 birdies. Wonks might say that her bogey at the par-3 6th hole kept her from a playoff, but that isn’t so. As with Stenson-Mickelson in 2016, 2 deserving golfers were left with only 1 trophy.

Ellie Mae Classic to refocused Blair on Korn Ferry Tour

Zac Blair makes no secret about his love of classic golf course architecture. He shares his thought on the subject on discussion boards, and is in the process of building The Buck Club in Utah, an homage to the great golf holes of yesteryear. Along the line, the love took over from the task, and Blair’s game went a-wandering. In 2019, he rededicated himself to his game, and the work paid off on Sunday. Blair played a mistake-free round at tricky TPC Stonebrae, and won the Ellie Mae Classic by one shot over a surging Brandon Crick. Both Crick and Maverick McNealy had viable shots at the title, but they could not avoid the big number. Crick had a bogey and a double on his outbound nine. McNealy, who led much of the day, had 2 bogies and 1 double on his card. Blair’s error-free golf on Sunday forced the field to take chances. McNealy needed birdie at the last to tie, but made bogey instead. Crick birdied 4 of his final 5 holes, in an effort to overtake the winner. He came up one chirp shy of extra time. Blair moved to 31st on the year-long points chase, positioning himself well for a return to PGA Tour with a top-five finish next week in Portland.

1932byBateman to Canada’s Taylor Pendrith on Mackenzie Tour

Taylor Pendrith had amassed a pile of points without a win on the PGA Tour Canada season. He found himself in 5th position, the final one to earn a pass to the Korn Ferry Tour for season performance. On Sunday, Pendrith earned a victory for himself, and pride for Canada, with a 3-shot victory over the USA’s Lorens Chan. Pendrith began the day in 10th place, but opened with a 4-under 32 to enter the fray. He returned 3 more birdies on the inward half, setting the stage for the 17th hole. On the par five, the long-hitting, Kent State alum made eagle 3 to seize control of the tournament. Chan matched Pendrith’s back-nine 30, but needed much more to contend. 3rd round leader Will Gordon, he who opened 64-64, made double bogey on the hole that Pendrith eagled. For Gordon, that 4-stroke differential was the difference between T3 and playoff. With the win, Pendrith switched spots on the Order of Merit with Dawson Armstrong. Four events remain on the 2019 tour schedule.

Western Amateur heads north of the border with NHL’s Garrett Rank

It is an unlikely story, but one that makes complete sense. What better way to stay fit, than to skate around a rink, all night long, with no one to hit you? Ontario’s Garrett Rank does just that, as an NHL referee. During the off season, he can be found in the world’s best amateur golf events. Rank had finished runner-up in the USGA Mid-Amateur championship (2012) and had won his own country’s mid-am on multiple occasions. On Saturday, Rank won his first major amateur event in appropriate fashion. The Western Amateur demands 4 rounds of stroke-play qualifying, then eliminates all but the top 16 golfers. Those 16 play four rounds of match play to determine a champion. Rank qualified in the 5th spot, at 6-under 274. Davis Thompson won the medal at -13, but was defeated in the 2nd round of match play. It was Daniel Wetterich who raced through the upper bracket of match play. He won on the 17th hole twice, and the 16th hole once, to reach the final. Along the way, Wetterich defeated top junior Ricky Castillo, a probable Walker Cup selection, in the semifinal. In the lower bracket, Rank was extended in every match. He won on the 18th green in round 1, then the 17th green during each of the subsequent rounds. In the final match, Rank won 7 of the 16 contested holes, defeating Wetterich by 3 & 2. Rank entered the week listed #66 in the world. It’s likely that his own ranking will improve a good deal when the WAGR updates its rankings on Monday.

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