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What a week it was for golf fans. On both sides of the pond we enjoyed par-5 play-off drama, while Lydia Ko marked her second appearance of the year as an equipment-free agent with a stunning wire-to-wire victory.
We also had the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Jason Day and Danielle Kang all featuring prominently so let’s unpack some of the best bits of action from around the golfing globe.
McIlroy's meltdown, Hovland wins battle of the ages
On the DP World Tour it was a generational battle as 24-year-old Viktor Hovland locked horns with 48-year-old Richard Bland for the Dubai Desert Classic crown. Starting the day six and four shots back respectively, both would have been surprised to find themselves in a play-off for glory, but a poor round from overnight leader Justin Harding and another desert meltdown from Rory McIlroy made it so.
To the par-5 18th they went and it was the Norwegian, who was born the year after his foe turned pro, that got the job done at the first time of asking, birdieing to Bland’s par. With the win, Hovland moves to third in the world rankings, meaning the average age of the top three is now just 25 - the youngest it’s been since the rankings were introduced in 1986.
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Jason Day back from the brink?
After a third-round 67 at the Farmers Insurance Open, former World No. 1 Jason Day revealed he came close to quitting golf as the prolonged effects of a back injury took their toll. The Aussie fell to 129th in the rankings, the lowest he had been since 2009, and is without a win since 2018. However, after hooking up with swing instructor Chris Como, there appear to be signs of life in this particular dog, who admitted to “feeling old” at Torrey Pines.
In spite of his slump, Day boasts some pretty impressive stats. This was the Australian’s 15th 54-hole lead or co-lead on the PGA Tour. Since 2009, only Dustin Johnson (21) and Jordan Spieth (20) have held more. He missed out on the play-off by a single stroke, but the T3 finish is still his best result since his last victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in May of 2018.
List triumphs in battle of the ball-strikers
Comebacks and play-offs were in fashion in the men’s game, with Luke List overcoming a five-shot deficit at the Farmers Insurance Open to defeat Will Zalatoris at the first extra hole. The American was T19 ahead of the final round but finally managed to heat up his putter enough to bag his first PGA Tour title.
His ball-striking has never been in question. Since July of last year, List tops the list(?) for the most strokes gained tee to green per round ahead of Daniel Berger, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. However, in 2021, he ranked 189th on the greens. This week? Eighth. Kerching.
He is just the fourth player to win on the PGA Tour in the last 10 seasons from T19 or worse entering the final round.
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Lydia Ko inspired by this Jon Rahm quote
Becoming an equipment-free agent at the start of 2022 doesn’t seem to have done Lydia Ko any harm. The New Zealander was spotted using an eclectic mix of clubs at the Gainbridge LPGA after her deal with PXG expired. She took down Danielle Kang on the final day to become the first player since Nancy Lopez in 1979 to win 17 LPGA Tour events before turning 25. Ko also moved up to ninth on the all-time LPGA career money list ahead, passing Se Ri Pak with $12,668,796 earned to date.
But far from some new sticks inspiring the 24-year-old to victory, Ko credited her title to this Jon Rahm quote she found on Instagram. In her words, it read: "It's not about how many times you hit the fairway. Golf, at the end you have to try and play [and score] the best you can in the circumstances".
I'm sure we can all learn a little something from that.
Count it in wins for Rahm this year
This might sound like stating the obvious but we think Jon Rahm is in for a big year. Yes, he is the World No. 1 and a major champion, but through no fault of his own, he only picked up one win last year - the US Open. Covid-19 denied him victory at the Memorial and the Spaniard also ran into players having the weeks of their golfing lives to beat him at other stops during the season.
That trend continued at the start of 2022 with Cam Smith shooting 34-under to topple him by one shot at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. But that simply can’t keep happening, and we think you'll be able to count his consistent brilliance in titles this year. Here's why...
According to Data Golf, in 12 PGA Tour rounds this year, Rahm has gained 2.38 strokes per round against the field. Only two players can boast a year-long average better than that: Tiger Woods (2005, '06, '07 and '09) and Rory McIlroy (2012 and '19). In those seasons, the fewest registered wins was four...
Away from the course, Colin Montgomerie certainly found his voice last week. As well as questioning Padraig Harrington's Ryder Cup captaincy, the Scotsman found time to weigh in on the ongoing controversy surrounding Saudi Arabia's latest attempts to "sportswash" their poor human rights record.
"It's a shame it's come to this,” Monty told BBC Sport. “We used to work well with the Asian Tour and now we are at loggerheads because of money. It's a problematic issue. It's that horrible, evil word, money. The mighty dollar ruling people's hearts and minds."
On that bombshell...
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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